Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vacation Reading

This week I've been blessed to enjoy a tremendous week of vacation with my family. As we prepared for this week I was excited to choose some books to bring along. One of the books I brought was "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World" edited by CJ Mahaney and other Sovereign Grace pastors. Having read almost everything CJ has written I expected this book to be biblical, practical, personal, and convicting. I was not disappointed.

In chapter 1 CJ begins by asking the question "Is this verse in your bible?" The verse he is referring to is 1 John 2:15 which says "Do not love the world or anything in the world." As CJ unpacks, our reactions to this verse are 1) ignore it and 2) load it up with qualifications and "apply it to those more "worldly" then ourselves."

What is worldliness? CJ defines it this way: "Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It's loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God. It rejects God's rules and replaces it with our own. It exalts our opinions above God's truth."

It's easy for me as I look at areas of my life to see where worldliness creeps in and takes a foothold. A few months ago I bought a FLIP digital video camera. I love it! It's easy to use and easy to sync it with my computer to create videos. I thought I had purchased the best, most up to date version of the camera, but last week I saw someone who had a newer, slimmer version of the camera with greater memory and in a different color. Immediately I was unhappy with my version and was thinking of ways that I could upgrade. Worldliness!!

Another area that is an easy area for worldliness to take hold in my heart is my love for sports. Mariners....Seahawks...Huskies...Sonics, oh, wait, not them anymore. But wow, these things so easily dominate my time, my thoughts, and my emotions. During baseball season it is so easy for me to want to dedicate 3 hours per day to enjoying the Mariners on TV. During football season my weekend can easily revolve around watching a Huskies game on Saturday afternoon and the Seahawks on Sunday. Some of you my rightly question my sanity in devoting myself to teams with such poor won-loss records as these, but I don't think I could quit being a fan if I tried. But as I look at these uses of my time and the lack of true valuable return they bring to my life, it's clear that if I do not control my enjoyment of these pleasures that these pleasures will control me!

CJ and his co-authors point out throughout the book there is nothing wrong with enjoying things of the world as a gift from God. No where in the book will you find a list of things to do or not do, movies to watch or not watch, music to listen to or avoid. The book works at every step to avoid setting up a legalistic set of rules that everyone needs to follow to avoid worldiness. Rather, throughout the book they pose questions for you to consider in areas including Media (TV, movies, internet), Music, Possessions, and Clothing (especially modesty).

What is the antidote to worldliness? How can we defeat it and make sure nothing competes with our love for Jesus Christ? It is not through a set of rules, and it is not from withdrawing completely from the world (as some throughout the ages have advocated). CJ says "Only through the power of the cross of Christ can we successfully resist the seduction of the fallen world. The Savior's death on the cross is what makes possible forgiveness of sin and provides power to overcome sin. And the cross is the attraction that draws our hearts away from the empty and deadly pleasures of worldliness.

So, what am I going to do about what I have learned? How I am going to practically put into practice God's command not to love the world, or anything in it?

1. A one-year fast from all fantasy sports. This is tough one for me and one that I have really wrestled with. I have played in the same fantasy basketball league with a group of 11 fantastic guys for the last 7 years. I love the competition of putting together the best team and have even won the league championship several times. In the past 2 years I've enjoyed dipping my toe into fantasy football and fantasy baseball as well, with some success. These things take some serious time and energy from me though, time and energy that I am sure could be used for things more glorifying to God and better serving my family and my church. So, for at least a year, I'm giving them up for the goal of loving things in the world less so that I can be more devoted to the Lord, my family, and my church.

2. Less TV, more reading and devotional time with my kids. This shouldn't be tough, but it is. One the surface, we'd all say "time with kids is SO much more valuable and important then what is on TV." But at the end of a long day I want some "me" time where I am on the couch, enjoying some (worldly) entertainment. So, from 6pm-9pm I'm going to work on keeping the TV off (maybe the DVR will be on) and focusing on things that really matter.

3. My money. I have a designated amount of money every month that I can spend on whatever. It doesn't have to go to bills or payments or anything in particular. Where we spend our money though can be a real insight into our hearts, and I'm sure this is true with me. Even in my discretionary spending I want to focus on things that matter, things that glorify God, and not things that our temporal or self focused. So for at least a couple of months I'm going to write down everything I spend my discretionary money on, and how much I spent, and share it with Heather and pray over it. We'll see what happens, but I expect it will be quite revealing.

I highly recommend the book "Worldliness". It's far from legalistic. It's thoroughly Biblical, challenging, insightful, and easy to read. Even if you don't think Worldliness is an issue for you it's a great read. I'm actually loaning it to a family member who was intrigued by the topic. Have you read anything good on this topic? Have you seen this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

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