I am being truly challenged reading Worldliness, a new book edited by C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney opens in the first chapter discussing 1 John 2:15, which states, "Do not love the world or the things in the world." Not much wiggle room there. We are called to reject the things of this world. This verse is not saying that we should not love people, but rather the world system that opposes everything about God. Mahaney states that worldliness is "loving the values and pursuits that stand opposed to God . . . to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God."
Many of us might say that we do not love the world, but it is so easy to slowly edge toward the world. The church itself is beginning to not be so distinct in its values and priorities. I am reminding of the song by Casting Crowns called "Slow Fade." The words talk about the move away from God is a slow fade, not usually a dramatic rejection. Give a little here, give a little there, and suddenly we are somewhere we did not intend to be.
Mahaney gives the example of Demas in 2 Timothy. Demas was a dedicated friend and traveling companion to Paul. He saw the work of the Lord first hand. Yet, in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul writes, "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me." This is a tragic verse, and sobering. We are not above "fading" due to the influence of this world.
How do we combat worldliness? Mahaney points out that the battle is within. The desires of our hearts are not always bad, but are deadly when we "must" have them. He notes that John Calvin says our hearts are a perpetual factory of idols. Ouch! This is so true. Left to our own devices, we tend to create idols, things that compete with God's true place in our hearts.
What captivates us? Are we preoccupied with the temporary and superficial things of this world? Do we have "living affections to dying things" (John Owen)?
I desperately do not want to waste my life on the temporary. I do not want my heart to be a "perpetual factory of idols." I want to live in light of eternity. Mahaney points out that the only antidote to worldliness is the cross of Christ. As we seek Christ with abandon, he notes that "the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Alleluia!