June 4, 2012 by Stacy McDonald

Worldliness: Don’t Walk as the Gentiles…

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You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17–24)

Even though Scripture tells us to “teach,” I sometimes think we Christians believe that our children, as well as (perhaps especially) new or young converts, will just learn by osmosis. We don’t want to invest the time or risk the potential conflict of teaching them or equipping them for anything. Often, we’re afraid of being called legalists if we make any effort to teach others how to apply the principles found in Scripture.

But, isn’t it interesting how Paul recognized that Christians need to be taught, through the power of Grace, not to “walk as the Gentiles,” as those who have given themselves over to “lewdness” and “greediness?” They need to be warned what sin looks like. Paul called a spade a spade…or a sin a sin.

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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)

I wonder if Paul would be called “legalistic” or “judgmental” if he lived today. Notice all the shoulds and should nots:

You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17–19)

“[You should/must] flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:4–5)

You should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God… Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–8)

“Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…” (Ephesians 4:22)

[You should] walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And [you should] have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:8–11)

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore [you should/must] glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, [you should] note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but [you should] admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15)

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and [you must] make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:13–14)

Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [you should/must] serve one another. (Galatians 5:13–15)

It sounds to me like Paul had a lot to say about how Christians should and should not live. Not in their own strength, of course (Ephesians 2:8-9), and not for their own purpose or brownie points, but out of love for and out of obedience to Christ, for the sake of one’s neighbor, and in an effort to see Christ glorified.

Teach What is Good

We, who are older in the Lord, are told to teach those who are younger. Elders, parents, husbands, and others who are in authority are also commanded to teach, warn, and admonish. Even brother to brother, we’re taught to admonish one another and to stir one another on to good works (Hebrews 10:24).

Why is it then that we have a generation of Christians who want to live like the world and call it Christian Liberty? Because of what Christ did for me, I have the liberty not to sin (I didn’t have this before – Romans 6:22); I don’t have the liberty to live according to the lusts of the flesh (Romans 6:16-18) and neither do my children.

We must love our neighbor enough to say hard things; even when they are so caught up in the snares of the world that they hate us for it (John 15:18).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6)

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. (1 Corinthians 4:14)

In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance… (2 Timothy 2:25)

That they [older women] admonish the younger women to…(Titus 2:4)

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)

We urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…(1 Thessalonians 5:12)

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Get Ready for Opposition

All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

If you are hated or mocked by the world (sometimes, even by those who claim Christ), remember that you’re no better than Jesus, who they hated first (Matt. 24:9, Luke 6:22; 21:17, John 15:18-20; 17:14, 1 John 3:13). God doesn’t require you to convince anyone of anything; that’s His job. But He does require His name to be hallowed in you as you live out your life before the watching world (Ezekiel 36:23). He wants your faithfulness; but, He is the One who works in the heart.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18–20)

Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (1 John 3:13–14)

You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions… Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:10–12)

And, if you are in a teaching position, He requires you to teach. We must gently and diligently teach the truth even when we’re misunderstood, misrepresented, or even hated for it. We must obey God and not man even when it means we do it alone, always remembering our own weakness.

This includes parents as teachers. I think sometimes parents feel like they need permission to be parents. They rightly want their older children to obey God from the heart. They want the inside of the cup to sparkle, not just the outside (Matthew 25-26). But when an older child’s “heart obedience” isn’t quite there yet, they’re left wondering what to do.

Because of God’s Word, Christian parents know that once a child’s heart is right, the outward results will follow. However, sometimes, we behave like we aren’t sure whether or not we have the right to restrain an older child’s sin until he/she finally “gets it.”

But the Bible tells us that rules are there to govern the actions of those who refuse to be governed by virtue.

“The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners…” 1 Timothy 1:8-9

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. (Psalm 32:9)

Obviously, heart obedience is the goal; however, if your child isn’t there yet, remember that, while he is under your authority, you are responsible for his actions.

Love, Love, Love

It all boils down to obeying the two greatest commandments: loving the Lord and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), and making sure our lives line up with that. The works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19), which we’re told to avoid, war against these two commandments (Romans 7:23) because they put our desires and personal lusts before God and our neighbor.

Lust is anything we strongly desire and yearn for that we cannot lawfully have…at least at that moment. Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” So don’t put yourself (or your children) in a position where you or someone else is likely to yearn for something unlawful because of your actions. That’s not love.

“But, those who are Christ’s (Gal. 5:24-26) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Adding Virtue to Your Faith

Admonish [teach] the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:4–5)

Why does Paul tell us here in verse 5 to teach the young women, among other things, to be good? Didn’t Jesus say in Luke 18:19 “No one is good but One, [and] that is, God”? So why should we teach our daughters to be good? Is Paul teaching moralism here? Works salvation?

No. Paul is teaching about obedience. Remember, virtue all by itself is just moralism. It’s going through the motions. But when you add virtue to your faith (2 Pet. 1:5), we learn that we “will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

In the second chapter of James, we learn that “faith without works is dead.” James says of Abraham, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

Noah Webster rightly said, “Virtue is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth.” A Christian who is walking in the spirit doesn’t just go through the motions, and he doesn’t have a dead faith that lacks good works. He has taken up his cross to follow Jesus (Mark 8:34-35); and he has added to his faith, virtue. He willingly crucifies the flesh (Gal. 5:24) and obeys God out of love for Him and love for his neighbor (Ezekiel 36:23, 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31).

Examine Your Motives

How about you? Who are you living for? Who do you love…really? Yourself or your neighbor? (Matthew 12:29, Luke 6:32).

Who do you love with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Yourself or Jesus (Matt. 12:30, 1 Jn. 5:3)? And ’m talking actions here.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

Some of the worst mistakes I’ve made in life are all wrapped up in self-love, even when it was in a bizarre, twisted self-hatred sort of way. Yes, you can love yourself while simultaneously hating and destroying yourself. It’s odd to look back 30 years and loath (literally) the “fun” I thought I was having at the time – the fun that I didn’t recognize as emptiness and vanity, filth and destruction.

I have found in life that as we trust Jesus, prying our covetous fingers off those things that are not for us, and instead clinging to the grace of God with all our might, we will find our needs met with mercy, strength, and power by our loving and powerful Savior. It is then a joy to obey because we know and trust that God’s promises are true and that He really, really, really does love us…even when it hurts.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalm 1:1–6)

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17 Responses to “Worldliness: Don’t Walk as the Gentiles…”

  1. Lori says:

    This was beautiful. Loving God and loving others is all that matters. When you love others, you cover over a multitude of sins. Loving others also fulfills the law.

  2. April says:

    Thank you for this! It is everything that I’ve thought and tried to express, and you have said it all beautifully! I am posting a link to this on my blog!

  3. Jody says:

    Thank you, Stacy. I needed your words today, but even more, the words of Scripture you laid out for us, for me, today. Again, thank you. The Lord has greatly used you in my life this day.
    Always Experiencing Him,

  4. Lori D. says:

    Fantastic! Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing these words of wisdom–oh how we need them.


  6. RG says:

    Sooo, is there a print friendly button hiding somewhere ….

  7. Thanks so much for reaffirming something that I had been second-guessing myself on today. I really needed to read this! I thank God for directing me here, it’s just what was needed!

  8. Moira says:

    Great article :)

  9. “Why is it then that we have a generation of Christians who want to live like the world and call it Christian Liberty? Because of what Christ did for me, I have the liberty not to sin (I didn’t have this before); I don’t have the liberty to live according to the lusts of the flesh (Romans 6:16-18).”

    Amen! Thank you, Stacy.

  10. Sarah Mae says:

    Stacy, this is so good, thank you! Bookmarking. :)

  11. Yes and AMEN!!! Bringing TRUTH to the surface here in clarity! Thank you! (and thanks to Sarah Mae for posting it on facebook) :)

  12. Tabitha says:

    What a beautiful post! I am always amazed and saddened at how quietly the world creeps into our Christian lives and before long we begin making compromises, and follow along. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Beautiful post. We do well to be reminded to add virtue to our faith.

  14. Debbie says:

    Thank you for letting the Lord teach through you. This is very timely for me.

  15. Absolutely beautifully put. Thank you for it! :)

  16. Sherry says:

    I feel really encouraged and exhorted! Praise God!

  17. Tanya says:

    Amen! This blessed my heart and affirmed my convictions.. God bless you, Stacy.

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