Sunday, March 4, 2018 am                                                    NT Church Index


NT CHURCH 2017-18 (49)
Purity (3) – Worldliness in the Church


We have been addressing purity.  Our goal is to keep the church pure.  We have addressed what purity is and how it begins with us as brethren.  Last week we addressed the need for discipline.  Today we want to examine another concern – worldliness in the church.

 I.                     Worldliness

a.       Defined - simply stated it is loving the world more than God

b.       The word “worldliness” is not found in scripture, but the idea is.  The word for world IS found in the NT. The Greek NT is κόσμος (kosmos) and obviously the word from which our English word cosmos comes from.    It has several definitons including the creation (the world we live in – Matthew 4:8), material things (of the physical realm – cf. Hebrews 9:1 - earthly), all of mankind, OR a reference to the ways of the world in contrast with the ways of God – a moral reference.

c.        1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things that are in the world…  Lusts…  This verse gives us an idea of that which is worldly in this moral sense and leads to worldliness.

d.       James 4:4 – friendship with the world is enmity with God. 

e.       Romans 12:1-2 – Do not be conformed to this world (aion)…

f.         “Respectable worldliness” – it is important that we understand what is involved in loving the world.  Some see the term worldliness and think of immorality – lusts and sinful behaviors.  But they fail to see other things as worldly – such as material pursuits (making money), excessive recreation, imbibing in certain behaviors “in moderation”, etc.   These are things that society in general do not see as worldly – e.g. social drinking, premarital relations, divorce and remarriage, immodest clothing, the lottery, being a workaholic, debt, etc.   They might condemn the drunk, or the adulterer (for stealing someone’s wife), addictive behaviors, etc., but not the former things.   In the church, there may be those who are not doing things wrong within themselves, but because they become their pursuit and consume them, they become worldly. 
That is what respectable worldliness is about. 
The problem is that God doesn’t make the distinction – sin is sin, whether its small or big, whether its considered acceptable in society or not. 

g.       We rightly apply these passages to us as individuals, but what about the church?  What about a congregation exhibiting tendencies or the mindset of these verses? That is our focus in this lesson.

h.       Clearly worldliness is condemned in the above passages and as Christians we need to be working at overcoming whatever worldly tendencies we have. 

 II.                   Worldliness in the church

a.       Ultimately, worldliness in the church is directly related to the worldliness of its members.
If members are godly and focused on heaven (Colossians 3:1-2), they will not be worldly, and neither will the church.

b.       But what are some ways we can be worldly as a church?

                                                   i.      When we are more concerned about pleasing men than God. 
Far too many today are more concerned about their standing in society than they are with their standing before God.  They seek to cater to what man wants as opposed to what he needs.
This is also true religiously.  We see religious bodies that are increasing in numbers, including “mega-churches” that are so large, buildings cannot contain them.  We ask, “How do they do it?”  We want to grow like them. 
Isn’t this like Israel of old asking Samuel for a king so that “we may be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:20).  It was not what God wanted, but what they wanted. 
Are we seeking to imitate worldly churches?
Consider Paul in Galatians 1:10, For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

                                                 ii.      Loosened standards of fellowship and truth:

1.       Soft preaching – not addressing needed issues, including morality.
2 Timothy 2:2-3, Paul warned Timothy against this very thing. 
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 said, But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

2.       Tolerating immorality – MDR, immodesty, social drinking, dancing, viewing sinful entertainment, etc.  
This often goes hand in hand with the failure to preach against such things.  In fact, fear of repercussions from those caught up in such behaviors often leads to a failure to preach on or challenge such. Again, I remind you of Corinth and Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-21) which tolerated both the teaching of and practice of immorality.

3.       Deemphasizing differences – I am convinced this is WHERE and WHY we are so divided in the brotherhood (and at times within a congregation). 
Too many want to redefine every (or most) difference as a matter of one’s personal opinions. 
They abuse Romans 14 and use it as a “catch all” passage (placing every difference in this text, even though it is dealing SPECIFICALLY with matters of liberty – matters about which God is indifferent – examples include: what we eat and what days we observe (think Jews vs. Gentiles).
The PROBLEM is that if all things are subjective, why study?  It doesn’t matter. 
The more LIBERAL MINDED a congregation is, the more worldliness it will tolerate.
In scripture we are called upon to be different and expose those teaching and practicing error.  

4.       Redefining authority, approach to scripture, what is the church, etc.   How to establish authority and a strict adherence to God’s pattern are often ignored subjects today.  No wonder, so many are unable to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)   The NASB gives the sense intended here saying, “accurately handling the word of truth.”
2 Corinthians 4:2, let us not handle God’s word deceitfully, NOR let us be guilty of “peddling the word of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17)

                                                iii.      Materialism – the pursuit of things.

1.       When a church is more concerned with externals – the building (appearance), the externals of worship (e.g. the worship experience) to the exclusion of the heart, entertainment (appealing to man’s fleshly wants), attendance (it’s about numbers, no matter what we have to do to get them), etc.
NOTE: As good stewards, we do our best with the outward appearance (the building is maintained as best it can be, we follow God’s pattern for HOW we worship, and it can be pleasant without compromising God’s word, we emphasize attendance (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 20:7, etc.), but we MUST always ask, what God is looking for in these things.  It’s about HIM, not our wants and desires.

2.       Redefining the work of the church to social pursuits – as we have seen, there is great misunderstanding as to what the church is actually about.  God has given us a simple work and simple organization to carry it out.  We don’t need to turn the work of the church into reforming society, social causes, entertainment, fun and games, etc.  Remember Romans 14:17, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

3.       Many churches today are more interested in catering to what men want rather than what they need – the pure (unpolluted) gospel

4.       Just be reminded, if it takes such things to get them in, it will take even more to keep them.

5.       What about prosperity preaching?  Another side issue, preaching a “health and wealth” gospel which says God wants you to prosper materially and will give you whatever you ask for, even if it is materialistic. 

                                                iv.      When we are selective in who we welcome
Many churches practice prejudice – some racially, but more often based upon social status.  Heed James 2:1-10, where he deals specifically with showing partiality toward the rich and successful in society.
Are we willing to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in? (Luke 14:23)

                                                  v.      When as a church we are filled with ungodly attitudes
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – you are carnal and behaving like mere men
Selfish pursuits – bitter envy, self-seeking in your hearts, etc.  James 3:13-16.  These are “early and sensual” attitudes. 
We have extensively emphasized the proper attitude of brethren toward one another and toward our neighbors.   Know that when ungodly attitudes are present, there’s worldliness in the church.  James 4:1-4, Galatians 5:14-15 – if you bite and devour one another.

                                                vi.      When God is simply not our priority
There is worldliness in the church when we are not striving to keep her pure.  This may involve many of the above conducts, but what about attitudes of indifference?
Lukewarm – Laodicea was condemned for being that way.  Told to repent – Rev. 3:14-19
Lost its first love – Ephesus 2:4-5 – they were not as zealous as they used to be.
Revelation 3:1-5 – Sardis thought they were fine, alive, but God saw them as dead (or dying).  They too are called upon to repent. 
Friends, we cannot merely pay lip service to God.  We may be doing everything (external) right, but if our heart is not right, is there worldliness in our midst?

 III.                 Dealing with worldliness in the church

a.       Never forget who the church belongs to - We must be Christ centered   
Matthew 6:24 – no one can serve two masters.  We must ALL choose to serve God first.
Romans 12:1-2 – be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
As Jesus taught, we are IN the world, but not OF the world – John 17:14-16, 15:19-20

b.       Seek purity as emphasized – Titus 2:12 we are to be denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.
James 1:27 – pure and undefiled religion, keep oneself unspotted from the world.

c.        Realize that we need to convert people to Christ through His word.  Any other means is introducing worldliness.

d.       Follow God’s pattern, both in truth and spirit (deed and heart).

a.       Its up to you and me – the church is the individuals.  As the individual goes, so goes the church.  Colossians 3:1-2; Matthew 6:19-21 – where is your treasure?  If we desire purity in the church, EACH Of us must do our part.

 What are we doing to keep worldliness out of the Lord’s church here?