Mishandled – Worldliness

Last week I explained that the Bible describes ‘worldliness’ as sin, but what is worldliness? Many different Christians have contrasting ideas of what worldliness is. There are extremes all the way from the Amish to the churches that meet in bars and everyone in-between. As a result, the debate continues and the target for exactness keeps moving.

I’ve heard it said that drinking root beer was worldliness because it’s could give the idea of drinking real beer, but that assumes that anyone drinking reel beer is worldly. I think a lot of Christians have become high and mighty about the convictions that they’ve surmised from the Scriptures and they, in turn, consider anything contradictory to their view of holiness is worldliness. Perhaps they would describe worldliness as: Being like the world, Liking what the world likes, Thinking like the world thinks, Living like the world, etc. Each one of these ideas fails to accurately define worldliness and creates a massive logical fallacy.

What Christians are looking for is physical distinction from the world. We do this by setting up physical standards, “Don’t smoke, drink, chew, or go with girls that do.” When we do this, we boil Christianity down into a list of things we can’t do. We hear sermons all the time saying you should look like a Christian wherever you go, whatever you do, and whenever you’re having a bad day. Well, how how is a Christian supposed to ‘look’ when he’s changing a tire? We can’t do it like the world would do it, for fear of being worldly, so how do we make it look Christian?

This is illogical, but so are most of the standards on how to act distinctively Christian. There are specific distinctives that Christians should have. Those are spelled out specifically in the Bible. I’m not contesting those. However, when we add our own distictives, as if the Bible might have missed a few pertinent points, we look quite ridiculous to the world.

I’ve heard life described as living in a bountiful valley with a line drawn down the center. This line represents what God has allowed for us, and what God does not allow. A lot of people walk right up to the line and spend their days looking over to the other side. They long for what the world has. “The grass looks greener on the other side.” they say. This is worldliness. The other group of people sight what Isaac did with Potiphar’s wife and say, “We have to get as far away from that line as we can.” And they spend their whole lives pressed up against the rocks for fear that they might get too close to the line down in the valley. This is legalism. God has blessed us with the whole valley, this side of the line. When we spend all of our time wishing we were on the other side, we sin by being worldly. When we spend all of our time worrying about the line, we sin by not rejoicing in what God has allowed.

When we fail to teach accurately about worldliness, we inevitably set into pattern another form of worldliness where the older generations pass down their traditions as holier than the traditions being formed in society. Let’s face it. At some point your songs were looked at as being evil by some group or another. We need to simply stick to what the Bible teaches about worldliness and not draw lines where God is silent. Then, let’s rejoice in the things that God does allow.

Further, when we distance ourselves from the world on issues that are nonessential we fail to have effectiveness at reaching our culture with the gospel. Next week I’ll do what I can to expose how we’ve mishandled separation.

“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.” – I John 2:15-16

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