This is part one of three.
Christians use jargon. We use vocabulary and phrases that are unique to our born-again, Bible-based lifestyle. Some common examples of Christian jargon include: born again, edify, evangelist, faith promise, gospel, grace, mission field, pastor, tithe, total surrender, and will of God. These are good expressions. Do you know any other examples? There’s nothing wrong with these terms. In fact, they are largely biblical. But it is all too easy for us to use our special words without understanding them ourselves.
A word that is easy for Christians to use without understanding is worldliness. When you read this word, what impressions strike your mind?
Common impressions include drinking, dancing, rock music, gambling, and possibly another church in town with trends of compromise. But what is it really? Fundamentalist preachers denounce it. Fundamentalist parents protect their children from it. Christian schools teach against it. Is it a running, growing list of things that are bad to do and places that are bad to visit? Perhaps there is some reality to this idea. But let us explore the concept of worldliness through biblical lenses. This is important for two reasons:
- If worldliness is a real problem, you need to be able diagnose it and solve it in your own life.
- If worldliness is a real problem, you need to be able to diagnose it and solve it in the lives of people you lead and influence.
The foundation for this brief study will be 1 John 2:15-17. I trust that you will benefit from this study as much as I have, and that it will draw you closer the heart of our Savior.
John outlines three dimensions of a worldly heart (worldliness) in I John 2:16. He calls the first dimension “the lust of the flesh.” This dimension encompasses the fundamental appetites of your basic human nature. These include sleep, food and drink, and the desire for human relationship. God designed these appetites and intends for them to be fulfilled. But they have been corrupted by the spiritual virus of sin.
This intrinsic corruption involves two aspects, exaggeration and distortion. By exaggeration I mean that they have been enlarged beyond their designed size and significance. They are bigger than they should be. Some examples of exaggeration are oversleeping and overeating.
By distortion I mean that they have been reprogrammed to find fulfillment outside of their designed parameters. They do not follow the laws of nature, sense, and wisdom. Some examples of distortion are alcoholic drinking and fornication.
By including the lust of the flesh in his description of a worldly heart, John contrasts these distorted appetites with a genuine love for God. This does not mean that sleeping, eating and drinking, or human relationship are evil. But over-feeding these appetites and fulfilling them inappropriately is sinful and worldly. Worldliness encompasses more than fornication. It includes overeating and oversleeping too!
To be continued…
Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.