As Christians we are supposed to be in the world but not of the world. How do we guard ourselves from being of the world? That is the question that the contributors to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World from Crossway publishers attempts to answer. C. J. Mahaney is the editor and a contributor, along with Craig Cabaniss, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, and John Piper (who wrote the Foreword). The book includes discussion questions in the back, which can be used individually or in a group to help think more deeply about the contents of the book.
Mahaney writes the first chapter, dealing with 1 John 2:15, regarding what it means not to love the world and how Christians are to be distinct from the world.
Cabaniss’ chapter deals with the question of how we avoid worldliness with media. He includes a helpful checklist on how we are managing our time, what our heart attitude is regarding media, and what the content of the media is. Before he includes the checklist, he addresses the idea that trying to avoid worldliness amounts to legalism (it doesn’t), and he explains clearly how it is actually “[g]race-motivated [o]bedience” (p. 47).
Kauflin’s chapter deals with worldliness as far as music is concerned. He clearly explains that music is God’s idea, but that music is not neutral; it always conveys content, context, and culture (pp. 73-81), and it impacts us deeply. The point is not merely to try to tell us what all to avoid, but to help us to glorify God in our music choices and the way we use it.
Harvey’s chapter deals with materialism. Our culture is constantly encouraging us that we need more, and Harvey provides a good reminder that while we may own things, we need to be sure that our things don’t own us (paraphrasing p. 96).
Mahaney returns for a chapter on worldliness and clothing. Mahaney does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of what we wear and why we are wearing it. The focus is on women’s clothing, as that seems to be a larger issue in terms of temptation. Some may be put off by this, but I encourage everyone to read it with an open heart. He includes some testimonies of men who explain how what women wear affects them and another from a woman who began to dress to help men more and why. There are two appendices that go with this chapter. The first was written by Mahaney’s wife and daughters and is a “Modesty Heart Check” (p. 173), a checklist for considering what to wear. The second deals with “Considering Modesty on Your Wedding Day” (p. 177).
Purswell, in the final chapter, explains how we are to love the world, since God loved the world Himself (John 3:16). We are to “Enjoy the World” (p. 147) by enjoying what is good in God’s creation, we are to “Engage the World” (p. 154) by helping to create culture patterned after God’s original intent, and we are to “Evangelize the World” (p. 161) with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In keeping with the last point, the author explains how we are to constantly live in relation to the cross of Christ. We should have the same mindset as Paul, who wrote, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, ESV)
I found the book challenging and refreshing. Some Christian teaching today seems very focused on being relevant to the world. In my opinion, the push to be relevant often ends up in a form of compromise with the world. I realize there are exceptions to this, and we obviously are still in the world as salt and light. What I think this book does well is remind us that we cannot lose that saltiness or distinction that makes us light in our attempts at living in this world. While the book does push us to be separate and guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23), I think it does a great job of reminding us of the purpose (to influence the world for Christ and live holy lives) and means (by grace, not legalism) by which we do this.
Read this book and be challenged to be in the world but not of it as you follow Christ.