Grace: Renouncing Worldliness

God’s grace disciplines us to say No to “worldly” passions (v. 12). What does Paul mean by the word “worldly”? When I was a new believer, they told me that movie houses are “worldly.” But if you have cable TV today, you have all kinds of movies in your home. Does that mean that your home now is worldly?

The word “worldly” (kosmikos) refers to “‘belonging to the world’, hence ‘earthly, as opposed to heavenly’ . . .” (Marshall) Anything in the world that opposes God is worldly. For so long, I thought that worldliness is a place. But I learned from the Bible that worldliness is an attitude of the heart that resists God’s will. Worldliness is a principle, a thought, an activity, a person, a movement, or a culture that opposes God’s rule. Worldliness can be all of these happening in a place, but it all starts from the heart. Hence, worldly passions refer to desires that oppose God’s will.

John wrote,

15 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.

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).

The word “possessions” (bios) is translated “life” in the KJV and ESV; hence, “pride of life.” But in the next chapter, the KJV translates the same word as “world’s good” (“world’s goods” – NKJV, ESV, NASB) (1 John 3:17). The word means (1) “life” or (2) “livelihood, property . . . 1 J 3:17 . . . pride in one’s possessions 2:16.” (Gingrich) It is better translated as “possessions” (ESV footnote), “what he has and does” (NIV), or “riches” (NRSV). It fits the context of “the things of the world” (v. 15), “all that is in the world” (v. 16), and “world’s goods” (1 John 3:17, ESV, NKJV, NRSV).

Note that the “possessions” are not worldly. It’s not your possessions but pride in your possessions that makes you worldly. It’s how you treat your possessions—the pride of possessions. It’s not your material things but your materialistic attitude that may make you worldly. Be careful when you are proud of your possessions or your prosperity. Be wary when your life is driven more by the pursuit of your materialistic desires than the pursuit of God. Worldliness is the desires of the flesh and the desires of your eyes that oppose the rule of God in your life.

Do you have a desire for something that contradicts God’s will? Grace trains you to renounce that.

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