Have you heard that phrase before? "Worldly Christian". Christians use that phrase often to describe other people, even fellow church members. However, as I've studied the Scriptures, a worldly Christian is really an oxymoron. They are two opposites coming together.
In 1 John, the apostle John is writing to a church suffering from a church split. This split wasn't over the color of the carpet or drums in the worship service like most church splits. This church split was over some major theological issues. John is writing to a church in the midst of a crisis. They were filled with doubt, thinking, "Did we make the right decision?" and "How do we know who are the true Christians?" The whole letter is filled with the apostle John trying to provide answers and encouragement to a broken congregation. Here is what he writes:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, ESV)
John tells us their are two teams in his letter. There is team light and there is team darkness. There is team Christ and team anti-Christ. There is team God and team world. John tells the church that they must pick a side in this spiritual battle. As a result John gives the strong command, "Do not love the world or the things in the world". In fact, John tells us that someone who loves the world does not have the love of the Father in him. This is incredibly startling! John is telling us that "Worldly Christians" are impossible. There is no such thing. You either love God or you love the world.
John is trying to teach us that Christians are a distinct people who reject the pleasures of the world and are marked by radical love for Christ.
We are Purchased to be Distinct
Christians are a purchased people. They are not their own and have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). Through the blood of Jesus Christ God has purchased His people from the bondage of slavery. Through the cross God has set Christians apart to be a distinct and unique people for his possession. He wants to set them apart and make the holy. Check out what the apostle Peter says:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)
So we have been purchased to be a distinct people for God's own possession.
We are Distinct by Rejecting the Pleasures of the World
How do we show our distinctness as the people of God? Well we demonstrate that by rejecting the pleasures of the World. This is why John commands us not to love the world and the desires of the world. This means we reject the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life. This means we don't view porn, we don't cuss like sailors, we don't bow down to money, and we don't drown our sorrows in drunkness. You see, Christians are called to be a distinct people, unique and set apart. We do that by rejecting the pleasures of the world.
There is a pragmatic reason for rejecting the pleasures of the world; They do not last. John tells us that the desires of the world are passing away. Any honest person knows this. Indulging our fleshly desires only leaves us longing for more. We become pleasure seekers looking for the next "thing" to lift our spirits. We buy that new outfit. We take that extra shot. We go just a little bit further with our girlfriend. Why do we do this? We are looking for pleasure, but the pleasure of this world is not lasting. It is pershiing.
Love for the world does not satisfy the human soul. The reason Christians reject the pleasures of the world is because we know that lasting pleasures is found only in Christ.
We Reject the Pleasures of the World by Radical Love for God
What fuels our rejection of the pleasures of the world? What motivates us to do such a counter-cultural thing? It is our radical love for God. My great fear is that many Christians reject their fleshly desires for the sake of their own egos and moral superiority. They become legalists and phrases not because the love God but because they love themselves. Christian pursue distinctness not because they want to appear morally superior, but because we love God.
Our love of God fuels us to be distinct and reject the pleasures of the world. We love God more than any other pleasure the world has to offer. You see, a worldly Christian is an oxymoron. It is a logical impossibility. It is an unbiblical combination. Even though faithful Christians might be tempted to fall into the deceitful lies of the culture, Christians must reject the siren song of the culture and find lasting pleasure in the arms of Jesus.