1 John 2:12-17
Stephen Caswell © 2001
Love & Hate
A group of first-graders had just completed a tour of a hospital, and the nurse who had directed them was asking for questions. Immediately a hand went up. A little fellow asked, How come the people who work here are always washing their hands? After the laughter had subsided, the nurse gave a wise answer: They are always washing their hands for two reasons. First, they love health; and second, they hate germs. A husband who loves his wife is certainly going to hate anything that would harm her. Psalm 97:10: You that love the Lord, hate evil. John’s epistle has reminded us to exercise love, but the right kind of love.
John warns us that there is a wrong kind of love, a love that God hates. This is love for what the Bible calls the world. Two weeks ago we saw how John emphasized the importance of love. Today he describes two kinds of love. Firstly, love for God and then love for the world. We must be careful on what we set our affections. So John instructs us how we should love. We will see two things, Abiding In Godly Love, and Abstaining From Worldly Love.
Firstly, Abiding In Godly Love
To start with John raises a practical and important question about the nature of a Christian. How are we to keep ourselves from becoming worldly? God graciously assists believers to remain in His love. The Father has showered many spiritual blessings upon his children. In verses 12 to 14, John describes living in God's family. In God's family we find mature believers called fathers, growing believers, called young men, and new believers called little children. John shares some interesting truth's about each group.
a. Little Children - Forgiveness
1 John 2:12: I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
The words little children in 1 John 2:12 teknia means born ones. All Christians have been born into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ, and their sins have been forgiven. Forgiveness of sins marks the beginning of our Christian life. This happens at conversion. We become little children by being born again through the Gospel. In fact the new birth is the only way to enter God's family. The Father forgives us for Jesus' sake. Christ paid the price for our forgiveness. An unmarked tombstone outside of Sydney, New York, has but one word on it, three syllables: Forgiven. All God's children are forgiven. The very fact that one is in God’s family, sharing His nature, ought to discourage him from becoming friendly with the world again. It required Christ's sacrifice to free us from the world in the first place. To be friendly with the world is treachery! Our love for God should lead us to please Him.
1 John 2:13 says: I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. The word little children paidia in 1 John 2:13 carries the idea of immature ones, or children still under the authority of teachers. Although they have become God's friends, these young Christians haven't grown up yet. Like physical children, these spiritual children know their father, but need to grow. Nevertheless they do enjoy a friendly, loving relationship with God. They have recognized how much He loves them and have been born into His family. Now it's up to them to grow in the faith; to press on towards maturity.
b. Young Men - Victory
1 John 2:13-14: I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
The young men neaniskoi are the conquerors: they have overcome the wicked one, Satan, who is the prince of this world system. The word overcome nikaw means to conquer, to be victorious. How did they overcome him? They became strong through God's Word! The young men, then, are not yet fully mature; but they are maturing, for they use the Word of God effectively. The victory they enjoy is derived from Christ's finished work on the cross. It was on the cross that Christ defeated Satan. This victory is appropriated by believers as they claim the promises of God's Word. They abide or continue in God's Word.
Everyone starts life as a baby. But we don't remain that way for long. By eating healthy food and exercising we grow bigger and stronger. The process of life works this way. The same is true of spiritual life. New Christians feed on God's Word and then exercise it in their lives. In fact the Word of God abides or remains in them. They live by its counsel. The Word is the only weapon that will defeat Satan. Satan seeks to deceive believers through lies, but God's truth enables us to overcome him.
Not A French Word
Napoleon proposed to cross the bridge at Lodi in the face of the Austrian batteries that swept it. It is impossible, said one of his officers, that any men can force their way across that narrow bridge in the face of such an annihilating storm of balls as must be encountered. How impossible? exclaimed Napoleon. That word is not French. He himself, bearing a standard, was the second across. Unlike Napoleon, Jesus Christ was the first to overcome Satan. Just as Napoleon conquered under the French standard, believers can conquer Satan with the Word.
c. Fathers - Friendship
1 John 2:13-14: I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
The fathers pathr of course, are mature believers who have an intimate personal knowledge of God. They know the Father and live to please Him. They behave like God's children. They have been conformed to the image of Christ. They have come to know God over many years of fellowshipping with Him. Because they know God, they know the dangers of the world.
No Christian who has experienced the joys and wonders of fellowship with God, and of service for God, will want to live on the substitute pleasures this world offers. To become mature in the faith requires more than just the passing of time. You can be old in years yet a spiritual babe if you don't learn about the Lord and His ways. It requires walking with the Lord each day. Our personal relationship with God grows only by spending time with Him and obeying His Word. Personal knowledge of God always leads to a life of dedication and holiness.
God wants His children to abide in His love. Are you in His family? Have you been born again into the family of God? Are your sins forgiven for Jesus' sake? Are you strong in faith like a young man? Are you growing in the faith by abiding in God's Word? Are using the Word to overcome Satan? Were you saved a long time ago? If so, have you come to know the Lord well? Are you walking with Him each day? Are you abiding in the Father's love? Are you enjoying His forgiveness, His friendship and His victory?
Secondly, Abstaining From Worldly Love
a. The World's Desires
1 John 2:15: 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.
The New Testament word world has at least three different meanings. It sometimes means the physical world, the earth. It also means the human world, mankind: But the warning, Love not the world, is an invisible spiritual system opposed to God and Christ. The world, in the Bible, is Satan’s system for opposing the work of Christ on earth. It is the very opposite of what is godly and holy and spiritual. 1 John 5:19 says: We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Jesus called Satan the prince of this world. He is also called, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now at work in the sons of disobedience. It shouldn't surprise us that God says whoever loves the world doesn't have the Father's love. Friendship with the world is enmity with God!
1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.
It is interesting that what man calls love, God calls lust. Satan uses lust to tempt people to sin. John points out that the world system uses three devices to trap Christians: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These same devices trapped Eve back in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 3:6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit and ate it.
Teachings Of Epicurus
The Epicureans were followers of Epicurus who lived 341–270 B. C. He taught that nothing exists but atoms and space. The atoms are eternally forming new combinations which are only temporary and in the case of human beings are broken up at death. Then, Epicurus taught, the soul or personality reversed to the impersonal atoms which went on to form new combinations. Thus, matter is all that matters. This life is all that counts and man should make happiness his aim in life. Happiness might be gained for some by indulging in sensual pleasure and avoiding pain. Others, more high minded, might attain happiness from mental and intellectual pursuits. If death ended all, they reasoned, why not indulge the flesh today?
1. The Lust Of The Flesh
The lust of the flesh includes anything that appeals to man’s fallen nature. The flesh does not mean the body. Rather flesh describes our physical birth which has been corrupted by sin. Flesh is the nature we receive in our physical birth; spirit is the nature we receive in the second birth. John 3:6-7: That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. A Christian has both the old nature flesh, and the new nature Spirit, in his life. And what a battle these two natures can wage! Everything God says about the flesh is negative. In the flesh there is no good thing Romans 7:18. It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing John 6:63. A Christian is to put no confidence in the flesh Philippians 3:3. He is to make no provision for the flesh Romans 13:14. Living for the flesh is living a negative life.
God has given man certain desires, and these desires are good. Hunger, thirst, weariness, and sex are not at all evil in themselves. There is nothing wrong about eating, drinking, sleeping, or begetting children. But when the flesh nature controls them, they become sinful lusts. Hunger is not evil, but gluttony is sinful. Thirst is not evil, but drunkenness is a sin. Sleep is a gift of God, but laziness is shameful. Sex is God’s precious gift when used rightly; but when used wrongly, it becomes immorality. Now you can see how the world operates. It appeals to the normal appetites and tempts us to satisfy them in forbidden ways. In today’s world we are surrounded by every kind of allurement that appeals to our old nature, and the flesh is weak.
2. The Lust Of The Eyes
The second device that the world uses to trap the Christian is called the lust of the eyes. We sometimes forget that the eyes have an appetite! Have you ever said, Feast your eyes on this! The lust of the flesh appeals to the lower appetites of the old nature, tempting us to indulge them in sinful ways. The lust of the eyes, however, operates in a more refined way. In view here are pleasures that gratify the sight and the mind — sophisticated and intellectual pleasures. In John's time, the Greeks and Romans lived for entertainment's and activities that excited the eyes. Times have not changed very much! In view of television, perhaps every Christian’s prayer ought to be, Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity.
2 Corinthians 4:18: While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
3. The Pride Of Life
The third device is the boastful pride of life. God’s glory is rich and full; man’s glory is vain and empty. In fact, the Greek word for pride ajlazoneia was used to describe a braggart who was trying to impress people with his importance. People have always tried to outdo others in their spending and their getting. The boastful pride of life motivates much of what such people do. Most folk are concerned with the image that they portray. Why is it that so many folks buy houses, cars, appliances, or wardrobes that they really can't afford? Why do they succumb to the travel now, pay later advertising and get themselves into hopeless debt taking vacations far beyond their means? Mainly because they want to impress other people; because of their pride of life. They want folks to notice how affluent or successful they are. John says that these pleasures are not from the Father but from the world!
Worldliness Is A Process
It is important to note that no Christian becomes worldly all of a sudden. Worldliness creeps up on a believer; it is a gradual process. First, is the friendship of the world. A Christian who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. Next, the Christian becomes spotted by the world. The world leaves its dirty marks on one or two areas of his life. When this happens, the world ceases to hate the Christian and starts to love him! So John warns us, Love not the world! Finally, friendship with the world leads to love. As a result, the believer becomes conformed to the world and you can hardly tell the two apart. What is the cure? Colossians 3:1-2 says: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
I Don’t Want Christ To Come
One night in Stockton, Calif, … a minister was preaching about the coming of Christ. As he was in prayer he was conscious of a woman getting up and going out, for in those days the skirts would swish whenever a lady walked. It seemed to him that this lady must have gone out in a hurry. When he finished his prayer and went to greet the friends at the door, he found a woman pacing back and forth in the lobby. The moment he came, she said, How would you dare to pray like that, Come Lord Jesus? I don’t want him to come. It would break in on all my plans. How dare you! I said, My dear young woman, Jesus is coming whether you like it or not. But, if you know Him and love Him, surely your heart says, Come, Lord Jesus!
b. The World's Destruction
John 2:17a: And the world is passing away, and the lust of it.
A Sacrifice To Mirth
The Persians, when they obtained a victory, selected the noblest slave and made him king for three days; clothed him with royal robes and ministered to him all the pleasures he could choose; but at the end of all he was to die as a sacrifice to mirth and folly. So the pleasures of the world are short-lived. This is so true of those who love the world instead of the Father.
The World Is Temporal
John sternly warns believers not to become entangled in the world. This world is going to pass away. It's destined for destruction. Carnal Christians allow the world's appeal to steal their love away from the Father. They love the world and the pleasures it offers. Yet verse 15 clearly says that those who love the world don't have the Father's love in them. You cannot love God and the world at the same time. It's one or the other. Jesus said that you cannot serve two masters, you will love the one and hate the other. Many people believe that this world's system is here to stay. But God says the world is not permanent. The only sure thing about this world system is that it is not going to be here forever. One day the system will be gone, and the pleasant attractions within it will be gone: all are passing away. What is going to last? Only what is part of the will of God!
Lot, A Man Who Loved The World
The downward steps and their consequences are illustrated in the life of Lot. First Lot looked toward Sodom. Then he pitched his tent toward Sodom in the well-watered plains of Jordan. Then he moved into Sodom. And when Sodom was captured by the enemy, Lot was captured too. He was a believer, but he had to suffer with the unbelieving sinners of that wicked city. After Abraham rescued the people of Sodom Lot went back to live in Sodom again. The world had got hold of him. And when God destroyed Sodom, everything Lot lived for went up in smoke! He lost his testimony, most of his family and his possessions. Lot was saved so as by fire and lost his eternal reward. No wonder John warns us not to love the world!
c. The Will Of God
1 John 2:17b: but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Worldliness Keeps Us From God's Love & Will
Worldliness not only affects your response to the love of God; it also affects your response to the will of God. Doing the will of God is a joy for those living in the love of God. If you love Me, keep My commandments. But when a believer loses his enjoyment of the Father’s love, he finds it hard to obey the Father’s will. When you put these two factors together, you have a practical definition of worldliness: anything in a Christian’s life that causes him to lose his enjoyment of the Father’s love or his desire to do His will is worldly and must be avoided. Responding to the Father’s love your personal devotional life, and doing the Father’s will your daily conduct — these are two tests of worldliness. If you don't delight in doing these then worldliness has taken over your life. Are worldly pleasures and possessions keeping you from loving God and doing His will? We are told here that Christians who dedicate themselves to doing God’s will — to obeying God abide, or remain forever. They will live forever in God's presence long after the world has passed away!
How Do You Discover God's Will
How does one discover the will of God? The process begins with surrender: Present your bodies a living sacrifice... be not conformed to this world... that you may prove know by experience what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. There are a number of references in the New Testament to God's will. These are non negotiable. God will guide us in the choices we make if we seek Him in prayer and the Word. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path Psalm 119:105. But, Christians who love the world will never know the will of God in this way. The Father shares His secrets with those who obey Him. God’s will isn't a spiritual cafeteria where believers take what they want and reject the rest!
No, the will of God must be accepted in its entirety. This involves a personal surrender to God of one’s entire life. We may also learn God’s will through circumstances. God moves in wonderful ways to open and close doors. We must test this kind of leading by the Word of God; and not test the Bible’s clear teaching by circumstances! Finally, God leads us into His will through prayer and the working of His Spirit in our hearts. As we pray about a decision, the Spirit speaks to us. An inner voice may agree with the leading of circumstances. We are never to follow this inner voice alone: we must always test it by the Bible.
Lining Up The Lights
One night F. B. Meyer was sailing on a ship that was coming into a difficult harbor at night. He asked the captain how he would navigate safely with such a confusing array of lights before him. The captain said, sir its really quite simple. Do you see that big light to the left and another to the right? And you see that outstanding light farther away? Well, keep watching as I turn the ship. As he watched, the three lights started to merge together. He said when they appear as one we are in the main channel into the harbor. The believer has three lights to guide him into God's will. When Scripture and conscience are lined up with outward circumstances we are in the will of God, and can safely move ahead without fear.
Where do your affections lie, with the Father or the world? John commands us not to love the world or the things in the world and then gives 3 good reasons why. Firstly, if we love the world and its pleasures we can't love the Father. Secondly, this world belongs to Satan, not to God. Thirdly, this world is destined to be destroyed. Do you delight to do God's will? Or are your desires set upon the things of this world? Do you desire the pleasures of the flesh, or the mind? Or do you desire the pride of life that craves worldly acceptance and popularity? Do you have to have the newest things to keep up with the Jones's? Or are you content to live as a traveler passing through it on his way to heaven? Remember how Lot loved the world!
Today we saw John instruct us how to love. We must love what God loves and hate what God hates. We do this by Abiding In Godly Love, and Abstaining From Worldly Love. How can you know if you love the Father or the World? By looking at your priorities in life! By evaluating the desires of your heart. Do you love to spend time alone with God? Do you serve Him joyfully? Are you ministering in the Church? Or do you find that you are too busy for God? Does work, socializing, friends, sport and entertainment take up all of your time? You just don't have any time for God! How do you spend your money? How much do you invest in the Father's kingdom? How much do you give to help the needy? How much do you give to missions? In comparison, how much do you spend on possessions, cars and houses for yourself? If God gets second best then the answer is you love the world!
Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.