- Thursday, November 13, 2008
Charles Spurgeon, writing 150 years ago, nevertheless speaks poignantly to the problem in the church today: "I believe," he asserted, "that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church."2
Further substantiating his claim, he calls history as a witness:
"Put your finger on any prosperous page in the Church's history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: ‘In this age men could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended.' Never were there good times when the Church and the world were joined in marriage with one another. The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin."3
The greater our difference from the world, the more true our testimony for Christ—and the more potent our witness against sin. But sadly, today, there's not much difference. The lines have blurred. The lack of clarity between the church and the world has undercut our testimony for Christ and undermined our witness against sin. In Spurgeon's words once again: "Worldliness is growing over the church; she is mossed with it."4
Is There a Difference?
Are the lines between Christian and worldly conduct blurry in your mind—and more importantly, in your life? To put it another way, is your lifestyle obviously different from that of the non-Christian?
Imagine I take a blind test in which my task is to identify the genuine follower of Jesus Christ. My choices are an unregenerate individual and you.
I'm given two reports detailing conversations, Internet activity, manner of dress, iPod playlists, television habits, hobbies, leisure time, financial transactions, thoughts, passions, and dreams.
The question is: Would I be able to tell you apart? Would I discern a difference between you and your unconverted neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend?
Have the lines between Christian and worldly conduct in your life become so indistinguishable that there really is no difference at all?
If the difference is hard to detect, you may be in danger of drifting down the deserter's path with Demas.
In front of the deserter's path is a warning sign. It's 1 John 2:15: "Do not love the world or anything in the world." This little book is a call to heed that warning. It's a passionate plea to a generation for whom the dangers of worldliness are perhaps more perilous than for any that has gone before.
But 1 John 2:15 isn't simply a "Do Not Enter" sign. These ten words (and the verses that follow) don't simply forbid worldliness, leaving us confused and unsure of where to go.
They point the way to life in Christ. They help us see the pathway to what John Newton called "solid joys and lasting treasures."5
To understand this verse, you must first understand the nature of warnings. They're not legalistic restrictions from an irritated God who doesn't want us to enjoy ourselves. And they aren't relics of a bygone era, irrelevant for us today. No, warnings are expressions of God's mercy and wisdom. They're given for our good, to protect us from sin and its consequences.
So let's ignore this warning no longer. Let's paste our Bibles back together and receive from God his wisdom and mercy found in 1 John 2:15.
Do Not Love the What?
First, let me be clear. The author of this book, John, is not calling for some kind of monastic separation from the world.
The "world" of 1 John 2:15 doesn't refer to the created order or to the blessings that come from living in a modern society, such as modern conveniences or medical and scientific advances. For God created the world and declared it "very good" (Gen. 1:31).
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