Sanctification, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Wise to the Ways of the Worldly: 4 Ways Worldliness Sneaks In, and the Scriptures to Slay It

Originally published August 31, 2018

Lately, every time I turn around, I keep bumping up against the same biblical concept. It’s showing up in my personal Bible study time. In Sunday School. In sermons. Even in a revival my husband and I served at this week.

Worldliness, and the need for Christians to be set apart.

What is worldliness? It’s thinking, acting, and “attituding” the way lost people think, act, and attitude. It’s taking everything in through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one and putting yourself out there through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one. It’s dealing with the world around you in any way Jesus wouldn’t.

God has called His people to be set apart from the world from day one. (OK, day six, if you want to get all technical about it.) You can’t be more set apart than living at an address God personally designed for you and plopped you down in the middle of.

The whole purpose of the Promised Land, the Law, driving out the pagan nations and destroying them, depending on God to miraculously win wars and conquer the enemy, was for God to set apart a people for Himself. To raise up a nation that the rest of the world could look at and say, “Hey, those Israelite folks are different, and their God is different, too. What’s their one God got that our pantheon doesn’t?”.

Jesus reminded God’s people what it looked like to be different and set apart from the world. So did His disciples. And the New Testament is chock full of passages in which the apostles exhort Christians and the church to be holy and distinct from the world in heart, mind, and behavior.

Why? Because being different, and holy, and counter-cultural is weird, and counter-intuitive, and attention-grabbing to the world. And once we’ve got their attention, we’ve got an opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Yes, sister, God has called you to be a weirdo for Jesus.

And you’re going to have to fight the flesh to do it, because worldliness is insidious and subtle. Just like that sneaky, slimy serpent slithered in to paradise with no alarm bells ringing, we modern day Eves often don’t even notice worldliness has slipped in and tempted us to think and act in ways it has never even occurred to us aren’t godly. Sure, we don’t drink, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with boys who do. And we don’t rob banks or murder people. But is that all there is to it? Avoiding the big, bad, behavioral no-no’s?

Before Eve ever extended her hand to pluck the fruit off the tree, Satan had already won several skirmishes with her heart. He had gotten her to doubt God’s character, disbelieve God’s word, and disregard God’s desires in favor of her own. And isn’t he still doing that with us today? Jesus warned us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

As we look at these four ways worldliness can tiptoe into our actions unannounced and unnoticed, let’s also think about how our actions are merely the fruit of what’s going on in our hearts.

What are some of those sneaky snakes of worldliness, and how can we mortify those sins and respond in a godly way?

1.
Being quick to take offense

It’s getting to the point where you can hardly carry on a mundane, “Nice weather we’re having,” conversation any more without being accused of racism, gender bias, or having some sort of “privilege”. Even compliments and positive comments are likely to be twisted and heard by the easily offended as insults or condescension.

Think of the way Jesus endured and responded to the verbal abuse and false accusations intentionally and maliciously hurled at Him. Can you imagine Him freaking out at an innocent, offhand remark, someone’s tone of voice, or somebody unintentionally sticking her foot in her mouth?

Neither can I, yet this form of worldliness is probably my biggest area of weakness. It’s just the pride of life, pure and simple. (Well, not pure, I guess.) How dare anyone ruffle my feathers!

And how do I respond? Maybe the same way you do. I get my back up and strike back, fighting fire with fire. I rarely take a moment to step back and think that maybe this person didn’t intend for her tone to sound like that, or maybe to her that word means something different than what it means to me, or maybe she’s just PMS-ing today, or maybe I misheard or misinterpreted what she actually said. I don’t think, “How can I respond in godly love to this person?”. I don’t think at all. I just vomit my fleshly emotions all over her. Instead, I’m to respond in patience, kindness, and love, even if the situation calls for standing firm on Scripture without budging.

The Serpent Slayer:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:16-18

2.
Being “Tolerant”

The world has been torturing this poor word “tolerant” for at least a few decades now. The definition has morphed from its actual meaning of “peacefully putting up with something that bothers you” to “embracing and celebrating any and every behavior and ideology (except biblical Christianity) as worthy and valid.” You’re not even allowed to think someone else’s worldview or behavior is wrong. You have to think it’s good or you’re a terrible person.

Now, of course, most Christians would not go around blatantly proclaiming that any old religion is just fine or that sexual immorality and perversion are perfectly acceptable or that abortion is a valid health care choice. But what about shying away from sharing the gospel with our Muslim neighbor for fear of appearing to be an Islamophobe? What about attending the homosexual “wedding” of a friend or loved one in order not to offend him and to maintain the relationship? What about failing to stand up for what’s right at work when unethical practices are the industry standard?

The Bible is very clear that following Christ and loyalty to His Word divides people. It divides family members from one another. It divides friends from one another, and it divides God’s people from those who claim to be God’s people and from the rest of the world. Jesus came to unite repentant sinners to God, not to unite unrepentant sinners to saved people. We must do what is right and biblical, refusing to participate in sinful and worldly activities, and lovingly, yet firmly, calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, even if it costs us family members, friends, our reputations, our churches, or our jobs.

The Serpent Slayer:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:4,7a

3.
Being Flippant or Consumeristic about Church

The world has no reason to think going to church is important. Why would they? They’re lost. And if they do darken the door of a church, it’s not because they love Christ and want to worship Him, it’s ultimately for self-centered reasons. To assuage their guilt, to get Mom or the wife off their back, to feel better about themselves, to satisfy their curiosity.

Gathering to worship God is what genuinely regenerated Christians do. We have a God-given craving for fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and approaching His throne in prayer, praise, and the study of His Word together. Skipping church at the drop of a hat, shopping around for a church with all the slappy happy bells and whistles that make you comfortable, demanding that your church cater to your feelings, opinions, and preferences, strolling in with a “what’s in it for me” attitude? Uh uh. Those are worldly, self-centered attitudes, and might even indicate that you’re not saved.

Christians see faithfully attending and serving at church as vital to their relationship with Christ and other Christians. It’s not, “What’s in it for me?” but “How can I serve you?”. It’s not, “What did I get out of the worship service?” but “How can I wholeheartedly throw myself into the worship of Christ?”.

The Serpent Slayer:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

4.
Being Defiant

If ever there were a generation of Americans who treated defying authority as the national pastime, this is it. Have you seen all the videos of people pulled over by the police who refuse to comply with their every request, sometimes even turning violent? How about the way wives these days run their marriages and treat their husbands like children? And the way children are allowed to rebel at school and at home? What about the rioting in the streets we’ve seen over the last few years?

The more I study the New Testament, the more passages I find instructing Christians to submit to the authorities in our lives. I’m not sure if I’d call it a major theme of the New Testament, but it sure isn’t a minor one. We’re to submit to the government, governing officials, earthly “masters” (literally if we’re slaves, figuratively – bosses, supervisors, etc. – if we’re not), wives are to submit to our husbands, children are to submit to their parents, and church members are to submit to our pastors and elders. Every human institution.

God’s people are a submitting people. Submitting to the authorities in our lives paints a picture for the watching world that one day every knee will bow in submission to the ultimate authority – God. And because God is our ultimate authority, the only time we disobey the human authorities in our lives is when what they’re asking us to do would cause us to disobey or dishonor God. Otherwise, we humble ourselves and joyfully and graciously submit.

The Serpent Slayer:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. 1 Peter 2:13a

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

 

There are so many more ways Satan tempts Christians to act like the world. We put our faith in politicians to fix things rather than in God. We approach the world with a posture of entitlement and demand our rights instead of laying them down to serve others. We lash out in bitterness at those who have hurt us, holding grudges and cutting them out of our lives instead of forgiving as Christ has forgiven us. The list could go on and on.

But however worldliness manifests itself, it all has the same serpentine root in the heart: doubting God’s character, disbelieving God’s Word, and disregarding God’s desires. And when our hearts become ambivalent about God, and we push His desires and directives aside, the void that’s left has to be filled with something.

That “something” is the idol of self. I want to do what I want to do and I don’t want anybody standing in my way. This thing, or person, or idea makes me happy and comfortable, and keeping it is more important to me than what God says about it. That’s ultimately what’s going on in our hearts when we think, speak, and act in worldly ways.

out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks

Submit to the Scriptures. Be subject to the Savior. Slay the serpent of worldliness.


What are some other forms of worldliness that can sneak into our lives,
and what Scriptures can we use to combat them?

Evangelism, Obedience

6 Unworldly Ways to Make the World Wonder Why You’re Weird

A dark, hazy room, colored lights flashing, filled with people swaying to chart-topping music, their drink of choice in hand, just there to have a good time with friends.

Is it a club? A concert? A party?

Or church?

With our coffee bars, cutting edge music from the latest and greatest Christian bands, and come hither atmosphere of smoke machines, light shows, and fun, fun, fun, sometimes it’s hard to tell.

And just as we import worldliness into the church, we’re exporting worldly Christians to our local communities. “Christians” who lie, cheat, carouse, defy authority, use profanity, angrily explode, and are sexually immoral. It’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish God’s people from worldlings, and the worldlings are growing disillusioned. Not just with us, but with God.

“What’s the point of believing in a God who produces people who look exactly like I do?” the world wonders. “What kind of impotent God is this, anyway?”

God gets that. He has gotten that from time immemorial.

He is different. He is other. He is in a class by Himself.

And as His people, we’re supposed to reflect that otherly set apart-ness by being otherly and set apart ourselves.

God didn’t command His people not to wear garments of mixed fibers because He was trying to support the Egyptian cotton market, and He didn’t forbid His people to eat crustaceans to ruin date night at the Red Lobster. He wanted His people to be unique among the pagan nations as He was unique among the pagan gods. He wanted those pagan people to point their fingers at the Israelites and say, “Those people are different, and I want to know why.”

As God’s people living among pagans today, we have the same unique opportunity to point them to the one, true God. How? By unhitching from the Old Testament, as some would have us believe? No. I tell you, we need to look back to our forefathers in the faith and take a page out of their Book. Not by wearing dietary laws on our sleeves of 100% cotton, because we’re not Jews. But by simply obeying God’s commands to His people today.

It ain’t rocket surgery, folks. We don’t need to take surveys to find out what pagan people want. We don’t need gimmicks and tricks. We don’t need to scour Christian industry catalogs hoping against hope that we can find some thing to order that will attract lost people to Jesus.

The most jaw-dropping, astounding, attention-grabbing thing in this world is simple Christians living in simple obedience to God’s simple commands. Isn’t it amazing that something so simple is simply amazing to the world?

Want to be wonderfully, wildly weird to the world so they’ll wonder why? Try these six things.

1.
Submit to your husband

There’s nothing more “against the grain” right now than God’s design for marriage. Feminists have brainwashed many women (and men) into thinking there’s a better way, but we have only to look back across the last several decades to see a landscape littered with unhappy marriages, divorce, abuse, abortion, cohabitation, and single parenting (or…you know…we could look in our Bibles) to know that’s not true.

Ephesians 5:22-33 explains that obeying God’s instructions for being godly wives and husbands isn’t just good for our marriage and home life. It’s a picture of Christ and His church that we get to act out before a watching world.

So when your friend from work catches a glimpse of your “backwards” marriage that seems to be working a lot better than hers and asks you about it, walk through that open door, talk to her, listen to her, and introduce her to the Bridegroom who came to redeem His bride.

2.
Discipline your children

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t compliment me or my husband on how well-behaved our children are. I’m always appreciative of their kindness, and God has truly blessed us with wonderful children, but there’s nothing exceptional about them in the behavioral department, and there’s nothing exceptional about us as parents. My kids are normal. When I was a kid, the majority of kids acted the way my kids act – respectful and obedient – because the majority of parents raised and disciplined their children.

Now, it’s practically an aberration to encounter normal, well-behaved children (even in church – Christian parents, I’m looking at you.). Yes, everybody’s kid acts up from time to time. Yes, some children are naturally more stubborn than others. I know all the “but’s” and exceptions. But if you obediently bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they’re going to be reasonably well-behaved most of the time, and you’re going to have people stop you at the store, the library, their school, and marvel about it. What are you doing as a parent that makes your kid different? And that’s when you get to tell them about your heavenly Father and His one and only Son.

3.
Be kind

It seems like everyone you run into these days is hurting. Even the people who mistreat you in a rude, angry way are probably acting that way because they’re hurting inside. They don’t know how to handle it, they have no peace, and they’re without hope. All because they’re without Christ.

I used to watch the TV show Undercover Boss fairly regularly. The head of a major company dons a disguise and goes to work among his employees to see how his company is really running and what he can do to improve it. In every episode, the boss gets to know good employees who are going through a difficult time – his mother is dying, her child is sick, he can’t afford a car, she’s trying to work her way through school. And at the end of every episode, the boss reveals himself to the employees and gives each of them thousands of dollars to help with their problems. And at the end of every episode, the employees (and I) are in tears. Yes, the money was helpful and a relief to these folks, but I could see in most of their eyes that it wasn’t just about the money. They were overcome that someone actually cared enough about them to be kind to them.

We live in a cruel, heartless, impatient, unforgiving world. When you take a moment to speak a kind word to someone, provide for a person who’s in need, help a total  stranger, offer cheerful encouragement, just to take a moment to obey Scripture’s admonition to care for someone, it knocks people completely off guard. “Why? Why would you be so kind to me?” a young lady once tearfully asked me after I had done a very small thing for her. It was such a joy to wrap my arms around her and explain, “Because Jesus has been so kind to me.”

4.
Turn the other cheek

If someone steals “your” parking place and you stomp over to her and bless her out, is that going to open a door for you to share the gospel with her? Would she even listen to you if you tried?

In the same way that hurt people expect others to hurt them, people who lash out in anger or do something they know is unfair or unkind expect an angry response from others.

Don’t give it to them. Just don’t. You don’t have to, if you’re a Believer. You have the Fruit of the Spirit of self control.

Obey Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, and watch as a gentle answer turns away wrath, and, hopefully, leads to a conversation about the Prince of Peace.

5.
Say, “I was wrong.”

The heaviest artillery in a lost person’s arsenal is to accuse or prove someone of being wrong. The reason that even exists as a weapon is because everyone’s natural instinct is to dig our heels in, make excuses, and insist we were actually right.

It can be almost comical to watch someone process from self-righteous victory to “What just happened here?” confusion when you unabashedly admit you were wrong, graciously apologize, and offer to make things right. And, of course, if you realize you were wrong about something before anyone else does, you don’t have to wait to be confronted. You can march in and throw yourself on the “I was wrong,” grenade before anybody realizes what’s going on.

It’s hard to admit we were wrong about something, because, even as Christians, we struggle with pride. Pride is all lost people have to hold on to, so it doesn’t compute when Christians willingly lay down their pride and take up humility by admitting and apologizing for wrongdoing. “It took guts to own up to that,” your neighbor thinks, “I wonder what motivated her to do that?”. Because, dear friend, I have a Savior who, in humility, laid everything down for me. How could I not lay down something so small in obedience to Him?

6.
Forgive

What is a worldly person’s response when someone wrongs her? Anger. Bitterness. A grudge as high and long and thick as a brick wall. “I will never forgive you!” screamed as she slams out the door and out of that person’s life forever.

The kind of response Christ has every right to extend to us for our sin…but chooses not to.

Think back to when Christ saved you. Do you remember how heavy your sin was and how hopeless you felt? And then, that glorious moment that took your breath away when, for no other reason but grace and mercy, He cleansed you of all your rebellion and wrongdoing and pronounced you forgiven?

When we forgive someone who has sinned against us, we have the honor of pulling back the veil and giving a sinner a peek at the forgiveness Christ offers. It might be the kind of forgiveness He asked for the unrepentant who were crucifying Him. Or it might be the forgiveness He extended to a repentant woman whose sins were many.

“Why would you forgive me? I would never forgive someone who hurt me like that.” It’s the perfect moment to tell her about the One we have all sinned against, who delights to extend forgiveness to each of us.

 

The people around us, watching us every day, need Jesus. As His servants and ambassadors, we have the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility to represent Him well to them by simply obeying His Word. The world doesn’t need “Christians” who look just like them. The world needs Christians who look just like Jesus.

Sanctification, Sin

Wise to the Ways of the Worldly: 4 Ways Worldliness Sneaks In, and the Scriptures to Slay It

Lately, every time I turn around, I keep bumping up against the same biblical concept. It’s showing up in my personal Bible study time. In Sunday School. In sermons. Even in a revival my husband and I served at this week.

Worldliness, and the need for Christians to be set apart.

What is worldliness? It’s thinking, acting, and “attituding” the way lost people think, act, and attitude. It’s taking everything in through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one and putting yourself out there through a fleshly filter instead of a biblical one. It’s dealing with the world around you in any way Jesus wouldn’t.

God has called His people to be set apart from the world from day one. (OK, day six, if you want to get all technical about it.) You can’t be more set apart than living at an address God personally designed for you and plopped you down in the middle of.

The whole purpose of the Promised Land, the Law, driving out the pagan nations and destroying them, depending on God to miraculously win wars and conquer the enemy, was for God to set apart a people for Himself. To raise up a nation that the rest of the world could look at and say, “Hey, those Israelite folks are different, and their God is different, too. What’s their one God got that our pantheon doesn’t?”.

Jesus reminded God’s people what it looked like to be different and set apart from the world. So did His disciples. And the New Testament is chock full of passages in which the apostles exhort Christians and the church to be holy and distinct from the world in heart, mind, and behavior.

Why? Because being different, and holy, and counter-cultural is weird, and counter-intuitive, and attention-grabbing to the world. And once we’ve got their attention, we’ve got an opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Yes, sister, God has called you to be a weirdo for Jesus.

And you’re going to have to fight the flesh to do it, because worldliness is insidious and subtle. Just like that sneaky, slimy serpent slithered in to paradise with no alarm bells ringing, we modern day Eves often don’t even notice worldliness has slipped in and tempted us to think and act in ways it has never even occurred to us aren’t godly. Sure, we don’t drink, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with boys who do. And we don’t rob banks or murder people. But is that all there is to it? Avoiding the big, bad, behavioral no-no’s?

Before Eve ever extended her hand to pluck the fruit off the tree, Satan had already won several skirmishes with her heart. He had gotten her to doubt God’s character, disbelieve God’s word, and disregard God’s desires in favor of her own. And isn’t he still doing that with us today? Jesus warned us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

As we look at these four ways worldliness can tiptoe into our actions unannounced and unnoticed, let’s also think about how our actions are merely the fruit of what’s going on in our hearts.

What are some of those sneaky snakes of worldliness, and how can we mortify those sins and respond in a godly way?

1.
Being quick to take offense

It’s getting to the point where you can hardly carry on a mundane, “Nice weather we’re having,” conversation any more without being accused of racism, gender bias, or having some sort of “privilege”. Even compliments and positive comments are likely to be twisted and heard by the easily offended as insults or condescension.

Think of the way Jesus endured and responded to the verbal abuse and false accusations intentionally and maliciously hurled at Him. Can you imagine Him freaking out at an innocent, offhand remark, someone’s tone of voice, or somebody unintentionally sticking her foot in her mouth?

Neither can I, yet this form of worldliness is probably my biggest area of weakness. It’s just the pride of life, pure and simple. (Well, not pure, I guess.) How dare anyone ruffle my feathers!

And how do I respond? Maybe the same way you do. I get my back up and strike back, fighting fire with fire. I rarely take a moment to step back and think that maybe this person didn’t intend for her tone to sound like that, or maybe to her that word means something different than what it means to me, or maybe she’s just PMS-ing today, or maybe I misheard or misinterpreted what she actually said. I don’t think, “How can I respond in godly love to this person?”. I don’t think at all. I just vomit my fleshly emotions all over her. Instead, I’m to respond in patience, kindness, and love, even if the situation calls for standing firm on Scripture without budging.

The Serpent Slayer:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:16-18

2.
Being “Tolerant”

The world has been torturing this poor word “tolerant” for at least a few decades now. The definition has morphed from its actual meaning of “peacefully putting up with something that bothers you” to “embracing and celebrating any and every behavior and ideology (except biblical Christianity) as worthy and valid.” You’re not even allowed to think someone else’s worldview or behavior is wrong. You have to think it’s good or you’re a terrible person.

Now, of course, most Christians would not go around blatantly proclaiming that any old religion is just fine or that sexual immorality and perversion are perfectly acceptable or that abortion is a valid health care choice. But what about shying away from sharing the gospel with our Muslim neighbor for fear of appearing to be an Islamophobe? What about attending the homosexual “wedding” of a friend or loved one in order not to offend him and to maintain the relationship? What about failing to stand up for what’s right at work when unethical practices are the industry standard?

The Bible is very clear that following Christ and loyalty to His Word divides people. It divides family members from one another. It divides friends from one another, and it divides God’s people from those who claim to be God’s people and from the rest of the world. Jesus came to unite repentant sinners to God, not to unite unrepentant sinners to saved people. We must do what is right and biblical, refusing to participate in sinful and worldly activities, and lovingly, yet firmly, calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, even if it costs us family members, friends, our reputations, our churches, or our jobs.

The Serpent Slayer:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:4,7a

3.
Being Flippant or Consumeristic about Church

The world has no reason to think going to church is important. Why would they? They’re lost. And if they do darken the door of a church, it’s not because they love Christ and want to worship Him, it’s ultimately for self-centered reasons. To assuage their guilt, to get Mom or the wife off their back, to feel better about themselves, to satisfy their curiosity.

Gathering to worship God is what genuinely regenerated Christians do. We have a God-given craving for fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and approaching His throne in prayer, praise, and the study of His Word together. Skipping church at the drop of a hat, shopping around for a church with all the slappy happy bells and whistles that make you comfortable, demanding that your church cater to your feelings, opinions, and preferences, strolling in with a “what’s in it for me” attitude? Uh uh. Those are worldly, self-centered attitudes, and might even indicate that you’re not saved.

Christians see faithfully attending and serving at church as vital to their relationship with Christ and other Christians. It’s not, “What’s in it for me?” but “How can I serve you?”. It’s not, “What did I get out of the worship service?” but “How can I wholeheartedly throw myself into the worship of Christ?”.

The Serpent Slayer:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

4.
Being Defiant

If ever there were a generation of Americans who treated defying authority as the national pastime, this is it. Have you seen all the videos of people pulled over by the police who refuse to comply with their every request, sometimes even turning violent? How about the way wives these days run their marriages and treat their husbands like children? And the way children are allowed to rebel at school and at home? What about the rioting in the streets we’ve seen over the last few years?

The more I study the New Testament, the more passages I find instructing Christians to submit to the authorities in our lives. I’m not sure if I’d call it a major theme of the New Testament, but it sure isn’t a minor one. We’re to submit to the government, governing officials, earthly “masters” (literally if we’re slaves, figuratively – bosses, supervisors, etc. – if we’re not), wives are to submit to our husbands, children are to submit to their parents, and church members are to submit to our pastors and elders. Every human institution.

God’s people are a submitting people. Submitting to the authorities in our lives paints a picture for the watching world that one day every knee will bow in submission to the ultimate authority – God. And because God is our ultimate authority, the only time we disobey the human authorities in our lives is when what they’re asking us to do would cause us to disobey or dishonor God. Otherwise, we humble ourselves and joyfully and graciously submit.

The Serpent Slayer:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. 1 Peter 2:13a

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

 

There are so many more ways Satan tempts Christians to act like the world. We put our faith in politicians to fix things rather than in God. We approach the world with a posture of entitlement and demand our rights instead of laying them down to serve others. We lash out in bitterness at those who have hurt us, holding grudges and cutting them out of our lives instead of forgiving as Christ has forgiven us. The list could go on and on.

But however worldliness manifests itself, it all has the same serpentine root in the heart: doubting God’s character, disbelieving God’s Word, and disregarding God’s desires. And when our hearts become ambivalent about God, and we push His desires and directives aside, the void that’s left has to be filled with something.

That “something” is the idol of self. I want to do what I want to do and I don’t want anybody standing in my way. This thing, or person, or idea makes me happy and comfortable, and keeping it is more important to me than what God says about it. That’s ultimately what’s going on in our hearts when we think, speak, and act in worldly ways.

out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks

Submit to the Scriptures. Be subject to the Savior. Slay the serpent of worldliness.


 

What are some other forms of worldliness that can sneak into our lives,
and what Scriptures can we use to combat them?

Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

Originally published July 15, 2016all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.

Church

Is It Really All Our Fault?

all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.