July 21, 2014 Broadcast

Do Not Love the World

A Message by W. Robert Godfrey

The Bible calls you to be in the world but not of it. Yet even in the pages of Scripture, many individuals find this to be a difficult task. Monday on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Robert Godfrey gives a warning from the story of Samson about the dangers of loving the world. Listen, Monday, to Renewing Your Mind.

From the series: Overcoming the World: 2014 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Worldly Standards

  2. devotional

    The Love of the World

  3. article

    Christianity and the Material World

Worldly Standards

Burk Parsons

I was asked recently what my favorite sports and hobbies are. My reply was simple: My favorite sports are hunting, fishing, and eating, and similarly, my favorite hobbies are talking about hunting, fishing, and eating. Although my abilities to hunt and fish will take a lifetime to refine, I have already perfected the art of eating. And having always had a keen interest in the social and psychological sciences, I could easily add the sport of people-watching to my list of favorites. I am simply fascinated by people — the way people dress, how people communicate, and what people do.

Several years ago, while patiently sitting in a shopping mall studying those passing by, one young man in particular caught my attention. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His pants were falling down and dragging on the floor, and he was carefully adorned with several types of chains. What caught my attention, however, was not his typical teen-age, “grunge” attire; rather, it was his hair. It seems that in order to make it appear that he did not care about his appearance and his hair, he styled his hair to make it look messy. It was most probable that he used more than a bottle of hair spray and spent far more time in front of a mirror than a man should in order to make it look like he didn’t care about his hair. All this seemed to be one rebellious young man’s attempt to demonstrate to the world that he didn’t care, to show that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a mediocre appearance.

This same attitude pervades our culture. We see it everywhere, within the realms of music and art, architecture, and business. In just about every sphere of life, our culture has become addicted to mediocrity. In fact, in some ways it has become the popular thing to lower our standards of excellence. Arrogant apathy and proud mediocrity have become the hallmarks of our postmodern society. But what is most confounding is how the church has lowered its standards of excellence in order to win the affections of the world. Many churches have dressed themselves in the culture’s attire in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the world. However, in their attempt to win the world’s approval by lowering their standards, many churches have left behind the unchanging standards of the Word of God. If we seek to live with the highest standard of excellence before the face of God, coram Deo, we must remember that He has set the standard, for it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being — for His glory.

The Love of the World

In many places, the New Testament regards the life of a Christian as a life lived in tension. On the one hand, all true believers have had their lives renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in a variety of ways by different authors. Yesterday, we saw how John speaks of this reality by reminding us that all Christians know God, have had their sins forgiven, and have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:12–14).

Though this new life gives us the ability to resist sin, the tension of the Christian life resides in the fact that the presence of sin has not yet been eliminated completely. We have the ability to resist temptation, but at the same time we will not do so perfectly. God has granted us a role to play in our perseverance and so we need to be warned against falling into sin.

Today’s passage speaks to this need for warning. Having given assurance to his audience, John warns his readers not to take their salvation for granted by loving the world. For if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (v. 15).

It is important to note that when John speaks of the world here he is not referring to nature or to human beings. Rather, he is speaking of the world system that sets itself up in opposition to the things of God. John Calvin aptly notes that the “world” in today’s passage should be understood as “everything connected with the present life, apart from the kingdom of God and the hope of eternal life.”

As Christians we are to love the created order and other human beings, but we are not to love the world system that sets itself up in opposition to God. We do not withdraw ourselves from society, but we must not love those things the evil world system loves. These things include desires of the eyes and the flesh and taking pride in possessions (v. 16). We are to care for other human beings who are in bondage to lust, materialism, personal power, and the host of other things that oppose the will of God. However, we are to make sure our hearts are never set on what is loved by the world, lest we become opposed to God ourselves.

Christianity and the Material World

John Sartelle

“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15). The story Jesus told of the rich man (vv. 10–21) is ageless and simple. A man of immense wealth invested a portion of his money and substantially increased his worth. Then, just as he was set to enjoy his incredible prosperity, he suddenly and unexpectedly died. Jesus told the parable to warn against covetousness, greed, or avarice.

Greed hides itself so easily behind the mask of virtue and good reasoning. Our first inclination as we read this parable is to agree with Jesus and say, “The man was daft. He was greedy and Jesus was right in calling him a fool because he made plans to live luxuriously without any provision for dying.” Most of us don’t read that parable and say, “I am like that man. I am greedy.” However, I would venture to say that in our culture there are more of us who are like that man than unlike him.

He was hardworking and successful in his business. He had not made his money by taking advantage of people. His profit was lawful gain. He had not been lazy. He had done well for himself and his family. This was the American dream come true.

Notice that Jesus said to His listeners, “Take care . . . be on your guard.” What should put us on our guard? Covetousness. The actual Greek word used by Jesus for this sin meant “a greedy desire for more.” Jesus was saying it can sneak up on you. It can be there and you don’t even know it.

How do we know that the man was truly greedy and not just making wise business decisions?

True greed misinterprets the meaning of life. Jesus prefaced the parable by saying, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Greed says that life is about having more. Covetousness says that life is about having all you can get. We must be careful as we approach the subject of money or wealth. Many folks have misunderstood Christianity at this point. God did say that we should enjoy His creation. We should enjoy food, beauty, friends, and work. He said we should enjoy the sexual relationship inside of marriage. He said we should enjoy our material blessings. So let’s be sure that we are not saying that Christians must drive twenty-year-old cars, wear hair shirts, live in hovels, and have furniture with holes in the upholstery. That was not the message of this parable.

Jesus’ words warn us that it is so easy to get caught up in stuff and in self that stuff and self become the meaning of our lives. In writing about the materialism of our culture in his excellent book A Hunger for More, Laurence Shames writes, “A certain line gets crossed. People look to their goods not just for pleasure but for meaning. They want their stuff to tell them who they are.” We buy luxury pens or watches because we want those accessories to describe who we are to the world. We want everything from our cars to our vacations to define us.

Greed always wants more. In the opening scene of the story, the man was already very wealthy (v. 16). But he was not satisfied. He already had many barns (notice the plural), but they were not enough. He wanted more. Greed always does — it is insatiable. During a political revolution in the Philippines that drove Ferdinand Marcos from power, he and his wife Imelda fled the country. She left behind 1,200 pairs of shoes and seventy-one pairs of sunglasses. The truth is that she would not have stopped at two thousand pairs of shoes or two hundred pairs of sunglasses.

Greed fails to see the true source of our possessions. The wealthy land owner considered himself to be a selfmade man. Six times in speaking to himself he used the personal pronoun “I.” He also spoke of “my crops; my barns; my grain; my goods.” He did not see himself as God’s steward. He saw himself as the owner. He was his own creator and sustainer. Now, that is the point of the parable. The parable does not end with his sudden death. The parable ends with the question God asked the man on the night he died: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (v. 20). As the man left this world, God forced him to realize for the first time that he had been only a steward. Everything he had in life had been given to him by the true Owner, and the steward’s use of it had just come to an end. God would turn it over to another caretaker, and the former steward would give an accounting.

Christian stewardship far exceeds giving ten percent to the Lord. The true Christian steward understands that everything he is and has belongs to God. God is the owner of his body, his time, the buttons on his shirt, and his children. To claim God’s possessions as your own is not only arrogant, it is inane. The mind of the steward is to reflect the mind of the Master. The heart of the steward is to reflect the heart of the Master. The generosity of the steward is to reflect the generosity of the Master.

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