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John Witherspoon warns his congregation about the danger of a fashionable worldliness content with the form of godliness devoid of power:

I would address this reproof to those who are apparently more decent and regular; whom a sense of honor, or a desire of approbation of their fellow-creatures, preserves from grosser crimes, or whom perhaps natural conscience persuades to take up the outward and ordinary part of religion as a form. Many such persons are wedded to the world. Their thoughts are there, their delights are there, their hopes and expectations are only there.

Bear with me, my brethren, in pressing this a little; and do not turn away, and refuse the charge. Worldliness is the reigning sin, and will be the eternal ruin of many persons of better rank, to whose conversation, a more liberal way of thinking, and a sense of decency, may give even an amiable appearance. I would beseech the attention of such persons to what shall now be said; not from any disrespect to their state and situation in civil life, God knows! but from fidelity to their souls. Consider, I pray you, the extreme danger of worldliness of mind. It is itself a great and aggravated sin, and is the parent of many others. It is a sin, where it has dominion, inconsistent with salvation. Here the words of the Lord Jesus: “He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).

There are some sorts of sinners on whom you would look with contempt or abhorrence; but you may possibly deceive yourselves. The strict and regular, but covetous Pharisees, little thought that the publicans and sinners were nearer the kingdom of heaven than themselves. I do not say this to extenuate sin of any kind, but to guard you against the power of delusion and self-deceit. I know that non but the Searcher of hearts can make a certain judgment of the degree of depravity in different characters; and therefore I do not so much urge the comparison for your condemnation, as caution you against relying upon it for your justification. The unalterable rule, taken both from the law and the gospel, is this: Which of the two has the supreme commanding interest in your affections, God or the world? (The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon)

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3 thoughts on “God or the World?”

  1. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, Kevin. Worldliness IS a great danger for the church. Jude wrote about it as follows,

    “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 17-19 ESV)

    I love particularly John Wesley’s exposition on the last of these three verses.


    Verse 19. These are they who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit – Having natural senses and understanding only, not the Spirit of God; otherwise they could not separate. For that it is a sin, and a very heinous one, “to separate from the church,” is out of all question. But then it should be observed,

    1. That by the church is meant a body of living Christians, who are “an habitation of God through the Spirit:”

    2. That by separating is understood, renouncing all religious intercourse with them; no longer joining with them in solemn prayer, or the other public offices of religion: and,

    3. That we have no more authority from scripture to call even this schism, than to call it murder.

    (John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible)


  2. Curt Day says:

    There is another message that helps balance the message above. It comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. That message say: God Or The Monastery.

  3. Worldliness is steadily increasing with the church. The state of the world shouldn’t be mirrored in the church but it should be visa versa. We’re not to follow the customs of this world but lead the world into the customs of Christ which are everlasting and cannot be altered nor changed.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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