Worldliness – The Majesty of Christ in Our Comparisons
Worldliness is simply focusing devotion on the things of the temporal world more than on Christ and His eternal Kingdom. Paul overcomes his worldliness when he puts Christ into perspective:
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:7-8).
Worldliness – Comparing Values
When it comes to worldliness, the concept of comparing the value of items is one that we use daily: the value of your car as compared to the value of the one the dealer is trying to sell you; the value of the higher priced home in the city versus the value of the home in the suburbs farther from work; or the value of education and experience versus an offer from a potential employer. It has been said that the value of anything is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. This has certainly been proven true in the sports world with some players making millions of dollars a year.
It is sometimes amazing the items upon which we place value, as value is not always governed by how much something is worth in the market place. A broken watch that belonged to your grandfather, a favorite book you read to your children when they were small, or a picture taken with a parent right before they passed away all have other than monetary value. While most employees value salary over job title, some would prefer the title. While many employers value experience over education, others prefer education above experience. Sometimes value is awarded to what turns out to be the wrong thing. As a child of about eight years old (in 1961) I had a large shoebox filled with baseball cards that I had collected for a few years. I also had about two or three hundred cards from the mid-1950's that an older boy in church had given me. When we had to move, I was told I could not take everything so I would have to choose what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to discard. I was also a collector of rocks (I wanted to be a scientist and loved fossils). I had collected quite a few of these "amazing specimens." I also collected small plastic dinosaurs and knew them all by name (the scientist thing again). I had a small box filled with these little jewels also. At the time I wasn't really all that interested in baseball, so you guessed it…the baseball cards went in the trash. I have often wondered how many thousands of dollars those cards would be worth today. But fortunately I still have my rocks and my dinosaurs!
Worldliness – What is True Wealth?
Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, had much upon which he placed value. He was a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, very intelligent, highly educated, a religious leader, a Pharisee, and most likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling court of the Jews. As with most people in his position he would probably have been considered wealthy by the standards of his day. He was zealous for God, so much so that he worked tirelessly in an effort to stamp out those of "the way." And of course, the statement found in Philippians 3:6 that has always amazed me, ". . .as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." What a statement! Paul declared that he was blameless in keeping the Old Testament Law. Now, there is some disagreement as to exactly what Paul meant here, but regardless of one's opinion as to his meaning, I am still impressed! Without a doubt, if Saul continued on this course, his fame and good name would have spread throughout the land, and his life would have been one of ease, comfort and prominence in Israel. But in Acts 9:3-5 we are told how one day on the road to Damascus Saul's life changed forever.
"As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked."
Here on this dusty road to Damascus Saul met Jesus. You probably know the story so I will not go into the details, but the end result was that Jesus called Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. To accept this call would mean Paul would have to turn his back on everything in his life. He would be disowned by his family, and he would lose his friends. He would be stripped of his position as a religious leader and Pharisee and would no longer be a ruler of the Jews. His name would be ruined, and instead of being the hunter of those in "the way," he would become the hunted. The righteousness that is of the law, while blameless in its keeping, would mean nothing. Everything Paul owned would be forfeited, every person Paul loved would forsake him, and every accomplishment Paul had earned would be forgotten.
Once Paul met Jesus, he became as zealous for Christ as he was for the Pharisees. All the things he stood to lose by accepting the call to become a servant of God, Paul lost. But in our opening Scripture's text we see Paul's attitude toward all the things he had lost. Most of us, having lost so much, would be prone to self-pity, become depressed, or at least complain to God. But here Paul declares, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but dung, that I may win Christ…" Everything Paul had lost he counted as dung (a good KJV word that gets the point across very nicely), refuse and waste. He took into consideration all he loved, all he owned, all he had accomplished, and all he stood to gain as a ruler of Israel. He then compared these things to Jesus, and by comparison, all else was worthless. He freely gave up everything for the knowledge of Christ and for a relationship with Him!
Worldliness – Giving Up Our Little Treasures
Many people never become free to serve God because of worldliness -- an unwillingness to compare the majesty of Jesus with the things of this world. It might be family ties, a good job, a long-term plan that leads to a great retirement, or even financial security. There are many things that in themselves are good and honorable. But when these temporal things are compared to the eternal Christ, just as Paul, we should be willing to count them as loss.
Why is it so hard for us to give up our little treasures? Why do we hold on so tightly to things that have only momentary value? Perhaps it is because we have never stopped to compare their worth to the value of knowing the majesty of Christ. It has been said that God will never ask you to give up anything of value that He will not give you something far better in return. I believe that is true. The return may not necessarily be just in this life. We are going to spend eternity with Him, and as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love Him!" (Paraphrase)
Because we live "in time" it is difficult to think in light of eternity. But we must realize that every temporal decision we make affects our eternity. That is why James tells us, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). What are our few brief years on earth in comparison to eternity? What are our earthly treasures in comparison to the majesty of Christ? If we are going to be free to serve God we must be set free from worldliness and become keenly aware of the majesty of Christ in our comparisons. I urge you to choose that which has lasting value over those things whose value will soon fade away!
Rendered with permission from the booklet, Free to Serve God: 7 Principles Every Believer Should Know, by James O. Jones, Jr. (Light of Life Ministry, revised printing 2009). Compliments of James O. Jones, Jr., and Light of Life Ministry. All rights reserved in the original.
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