Growing In Godliness Blog
Worldliness vs. Godliness
By Brock Henry
“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.” (C.S. Lewis)
Few distinctions are more clearly delineated in Scripture than the one between worldliness and godliness. In no uncertain terms, Scripture indicates that the character promoted by the world is diametrically opposed to the character promoted by God.
This does not stop us from blurring the lines, though.
As Christians, we often swallow, with ravenous enthusiasm, the poisonous lie promulgated by Satan himself that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We delude ourselves into thinking that piety and frivolity are symbiotic.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Godliness and worldliness are not parallel paths; they are wholly divergent. And so we stand at a crossroads every time we make a decision.
Either we will take the path that leads to life and godliness, or we’ll take the path that leads to death and worldliness. (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15)
There is no middle ground. Only life or death. Only hot or cold. God will vomit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
At The Heart of the Distinction
When you boil it all down, there is one defining feature that distinguishes the worldly character from the godly one: Motive.
Worldliness, at its core, is selfish. Godliness, on the other hand, at its core, is selfless. One looks inward, the other looks outward. One says, “my will be done.” The other says, “Your will be done.”
3 Biblical Analogies
Scripture uses multiple analogies to describe the drastic nature of the distinction between godliness and worldliness. Consider three of them:
Light vs. Darkness: possibly the most vivid analogy Scripture uses to describe the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of light and darkness.
John describes Christ as the “true Light” (John 1:9), and Jesus later confirms this epithet as valid when He simply states, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
It’s important to note that Christ did not say that He has the light of the world; He says that He is the light of the world. Thus, light is a defining feature of Christ Himself, not just His message. (And as Christ is one with God, it’s not surprising that John later writes of God the Father, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NKJV).)
As a result, it only makes sense then that those who call themselves by Christ’s name should also be described as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and as “having the light of life” (John 8:12).
Because God defines Himself as light, and bestows this light upon all who faithfully follow Him, everything that stands in opposition to Him must necessarily be described as darkness:
• 1 John 1:6 draws a distinction between fellowship with God and “walking in darkness.”
• Christ indicates that those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12, NKJV).
• Paul indicates that we should, “Walk as children of light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8-13, NKJV).
• Paul also writes that the godly have been “...delivered...from the power of darkness...” (Colossians 1:13, NKJV).
• To the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, NKJV).
• Peter writes that the godly “...were called...out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
In the end, godliness and worldliness are as different as day and night.
Truth vs. The Lie: a second analogy that Scripture uses to illustrate the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of truth and a lie.
Just like Christ defines Himself by light, He also defines Himself by truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6, NKJV). Similarly, Jesus prays to the Father that He would, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). Again, it isn’t that God’s word has truth, it’s that God’s word is truth.
Accordingly, those who align themselves with the Creator are described as “walking in truth” (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4) and as “obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7).
Because God is truth, everything that stands against Him is described as the opposite of truth. Whereas Scripture indicates that it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it describes Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
Thus, those who choose an ungodly character are described as being “...of [their] father the devil...” (John 8:44) and as “wandering from the truth” (James 5:19, NKJV). When man opts for worldliness over godliness, he “...exchanges the truth of God for the lie...” (Romans 1:25).
So, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day, they are also as different as truth and a lie.
Purity vs. Defilement: a third analogy that Scripture uses to highlight the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of purity and defilement.
Purity is yet another defining feature of God Himself (1 John 3:3). As a result, everything that emanates from Him is also pure, including His words (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:140), His commandments (Psalm 19:8), and His wisdom (James 3:17).
Who then is qualified to associate with God? Those who have adopted a godly character and have purified their hearts (Psalm 24:4; cf. James 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:22). Jesus reiterates this when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
If the godly character is described as pure, then the worldly character is described as defiled:
• Jude describes certain apostates as having “...defiled the flesh...” (Jude 8).
• The Hebrew writer equates “falling short of the grace of God” with bitterness, trouble, and “becoming defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NKJV).
• Paul, in his letter to Titus, makes a marked distinction between the “pure” and the “defiled” (Titus 1:15).
• Jesus speaks of “...evil coming from within and defiling a man” (Mark 7:23, NKJV).
Thus, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day and truth and a lie, they are also as different as purity and defilement.
The Bottom Line
If we are to be people of godly character, we cannot even so much as dabble in worldliness. Godliness and worldliness are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are in fact two entirely distinct monetary systems. What works in the kingdom of this world is not even recognized by God as valid currency in His kingdom.
“No man can serve two masters,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). It’s not that doing so is a bad idea, it’s that doing so is impossible. Because we cannot be both godly and worldly, we must make a choice. No other decision has more gravity than this, as what we select will do no less than determine our eternal destiny.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Cursed are the defiled in heart, for they shall not see God.
By Megan Berthold
I took a fall recently. Well, a stumble really. I’m not certain of all the technicalities between falls and stumbles, but it was a small slip of the feet. The irony was that our family had just hiked almost three miles up the side of a mountain, around “cliffy” edges, and then back down around rocks and slippery stones - all safe and sound. Thankfully, it wasn’t until I was near the safety of the trailhead that I had my slip.
My slip on the safe ground got me thinking. It seems in life that it can be easy to pass the “big tests”, but it’s often times the little ones that can entangle us. It’s amazing that when you’re hiking, even near dangerous edges, there oftern aren’t guardrails. There aren’t park rangers at the rough turns rationing out warnings. Lots of times there aren’t even signs! And it’s not necessary because it’s overwhelmingly apparent - there is danger around you. Carefulness, awareness and safety are demanded.
In our spiritual lives, it’s no different. We don’t need the “ warning signs” around the big issues. We can often handle the "biggie" issues of fornication, drinking, regular attendance at Worship, using the Lord’s name in vain, etc. But just as I’m feeling confident in hiking through the weighty matters of life, the phone rings and gossip is flowing from my lips, or my child disobeys me and my anger flares, or I’m praised for a job completed well and my heart starts harboring pride, or my spouse and I have words and all of the sudden submission to my husband is out the door. Look at all the slipping! And it wasn’t falling over the cliff on adultery, or stealing, or lying; it was slipping on the "little" things, the things not many people see.
This isn’t new by the way. Look at Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26). Somehow she had lived in Sodom and actually made it out alive; she truly made it to the safe ground. But then she turned. One little look cost it all. Then of course there’s Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8). I feel for Uzzah. He didn’t make the cart, he was just guiding it; but he touched it. God couldn’t have made that rule any plainer, don’t touch the ark. There’s no ambiguity on that point; no way to wonder how God really felt about that one. "No touchy", as we say in our house. And then there is Moses, who was quite the man really. He stood up to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to the Israelites too actually, on their many occasions of back peddling. He parted the Red Sea, he saw a burning bush, he received the Ten Commandments, the list just goes on and on. And in Numbers 20:7 the Lord tells him to speak to the rock to bring forth water. So he and Aaron jaunt on down to the assembly of the people before the rock, and he hits the rock. Hits it! Not just once mind you, he strikes that rock twice. When I look at Moses I can really feel better about myself (oops, there is the pride again), but really, here is a man who struck his staff over the Red Sea, which is no creek by the way, and it parts. But he can’t listen and obey when God told him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.
Ok, so what is the take home? We need to make sure we’re getting it right on the “little” things, just like we do on the big ones. What does it really matter if I’m in my pew Sunday at 9am, 5pm, and Wednesday at 7:30, if I’m not truly living as a vessel of Christ in my words, in my example, and in my heart?
We need to ensure that what we perceive as “safe ground” really is secure.