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. 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. (1 John 2:15-16)
Are those words in your Bible? While (I hope) we would all say yes, if we carefully examined our lives, we’d probably have to admit that we don’t live in light of them. Yet we can’t afford not to. Our lives are not to be characterized by the pursuit of “the things in the world,” lest we hinder our witness to the greatness of God.
And while we know this… again, if we had to be honest, what would we say our lives are marked by?
Concerns over the creeping influence of worldliness motivated C.J. Mahaney, along with Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell and Craig Cabaniss, to write Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.
Mahaney kicks off the book with a strong opening, dealing with what John means when he writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” It’s not that he’s saying “don’t love creation” or “don’t love the godless heathens with their MTV and Cinnabon.” Instead, he means that we are not to love “the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.” This is a critical (and biblical) distinction that Mahaney is wise to bring to address because when you talk about avoiding “worldliness,” it’s really easy to jump to all sorts of peculiar legalisms. Without this foundation, the remainder of the book could almost certainly come off as exactly that.
As the book moves into the particulars of where we’re impacted by worldliness, its authors focus media (Cabaniss), music (Kauflin), materialism (Harvey) and modesty (Mahaney) before Jeff Purswell wraps the book up by discussion how Christians can and should love the world. Of these chapters, I most appreciated Kauflin’s thoughts on music as he reminds readers that there is always something being communicated in music than notes and rhythm. All music communicates content, context and culture, and because of this, we must be discerning as we listen. Music is especially good at communicating emotion, so we need to understand why the songwriter wanted us to feel what we feel when we listen. Mahaney’s chapter on modesty was also one that I appreciated, although it’s application is limited to helping my wife and daughters choose appropriate clothing (which is increasingly a struggle—even for a four year old!).
The most valuable feature of this book, beyond any consideration of the content, is the discussion questions. If you read or listen to this book, you will do yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to work through at least some of the questions presented in each chapter.
I first read this book in 2008 and revisited it in audio form earlier this month and I was glad I did. I’d appreciated it back when I first read it, but found it a bit of a mixed bag (as is common with collections of essays). While I’d still say it’s a mixed bag, Sean Runnette’s narration brought some chapters, notably Dave Harvey’s chapter on materialism, to life where I remember the text falling a bit flat. He captured the authors’ senses of humor well, and you could hear him varying his narration style as he switched from chapter to chapter. (As an aside, of all the books I’ve listened to featuring Runnette, he seems be at his most lively with Worldliness.)
Overall, Worldliness is a book that offers a lot of helpful insights into how we should live in light of 1 John 2:15-16 and is one that would be a worthwhile addition to your library. Read the book, work through the discussion questions and see how God might use it to bring glory to Himself through your life.
Title: Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World
Author: C.J. Mahaney (editor)
Publisher: Crossway/Christian Audio
A review copy of the audio book was provided for review purposes by ChristianAudio.com