What is a definition of the term “the world” or “worldliness?” Romans 12:2 says, “Be not conformed to this world.” That passage of Scripture really describes the whole matter. In 1 John 2:15 we find, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” In both passages, God is saying there is something out there which we as Christians are not to love. A true Christian is contrary to it. We are not to love the world because we are contrary to it.
Different words are translated “world” in the New Testament. One word refers to the inhabited earth. Another refers to an age or time and it can have a wicked connotation. A third word is the one which is most frequently used. It is the Greek word kosmos.
The world (kosmos) is that system organized by God’s enemy Satan. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in his theology defined the world as “civilization now functioning apart from God” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II. Dallas Seminary Press, 1971; 77). The unseen powers of spiritual evil, which have Satan as their head, are organized on a vast scale with great efficiency (Ephesians 6:12). This evil organization dominates the lives of unredeemed humanity, and Satan rules this kingdom in opposition to God and everything devoted to God and everyone dedicated to God. As Dr. Chafer expressed it, this civilization is dominated by Satan, functions apart from God, does not recognize God, and has a philosophy of independence (Chafer, 76-90). People of this world’s system say: “I have a right to go my own way, do my own thing, be what I want to be. I don’t owe God anything, I owe no allegiance to anyone.” That is the philosophy of Satan and the world. It is this world system which God says “do not love it, do not be conformed to it.” And so essentially we as Christians are to have no association with the world’s philosophies, ideas, pollutions, or system—because this world is functioning apart from God and in opposition to Him.
From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission.
Recently I read an article which began with these words:
Some time ago a man said to me, “I drink beer in the pub in my spare time. Some guys I know go out chasing women. So what’s the difference? Your hobby is Christianity.” To think that a man could look at me and say that Christianity was just a pleasant spare time occupation like collecting stamps or yachting. Is that my definition of Christianity? Do I put it second, or do I put it first?
This quotation points out the fact that if our faith does not change our lives, even the world questions the genuineness of our profession.
The phenomenon of “cultural Christianity” is not a new one. The label “carnal Christian” has been bandied about regularly in literature and in the blogosphere. Christians of every theological stripe know “carnal” or “cultural” Christians.
Pick whichever label you like best, or even invent your own—you know these people.
They claim repentance from sin and salvation through Christ alone. They come to church more or less regularly…sort of! They sit more or less attentively in the pews and may even tithe faithfully. They go through the motions. And yet…there is no discernible joy of Christ in their lives. There is no growth. To borrow a phrase from Paul Tripp, there is a “gospel gap” in their lives. Their Facebook pages abound with worldliness; perhaps you’ve even secretly hidden them from your news feed! Their children walk and talk like everybody else. There is no concept of separation, holiness or imitation of God in their lives. They are indistinguishable from normal, everyday, unsaved “good people.”
These folks are legion. Some are undoubtedly saved, others are undoubtedly not. I’m not interested in debating that issue right now. What is significant is that too many Christians have little conception of who Christ is, what they were saved from and what their calling as Christians is. We’ll look at what Paul had to say on this very matter.