Nor does this verse refer to economic and social structures of society—our family, friends, vocation, field of study, government, or community. All of these are ordained by our heavenly Father. As David says, "The earth is the LORD'S and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1).

And of course, we're supposed to love all men—not only our brothers and sisters in Christ but also those who are not Christians—because "God so loved the world" that he gave his Son (John 3:16). In fact, true love for God is demonstrated by a growing passion to tell others about his love. (That's why my good friend Jeff Purswell will conclude this book with a chapter on how to rightly love the world. Sound paradoxical? Keep reading to find out why it's anything but.)

So what is the "world" we are forbidden to love?

The world we're not to love is the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God. The world God forbids us to love is the fallen world. Humanity at enmity with God. A world of arrogant, self-sufficient people seeking to exist apart from God and living in opposition to God. It's a world richly deserving of the righteous wrath of a holy God. Dead set against the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the world we're forbidden to love.

While remaining in the world, we're not to become like the world. In the words of John Stott, we must be "neither conformed to [the world] nor contaminated by it."6 But this sinful, fallen world is right in our face. Our affluent and technologically advanced society brings the world to our doorstep, into our homes, into our very presence. It baits our eyes and tickles our ears. We're saturated with media—bombarded by images on television and movie screens, and by music on our iPods. We have unlimited access—text messages on our cell phones, and Internet access on our laptops and hand-held devices. We enjoy countless options in clothes to wear, cars to buy, vacations to take, entertainment to view, music to listen to.

And obviously, while these things are not inherently evil, so often they're vehicles of a fallen world. They deliver endless opportunities to pursue pleasure without regard to God and his Word, endless opportunities to be seduced by this fallen world, to succumb to the sin of worldliness.

Every moment of every day we're making choices—whether we realize it or not—between love for a world that opposes God and love for the risen Christ.

Defining Worldliness

Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It's loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically, it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God. It rejects God's rule and replaces it with our own (like creating our own Bibles). It exalts our opinions above God's truth. It elevates our sinful desires for the things of this fallen world above God's commands and promises.

"The goal of worldly people," observes Joel Beeke, "is to move forward rather than upward, to live horizontally rather than vertically. They seek after outward prosperity rather than holiness. They burst with selfish desires rather than heartfelt supplications. If they do not deny God, they ignore and forget Him, or else they use Him only for their selfish ends. Worldliness . . . is human nature without God."

Does that description sound familiar? Does it describe you?

What are your goals? Do they drive you forward—to financial security, more friends, successful kids, a certain position at work, learning a craft or trade? Or do they drive you upward—to obeying and glorifying God above all else? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Try this: What dominates your mind and stirs your heart? Is it discontentment with your life? Longings for earthly pleasures? Does outward prosperity appeal to you more than growth in godliness? Or is your prayer life characterized by heartfelt supplications for God's will to be done and his kingdom to come?