Do Not Love the world
1 John 2:1-29
Key Verse 2:17
“The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
We have been studying the book of revelation. In chapter 13, we saw the emergence of the Dragon who is the devil together with his Antichrist and false prophet who will lead the whole world astray. Their method of leading the world astray begins with deception— a distortion of the truth of God, and ends with a forced worship of the Antichrist. We saw how the people of the world would end up worshiping the Antichrist, and receiving a mark on their foreheads and arms. The Biblical warning about the antichrists or Antichrist is not limited to the book of Revelation. The Bible speaks of false prophets who were images of antichrist. Jesus himself warned us against listening or believing the Antichrist. Paul spoke of them and “him” as well. But John who saw the final revelation, also spoke against the antichrist whose influence would span the generations. 1 John is a book that clearly portrays to the world of who Jesus truly is, and also speaks of warnings against deceptions at the end times, especially the deceptions against loving this world.
In the first chapter, John instructed the early church regarding the problem and dangers of the “Gnostics” of the time who denied the coming of our Lord Jesus in the flesh. Then John talked extensively about the importance of fellowship with God and with one another. John concluded with the issue of sin. The “Gnostics” freely sinned in their false theology. But John exhorted the people to confess their sins and receive God’s forgiveness. In chapter 2 John deals again with the problem of sin in more detail. He talks about the endless battle Christians have with sin. And he encourages the early Christians to continue the struggle against sin. He gives us some eternal truths to help us remember the snare of sin and how to overcome it.
First, our defender, Jesus Christ (1-2). Look at verse 1a. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.” What does it mean, “So that you will not sin”? Here, John is not talking about the common sins which plague the human race. In fact, it is impossible not to sin as long as we live in this body of sin. We cannot deny the fact that as Christians we must not continue to sin, but must do our best to shun sinning. But in reference to the first chapter, he is talking about the sin of the “Gnostics”. They sinned by denying that Jesus came in the flesh. They sinned by allowing themselves to live a life of the flesh instead of a life of restraint led by the Spirit. Mostly they sinned through their bad influence on others— causing others to sin.
When John said, “So that you will not sin”, he also meant that a Christian must be different from all other people of the world— especially different from the “Gnostics” who did not take sin seriously. “So that you will not sin” mostly means that a Christian must extend his or her good influence on all people. We know that sin is first of all offensive and grievous to God— who is the Holy and Righteous One. (1) At the same time, sin is destructive to the body and soul of people. People sin freely, but not without consequences. Sin brings on sorrow, guilt, fear, anxiety and restlessness. It is not without cost. The early Christians were tempted to believe the devil’s deception that whatever feels good to the body cannot be evil. They were tempted to live the “Gnostic” way of double life, exercising Christian customs but embracing a worldly life. But John wrote them so that their fellowship with God and with each other may not be broken by sin. He wrote to them to overcome the devil’s deception and continue to live a Christian life according to the teachings of Jesus. He eagerly wanted them to be of good influence on each other and on the world who sees what Christians do. A Christian must not sin, but must live as a child of God.
But as we said, it is impossible for Christians, even the strongest of them, not to sin so long as they are in the flesh. For this reason, John wanted to talk to them regarding this matter. What then does he say to the Christian who weakens and falls into sin? Read verse 1b. “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Like a good shepherd John is careful that sin does not weaken the flock of God and then plunge them into sorrow and despair as it does with the common person. Praise God that Christians have a defender, Jesus Christ. He is our advocate— who sacrificed his life on the cross to make sure that our sins are forgiven and our soul remains spotless before the judgment seat of God. John tells us in verse 2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.” When the people of the world sin, they taste the full weight of sin’s fury in their hearts and souls. And there is nothing to restrain them, nor to absolve them of the shame and guilt of sin. But not the Christian! We unwillingly sin. But we have a defender in heaven who sits at the right hand of God. He’s ever there to defend us. He’s ever there to forgive us. He is ever there to proclaim us “not guilty”. He fight for us until he brings us to eternal life on that day. When we sin, we must come to God with a repentant heart, ask forgiveness and pledge ourselves to the life of faith time and again.
Look at verse 2 again. This grace is available not only to the Christian, but also for the whole world— if they would only humble themselves, repent and bow to the Righteous One at the foot of the cross. But for the most part, people don’t! Our generation is notorious for overlooking the problem of sin. Sin is slavery. But according to Romans 1, there is a sin that can be avoided. It is the sin of deliberately denying the truth of God. God created people with the knowledge of God embedded in our hearts. This truth is universal. Therefore, no man can say, “There is no God” without lying, because every man knows God in the depth of his or her soul. But the Bible says that men suppress this truth. They deny the truth about God not because there is no evidence that he exists but because in acknowledging God they must also acknowledge their sins as well. So, for the love of sin, most people deny God. But sin traps them. When they sin they cannot avoid their guilty conscience. To drown their guilt and conscience, they resort to all kinds of worldly methods. But these never work! What really works is found in Hebrews 10:22, “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Jesus is the defender of humanity. God appointed him to cleanse our conscience from guilt when we humble ourselves and come to him with a repentant heart for cleansing and forgiveness. This truth we must also proclaim to the sinful world.
Second, live in the light. (3-14) John already stated that a Christian must not live in sin. Then he goes on to tell the early Christians how they must live as Christians. Read verses 3-6. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” The Christian faith has been alive for almost 2,000 years. And over these years, many churches have risen. Among them there are a hundred theologies, beliefs and convictions. There are a hundred customs and traditions. And with each church, denomination, faction and sect there are also different kinds of Christians who have their own set of beliefs and ideas. Among them are the intellectually inclined— there are those who are hedonistically inclined (pleasure seeker), there are the carefree Christians, the dogmatic Christians, the traditionalists and the cultural, those who are emotionally driven and the spiritualists, the physical and the moralists, etc. But according to John, there is only one kind of Christian with no exception— it is he or she who “walks as Jesus did”. (6)
To “walk as Jesus did” is the mark of the Christian. The word “walk” signifies a lifestyle— a walk of life— a life direction which imitates that of the Lord. The Christian faith believes at the purest level that Jesus is God himself— God the Son— who came to earth in the form of a Man. He lived a life of suffering and sacrifice and taught the word of God. Finally he gave up his life on the cross for the sins of the world and rose on the third day to justify sinners. And anyone who turns his heart to him in faith has the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and the kingdom of God. No one can do as Jesus did because he alone is the Savior. But the Lord taught us the will of God in the Bible. He taught us how to live the life of faith and mission. He appointed disciples and commissioned them and us to proclaim the gospel to the world. And he charged us to walk in his footsteps of faith and mission. Therefore, John tells us that to know him is to obey his commands. John tells us that a Christian is a Christian when he commits his or her life to the obedience that comes from faith (Ro.1:5)— to walk with Jesus in faith, and to walk with him in his mission to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the whole world.
When John exhorted the early Christians to walk with Jesus, he was also talking about living in the light of God’s truth. How can we walk in the light? Read verses 7-11. Once Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the last supper. It was an attempt to teach them a practical meaning of what love is all about. Jesus urged them to wash one another’s feet in love. It was his plea for them to serve one another as he had served them during his time with them. It was also a plea to serve his flock. When we study the life of our Lord Jesus, we find that serving others was the core of his life on earth. It was the love of God for those who were not worthy of it. Still Jesus served them through the word of God, through prayer, through discipline, through his teachings and example. This command to love God and others through serving them is not new. It is as old as the Bible itself. Many times we cannot love God and others as we should. At times we are confused about the meaning of love when we discover that the emotion goes missing from our hearts in many cases. But John learned the kind of true love which serves God and others, from Jesus. And he exhorted Christians to obey the most basic of commands in the Bible— to love—through serving God and others. This is what living in the light means. To hate is to live in one’s own way— its living in darkness. But we must love to the glory and honor of our God.
Read verses 12-14. It’s a poem. Beautiful words which the early Christians probably memorized and recited in their struggle against sin and darkness. These verses are an encouragement to the Christians of John’s time struggling with the problem of sin and darkness. Notice the verbs “you have been” and “you have known him”, “you have overcome” and “you are strong” and “lives in you”. These are definites and absolutes. They are truths the Christians struggling with sin and the world must accept and remember. They are the strength of our hearts when we have no strength to fight. They are the assurance of our soul when sin seems to be winning. They are the glory of our life when our struggles appear futile and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. They are our hope and faith.
Why did John give them these verses? Jesus said in John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Our God put us in the world. He wants us to be a blessing to those who are lost in the world. He wants to evangelize them through the gospel of life, and through bible study, through prayer and through love that is rooted in Christ Jesus. But to do this is not easy. It is a battle. We battle with discouragements. We battle with other’s pride and obstinacy. Jesus did not intend for us to live a struggle-free life. But he certainly intended for us to battle and to win. And according to John, the Christian’s life from beginning to end is a glorious triumph in spite of the many struggles. Because we have been forgiven. This is a glorious reality we must not forget. Because we have known God— we know him personally. This is again a precious truth that comforts our hearts. We know him and he knows us. Because we have overcome the devil. Not “will overcome” or “perhaps” but have overcome. This is the spiritual reality. This is the truth which God sees in spite of our own view or situation. Because we are strong and God’s word lives in us. This is the power that works with us— otherwise— we would have died in our sins. John encourages us and we ought to be encouraged to continue our struggle against sin and in bringing others to Jesus. We must not give up— because we have all these things— and they are ours— and God will never take them away from us.
Third, do not love the world. (15-17) In our walk with Jesus we must be careful not to be deceived by the attraction of the world. There are many things in this world that we love and should love. What John meant is “do not worship” the world or anything in the world. When we don’t, our struggle with sin is contained and under control. God created us to love and worship only God. But this world has created many idols that ensnare the soul. People say they love God, but their lives show otherwise. They love and worship the things of the world— fame and fortune— success and glory. They love and worship themselves and each other more than God. When people or Christians stoop to do this, sin holds them in chains and they become enemies of the truth. So John gives us the truth again. Do not worship anything or anyone but God. The love of God should be first in our lives. We love and worship him by living according to his word and by imitating Jesus’ life. We must remember the words of our key verse which encourages and warns at the same time: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” We know the will of God— it is to live for Jesus— to love Jesus— to live a life rooted in the word of God— to imitate Jesus’ life of devotion to God and to his purpose.
Fourth, warning against antichrists. (18-29) Look at verse 18. “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come . This is how we know it is the last hour.” The last hour is the time of the end as we have been studying in the book of Revelation. And one of the signs of the end is the appearing of the Antichrist and many antichrists. In verse 19 John tells us that the antichrists and their followers deny and abandon the life of faith which the Lord has called us to live. They promote lies. They compel others not to make any commitments. They teach and compel them to live the free life. They compel them to compromise instead of live the absolute life in Christ Jesus and in his word. Today these antichrists are many. They oppose the teaching of our Lord Jesus and deny the truth of God. Even if they go to church, their hearts are full of complaints and contradictions and hostilities towards the gospel and its teaching. We must be very careful not to be deceived by antichrists and their attractions for the world and its way. Instead, the Christian must be rooted in the word of God, obey the will of God, and live by gospel faith.
Read at verse 20. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” The Christian has an anointing from the Holy One and he or she knows the truth. Anointing is a distinguished and honorable word. To the eyes of the people of the world, Christians are boring people who lead boring lives. They do not know how to enjoy themselves with the pleasures the world has to offer. But the truth is that to God, Christians are his children who are anointed by the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are chosen by God to be different from the world. we are God’s voice of truth to a dying world. we are precious because we love God and uphold his truth in spite of our sorrows and pains, in spite of our struggles and hardship. we uphold his truth and honor Jesus as our king and Savior. To God precious are his anointed children who resist the trend of the world and keep the word of God close to their hearts and proclaim it at the cost of everything. To them John says in verse 28, (let’s read it) “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” “Continue in him” is God’s admonition to us to continue the spiritual battle against sin and darkness. We must then continue in the life of faith and mission. We must continue to pray, to offer prayers on the behalf of the brothers and sisters we love and on behalf of the world. “Continue” is a command not to lose heart nor to despair but to trust God who has anointed us to be his children and the defenders of the gospel. May God help us to live in the light and to walk as Jesus did and to continue the struggle against sin in faith and holy mission. Amen.