October 11, 2010
While at the beach for family vacation, we spent time reading in a little book called “Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.” I cannot recommend it highly enough. CJ Mahaney edited it and wrote two chapters. The other four were written by Craig Cabaniss, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey and Jeff Purswell. The book opens with Mahaney’s account of Thomas Jefferson’s famous Bible-clipping exercise. The third president of the United States simply did not believe in the supernatural, and so he went through his Bible and clipped out all references to hell, miracles, and God’s wrath against sin. What was left, of course, was a caricature of the truth, an empty shell, a portrait of a god who does not exist. Mahaney’s point was that though most Christians today would shudder at the thought of such disregard for the Scriptures, most do a clip-job on the Bible, whether they would admit it or not. He writes:
“For if we ignore any portion of God’s Word — whether unintentionally, conveniently, or deliberately — we too are guilty of Jefferson’s offense.” … Here’s one verse I find easy to ignore. “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” There’s nothing subtle about 1 John 2:15. It’s abrupt and to the point. It is categorical: “Do not love the world.” It’s comprehensive: “Do not love anything in the world.” And it’s intrusive, strategically aimed at whatever we desire most: “anything in the world.’”
“We read, we live, as if (this verse) doesn’t belong in the Bible. Clip. Clip. Clip.
Before we know it, we have a Bible like Jefferson’s, and this verse is nowhere to be found.”
One man in the Bible serves as a poster child for the dangers of worldliness. Demas is mentioned in several of Paul’s letters to the churches. The final reference to Demas cuts to the heart. Paul wrote to Timothy, his young disciple, “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” It is all too easy to fall in love with the world and everything in it.
This book examines our relationships with media, music, stuff and clothes. We read several chapters at our vacation aloud and talked about them. There were 14 people sprawled across the family room of the beach house, and 12 of them are younger than 30 years old. They are living right in the middle of a visual, entertainment-saturated age, struggling sometimes to know how they should spend their time and their money. They resonated (as I did) with the questions Craig Cabaniss asked about our viewing choices:
Am I skipping or delaying something important in order to watch this now?
Why do I want to watch this program or film? Am I seeking to escape from something I should be facing?
What sinful temptations will this program or film present?
Am I simply watching because others are? Am I trying to be relevant or to fit in?
Is sin shown as having negative consequences? Or is sin glorified or rewarded? Is sin presented in an appealing or seductive way?
Does the program or film portray materialism as “the good life?” The book does not advocate smashing your TV set or cancelling your Internet service, although some have done that and believe that is the direction for their household. The book does give good guidelines and ask tough questions. Mostly, the book calls us as followers of Christ to pursue godliness in every part of our lives. That will keep the scissors in the drawer and away from our Bibles.