Worldly Wisdom Only Yields Worldly Results. Is That Enough?

More Than One System

Most people might aspire to being “worldly-wise”, a term I heard my grandmother use about someone who was well-traveled or cosmopolitan. The dictionary echoes that by saying that worldly means “experienced and sophisticated.” Paul saw it a different way: “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV)

These verses remind us of a couple of important things. First, Paul makes a distinction between being spiritual and being worldly. You see this often in the New Testament, because “the world” is selfish, sinful and proud, whereas God’s Spirit is loving, giving, and kind. In 1 John 2:15, John reminded us that “if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

worldly

All the Wealth in the World…

Stop and think for a moment: what is celebrated by the world? A short list includes wealth, athleticism. achievement, power, beauty, notoriety, and intelligence; I’m sure you could add a couple more. These things in themselves are certainly not bad, so why does Paul teach that being worldly is not good?

Jesus taught that there was a difference between the things of God and the things of the world. He said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19) What things in your life are worldly? What percentage of your life is attached to the carnal or the temporary as opposed to the spiritual and eternal?

That’s a hard inventory to take, isn’t it? When you consider that 1 John 2:15 says, “Love not the world, or the things of the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Strong words about what we humans can get pretty wrapped up in…

So, Which Is It?

The first place we go is probably to all of our material stuff, but Paul characterizes worldliness here as more of an internal condition or an attitude. He says that people who live by the Spirit don’t have jealousy or become contentious with one another—both of which are driven by selfishness. What are you selfish about? What makes you feel “righteous” indignation? Those are both worldly reactions, and they happen with us all the time. When they bubble to the surface we should ask ourselves, “am I being led by the Spirit or by my own emotions and desires?”

Second, Paul reminds us here that living in the Spirit is a journey. Becoming spiritually mature doesn’t happen instantly. He compares spiritual growth to that of an infant, saying that he gave the Corinthians milk because they were not ready for solid food. What about you? How grown up are you spiritually? Are you still drinking milk and being spoon-fed, or are you ready for heartier fare? What intellectual food are you eating?

Well Balanced Meals

There’s a lot of junk food out there that won’t contribute to our growth. If we start as infants, then it’s important for us to mature spiritually, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ!” (Ephesians 4:14-15). Eat wisely, not worldly. Grow well.

Out of This World

The world is full of traits and values that are celebrated;
To worldly folks, the spiritual life is somewhat over-rated.
A worldly man is known for being quite sophisticated
With appetites for carnal things that never quite get sated…
Paul told us that worldly folks still have a ways to go,
Advising that we should drink spiritual milk to help us grow;
That we henceforth be not children tossed by doctrine to and fro,
But grow up in the spiritual truth the Lord wants us to know.
Be aware of worldly things, and do not be deceived;
But grow in faith and love, and in the Spirit you received.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Love the Father, Not the World. Exactly What Does That Mean?

In his first letter, John talks about where we live, and where God lives. In it, he offers us a juxtaposition of the Father versus the world, and describes two kingdoms with radically different agendas. Have you ever stopped to think about what John really means? If there is a heavenly father, how is he different from the world? Are His values different from the world’s values? And what exactly does “the world” refer to?

(As you answer these questions, take a moment to congratulate yourself for reaching Day 70 of Reading through the Bible; just a few books to go and you will have read passages from Genesis to Revelation!)

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16, NIV) The conflict between what the world has to offer against God’s promises has been going on since Esau traded his birthright for a pot of stew. (Well, actually you could go back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve traded being God’s subject for independence. She wanted to experience the world in the worst way, and she succeeded!)

John sees a dramatic contrast between the Father and the world: they have different values, priorities, and characteristics. Perhaps we should take a closer look.

father love

The world, in John’s eyes, was made up of carnal appetites, earthly ambitions, and temporal values. It is a place where human nature pursues its lusts, and where men vie for wealth and power. The world is, candidly, a place where humans are concerned primarily with self-fulfillment. It’s what we see around us every day.

Contrasting Domains

On the other hand , John contrasts the world and its agenda with the Father. What are the Father’s characteristics? In his Gospel and in his letters, John spells them out. God is love. He is truth. The Father is goodness. He is life. The Father’s domain includes faith and redemption, hope and transformation…It is about servant leadership and new birth.

The world, on the other hand, is characterized by self: it includes all greedy desires, lust, appetite, pride, and self-sufficiency. The world caters to the flesh and the temporary. It is about building yourself up, and salving your insecurities with temporary fixes; the world is about grasping, power-hungry leaders; it is about death.

John warns us not to love the world, but we do anyway: we abandon grace for gratification and accept lust in place of love. Have you ever stopped to realize that the world mimics the Father? For every good thing the Father offers, the world offers a counterfeit replacement that is either a watered-down version of the real thing or the opposite of it.

Conflicting Agendas

The Father offers humility; the world offers pride. The Father offers peace; the world offers thrills; the Father offers Truth. The world gives us relativism with its spin, half-truths, and outright lies…with the Father, it’s all about HIM; in the world, it’s all about ME. God’s kingdom is based on unusual logic, where you have to accept another’s will to be free, give to gain, die to live, and serve to lead.

The world is based on selfish logic, where freedom means doing whatever you want, people worship shallow possessions or money (it’s all about the Benjamins in the Lifestyles of the rich and famous), they look out for number One (“nice guys finish last”), and leaders covet and capture power using sophisticated deceit. It was John who informed us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now he’s telling us there is a simple choice to make: love the Word, or love the World. John says you can’t love both.

Tell me, what choice have you made? Look at your priorities, your time, your inner thoughts, your desires… what do you love? John says, “the world passes away, and the lust of it: but he that does the will of God abides forever.”

Love, Instead

The world is full of fun and flesh, and thrills that are forever fresh:
The biggest house, the latest styles, the nicest car, the biggest smiles…
The orbit of the world, you see, revolves around the planet “Me”–
Where consequence brings no regret, and I should take what I can get!
Eat and drink today! Get High! Because tomorrow we may die!
The Father says, “Love me instead.” Don’t give the world your heart or head;
Love me, my child; remember this: the world is never all there is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread