Tonight we continue in our study of 1 John and chapter 2, verses 15 through 17. I want to read these three verses again simply because it’s a brief passage, it’ll set it in your mind, and then we’ll address the issues that are contained in it. First John chapter 2, verses 15 through 17.
“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
Here we again have the test of true Christianity. This time the test is loving or not loving the world. We’ve had doctrinal tests in this remarkable epistle of John, the test of true understanding of Jesus Christ, the test of the true understanding of one’s sinfulness. We’ve had moral tests, the moral test of obedience, the moral test of loving others, and we come to another test that fits in again the moral category or the behavioral category and that has to do with not loving the world. If anybody loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; that is to say, he has no relationship with God.
Just a personal introduction as we begin. For me, the most devastating issue to deal with in ministry is the issue of spiritual defection. It is the issue of those people who claim to follow Christ and then at some point forsake Him. We were just talking about such a person in our elders’ prayer time before the service began, one who came here, professed Christ, made all of the public claims to identify with Jesus Christ, to be delivered from a life of drugs and sin and crime, and that was a few years ago.
And now this person has abandoned the church, abandoned the faith, abandoned his family in terms of his conduct, and stepped back with full affection for the world. That is always a very difficult thing to deal with. It’s heartbreaking because you grow to care for those kinds of people.
And for me, the concern about that goes way back, if I can just be personal. I remember when I was in high school, I had a friend in high school, in fact, we were involved in athletic teams together. So much of my youth was spent in athletics that my close relationships were developed on a football field, usually. This was a young man who was also a football player in high school, and we got to be good friends. He was the president of the youth group in his church, I was the head of the youth group, president of the youth group in my church, and we professed, of course, our faith in Jesus Christ.
One of the things we used to like to do was on a Saturday was to go down to a place in the city of Los Angeles where we could witness to people. And we would go and sometimes take other kids with us, and we would give our testimony for Christ.
I went away to college and he went away to college. My college experience enriched me, drew me nearer to the Lord. It was during my college days that I really got serious about my life, that I really began to contemplate the ministry, committed myself to ministry. He went away to college and within a matter of a couple of years, he abandoned the faith, he denied Jesus Christ. Was very hard for me to understand, very difficult.
It was also true that when I went to college, I had a couple of friends, one named Don, another named George. I played baseball with George, got to know him pretty well. Played football with Don - in fact, we ran in the same backfield together. He was a Bible study teacher at his church, I was a Bible study teacher at my church. George was involved in ministry. All three of us went to seminary. The two of them denied the faith. Don profaned the faith. George became a bartender.
And then I went to seminary. I became close friends with the son of the dean at the seminary. We sang in a quartet together. We ministered together in a number of ways, and we had a lot of fun through our seminary years. I graduated from seminary and eventually came here. He graduated from seminary and set up a Buddhist altar in his house. Very personal for me to understand that kind of defection. And through the years, you see that, as a pastor, you see it in the church.
You see people who come and name the name of Christ and demonstrate what appears to be some kind of spiritual life, only to find out that it’s superficial. It’s hard to take. From early in my ministry here at Grace, there have been some people like that that I’ve had to deal with, some with whom I made a very personal and somewhat long-term commitment to discipleship who defected. On the other hand, I’m very thankful for the very, very large group of faithful people who have served with me here and who have been true to the Lord and true to the faith. Obviously, you are among them.
The defectors, that’s sad, that’s extremely painful because you give your heart to those people. I suppose this kind of pain and suffering would be far more acute if it weren’t for Judas. Judas provides a sort of strange encouragement to me because even under the Lord of Lords’ tutelage and discipleship, there was a defector.
There’s another New Testament defector that I want to draw your attention to. As we begin our study tonight, turn in your Bible, if you will, before we go to our text, to 2 Timothy chapter 4. The apostle Paul set a model for ministry that all of us follow and that is a model to do your ministry in a partnership, with a team of faithful men and even women who come alongside to serve. And Paul refers to these people on numerous occasions and even indicates how dependent he is upon them.
It is typical for Paul to refer to them in his epistles. Some of them are further identified in the book of Acts. But 2 Timothy 4 has a good list that is representative of Paul’s partnership. In chapter 10, there is the name of Demas that sort of heads - chapter 4, I should say, verse 10, there is the name of Demas, which sort of heads the list, and then there is Crescens and then there is Titus and then there is Luke and then there’s reference to Mark in verse 11 and Tychicus in verse 12.
And if you go on down a little further, greet Prisca and Aquila in verse 19, “the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus, who remained at Corinth. Trophimus, I left at Miletus. Then there is Eubulus and there is Pudens, Linus, Claudia, all the brethren.” This kind of indicates that there was this group of people that were around Paul throughout his ministry. We’re very familiar with that.
What make this chapter particularly unique is this is the last chapter he ever wrote. This is the finale. This is his swan song. This is the end of his life. Soon after this, he was martyred. And he indicates that that’s obviously on the horizon, verse 6 of chapter 4, “I’m already being poured out as a drink offering.” He was a prisoner when he wrote this. “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.”
And he’s now looking forward to the crown of righteousness laid up for him “which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, not only to me but all those who loved His appearing.” So he is really knowing that he’s at the end. His ministry is over. He’s been faithful to the end. He will soon be executed. This great life, this most noble of all human lives has come to its end.
And from my standpoint, he is my hero. He is absolutely - on the human level, apart from Jesus Christ - my great hero. And he should have gone out with a hero’s ending. He should have gone out with an appropriate fanfare. Everybody around him should have given him a tribute, a tribute that would have exceeded all the people, perhaps, who’ve ever lived. The greatest calling that anybody could ever have would be to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. He had that. And of all the apostles, he’s the most greatly used apostle because he was used to write at least 13 books of the New Testament.
The accumulated power of his life, the power of his message, the breadth and height and length and depth of the contribution he made in the inspired writings that he gave, the spread of the gospel to the Gentile world which, in effect, makes him the founder, as it were, of the Gentile church and all that comes beyond that really flows out of his ministry, should have caused the greatest of accolades to be given to him at the end of his life. Yet at his last hour, the story is, humanly speaking, tragic. It’s heartbreaking.
If you go back to chapter 1, for a minute, of 2 Timothy, Paul is concerned to pass the baton of ministry to young Timothy. He wants to have Timothy take over his ministry. Every pastor who gets to the later years of his life (I can certainly speak for that) becomes very, very conscious of who’s going to follow, who is going to pick up the ministry, who is going to take the baton, who is going to receive the mantle to carry on what has been begun. And Timothy, of course, was Paul’s choice, but Timothy was struggling seriously.
He says to Timothy in verse 6 of chapter 1, “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you,” because Timothy was obviously letting his gift fall into disuse. He tells him not to be a coward in verse 7, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity or a spirit of cowardice.” He tells him in verse 8, “Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. Don’t be ashamed of me, His prisoner. Be willing to suffer.” It’s really an interesting insight into what Timothy was like at this particular time, at the most crucial time in Paul’s life when he wanted to pass the baton, pass the mantle, have Timothy take up the work.
Timothy needed to be using his gift. He needed to be strong. He needed to be courageous. He needed to be unashamed and bold for the cause of Christ and of Paul. He needed to be willing to suffer. And, in fact, the opposite was true. All of his tendencies were in the other direction. Verse 13, he says, “Hold onto sound words,” which means that Timothy may have been on the brink of even abandoning the truth because it brought so much persecution and so much hostility. Verse 14, he tells him to guard the treasure, which is the Word of God.
And then he reminds him (in verse 15) of this really remarkable reality, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.” How can it be that everybody in Asia Minor, the very place where Paul ministered most, have all abandoned him? The price was too high. How many defectors did Paul have? How many people in whom he invested his life defected? He says, “All who were in Asia have turned away from me,” and he names Phygelus and Hermogenes as a couple of examples. He probably named them because of their prominence.
There’s probably some shock value in that, as if, “Can you believe it, Timothy, that Phygelus and Hermogenes have defected and abandoned me?” And then he does refer to the house of Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and wasn’t ashamed of my chains.” There was at least the household of Onesiphorus who was faithful.
Over in chapter 4 again, and verse 17 - or verse 16, rather, he says, “At my first defense, no one supported me, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them.” That’s the attitude of Stephen, that’s the attitude of Jesus on the cross. “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” “I was” - the end of that verse - “delivered out of the lion’s mouth.”
But here Paul comes to the end of his life, at the time when he should be receiving all the kudos and all the accolades and all the affirmation and all the honors, when everybody should be rising in a great chorus - triumphant thankfulness to God for this man’s life, people are abandoning him in every direction.
And that takes us to verse 10, where he says, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens is in Galatia,” - not a defection, probably sent by Paul - “Titus is in Dalmatia. Only Luke is here. Timothy, when you come, would you bring Mark with you? He’s useful to me. Tychicus is in Ephesus. It’s getting cold here, by the way. When you come, could you bring my cloak, which I left at Troas with Carpus, and could you bring me the books, especially the parchments?”
I mean you get this very sort of sad sense. He’s alone, only Luke is there. A combination of missionary work and defection has scattered his beloved friends. But the only one who’s really noted as a defector here in chapter 4 - Phygelus and Hermogenes in chapter 1 - is this man, Demas, in verse 10. You need to know that Demas had been a coworker with Paul for many years. He was a close friend of the apostle Paul. What a privilege. I would cherish that. I would love to have followed around the apostle Paul.
In Colossians chapter 4, verses 12 and following, Paul writes, “Epaphras, who is one of your number” - that is, he was from the church in Colossae. “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God, for I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.”
This man, Demas, was in some pretty rich company - very rich company, come to think of it. Epaphras, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, what kind of spiritual character did he have? A man who labored earnestly in prayer for his beloved church that they would stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God, the man who had a deep concern for the believers there, a spiritual man. And then Luke, the great biographer, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, the physician of Paul, the private, personal physician.
At the end of the book of Philemon we read this, Paul sending greetings, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.” This man, Demas, was around the best - Paul, Epaphras, Luke, Mark, Aristarchus. Luke’s influence alone as the personal physician and companion of Paul through his missionary journeys, Luke the historian, the biographer of Jesus Christ, and also the historian and biographer of the Holy Spirit as He did his work as chronicled in the book of Acts.
And then there was that beloved Epaphras. Epaphras was Paul’s personal companion and preacher. Epaphras founded the church at Colossae, that we learn in the Colossian letter. In fact, Epaphras was saved on a visit to Ephesus and then returned home to start the church in Colossae. Several years after the Colossian church began, a deadly heresy came in and threatened the life of the church. It had elements of Judaism mixed with elements of Gnosticism. It was a heresy that asserted that God was good but matter was evil, that Jesus was not God but an emanation from God, a created being, that Jesus was neither God nor man.
It asserted a kind of asceticism or self-denial, as well as a kind of legalism. It involved worshiping angels and mysticism, and Epaphras was so concerned that it had invaded the church that he founded, that he left Colossae and he came to Rome to meet with Paul. And in response to what he was told by Epaphras, Paul wrote the great Colossian letter, which affirms the character of Christ and dismantles the heresy that existed there. By the way, Epaphras when he got to Rome, stayed long enough for Paul to teach him even further so that he could be a more faithful preacher and defender of the faith.
All that to show you that Demas was associated with some very formidable men, preachers of the Word of God, faithful men, men of prayer, church planters, men who suffered. Yet it was in that very company, back to our text, 2 Timothy 4, as we look back at Demas to read, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” Deserted me. Demas has deserted me. Strong word, the verb in the Greek means to completely forsake. It means to utterly abandon. The idea is to leave someone in serious need.
Just ask yourself, “How could he do that? After having lived under the influence of the apostle Paul himself, incredible example, all the others that he was surrounded with, the influence of men like Timothy and Luke and Epaphras and Aristarchus and Mark and Onesimus, there was influence there, tremendous influence. But he left. Why? Verse 10 says it all, “Having loved this present world.” Having loved this present world.
There it is - there it is. “If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.” What is the world? We saw that last week, the system of evil, the system of lies and deceptions and falsehoods and the evil conduct that goes with it. All the ideologies raised up against the knowledge of God, as 2 Corinthians 10:5, any ungodly idea. He loved the world. He loved the system of the world, human wisdom, human thought, human ideologies. The religions of the world, theories, philosophies, had his heart.
So we conclude, then, that Demas was rocky ground, that the seed went in, a plant popped up for a little while, but when the cost was persecution and suffering and tribulation, it withered and died. He was also weedy soil, where the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choked out the seed. Jesus describes that, you remember, in His parable of the soils. The gospel seed died before it ever bore fruit.
This is what it is to love the world. You can be around the truth, you can make profession of the truth, you can get into the association of the most elite people in Christian ministry, even be a companion and co-laborer and coworker with the apostle Paul and not be the real thing. Do I think that Paul knew that? No. Do I think that Luke or Timothy or Epaphras knew it? No. But time and truth go hand-in-hand and eventually the reality became known. And when Paul was about to be martyred for the faith, Demas saw, as it were, the handwriting on the wall.
The price was more than he wanted to pay, and he departed, forsaking the apostle because he loved this present world. He loved the system more than he loved God. He loved what the world offered him with its ideas and its conduct more than he loved what God offered him in His kingdom. This is deadly to saving faith.
James chapter 4, verse 4, is a verse that builds on this, before we look again into our text, James 4:4, “You adulteresses,” very strong language from James, you harlots, you prostitutes, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” I’ve been saying this all along, there is an inherent, systemic, mutual exclusivity between the world and the kingdom of God.
There is antipathy in the heart of the unregenerate world toward the truth of the gospel. You cannot love the world and know God because the world hates the truth, the world that we’re talking about. We’re not talking about the created order, we’re not talking about the world of humanity, we’re talking about the system of human thought, sinful, corrupt, fallen human thought. Whatever form it takes, whether philosophical or religious, anything that is against the revealed Word of God constitutes the world.
You remember James, when James said that, he was writing, of course, to Jewish readers. James 1:1 says, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad.” James, writing to twelve tribes, scattered Jews, dispersed abroad, those who were professing Christ, obviously, but writing to Jews, he speaks to them of spiritual adultery, he speaks to them of spiritual harlotry and that’s because that’s very familiar to them.
Jewish readers would know that the Old Testament chronicles Israel’s spiritual adultery. In fact, 2 Chronicles, the book itself, is a good place to note that. Let me just read you some things out of 2 Chronicles, chapter 21, and I’ll start at verse 11. “Moreover, he made high places in the mountains of Judah, caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot.” This is pretty much what the kings did, but this is referring to Jehoram. “He made high places in the mountains of Judah, caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot” - that is, metaphorically to commit spiritual adultery. And, of course, then it goes on to talk about the judgment of God.
Jeremiah wrote about that - oh, there are lots of places in the Old Testament, but just a few - Jeremiah chapter 2 and verse 20, “For long ago, I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds, but you said, ‘I will not serve God.’” He’s saying, you know, I took you out of slavery, I made you my free servant, you said, “I will not serve.” On every high hill, under every green tree, you have lain down like a harlot. What did they do? On every high hill and with every green tree, they created ashrams, as it were, they created places to worship idols. This is spiritual adultery.
Jeremiah 3, God says, “If a husband divorces his wife and she goes from him and belongs to another man, will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers, yet you turn to me,” declares the Lord, as if to say what do you expect me to do, take you back after you’ve polluted the land with your harlotry and with your wickedness? Spiritual defection, then, is described as a kind of harlotry.
In verse 6 of Jeremiah 3, “The Lord said to me in the days of Josiah, the king, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill, under every green tree, she was a harlot there, and I thought after she had done all these things, she will return to me. But she didn’t return and her treacherous sister Judah saw it’” - southern kingdom - “‘and I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I sent her away and gave her a writ of divorce.’ And yet her treacherous sister Judah didn’t fear, she went and was a harlot also. It came about because of the lightness of her harlotry that she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.”
This is a way to describe Israel’s spiritual defection. It is a kind of harlotry. I suppose you could read it also in Ezekiel chapter 16, but it’s the book of Hosea that most directly confronts this. In Hosea 1:2, the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go take yourself a wife of harlotry,” this was because - he was literally going to be a living illustration of the spiritual harlotries of Israel, which defines her worshiping of other gods, idols. Chapter 4, verse 15, Israel plays the harlot. Chapter 9, verse 1, same thing.
So that’s just background to what we’re seeing. Back to James 4:4 for a minute. And I know I’m taking time to get into the text, but it’s important to understand this. In James 4:4, “You adulteresses,” so he’s borrowing language very familiar to his Jewish readers and he’s saying, “You adulteresses, if you are a friend of the world, you literally have committed harlotry against God. You are in a hostile posture. You have made yourself God’s enemy.” God’s enemy, that’s another Old Testament concept. Deuteronomy 32:41, “I will render vengeance to my enemies and repay those who hate me.”
Psalm 21:8 and 9, “Your hand will find all your enemies, your right hand will find those who hate you, you’ll make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger.” Psalm 68:21, “God will wound the head of His enemies.” Psalm 72:9, “His enemies will lick the dust.” Nahum 1:2, “He reserves wrath for His enemies.” And so it goes.
Demas was guilty of spiritual harlotry. Demas had become the enemy of God. And all I can say is what wasted opportunity, what wasted privilege. Where did Demas go? Turn back to 2 Timothy for one final note there. “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” - Paul says - “and gone to Thessalonica.” Why did he go there? I don’t know specifically, some worldly reason. Maybe it was some friendships that he had. He was going back to the life that he used to live and had hypocritically subdued for a few years.
But Thessalonica was a big city, about 200,000 people, so he could get lost there. It was right on the Via Egnatia, the main trade route, so everything in the world was there. All the philosophies were being espoused there. All the material things in the world that were being carried back and forth from the West to the East came through there, a crossroads city. All that the world offered would be available. That’s where he went. And he proved in the doing that he was not a child of God.
Now let’s go back to 1 John. And the command here is in verse 15, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Demas did not have a love relationship with God. He didn’t love God and God didn’t love him savingly. He failed the test. He loved the world. Loving the world, as I told you last week, is impossible for true believers because the world is an anti-God system, and you can’t love God and love the world. You can’t, as Jesus said, serve God and mammon.
Salvation is a deliverance from the world, its ideologies, its viewpoints, its anti-God posture. In chapter 4, verse 5, “They” - writes John - “they are from the world; therefore, they speak as from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Listen, when you became a Christian, you moved from believing error to believing truth. That moved you from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of God.
We’re not talking - we’re not talking about something superficial, we’re not talking - when we say, you know, you’ve died to the world, you’ve been crucified to the world, you no longer love the world, we’re not saying you’re not attracted to the things of the world, you don’t have any temptation. We’re simply saying that ideologically, in terms of what you believe, you have turned from error (which defines the world) and lies concerning God to the truth of the gospel. And I hope we made that clear last time.
Down in chapter 5 and verse 4, you remember, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” And what is it that overcomes the world? “The victory that overcomes the world is our faith.” When you stop believing the lies of the world and you believe the truth of God, you’ve passed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, you’ve passed from the world into God’s realm. You now love the truth. You are known as the children of God because you believe the gospel of God. You have been taken out of the world, you are now the enemy of the world. Jesus said in John 15:19, and the world hates you.
The world is simply the system of evil. Now, in the church to which John is writing, there were people who claimed to be Christians. They were confusing believers. And so John gives them tests, not to cause them to question their own salvation, but by taking the test they would affirm their own salvation and unmask the others. False religion cannot produce love of the truth. False religion is part of the lie. False religion is part of the system.
Now, the command, then, very clearly, chapter 2, verse 15, “Love not the world because if you do, you’re not a believer.” True Christians don’t love the world. Let me give you some reasons why. Number one, because of what it is - because of what it is. And I know it’s a brief passage, but I have to take the time to work through it because there’s so much here. Because of what it is. What is it? It is the system of satanic lies and deceptions that oppose God, that’s what it is. It is contrary to the truth. It is hostile to the truth. It is hostile to those who believe the truth and those who love the truth.
For example, look at chapter 4, here’s an illustration. Don’t believe everybody, don’t believe every attitude, every spirit, every theory, every ideology that’s propounded. Test the spirits to see whether they’re from God because so many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this, you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. So here’s a very clear test. You can always tell something that’s part of the world because their view of Christ is erroneous.
This, on the other hand, verse 3 says is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. There is already in the world the anti-Christ attitude, anything that opposes Christ, that opposes the gospel, is the world. Then he says in verse 4, “You’re from God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” The world is an anti-God, anti-Christ system of ideologies under many, many names and titles, framed up many different ways.
The bottom line, it is alien to the truth, it is in opposition to the truth, it hates the truth, and it hates the people who embrace the truth. In other words, we don’t love the world because it is utterly in antipathy to everything we have come to believe by the mighty work of God in our hearts. We have been awakened by God’s grace to the truth.
To put it another way, look at the end of 1 John chapter 5, verse 19. “We know that we are of God.” We are of God; that is, we embrace the things of God, we love God, believe in God, believe in His Word. On the other hand, “The whole world lies in the evil one.” The Greek literally says, “lies in the evil one,” it’s as if the whole world is literally embedded in the grip of the evil one, and the evil one has one agenda and that is to assault the truth with his lies.
All unsaved people are in the world, all unsaved people are children of the world, all unsaved people are under the prince of the power of the air, who is the spiritual ruler of this world. We are not. We have rejected that and embraced the truth. We have, then, overcome the world of lies by believing the truth. The world is hostile to godliness because it is dominated by carnal ambition, pride, greed, self-pleasure, evil desire.
Its opinions are wrong. Its aims are selfish. Its pleasures are sinful. Its influence is demoralizing. Its politics are corrupt. Its honors are empty. Its smiles are fake, and its love is fickle. The world is the system of rebellion toward God, run by Satan, set up on earth as the very antithesis of the gospel of salvation. We give no supreme affection to that and at the same time say we love God and love Jesus Christ. The two are mutually exclusive.
One time, Paul loved the world, and his world was the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of Judaism. But he saw it as manure compared to Christ, and he didn’t love it anymore, he counted it but dung, he said, when he found Christ. We do not love the world because of what it is.
Secondly, we do not love the world because of who we are. And we’ve already noted that down in verses 12 through 14. Really ties into this. “I’m writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young men, because you’ve overcome the evil one. I’ve written to you, children, because you know the Father. I’ve written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I’ve written to you, young men, because you’re strong, the Word of God abides in you and you’ve overcome the evil one.”
You know why we don’t love the world? Because we know the Father, because the Word is strong in us, and because we’re progressing toward a deep and intimate knowledge of the eternal God. All of that simply says we are God’s children, we are in the family, and that is mutually exclusive from loving the world. And we’ve said that in a number of passages that we’ve already read from 1 John. We are God’s children at varying levels of maturity, but we love the Father. We love the truth the Father has revealed. And we even become spiritual fathers as we grow and we have a deep love for the glory of our great God.
No way does the family of God love the world, and if someone defects and goes after the world, goes hard after the world, demonstrating affection for the world and all its systems, both theoretical and behavioral, they give evidence that their claim to know God and to love Christ was a lie. Nothing but a lie. It’s just absolutely impossible. We cannot love it because of what it is, it is the lie, and we have affirmed the truth. We cannot love it because of who we are, it is the children of Satan, we are the children of God.
And yet - I need to just add a little caveat in here. It does not mean that the world doesn’t still allure us because it can. It is seductive. We might reject its philosophy because we’ve embrace Christianity. We might reject and certainly do reject its religions, its false religions of human achievement. We reject all of the ideologies of the world and yet we’re lured and seduced by some of its behavior. “What are you talking about?” Well, I’m talking about flirting with the world. You don’t love it, you’re not married to it, you’ve been separated from it, you’ve come into the family of God and yet it is alluring to you because of your fallenness.
What am I talking about? What books do you love the most? If you love any worldly books more than the Word, if you love any worldly songs more than the hymns, if you love worldly people more than people of God, if you love worldly activity more than worship, if you love any endeavor more than service to Christ, if you seek any reward more than “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you are being seduced to flirt with the world. And Scripture says, “Set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” Be that spiritual young man, strong in the Word, who overcomes the world.
We don’t love the world because of what it is and because of who we are. Thirdly, we don’t love the world because of what it does. We don’t love the world because of what it does. What does it do? It incites to sin - it incites to sin. “For all that is in the world, says verse 16, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.” He says, don’t love the world, don’t be seduced, don’t be lured into it, all it is is a bundle of incitement to sin. That’s all that’s in it.
That’s the comprehensive statement at the beginning of verse 16, “For all that is in the world, there’s nothing there but what incites to sin.” Philo said, “It is as impossible for love of the world to coexist with love for God as it is impossible for light and darkness to coexist.” The two are mutually exclusive. You are in the light, you are in the kingdom, you believe the truth, you’ve overcome the world. Don’t flirt with it because all it will do is lure you into the seduction of its temptations. It incites to sin. And for the believer, that’s the last thing that you long to experience.
Your heart longs to be delivered from sin. True Christians say with Paul in Romans 7, “I do what I don’t want to do, I don’t do what I want to do, there’s a wretched man within me, and I want to be delivered from it.” So John writes, “Stop loving the world.” It’s not consistent with being a Christian. Don’t love the things that are in the world, its treasures, its pleasures, its theories, its viewpoints, its morality, its judgments, its honors, its power, its wealth, its wisdom, its education, whatever it is. Whatever element of its anti-God, anti-Christ ideology, you want nothing to do with it.
Now, we’re not talking about material things like a house and a car and money. You can have those things. Go over to verse 17 of chapter 3, and here John says, “Whoever has the world’s goods, that’s fine.” Goods, one thing. Luring, seductive ideologies are another. If you have the world’s goods, that’s all right, but when you see your brother in need, don’t close your heart against him or we’re going to question whether the love of God is in you.
If you have the world’s goods, and you see somebody in need, you’re going to share the world’s goods, which assumes we have them. It’s not wrong, as I said last time, to enjoy the things that God has richly provided for us. That just becomes a test, you know, possessing the world’s goods just becomes a test of your Christianity because if you see somebody in need, you’re going to let them go to meet that need.
So as we look, then, at the third reason we don’t love the world, we don’t love the world because of what it does. And what it does is incite to sin. Verse 16 says, “All that is in the world” - we’ll skip to the end - “is not from the Father but is from the world.” All that is in the world is worldly, it’s not from God, and all it does is incite to sin. Here’s what’s in the world: “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.” That is the sum of everything going on in the human system. Those are the three gateways to sin.
Those are the three gateways to sin. That’s all that the world does, it just seduces people into sin. And it does it on these three fronts: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s all it has to offer. Those are the only gateways really available for sin to work its work.
I think we understand what the lust of the flesh means. It refers to that deep, profound part of fallenness that we talked about recently that the Old Testament calls the imagination that is buried deep within men, underneath his rationality, that corrupts his thinking. And then there is the lust of the eyes. What is that? That is that seductive vision that you see something and because you see it, it allures you and you want it, and it leads to covetousness and it leads to all kinds of other sins because when you see something you want, James says, you lust because you don’t have it and you’ll even make war and kill to get it.
And then there is that boastful pride of life that really underlies everything, that arrogance of self-fulfillment that says, “I want what I want when I want it, and I’m going to get it.” That’s all that’s there, folks, I mean that’s all that’s there. And next week I’m going to talk more about this because I think these three bridgeheads to sin need to be understood because they are what define human life. You want to ask the question, why do people in the world do what they do? Why do they think the way they think and behave the way they behave?
And here is the answer in no uncertain terms: They are driven by (one) the lust of the flesh, they’re driven by their depravity, they’re driven by that down-deep corruption and deception that corrupts even their rationality and every other element of their life, their thinking, their behavior. They are also driven not only from the depths of their being, but on the surface by what they see. What they see attaches to the longings of their heart that are evil and causes them to do what is necessary to get what they want, no matter how corrupt the method.
And underlying all of it is this driving pride that essentially says, “I’m the most important person on the planet and I’m going to get what I want, when I want it, how I want it.” That’s all the world has, that’s all it is. It’s just a web of those three areas of temptation. Next week, I’m going to take you back to Genesis, those are the three that are there. I’m going to take you into the temptation of Jesus, those are the three that Satan used to tempt Him. That’s all there is in the world. That’s all there is. More about that next time.
We do not, then, love the world because of what it is, because of who we are, and because of what it does, it incites to sin. There’s a fourth and last reason we don’t love the world and that is because of where it is going - where it is going. Verse 17, “And the world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
We’re going to look at that last phrase a little bit next week also, but to close tonight, the fourth reason that we don’t love the world is because where it is going is very different than where we’re going. The world is passing away and we’re not. Two destinies here. We have two different principles operating. In the world is a principle of death operating. In the people of God who’ve overcome the world is a principle of life operating. The system is doomed; we live forever.
The world paragetai, present tense. The world is in the process of disintegrating. We’re not just talking about the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, that all matter is breaking down, although that certainly is an element of it. The present tense indicates that the world is in the process of dissolution, it is the opposite of evolution, it is devolution, it is in the self-destructing mode, the death principle is already in the universe wreaking its process of havoc. The world, the earth, the universe, the system of man, all of it, has within itself the forces of its own disintegration.
It is in a death spiral. Second Timothy 3:13 says, “Evil men grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” We’re talking about the world and the planets and the universe. We know that the Lord is going to destroy all that at the coming of Jesus Christ, the elements will melt with fervent heat, 2 Peter 3, the whole universe as we know it at the return of Christ will be - will be changed, renovated. The tribulation will start the renovation by judgment, the return of Christ will start - will further the renovation of the renewed earth for the millennial kingdom.
At the end of the millennial kingdom, when the second coming of Christ is culminated, there will be a total destruction of the entire universe as we know it, and replacing it will be a new heaven and the new earth, that’s in the book of Revelation. But here, though that’s true, we’re talking about something else because the world we’re talking about is not the created order. The world we’re talking about is the systems of man. And what we’re looking at here is the destruction of Satan, his casting into the lake of fire, the destruction of demons as they, too, are put into the place prepared for the devil and his angels where they’ll burn forever in torment.
We’re talking about all the human beings who have followed the world’s system, all the people in false religion from all of human history, all of the anti-Christ, anti-God people, all those who live their lives within the framework of the world, under the power of Satan. They are all in a death spiral and they are catapulting at a rapid rate into eternal hell. That’s what the Bible says in terms that are quite clear.
I’m drawn back to 2 Thessalonians chapter 1. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment. You want some straightforward, plain talk? Here it comes. “God is going to repay with affliction all who afflict you,” Paul says, “and give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” That’s it. It’s going to come in destruction. It’s going to come in vengeance. This is already in motion.
The wicked of the world, as I said, are in a death spiral. All the religions of the world, all the people caught in those false religions, all the people trapped in all the ideologies and all the kinds of thinking and all the kinds of conduct that make up the world system, all that is outside the kingdom of God, the realm of salvation, is going to die and it’s going to die an eternal death; that is to say, it’s not going to go out of existence, but it’s going to die that unending death of punishment in everlasting hell. Satan will be there, all the demons will be there, and all the human beings who’ve ever lived and rejected God will be there.
We are not lovers of the world because of what it is, because of who we are, because of what it does, and because of where it’s going. Its destiny is very different than our destiny. First Corinthians 7:31, Paul said, “The fashion of this world, the form of this world is passing away.”
Are you surprised that things are as bad as they are? You say, “Things have never been this bad in my life.” Well, that’s right, they’ve never been this bad in anybody’s life because they’re getting worse and worse and worse. We can assume they’re going to be worse in the next generation and worse in the generation after that and the generation after that until Jesus comes.
Sin is destroying the system it thrives on. It’s like cancer, it’s eating itself. Is that a threat to us? No. Because verse 17 says the one who does the will of God abides how long? Forever - forever. Who is the one who does the will of God? Believers. Believers - we are defined as the ones who do the will of God. What is the will of God? “This is my beloved Son, hear Him,” that’s the will of God - we did that. It is the will of God that we believe the gospel - we’ve done that. It is the will of God that we embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - we’ve done that. That’s the will of God.
It is the will of God that we love the Son, we obey the Father. “This is the will of my Father,” John 6:40, “that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.” That’s the will of the Father. It’s just another way to talk about believers - we’re believers. We’re those who do the will of God. The will of God is that, “This is my Son. Believe in Him,” John 6:40. Christians have done that and we live forever.
We’re not going where the system is going. The system is going into death and we’re going into life. So we can’t love the world because of what it is, the system of Satan. Who we are, the children of God. What it does, it incites to sin, and we resist that and long for righteousness. And because of where it’s going, it’s spiraling into death, and we’re headed for eternal life. How foolish, then, to flirt with it, hmm? And not to be consumed with the things of the eternal kingdom. More next week on those three categories in which the world seduces.
Father, again this evening, we have heard from heaven no less than that. What a joy, what a privilege, what an opportunity. This is not the word of men, this is your Word to us. How privileged are we. We are now responsible for its glorious truths, to live them out and to proclaim them to others. May we pass these things on, may we not become the bucket, the cul-de-sac, the dead-end street, but may we be the channel for these truths to others around us.
Thank you for delivering us from this present world. Thank you for giving us a love for others, a love for Christ, and not a love for the world. We love the truth, incarnate and written. And we renew our commitment to demonstrate that love in the way we live. Keep us from flirting with the world and its seductiveness. These things we ask for your glory and our usefulness in Christ’s name, Amen.
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