Present-day Christians are sometimes tempted to think the battle against worldliness is simply a manifestation of the pietistic movement of the 1800s. “The world is bad so we should shelter our kids and hope Jesus returns as soon as possible.” But the battle against worldliness is rooted in the scriptures, with multiple passages that caution Christians against this besetting sin:
- James 4:4 – “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
- 1 John 2:15-16 – “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.”
- Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
If we grade our efforts as parents to prevent our children from worldliness, how are we doing? The American church at large is not doing well, as evidenced by statistics about children abandoning the faith, particularly during the college years.
While no recipe exists for curing worldliness, certain habits and patterns help build courage in our children to combat and resist the sin of worldliness. Among them:
- Weekly church attendance – The community of saints at the local level is incredibly important, as is hearing the gospel preached every week.
- Scripture reading – Whether as a family or individually, children need to have the Bible seep into their lives. The Word of God convicts and sanctifies, and never returns void.
- Healthy friendships – As 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, bad company corrupts good morals. God-honoring friendships help point our children to Christ and influence them for good.
- Quantity time – It’s easy to be too busy for our kids. A lack of time spent in caring, intentional discipleship often leads children to seek answers and wisdom in the wrong places.
- Christian education – A Christ-centered education trains children that Christ reigns over all of life, encouraging children to take every thought captive to Christ.
- Oversight over media – We can’t blame the media, but social media, television, and movies often affect our children more than we perceive. Parents should establish appropriate boundaries and provide wise counsel in this area.
None of these habits save our children. However, they do help us enculturate them into a way of living that forms and cultivates their affections. The problem is not social media, the internet, or bad friends. The problem is our sinful hearts. We are, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” The root of sin still resides even in those who are justified by Christ, which should make us all the more vigilant to guard against worldliness creeping into our lives.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplified courage. He advocated for “Worldly Christianity.” In other words, Christians who have a love for God, a love for people, and a desire to see culture transformed in community and in congruity with the gospel. If our children manifest worldly habits, there is hope. Continue to pray, invest, and disciple, embracing the good things in the world while avoiding pernicious influences that tempt them to find their hope in anything other than the Good News.
One final point. Several books offer wise words to help combat worldliness and cultivate attitudes of holiness. C.J. Mahaney’s Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins, and J.C. Ryle’s Holiness all offer helpful encouragement as we battle the sin of worldliness in our lives and in the hearts of our children.