Hunched over his desk, pen-knife in hand, Thomas Jefferson sliced carefully the pages of the Bible. He was creating a Bible that was more to his liking, “The Jefferson Bible.” A book he could feel comfortable with.
What didn’t make it into the Jefferson Bible? Anything he didn’t believe, or anything he couldn’t explain. The Supernatural? Not even worth considering. God’s wrath against sin? I don’t think so. He treated the words of God as suggestions.
Christians rightly shudder at such arrogant presumption. And no true Christian would be so bold as to attempt to create his or her own Bible, blatantly omitting whatever they prefer. But if we are honest, we too may have to admit that we have a Bible of our own making – a cut and paste job. For if we ignore any portion of God’s Word whether intentionally, conveniently, or deliberately we too are guilty of Jefferson’s offense.
Here is one verse I find easy to skim over, or ignore all together. I John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” This verse is comprehensive. It is intrusive. It forbids worldliness in no uncertain terms. This is not a verse you will usually write on a post-it note and stick to the fridge. We like the promise verses, not the prohibition verses.
We have questions
What does this verse mean? What does it mean to not Love the world?
Does it mean I can’t go to an R-rated movie or watch MTV? Do I have to give up my favorite TV shows? Is it OK to watch certain movies as long as I fast forward through the sex scenes? How much violence and language is too much?
Are certain styles of music worldlier than others? Is the music I am loading onto my IPod OK?
How do I know if I am spending too much time online surfing the web, or watching clips on YouTube?
Can a Christian try to make lots of money, buy a second home, drive a nice car, and enjoy luxuries in life?
Am I worldly if I read fashion magazines and wear trendy clothes? Do I have to be out of style in order to be godly? How short is too short? How low is too low?
How do I know if I am guilty of the sin of worldliness?
Do we want the answers?
We have the questions, but if we are honest we might not want the answer – at least not from a middle-aged pastor who is out of touch with a younger generation.
Maybe you consider the answers a private matter of preference. “Don’t tell me how to have a relationship with God. Your personal standards are sacred. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot handle.”
Whatever the reason, this verse make you uncomfortable. It invades your personal space. Maybe you think this verse doesn’t apply to you. I am a faithful church member. I have never committed a scandalous sin. I am, overall, better than most people in my choices.
If we don’t ignore 1 John 2:15 outright we make qualifiers. We file down its edges with explanations. We empty it of authority, and apply this verse to others and how they are living. When it comes to worldliness we are all at risk.
The Drift of Demas
Demas was a traveling companion to the apostle Paul. He left his home – family and friends - to follow Paul and minister. He would be one of the faithful members of a church body. This is a guy we would admire, respect, and emulate. In 2 Timothy 4:10 we read a post script to Demas’ life. His epitaph if you will: ”Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”
Whoa! What a punch in the gut! It is impossible to read this verse without feeling the sadness in Paul’s heart. What a tragedy! A wasted life, a ruined testimony, the cause of Christ hindered. What happened? How did this happen?
The Desertion of Demas.
Before he deserted he drifted. He didn’t go from disciple to deserter in one day; it was a slow fade. We all know a Demas. So often we’re ignorant of the signs and the symptoms of worldliness. People can be attending church, singing songs, apparently listening to the sermons, and acting no different on the outside than they’ve always been. But inside, the person is drifting. He sits in church but is not excited to be there. She sings songs without affection. He listens to preaching without conviction. She hears but does not apply.
A love for the world begins in the soul.
It’s subtle, not always immediately obvious to others, and often undetected by people who are slowly succumbing to its lies. It begins with a dull conscience and a listless soul. Sin doesn’t grieve us like it once did. Passion for the Savior is being cooled. Affections grow dim. Excitement for participating in a local church begins to dim. Eagerness to evangelize starts to wane. Growth slows to a crawl. Like Demas, over time it takes us captive.
Are you drifting?
“Oh, it’s not serious,” you say. “I’ve just had a busy season, I have just been preoccupied lately.”
Have you fallen in love with this present world?
Today, the greatest challenge facing American churches is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world. We are not from attack without, but we are decaying from within.
Let's not ignore the warning any longer. Let's paste our Bibles back together and receive from God His wisdom and His mercy found in I John 2:15.