Do Not Love The World
1 John 2:15-17
Key Verse 15
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
God is light and those who walk in the light walk in fellowship with him. To walk in the light is to walk in the truth of the word of God, because in him there is no lie. And the truth John speaks of in his letter is that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and shed his blood to atone for our sins. Anyone who claims anything else is walking in darkness and has no fellowship with God. That person is not a Christian at all. But the true Christian who walks in the light and has fellowship with God is the one who believes that Jesus came in the flesh and who confesses his sins. Here’s the promise of God to the person who believes and walks in the light. 1 John 1.9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Most of our problems come because of unconfessed sins. We live day by day with unconfessed sins. We come to worship with many unconfessed sins on our hearts. So our worship is strained and our hearts are heavy. We believe in Jesus, but our fellowship with the Father is broken because our consciences are clouded with unconfessed sins. (Hebrews 10.22; 9.14) Let’s then take a moment to confess our sins to God and ask his forgiveness through the cleansing blood of his Son Jesus. Close your eyes and confess you sins to him in the quietness of your heart, for he is faithful and just and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then your fellowship with the Father will be unhindered as we worship him together.
God is light. But John tells us also that God is Love. And he tells us that those who walk in love are the ones who are in fellowship with him. You see there was much controversy as to who is a Christian back then. There were many fake Christians who claimed to be Christians walking in fellowship with God but whose lives did not reflect the Christian spirit. John wrote this letter to help true Christians how tell the difference. As we said earlier, one big difference was the issue of sin. Christians readily admit they are sinners in need of God’s mercy. They believe that Jesus took up their sins on himself. This is truth. This is light. This is walking in the light. But John went further than that in explaining what its like to walk in the light. He said that walking in the light is walking in obedience to God’s commands— specifically walking in obedience to God’s command to love one another. The child of God obeys God’s command because he loves God. He also loves his brothers and sisters in the Lord not only because the Lord commands it, but because he takes on God’s nature— which is love. A child of God cannot hate his brothers and sisters! He or she rather loves them because his father’s love nature is in him or her. The Christian’s love for his Christian family is nobler than the love ordinary people have for only those who love them. (Luke 6.32) It is a distinct kind of love that identifies them as the children of God.
Therefore, loving God has everything to do with obedience to God’s command. Look at the command God gives us in verse 15. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Our Lord Jesus says almost the same thing: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) We cannot love the world and love God at the same time. And in the verses that follow, that is in 16-17, John explains why. Either the world or God can have our affection and take our heart, never both. Each person has to choose which of the two that claim his heart will he or she serve or love. The one who loves the world will choose to love and to serve the world, while the one who loves God will choose to love and to serve God. He or she will obey this command: “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”
First of all, we need to define the world and why we are not to love the “world”. To begin with, John had been speaking about those who walk in the darkness versus those who walk in the light. (9-11) While light is found in God, it’s here in the world that the darkness is found. The Bible talks quite a bit about the power of darkness (Luke 22:53; Col 1:13). In Ephesians 6:12, we read these words: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is a darkness that pervades the world and all its avenues and functions. Darkness is what motivates the people of the world, as much as light motivates and animates the children of God. Everything which is outside of God is under the dominion of darkness, which is another way of saying it is under the power of sin and Satan. That is the fundamental reason why we must not love the world. The “world” John is talking about is at great odds with God and with everything that is holy and godly and created to serve his good purpose. That is why the Bible also tells us: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
The Bible never fails to condemn the world. Our Lord Jesus from the start declared that the world “… Hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” (John 7:7) His value system was so much different from that of the world we live in. While the world thinks that it has many treasures to covet, Jesus insisted that the value of the whole world was nothing compared to the value of one human soul. (Matthew 16:26) The Bible explains to us that “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Cor. 3:19) Jesus said: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!” (Matthew 18:7) The word of God talks about escaping the corruption of the world. (2 Peter 2:20) The Bible tells us to “Not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Romans 12:2) And Jesus was willing to give himself for our sins, to rescue us from this evil world. (Galatians 1:4) Jesus clearly announced to us who is in control of this world, He identified Satan as the prince of this world (John 14:30) And John in his letter informs us “That the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) When we come to understand this, we also come to understand why the word of God clearly tells us not to love the world nor anything in the world.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world” is not a joke or some suggestion that we can take or skim over. It is fundamental to our Christian spirit— to our walk in the light— to loving God our Father— to our fellowship with him and with each other. It is therefore very important for us that we have a good understanding of the “world” and definition of the “things in it” and of what it really means to love the world and the things that are in it.
Does it mean that we ought to hate the world around and have nothing to do with it? Not really. The world which God created is beautiful and is to be deeply appreciated. What God created for his people he created in love and for our use. And he created in us appreciations of beautiful things and desires for things that are necessary and needful in our lives. There is nothing wrong with the world which God created. It is what sin and Satan have made of them that have turned the world into a kingdom for Satan and a trap of destruction for men. Every noble appetite and every holy desire has been corrupted as we will see in the next verse. And hearts and souls have been thus lost to the world.
But the question should we have nothing to do with the world? We cannot not have anything to do with it. Jesus in his prayer said that his children are in the world but not of it. He understood that Christians must engage in the world in some capacity or other in order to support themselves and their families. It is not sinful to engage in honest work, whatever that work may be. It is not sinful to be good at what one does and to prosper and be a source of blessing and sustenance for others who are in need. The Christian rule is simple for life and work, whatever position the Lord has given us to do in the world, here is the rule: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:17,23) The Lord has set us apart for himself, and therefore, we bear his name and must live and act for his glory.
Therefore, “Do not love the world or anything in the world”, where we can understand the world to be a society and a system. This is the worldly system in which Satan is the ruler. He is its “prince” as Jesus tells us. And he is its “god” as the Bible tells us. Under Satan’s dominion, the whole world follows the ways of the world and of its ruler. What then is the world we are not to love? It is the realm of rebellion against God. It is the realm of disobedience to God. It is a world dominated by all that is hostile to God and opposed to godliness. It is the spirit of hostility to God dominated by ambition, pride greed, by pleasing the self, by sensual desires and interests. Its goals are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is unholy. It is a cauldron of fierce rivalries, hostilities, back stabbings, deceit, falsehood, and such. It is a mass of rebellion against God. This is the world that hated Jesus because he spoke the truth against it. This is the world that had no room for repentance, the world that cared more for human glory than for God. This is the world that finally drove nails in Jesus’ hands and feet because it had no room for God’s love in its dark heart. This is the world that rejected the cross, the greatest expression of the love of God for a humanity in rebellion against God. That’s why we are commanded not to love the world and anything in the world. In other words, do not set your affections on it. Do not love it! To love it is to give it first place in your hearts. It is to idolize it. It is to despise anything that competes with it in your hearts. To love the world is to make its vanities the prime object of your desires— to share its friendship— to conform to its ways— to find your happiness in what you can get from it.
Surely our love must be reserved for God and for God alone. Our love must not be thrown away on anything that hates God and is set against him. Therefore, whatever influences our mind and heart against God must be rejected. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Surely then, if anyone loves the world, how can the love of the Father be in them! It cannot, because no man or woman can serve two masters.
Here’s a small test to see whether one loves the world or the father. What to do you seek with more zeal and dedication, the wealth and honors of the world, or the riches of grace and the approval and praise of God? Which have a greater attraction to you, the pleasures of the world, which are only temporary or the pleasures that are heavenly and forever? Where’s your security, in your job or bank account or in the faithful God who promised to supply all your needs in times of need? What hurts you more, some material loss or a broken relationship with God? Where do you like to spend your money on more, on your personal comfort and luxury, or on something that best serves God’s purpose? What usually dominates your thoughts, dreams of worldly accomplishment or desires to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? It’s good to examine our hearts often enough to purge the corruption that usually find its way from the world into our hearts in most subtle ways.
Read verse 16. “For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world.” These three things are the things that are in the world and which we are commanded not to love. These are the three things that have conquered humanity from the dawn of humanity until this very day, and keep the human race in bondage to sin and to Satan. These are the avenues through which Satan enters into men’s souls to corrupt and to destroy and to lead astray from God. The “Cravings of sinful man” Or the “Lust of the flesh.” The “lust of his eyes” and the “boasting of what he has or does” or the “pride of life,” We can trace these all the way back to the garden of Eden where the devil first tempted Eve. We are told in the story of the fall that first, the “Woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food.” There we can see the cravings of sinful man or the lust of the flesh. Second, we see that the fruit of the tree was “pleasing to the eye”, and there we have the “lust of his eyes”, and finally we see that the fruit of the tree was “desirable for gaining wisdom”, and there we have the boasting of what he has does which is also the “pride of life.” Then Eve seeing all this in the fruit, she yielded to the temptation, and disobeyed her Maker and ate from the fruit she was not supposed to eat from.
The cravings of sinful men or the cravings of the flesh are many. The word of God lists many in the Bible. But we only have to look at the heart to see how many desires the flesh or the sinful nature has to understand what the author is talking about. As I said earlier, God created us and endowed us with healthy appetites for food, for marriage and for the beauty of life in the world. But sin perverts all those appetites and carries them to excess, so that to gratify them becomes nothing less than gluttony and unholiness and filthy things that spring from animalistic instincts that are more animal than human. The unhealthy appetite for sex has developed over the centuries into the monster it is today, such that marriage is on its way to become obsolete. What the world wants and craves is pleasure, and more pleasure. It wants to satisfy its most base desires. It wants to indulge any craving of its flesh to the ultimate satisfaction. And Satan invents new ways for men to receive pleasure in their bodies. In this world, it is as if people live for pleasure. They would do anything to satisfy the craving of their flesh or sinful desires. Satan tried to indulge our Lord in this first temptation, the craving of sinful nature. He tempted him to turn the stone to bread and to eat it. But Jesus refused to submit to the temptation. Jesus is the first Man to resist the devil’s temptation to indulge the lust of the flesh. It was a powerful temptation. But Jesus our Lord resisted it. He had to overcome Adam’s failure in order to restore us to our original glory as human beings made in the image of God, made not to indulge the cravings of the flesh, but to desire God and his word first above all else. Indeed the cravings of sinful man do not come from the Father, but from the world. We need grace to overcome this kind of temptation.
“For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world.” The lust of his eyes. This is the second main avenue by which the world gains entrance into the hearts of men. The greatest of sins are committed unawares through what people see with their eyes, because the eyes are like avenues to their minds. What they see makes an impression upon them that cannot easily be removed, and which usually taints the heart with corruption. And we are not necessarily talking only about the obvious lust of seeing with the eye what we should not see. Eve lusted after the fruit because she saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye. It appealed to her and she wanted it. Things in the world make an impression on the hearts of people and they want them. Greed has been the child of the “lust of the eye”. A woman wants more jewels to adorn her to the point that she would steal to get them. A man wants a vacation on the beautiful island he saw advertised that he would do something illegal to get the money to take that vacation. Attractive things lodge themselves into the heart of men until they begin to think that it is natural for them to go after them— that they want them— that they actually need them— that they cannot live with them. Lot’s wife couldn’t get her eyes off of Sodom until it killed her. Potiphar’s wife couldn’t get her eyes off of Joseph and she wanted him whatever the cost. King David had everything a king would ever want. But he saw Bathsheba and lusted for her. He wanted her for his own. He was willing to even kill her husband in order to make her his own. We are all wretched at the core of our being. On the other hand, Jesus was offered the whole world by Satan. Satan showed him the kingdoms of the world, and said that he would give him all of them, if he would only bow down and worship him. This world is indeed beauteous in all its wonders. We can imagine how beautiful and tempting an offer this is. But in Jesus’ eye there was no lust for the things of the world. Jesus knew that the world in all its glory is passing. Whatever the eye sees, it must see God first and his glory and his goodness and his purpose in all things. Then the eye could reject the temporary things of the world for its eternity with God.
“For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world.” “The boasting of what he has and does” Or the “pride of life.” This is the last of the evil trio of the world things. Let me explain to you what this “pride of life” is all about and how it is the same with “the boastings of what he has and does.” It is the rivalry and striving of one human being up and against another— in every possible way. It produces conceit of ourselves and contempt of our fellow man or neighbor. It produces a spirit of superiority and arrogance. It goes after power. It seeks after the highest places in the world, coveting high positions or authority and of influence so that one has more dominion over another. We can imagine this kind of pride that boasts over another of what it has and does so that it may appear better, bigger, superior. The world and history is full of this kind of striving and rivalry. Our history books tell of atrocities done for no reason than one man wanted to conquer other men. The pride of our hearts to be better, higher, greater than each other is unquenchable. Many, who find no way to pride themselves in positions of power over other men, pride themselves in their family, or in their culture or in their nation or even in their religion. And some people are just plain vain and consumed with their own vanity and looks. They are concerned about their looks and appearance, about what others think of them. They want to be love and admired by others. They want to be recognized. This is the pride of life John is talking about. While Jesus refused Satan’s offer to thrown himself from the top of the temple in order to show himself superior to all creation, Satan was defeated in tempting Jesus with the pride of life. Rather Jesus only concerned himself with the life of the cross, and the way of humility. He taught us clearly: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-26) Praise Jesus for teaching us how to overcome the “pride of life.”
Read verse 17. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” “For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world.” All these things do not come from the Father but from the world. Then he tells us the fate of the world, another reason we must not love the world. “The world and its desires pass away.” Everything in the world passes away, especially its desires. We read in history about kings and kingdoms and emperors and empires that have come and gone. The countless people who have lived and died, who have desired, and acquired, who have wasted life and youth in the pursuit of the things of the world, but whose names are now in the dust. The world and its desires surely pass away. Everything passes away. Even the fleeting pleasure of sin that we enjoy for a moment, and then regret for a long time, passes away. That is the reason we must not love the world. Because there is nothing in the world that is worth giving our affection to. “But the man who [or whoever] does the will of God lives forever.” What is the alternative to loving the world? It is loving God. And loving God is obedience to his will. That is what John encourages us to do— to serve the will of God in our lives. That is worthy of our heart’s affection and our life’s effort. Doing the will of God is something that will last forever and ever. Why don’t we work at something which is permanent then— something which has stability— something which is going to last for eternity? May God bless our congregation to remain rooted in the gospel of God’s grace, and to serve his world mission purpose to raise disciples from among college students. Amen.