November 21, 2017

Is It Worldly? Check the Expiration Date.

Thomas Overmiller

This is part two of three. Part One is here.

In Part One, Thomas said:

    • We need to avoid using the term ‘worldly’ as mere jargon, but have a good grasp of the concept according to the Bible.
    • The first aspect of worldliness we need to understand, based on 1 Jn 2.15-17, is that of ungoverned appetites, that is, the lusts of the flesh.
Unreal Thinking

The lust of the eyes refers to the desires of your imagination. Like siren songs, the world lures your mind with fantastic promises of experience and possession. They are given in various forms, including inappropriate, suggestive media, the message of materialism, or fantasy role-playing. A worldly person gives place to these promises and pursues them in his mind. Allow me to offer some examples of this kind of worldliness.

The idea of immorality pervades our society through media. Not only does it offer things outside of the boundaries of God’s desires, it makes promises that are not real. What you see is not what you get. In most cases, you don’t get anything at all. This media cultivates a mental world of fantasies. God calls this sin (Matt. 5:28). He also calls this worldliness. But imaginations do not have to be immoral to be sinful and worldly.

Crafty advertisements and the neighbors next door both provide a ready source for imaginative dreaming. Do you ever catch yourself envisioning that you are the owner of your neighbor’s house, or one like it? Whether it is their house, car, parents, or pet chameleon – whatever causes you to covet – this kind of imagination is worldly. It is equally wrong to covet things that are advertised for sale. Children love to study Christmas catalogs, dreaming about the gifts they want to receive. Adults have the same propensity. For an adult, this is evidence of a worldly heart.

Fantasy role-playing provides another means of feeding the lust of the eyes. As a teenager, I owned a copy of Sid Meier’s Civilization. This computer game afforded me the opportunity to be the ultimate power of the world. As such, I amassed armies, governed nations, and lived for centuries. I guided the progress of human history, all on a computer screen. Though the game itself was not inherently bad, I wasted countless hours of my life in a mental fantasy world pursuing illusionary goals. It consumed me. What do I have to show for it? Nothing but the memory of a fuzzy brain. This was evidence of a worldly heart.

The world certainly engineers many more appeals to our imaginations. Look around you, but don’t believe everything you see. That is what a worldly person does. Don’t fix your mind on any worldly mirage. Submit and devote your mind to the pursuit of Christ’s tangible, eternal will (2 Cor. 10:5).

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Unworthy Pursuits

Life in this world is a measured opportunity to accomplish something significant, something specific, something eternally designed by God. It is not the opportunity to promote yourself or to prove that you are something extraordinary. The “pride of life” mentioned by John seems to refer to such an inner aberration of thinking. It is the desire to achieve a status of significance in the temporal world.

The arena of finances and possessions lure many believers into the pride of life. A name plaque in the Wall Street and Forbes hall of fame is guaranteed to the man who builds the greatest business, largest warehouse, and biggest bank account. Bentleys, boats, and mansions on expansive acres wait for you to claim them. Even if your goals are not this high, you may not be innocent. Whether you are pursuing triple digits or millions (or thousands), Bentleys or Buicks, condos or mansions, it’s all the same. The pride of life manifests itself on many different levels.

The development of talents and abilities offer another arena for the pursuit of significance. Athletes compete for trophies, championships, and contracts. Musicians jockey for notoriety and top hits. Scholars vie for degrees and chair positions, politicians for power and influence, actors for blockbuster roles, and authors for best-sellers. All of these goals promise recognition and accomplishment. They provide goals that seem tangible and give artificial purpose to life.

But the applause, awards, recognition and status are only temporal. They decay and perish with the world. Consequently, these pursuits are not worthy of a Christian. Consider Alexander the Great, who wept as a young man because he had no more lands to conquer (Mark 8:36). Sadly, he allowed the pride of life to govern his life in this world, and he came up empty. Sometimes I wonder what he might have accomplished if he had pursued eternal goals instead?

“Set your affection? on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:2-4).


Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.


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