I’m getting the message below that I’ve put together from two commentaries from Dr. Harold Sala of Guidelines International and my own study. We are called to be holy, which means set apart. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16)
Writing to the men and women who lived in the capital of the world, the ancient city of Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2). The Living Bible puts it, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.”
This demands radical transformation; but the issue is, how can all of this happen? How can I, as a human being who struggles with my old nature, separate myself from all that I don’t want to be and be renewed in the image of God?
It becomes apparent, reading the writings of the New Testament, that following Christ demands the leaving of something for something else uniquely different. One is described as the world; the other, the kingdom of God. The two are not only different, they are enemies of each other. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor. 10:21-24)
James wrote that the person who is a friend to the world is an enemy to God. “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). James used the word adulterous because their heart was with the world, not our Lord. Toward the end of the first century, John, the last surviving Apostle, admonished: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
When Jesus called men and women, He challenged them to follow Him, but it became apparent in stepping out to follow Christ, they were leaving something behind, something which could no longer be part of their lives. It was not a matter of no longer fishing at Galilee, or doing house chores or shopping, or sitting at the receipt of custom. It was a mind-set, a mentality which was willing to break with custom and, at times, even laws. Following Jesus demanded new allegiance with a different set of values.
When Jesus prayed in the garden shortly before Calvary, He prayed not that God would take them from the world, but rather that He would protect them in the world. Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16).
When the Bible talks about the world, we are talking about a mentality, a way of thinking, as well as a way of life. The kingdom of man which can be called “the world” is in marked contrast to the kingdom of God, where Christ rules in the hearts and lives of men and women. In the world, anything goes. If it feels good, do it. The world’s admiration is for the winner. Sex, beauty and money reign supreme. Values are relative. Might makes right. Beginning to get the picture?
That’s the world in which we live, one that has existed since the fall of Adam. It is also the world in which Jesus calls His followers to march to the beat of a different drummer, to be different because of the change of heart which comes as people follow Him.
Paul states clearly that conversion means being delivered from this mind-set or authority as we submit to Jesus Christ. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Do we need to rediscover the truth of today’s short commentary? I’m convinced we do. I believe with all my heart that our failure to know the difference between the world and the kingdom of God has resulted in an anemic, powerless Church today. It accounts for massive human failure in our lives, our marriages, and our children. Today, the great enemy is not without. It’s within the gates, and we must recognize that fact to do something about it.
What is worldliness? It is a virus of the heart, a deadly mind-set which produces lukewarmness in my faith and separation from the presence of God. It is marked by five clear characteristics which serve as a checklist for you who know Jesus Christ.
#1: Worldliness is characterized by loss of our thirst to know God. Paul wrote that the desire of his life was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. You were like that when you were first converted. It was the attitude of David who cried out, “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
#2: Worldliness is characterized by our loss of first love. It reflects a heart grown cold, a lukewarmness of the soul, whereby things that once mattered are no longer so important. It was the problem which confronted Christians at Ephesus, where Paul had established a thriving church, but forty years later things had grown routine and perfunctory. God rebuked them, saying, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). Could that be said of you, friend?
#3: A divided heart is a characteristic of worldliness. This goes to the heart of matter. Who is Lord, who is first in your life? Jesus said so plainly, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). Then Jesus went on to say that “You cannot serve both God and money”; but the word Jesus used goes beyond money. It refers to the world, the driving force of life today.
When the lights are out and you begin to think about your life, you know whether or not Jesus occupies first place in your life. He is saying that loyalties cannot be divided. He doesn’t want to be one of several things. He wants to be Lord of all of your life.
#4: Justifying things which you once considered wrong is another symptom of worldliness. Like what? In 1924, the world laughed at a Scotsman by the name of Eric Liddell, who refused to run in the Olympics on Sunday. How could someone be so old-fashioned? Liddell held the conviction that Sunday was a day of worship and he refused to bend his conviction. Brinkmanship is the art of seeing how far you can go into the world and yet hold your faith. It’s a deadly game.
#5: Worldliness affects your priorities. Ministering to people inside China or in many underdeveloped countries, who will walk for hours and sit with bated breath, drinking in the Word, tells me that something is missing in the lives of most people living in wealth and affluence. Your scale of priorities tells very quickly how far you’ve journeyed back into the world.