Saturday, July 11, 2009

WORLDLINESS



“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”(James 4:4).
I began my spiritual walk as a Christian in the mid 70’s, in a church that preached a very clear message of separation from the world. Sunday mornings were never short on sermons that focused on abstaining from sinful practices that were contrary to Scripture. The preaching often aimed at social drinking, dancing, immodest dress, rock music, and movies that would probably carry the label “PG” by today’s standards. I was taught that every Christian must earnestly endeavor to separate himself from the world and avoid even the “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). “We are in the world, but not of the world” were words familiar to my ears and diligently pressed home to my heart. Now, after nearly 40 years of living out my faith in this world, I know that the battle against worldliness still rages, and that it is far greater than a list of what not to do. I am all the more convinced that Satan is indeed “the prince of this world” (John 14:30), “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

The adversary of God is waging war in the center of the battlefield of men’s hearts and minds. Not being content with tempting Christians to compromise in some area of their lives, he desires their complete destruction: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Knowing this to be the case, as a shepherd of God’s flock I am very concerned when I see my fellow brethren gravitating toward the fleeting pleasures the world has to offer (Hebrews 11:25). Tolerance for what was once called sin has become a 21st century virtue.

Hand in hand with this new theology of acceptance is the rapid erosion of biblical truth and rejection of the “Elijahs” of the Lord God: the pulpit prophets who boldly proclaim “Thus saith the Lord” (see 2 Chronicles 21). Surely those among us with even a mustard seed of spiritual discernment can see that something is wrong. As the American culture disintegrates before our eyes and slides faster and faster toward Sodom, so it is with holiness in the church. More and more, the modern Christian is living his life on the playground of carnal desire. This should not surprise us, for it will be characteristic of the end-times delusion: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1,2).

Part and parcel with the deception of false teaching is the delusion that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) can bring lasting satisfaction and happiness. Jude warned of those who would turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). This is the abuse of grace which completely ignores the true work of grace: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1,2).

God’s word never grants liberty to sin nor license to deviate from the straight and narrow path of holiness. Tryone Edwards wrote: “A holy life is not an ascetic, or gloomy, or solitary life, but a life regulated by divine truth and faithful in Christian duty. It is living above the world while we are still in it”. Unfortunately, the church has tried to win the world by becoming more like the world, but Scripture says: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). Pastors and other Christian leaders must examine their own hearts in this matter and repent. In this dark hour of history we stand in need of genuine revival among the saints of God — a revival of heart and mind that constitutes genuine worship. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (act of worship). And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1,2). Nothing less than this will be sufficient to withstand the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Simply put, those who have been washed from their sins by the blood of Jesus Christ must fall out of love with the world and go back to their first love (Revelation 2:4).

Charles Wesley wrote:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray:
I woke- the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

I pray that God’s people who have been taken captive by the world will throw off those chains of darkness, rise up as a mighty army, and follow Jesus.

Pastor Tom