Love Not the World
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1John 2:15-17)
Over the past 3 years we have seen the world turn upside down and our status quo completely disrupted. In light of this, you will often heard from this pulpit that our hope is not in this world but in that blessed hope; the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
With this in mind:
In today’s text we see that there is a real displacement between the love for God and love for the world and the things which are in the world. It is impossible for these two to coexist amicably.
John’s epistle has much to say in regards to love…
Love for God. Love for the brethren. This is not surprising since John was described as the disciple which Jesus loved.
In the text we see a contrast and a tension between our love for God and a love for the world and the things which are in the world.
One thing is sure and that is that applying this text should focus our lives more deliberately on the Lord.
Our 4 points today:
Love for the World Displaces the Love of God
Love for Sin Displaces the Love of God
Love for Self Displaces the Love of God
The love of God Leads to Eternal Life
Love for the World Displaces the Love of God:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him…”
Clearly those who are of the world are only capable of love for the world. However, John is writing to believers and as believers we’re reminded that although we are in the world, are NOT of the world and therefore we are not to love the world in an ungodly way.
Consequently, we are admonished in regards to where our affections should lie. Again, we are in the world and not of the world. Yet as Christ prays in John 17, that we shouldn’t be taken out of the world. In no way does the bible advocate for living a monastic life. Removing yourself from the world does little to rid a person from the sin which dwell in them.
I’ll be quite general here in terms of describing the world; only because our text does likewise. Love for the world is sometimes described as worldliness and is often equated with materialism and this is true to a large extent.
Love for the world can be looked at in a number of ways even as the term “world” refers to different things:
We have the physical or the natural world
We have the geopolitical or world affairs
We have the spiritual world which the apostle John says, “lieth in wickedness”
The natural world can certainly compete for our affections as we see in Romans chapter1. The rejection of God tends towards a worshipping of the creature rather than the Creator.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25)
This is certainly true of the environmental movement. There’s a vast difference between serving God’s creation and being wise stewards of it. Yet there are many who make it their life’s purpose and deprive themselves of God’s love and more importantly…eternal life. Ironically their love for nature causes them to hate their fellow man; specifically those who do not support their cause.
When it comes to entangling ourselves in world affairs again we need to turn to the word of God:
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
It’s true…we can get caught up in many of the world’s affairs whether it be politics, pop culture or just in the day to day living of life.
When it comes to worldliness whether in the form of environmentalism or entanglement in world affairs, fashion, entertainments…
Truth be known, we all waiver in this: Having one foot in the world and the other in the kingdom [so to speak]…it’s just a matter of percentages.
Whether we like it or not, when we choose to chase after worldly things [giving them our time and affection] we are exchanging them for the love of God and our experience of God’s love.
Realizing this fact, it then becomes a matter of recognition…recognizing the state of our hearts at any given moment. Are we pursuing God or are we pursuing worldly things? Do we devote more time to our hobbies, than to godly pursuits?
Or are we giving God our leftovers. Is he first in our lives or an afterthought. This is best determined in regards to where and how we spend our time…
Have these things caused you to leave your first love?
Your life is not your own…you were bought at a price.
God is a jealous God [which is a good thing]…and will not have other gods before him.
We all know the first commandment:
The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Despite this being nigh impossible, we are still accountable [by the grace of God]…to keep it
If we should ever be tempted to pursue after worldly pleasures at the expense of being faithful to the Lord…
Christ is our example:
This of course is the account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness.
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:8-10)
This is a reminder to us all, that the only way to fight temptation is with the word of God. It’s the word of God which is able bring down the strongholds and the vain imaginations in our minds [and hearts]…everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. And it’s the weapon of choice as we don the armour of God.
Our text today is also a reminder that we are to serve God and not our own desires and agendas.
What does Jesus say?
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
Jesus is right…it is physically impossible to serve God whilst you are chasing after material gain [money or material possessions]. You could easily equate this to spending exorbitant amounts of time under the premise of saving a few dollars. Hate and despise are a very strong words but if you’re reading your bible you will know that it is black and white.
In the parable of the sower we see that: “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19)
Not only do we compromise our relationship with Christ but we also jeopardise our eternal reward. This should cause us to be ruthless when it comes to holy living and fruitfulness.
Again, the test here is this:
When two activities compete for our time, which activity do you resent? If you find yourself resenting time with God because you would rather be playing golf…I dare say that your faith is in grave danger.
It needs to be said here: That love for the world is ultimately idolatry. It pays to remember that.
If we have indeed left our first love…how do we regain it? We do the first things…
Firstly we repent. Then we spend time with God in prayer and time in the word.
Love for Sin Displaces the Love of God:
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,…. is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
As we read our text, it begins to identify those worldly things which we are to avoid…those sins which displace the love of and for God. These are the things which our text says, “are in the world” and which is described as “the lust of the flesh” and “the lust of the eyes”
The word lust simply means desire and whilst it is normally associated with sexual desire, it isn’t exclusively restricted to this. What we do see is that these desires or temptations appeal to the senses. Taken to the extreme they are strongly associated with addiction.
Interestingly we see our original parents tempted by the very same things in the Garden of Eden.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes…she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6)
Eve saw the fruit [the lust of the eyes] and realized that it was good to eat [the lust of the flesh] and proceeded to eat the fruit and disobey God in the process.
The lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh often work in tandem and therefore it’s not surprising that they are paired together here.
The eyes and in particular the lust of the eyes is closely associated with covetousness…we often covet what we have seen. Scripture has much to say about covetousness and describes a covetous person as having an evil eye…a completely apt description.
There are of course 5 senses which our fallen nature has the ability to corrupt and which can easily be exploited:
As an example:
Hearing: The obvious application here is music which can certainly lead us away from God. It has the ability to present ideas and philosophies that we wouldn’t normally accept via an other media. Music also has the ability to affect our emotions and cause us to be less temperate and self-controlled. I have a particularly hard-line stance on music that many of you will disagree with. I personally abstain from all music other than the hymns we sing in church. I’ve seen the negative effect that it has had on my life…even Contemporary Christian Music which I whole-heartedly believe feeds our flesh and not our souls.
Interestingly the other senses also work in pairs and coupled with our emotions they make a formidable combination if you allow them to…
Of course it’s very hard to talk about the lust of the flesh [and of the eyes for that matter] without discussing the deeds of the flesh. And when we mention the deeds of the flesh, we need to call it what it is…and that is sin.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
I like to call this portion of scripture the contrast between vices and virtues [aka the fruit of the Spirit] or the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh.
As we look at that list [and I pray that you do…often] there are many things listed that are still possible for us to commit…though we may not want to.
This is where we need to understand the believer’s struggle with sin as described in Romans chapter 7.
Without going to Romans specifically:
We’re taught that our only hope for deliverance is the Lord Jesus Christ and that has to be a blessing because if we had to do it in our own strength we would be fighting a losing battle. The Lord is faithful, not only to keep us from evil but deliver us also…as we know so well from Christ’s lesson on prayer to his disciples.
When it comes to the flesh there’s a wealth of scripture that can not only help us understand the nature of the battle but also fight the battle:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24)
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (Romans 6:11-12)
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)
Part of the difficulty of dealing with sin [and the lusts of the flesh and eyes] is the fact that we had a previous relationship with both the world and with sin…
In times past we walked according to the course of this world and under the influence of Satan [Ephesians 2:1-3]
Rekindling that relationship with the world is regarded by James as adultery…
James doesn’t mince his words [he never does] and says that’s that friendship with the world is enmity with God…in being called a friend of God thinking of ourselves as enemies isn’t a pleasant thought.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:4-5)
James makes a very interesting reference here “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain…?” […or in other words “it is written”]
Begs the question:
What does it say and where is it written?
I believe that James is alluding to a passage in the book of Numbers.
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:4-6)
Of course, Egypt is often used as a picture of the world and what we see here is the children of Israel looking back at Egypt and being envious of the things that Egyptians were able to enjoy. Certainly the inspiration of this text wasn’t in vain but written for our learning. We should always look to the Lord to SATISFY our needs and not to the world to GRATIFY our lusts.
Love of Self Displaces the Love of God:
“For all that is in the world …the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
I think it useful to deal with this one separately. Predominately because of the specific term used i.e “the pride of life”. We need to understand what “the pride of life” is, and realize that it is intrinsic to our fallen nature.
In examining the issue of pride and it’s association with our fallen nature, we should realize that before Adam and Eve fell…there was another also who fell…his name of course is Satan
“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.” (Ezekiel 28:11-17)
From this passage we see that Satan was the anointed cherub and quite an amazing individual. He was perfect in beauty and full of wisdom. He was perfect in his ways from the day of his creation…until iniquity was found in him. His heart was lifted up because of his beauty. It also seems that the reference to his brightness indicates that he held quite a prominent position, which also lead to pride.
We also see this picture of Satan after his fall:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Contained in these 3 verses are what is often referred to as the 5 “I wills” of Satan [let’s look at them again]
The mere fact that Satan is saying “I will” and not “God willing” is evil in itself. But what we also see is the desire for Satan to usurp the position of God and ultimately “be like the most High.” This should sound familiar.
If we look again at Genesis and the fall we see Satan promise Adam and Eve exactly the same thing…
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:4-6)
Firstly Satan promises Adam and Eve divinity…that they would be as gods.
Post-fall the only way to attain immortality is to be born again. It is then that we become partakers of the divine nature:
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2Peter 1:4)
Secondly he promised them wisdom…knowing good and evil.
Just as Satan corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness, we’re told that the wisdom of this world is devilish.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
If Satan is the instigator of worldly wisdom and pride then Christ is our example of humility…meek and lowly in heart.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
This passage gives us every reason to reject the wisdom of the world and the knowledge that vaunteth or puffs up. It’s the reason that Paul rejected worldly wisdom and confesses that he desired to know nothing save Christ and him crucified.
Another thing which we see in Isaiah is that Satan desired to be in a place of prominence… as God and directing the affairs of men.
This is reminiscent of the Scribes and Pharisees who liked to blow their own trumpets and likewise sit in places of prominence. This is Jesus’ response…
“Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;” (Luke 20:46)
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)
When it comes to self, John the Baptist gives us the perfect response: He said I must decrease and he must increase. That should be the desire of our Christian walk.
At the end of the day we can’t escape the fact that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God and resist the devil as he presents us with various temptations.
The Love of God Leads to Everlasting Life:
“…And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
This passage concludes by bringing to our attention the realization that those things which we could so easily lavish our love and affection on…are temporal. They’re destined to pass away. In contrast, those who are born again will live forever… And this only because of the love of God which has been lavished on us.
The greatest act of love this world will ever see is found in the gospel…that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Interestingly, God’s love for the world wrought salvation in that his love for mankind caused him to give his only begotten Son. On the other hand as world sinks deeper into sin, the love of many will wax cold.
At this point we need to clarify what is the will of God that leads to eternal life. One thing is certain, it is not promoting a works based gospel…a gospel of doing in order to obtain salvation.
There are many who will claim to have done the will of God and find themselves infinitely short and hear the words “depart from me, I never knew you…”
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Salvation hinges entirely on what Christ has done for us and not on anything we have done…save putting our trust in him and obeying the gospel.
And here is the contrast and stark reality:
Those who reject the gospel and obey not the gospel of Christ will perish. Those who believe on Christ will indeed live [abide] forever.
And this is the foundation of our love for him. It is the power and the motivation behind our ability to reject the world and the things that are in the world and focus our lives on the Lord.
The bible makes it abundantly clear that God loved us first:
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1John 4:10-11)
Certainly if it weren’t for the love of God we would indeed perish.
At the core of today’s text is desire and the choices that we make. Accompanying this, there is also an implied question which needs to be answered.
The question is simply this: What do you desire? What is the focus of your life?
Does our love for the world and the things which are in the world cause us to be conformed to this world?
Jesus challenges us with these words:
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Jesus obviously isn’t advocating hatred for one’s parents…the 4th commandment confirms this. We are to honour our parents. But rather…the love we have for the Lord would make all other love seem like hatred.
If we could ever hope to answer appropriately…we have an example in scripture is David…a man after God’s own heart.
In Psalm 27 he writes:
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
Further on we read:
“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
This is the lesson we need to take from this and that is to seek God continually. It is when we delight ourselves in the Lord that he gives us the desires of our hearts…and those desires will be his desires.
But at the end of the day it all boils down to our choices. Do we choose God or do we choose self? Is it…THY will be done or MY will be done?
The last several messages which I have preached, I’m reminded of this: Where our hearts are, there also will our treasure be.
We live to glorify God and we do this by focussing on things that matter. Those things that matter, hold an eternal value.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18)
What we need to realize is that everything in life should be view from an eternal perspective. Ultimately this world will perish…pass away…and everything that we have invested in it which isn’t of eternal value will perish with it.
Critical to the eternal perspective is our relationship with the Lord. Again…time in the word and with the Lord in prayer is the only way to cultivate this relationship. It is then that we will be crucified [dead] unto the world and the world [dead] unto us…
I pray that this morning’s message is both a challenge and a blessing. And causes us to examine ourselves or at least allow the Lord to search our hearts to see if there be any wicked way in us. And in so doing have a deeper walk with him.