Christians of a former generation readily acknowledged that there were certain interests and activities which were worldly. No doubt too many rules and regulations were constructed to overly define what was worldly, but nevertheless there was a sensitivity to making sure the we did not get involved in worldly ways. Alas it seems it is no longer so. Nowadays Christians seem rather to excuse dubious behaviour by claiming they have freedom in Christ and maligning any prohibition on certain activities as being “legalistic”.
What should our attitude to the world be? When we become Christians our relationship to the world changes. Paul says: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14). This raises the question then what is the world? We can say that the world is that system which is arranged without reference to God and stands opposed to God. It includes the social, political, economic, religious aspects. It is driven by self-fulfilment and not God-fulfilment. Paul says that the world system stands crucified in relation to himself through the cross of Christ. Essentially he is saying that he is dead to the world. He no longer is motivated to gain fulfilment through the world. Rather his life and fulfilment is found in Christ.
This raises the question, though, as regards to the what constitutes legitimate interest in God’s wholesome creation and what constitutes worldliness. One means of testing the difference is to apply the call of Paul in Philippians 4:8: brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. With regard to what we watch, what we do and what we are interested in it is helpful to ask whether or not such activity passes this test.
It is a cause for concern that many Christians are engaging themselves with material which seems to clearly fail the test. Let us focus on one realm and that is what we watch. Mary Whitehouse and her colleagues, in former days, courageously stood up and spoke out against immoral material on TV. But now we as Christians seem to have become de-sensitized as regards to what we watch. As we come to autumn, “Strictly Come Dancing” and “X-factor”, once again, take prominence on our screens. Do they pass the Philippians 4:8 test? Even the Daily Express was wondering last Autumn whether “Strictly” had gone too far as regards to the clear sexual suggestiveness. And then there was the lewd dancing in the X-factor final last year which so many people complained about.
Further, we can think of “the soaps”. What are the likes of Coronation Street and Emmerdale concerned with? These programmes serve up a diet of adultery, homosexuality, flirtatious behaviour, fornication and all in the name of entrainment. Should we as Christians happily sit and watch such stuff? What they are doing is entertaining us with material that in the reality of life leads to devastation and sadness. When you marinate some meat you fill the meat with a certain flavouring. How many Christians are marinating their minds in worldliness by watching the soaps and similar stuff.
Let us come at this issue another way. You say that the worship services in church are dull and boring and “I don’t get much out of them”. Well if you have been watching “Strictly” or “X-Factor” on a Saturday night that is hardly good preparation for the Spirit filled engagement with the worship of our God on the LORD’s Day. You may be the church member who is causing the dullness of the services because you are injecting no spiritual power into them. How can we know the joy of the LORD in Christ our Saviour when we have soaked ourselves in the immorality of this world? Rather we should be soaking ourselves in the wholesome Word of the LORD.
Moreover, the consumption of worldliness in our viewing habits will no doubt affect our characters. When we are worldly we have a craving for self-fulfilment. Self-centredness is the outcome of such a craving. However, what we should be is godly and thereby God-centred. Accordingly when worldliness invades the church then the church becomes a “me” place rather that a “God” place. The more worldliness there is in the lives of the church members then the less of God there will be in the church.
It has been said that we are what we think. It might also be helpfully observed that we become what we watch. Let us be careful what we let pass before our eyes. Job could say “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman (Job 31:1). Perhaps we should think about making a similar covenant and so preserve ourselves from harm.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of September 2011)