Not of This World

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We may believe that we’re avoiding worldly thinking, but to truly embrace Godly wisdom, we need to look below the surface—to a whole new way of seeing.

When you hear the term worldly, what comes to mind? It’s common for Christians to simply equate it with things the world values, such as material wealth, academic learning, the pursuit of pleasure—even blatant sin. The surprising fact is that the Bible usually refers to worldly “wisdom” in a far more complex way.

Because the struggle with worldliness was so pervasive in the early church, the apostles wrote frankly about its danger. They weren’t warning against human reasoning—which they themselves often employed when preaching in cultures that highly valued thoughtful speech. Neither was this worldliness primarily about outward morality. It went deeper than, say, drunkenness or sexual compromise or greed. Rather, we see it characterized in their epistles as a subtle force that could turn the most faithful churchgoer into a blind hypocrite, unaware of his growing enslavement to a mindset that turns the heart from God.

READ James 3:13-18

According to James, worldliness has a root of pride, a focus on self, and a desire to be recognized as superior to others—all of which begin with listening to Satan’s shrewd voice. Later in his letter (4:4-8), James confronted believers about worldly thinking that was causing them to, in effect, cheat on the Lord.

He urged them to resist this pull of the Enemy by deliberately humbling themselves and drawing near to God.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul likewise expressed frustration with the worldly, immature attitudes he’d seen in their church (3:1-3, 18-20). Essentially, they were thinking and acting on a surface level and refusing to go deeper. Paul was distressed that while they claimed to follow Christ, they were conforming to the world’s pattern of seeking to elevate the self while making it feel coddled and deserving of human applause—a dangerous façade that obscures what’s truly important to God.

Worldliness clouds spiritual vision. And its poison can impact anyone in any situation, whether in action or thought. It doesn’t just tempt within the arena of so-called “worldly” affairs—in fact, it can be more devastating within the church. This self-focused, counterfeit wisdom is at work in not only the atheist who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma on an online comment board but also the Christian who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma right back. More than the content of their thinking, it’s the heart-attitude from which they speak and act. Worldliness says, My way is right. My thinking is superior; therefore I am superior. That’s why arguing and self-absorption spring from this kind of “wisdom” (James 4:1-3; 3:15-16).

Both apostles came down hard on Christians for bending to this deception, because it works against God’s kingdom plans and His calling on our lives. Our reality should be different from the world’s, and the more aligned we are with Christ, the clearer our spiritual vision should be. (Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 that when we judge others in a worldly way, we’re actually refusing to align ourselves with the Lord’s perspective and purposes.) Godly wisdom is rooted in the truth of the Holy Spirit’s life-giving presence and power, which seeks to reconcile and to inject grace into that which lacks it (James 3:17-18).

This ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) is fertile ground for holiness—the purifying, creative work of the Lord that sets all things right, aligned with His heart. Ultimately, godly wisdom is driven by a passionate desire to see God’s redemptive hand have complete freedom to work in any situation—for His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth.

REFLECT + EXPLORE

• We may claim to know God and act in His name, but if we have fallen prey to worldly, self-important thinking, we’re in danger of missing or even rejecting all that Jesus is and the life He offers us.

Read John 5:39-44. How might prideful reliance on biblical knowledge turn someone’s heart away from gaining godly wisdom? In what way does Jesus’ warning to the religious people of His time speak to you personally?

• The fruit of godly wisdom turns us around and sends us back to complete reliance on the Lord, whereas a worldly perspective drives us further away from the life and redemption He offers.

Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. How can this principle help you take inventory of your heart and discern the root of your actions and emotions?

• When we rely on our own wisdom, we deceive ourselves and waste effort chasing counterfeits in the pursuit of meaning and satisfaction. In contrast, God’s ways and intentions run deeper than we can easily perceive at the surface. Staking our lives on them connects us to the fullness of His purposes and brings joy as they come to fruition.

Read Isaiah 55:1-3, 8-13. How would accepting God’s invitation to enjoy and surrender to His wisdom impact the way you see your life right now?

RESPOND

• Write down a few areas of your life that you want to see with godly wisdom.

• Take a moment to pray, asking the Lord to reveal His perspective as you surrender any worldly thinking to Him.

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