As Christians in a wealthy and materialistic nation, there lies a daunting task in front of us–to regard as rubbish that which we are taught to love. This task is daunting for several reasons, and any one of them alone can bind us as easily as the several combined.
The first reason our task daunting is that we, even as Christians, possess a flesh that is yet not glorified and that presently and on its own accord desires the things of the world. These desires of the flesh might vary in degree and manifestation from person to person, but they are all of one fleshly root. These desires manifest themselves presently in the love of shiny cars, new technology, large houses, inappropriate lusts, etc., and they all lie in wait to strangle out of us any desire for Christ that the Spirit has put into us.
Secondly, those who are of the world encourage us to gratify of our fleshly desires. Worldly people use their philosophies to justify their own the fleshly pursuits and, to appease their own consciences, operate just as those whom the prophet condemns: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20). With their consciences cleaned by their fantastic moralities, those who are worldly seek then to excite our fleshly longings with advertisements, filthy television shows, etc., and thereby demonstrate the Apostle’s observation, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
Thirdly, we are flooded with false doctrine concerning wealth and possessions from those within the church. These false doctrines are not limited to the obvious health and wealth preachers like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar, but it applies to many who quietly embrace the world and its treasures. These teachers are arguably more treacherous than the Joel Osteens of the world because their teachings are so close to the truth that it ensnares many who would be orthodox. These teachers tell us that it is okay to have many possessions just as long as we make Christ number one in our life. Others preach that God only requires ten percent of that which he gives us and that God will bless us richly if we faithful with that ten percent.1
All around us are these snares that attempt to trap us into loving the world or, very likely, that have already trapped us into loving the world. You might be the one who finds himself already trapped by his love for the world, and you know this and are seeking to rid yourself of it but do not know how. Hopefully, I will be able offer some suggestions that will get you heading in the right direction.
Cultivate a Satisfaction for Christ Alone
There is much in the phrase, “Make Christ your number one,” that seems like sound advice. The problem with it is that we are not called to make Christ number one on a our lists, but we are called to make Christ our all. In other words, Christ is not to be the highest percentage of our affections, but he is supposed to be one hundred percent of our affections. When Christ calls us to take up our crosses daily, this is precisely what he means.
What you must ask yourself then is, “Do I live my life in such a way so that in everything that I do, I do it so that I might enjoy and desire Christ more?” This is a radical question to ask yourself, and it will change how you live every moment of your life. Instead of asking yourself, for example, “What music can I listen to that is family friendly or that does not use curse words?” ask yourself, “What music can I listen to that will make me adore Christ more and bring me to worship him?” Imagine the CDs (including some “Christian” CDs) that would be thrown out from our music collections if we asked that question! What if you instead of asking, “What house can we afford to buy?” you asked, “What house can I buy (or build) that will cause me to desire Christ over my house and will bring glory to his name?” If you ask that, I guarantee you that you will not be buying a $250,000 house any time soon.
If you are struggling with the love of the world, you need desperately to rid yourself of the taste for its pleasures. The Apostle John writes these sobering words in his first letter:
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 (1John 2:15, 16).
1- I know for many of you, red flags are going up. You believe these things–you believe that it is okay to have nice possessions as long as Christ is your number one–you believe that you are being a good steward of your money as long as you give ten percent to your local church. But let me ask you this, after the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and the fullness of prophets has been made known in Christ, how many rich people in Scripture are told that they can keep their possessions as long as they make Christ number one? While you are thinking about that, how many poor people are told the same thing? Also, where do you find in Scripture after Christ (or any where in Scripture) that ten percent of yourself is an acceptable offering to God?