The World in the Christian

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Last week we saw how God expects us to be separate from the world. This is not to mean that we must seek to be hermits, be underachievers, avoid shopping centres or restaurants, abstain from holidays, or stay far from anyone who is not a Christian. In fact, even if you do not engage in much in of what the “worldlings” do, you can be worldly! Worldliness is not just what you do or don’t do, but what is in your heart in the first place. This is why in 1 Peter, God tells us “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11). Sadly, many believers in Christendom have succumbed to the war. Each one of us must be consciously aware, and examine ourselves if we too have succumbed without realising and are blissfully thinking all is fine.

In what ways has the Christian become like the world?

1) We choose and accept the world’s values over God’s. This is where it often first starts. We cringe away at being too “different” from the world. When we hear what the Word of God has to say on a topic, instead of receiving it as God states it, we compare it against what the world tells us, what the people of the world are doing, and what the world’s values are. We take the world’s standards to determine whether we want to obey God’s Word. The world’s value system is the reference to gauge if God’s Word is too strict or even extreme. Our reasonings and judgements are not based upon what God says, but upon what the world indoctrinates us as the “norm” – be it about family life, singlehood, career choices, or entertainment for example. But what does God say about such a believer? God says that the one who does not accept His Word as a standard for him to keep does not love Him (Jhn 14:24). Such a Christian loves the world instead (1 Jhn 2:15). Conversely, the characteristic of a Christian who loves God will keep (i.e. keeps a watchful eye upon, attends carefully to) God’s Word (Jhn 14:23).

2) We soothe or suppress our conscience. For many, when the gap between God’s commands and the world’s norms is too big, we soothe our conscience by thinking that since the majority of Christians are and have been living a certain way, it must be fine. Even when the Word is clear about a matter, we suppress our conscience because we really want to continue in our ways. And having a life that is already considered moral and “Christian sounding” is sufficient. We will eventually even suppress our conscience by saying that what is being taught is incorrect and so we can do otherwise. I am not saying that the minority is always correct, nor that the majority is always wrong. But the question is whether it is God’s way in the Bible or the world’s norm that we have become accustomed to. And this norm has become our reference because we want it for our own lives.

3) Our hearts secretly want the world. For most of us, it will be the seemingly “legitimate” things that will creep into our lives, the things that are not outrightly sinful. The world pursues after “the good life”. Knowingly or secretly, we have also embraced this goal and believe in the same value. It is surely fine to take holiday breaks but has it become a wanderlust habit? We may not be as blatant as them and may hold back somewhat, but our hearts really want more. We grudgingly live the pilgrims’ life here. We have set our eyes and hearts on a certain standard of living, even if meeting or maintaining that leaves God behind in the equation. We are no different from the children of Israel, who “were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them” (Ps 106:35-36).

4) We want to live like the world. In the past, some pursued the 5 Cs of materialism – cash, car, credit card, condominium, and club membership. Today, those are commonplace to many and the world has taught us to lust for things further up the materialistic ladder. Even as we start out into the working world (or earlier), we set our sights and dreams on having a big house that is well-equipped with the comforts of life, with up-to-date technological gadgets and the latest modern appliances that today’s world offers. A car is not just for us to get us around with, but a status symbol or an extension of the good life vision we have. Annual or even more regular trips and vacations are not just desirable, but indispensable. For some, holidays are not just for recreation, but to see and experience the world and flaunt our wanderlust experiences. In order to finance our vision of what life must be like, of course, we need a good job with a healthy pay cheque. Hence, we give ourselves, our energies, our time, and our lives to our work and careers as priorities. To such a one, whatever leftover energy remains must of course be spent enjoying the comfort that they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Again, as I’ve said before, many things in the world are not sinful in themselves. But God says that idolatry is about what we love in our hearts more than God, what we will pursue at the expense of God, and what we will give up to have it rather than God.

Dear reader, if the only difference between your life and the lives of the people in the world is just the number of hours that you spend at church rather than what you love in your heart, then you certainly have become worldly. You may be relatively consistent in church attendances, and perhaps even serving. You are outwardly checking all the boxes. But inwardly, you already have checked out a long time ago when it comes to seeking the kingdom of God above all else in this world. You are just playing church as you pant after the world.

Yours in our Lord’s service,