People can be attending church, singing the songs, apparently listening to the sermons–no different on the outside than they’ve always been. But inside, that 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 the people who are slowly succumbing to its lies.
It begins with a dull conscience and a listless soul. Sin does not grieve him like it once did. Passion for the Savior begins to cool. Affections grow dim. Excitement lessens for participating in the local church. Eagerness to evangelize starts to wane. Growth in godliness slows to a crawl.
Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, ed. C. J.Mahaney (Crossway, 2008), 20.
Mahaney goes on to define worldliness:
Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It’s loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically, it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God. It rejects God’s rule and replaces it with our own (like creating our own Bibles). It exalts our opinions above God’s truth. It elevates our sinful desires for the things of this fallen world above God’s commands and promises (p. 27).
Put your finger on any prosperous age in the Church’s history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: “In this age men could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended.” Never were there good times where the church and the world were joined in marriage with one another. The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.
“Separating the Precious from the Vile,” sermon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London (March 25, 1860)
When John Adam returned from his missions in various European countries at the conclusion of the War of Independence, he was widely regarded as the best choice for the first Vice President of the United States in 1789. He was one of the most knowledgeable and experienced men of his day. But what he found in his native country when he became Vice President was a different mood and character than he had seen in 1776. David McCullough explains:
For Adams, who had seen far more of Europe than his own country, the different Americas of the West and the South [because of the issue of slavery] could only be imagined. But more disturbing to him than almost anything was the view heard in many circles that the old ideal of devotion to the public good had been supplanted by rampant avarice; the love of country, by a love of luxury. Mercy Warren had written to the Adamses while they were still in London that the current “avidity for pleasure” in America was certain to lead to trouble. Money, wrote James Warren bitterly, was all that mattered anymore. “Patriotism is ridiculed,” he had warned Adams. “Integrity and ability are of little consequence.”
David McCullough, John Adams (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2001), 398.
Seems, that on this Independence Day, we are not learning from the past, and so may be condemned to repeat it.