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What is worldliness?

I love the book of I John. There is so much being taught there, and one of those important teachings is found in 2:15: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

What does it mean to love the world? What is wordliness? We all like to put our own spin on it, satisfying our own personal convictions. Thus, wordliness becomes for some a retreat from things like dancing, movies, or various forms of books and music. The problem is, though, that there are times when we may indeed shun such things but actually love the world very much.

J.I. Packer, in his book 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, gives some helpful comments about what it means to be worldly:

Wordliness means yielding to the spirit that animates fallen mankind, the spirit of self-seeking and self-indulgence without regard for God. Whether a man is worldly thus depends, not on how much enjoyment he takes from the good and pleasant things of this life, but in the spirit in which he takes it. If he allows these things to enslave him (I Cor. 6:12) and become a god -- that is, an idol, -- in his heart (Col. 3:5) he is worldly. If, on the other hand, he is disciplined in his use of them, not indulging to the detriment of his own or others' edification (I Cor. 10:20-23; 8:8-13) nor losing his heart to them, but receiving them gratefully as God's gift and a means for showing forth His praise, thanking God for all pleasant occupations and all delightful experiences, and not letting the merely good elbow out the best, then he is not worldly, but godly.

Of course there are some things which we don't partake of because they are not inherently good, like pornography, for example. There is no "disciplined" use of such a thing. It is bad to begin with. Listening to rap music which exalts objectification of women or violence against them is not inherently good, but to suggest that the genre itself is worldly is not accurate. Disclaimer: I don't like rap music myself. I'm only using it as an example.

I really liked this comment:

Again, it is not worldly to be praised; but it is worldly to live for men's compliments and applause, and to find one's highest happiness in the thought that one has gratified men, rather than in the knowledge that one has done God's will. Worldliness is the spirit which substitutes some earthly ideal, such as pleasure, or gain, or popularity, for life's true goal, which is in all things to praise and to please God.

I had a Sunday school student once who said "I want to be famous when I get older." He didn't state a particular skill or activity he wanted to engage in that would make him famous. He just wanted to be famous. That kind of thinking is everywhere: the desire to be noticed. That is at the heart of reality television shows where people portray their lives for everyone to see, including the really bad parts. The principle of doing something simply because we love to do it, and do it well, has been lost in the world today. To work simply for the recogntion is a worldly activity.

It always comes back to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: what is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We are less likely to be worldly if this is our goal. And that means checking our motives. That is something I know I need to do regularly.

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