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Timely Topics for Teens series
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Lesson 10: What in the World is Worldliness?
He had a very determined look on his face, and since he was big enough to block the door I decided to listen to what he had to say. The badge on his blazer told me his name was Wally and that he was one of several hundred teens from Michigan attending a youth seminar where I was one of the speakers.
"Look preacher I've got a problem and you'd better solve it for me."
I took a second look at his football physique and immediately agreed to help him, if I could.
"Everybody tells me I have three enemies to fight—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Now I get this business about the flesh, because I live with it every day. And I'm beginning to understand the way the devil works. But what in the world is WORLDLINESS?"
Breathing a sigh of relief, I replied, "It's not as complicated as we preachers make it seem. Come on over to the ohp." He followed me, Bible in hand, and when we left the room together, fifteen minutes later, he confessed, "That's the first time I've ever understood what worldliness is all about."
Why don't you look over my shoulder (you'd never be able to look over Wally's) and get in on the lesson yourself.
I gave Wally a marker and asked him to draw a circle on the overhead, with some stick figures walking on it. This is what he drew:
"Now, Wally, the Bible uses the word world in three different ways. It can refer to the earth God created, such as in Acts 17:24. Wally found the verse and read, "The God who made the world and everything in it…"
"The second use of world is in John 3:16, where it refers to people." "God so loved the world…" He nodded his head, showing he understood.
"Now its the third use of world that has you confused, the way it's used in 1 John 2:15-17."
He found the passage and read it out loud:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17 New King James Version)
Then he looked up with a blank expression on his face.
I added another circle to the overhead and wrote the three meanings of world.
"This third meaning of world simply has the idea of a system or order of things that surround us.
"Look—you've heard radio and TV announcers say, 'And now the news from the world of sports.' What does 'the world of sports' mean? Is it some faraway planet where dead baseball players go?"
He laughed, "I guess 'the world of sports' means everything that makes up athletics—people, ideas, programs, places, and all that."
"Okay. And the 'world of politics' would be everything that makes up the activities and thoughts and goals of people in government, right?" He nodded his agreement.
"You can't pin down 'the world of sports' to any one place or person, can you? It's all around you, visible and invisible, right?"
"I'm starting to see what you're aiming at," Wally commented. "In other words, when the Bible talks about the world it means a system of things—people, ideas, programs and so on—just like with sports or politics. You can't see it but it's there and it influences you all the time."
I had a thinking teenager on my hands!
"Add one more thing to your definition, Wally, and you'll be all set. This system of things that surrounds us is controlled by the devil and has as its goal the ruin of your life and the work of the Lord on earth."
He looked at the diagram a long time then asked the question I was waiting for: "But how does this invisible system affect me personally?"
I took off the earlier diagrams and put up a triangle. "Wally, when you came into this world, you brought with you only three things: a body, a mind, and a will. And when you were saved, the Spirit of God moved into your life—like this."
"Now, let's add the world to our picture: and while I'm doing this, find 1 John 2:16 and find out what three ways the world has of working in your life."
Wally read, "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
"Let's take them one by one. The lust—or appetite—of the flesh refers to the pressure of the world against your body, so let's add an arrow and this label to our diagram.
"The lust of the eyes means the pressure of the world against your mind, because what goes through your eyes affects your mind.
"And the pride of life refers to the pressure against your will, because pride is a sin of the will."
The picture now looked like this:
Wally shook his head. "I get what you're talking about, but I still don't see what this means to me personally."
"It means this, Wally. All day long this invisible system around you is putting pressure on your body, mind, and will, trying to get you to conform to the world. The devil wants to use your body the way the unsaved crowd does, or take it some place where a Christian's body should never be found."
I could see the light dawning.
"I get it! There's pressure against my mind, trying to make me think the way the world thinks and there's pressure against my will, trying to get me to do what I want, not what God wants. Hey, that makes sense!"
"The Bible always makes sense," I said, "especially when you take time to understand it. But you know, Wally, you and I have discovered what the world is and how it works, but we've not even defined worldliness!"
He blinked twice and smiled. "I guess you're right. But wouldn't worldliness be giving into these pressures and doing things like doing drugs or going to wild parties or stuff like that?"
"Well, lots of Christians don't use drugs or go to wild parties, but they're still worldly. You see, Wally, those verses you read from 1 John 2 tell us that worldliness involves our love for the Father and our obedience to His will."
He looked at his Bible and read,
"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him… The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15 & 17)
"Here's a definition of worldliness, Wally, that might help you:
He repeated it slowly: "Anything that keeps me from enjoying God's love and wanting to do God's will is worldly. But that means that every Christian has to decide for himself what is worldly and what's not worldly."
"Right on! Of course, there are some things that experience tells us are dangerous in a Christian's life, and we'd better avoid them. But when it comes to pinpointing this habit or that place, we'd better be careful. Worldliness isn't just things like X-rated movies or martinis. A fellow could sleep in every morning, pamper his body and never have time for Bible reading and prayer.
"Or a girl could be so proud of her looks or her clothes that nobody could get along with her."
Wally looked at the diagram on the overhead again. "I get it! The world puts pressure on my body, mind and will, trying to get me to conform to the world's way of living. And I know when the world is at work because I start losing my enjoyment of God's love and desire to do His will. Hey, that makes sense!"
I enjoyed his enthusiasm for a minute, then punctured the balloon. "But what do you do when the world moves in? It isn't enough just to know how worldliness operates or how to detect it. You have to be able to fight it."
He sobered up a bit. "Yeah, I see what you mean. It's easier to conform to the world than to fight it. Well, what am I supposed to do?"
I pointed to the diagram. "Wally, there are two kinds of Christians in the world—conformers and transformers. A conformer is a person whose life is controlled by pressure from without. He gives in to the world.
"But a transformer is a Christian whose life is controlled by power from within, the power of the Holy Spirit."
I pointed to the circle inside the triangle. "Wally, there's enough power there to transform your life—body, mind and will—and, through you, to transform your high school campus, or the whole world."
That puzzled look came back. "Our pastor always talks about the power of the Holy Spirit, but I just don't understand it. What do I have to do for the Holy Spirit to work in my life?"
"The secret of victory during the day lies with what you do at the beginning of the day. Take your Bible and read Romans 12:1-2 to me. I know, you've heard those verses a hundred times, but try them once more."
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
He looked at the page again. "Hey, there are those words conform and transform!"
"Right! And these verses explain how you can be a transformer. It's simply by giving God your body, mind and will every single day."
He read aloud, "I urge you... offer your bodies... renewing of your mind... God's…perfect will.' Why it's just like the diagram—body, mind and will!"
"You've discovered the secret, Wally. Start the day by giving God your body, mind and will, and then the Spirit can work in your life and be the Power on the inside to counteract the world's pressures on the outside.
"This means getting out of bed in the morning instead of pampering your body. It means reading the Word to renew your mind and it means spending time in prayer; surrendering your will to His will and seeking His guidance. That's what dedication really is—not walking an aisle once in a meeting, but giving your body, mind and will to God every single day. The Spirit works through the Bible and prayer, you know."
He grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I've been neglecting my devotional life. In fact, now that I understand what this is all about, I have to admit that I've been worldly. I've been sleeping in every morning and ignoring God. And I've given more time to TV and dates than I really should. You know, I don't do some of the things other kids do——smoking and stuff like that—but I guess I'm worldly just the same!"
"Don't forget the definition, Wally. Anything—even a good thing—that keeps us from enjoying God's love, or wanting to do His will, is worldly, and we have to get rid of it."
I looked at my watch. "It's almost time for the next session, so let me wrap this up in a package for you to take home and practice." Here's what I wrote in his seminar notebook:
Definition: Anything that keeps me from enjoying God's love and wanting to do His will.
Description: Pressure against my body (lust of the flesh), mind (lust of the eyes) and will (pride of life).
Design: Satan wants me to be a conformer, not a transformer.
Defeat: I must surrender body, mind and will to God daily and allow the indwelling Spirit to counteract the pressures from the outside by His power from within. The Spirit works when I take time for the Bible and prayer.