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Many people clamor for sermons on worldliness. They usually want the preacher to rake the other fellow over the coals for doing what they themselves do not enjoy doing. While most argue that we must have authority for what we do, many do not think we need Bible authority for determining what we deem sinful.
Worldliness is a general expression that covers many things that people think are wrong. They often blanket worldliness under the expression "of such like" in Galatians 5:21. Like the lady that wanted the preacher to condemn smoking and chewing tobacco, but dipping snuff was okay because she was a dipper.
What Is Worldliness?
A proper answer to the question "What is worldliness?" involves our attitudes. An attitude that begins with our minds centered on eternity. Our forefathers had an unquestioning faith in immortality, in a life beyond this veil of tear. All of their life was circumscribed by this faith. They lived each day with their eyes on heaven. They loved and worshipped with heaven in mind. They worked, planned and died with an expectancy of a better life to come. They sought to avoid hell and gain heaven.
Even the irreligious believed in life after death, though it was not always in accord with accepted thinking: Thomas Jefferson was an agnostic, but he believed in life after death. Thomas Paine, who did not believe in the written Word, believed in life after death.
In olden time, life after death was taken for granted as a premise from which to begin; not a conclusion from their reasoning.
Today, there are many who dismiss thoughts of immortality as a matter of no consequence; and this change has come in most of our life time. Millions now do not share our belief in another life. In fact, they laugh at the idea of heaven and hell. Some claim that our longing after heaven is a childish desire to be petted and pampered. A "One-world-at-a-time" attitude has developed.
One of the great problems is that science has made this world more attractive. Much of the drudgery has been taken from life. Leisure time has been made more pleasant. As the world is made increasingly attractive, mankind thinks more of this present world and less and less of heaven.
In essence, this is worldliness: a pre-occupation with this present world. This is where the problem comes in, according to the Bible. Colossians 3:1-3 "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
The Most Obvious Worldliness Is Physical
Most preaching of worldliness deals with the physical. The appeal of the lust of the flesh is both primitive and powerful. Fornication, drunkenness and gluttony are almost as old as mankind. In ancient times, pagan religion glorified these appetites and passions. The worship of Baal, Aphrodite, Venus, etc., made their appeal to the passions of men and gained their strength thereby. They attributed these human cravings to God, and they taught that those who worshipped best were those who gave full expression to these passions. That is why pagan worship made such a powerful appeal to the ancient Jews. These bodily propensities are divine in their origin -- given for the perpetuation of the race and the protection of mankind, but they bring the downfall of man when abused. The Epicureans of Christ's day were plentiful. Their motto was, "Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die." Many today are 100% epicurean in their practice.
Our appetites and passions are given by God. When they are exercised within proper bounds, they are holy and noble. But, they are sinful when they control the man and drive him to excesses. God expects man to conquer these passions and appetites, and hold them in proper restraint.
The Bible is given as a guide book to teach man what is proper and right, and what is wrong. Sin is the circumstances under which a thing is done. When we disregard God's Word in the exercise of these passions and appetites, we sin, and that is worldliness.
There Is a Worldliness That Is Mental
The worldliness that is mental is more insidious than that which is physical. That which is physical is usually easily recognized. But, mental worldliness is glorified! This worldliness does not appeal to man's baser instincts, but to those that are nobler. Yet, it is worldliness because it absorbs us in taking our minds from God to the world. It absorbs our thoughts, interests, energies, and loyalties in affairs of this life only.
This embraces man's business or profession. He may do a work that is beneficial to mankind, such as a doctor or great attorney. Indeed, the more noble the profession, the more apt it is to become an obsession demanding all the energies of man. Yet, is more often that our interest is more in gaining gold than in blessing men (Luke 12:13-21; I Tim. 6:10).
We are commanded to work (Gen. 3:19; 2 Thess. 3:10). But, the danger is in man's tendency to let business consume all of his interest and effort. Men often forget all else in favor of their business: family, health, and God! Such a one is enmeshed in this world. Like Demas, he has forsaken God, having loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10).
Especially in this time, patriotism may even shackle one to this world. Recent years have revealed many loyal patriots. Men have willingly died for patriotic causes! Their motives may have been high and holy, but it has only tied them to this earth and removed their desire for heaven -- this is worldliness.
Religion Can Become Worldly
Religion as worldliness is often overlooked, but it is deadly in its appearance. This theological worldliness appears under two opposing views. The first is MODERNISM, often called "The social gospel." Its advocates generally abandon hope of heaven. They try to make heaven right here on earth. They are unending in their efforts to relieve human suffering and promote human benefits. They have little use for the cross or the atonement. Their whole philosophy is of this world!
The second is PREMILLENNIALSIM, and it has as worldly a concept as modernism. They look for Christ to return to earth. They expect Him to reign 1000 years in Jerusalem. They watch every political change with the keenest eye of expectation. But, their primary interest is in this world. Oh, they believe in heaven sometime in the future, but first, their attention is on what is going to happen on this earth.
The attractions of this world are dangerous. Whatever absorbs one's thoughts and ties him to this world is worldliness! There is but one remedy for worldliness, and Jesus puts it very well when He says: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33).
We will have very little success in stopping ungodly dancing, drinking and other things without going deeper than these surface manifestations. We must get to a man's heart and help him set his affections on things above instead of things of this earth (Col. 3:1,2). If we can sell a man on the idea of heaven, we will have little trouble in removing these sins of the flesh from their control of the man!
I think three good suggestions would be: (1) Spend much time in prayer (I Thess. 5:17). (2) Spend more time with spiritually minded people (Heb. 10:24-25). (3) Devote your life daily to diligent work in the Master's service (Phil. 2:12).