Summary: What is worldliness. The consequences of worldliness and compromise in the life of the christian.
Worldliness the respectable sin.
Everyone in this world has a philosophy of life, and while there are thousands of variant philosophies, they can be boiled down to just two: the world's and the Christian's.
The philosophy of the world is: "My life is my own to live as I please." This is a man-centered and self-centered view of existence. The philosophy of the Christian is: "My life is God's to do as he wills." This is a God-centered view of existence. These two philosophies are diametrically opposed and can never be compatible. One is revelation, the other reason; one supernatural-ism, the other naturalism; one theism, the other atheism. It is not two side of a coin but two different currencies altogether. No person will ever understand the Christian philosophy of life until he accepts Christ as his personal Saviour and the Bible as his only standard of authority. The character promoted by the world's system is known as worldliness. Godliness is the one promoted by the Bible.
Also few distinctions are more clearly delineated in Scripture than the one between worldliness and godliness. In no uncertain terms, Scripture indicates that the character promoted by the world is diametrically opposed to the character promoted by God.
This does not stop us from blurring the lines, though.
As Christians, we often swallow, with ravenous enthusiasm, the poisonous lie promulgated by Satan himself that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We delude ourselves into thinking that piety and frivolity are dependent on each other.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Godliness and worldliness are not parallel paths; they are wholly divergent. And so we stand at a crossroads every time we make a decision.
Either we will take the path that leads to life and godliness, or we’ll take the path that leads to death and worldliness. (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15)
There is no middle ground. Only life or death. Only hot or cold. God will vomit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
When you boil it all down, there is one defining feature that distinguishes the worldly character from the godly one: Motive.
Worldliness, at its core, is selfishness. Godliness, on the other hand, at its core, is selflessness. One looks inward, the other looks outward. One says, “my will be done.” The other says, “Your will be done.”
What in the world then is worldliness? Worldliness is world likeness. Worldliness is a wedge that sin drives into the heart of the Christian, dividing his own will from God's will, making his actions incompatible with his spiritual goal, because he allows selfish interests to usurp the place of God in his life. Therefore, worldliness is sin. Worldliness is conforming to the world. When most Christians think of worldliness, they think in terms of man-made taboos i.e. "I don't smoke, drink, dance and so on". While these things could be a manifestation of worldliness, real worldliness is much more subtle and devastating.
Some have thought that the cure for worldliness is isolation from the world. In the 5th century, Simeon the Stylite tried to escape from worldliness by living for 36 years on a platform on top of a pillar. Thousands flocked to see him perched up there and to listen to his preaching. Then there were others who thought of monasticism as the model to escape worldliness .
On the other side, some Christians have gone to the other extreme and have reacted to separation from the world by becoming so much like the world that there are no noticeable differences. They claim that they’re trying to reach the world for Christ, but all too often their attempts to relate to the world end up compromising biblical absolutes. First John 2:15-17 commands:
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Fa-ther is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."
John doesn’t let us love the world a little bit, while we still claim to love God. He draws the line: either you love God or you love the world. Take your pick, because you can’t have both.
So it’s important then to understand biblically what worldliness is and what it is not. “World” (Greek = cosmos) is a favorite word for John, who uses it 78 times in his Gospel (including 6 times in our text), 24 times in his epistles, and 3 times in Revelation. It’s only used 85 other times in the New Testament, 47 of which are in Paul’s writings (Leon Morris, The Gospel Ac-cording to John [Eerdmans], p. 126).