Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Worldliness

Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The gospel makes all the difference between whether you are merely conservative or whether you are conquering worldliness in the power of the Spirit for the glory of Christ or whether you are flowing along with the cultural tide. What does it look like in your life when the blood of Christ governs the TV, the Internet, the digital devices, the bank account, the neckline, the hemline? Have you ever confronted yourself with that question? We all should. Then we should form a biblical answer, and live accordingly.

All of the things just mentioned: TV, movies, music, technology, bank accounts, and clothes, may be filed under one category: culture, and a good definition of that word is “a set of values broadly shared by a population of people.” Culture is where we live. We are surrounded by it. We move in it. As believers, we are called to minister in it, and when it comes to culture, we can take one of the following positions.

  1. Culture-fleers – This position sees culture as largely evil, and everything possible must be done to insulate one’s self from the culture. Any association with culture is viewed with skepticism, ridicule, and contempt. What is wrong, if anything, with this position? It is impossible to evade the culture. Try and remove yourself from culture if you want, but it will find you. Like it or not, culture is a part of our lives, from language, to clothing, to customs, and laws. There is no escape!
  2. Culture-deniers – This position sees culture as no problem. Those who hold to this position embrace the culture with little to no reservations, denying that it has any impact on their lives. What is wrong, if anything, with this position? Many of our culture’s assumptions are in direct conflict with biblical teaching. To simply “go with the flow” often means to go against God’s word.
  3. Cultureengagers – This position sees culture as the place where the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20faithful witness) is fulfilled and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40faithful follower) is practiced.

This is the position which we must have. We are obligated to engage our culture; not run from it, hide from it or deny its influence, nor should we love it or imitate it. We engage our culture because we love our Christ, and He has given us a commission and a commandment that requires us to be culture-engagers, since, without exception, every single person we try to reach with the gospel is embedded in some culture. We must be cautious, keeping in mind the Apostle Paul’s word from Ephesians 5:15, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” In other words, be wise not unwise, and walk carefully. Our gospel engagement must keep the proper perspective. Cultures have and will pass away, but our Lord is forever and He has left us in this culture for the reason of being salt and light in a dying world.

The only way to be of any real use to this world is to speak the gospel into it, but we will never be useful to the world if we are being shaped by it. One will be shaped by the world unless intentional efforts are made to not be. The Apostle Paul calls believers to a certain standard in Philippians 4:8:

“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.”

Let us commit to make intentional efforts, enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Likewise, let us commit to make intentional efforts, enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to not think on whatever is untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, unlovely, deplorable, inferior, and anything unworthy of praise.

Beginning today, and stretching on for the next six weeks, we are going to seek to understand what God’s Word has to say regarding this world and our involvement in it. Specifically, how we are to resist the seductions of the world and, instead, speak the gospel into it. We are to live and minister in the world but not have a love for the world. We know this from one long section of what is normally called the “High Priestly prayer” of Jesus which is found in John 17:11-19. Let’s read that together.

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (emphasis mine)

The word “world” is littered throughout that section of Christ’s prayer. Our Lord acknowledges that we are in the world, and that He has given us His Word. He says that the world hates us. Why? Because we are not of this world, just as Jesus is not of this world. He also prayed that we would not be taken out of this world, but that we would be kept from the evil of it. The way we are protected from the world, while not being removed from it, is by being sanctified by the truth, and God’s Word is truth.

Before we conclude this lesson, two terms (which will be examined further next week) must be defined.

  1. Worldthe system which is under the control of Satan and actively hostile to God. By “system” we simply mean an arrangement of things. For example the “sports” world or the “political” world. The word “culture” may be used interchangeably with the term “world” in this sense.
  2. Worldlinessloving this fallen world – the system opposed to God – more than God. Anything that keeps us from loving God as we should, and from doing God’s will as we ought is worldliness.

Let us be wise about our culture. We are in it, but we must not be saturated with it. We are called to minister in this culture, so let us cooperate without compromise, and may we never forget Ephesians 5:15. Be wise, not unwise. Follow this link to download a PDF of our Sunday school series Worldliness: loving God more than anything or anyone else.

Let us be careful how and where we walk in the “real world” as well as in the virtual world of social media.

Seven Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Seven Do’s

  1. Announce events and teaching themes
  2. Link to helpful resources
  3. Encourage others
  4. Let people know a little about your life
  5. Share Scriptures and helpful quotes
  6. Ask for prayer for yourself and others
  7. Limit your time on networks

Seven Don’ts

  1. Post anything that you would fear being read at Church
  2. Engage ongoing conversations with the opposite sex
  3. Fish for affirmation or support
  4. Post ambiguous or manipulative statements
  5. Vent about Church matters or members
  6. Become combative or defensive
  7. Embarrass your family with comments or photos

 

We should also be careful of the subtle dangers presented to us in posting and viewing photos. Be wise. Show discernment in the pictures you post on social media, and be just as careful with the pictures you view. Sometimes Facebook photos seem like self-portrait on steroids! It’s so easy to post hundreds of pictures of yourself! Why wouldn’t people want to see you in every possible pose? We must not allow Facebook photos to become an outlet for self-absorption.

A social media prayer

Before using social media, offer this prayer: “Let the words of my mouth (or my fingers on the keys), and the meditation of my heart (or the photos I post and look at), be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

 

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