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Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World Hardcover – September 12, 2008
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C. J. Mahaney and friends-men I trust-have written an excellent treatment of a vital and recently neglected subject. The difference between the world and the church is eroding at an alarming rate, and we need help with holiness. This book is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, full of grace and truth. Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism. One of the most timely and much-needed books I've read in years. I highly recommend it. Randy Alcorn, author, If God is Good and Heaven Around this book there should be wrapped a warning label: In Case of Drifting: Open Immediately. You could be in serious trouble and not even realize it. C.J. Mahaney and his team of contributors expertly address the issues that prompt that subtle, insidious, silent slide away from God that each of us is prone to take. Pay attention to this thought-provoking work and protect your heart for God. James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicagoland Area; radio teacher, Walk in the Word This book is biblical, practical, pastoral, and wise. It is honest about the authors' own temptations, and it is so specific it will be controversial! But such a book is greatly needed as a challenge today-for all of us. Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona In this broken world, it is not easy to promote holiness without succumbing to mere moralism; it is not easy to fight worldliness without giving in to a life that is constrained by mere rules. In these pages you find a valiant attempt at promoting holiness and combating worldliness without falling into these traps. Most of the focus is on the subtlety of individual temptations and sins rather than on the equally subtle temptations to large-scale social evils. But the strength of the work is that the authors try very hard not to let you forget the sheer God-centeredness of the gospel, the glory of the cross of Christ. We will best combat worldliness when we are most drawn to Christ. But that spectacularly wonderful truth does not mean there are no wise barriers to erect and no judgment calls to be made, such that we find ourselves pursuing excellence and refusing to be satisfied with mediocrity. If this book promotes such serious and joyful living, it will have accomplished its goal. --D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"C. J. Mahaney and friends-men I trust-have written an excellent treatment of a vital and recently neglected subject. The difference between the world and the church is eroding at an alarming rate, and we need help with holiness. This book is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, full of grace and truth. Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism. One of the most timely and much-needed books I've read in years. I highly recommend it."
—Randy Alcorn, Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries; author, Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and The Ishbane Conspiracy
"Around this book there should be wrapped a warning label: 'In Case of Drifting: Open Immediately. You could be in serious trouble and not even realize it.' C.J. Mahaney and his team of contributors expertly address the issues that prompt that subtle, insidious, silent slide away from God that each of us is prone to take. Pay attention to this thought-provoking work and protect your heart for God."
—James MacDonald, Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; author, Vertical Church
"This book is biblical, practical, pastoral, and wise. It is honest about the authors' own temptations, and it is so specific it will be controversial! But such a book is greatly needed as a challenge today-for all of us."
—Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
"In this broken world, it is not easy to promote holiness without succumbing to mere moralism; it is not easy to fight worldliness without giving in to a life that is constrained by mere rules. In these pages you find a valiant attempt at promoting holiness and combating worldliness without falling into these traps. Most of the focus is on the subtlety of individual temptations and sins rather than on the equally subtle temptations to large-scale social evils. But the strength of the work is that the authors try very hard not to let you forget the sheer God-centeredness of the gospel, the glory of the cross of Christ. We will best combat worldliness when we are most drawn to Christ. But that spectacularly wonderful truth does not mean there are no wise barriers to erect and no judgment calls to be made, such that we find ourselves pursuing excellence and refusing to be satisfied with mediocrity. If this book promotes such serious and joyful living, it will have accomplished its goal."
—D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
"In the word worldliness is contained one of the great problems of evangelical Christianity in our time. Here in the West, in the English-speaking world, churches and Christians have been seriously compromised by worldliness. This danger and diagnosis is critical for us to understand. In worldliness, our mind, will and affections, our thinking, living and desiring become captive to a lesser joy than the real and true joy that is only found in treasuring God and His glory in Jesus Christ. Worldliness is thus soul-destroying and joy-robbing because it tricks our hearts into seeking satisfaction in what can never satisfy and thus slowly strangles us of the experience of being fully alive to God. That's why John Newton (who knew this from experience) wrote in one of his great hymns: 'Fading is the worldling's pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion's children know.' Because this spiritual malady is one of epic proportions, because it is destroying churches and Christians on every side, because it stalks me and my own congregation, I am deeply grateful that my dear friend C.J. Mahaney (along with Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell and Craig Cabaniss) has tackled this vital pastoral issue. These wise shepherds have a way of getting to your heart in this book (I know this because in reading it, they got to mine). And in Christianity, as J.C. Ryle liked to say, 'The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.' These skillful soul-surgeons are brilliant at diagnosis and treatment, and will help you see yourself, see your sin and see your Savior. I now know that first book I am going to reach for when a Christian is wrestling with worldliness, or isn't but should be! The questions they offer for self-examination are, in and of themselves, of strategic value in our fight of faith for joy. This is a book I will make use of, by God's grace, again and again."
—J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
"Worldliness is normally invisible to us, like water to a fish. That's one of the reasons why it's so dangerous to us. In this book, C. J. Mahaney and friends cause it to appear! Now we are able to discern and resist and contend. Praise God for this little tool-specific enough to be helpful, grace-filled enough to be really helpful!"
—Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; president, 9Marks
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The aim of this book is to exalt the gospel of Jesus through encouraging Christians to resist worldliness. Mahaney writes, “The antidote to worldliness is the cross of Jesus Christ” (34). This book is divided into six chapters, each written by a different contributor. At the end of the book there are two appendices that further a discussion of modesty. After a foreword written by John Piper, Mahaney is the first to take up the issue of worldliness. Aptly titled “Is this Verse in Your Bible?” the first chapter expresses the radical call to avoid and put to death worldliness. Mahaney discusses how we all have a tendency to cut and paste together our own version of the Bible using the Jefferson “Bible” as an example. One verse that Mahaney says we all tend to cut out of our personal version of the Bible is 1 John 2:15 (“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”). He writes that even for those of us who do not outright ignore the verse, we qualify its meaning. “We empty it of its authority, its meaning for our day-to-day lives” (18). Mahaney uses the case study of Demas to demonstrate what happens when we succumb to worldliness. He discusses what we lose when we allow the sinful passions of this world to overcome us. Mahaney demonstrates that to overcome this world, we must be united to the One who did overcome the world.
In this chapter he provides a stepping stone for the rest of the book. He gives a biblical definition of worldliness (27) and shows that the problem is not so much in the externals, but in the internal. Our struggle with worldliness is in our own hearts. Fighting worldliness is not about following a list of rules, but having a transformed heart by the gospel. Mahaney closes by showing that the seriousness of falling prisoner to the sinful passions of this fallen world is found in the glory of Christ, and he urges us to defeat worldliness by dwelling where “the cries of Calvary are louder than the clamor of the world” (35).
While chapter one serves as a foundation for the rest of the book, the following chapters are more specific as they address different areas of worldliness. In chapter two, Craig Cabaniss addresses the role of the media and the Christian’s relation to it. He discusses how pervasive the media is in our society and how deep it can be rooted in our lives. Though Cabaniss discusses various guidelines of biblical obedience in relation to media, he forms his discussion on the platform of gospel and grace. He discusses the problem of over-saturation in the media and also engages types of media that the Christian would be wise to avoid. He urges readers to exercise biblical discernment in the media because filling our minds with sinful media depictions “dulls our sensitivity to God’s holy hatred of sin” (53). Cabaniss encourages readers to engage media with a thankful heart, with a discerning heart, and with an accountable heart.
Chapter three, written by Bob Kauflin, begins a discussion of music and how a Christian should relate to it in our world. He begins by stating the fact that music comes from God and is a good gift to be cherished in all of its forms or genres. When used correctly, each genre can glorify God. Kauflin writes that music conveys content, context, and culture. The Christian must take each of these into consideration when listening to music. Again, biblical discernment is necessary when it comes to the kind of music we listen to because without it, we reveal that we have a heart “willing to flirt with the world” (71). The message that music brings can shape our hearts and attitudes.
Chapter four addresses materialism, or “stuff,” in general. Dave Harvey addresses what materialism really is and why it is dangerous. He then moves to show that covetousness is at the heart of materialism. Materialism is essentially being a “glutton for stuff” (95). Through biblical and other testimonies, Harvey demonstrates the temptation to hoard up a bunch of stuff. He then outlines four chains of covetousness to further reveal the danger materialism carries in our fallen world. He closes his chapter by warning readers to “post your guard” against covetousness “by walking in grace” (107). This grace is the grace of Christ. He encourages readers to fight materialism by thinking about the riches believers have in Christ, by expressing gratitude, by rooting out some of the materialism in your life, and by giving generously. Finally, Harvey urges parents to guard their children from covetousness. He concludes, “As we, by grace, delight in God and guard our hearts against covetousness, we’ll see the chains loosen, and a freedom from the tyranny of stuff will grow in our lives” (114).
Chapter five is written by C.J. Mahaney and addresses the issue of modesty. He primarily addresses women in this chapter as he encourages them to dress modestly as a distinction from those who are not in Christ. He challenges women, “[Y]ou can be either a blessing or a distraction” in the church (127). Once again his argument is rooted in the gospel as he writes, “Modesty is important because of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (137). To accompany this chapter, there are two appendices that address even more specific issues within modesty. Again, these primarily are directed at women.
Chapter six is written by Jeff Purswell. In this chapter, Purswell unfolds redemptive history as he goes through each stage in the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation format. Following this interaction, Purswell encourages readers to engage the world with three “God-given tasks” (147). He writes that we should enjoy, engage, and evangelize the world. He concludes, “[W]e’ll take our place in this world, enjoying God’s gifts, fulfilling God’s purposes, and giving our lives to see the gospel proclaimed, sinners saved, and God glorified” (171).
Worldliness is an important book that addresses incredibly important issues that can be easily mishandled. With that said, this book carries both strengths and weaknesses.
One notable strength in this book is the continual emphasis on the gospel. Addressing the issue of biblical obedience can easily lead one to include many helpful lists with no gospel. This is not an issue in this book. Although some chapters harp on the gospel more than others, the message is clear in all three that without the heart transforming grace of God in Jesus, there is no hope to overcome the seduction of a fallen world. Some of the chapters do an excellent job of weaving the gospel in throughout the description of each problem relating to worldliness by emphasizing the internal problems that lead to external moral compromise and sin. For the most part, the gospel is on full display throughout the book.
Another strength is the pastoral guidance, counsel, and advice that is given in each chapter. While chapter one is more of an exegetical foundation, the rest of the chapters provide tangible ways to fight against worldliness and for affections for Christ. Though lists with no gospel breeds legalism, lists accompanying the gospel are helpful aids to practically loving God over and against the fallen nature of this world. An example of this is found in chapter two. Not only does Craig Cabannis exhort readers to exert discernment in their media intake, but he also provides two and a half pages of helpful questions to ask relating to our time, our hearts, and the content of the media we absorb (57-59).
Despite these overwhelming strengths, which in and of themselves make this book highly commendable, there are a couple surprising weaknesses. One such weakness is the lack of depth. This is surprising because of Mahaney’s typical depth that he employs in his works. It seems that the topic they chose to address may just have been too deep or broad to handle in a book of this size. This is particularly seen in the last few chapters, especially in the chapters on materialism and dress. Mahaney’s chapter on modesty is very brief and lacks his typical theological and biblical depth and prowess. While there are bits and pieces of helpful advice, the problem of worldliness is not addressed in the hearts of men and women in these final chapters as it was in the first three. That leads to the second weakness, which is the lopsidedness of the book. The first three chapters are exactly what one would expect from a book edited by C.J. Mahaney. However, the closing three chapters, particularly chapters four and five (and the appendices), do not probe the issue of the heart as much and simply lack the depth that the subjects they probe require. So, the book is uneven, but that is always a possibility when multiple authors are compiled into one work.
In light of these weaknesses, the book is not quite as forceful as some other works Mahaney is associated with, but there are plenty of nuggets of biblical wisdom to be found within the pages of this book. And the gospel of Christ shines forth from these pages, which makes it a valuable work on the topic of worldliness.
My favorite quote from the book was- the greatest sin of worldliness is that it prevents you from seeing Jesus clearly.