by Peter Hammond
“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. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Battle for the Heart
There is a war being waged for our hearts. This war began in the Garden of Eden and will continue until “The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ…” Revelation 11:15
A Colossal Conflict
This is a conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, holiness and perversity, between the Word of God and the world. Genesis 3:15 shows that it is a conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, between Christ and satan.
A World War
This is a true world war because every area and aspect of life are battlegrounds. The culture, the governments, the court rooms, the hospitals, universities and schools, the market places and entertainment industry, our homes and families, and in our hearts and minds. Retreat, or escape, is not an option because we can neither leave the world that we live in, nor our body – which is the tabernacle of our soul.
Some however have tried to isolate themselves from the world in a quest to become more spiritual. After centuries of furious persecution when the Roman Empire attempted to exterminate the Christian Faith, the empire itself surrendered to Christianity. Many Christians apparently did not know what to do with this newfound freedom of religion and sought to become spiritual martyrs. They isolated themselves from the world as hermits.
Antonius was one of the first of these ascetics who sold all his possessions, distributed the money to the poor and secluded himself from the world, first living in a tomb and later in a cave on a mountain. Twice a year his friends brought him food which he ate with a little salt. He drank nothing but water. He decided not to comb or cut his hair, or take a bath, except once a year before Easter. Antonius lived until he was 106 years old.
Another example of those seeking super-spiritual status was Simeon, who lived in the fourth century. He chose the life of a shepherd in an attempt to develop true spirituality. However, finding that a shepherd’s life is not isolated enough, he entered a monastery. For nine years he never once set foot outside the confined space of his room. Still not satisfied that this was providing him the solitude and spirituality needed, he went into the desert, and erected a pole 9 feet high, to live upon. When he found that this did not distance himself enough from the evils of the earth, he lengthened his pillar until it reached the height of 60 feet. For 30 years, Simeon lived on the top of the pillar in the hope that his soul would benefit.
The Apostle Paul warned that such things which seemed to have an appearance of spirituality are actually worthless deception. He condemned the “false humility”, “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind”, “self-imposed religion”, “neglect of the body”, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle”, as “of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:16-23
The very definition of “pure and undefiled religion before God… is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27. You cannot be caring for widows and orphans, loving your neighbour and fulfilling the Great Commission while secluded in a monastery, or hiding in a cave!
A Problem of the Heart
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that defilement does not come by way of things from the outside, but “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” Matthew 15:19. There isn’t a cave remote enough, or pole high enough, to escape from worldliness, because the problem is within every human heart. Wherever we go, we take our problems with us, because, in so many ways, we are actually our own worst enemy.
Isolation or Reformation
Throughout the centuries there have been those Christians who have sought to be isolated from the world and those who have sought to change the world. Antonius, Simeon, the ascetic hermits and monks, and more recently the Amish and Mennonites are examples of those sincere Christians who want to separate from the world in order to strengthen their spiritual life. However, the Calvinists and Puritans stand out as examples as those Christians who are determined to change the world.
What is Worldliness?
Worldliness means being conformed to the world (Roman 12:2). Worldliness is any activity pursued without God, or against God. It is using any of God’s good creations and gifts for the gratification of sinful desires which ultimately serve the self-centred ambitions of fallen human beings. Worldliness is refusing to reflect the Glory of God as we were created to do.
Worldliness begins with failing to view things from God’s perspective. Worldliness is far more than excessive make-up, and obsessively following the latest fashions and fads of the world. It is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” The pursuit of health and wealth, fame and fortune, pleasure and possessions.
In this war against worldliness we need to understand our enemy. Worldliness can be very deceptive. If the world showed its true nature as bondage, corruption, perversity and death, most would be repulsed by it. However the enemy disguises itself as a fisherman may use a lure to conceal the hook with which to catch the fish. The world promises true love and delivers broken hearts, broken families and broken health. Socialist politicians promise heaven and deliver hell on earth. Gambling joints promise fortune and deliver bankruptcy. Drugs and alcohol offer euphoria and deliver hangovers and addiction.
Conforming to the World
Worldliness desires to please man, not God. It loves self. It hungers for the approval of people and strives to be popular by wearing the latest styles and best brands of clothing, watching the latest films and shows, in a constant pressure to conform to the world to receive its approval.
Worldliness has a higher regard for the body than for the soul. External, material things are preferred over internal, spiritual realities. Worldliness encourages us to covet the best clothes, the most expensive cars, the latest technological gadgets, the best looking boyfriend, or girlfriend, and other material things. Girls are urged to wear the cutest outfits, to do their hair according to the latest trends and conform to the latest fashions and fads. Boys are urged to resist maturity and surround themselves with ever more expensive toys, pursuing money and the building up of their bodies at the expense of their minds and souls.
Worldliness loves material things and pursues riches. It talks us into self-indulgence and over-indulgence in many ways. The rich young ruler is an example of someone for whom wealth and possessions were such a dangerous temptation that he felt he could not part with it, even at the cost of Eternal Life (Mark 10:17-31).
Worldliness is obsessed with things that pertain only to this life. It encourages us to look at life only in terms of the present. Forget about the past. Don’t worry about the future. All that really matters is our own personal experience now. Worldliness discourages us from considering the consequences of decisions we make today. It distorts perspective so that we live as if this life is all there is.
Worldliness promotes pride, self-centeredness, self-indulgence. Pride can be seen in actions and attitudes. We can even be proud of being spiritual and humble!
A worldly Christian has too much of Christ to really enjoy the world and too much of the world to really enjoy Christ. We are worldly when we think like the world, sound like the world, dress like the world, look like the world, behave like the world and act like the world.
War Against the Word
Legalism adds to the Bible. Liberalism takes away from the Bible. Worldliness ignores the Bible.
Winning the War Against Worldliness
To defeat worldliness we need to get our priorities right. We need to live in the light of Eternity: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Living in the Light of Eternity
We must value our souls more than our bodies, Eternity more than the present. We must learn to fear God – that will free us from the crippling fear of man. We must work for the praise and approval of God, not seek the approval of people. We need to be more concerned about laying up treasure in Heaven than treasure on earth.
Transformed by the Renewing of Your Minds
Instead of being conformed to this world, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, by the washing of the Word of God. People pleasers make traitors. We need to live for greater things than public opinion and the approval of the fickle crowd.
The world encourages self-actualisation and self-centeredness. The Scripture teaches us self-denial and self-sacrifice. We need to learn to say No to the demands of sinful self.
There is a danger in spending too much time on the computer, watching too much entertainment, idly paging through secular magazines, or surfing TV channels. We need to learn to make wise choices by turning off the power source to these worldly temptations. Many movies, books, magazines and websites are not fit for Christians because they promote falsehood and immorality, encouraging materialism and self-indulgence, glorifying violence, blasphemy and an anti-Christian worldview. We dare not give our hearts to Hollywood idols who are shocking role models in terms of their relationships and life styles. We need to choose to spend our time, talents and treasure wisely. Not wildly.
Material things are not inherently sinful. All things that have been created by God are good, as long as they are received with thanksgiving and used as God has instructed us in His Word. However, our sinful natures are prone to pervert even good things and use them for our harm. Food is a good gift from God, but gluttony is a sin. Worldliness can twist and pervert almost anything in life. We need to learn to do everything to the Glory of God. No area of our life can be outside of the Lordship of Christ. Our material possessions, personal relationships, family, education, sports and entertainment must all be brought into submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Fight the Good Fight of Faith
We need to fight the good fight of Faith in our daily decisions. We cannot let our defences down. We need to ensure that our minds are being renewed by the Scriptures and Bible-based books and publications. We need to choose only good films and God-honouring music that reinforce Biblical values. The war against worldliness is not simply against external things. It is much more than resisting the temptations and brainwashing of Hollywood. Worldliness is a spiritual disease of the heart and it must be fought by Faith. We need a new heart and the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through every aspect of our lives.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
Charles Spurgeon warned: “If you had got all the world, you would have got nothing after your coffin lid was screwed down but grave dust in your mouth.”
Is the World in You?
We are to be in the world, but not of it. The rescue boat must be in the sea to rescue the downing, but the sea must not be in the boat. So too, we must be in the world, rescuing the perishing, but the world must not be in us.
The World vs. The Word
The world bullies us to conform: “Everybody is doing it!”
However, the Word of God frees us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and by the washing of the Word.
The world tells us to be greedy, God’s Word: to be grateful.
The world encourages us to be selfish, but the Word of God commands us to be generous.
The world says: Take! The Word says: Give!
The world says hoard. The Bible: Share.
The world encourages me to be self-centred. Me, myself and I.
God’s Word frees us to be Christ-centered
The world is materialistic: Give me! Give me! Believers are to be spiritually minded.
Worldliness is to: Love things. Christianity is to: love people and all God’s Creatures.
The world: Use people. The Word: Use things.
The world: Watch TV. The Word: Worship God.
The world: Read the newspaper. The Word: Read the Bible.
The world bullies us to revere political and sports idols.
The Word commands us to fear God alone.
The world pressures us to bow before their idols of fame and fortune.
Believers refuse to bow to any idols.
The world is obsessed with entertainment. Christians are concerned for education.
The world encourages us to justify ourselves: I am a good person! It’s not my fault!
The Word of God encourages us to confess our sins.
The world says conceal your sins. The Bible: Forsake your sins.
The world says: Take revenge! The Bible teaches: Do restitution – return, repair and replace.
The world: Revel! The Word: Repent!
The world: Boast! The Word: Humble yourself before the Lord.
“God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble.”
We have a choice:
Seek approval from the world, or seek approval from God alone.
Do what is popular, or do what is right.
Seek our own advantage, or seek to benefit others.
Be politically correct, or be witnesses to the Truth.
Take the broad road, or take the narrow way.
Take the easy way, or take the right way.
Accept the majority opinion, or agree with God’s Word.
Go with the flow, or stand against evil.
Every decision we make makes us more a creature of hell, or Heaven.
Live in the light of eternity and you will win the war against worldliness.
“In the world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Dr. Peter Hammond is director of Frontline Fellowship, South Africa. For over 30 years, Dr. Peter Hammond has pioneered missionary outreaches, including into the war zones of Mozambique, Angola and Sudan. In his missionary work traveling thousands of miles on an off-road motorcycle, Peter distributed Bibles all over Africa and Eastern Europe. He continues his energetic and effective ministry in public, speaking, writing and radio broadcasting, as well as through concerted effort with his fellows at Frontline Fellowship. See his full bio.
Dr. Peter Hammond.
The Reformation Society
P. O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Email: [email protected]