By This We Know Love
Grace Community Church
Feb. 4, 2018
Do Not Love the World
If you’re visiting us, we’re in a study of 1st John called By This We Know Love. Let’s turn together to 1 John chapter 2 and read vv. 12-17.
At first these two sections might seem like they have nothing to do with each other but I think they work to balance each other. Verses 12-14 bring a warm, affectionate encouragement to all believers, and verses 15-17 give a sober warning to all believers. Let’s begin with the encouragement.
John addresses these three categories of believers, little children, fathers, and young men. Most commentators agree he’s not referring to their chronological age; he’s talking about their spiritual maturity. The little children are those who are newborn in the faith. Someone could be 80 years old and be a newborn in the faith. John writes to these new believers to assure them that their sins are forgiven on the basis of Christ’s work and that by faith in Christ they know God as their heavenly Father. Those are two truths that are central to the gospel and we never outgrow them, but those who are brand new in the faith especially need to be assured of them.
Next John addresses the fathers are those who have been in the faith for many years and twice he emphasizes their deepening knowledge of who God is: you know him who is from the beginning. I think this refers to the eternalness and glory of God – when a person is in Christ for many years, studying the Bible and maturing in their faith, their knowledge of God and His glory and majesty deepens. Age has a way of affecting our perspective of life and time. We begin to realize how short life is (the young person doesn’t really believe that), and how eternal eternity is, and a believer’s knowledge of who God is deepens and expands. We will spend an eternity learning new things about our heavenly Father’s infinite being and never know it all. He is from the beginning, but He, Himself, had no beginning.
The last group he addresses are the young men, and he emphasizes their warrior status. They have overcome the evil one, they are strong, the word of God abides in them and (he repeats) they have overcome the evil one. There is a spiritual battle going on around us and those who are in their spiritual prime have the energy and maturity to fight the good fight. On a natural level we recognize that there is an optimum age for fighting wars which is why we send young people, not older people into war. In 1941 when the United States realized that we could not ignore or avoid the war going on in Europe, the US army began conscripting (drafting) people ages 18-35 into the army. Of the 58,000 soldiers killed In the Vietnam War, 61% of them were younger than 21 years old. Wars are fought primarily by young people.
In a similar way, believers come to an optimum age for combating the enemy and doing damage to the kingdom of darkness. But they need to be strong in their faith and grounded in the Word of God. Young people, we need warriors who are strong in their faith, grounded securely in the word of God, and ready to fight for the kingdom. Not with worldly weapons but with the power of God, the gospel of Christ, and prayer, rescuing lives from the grip of the evil one.
Having given this affectionate encouragement, John immediately brings a stern warning to them not to love the world. Let’s read these 3 verses again:
15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
What does it mean to love the world?
The first question we come to is, what does John mean when he says do not love the world? What does it mean to love the world? To be worldly? Christians who come from a more legalistic background, when they think of worldliness, probably think of things like going to dances or movies, smoking, drinking, having a tattoo, or any music with a pronounced drum beat. I came upon an article this week that made the case that wearing makeup was worldly. To support this he pointed to passages like 2 Kings 9:30 where the evil queen Jezebel hears that Jehu is coming to kill her so she paints up her face to look her best and try to win him over (it didn’t work). He also pointed out that the word “cosmetics” comes from the Greek word kosmos, which means world. So, ladies, to wear makeup is to have “worldly” written all over your face.
The advantage of these types of definitions of worldliness is that they are easy to identify and avoid. That guy has a tattoo…he’s worldly! Does she have makeup on? Worldly! What’s that drum set doing in church? Must be a very worldly church. I knew a pastor on LI who would go two towns over if he wanted to go to the movies, so none of his congregation would see him going into a movie and think him worldly. It’s really easy to identify worldliness when we define it by these external things.
The problem is these things miss the heart of what worldliness really is and can fool us into thinking we’re not worldly when our hearts may be very worldly. And it can cause us to self-righteously judge other believers as worldly because they are doing something (or wearing something) that the Bible doesn’t prohibit but our legalism does.
But there’s a danger on the other extreme too, which is that we make these verses mean less than they do because we don’t want them to challenge how we’re living or anything we’re doing. To be honest, I’ve been struggling with these verses this week. Last week as we talked about hating a brother, I mentioned that I know what it is to struggle with disliking someone, and I do, but I’m also pretty sure that I don’t hate anyone. But this week I’ve had to be honest with myself and the Lord and admit that there are ways the world has gotten into my heart. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s good. Conviction is good, so let’s not try to silence it, let’s embrace it and welcome God convicting us where we need to be convicted.
So…what does it mean to love the world? As I mentioned, the word John uses for “world” is kosmos, which is the exact same word he uses in John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…So in John 3:16 God loves the world and in 2 John we are told not to love the world. It’s the same word, but it can mean different things.
When John says not to love the world, he’s not talking about the earth we live on. God designed the earth for us and even though it’s in a fallen state, it’s still a beautiful place tailor made for mankind. He’s also not talking about not loving people. That’s what “kosmos” means in John 3:16 – the world of people. God loves the people of the world so much that He sent His Son to die for them. And He sends us out into the world to love people too. So “do not love the world” doesn’t mean not enjoying the planet we live on nor does it mean not caring about the people who live on this planet.
There is a third meaning for “world” in the Bible that speaks of the system or order of the world. We use that meaning today when we talk about the “world of science” or the “world of pop art” and such. There is an underlying system or order in this world that we are not to love and we are not to love it because it is evil. It’s this system that John is referring to in chapter 5 when he says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. There is a worldly system that doesn’t honor God or His values, but rather lies under the direction of Satan, and reflects his wicked priorities and God-hating values. Everything in this “world” – this system – is anti-God and hates God. Nothing about it is neutral, it is all in active opposition to God.
That’s why John says if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. If we love our heavenly Father, we can’t love a system that is fueled by hatred of God and 100% opposed to Him. It would be like someone coming up to you and saying, “look I hate your loved one (parent, spouse, child, friend) and I am going to do everything I can to destroy them. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.” Yes, it does mean we can’t be friends! Anyone who is out to hurt my wife, or my kids, or my friend, is my enemy!
The love of the Father (That is, a love for the Father) is not in him…The danger of worldliness is that it chokes out our love for God. The more we love this world (the values and systems and priorities of this world), the colder our love for God becomes. When we see that happening, we need to take steps to move away from the world and towards our heavenly Father. We need to fan the flame of love for God by spending time with Him in prayer, meditating on His word, speaking of Him to one another, and investing our lives in that which He loves. If we invest our treasure in this world, our hearts will be attached to this world. If we withdraw our treasure from this world and invest it in heaven, our hearts will follow.
John then tells us three ways that the world bombards our hearts to draw our affections after it:
The desires of the flesh
The desires of the eyes
The pride of life
The desires of the flesh
The word “desire” is a neutral term. Desires aren’t necessarily good or bad, the good or the bad resides in the thing desired. God has given us natural desires or appetites. We hunger because God built into us the need for food. We thirst so that we drink because we need water. We grow tired and long to sleep because we need to sleep. So far, so good.
The problem is sin has twisted our God-given appetites into something wrong: hunger and thirst becomes gluttony and drunkenness. The lazy person turns the desire for sleep into a hundred excuses not to get out of bed. Maybe the most powerful and potentially damaging appetite is the sexual appetite. Sex isn’t a bad thing, it’s a good thing. It was God’s idea! But our flesh twists this good gift into sexual immorality. There is no way to measure the destruction and harm and devastation that sexual desires gone bad have wreaked upon this earth. Adultery, pornography, rape, child abuse, murder, and all sorts of dark, dark sins have been unleashed on this earth through sexual desire gone bad. Last week Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years for abusing 265 young girls. Don’t ever think that sinful desires aren’t a big deal, pretty much all the horror and evil that has ever been done in the world throughout history originates from sinful desires. The world bombards our sinful desires with stimulus designed to get us to love the world rather than God.
The desires of the eyes
There’s a saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul and it’s true. But the eyes can also be the doorway to the soul, where destructive elements are able to enter our soul. We see something God has forbidden to us and we want it. It’s what happened to Eve – she saw that the fruit was good to eat and the rest is history. It happened to a guy named Achan in the OT. When Joshua and the Israelites conquered Jericho, God commanded them not to take any of the plunder but Achan disregarded God’s command and took the best of the spoil. For that disobedience God judged Israel in their next battle and 36 men lost their lives. When it was revealed what Achan had done, it not only cost him his life, his entire family paid with their lives as well. This is what Achan said about his sin:
21 “when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Joshua 7:20-21
He saw what was forbidden him and he wanted it and took it and hid it. A similar thing happened when David saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof and desire entered his soul through his eyes, and that desire led to adultery, lying, betrayal, and eventually the murder of a good man in the effort to hide what David had done. It all began with the desire of the eyes.
That’s why the Bible tells us to be careful what we set before our eyes, because what we see often leads to the chain reaction of wanting what we aren’t supposed to have, taking what we’re not supposed to have, and the price tag is always real damage to our lives and to others.
The pride of life
Pride comes in many forms, but just as the word is spelled with “I” in the middle, pride always puts “I” in the middle. The pride of life is building life on “I”. One Bible version translates this as the person who boasts in what he has and does. One of the values of the world is boastful arrogance. Some celebrities have crafted their entire image around blatant boastfulness and arrogance, but most of us camouflage our boasting to make it more socially acceptable. But deep inside in our hearts, there is this strong impulse to make it all about “I”.
Identity built on “I” can take different forms. When we brag about ourselves, we’re thinking we are bigger if we can look bigger to other people. When we cut people down or make fun of their shortcomings, we are believing that we are bigger if we can make someone else look smaller. When we seek attention and applause we are trying to derive life from the exaltation of “I”. When we withdraw and go inward because we don’t feel like we measure up to other people, we’re still being “I” centered. An inferiority complex can be just as “I” centered as a superiority complex. An introvert can be just was wrapped up in “I” as an extrovert. The pride of life takes a lot of shapes, but it is always “I” centered. But whatever shape it takes, it’s always a dead end street. That’s what John wants us to see:
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The world and the desires it bombards us with are all incredibly temporary. Nothing here lasts. If we give ourselves to this world and its desires, we are giving ourselves to things that are terminally temporary. But the person who lives for the will of God will live forever.
Today is the Super Bowl. And, once again, Tom Brady is in it. I don’t like the Patriots, but you’ve got to hand it to them – they know how to win (except against the Giants…). But Tom Brady is 40 years old. That’s old for being a quarterback. But Tom has a highly disciplined lifestyle that includes a very restrictive diet. All because he wants to compete at high levels for as long as he can. And it’s working!
If what we want is what the world can give us, not many people have gotten more of it than Tom Brady. Good looking, married to second highest paid supermodel in the world, ridiculous level of success at the highest paid position in the highest profile sport in the world. He is a household name, his face is easily recognizable everywhere. So if you wanted to point to the best that the world can give, Tom Brady would be a good example.
But even with his discipline, he’s racing the clock. The clock is ticking. How many years before he will have to retire from football? It’s only a matter of time before Gisele will also be too old to be a model, and they will no longer be at the top of their professions. Over time their looks will fade. Their strength will give way to the weakness of old age, their excellent health will give way to poor health. It’s inevitable. And what John is saying is that everything that we treasure about what they have will be gone. Past. Never to return. As Randy Alcorn puts it, when we make this world our treasure, we’re always heading away from our treasure.
But when we make God our treasure, and eternity our hope, we’re always heading towards our treasure. The one who does the will of God abides forever. When we center our lives, not on what we desire, but what God desires, we will live forever. And what we lived for, and gave our lives to, will have lasting value forever. The one who does the will of God abides forever. What a promise that is! I need to be reminded of that promise again and again!
This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy life here, or that we can’t treasure things in this world. I like what Roy Ortlund says: In a world of oppression, here are ways we refuse "worldliness": laugh, play, celebrate, relax, praise, smile, chill, embrace, unite, eat, nap, tend your garden, walk the dog, read a book, go hunting, with all other simple acts of happy deviance and godly rebellion.
Do not love the world. Love life, love family, love friends, love people, love nature, and most of all, love God. Live for Jesus and his purposes with the hope and the promise that one day we’ll enter a life that is so far greater, and infinitely longer, than anything this world can offer. And on that day we’ll be happy that we nurtured our love for the Father rather than a love for the world.