Chapter 20 is all about a cross centred life. A life that is shaped by the cross rather than by the world. Worldliness isn’t a particular behaviour but rather a way of thinking about all of life in which we become moulded and shaped by the world’s thinking and it’s way of doing life, rather than being transformed by what God says and Jesus had done. It’s no surprise then that we start tolerating and “normalising” behaviours the world worships, values and accepts, but bring no honour to God.
Bridges says worldliness is “a preoccuption with the things of this temporal life…it’s accepting and going along with the values and practices of society around us without discerning if they are Biblical.” (p174)
Worldliness, like all sin, is a heart condition. John says in 1 John2:15-17,
” 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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Worldliness is a sin of our affections, of our loves and desires. It’s not a matter of resisting matter , but a matter of the heart, requiring heart surgery to change loves and desires. That’s demanding work for a surgeon and painful for the patient !
“And it’s a life long battle. We must resist it’s influence until our dying breath. However it isn’t a battle fought by sheer willpower or teeth-gritting self-denial. We can’t overcome worldliness on our own. We are not sufficient. A much greater strength is required. But take heart! All that we need to overcome worldliness has been provided for us. The antidite to worldliness is the cross of Jesus Christ. Only through the power of the cross of Christ can we successfully resist the seduction of the fallen world. The saviour’s death on the cross is what makes possible forgivenes of sins and provies power to overcome sin. And the cross is the attraction that draws our hearts away from the empty and deadly pleasures of worldliness.” (“Worldliness – Resisting the Seductions of the Fallen World”, CJ Mahaney, Crossay, 2008. p33)
Bridges likewise encourages us to combat unworldliness, not by deciding not to be worldly, but to be committed to an increasing affection for God that will expel from our hearts our affection for the things of this world (p175).
There’s a great final chapter in “Worldliness” looking at how we can love the world in a way that affirms God’s love for the world. Jeff Purswell suggest we enjoy the world, engage the world and evangelise the world.
In what ways might a “respectable worldliness” be present in your life in the areas of money, immorality and idolatory? And what about a respectable worldliness towards media and music, technology, our homes and clothes?
In “Worldliness”, CJ Mahaney asks a couple of helpful diagnostic questions - “What dominates your mind and stirs your heart? Is it discontent with your life? Longings for earthly pleasures? Does outward prosperity appeal to you more than growth in godliness? Is your prayer life characterised by heartfelt supplictions for God’s will to be done and his kingdom to come? Do you relate to God as if he exists to further your selfish ambitions or are you convinced that you exist to glorify him?” (p27)
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
(Isaac Watts 1674-1748)
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.