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1 John 2 (15-17)

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What Not to Love

A sermon on 1 John 2:15-17 preached at Christ the King Church on 1/15/06

Prayer:  Father, open our eyes to see and our hearts to sense the truth of your Word.  Lord, you know that I need help to preach, and that this congregation needs help to listen.  So, help us both to recognize and receive the treasures of your Scriptures.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.

 

Introduction:  “She loves me, she loves me not.  She love me, she loves me not.  She love me, she loves me not.”  We all know the words and the cadence of that familiar game, that lover’s game in which the petals of a flower fall to the ground until there remains but one petal, that providential petal, that petal which supposedly reveals whether the affections of the one desired are mutual or not.

The theme of love is addressed throughout the Bible, but nowhere more so than in the First Epistle of John. In this letter of love the word “love” is used some 54 times.  And all of those uses are positive except one. The “love me,” we might say, is used more than the “love me not.”  Throughout this letter, John speaks of what is the shared love between God and His people, and also of what should be the shared love between fellow believers.[1]  There is only one place in this whole letter where the negative exists, where we are told to “love not,” and that is here in 2:15.  Here, and only here, are we commanded what not to love“Do not love … the world or the things of the world.”

This morning we are going to look at this ‘negative’ command so that we might apply it positively to our lives.  So, first, we are going to see what is meant by it; and second, the reasons for it.  Then, after we have understood what we are not to love and why we are not to love it (once we have filled our heads with the light of God’s truth), well then we will seek also to fill our hearts with a fire for God’s love.  So I invite you to join me this morning, by not only opening your Bibles at this time, but also by opening your heads and your hearts to listen to what God has to teach.

Context and Command

As some of you know I have been helping out at Aurora Christian High School as an assistant varsity basketball coach.  The other day, my son (who is a freshmen there) told me that many of the boys on the freshman basketball team are intimidated by me.  I asked him, “Why?”  And he said something to the affect; “They say you always have a serious look on your face.”  Now, for those who know me best, my wife and children especially (but even the varsity basketball team I coach), they will attest that I can be quite serious and thus intimating I suppose, but I can also be quite playful and gentle and affirming and thus very approachable.    

As I said two weeks ago, the apostle John’s congregation, as they read the first chapter of his Epistle, might have sensed some intimation.  They could have felt that the calling of God in Christ that he presented to them was too hard and too high.  That is why, I think, John in a sense, sat down with them, and said in 2:12-14, “Let’s get to know each other better.  And let me start by reminding you that you are loved by me and loved by God in Christ.”

You see, just when John’s congregation might have been wondering to themselves, “Am I truly a Christian?  Have I been forgiven of my sins?  Do I really know God?  Do I really know Christ?  Has the Devil still got a vice-grip on my heart?” John gave them, what we called “a threefold encouragement.”[2]  He reminded them that they “know” God as their “Father,” and that they have been forgiven of their sins.  He reminded them that they know Christ, “Him who is from the beginning.”  And he reminded them that they have “overcome the evil one.” 

 

But here in our passage, after these words of assurance and affirmation, John returns (one might say) to his old continuance.  He puts on his game-face, his serious face.  He moves from affirmation to exhortation.[3]  He moves, like any good coach would do, from saying, “good job,” to shouting, “let’s go!”  For here, in vv.15-17, we find perhaps his most “stringent” demand yet.[4] 

Here is his sternest “warning.”[5]  Here is his strongest command:  “Do not love the world or the things of the world.”

 

Now, this famous command appears to be pretty straightforward.  Yet, the more one looks at it, the more questions are likely to arise.  One might begin to say, “Wait a minute, what does John mean when he says we are not to love “the world”?  Doesn’t the Bible teach that God so loved the world that He sent His Son (3:16; 1 John 4:19)?  And isn’t Jesus called the “savior of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 2:2)?  And hasn’t John himself just taught in this very Epistle that Christians are to love, to love others in this world?”  So, what in the world does John mean by “the world”

In John’s writings the word “world” has a wide range of meaning.[6]  On one hand, the world was made by God through Christ and is loved by God through Christ.  On the other hand, the world lies in the grip of Satan and is comprised of all on earth who oppose God and His plan.  Now, it is obviously this second “world” that John is referring to here.  So, “the world in this passage does not mean the world in general… it means the world which … [has] forsaken the God who made it.”[7]  It is “the world apart from God.”[8]  It is the godless world, the world that is totally “at variance with God” and the things of God.[9]

The Three “Things”

Now, look with me at v.16.  Here John further clarifies this command.  Verse 15 says we are not to love the world (the evil or godless world) and the things of that world.  But what exactly are these “things” in the world that we are not to love?  Well, John answers that question in verse 16, when he writes of “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions.”  Those are the three “things,” the three worldly attitudes or interests or ambitions or actions we are not to love! 

The first thing is “the desires of the flesh.”  We might use the word “desire” in a positive sense, such as, “I desire to be a better husband” or “I desire to love and serve God.”  However, the word used here is almost always used in the Bible in a negative way.  It has a morally negative connotation.[10]  That’s why the NIV translates it “cravings.”  Perhaps “sinful cravings” gets the point across best.

So, we are not to crave or lust after that which is “of the flesh.”  Now, when the Bible speaks about “the flesh” it does at times refer to sexual sin.  Here, however the term is as broad as our bodies.  It is all the evil lusts we might have or do have for physical pleasure (NLT), and all the aims and ambitions that attach itself to that. 

William Barclay summarizes it very well when he writes, “To be subject to the flesh’s desire is to judge everything by purely material standards [it is to be a materialist in the fullest and worst sense of the word].  It is to live a life dominated by the senses.  It is to be gluttonous in food; [over indulgent] in luxury; slavish in pleasure; lustful and lax in morals; selfish in the use of possessions … extravagant in the gratification of material desires.  The flesh’s desire [disregards] the commandments of God, the judgment of God, the standards of God and the very existence of God.”[11]  So, the “desires of the flesh” is that yoke that hangs around our necks, which turns our attention from God to that which is merely material, earthly, worldly. 

In Genesis, 4:7, the Lord said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  The same is true for us.  Sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is to push its way-in in order that it may rule over us.  But we, unlike Cain, must succeed in keeping that door shut, that door to sin closed!

The apostle John has already told these Christians and us that we have “overcome the evil one”- the Devil himself!  Here, he is simply telling us that we need also to overcome ourselves, and those desires within that seek to choke the life of faith.  In Romans 13:14 Paul tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  John’s intention is the same. 

Because we have, through faith, put on Jesus, we must put aside all sinful cravings, all those lustful desires that are opposed to God.

“The desires of the flesh”- that is the first thing we are to avoid.  The second thing is “the desires of the eyes.”  Here we move from the temptations within to the temptations without, those cravings that come through these little crevasses, those cravings that make their way through our eyes into our hearts just as sneakily as a serpent pulls its’ large body through a narrow opening in a poorly plastered wall.  Our flesh is weak, as weak as that poorly plastered wall!  Yet our eyes are weaker still.  Of our whole body, these two little openings are the most susceptible parts, the most susceptible to sin.  The Devil wants our eyes wide-open to all that is worldly, to all that this world has to offer.  He wants us to covet all that which is opposed to God, whether it is ungodly status, ungodly success, ungodly pursuits, or ungodly possessions.

Here is the same temptation that Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden and Jesus likewise in the Wilderness.  Eve listened to the crafty snake and thus allowed sin to enter into her heart through her eyes.  Genesis 3:6 says, She saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).  So, she disobeyed God’s one command, and she “took of its fruit and ate” (3:6).

Our Lord Jesus experienced a similar temptation as Eve (and Adam).  He was tempted by the same tempter and through the same means.  In Matthew 4:8-9, we are told that that same serpent tried to get to Jesus’ heart through His eyes.  In the third temptation, “The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’”  But what did our Lord do?  He closed His eyes to this strong seduction.  He refused to desire those delights dangled before Him.  He said, “Satan, be gone!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve” (4:10).

 

My brothers and sisters, we live in world of images!  We cannot drive the highway or ride the train, we cannot turn on the television or the computer, we cannot walk the mall or the workplace without being surrounded by seductive images.  And our fallen eyes, being so vulnerable to the wiles of this world, are greatly tempted to be lifted up to view such worldliness.  It is hard to avert our eyes.  It is hard to turn away from these sinful images.  Yet, we must not indulge our eyes.  We must not follow in the footsteps of our first parents.  We must not follow the first Adam, but rather the Second, our Lord Jesus Christ.  We must resist the Devil.  We must overcome his allurements.  We must close our eyes to those attitudes and ambitions that take us from our vision of God.  We must, as Jesus Himself said, “Worship the Lord and serve Him alone.”

Now, there is one final member of the unholy trinity of temptations.  There is a third thing we must resist.  And that is “pride in possessions.”  The idea here is that of the braggart- the man or woman who buys in order to boast, the person who brags about what he has and does. 

So, the first two things of the world are unholy desires for things one does not have.  The last or third thing of the world, this “pride in possessions,” is an unholy conceit in the things one does have.  The first two categories are sinful desires.  This last is a sinful behavior.  The first two are internal and hidden sins.  This last is an external and revealed sin.[12]  It is something we can see and hear. 

Have you ever been around a person whose conversation is a continual boasting about his or her life?  Have you ever been in the presence of a man or a woman who lives to impress?  I’m sure we all have!  I’m sure we have all been around people who are overly ambitious, who have a blind love for self, who have a headstrong self-confidence,[13] and who thus love to share all that they have accomplished and all that they possess.   

You know that person who brags about who they know or who they have been with or who they have just heard from, or that person who brags about their accomplishments at work and about how much money they earned last year, or that person who always tells you what they just bought (that new car or boat or house) or what they have worked to possess (their precious garden or their library or some other status symbol).

Now, there is nothing sinful about possessions.  That was the mistake some early Christians made and some Christians still make, thinking that material things are in and of themselves evil.  No, possessions are not inherently sinful.  The Bible assumes we will all have possessions.  That’s what is implied in the Eight Commandment, “Thou shall not steal”- thou shall not steal…other’s possessions. 

And further, Scripture teaches us that God gives us all things richly to enjoy.  Possessions are God’s gifts to us.  But just as we dare not steal others’ possessions so too must we not boast about what we have been given.  Some Christians talk like the fools atop the Tower of Babel.  They talk with their heads in the heavens, about making “a name” for themselves (Genesis 11:4).  Well we must abandon such self-promotion.  We must reject all boasting, lest the bricks of our vanity come crumbling-down upon us.

“The desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions”- those are the things, the three things of the world that we are to love not.  

 

Love Not!  Why Not?

 

 “But why?” you might ask.  “We are to love not, but why not?”  Thankfully, in our text, John has handled this very question, providing us with two reasons, with two sensible reasons as to why having these worldly “interests [is] wrongheaded.”[14] 

The first reason is that such attitudes and actions are incompatible with God.  At the end of v.15 we read, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  And then in v.16 we read, “all that is in the world … is not from the Father...”  The world and the things of the world are incompatible with God, “the Father.”[15]

 

There is a famous saying by Cyprian, “You cannot have God as your father unless you have the church as your mother.”  Well, here John essential says, “You cannot have God as your father and still have the world as your brother.”  You cannot be in an intimate relationship with both God and the world.  You cannot love all that God is and has to offer and still love this world and all it has to offer.   

A few months ago I listened to a sermon in which a popular preacher shared this interesting illustration.  Years ago, he and his wife were walking through a refurbished neighborhood in the large city in which they lived.  He was a young pastor and was living in a small and simple apartment a few blocks away from this old neighborhood with now new, beautiful, large, expensive homes.  Each time they walked by these homes they dreamed of how wonderful it would be to own one.  Well, one day the Lord [!] supposedly spoke to this man’s wife and told her to tell him (her husband) that soon they would own one of those houses in that very neighborhood.  He laughed at her ‘prophecy’ (at first).  But then, as time went on, and his ministry quickly blossomed, and as his salary doubled or tripled or quadruped, soon they were able to buy that house of their dreams.  Now, the point of this preacher’s sermon, as illustrated by how God provided this million-dollar house for him, was that God can and will do the same for you.  God can do the same for you if you would just let Him, if you would just trust Him more; if you will just have more faith, He will fulfill all your wildest (or worldliest!) dreams.

My brothers and sisters don’t listen to such lies!  Don’t think you can have all the world has to offer and all that God has to offer!  I do believe it was Jesus said who said, “One cannot serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).[16]  And here John says much the same:  You cannot love God and love the world.  You cannot love that which the world loves most (whether it is that new house or that pretentious job or that gorgeous lover), and then also try to put God first.  If God is tied for first in your heart, He is in fact placed last.  God must be first and second and third and fourth.  God demands that you love Him with heart and mind, and soul and strength!    

So, the first reason we ought not love the world is because such a love is incompatible with God, and what should be our love for Him.  The second reason we ought not love the world and the things of the world is because this world and its values are transient- they are temporary and thus headed for destruction.[17]  That’s what we are told at the beginning of v.17.  Why shouldn’t we love the world?  Well, because “the world is passing away along with its desires” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:31).  Just as there is no future for this world (this very earth on which we stand today), so too “there is no future in worldliness.”[18]  There is literally no future to clinging to that which this fallen and fading and soon to be forgotten world has to offer.

Most of us, probably all of us adults, have been to a wake or a funeral.  When my grandfather, who like my father was born and raised in Ireland, past away about ten years ago, I remember my father’s boss at that time, an Irishman himself, coming to my grandfather’s wake and sharing the details of his father’s wake. 

A traditional Irish wake, if you don’t know, is more of a party, a celebration, than a time of mourning and sorrow.  I think there are good, even biblical sentiments, behind this:  That we should rejoice that our loved one lived a long, good life and that he or she is now in heaven with Jesus.  However, this once perhaps noble tradition is most often today greatly distorted. 

Well, my father’s old boss shared a story of such a distortion.  He shared with me how at his father’s wake, instead of having the body in a casket, they had him laid-out, or sitting-up it must have been, in his convertible corvette.  This son of the deceased laughed about the whole matter, and said something to the effect how much his dad loved that car, and how fitting it was that he should be remembered with it. 

Now, when I heard that crazy story, I was a young Christian at the time, but mature enough to think to myself, “What a fool.”  What a fool his father was that he lived for an old car, an old car that will one day rust and be destroyed.

King Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, shares about all the vanities of his worldly pursuits.  In the second chapter of that book he admits he tried cheering himself with everything (everything that is still popular today)- laughter, alcohol, houses, gardens, servants, money, music, and a harem filled with hundreds of beautiful women; and yet it was to him (as he discovered) like someone “chasing after the wind.” 

Or I’ll put it this way.  Solomon’s passionate pursuits of worldly pleasures was like a man dying of thirst trying to quench his thirst by drinking a thousand handfuls of salt water.  The more he drank the thirstier he became.  The more he drank, the closer death came upon him. 

Now, Solomon’s point was earthly pleasures cannot satisfy.  John’s point is that earthly desires cannot last.  And so why should we, as reasonable creatures and devoted Christians, why should we then live for these things?  Why lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, treasures, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:19-20), that moth and rust destroy; when we can lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, treasures that are as permanent as God Himself?   

“The world is passing away along with its desires, but (there is an alternative to loving and living for this world, look at the end of v.17) but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  That’s how this passage ends.  This negative command ends with a positive plea!

Why would we, as heirs of the eternal world, concentrate our interests and ambitions on what is passing away?[19]  Why not rather do “the will of God,” which is love God first, trust in His Son for our salvation, and live according to His word (cf. Matthew 7:21).  There’s a future in that kind of thinking!  There’s a future in that kind of lifestyle! 

The one who does the will of God abides “forever.”  Would you rather desire that which is “passing away” or that which “abides forever”?  This last reason should be a good enough reason to love not this world.

Conclusion

 

I don’t know why you came here this morning.  You could be home sleeping.  You could be home having a relaxed and leisurely breakfast.  You could be reading your Sunday paper or watching the morning news or the pre-game football shows.  I don’t know why you are here this morning.  I don’t know if it was mere convention or genuine commitment that brought you here.  But what I do know is that you are here.  And whether you were dragged here or not, whether you love the Lord or not, God’s message for you is the same as it is for all.  There are two ways to live, for there are two “rivals for the human heart”- God and the world.[20]  Either you love God or you love the world.

 And you know what, the world looks pretty good to me.  It has a great appeal to me.  It takes my heartstrings and pulls at them each and every day.  But that’s one of the reasons I came here this morning. 

I came here to be reminded of what I am called to do and why I am called to do it.  I came here to be reminded of whom I am and what I am to be about.  I came to remember that question posed long ago by our Lord who still lives today, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul?”  I hope and I pray that this morning’s message has helped you, as it has helped me, to know the answer to that question.  Let us pray.

Prayer:  Lord, help us as Christians to love you and to love others.  But help us also to love not the world and the things of the world.  Father, we recognize that the one effective antidote to worldliness is to have our hearts so filled with your love and with love for you, but we also recognize that we cannot fill it ourselves.   So fill us up this morning so that we may no longer love the world and adopt its ideas, covet is prizes, and seek fellowship with its life.  Give us instead intimate fellowship and loyal devotion to you and you alone and above all.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Benediction:  Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  May we also, through the power of God, overcome our love, our attachment to this world.  Amen.  

“It is clear that, although they might be unpopular, they were not undergoing persecution.  They were, therefore, under the great and dangerous temptation to compromise with the world.  It is always difficult to be different, and it was specially difficult for them” (Barclay, 57)

 

 

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 in possessions- 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. 

15 Mh. avgapa/te to.n ko,smon mhde. ta. evn tw/| ko,smw|Å eva,n tij avgapa/| to.n ko,smon( ouvk e;stin h` avga,ph tou/ patro.j evn auvtw/|\ 16 o[ti pa/n to. evn tw/| ko,smw|( h` evpiqumi,a th/j sarko.j kai. h` evpiqumi,a tw/n ovfqalmw/n kai. h` avlazonei,a tou/ bi,ou( ouvk e;stin evk tou/ patro.j avllV evk tou/ ko,smou evsti,nÅ 17 kai. o` ko,smoj para,getai kai. h` evpiqumi,a auvtou/( o` de. poiw/n to. qe,lhma tou/ qeou/ me,nei eivj to.n aivw/naÅ

o    John 1:10   10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

o    John 7:7   7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

o    John 12:25   25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

o    John 14:15-17   15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

o    John 14:27   27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.

o    John 14:30   30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,

o    John 15:18-19   18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

o    John 17:9   9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

o    John 17:14   14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

o    John 18:36   36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."

o    1 John 3:1   The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

o    1 John 3:13  13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

o      1 John 4:5   5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

o      1 John 5:19   19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

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 in possessions- 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. 

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 in possessions- 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. 

 

Command:  “Do Not Love the World or the Things of the World”

·       This is a “stern warning” (Kistemaker, 270)

The World

What does it mean to “love the world?”

·       Doesn’t God so love the world (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9)?  Isn’t Jesus, who is not of this world, the Savior of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 2:2)?  Aren’t we called to love all in the world (1 John)?

·       “The world in this passage does not mean the world in general, for God loves the world which he had made; it means the world which, in fact, had forsaken the God who made it” (Barclay, 56)

·       “Means everything connected with the present life, apart from the kingdom of God and the hope of eternal life….In the world are pleasures, delights, and all those attractions by which people are so captivated that they withdraw from God….what belongs to the world is wholly at variance with God” (Calvin, 39)

·       “An inclusive term for all those who are in the kingdom of darkness and have not yet been born of God” (Stott, 101)

·       “The order of finite being regarded as apart from God.  The Roman empire with its idolatry of the Emperor as the representative of the State, presented the idea in the concrete and impressive form” (Westcott, 63)

·       “The world apart from God” …  “Nothing other than pagan society with its false values and its false gods” (Barclay, 56)

·       “Human society in so far as it is organized on wrong principles, and characterized by base desires, false values, and egoism” (C.H. Dodd in Barclay, 56)

·       That which opposes God and the things of God 

·       The “world” is ruled by the Devil and is comprised of all on the earth who oppose God and His plan

·       See Bruce, 60 (good and bad uses)

What are the “things in the world” which we are not to love?

·       “John, by way of explanation, inserted these three particulars as examples, that he might briefly show what are the pursuits and thoughts of people who live for the world” (Calvin, 39).

·       “The list of tendencies is comprehensive in scope, but not necessarily exhaustive” (Kistemaker, 270).

·       “Our author does not give us an exhaustive catalogue of sinful tendencies found in the world, but simply characterizes the sensual, materialistic pagan society that Christianity had to overcome” (Brown, 113)

·       “It is obvious that he is not thinking about ‘things’ in themselves, such as money or possessions, which are morally neutral.  Rather he is talking about our personal attitudes towards these things” (Jackman, 61)

·       “John has in mind any desire, any sinful interest, that draws us away from God” (Burge, 115)

The desires of the flesh

·       “The word ‘desire’ is found 38 times in the NT.  In only three places does it have positive connotations; in all the rest it has morally negative connotations, as it does in the present context, where the NIV translates it as ‘cravings’” (Kruse, 95)

o   What to you ‘crave’?

·       “We live in the flesh and we have the old Adam hanging around our necks” (Luther, 434)

·       Cain and Abel (Gen 4)

·       See Romans 13:14 and James 1:15

·       See Barclay, 57-58

·       “The body is not evil, any more than the natural world is.  That mistake was made by some early Christians” (Jackman, 63)

The desires of the eyes

·       Whereas the desires of the flesh are temptations from within, the desires of the eyes are temptations from without

·       See Barclay, 58

·       “The eyes are the channels to man’s soul” (Kistemaker, 272).

·       Like a serpent’s head:  “If it finds an opening into which it can slip, the whole body will irresistibly follow” (Luther, 435)

·       “The second phrase refers naturally to covetousness”- a husband’s status at work, a wife’s status in the community, the children’s success and acceptability at school (Boice, 65)

·       “The covetous eyes that say, ‘I see it, I want it, I’ll have it’”- advertising media (Jackman, 63)

·       Eve [Gen 3], Achan [Joshua 7:21], David [2 Sam 11:2]

 

The pride in possessions

·       “It is used in 3:17 clearly with the sense of property or possessions” (Kruse, 96)

·       “We desire wrongly and we glory in what we have” (Westcott, 62)

·       Unholy desires for things one has not (first 2), and unholy pride in the things one has (last 1)

·       With the first two “the thought of physical pleasure is dominant…while in the latter forms of mental (‘psychical’) pleasure find place” (Westcott, 65)

·       “The first two categories are sinful desires; the last is sinful behavior.  The first two are internal and hidden sins; the last is an external and revealed sin” (Kistemaker, 271).

·       “The boasting of what man has and does” (NIV)

·       “The person who brags about his deeds and good” (Kistemaker, 272).

·       See Barclay, 58 (illustration of Theophrastus)

·       Is it wrong to have possessions? (see Ten Commandment lesson; cf. Grudem)

·       Tower of Babel (Gen 11); Solomon (in Ecclesiastes); Young Rich Ruler [Mk 10]

·       “…ambition, contempt of others, blind love of self, and headstrong self-confidence” (Calvin, 40)

·       “It can be a very subtle enemy of the soul.  My house, my garden, my car, my library or some other ‘status symbol’- whatever it is I take most pride in- can minister to this peril” (Bruce, 61-62)

·       The last phrase speaks of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’- this phrase talks about “exceeding them” (Boice, 64)

·       “It refers to both the inward attitude and the outward boasting” (Barton, 45)

·       “It is true that God gives us all thing richly to enjoy; but they are his gifts….We dare not boast about them” (Jackman, 65)

Summary: 

·       Here we have a trinity of evils

·       “The man of the world is the man who judges everything by his appetites, the man who is the slave of lavish ostentation, the boastful braggart who tries to make himself out a far bigger man than he is” (Barclay, 58)

·       Compare the three with the three temptations in the wilderness (Mt 4)- see Westcott, 62 and Barton, 46 and Jackman, 61-62.

·       We are to be in the world, but not of the world- too many Christians have it the other way around.

·       If we can overcome the evil one (v.12), the ruler of this world, surely we can overcome the things of this world

·       “Do not court the intimacy and the favour of the unchristian world around you; do not take its customs for your laws, nor adopt its ideals, nor covet its prizes, nor seek fellowship with its life” (Law in Boice, 63)

Why shouldn’t we love the things of the world? 

“Two reasons are given why these interests are wrongheaded” (Burge, 116)

The things of the world are incompatible with God- Such things are “not from the Father” and therefore will ultimately destroy a relationship with Him (Burge, 116)

·       “He assumes that there cannot be a vacuum in the soul” (Westcott, 63)

·       Note how “father” is used twice- compare with context (vv.12-14; 1:2,3; 2:1,13,15)- all “little children” call God, “Father”- we should know his voice (John 8:47)

·       “The love of the father is not in him” - One cannot love both God and mammon; loving the world proves one doesn’t truly love God

·       Illustration:  Someone who confessions to be a Christian but lives for the world (Sports personalities- Neon Deon Sanders)

The things of the world are transient- “The world and its desires are passing away”

·       Illustration:  The world as a planet that is slowly passing away (Phillips, 68)

·       “Using a present tense form of the verb ‘to pass away’, the author depicts the world’s passing as an ongoing process” – “There is no future in worldliness” (Jackman, 96)

o   We know this of our celebrities; but it is also true of popular preachers (Ken’s remarks about Joel Osteen/Joel’s sermon on getting his house)

·       “The man who attaches himself to the world’s ways is giving his life to things which literally have no future” (Barclay, 59)

·       “Not only do the world’s attractions fail to satisfy, but they cannot last.  All of these desires feed on their own fulfillment” (Jackman, 64)- “Why live for these things, when they cannot last?”

·       Illustration:  Solomon talks about the vanity of all his possessions (Eccl 2) as it relates to finding satisfaction is this world.  He found that drinking in the world’s pleasures was like trying to live off salt water.  Here we find something even beyond that.

·       All these “things” make us concentrate on this passing world

o   F.F. Bruce calls it “materialism”- loving the things of the world (61).

·       Illustration:  Asking a child, what do you want to be when you grow up?  Usually the older the child gets the more worldly is the occupation or lifestyle he seeks- I want to be a fireman to I want to make lots of money

·       “It is that all that is in the world is transitory and therefore headed for destruction” (Boice, 65)

·       “The desire therefore is shewn in its utter vanity” (Westcott, 66)

·       1 Corinthians 7:31

·       Illustration: the workaholic, the greedy politician, the pleasure-made partygoers (Barton, 46)

·       Illustration:  Irish wake where the dead body was placed in his convertible corvette

“Whoever does the will of God abides forever”

  • “The contrast to this ‘desire’ which is earth-born and empty is ‘the will of God’” (Westcott, 66)
  • “What a contrast!” (Kistemaker, 273).
  • “A distinct alternative”- “Clearly, for John, doing the will of God is loving the Father.  The antithesis is made very plain” (Jackman, 65)
  • “Why should heirs of the eternal world concentrate their interests and ambitions on such a transient order?” (Bruce, 64)
  • Doing the will of God = “It means avoiding [the three things]… also involves believing in his Son and loving fellow believers (3:23) (Jackman, 97)
  • “The contrast to the world converted into an idol is not God, but the believer who in action strives to do God’s will.  Hence St. John does not say ‘he that loveth God’…but he that…” (Westcott, 67)
  • What is God’s will? John has already told us:  (1) to believe in Christ, (2) to keep his commandments, and (3) to love others
  • “Lord, lord…whoever does the will…” (Matt 7:21)
  • John is big on the benefits of walking our talk- eternal life/abiding forever

Conclusion:

·       Non-Christians:  Two ways to live

o   Barclay calls his sermon on it “Rivals for the human heart” (55)

o   “There is no neutrality; a man either loves the world of he loves God”- Mt 6:24; James 4:4; Luke 16:13 (Barclay, 57)

o   “No wonder people ask, ‘If I do become a committed Christian, isn’t that going to be very restrictive and inhibiting?  The church can look like a black and white photograph from a bygone era in comparison with the world’s multicolor video presentation” (Jackman, 60-61).

·       Christians:  A Christian is to (1) love God (v.5) and his brother (v.10), but he is not to love the world.

o   Illustration:  David Wells (in Burge, 123)- and Ellul?

o   “It is clear that, although they might be unpopular, they were not undergoing persecution.  They were, therefore, under the great and dangerous temptation to compromise with the world.  It is always difficult to be different, and it was specially difficult for them” (Barclay, 57)

o   He says ‘do not love’ not ‘do not like’ the world.  “The love which he has in mind is that of attachment, intimate fellowship, loyal devotion” (Kistemaker, 270).

o   “The one affective antidote to worldliness is to have one’s heart so filled with the Father’s love that it has no room for any love that is incompatible with that” (Bruce, 62)

o   Illustration:  Do I have to become a monk (e.g., Matt)?  We are not to withdraw from the world, but to live unworldly within it

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 in possessions- 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. 

John 16:33  I have overcome the world."

15 Mh. avgapa/te to.n ko,smon mhde. ta. evn tw/| ko,smw|Å eva,n tij avgapa/| to.n ko,smon( ouvk e;stin h` avga,ph tou/ patro.j evn auvtw/|\ 16 o[ti pa/n to. evn tw/| ko,smw|( h` evpiqumi,a th/j sarko.j kai. h` evpiqumi,a tw/n ovfqalmw/n kai. h` avlazonei,a tou/ bi,ou( ouvk e;stin evk tou/ patro.j avllV evk tou/ ko,smou evsti,nÅ 17 kai. o` ko,smoj para,getai kai. h` evpiqumi,a auvtou/( o` de. poiw/n to. qe,lhma tou/ qeou/ me,nei eivj to.n aivw/naÅ

o    John 1:10   10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

o    John 7:7   7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

o    John 12:25   25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

o    John 14:15-17   15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

o    John 14:27   27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.

o    John 14:30   30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,

o    John 15:18-19   18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

o    John 17:9   9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

o    John 17:14   14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

o    John 18:36   36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."

o    1 John 3:1   The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

o    1 John 3:13  13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

o      1 John 4:5   5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

o      1 John 5:19   19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

 


----

[1] John does use “not” with “love” (such as in 3:10,14,18) but it is not in a negative sense (saying what not to love).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kruse, 87.

[4] Law in Boice, 58.

[5] This is a “stern warning” (Kistemaker, 270)

[6] Bruce, 60.

[7] Barclay, 56.

[8] Barclay, 56.

[9] Calvin, 39.

[10] Kruse, 95.

[11] Barclay, 57.

[12] Kistemaker, 271.

[13] Calvin, 40.

[14] Burge, 116.

[15] Cf. 1:2,3; 2:1,13,15

[16] “He assumes that there cannot be a vacuum in the soul” (Westcott, 63).

[17] Boice, 65.

[18] Jackman, 96.

[19] See Bruce, 64.

[20] As Barclay titles the section, 55.

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