A Letter on Worldliness

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 12
Dear brother,
I should like to comment on the tendency in these days to worldliness, and more especially on the means employed by the enemy to divert Christians from a faithful path.
Many will immediately say, “While we are down here, we have occupations which bring us into direct contact with the world, and consequently it is impossible to fulfill our duties without more or less participating in the principles which govern it.” This I totally deny, and the Word shows us clearly that there is in us a power great enough to keep us unspotted from the world and capable of resisting it unto the end. The Word does not admit the possibility of our living out of the world; on the contrary, it teaches us that we are left in it, but that we are kept from the evil (John 17:1515I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:15); 1 Cor. 5:10), and in order to encourage us, it tells us that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:44And he must needs go through Samaria. (John 4:4)). What then is lacking? God has put at our disposal all the weapons necessary to meet the assaults of the enemy, and if we allow ourselves to be beaten, it is either that we fail to employ the weapons with which God has furnished us, or that we misuse them. A true Christian pursues his trade honestly to gain his bread, but his real aim is to obtain everlasting glory with Christ, and this is a normal Christian according to the Word.
Satan’s Means
I come now to the means employed by Satan for turning us aside, if the heart is not truly attached to the person of Christ. While perhaps avoiding serious falls and flagrant sins, we can easily allow ourselves to be overcome, little by little, by worldly ways, by the claims of society, or by old friends. We fail to see that the divine life in us loses its energy and that gradually “old things” take possession of our hearts. At first we suffer and almost make a sacrifice to please the world in things that are not evil in themselves, but we end by having a taste for the “old wine” (Luke 5:3939No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. (Luke 5:39)) and forget that the new is much better.
We have a picture of all this in the history of Solomon. He never had a fall like his father David, but a careful examination of his conduct will reveal to us a gradual return to the world. His reign opened amid the glory of a little millennium, and around him all was joy and peace, but unhappily it was of short duration. As time goes on, it is easy to see that his pristine glory fades, his heart turns to the world, and the world becomes his master. The reign which began with peace and glory and the knowledge of God is terminated amid idols and strange women. And how had this decadence begun? Note, it did not happen all at once, but gradually —  insensibly the things of the world gained access to his heart, and he went from bad to worse till he became an idolater.
This may be a wholesome warning to us and certainly shows us why John said to the young men who were already strong in Christian life, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:1515Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)). We are in the truth, but we are not out of danger, and the Lord alone can keep us faithful.
Among Satan’s many devices for lowering the saints is that of subtly introducing the world without their being aware of it. On this account, it is well not to be ignorant of his weapons, so as to be able to turn them aside. I will try and indicate some of them, with the hope that we may profit by the experience of other Christians who have preceded us on this difficult road.
Old Acquaintances
In the foremost rank may be placed old acquaintances, because we have been on intimate terms with them, and our weaknesses are known to them. There are only two ways of avoiding this danger, either to break off all connection with them, or to preach the truth to them, by showing them that we have found an object worthy of our affections and who is jealous of any friendship which is not based on the work of redemption. I admit the difficulty of turning our back on an old friend, who has perhaps been of service to us and the enemy takes occasion by all this to keep us in slavery and to allure us into an atmosphere very unhealthy for those whose senses are fitted for a heavenly one. It may happen, for instance, that a worldly acquaintance of former days comes in and expresses a wish to pass an evening with us. What should be done under such circumstances? If we are not careful, it may become the means of making us miss a meeting or a projected study of the Word with others, so what is the right path? I think the best service we can render to a worldly friend who persists in seeking our friendship is to speak to him faithfully of the Saviour’s work. The result will be generally one of two — if he listens, so much the better; the Lord can work and help us to win a soul. If he does not listen, he will probably complain that we have changed and are less amiable than formerly, but meanwhile we shall be left free to follow the Lord. This may appear a hard thing, as truly it is to the flesh, and it would be an ignoble action if the motive were not the Lord’s, but we ought not to forget what Peter said to his contemporaries, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). And then there is the exhortation which Paul addressed to the Corinthians, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
Old Habits
Next to former friends, our greatest danger lies in old habits, tastes of the first Adam, which are so easily reawakened in us. What a sad thing to be a Christian and yet to go on with the ways that we allowed before knowing the Lord! The Cretians by nature were liars, and they remained so although converted (Titus 1:12-1312One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; (Titus 1:12‑13)), but they were to be rebuked sharply, because they were not walking according to the new man or in dependence on the Spirit of God.
There are many of our brethren who, without falling into open sin, allow old things, already judged as hurtful, to take possession of the heart, and here is a principle cause of the weakness they often lament. I admit that our characters are different and that tastes differ according to temperaments, but these are the things inherent in the first man, and if we follow our individual tastes, we shall get out of the sphere of Christian communion, where a taste for the Lord Jesus is the only thing. If, for instance, the reader of novels hunts up some old story to pass the time, and thus if each of us turns back to some occupation which we loved in days before the light reached us, who will be occupied with Jesus of Nazareth? who will proclaim His virtues? who will exalt Him in a song of praise? Remember Elisha, who, before putting on Elijah’s mantle, rent his own garments.
Present Possessions
I must not omit to mention another weapon which Satan uses successfully in his work of drawing back into the world those whom God has set apart for Himself; it is present things — the very air which surrounds us. It is quite true that the majority of Christians do not care for the world in its most ostensible forms; they do not go to parties or gamble, but is that enough? The Word says to us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” and it is evident that many, without loving the world in its most popular garb, love certain things which are in the world. It is very easy to be led away by an object which in itself is not evil, but if our hearts are ensnared by things which are seen, we lose the taste for things which are not seen, and thus unwittingly we find ourselves in a worldly atmosphere.
The other day I received a letter from a brother which I hoped might contain some word of edification; on the contrary, I found it full of a great industrial and artistic exhibition which was on hand in a European city. You can conceive, dear brother, my astonishment. But that is what we have come to. In the meetings we say we are heavenly, we print and read good books, we publish excellent periodicals, and then, from the practices of many among us, we see that hearts are full of worldly things and insensible to the glory of Jesus, which we shall so soon inherit. I do not say that art and science are bad things, but I would remind you, nevertheless, that Adam made a very wrong use of the trees in the garden of Eden, which in themselves were not bad things, when he used them to hide from God.
E. L. Bevir, Christian Friend r