Book Review: Worldliness

For some time, someone has been asking me a question about preaching and the church, “in previous years, you often used to hear sermons on this topic, but now you rarely even hear the word used — whatever happened to worldliness?”

What has happened to verses like Romans 16:19?

…I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.

It is that very issue that the latest book from (the editing pen of) C. J. Mahaney addresses.  Taking his cue from 1 John 2:15 (“Do not love the world nor the things in the world”), Mahaney and the other writers of Worldliness:  Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, address issues that seduce us away from Christ and to a life of ungodliness.  In chapters that are concise and pointed, they address four key issues that are worldly distractions for believers:  media, music, materialism, and immodesty.  And in the final chapter, Jeff Purswell offers an overview about how to love the world without being seduced by it.

The temptation with writing a book like this would be to offer a counter punch to Nike’s old slogan by saying, “just don’t do it.”  Yet the strength of this book is that it offers clear parameters between what is worldly (i.e., sinful), what is genuine liberty, how to tell the difference between the two, and how to exhibit grace to those who have made different choices.  That is, the book is balanced — uncompromising about sin, while still aware that God has created the world to be enjoyed, and no one should enjoy His creation more than believers.

The book is also loosely related to the sermon series done by Mahaney and others at Covenant Life Church a number of years ago.  Those sermons are still available as part of the set, “In the World but not of the World.” They are definitely worth listening to, particularly as a complement to reading this book.

There are statements throughout the book that are worthy of further reflection, but perhaps the concluding paragraphs by Purswell offers the clearest glimpse into the book’s balance and heart:

How are you and I to view our existence in this world?  Through the prism of Christ’s saving work on the cross.  The cross transforms all the categories of our lives.  It answers the central questions of the human predicament.

  • The cross tells me who I am.…
  • The cross interprets the world I inhabit.…
  • The cross transforms my view of people.…
  • The cross gives my life purpose.…

What part does the cross play in your life?  Does it tower over all the other realities of your earthly existence?  Does it define who you are and how you live?  When we see our lives in light of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, everything will be different.  We won’t be enamored of a fallen world that opposes God; it is for such a world that our Savior died.  Nor will we ignore the world, untouched by its God-glorifying potential or unmoved by its needs.  Rather, we’ll take our place in this world, enjoying God’s gifts, fulfilling God’s purposes, and giving our lives to see the gospel proclaimed, sinners saved, and God glorified.

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