The Lord Jesus was an intensely practical worker. In the execution of His prophetic office, He settled religious disputes, relieved physical suffering, assisted the helpless. He gave comfort to the widow at Nain. He healed lepers, Bartimaeus, and the daughter of the Canaanitish woman. He saved the disciples from death by drowning and miraculously fed five thousand men.
Above all things, He testified of the truth at every hand to save souls. He preached the Gospel in all its beauty, but He also uncovered the sins of those who came to Him for advice regarding the way to heaven if He found them laboring under false impressions or if He discovered guile, hypocrisy, or self-righteousness in their hearts.
Jesus also warned very earnestly against worldliness. Remember the rich young man whose name is not given?
This young man felt that he had lived righteously according to the law of Moses. Jesus required of him to go and sell all that he possessed and to give the proceeds to the poor. This he refused to do; he would rather leave Jesus than comply with such a request. He did not become a disciple. Jesus made reference to this event as worldliness in the case of this young man.
Worldliness is not merely living in this world. This we must do, as we can learn from Christ, the great Prophet. Christ does not ask His heavenly Father in His prayer to take His followers out of this world, but He asks Him to protect them in this world in which they must live.
Don't think that we can save ourselves if we become hermits, monks and nuns. Worldliness does not only consist in living in gross sins of the flesh – sins against the second table of the law. The rich young man, according to his own testimony, was upright and honest. Do we have the same self-congratulatory attitude about ourselves? Then there is no need for true conversion, and we shall deceive ourselves for eternity.
Worldliness is the attachment of the heart to temporal things, in this particular case, to worldly possessions. The young man loved his money more than Christ. When you are young, what do you do with your money? Do you give the bulk of it for worldly pleasures? For sinful things? Don't forget we are not the owners of our money or other things; we are but stewards!
Worldliness is a form of idolatry. This may be very subtle, so hidden, that a person does not notice the spirit of it or its effect on the heart.
The Lord Jesus said in Mark 10:21: "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; take up the cross, and follow Me." We know the young man's answer: "And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions."
Let's see it as it is: It was not only his possessions, but he was rich in himself. He was a religious man, who could save himself. Are you satisfied with yourself? By nature the world, even the religious world, is in our heart.
Must we, then, also sell all that we have and give the proceeds to the poor? Are all men of means condemned in these words of Christ? No! Abraham, David, and Joseph of Arimathea were wealthy men. Some of those who were Jesus' disciples and followed Him were rich. But if any one of them would have loved his or her earthly means more than God, Jesus would have demanded the same thing of them as of this young man. Because worldliness is sinful and harmful to the soul, it must be revealed, shown by God's servants, and talked about by the office-bearers at family visitation.
Worldliness makes a person's religion a mere formality. Had this young man not been serving the idol "Mammon" in his heart, he would not have been satisfied with the mere outward observance of the Ten Commandments. He would furthermore have had his eyes opened to the spiritual meanings of the law, which Jesus had taught so often. But, being attached to the things of this world, he was smugly complacent.
According to Mark 10 Christ asked the young man to return, take up his cross, and follow Him. This cross did not fit into the philosophy of life which this youth had. No crosses for him! He desired ease, pleasure, quietness, selfish luxury. The Christian cross, which makes a man a useful creature to his fellow-man, was disgusting to him. What an empty life! Worldliness was the cause of it.
Do we think ourselves better than this young man? What if we have not committed any great sins that have become known to others? Neither had he. If you have to choose between an authentic conversion in Jesus Christ and your possessions, which would you choose?
If you by grace have become a young man or young woman who may fear God, I trust that you will have a willing heart to give according to your ability to the church, to the needy fund, and to the worthy causes that God's church must undertake in this world.
May the Lord give you and us to lay up treasures of a different kind – treasures in heaven. How happy were the disciples who left all and followed Christ – followed Him in life through death into heaven.