Hindrances to Discipleship: The World - page 3


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From the Fall 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Hindrances to Discipleship: The World

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

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  But whenever they began to drift from that devotion and commitment, the love of the world would regain lost ground in their hearts. Tragically, this happened to a key leader on Paul’s apostolic team, which included Mark, Luke, Timothy, and Silas, among others. When Paul was awaiting execution in Rome and needed him the most, we read that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10; see also Col. 4:14; Philem. 24). Love of this present world is a perennial temptation for every believer. If a member of Paul’s team, which included the writers of two of the Gospels, could be seduced by worldliness, we must not think we are immune.
   About thirty years later, Jesus strongly rebuked the church of Laodicea for its worldliness,

I know . . . you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:15–17)

  Over the centuries the church has waxed and waned, at times being zealous in love for Christ and expanding, at other times being seduced by love of this world, leading to spiritual stagnation and at times outright moral decadence.

Where Is the Church Today?

  Anyone born into a fallen world, with a fallen nature and fallen parents, will assimilate worldly ways of thinking and behaving. When you submerge a clean white sponge into a pail of dirty water, it comes back with a dark, dirty residue. So it is with us and the world. And when we come to trust in Christ, it is inevitable that we will bring a certain amount of this unrecognized worldly baggage with us, and thus into the church. And every day we are at risk of accumulating more.
  In 1979 church historian Richard Lovelace observed that “much of the Christian community today is deeply penetrated by worldly patterns of thinking, motivation and behavior, and thus its spiritual life is deadened and its witness rendered ineffectual.”7 Since then things have only gotten worse. More recently George Gallup, commenting on the Gallup organization’s decades-long research on the American church, said,

We find there is very little difference in ethical behavior between churchgoers and those who are not active religiously . . . The levels of lying, cheating, and stealing are remarkably similar in both groups. Eight out of ten Americans consider themselves Christians, yet only about half of them could identify the person who gave the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still could recall five of the Ten Commandments. Only two in ten said they would be willing to suffer for their faith.8

  In 2011 Barna Research reported that “less than one out of every five self-identified Christians (18%) claims to be totally committed to investing in their own spiritual development.”9

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