dontlovetheworldDo 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.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

Today’s culture is saturated with tempting pleasures, endless luxuries, and ever-changing technology—flashy cars, jumbo plasma TVs, GPS gizmos, iPhones, iPods, cruise vacations. How do we identify and resist sinful cravings, lusts of the eye, and empty boastings? How do we pursue godliness and live in a fallen world without being conformed by it?

What does it mean for Christians—for us—to not love the world? Does it mean we can’t watch R-rated movies? Do we have to give up our favorite TV shows? Is it okay to watch a movie as long as we fast-forward the sex scene? How much violence or foul language is too much? Are certain styles of music more worldly than others? How do we know if we’re spending too much time on the internet? Can a Christian try to make a lot of money, own a second home, drive a nice car, and enjoy the luxuries of modern life without being worldly? Are we worldly if we read fashion magazines and wear trendy clothes? Do we have to be out of style in order to be godly? How can we evangelize the world if we don’t relate to it? How do we know if we’re guilty of committing the sin of worldliness?

A love for the world begins in the heart. It’s subtle, not always obvious to others, and often undetected by the people who are slowly succumbing to its lies. If we focus exclusively on externals we’ve missed the point of worldliness. Worldliness does not consist in outward behavior (although our actions can certainly be an evidence of worldliness!). The real location of worldliness is internal; it resides in our hearts.

The world we are forbidden to love is the world of arrogant, self-sufficient people seeking to exist apart from God and living in opposition to God. It gratifies and exalts oneself to the exclusion of God. The goal of worldly people is to move forward rather than upward.

What are your goals? Do they drive you forward—to financial security, more friends, successful kids, a certain position at work? Or do they drive you upward—to obeying and glorifying God above all else?

The world draws the heart away from God, and the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God decays. The world competes for the love of Christians and we cannot both love it and the Father at the same time. Love for the world is incompatible with love for God. “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4)

This may make us feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps we think this verse doesn’t apply to us. From all outward appearances, we’re anything but worldly—a solid member of our church, an exemplary Christian who worships on Sunday and faithfully attends a small group. We’ve never committed a scandalous sin. Maybe because of our age, or our position in the church, or our reputation for godliness, we think you’re immune to worldliness. So often we’re ignorant of the signs and symptoms of worldliness. We can attend church, sing praise songs, listen to sermons, and yet still be worldly. I know because I’ve been there.

“The cravings of sinful man . . . the lust of his eyes . . . the boasting of what he has and does” are the root issues of the sin of worldliness (1 John 2:16). John’s first phrase, “the cravings of sinful man,” is targeting our hearts. Although Christians have new hearts, our sinful nature still produces cravings that compete for God’s love and supremacy in our lives. The “cravings of sinful man” are desires that have become false gods we worship. It’s wanting too much of the things of this fallen world. These desires include obvious sins and less obvious sins as well.

John’s next phrase: “the lust of his eyes.” Please don’t limit this to sexual sin; anything we see can stimulate greed and idolatry in our souls. What are you captivated by? What do you think about most often? What images have the power to arouse your interest? If you’re more excited about the release of a new movie than about serving in church, if you’re drawn to people more because of their job title than their character, if you’re impressed by celebrities or professional athletes regardless of their integrity or morality, then you’ve been seduced by a fallen world.

John’s last phrase: “the boasting of what he has and does.” I’m certainly guilty of this sin. I find myself so tempted to take pride in my abilities and accomplishments. While some of us may be too polite to boast aloud, we may secretly revel in what we have and what we’ve done. Secretly, we think we’re significant because of our wealth and achievements, and we want others to notice.

How do you define yourself? How does your profile read? Are you known as a person after God’s heart or are you known as a person pursuing a fallen world? Do you think of yourself as “the guy with the impressive title” or “the most attractive woman in the room?” Are you the person with the Ivy-League education, fancy car, or the beautifully decorated home? Is your hobby, talent, or career the most important thing in your life? What dominates your mind and stirs your heart? Is it discontentment with life? Longings for earthly pleasures? Does outward prosperity appeal more to you than growth in godliness? Do you relate to God as if He exists to further your selfish ambitions or are you convinced that you exist to glorify Him? Do you crave the approval of those around you? Do you go to great lengths to avoid looking foolish or being rejected for your Christian faith? These are tough questions, I know; but they are necessary if you are to discover whether you’ve been infected by worldliness.

John concludes this passage by telling us, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (v. 17). The verse is clear: the world doesn’t last; it passes away. I don’t want to waste my life pursuing things that won’t last. There’s no future in worldliness. The world is temporary and superficial; it doesn’t satisfy. The world sparkles and dazzles, but in the end it will leave you empty and dry.

I know because I’ve been there. I’ve immersed myself in the world. I’ve passionately pursued everything it had to offer. And what did I discover? The world didn’t deliver as advertised. It deceived me. What it did deliver were unadvertised consequences that I wasn’t informed of and didn’t anticipate. Through all of this, I learned the things of this world are worthless.

Every moment of every day we’re making choices—whether we realize it or not between love for a world that opposes God and love for the risen Christ. If we have succumbed to worldliness, sin does not grieve us like it once did. Passion for our Savior begins to fade. Affections grow dim. Excitement lessens to serve in the church. Eagerness to evangelize starts to wane. Growth in godliness slows to a crawl.

James tells us how to overcome worldliness: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:7–10). Paul also provides advice on how to overcome worldliness “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Maybe, as you hear these words, you realize you’re drifting. You realize your affection for the things of this world is strong and your love for Christ weak. There was a time in your life when you were passionate for God, characterized by extravagant devotion and love for the Savior, but now you have fallen in love with the world. You feel trapped, entangled in the net of worldliness. Despair has already set in . . . I’ll never change. I might as well not even try. I’m beyond hope!

I will admit resisting worldliness requires effort. It’s an inside problem and serious heart-work is needed to effectively cut it out. The good news is this isn’t a battle fought by sheer willpower or teeth-gritting self-denial. We can’t overcome worldliness on our own. We’re not sufficient. A much greater strength is required.

Do you want the world to lose its appeal? The antidote to worldliness is the cross of Christ. Only through the power of Christ can we successfully resist worldliness. When we fill our hearts with love for the risen Christ, we will find there is no room for the world.

* Read more in my book: Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.



    1. A most delightful read and pause to think on.
      Thank you for blogging this article. I have re-tweeted it to share as well.

  1. Well said Joe. “The antidote to worldliness is the cross of Christ.” Be blessed. God is with you man of GOD.

  2. My friend this is really a great piece of work, you have truly put your heart and soul into what God has blessed you to give back to the world. Thank you for sharing, and keep on writing and speaking the truth to power.

  3. Joe, Great questions! I have been told that my Questions are like those of a prosecuting attorney. I can see that like me the questions you ask are first of ones self, and our answers must be to Christ. You have added a few more questions that I must ask of my self thank-you. One of your best post! God Bless and keep asking questions!

  4. Great post and the cry of my heart: less of me and more of You Jesus. As He fills us up more and more, the things of the world lose their appeal and we just don’t want to be like The Jones’ anymore. What does our Facebook and other social media outlets say about the true state of who or what has our heart? Sometimes I pull up just my page or look at my profile to make sure it doesn’t reflect things that were a part of the old person before the blood of Christ changed me and set me free. Truly what we post, like, share, link on Facebook or any other similar format, that is where our heart is.

    1. Thank you, Janna! There sure are so many things in this world to distract us. Fortunately, when we read the Bible, it penetrates our hearts and judges our thoughts and attitudes, revealing to us our motivations. I have been fooled so many times in the past!

  5. Love the last sentence. It’s what I describe to the youth as the law of displacement. Filling ourselves up with something, pushes out whatever was in there. It works both ways. I think that’s why we’re told to guard our hearts above all else. How does the saying go…garbage in, garbage out? Instead of focusing on trying to change ourselves, we need to get so full of God, that change is inevitable.

  6. It takes an everyday examination and re-focus to keep from drifting. We are bombarded with temptations pulling us to the worldly side and we need to bombard ourselves with the Godly side to resist. Thanks for this great post and great reminder.

    1. howdy joe bro!!!!!! coffee time for me buddy!!! this is my first cup, so,….i am going to read what you wrote a fourth time! it’s packed full of groovy little nuggets! you know,……..many of us “equate” “forward”,…with “upward”????????….thus,…we have a “sense” of “purpose”,..and or “direction”….EVEN THOUGH WHAT WE ARE DOING AND HOW WE LIVE LIFE,…IS “NORMAL” when in rome?????? or,…”monkey see,….monkey do”…………lol

      but,…as our efforts and their rewards, lose their shininess, we then find that…”without” God in the correct, OR RIGHT, place in our lives,…we “may” begin to really wonder, and think about,….WHERE “ARE” WE GOING????????

      when and where there is no God in our lives, we, “without necessarily knowing”,…are in essence, CURSED TO WANDER AIMLESSLY……..but, as the “illusion” wears off,…we then, perhaps “deep within” ourselves, realize and or, more clearly understand the scripture,….that “WE CAN’T WORSHIP GOD AND MAMMON”…….hhhhhhhmmmmm……..leaving us in the condition where we ask,…..NOW WHAT???????



      1. I’m sure many people have pointed out how wierd you are, John, but has anyone ever pointed out how wise you are?

      2. weird?????? never noticed??????? wise huh??? scary thought right there………… for “anyone” pointin it out??? lol, joe,………..people DON’T TALK to me, if you ain’t noticed!!! lol,…….it could be that old,…”DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS” THING???????????


        oh well……………

    2. Absolutely! Paul said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is within you: unless of course you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). We need to perform spiritual evaluations on ourselves and look for a growing awareness of Christ’s presence and power in our lives. Just as we get physical checkups, we need to give ourselves spiritual checkups too.

  7. Is it okay to watch a movie as long as we fast-forward the sex scene? WERE YOU LOOKIN OVER MY SHOULDER AS I WATCHED “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN????????”……….

  8. Hi Joe, Once again a very well-written and compelling piece. I appreciate what you’re saying about the need to seek and unify with the internal God, though there was one phrase that troubled me slightly: “Love for the world is incompatible with love for God”. Many of us are out in the world so must actively be a part of it, for instance, I work in an office in New York City daily. But I do my best to keep God in my heart and top-of-mind throughout the day–and spread the love of God to those I come in contact with. This was referenced in a recent book I read by John Templeton on agape, the limitless love that God gives us at all times. The hard part of agape is that we in turn must offer that love to those around us. In Templeton’s words: “The great challenge is not in getting love but in giving it. Agape demands that we give others the freedom to return or not to return our love. And because it is unlimited, it keeps on giving even when love is not returned.” I’m also reminded of this passage from John 4:16: “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”. Thanks for the continuing thought-provoking work. ~Tom Rapsas,

    1. Thank you, Tom. I hope you do not feel condemned by me. That is not my intention. I think we might be misunderstanding each other. I am not suggesting we remove ourselves completely from the world. I believe worldliness is not primarily about our actions, but our heart attitude. It is really about who we Love. Thanks again, Tom!

      1. No harm taken, Joe! Your posts come from the heart and always teach me a thing or two from the Christian biblical perspective–a valued contribution to my continuing spiritual education and journey. Thank you again. ~Tom

  9. People look on the outside, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Your emphasis is bang on. May I add that hypocrisy shows itself as a prime symptom of – worldliness. May God in Jesus be glorified, even in the world!

    1. Hypocrisy is absolutely a symptom! Thanks for pointing this out. That is a great Scripture for us to remember. Saul was an impressive-looking man. Samuel may have been trying to find someone who looked like Saul to be Israel’s next king, but God warned him against judging by appearance alone. When we judge by outward appearance, we miss the inner qualities in people. Appearance does not always reveal what we are really like or what our true value is.

      Fortunately, God judges us by faith and character, not appearances. And because only God can see on the inside, only He can accurately judge us. Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance. We would be wise to develop our inner characters. While everyone can see our faces, only God and us know what our hearts really look like.

      I always love it when you comment! You are a man of God. Talk to you soon, my friend.

    1. Thanks Pastor Wrinkles! I know too many people who are in love with money. I used to be one of them!

  10. Great post! I’m actually having myself a “spot check” while reading your post..God bless!

  11. Thank you Pastor Joe, that was a very powerful and much needed message and it’s Truth is very evident in many lives today.

    I wrote a Poem about my fall into worldliness, I should Post it, at this time in my life I was confused about God’s Truth and got lost as you said Pastor Joe in seeking after the chattels of life and because of this I endeared in deep horrifying sinfulness, Satan’s grip on me was strong and he pulled me down into despair and decay and all that was worthwhile in my life was destroyed or so I thought.

    How did it start, just by pleasing someone who was worldly, if it keeps her happy what harm could a few dollars in the pokies do but it lead to addiction, it was in already in my flesh and had not been put to death, I had never heard this teaching even though I had been part of a Church for 10 years. They say gambling when someone is fully addicted ends either in suicide or insanity, with me it was believing the only way out was death, I just couldn’t escape it’s grip, I had tried everything and I felt no one cared or loved me including God and I deserved it, I was worthless but God rescued me at the point of death and when I came to full heart repentance, I realised how great was His Love and mercy and He has showed me many times since that I’m a person of worth who He greatly Loves and always did … do I deserve this, no not at all but He continues to greatly bless me which leaves me in awe … How can He Love me, I hurt Him so much and others and yes myself too. God is Love and can do no evil, does He condone it, No! does He forgive yes! did I ever reject Jesus No! what about not being able to be brought back to repentance, I was never there, the same as many today, true repentance is in the heart not the head and our lives will show which one it is.

    I’m aiming now as Paul did to be perfected in Love, not when I die but as I live on earth, just like Paul and other Christians did, is there a way to do this, yes indeed, is it taught today No, is it confirmed in the Scriptures Yes! and so now I put behind me the past and my childish ways and thinking, putting to death my flesh that caused me to sin and aiming towards the goal in Christ Jesus to walk as He walked and I will rise up and soar with Him, this is His promise to all His redeemed Children, who He greatly Loves.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

    P.S My heart focus is Evangelism, seeking to faithfully share God’s Truth whether accepted or rejected and Blogging is God’s tool for me to use, it was not my choice it was His, including my name Freedomborn, one day I will share all about it.

      1. A bit late I know to reply Pastor Joe but I do want to thank you again for this wonderful message , it had an impact on me the first time and it has now again, it is as you said so easy to fall into Satan’s Trap and not even realise it like I did.

        Wordly things hold no interest for me any more , I see Blogging as reaching out to others , I Love to read and share God’s Truth. Ok I’m not perfected yet but I’m aiming for it as I choose to walk in the Fruit of The Spirit He will empower me to do so and my flesh will be put to death.

        Thanks again Pastor Joe and God bless you greatly.

        Christian Love Anne

  12. Thanks for the great message on worldliness, enjoyable and challenging. As you say Pastor Joe ,there is no future in worldliness and in our strength we are hopeless, only in God’s power do we have the victory.


      1. Hey
        Let me know when you are going to do this. I was reading this last week and looked at a few commentaries. It’s a difficult one to teach, I think.

  13. Worldliness is not a lifestyle but a state of the soul. I have always felt that we dont have to go into the world to get worldly.Worldliness sadly have crept into the church in these Last Days.

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