I have been trying to address the issues as we have gone through them, over the last almost year and a half now, and try to help you to be able to respond to the dramatic changes that are going on in the world around us and to understand them from a biblical perspective. This has been by most measures a very difficult and trying year. But in reality this has probably been the most exciting and joyful year of ministry I’ve ever known. I feel like Moses—forty years in Egypt, forty years in the wilderness, and now I’m 80 and I’m just getting started. I know you’re calculating that you don’t want me for another forty years.
This has been a really incredible year for life at Grace Church, hasn’t it? It’s been a wonderful year. And our disappointment doesn’t lie with our Lord. Our disappointment doesn’t lie with the redeemed in His church. But as I look over the landscape week in and week out and try to help you understand things from a biblical perspective, I’m very much aware that there is a massive amount of disappointment on the part of just about all of us who desire the honor of God and the honor of Christ, and who want an environment that is protective of virtue, who want a safe place to live and raise our children—safe from the physical harm that can come upon us and safe from the mental harm, which is even greater, that can come upon us through entertainment and media and even education. I get it; I know the level of disappointment. And I know if you follow the news, which is all bad all the time and never good, it can drive your disappointment up to a very high level. And I think this is partly because we don’t understand what we should be expecting.
I think disappointment is related to the fact that you’re expecting too much, and I want to help you to understand that and to see that in a biblical way. You’re less likely to be disappointed if you expect nothing. And in a real, true sense, from the world you should expect nothing—nothing that is going to assist, enable, aid, enhance, and enrich the kingdom of God. They’re not an ally, they’re the enemy.
So I want you to open your Bible to 1 John chapter 2, and I want to read to you from verses 12 through 17. So let’s follow along starting in 1 John 2:12.
“I’m writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you have known Him who has been from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
“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. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Notice verse 15, “Do not love the world.” Now I understand that God is a God of love. Over in 1 John chapter 4, verse 7, we’re told to “love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” And verse 8 says, “The one who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.” I understand that. It’s repeated in verse 11 of chapter 4: “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It’s repeated in verse 16: “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We get that; we understand that. God is a God of love, and we are also to be people who are defined by love. The love of God, the love of the believers, is a theme throughout Scripture that we’re very familiar with.
If you go into the Old Testament, you will also find that God is a God who hates as well as loves. Psalm 97:10 says, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord.” That sets the standard. If you love the Lord, there are things you must hate, right? I mean, love defines an attitude toward one that is unique; and anything that is in opposition to that is to be hated by the very nature of love.
Psalm 119:104, “From Your precepts,” the psalmist says, “I get understanding; therefore I hate every evil way.” Psalm 119:113, “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.” Psalm 119:128, “I esteem all Your precepts,” but “I hate every false way.” And then again in that same psalm, verse 163, “I hate and despise lies, falsehood; I love Your law.”
The absolute love of God demands an absolute hate of the things that God cannot love. God does hate. In fact in Proverbs—a couple of weeks ago we mentioned this, and I’ll just pick it up again for a moment—chapter 6 of Proverbs and verse 16. Listen to these words: “There are six things which the Lord hates, which the Lord hates,” and it begins with “a proud look,” and then “a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,” and “a heart that devises wicked plans,” and “feet that run rapidly to evil,” and “a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
There are plenty of things that God hates. Malachi 2:16 says God hates divorce. Isaiah 61:8 says God hates wickedness, just categorically. Same thing in Hosea 9:15. In Jeremiah 44, verses 3 and 4, God hates idolatry, the worship of anything or anyone other than Himself. Amos 5:21 God says, “I hate hypocrisy.” Revelation 2, God hates false religion.
God is a God of love, which necessitates that He hates anything that is in contradistinction to those things He loves. The more you love God, the more you hate those things that dishonor Him. The more you love God, the more you hate those things that oppose Him. The more you love God, the more you hate those things that blaspheme His name.
We are called to love, but we’re also called not to love. Go back to verse 15 of 1 John 2: “Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world.” This is the love God hates, that John wants us to understand. Yes, we are to be defined by loving God; go back to chapter 2, verse 5: “Whoever keeps His word”—that’s obedience—“in him the love of God has truly ben perfected. By this we know that we’re in Him.” So we are to love God. Verse 10, we are to love one another: “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light.”
Yes, we are to love God; yes, we are to love each other. But there is also a negative: We are not to love the world. That is not where our affections should lie. If you go over to 1 John chapter 4 and verse 4, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” which is to say there’s a Person in you, and there’s a different person in the world. And we know who these persons are: In you is the Holy Spirit; in the world is Satan.
Those who are from the world “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.” The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit; the spirit of error, Satan and all his minions.
So there is a clear distinction in the kingdoms—we talked about this months ago. The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light share no common ground. In chapter 5 John says in verse 4, “Whoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. And who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
We have overcome the world. We are distinct from the world. The world doesn’t listen to us. We can’t expect to weigh in with the world and get them to do what we think they should do. With all the political might that “right-wing Christians” might want to amass, the world by definition belongs to Satan and doesn’t listen to the truth. We’re not of the world. We have been delivered from the world, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
All of that to say, we should expect nothing from the world. If it grants us occasionally, or even for a time in history, some measure of respect, if it has some measure of regard for the Word of God or for what we call Christian morality, that is an anomaly; that is not to be expected. Eventually the world is going to act like the world; it’s going to be manifestly what it is. So we go back to the command at the beginning of verse 15: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.”
Now I want to give you several reasons why we are commanded not to love the world. Number one: Because of what it is, because of what it is. It is the world. Now the world could mean several things—kosmos is the term. It could refer to the physical world. Acts 17:24 we know says God “made the world, the kosmos, and everything in it.” And we are to see that creation and give Him glory, right?
So it’s not that world that we are to hate; that world is a common grace, that is a gift of God. The heavens and the rest of creation declare His glory. We can love the expression of God in the world; and as believers, we should do that. That’s why it’s so important not to believe in evolution—because you can’t give a nameless, impossible credit for the magnificence of the physical creation to an equation that says nobody times nothing equals everything. That’s insanity. The physical world should be appreciated, and it should be given a measure of affection because it is testimony to the grandeur and the glory of the majesty of God. We can love His creation.
We can love the human world. In fact God even loves the human world. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” In chapter 2 of 1 John and verse 2, “We have an Advocate”—verse 1—“Jesus Christ the righteous,” who’s “the propitiation,” or the satisfaction, “for our sins; not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” “God so loved the world, that He gave His Son.” So the world that we are permitted to love and should love is the created world, and we should give God the glory for the magnificence of His creation.
Nothing irritates me more than to hear somebody talk about Mother Nature. There is no Mother Nature. God deserves all the glory and all the credit. And if you want to know how the whole universe was created, read the first two chapters of Genesis, and that’s it. And there was only one eyewitness, and that was God; and that’s the only account we have.
You say, “Well what about science?” Science has nothing to say about creation, absolutely nothing, because it wasn’t a scientific event explainable by continuously operating, functioning rules. It was a miracle. It was a miracle beyond all other miracles because out of nothing He created an entire universe. What kind of miracle is that? You can’t explain it by science; that’s ridiculous. But you can give God glory for His creation. And when you acknowledge God as the Creator, then you have to acknowledge God as the Lawgiver because part of that creation is the sense of what is right and wrong. That’s why men run from God as the Creator—not because they don’t like the idea that a god created, but they don’t like idea that that God is their judge.
So if we can love the physical world in the sense that we see its beauty and give God glory for it, and if we are called to love the human world as God Himself does, and went to the degree that He actually sent His Son into the world, John 1:10, “He was in the world, the world was made by Him, the world knew Him not.” He came into the world He loved. We are to follow that pattern. He came because He loved, and we are to love that world of humanity as well.
So what is the world we’re supposed to hate? It isn’t the created world, it isn’t the human world; it is the spiritual system of evil that operates in the physical realm. It is the system of evil that is opposed to God. That is a world in itself.
And we use the term “world” that way even in English. We could talk about—I could say “the world,” and you might think I meant the planet. I could say “the world,” and you might think I meant the population. Or I could say “the world,” and you might think I mean the world of sports or the world of economics or the world of education. It simply means a system, a kosmos as opposed to a chaos. A chaos is disorder, a kosmos is order—some kind of ordered system. There’s a physical system, there’s a human system, and there is a sinful, satanically dominated, evil system.
Listen to the words of our Lord in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you’re not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” Understand that. You’re starting off with the wrong assumption if you think that you can get the world to love you or to admire your suggestions for how they ought to operate.
In Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in John 17, verse 14, He said, “I have given them Your word”—speaking of the apostles—“and the world has hated them, because they’re not of the world, even as I’m not of the world.” So what John is saying to us is, “You can’t love the world because of what it is. It is a system of evil completely in opposition to everything that God desires.”
We use the word “world” in that way. So does John. John says in chapter 5 of 1 John, verse 19—really a comprehensive, amazing statement: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies”—literally, “lies in the evil one.” Who is running the world, the system? The evil one. Unsaved people are called children of the world in Luke 16:8. We are children of God.
First John 4, you might take a look at that: “Beloved, do not believe”—verse 1—“every spirit, test the spirits to see whether they’re from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The system is literally filled with liars. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” This is a clear and significant distinction.
Jesus, in John 12:31, called Satan the prince of this world. Satan involves the whole human race of unregenerate people in his evil system. Listen to Ephesians 2:2: Before you were saved you were operating, verse 2, “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.” You were living “in the lusts of your flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
When you understand what the world system is, it should lower your expectations of them doing anything that would please the church of Jesus Christ. Why would we expect it? The world is not our home. Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is”—where?—“in heaven.”
“The spirit of antichrist”—1 John 4:3—“already in the world.” “The world”—chapter 4, verse 1—is loaded with liars and “false prophets.” And the world can’t relate to us because we’re the children of God. The world and the people of God are two completely incompatible realities. First John 3:13, John sort of sums it up: “Don’t be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”
So where am I going with this? What is beginning to happen to us is what we should be expecting. It’s what we should be expecting. The world will not listen to the truth; it listens to liars. They’re of the world, therefore they speak of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. We have overcome the world, and in that sense we live in a different domain, a different kingdom. Our citizenship is in heaven.
The very nature of the world sets it in violent opposition to the kingdom of God. The world is hostile to God. Just mark it: It is hostile by nature to God, the true God. It is hostile to Christ. It is hostile to godliness. That’s why Jesus, in that statement in John 17:9, said the world is so defined and so deeply steeped in its own identity that He said, “I pray not for the world.” What a statement. “I pray not for the world.” Jesus gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present world. Peter talks about the inherent pollution of the world.
So the world—that is the society, how people think and function, the complex of their ideologies, their viewpoints, and their behaviors—is hostile to God, hostile to Christ, hostile to the gospel, hostile to the truth, hostile to godliness. It is dominated, as John says if you look at verse 16, by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life.” It is dominated by carnal ambition. It is dominated by pride. It is dominated by greed. It is dominated by 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. This system of rebellion against God is run by Satan and set up on earth as the very antithesis to the kingdom and the church of Jesus Christ. So Christian, “Do not love the world.”
Now what does the word “love” mean? Well it’s identifying love at the highest level. The Greek verb agapaō means the ascendant kind of love, the highest kind of love. To love the world is to give the world affections that it’s not worthy to receive. It is to let the world possess and govern your soul, or govern your expectations, or determine the pursuits of your life. This can’t be true of a Christian. We do not, we cannot, we must not assume that there’s any redeeming virtue in loving the world in regard to its system.
The system of the world is well defined—and I go to this text a lot—in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, where I think this is a very clear definition. Verse 5 of 2 Corinthians 10, as we go out with the truth, “we are destroying speculations”—that’s ideas, logismos: ideas, thoughts, philosophies, psychologies, theories, religions, any set of ideologies—“and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we’re taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
So what is ministry? It is going into all the lies, all of the fabrications, all of the deceptions that basically make up the world system organized by Satan, and bringing the truth to bear so that we can liberate people and bring every thought captive to Christ. That’s delivering people from the darkness to the light, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
So we don’t love the world because of what it is. And by saying, “Don’t love the world”—don’t give it your affections; it doesn’t deserve them. And that means don’t give it your preoccupations. Don’t expect anything more than what you would know the world would deliver; and that would be, it would deliver what its leader wants. And who is its leader? Satan. So why would you expect anything less? I will confess to you that Satan is subtle. And Satan doesn’t want everybody to understand his strategies totally, so there can be a modicum of him covering the real, dastardly wickedness with some measure of civil behavior. But underlying everything is Satan and blasphemy.
So we don’t love the world because of what it is. Secondly, we don’t love the world because of who we are. Let’s go back to verse 12—of who we are. “I’m writing to you, little children, because your sins have been 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 have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have 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, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
We don’t love the world because of what the world is and because of who we are. We have overcome the world—we already read that—and now he says in overcoming the world, we have overcome the evil one. This is a really incredible portion of Scripture because it tells us, back in verse 12, that we’re all children. We’re all children of God because our sins have been forgiven. That was given to us, that gift of forgiveness and redemption and justification, and along with it came adoption—and we became the children of God by adoption as well as regeneration. So totally we are God’s children; we’re no longer the children of the devil, that Jesus referred to in John 8.
Now as God’s children we fall into three categories—notice them there—there are fathers, there are young men, and there are little children. So in verse 13 he talks about fathers at the end of the verse. And then he talks about children just before that, and he refers to young men in verse 14. In verse 14, he talks about fathers and young men.
Let me sum it up this way; it’s pretty simple: As Christians, we are all children of God. Some of us are infants, and that is the point that he’s making at the end of verse 13: “I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” That’s spiritual Dada—some of us are brand-new believers, and we just know the Father. We don’t know much other than the Father. You know you’ve been regenerated, you’ve been born again. God is your Father, Christ is your Savior and Redeemer. You don’t know much more than that. You have a lot of vulnerability. Why? Because children tend to be “tossed to and fro and carried about by”—what?—“every wind of doctrine” because you don’t have the strength to protect yourself. You don’t have the discernment.
So it’s easy for children to get sucked off into some false form of Christianity or some weak form of Christianity. And there are these large places called megachurches where you have, many cases, very, very weak children who have come to Christ and who are in the family of God but lack discernment; and so they are drawn out by every wind of doctrine that blows by, and they’re like a child crawling on the floor that sticks anything and everything into its mouth. You want to get out of that stage as fast as you possibly can; and that’s why you’re here. I don’t know where that came from. Thank you.
So he then says, “I’m writing to you, young men.” When you become a spiritual young man, in verse 13 it says, “You’ve overcome the evil one.” “You mean as a believer I can reach a place where I have overcome the evil one?” Yes. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean you’re never going to sin because sin comes from your fallen nature. But what it means is you reach a place where you’re no longer deceived by false doctrine. That’s what he says in verse 14: Young men “are strong” because “the word of God abides in you,” OK?
As you go from being an infant—sticking everything in your mouth, led to and fro by every wind of doctrine—to being a spiritual young man, it means you now understand the truth, and you can defend yourself against Satan’s lies. You’re not going to all of a sudden walk out into a cult because you’re strong in the Word; and you’ve overcome the evil one in the sense that the evil one operates as a liar—right?—and a deceiver. And all of his agents are liars and deceivers, Paul said. So you can reach a point in your spiritual life where your doctrine is sound, and you can defend yourself and protect yourself. And that’s what it is to be a strong spiritual young man. And then you love sound doctrine, and you want to fight the cults because you understand the truth; and you’re not vulnerable anymore to his lies.
But that’s not the end of the spiritual pattern. He says, verse 14, “I’ve written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.” What is that? As a child you’re vulnerable because you lack discernment. As a young man you’re strong, and you’ve overcome the evil one in the sense that you no longer are tempted by lies and deception because your doctrine is solid and sound from the Word of God. That’s not the end of your journey—you want to go past the theology to knowing God. “You know the Father.” This is spiritual maturity, where it’s not just your theology, it’s your walk with God that has ascended to a level of intimacy and joy and understanding that transcends even your theology. Spiritual father.
So this is us. We are God’s children. Some of us are babies, and some of us are spiritual young men who’ve overcome the wicked one, and some of us are spiritual fathers—I love this phrase—who “knows Him who is from the beginning.” You have a grasp of the realities of the eternal God and His nature. This is who we are. That has nothing to do with the world.
No one defined in those verses as part of that family could love the world. How could you possibly love the world? It’s not possible. And that’s why he says, back to 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.” If the love of the Father is in you, you can’t love the world. But it seems as though we get seduced into expecting more out of the world than we ought to. They’re just behaving exactly the way Scripture expects them to behave. We’re in the family of God; we don’t love the world or the stuff in the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This is utterly inconsistent with being a Christian.
So you ask yourself, “How do I know if I’m a true believer?” If you long for any books more than the Word of God, if you love any songs more than those that give honor to Christ, if you love any people more than believers, any fellowship more than the church, if you love any activity more than worship, if you love any effort more than service to Christ, if you seek any reward more than “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you are being seduced. That why Paul says, “Set your affection on things above”—right?—Colossians 3. Don’t let the world—Romans 12:2—don’t let the world force you into its mold. Don’t be seduced.
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. And let’s dig a little deeper. What does it do? It incites to sin; it is designed that way. It is designed that way by its ruler, Satan, and verse 16 makes it clear: “For all that is in the world,”—this is a complete statement, comprehensive coverage—“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.”
So what is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life? It is simply the categories in which the world sets out to tempt you. This is what the world does. The Christian will not habitually love the world because it opposes God, and it is designed to tempt you. It is designed to tempt you toward pornography, immorality, lies, deception, racial hatred—name it, anything—division. It just wants to incite you. It opposes God; it generates sin. It is as impossible for the love of the world to coexist with love for God, as impossible as it is for light to coexist with darkness.
“Stop loving the world.” That’s a present imperative. “Stop loving the world”; it is utterly inconsistent. All its treasures, all its pleasures, all its honors, all its powers, all its positions, all its wealth, all its wisdom, all its education, all its philosophy—all of it is of the world and designed to seduce you.
Chapter 3 of 1 John, verse 17, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees a brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Just to mention that this world has its goods, and some of them can be useful if they’re used, obviously, for kingdom purposes. But in general we have no affection or no reason to think that the world is offering us anything that would advance our Christian life and testimony.
If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. All the world does is incite sin. That’s what its entertainment is designed to do. That’s what its education is designed to do. That’s what its politics are designed to do. That’s what its philosophies are designed to do. Back to verse 16: “All that is in the world . . . is not from the Father.” “All . . . is not from the Father.”
Now when Eve was tempted back in Genesis 3, Satan came, and she saw the fruit, and she saw that it was pleasant to see, that it was good to eat, and that it would make her like God. That was the temptation. Those are the three gateways to sin: the lust of the eyes (it looked good), the lust of the flesh (she thought it would taste good), and it would make her wise. So you have the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. From Genesis 3 we know what the gateway is going to be.
Let’s talk about the lust of the flesh for a moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean only your body, this means your fallenness. The basic remnants of your sinful nature, that will be with you until we are transformed, is a beachhead for sin; and it’s very easy for you to be twisted and perverted at the level of your fallen flesh. God provides food and gives you a mechanism called hunger so you survive. But hunger, when perverted, becomes gluttony. Thirst, when perverted, becomes drunkenness. Weariness, when perverted, becomes laziness. Sex, when perverted, becomes immorality.
And the works of the flesh, what are they? We can see them in Galatians 5. This is very instructive. Galatians 5:19, “The deeds of the flesh”—here they are: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions”—does that sound familiar? Does that sound like what you’ve seen for the last year and a half?—“envying”—class envy, ethnic envy—“drunkenness, carousing,”—wild, raucous in the streets—“and things like these, of which I warn you, just as I have forewarned you, those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” You’re watching, in our social decomposition of this nation, “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions”—all of it. That’s how the world operates.
Very different from the next few verses: “The fruit of the Spirit is”—what?—“love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.” So there’s the contrast between the world and the church. Anything that is driven to satisfy your fleshly lusts, your sinful lusts, comes from the kingdom of darkness. You can’t love the world when that is what it does.
Secondly, the lust of the eyes. “I see it, I want it.” If this is not the most severe case of “I see it, I want it” in human history. You not only can see it and want it, you can have it delivered in 24 hours. We are bewitched. Lot’s wife saw it and wanted it, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Achan saw it and wanted it, and was stoned to death. Samson saw it and wanted it, lost his life. David saw it and wanted it, disastrous immorality. Psalm 119:37 gives us very important instruction: “Turn away your eyes from beholding vanity. Turn away your eyes from beholding vanity.” The world is designed, and all its mechanisms are designed, to allure you through the impulses of your flesh and through your eyes.
I remember, when I was a kid, a line that stuck in my mind for some reason. Some guy was selling a car on television, and he said, “Feast your eyes on that little beauty.” I don’t think a car salesman would say that anymore, it’s a little archaic. But that is exactly what lust of the eyes is—it’s feasting your eyes of some temporal pleasure, appealing to your baser desires. The lust of the eyes may be a little bit more acceptable and a little bit more sophisticated than the lust of the flesh. But you can be seduced by what you see, and what you see can soon go from being the lust of your eyes to being the lust of your flesh.
Thirdly, the pride of life—boastful pride, alazonei. This is the one who is pretentious. This is the egotism that is so much a part of our culture from decades and decades of the self-esteem occult, and then educators telling kids they can be anything they want to be. I want to tell you something: You can’t. If you’re slow, you’ll die slow. If you’re dumb, you’ll die dumb. If you can’t do math, you’ll die without being able to do math. You cannot do anything that you want to do. I’m sorry to tell you that; I know that is a terrible disappointment. But those kinds of lies turn people into maniacs trying to achieve something for their own exaltation that is in a category that is not realistic.
The pride of life, it touches every area of life. You want to have a life that’s on display, you want to show off your life. Does the Internet feed that? Does social media feed that? Pride destroys everything because it debases everyone else. It destroys all relationships because relationships only survive when people are selfless.
So there are three springs of evil in the system of the world: sensuality, covetousness, and pride. Sensuality is the corruption of the lower part of man’s being, the unlawful gratification of his bodily desires. Covetousness is the corruption of a higher part, a corruption of a lawful appreciation for beauty that becomes an unlawful abuse. Pride is the corruption of the even higher part, the highest part of man, his very being. And the ultimate corruption is self-exaltation.
So you go from the lowest, gratification of your bodily desire (which is usually something you do in private), to covetousness (which is possessing something you see with your eyes that you don’t mind sharing with other people; that’s kind of the point), up to the highest level, where all you want to do is exalt yourself. So you go from the reality that Satan wants you to do things you have to hide, he wants you to do things you get to share, and he wants you to do things that elevate you above everyone else. By sensuality we sink to a level lower than the animals. By pride we rise to a high level to compete with God. That’s how the devil fell—he was lifted up with pride. Listen, this is what the world does, this is what it does.
So we don’t love the world because of what it is (it is Satan’s kingdom), because of who we are (we are God’s family), because of what it does (it seduces us to sin). And one final point: We don’t love the world because of where it is going, verse 17.
Some of you are saying, “I can’t wait till the next election.” I’ve got news for you: It’s not going to be any different. It’s still the world. So here’s what you ought to be looking for: “The world is passing away,” and when it goes, “its lusts” go also. Don’t hook your wagon to that; that is a losing strategy. That’s a losing strategy. Why—why waste your energy when the world is passing away, paragetai? It is disintegrating. It is falling apart. It is in the process of dissolution because it’s rotten top to bottom, side to side, front to back. It will self-destruct, because the death principle is fully operative at every possible point. It carries about within it its own destruction. And then you add to it the destruction that God will bring.
Second Thessalonians chapter 2 describes that destruction. There will come a time when the Lord comes, and He will smash, of course, the Antichrist “with the breath of His mouth”—chapter 2, verse 8—“by the appearance of His coming; the one whose coming was in accord with the activity of Satan, the power and signs and false wonders, and all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send on them a deluding influence so they will believe what is false”—sound familiar?—“in order that they all may be judged who didn’t believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” The Lord is coming.
Chapter 1 describes what that’s going to look like. “When”—verse 8 of chapter 1, or verse 7—“the Lord will 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. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” We’re waiting for Him to come. And this world is in the process of disintegration.
Peter gives us even more detail. Second Peter chapter 3, verse 10: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, the earth and its works will be burned up.” Not only will the system be judged because people don’t believe, as Paul said to the Thessalonians, but the creation itself is going to go out of existence. It’s going to go out of—what you have in 2 Peter 3:10 is an implosion. You have an uncreation. You have literally an atomic event by the power of God that ends with the universe going completely out of existence. You say, “Well what then?” Verse 13, a new heaven and a new earth, “in which righteousness dwells.”
So John says, “The world is passing away; you’re not.” Verse 17: “The one who does the will of God lives”—what?—“forever.” Don’t expect anything from the world, and you won’t be disappointed. First Corinthians 7:31 Paul said this: “The schēma, the scheme, the system of this world is passing away.” “But he that does the will of God abides forever.”
So we don’t love the world—because of what it is, because of who we are, because of what it does, and because of where it’s going. But we love the kingdom, right? And we love the King, and we love each other. Our passion has to be that while we don’t love the system, like God we love the people, right? And they are the ones who need to hear the gospel.
Father, we thank You for Your Word, which opens up to us the truth on every pertinent issue. Thank You for unfolding in such clear, direct, unmistakable terms, the distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil, between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, between those who are headed for eternal destruction and those who are headed for eternal bliss, between the world and the church. The world is a preview of hell; the church is a preview of heaven. Help us, Lord, to invest all that we have in the church, to seek righteousness and virtue and godliness and obedience, and show compassion to those who are in the perishing system. Give us the strength to fight its seductions. May we grow strong in the Word so that we can overcome the evil one. Give us that kind of victory that will allow us to live lives that make the gospel attractive, that put Christ’s glory and power on display.
Thank You for these precious people, for their faithfulness. Thank You, Lord, for the work You’re doing in their lives, miracle upon miracle, thousands and thousands of miracles of regeneration and sanctification going on right before us even this morning. Thank You for all the little children that are here that are being taught the gospel, taught to love You and not love the world. Thank You for young people, for every age group, every person.
We know life is hard; there are struggles and huge disappointments. But help us, Lord, not to expect that the world will give us anything, but also to know that You use the difficulties, the harshness of the world, to perfect us, to deepen the strength of our faith, to equip us through trial to be able to help others. So may we see Your good hand even in the hard times and know that this doesn’t come from the world, this comes from heaven. Even a thorn in our flesh is to humble us so that we can be more useful and more Christlike. So may we not love the world; but as we live in the world and suffer because we’re in the world but not of the world, lead us even through those sufferings to the patience that matures us to the glory of Christ. And we pray it in His name. Amen.
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