Commonly Tolerated Sins: Worldliness
By Jeremy Walker
It can be hard to spot the symptoms of a disease to which we have all succumbed. The condition becomes normal. Is that true of worldliness in the church of Christ? Worldliness can afflict the rich in their appetites and indulgences and the poor in their desires and aspirations. It seeps into God’s people in every time and place.
The root of worldliness is love of the world, which cannot coexist with love for God: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). James bluntly identifies those who have the idol of the world in their hearts as adulterers and adulteresses, asking: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4, NKJV).
We so easily justify worldliness among Christians: we call it fitting in, good stewardship, being all things to all men. At root, it is putting time over eternity, elevating the idol of self over the living God. It is making the world our friend and so making God our enemy. It is the desire for an easy life. It is a self-indulgent love of pleasure. It is the foundation of many of the other compromises we make and the sins we subtly entertain.
Worldliness must die, or it will breed. It must be struck and it must be starved. We strike it at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to us, and us to the world (Gal. 6:14). Until the world lies under the shadow of the cross to us, we will always yearn for it, as Israel did for the fleshpots and breadbaskets of Egypt (Ex. 16:3). And having struck it, we must starve it by keeping our eyes on Christ and on the world to come:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1–4, NKJV)
Until the crucified and risen Christ captures and enraptures our hearts, worldliness will defeat us. Until eternity transcends time with us, until we stop looking at the things that are seen and start dwelling on that which is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18), worldliness will keep its hold on us. The simple means of grace are primary in keeping a crucified, risen Christ before our eyes, strengthening us to assault worldliness in our hearts. How often do we preach and pray about this? How much do we exhort one another?