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Substance (2) – Worldliness in a Changing World

In last week’s post I wrote about the seeming contradiction between what Christ promises and many of us feel like we are experiencing. Christ promises that ‘His burden is light and His yoke is easy and yet life seems really hard! He calls us to be “oaks of righteousness”, but we often feel weak.

According to Pastor Nic Gibson the reason many of us feel this way is worldliness. In chasing and longing after the things of this world we have allowed thorns and thistles to grow up in our lives and these choke out the fruit of the Gospel. The solution isn’t to “try harder”, but to be sanctified and overcome worldliness in Christ.

We are in the midst of a terribly trying time and I believe there is no better time to train our hearts to rely more fully and completely on Christ. In this message I’ll talk about some of the specific issues we face in the contemporary world (not so much with Corona, but the world as it has been the past few years.)

People have always worried about the young and “our changing times”. Yet many of these worries and the solutions they lead to are superficial (e.g. we worry that kids are too obsessed with social media “likes” and that this causes them to obsess about self-image or do dumb things. But when in human history have young people not been concerned with image and when have they not acted foolishly in the hopes of gaining popularity?) Wisdom directs us to dive deeper. Wisdom asks questions like: what is changing, why is it changing, what is the spirit of the times, and how do we respond with discernment?

According to Gibson, the world has changed. The world has become more worldly. Why? Modern technology addicts us to the shallowest experiences of human instinct and self-gratification. We play video games and watch TV instead of talking to friends, spouses, or children. These addictions distract us from developing our higher gratifications. It is not that these things are evil, they are banal and shallow and when we engage in them we become shallow and banal.

What is more, we’ve also silenced are warning sirens. Much of our wealth and energy is put into developing systems and technologies designed to save us from the natural consequences of our wickedness and foolishness—e.g. we take pills to help us with our bad health because we refuse to eat healthy and be disciplined in our exercise.

We are also becoming more interested in self-esteem, sensual gratification, social engineering, personal dreams and visions, and unrestrained consumption. At the same time we’ve become less concerned with faith, virtue, wisdom, self-discipline, productivity, perseverance, godliness, fraternity, humility, hope, prudence, and self-sacrificial love. Taken together this has made us shallow, vaporous, unstable, and brittle.

As a society we think that old teachings are out-of-date—why memorize proverbs or learn wisdom? What can Solomon or Moses tell us, they lived in a different world? Why do we even need to submit to reality if we can control it?

The claims of the world often feel ‘more real’ than Biblical truths because we have so deeply absorbed them. The secular worldview is so pervasive it never has to justify itself. It is in the air we breathe; we are as unaware of it as a fish is the water it swims in. In order to escape worldliness we must learn to recognize it.

But the more we live in the world and give ourselves over to worldly desires the less capable we are of recognizing worldliness! Giving in to the flesh makes us intense, yet shallow, forceful, yet fragile. Knowing only worldly pleasures we think that really following Christ will mean a loss of all pleasure. But Godliness is not the denial of desire, but rather the transformation of our desires into their most substantial, vibrant, and beautiful forms. This is Christ’s desire for us.