Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
(James 1:27, NASB)
(James 1:27, NASB)
As I finished reading C.J. Mahaney’s book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World last week, an illustration came to my mind that I wanted to share with you.
Below is a picture of a washcloth and a bowl of dye. In this illustration, the dye represents the world and the washcloth illustrates our hearts.
While the washcloth sits on the counter, it stays unstained. However, it isn’t making any impact on the bowl of dye. As Christians, we are called not just to remain unstained from the world, but also to make an impact in our world for God’s glory. Although James tells us to keep ourselves from being stained by the world, he also calls us, just a few verses later, to show our faith by our works. Clearly, we need to be IN the world, at least to some degree, so we can show God’s love to others. So how do we do that?
I believe the answer lies in this washcloth. Because what I didn’t tell you is that I treated this washcloth with Scotch Guard to protect it from being stained by the dye. This allows the washcloth to be submerged into the dye without being stained.
When I first took the washcloth out, half of it looked blue (sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that). Once I ran water over it, though, the blue washed right off.
The washcloth had gotten dirty, but not stained. And that’s what I think it means to be IN the world but not OF the world. It is possible to do that if we guard our hearts. In this illustration, I protected the washcloth with Scotch Guard. In life, we protect our hearts through prayer; by reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word; and by being accountable to a local church body.
The last chapter of Worldliness is written by Jeff Purswell and is about how to love the world without being seduced by it. Even though we are not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15), we are supposed to enjoy, engage, and evangelize our world for God’s glory. Jeff explains it this way:
Every aspect of our involvement in this world is to have a redemptive component, illuminating the character of the Creator, imitating His activity, and embodying His intentions to save, renew, and restore. If we’re appropriately “heavenly minded,” we’ll be alert to endless earthly opportunities to glorify God.
One last thought: if you find yourself in a position of being stained by the world, don’t lose hope! By the grace of God, there is a remedy. If I had failed to Scotch Guard the washcloth, it would have been stained. The remedy would be to bleach it out to get it white again. Likewise, if we find ourselves stained by worldliness, the remedy is to repent and ask for forgiveness through the blood of Christ.
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
I pray that we all guard our hearts against worldliness and impact our world for Christ today and every day.