- Thursday, November 13, 2008
We all know a Demas—someone who, like a spiritual meteorite, burned bright with the love of Christ for a while, then suddenly (or so it seemed) faded from fellowship and turned his back on Christ, or fell into serious sin, leaving all to wonder what happened.
So often we're ignorant of the signs, the symptoms of worldliness. People can be attending church, singing the songs, apparently listening to the sermons—no different on the outside than they've always been.
But inside, that person is drifting. He sits in church but is not excited to be there. She sings songs without affection. He listens to preaching without conviction. She hears but does not apply.
A love for the world begins in the soul. It's subtle, not always immediately obvious to others, and often undetected by the people who are slowly succumbing to its lies.
It begins with a dull conscience and a listless soul. Sin does not grieve him like it once did. Passion for the Savior begins to cool. Affections grow dim. Excitement lessens for participating in the local church. Eagerness to evangelize starts to wane. Growth in godliness slows to a crawl.
In this way, the person who was once genuinely passionate for Christ—like Demas—is, over time, taken captive by sin.
It's simply one more step from apparent follower to deserter.
So, are you drifting?
"Oh, it's not serious," you say. "I've just been in a busy season. Yeah, I'm not as excited about the gospel or the Christian life as I used to be, but I'm fine. I'm still attending church. It's not like I've left God or anything. I've just been preoccupied lately. I'll get back on track soon."
Was there a time you were passionate for God, characterized by extravagant devotion and love for the Savior? Demas was like that once too.
What about now? Have you fallen in love with this present world?
Sadly, Christians are largely unaware of the peril. Because we've ignored verses such as 1 John 2:15, we've become completely desensitized to the clear and present danger of worldliness.
Author James Hunter observes that we've "lost a measure of clarity" when it comes to how we relate to the world. He explains:
"Evangelicals still adhere to prohibitions against premarital, extramarital, and homosexual relations. But even here, the attitude toward those prohibitions has noticeably softened."
This softening, he points out, brings an inevitable result:
"Many of the distinctions separating Christian conduct from "worldly conduct" have been challenged if not altogether undermined. Even the words worldly and worldliness have, within a generation, lost most of their traditional meaning."1
We've softened. We've lost clarity. Within a generation, worldly and worldliness have lost most of their meaning, becoming mere clippings on the floor of our lives. The distinctions between Christian and worldly conduct—once so clear—have blurred beyond recognition. The slippery slope from drifter to deserter has, in only a few years, grown increasingly slick. This rapid loss of clarity has culminated in crisis.
Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world.
Unlike so many of our Christian brothers and sisters who live in countries with oppressive regimes—where the church is flourishing, by the way—we in America don't face imminent threat to our families, livelihoods, and well-being for professing faith in Christ. Our peril is far more obscure and far more insidious. We aren't under attack from without; we're decaying from within. Our success as ambassadors for Christ, as witnesses of the life-changing power of the gospel, hangs in the balance.
We've let down our guard against worldliness. And as a love for the things of this world has infiltrated the church, it has watered down and weakened our witness. It threatens to silence our clarion call for repentance and faith in the Savior.
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