Did you hear the story about the boy who was roughhousing with the family dog a little too much, as boys are apt to do? So his mother corrected him. “Michael,” she said to him, “I know you love Farley a lot, but you’re loving him too much! How would you feel if someone big picked you up and squeezed the breath out of you?” “Let’s see,” Michael said, thinking for a moment. “I guess I’d feel like it was my birthday and Aunt Doreen was here!”
For the past few studies, we have been learning about love—its power, its importance, and the positive impact it has on others. We learned, for example, that love is now new in emphasis, new in example, and new in our experience because of the great love with which Jesus loves us. John puts it like this in his gospel. “Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” And that’s true of you as well! Jesus loves you with an infinite and everlasting love that made Him go to the cross for us, so that every sin you have ever committed could be forgiven.
And yet, now in the midst of all this talk about love, John shifts gears on us and warns us that there’s a kind of love which is dangerous and God hates. And the reason He does so is because He’s a jealous God and refuses to share our love with anyone or anything that could hurt us.
I call it the Demas Disorder. Have you come across his name in your Bible reading? There isn’t much said about him, but what is said about him you don’t want said about you. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is suffering alone in prison so first he urges Timothy, “Make every effort to come to me soon.” But then he gives the reason in verse 10: “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Demas is remembered as the man who turned his back on Paul just when he needed him most. And he did so because he loved the world more than he loved Jesus.
That’s a spiritual disease you don’t want to catch. John talks about it in chapter 2 of his letter, if you’ll open your Bible there now. If you’re looking for it, 1 John is a little letter near the end of your Bible, and in this study I’m continuing the series I call “Living the Life.” This time we’re in chapter 2, 1 John 2, verses 15 to 17—just 3 verses, but 3 of the most important and most quoted verses in the Bible. Let me begin by reading it, and then I want to come back and look at 3 reasons why a God of love would say that He hates this particular kind of love.
This is from the NASB. John says: “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.”
I find 3 reasons, then, why John in a spirit of love warns us not to love this present world, and the first reason is—
1. Because of What the World Is Like
There are 3 principal ways John uses the word “world” in his writings. Sometimes he uses it of the physical world God created as he does in John 1:10, where he says, referring to Jesus, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him.” Other times he uses it for the people of the world as in John 3:16 where he says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” But that isn’t how he uses it our passage because as Christians we’re told to love everyone in the world, just as God loves them. And we’re also to appreciate the majesty of His creation. As the old hymn puts it, “This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet!”
So in what sense does John forbid us to love the world? He’s referring to the spiritual system of unbelief that opposes God and permeates every system of man on earth: the political system, the news media, the educational system, the entertainment industry, the scientific community. It’s the same thing he refers to in 1 John 5:19 where he says, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” How does the evil one enlist the world to join him in his war against God? Let me suggest 4 ways:
1) He tries to convince us that it’s foolish to believe in the God of the Bible. Of course, the world thinks it’s reasonable to believe in a god of your own making but not the one true God—not the God of the Bible. So our children sit in science classes listening to teachers explain how the world came into being through chance plus billions of years of time and evolution, and if one of them dares ask the question, “Doesn’t the Bible say God created the world in 6 days,” they are apt to get laughed out of the classroom! Visit the Grand Canyon and you’ll be told that what you see is the result of millions of years of erosion, not the great flood of Noah as described by the Bible. And as for Jesus being the only way to God? A loving God would never encourage us to be that narrow!
2) The world tells us is marriage is not sacred. Pornography and adultery are now an accepted part of life thanks to the entertainment industry. As I heard the old radio preacher J. Vernon McGee say in a message, “Hollywood hasn’t had a single new idea since sex was invented.” Its campaign today of course is to make homosexuality as accepted as adultery. Eric McCormick the star of “Will and Grace” said this about his TV show. “When little old women say, ‘I hope he finds a nice man,’ I’ll know we’ve been successful.” In other words, he wasn’t doing the show just to earn a living; he was doing it to change our view of homosexuality.
And in large part, they’ve been successful. According to a Reuters news survey, 85% of high school seniors now believe that being gay is OK and almost as many say that gay marriage is acceptable. I’m no hater. But I think all the anger over gay marriage, which only affects 2% of the population (Most studies say that only 2% of the population is homosexual), isn’t really about gay couples being denied their civil rights. I know very few people who want to do that. I think it’s just another campaign by the world to challenge the authority of the God. And that’s the third way the world is in league with the devil.
1) The world tells us to question the authority of God. The devil has challenged God’s authority from the very beginning, recruiting 1/3 of the angels when in his rebellion. But he didn’t stop there. Next he enlisted our parents, asking them, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the Garden?’” Eve naively explained, “No, we can eat from any tree we want as long as we don’t eat from this one in the middle of the garden. God says if we eat from it, we’ll die.” “You will surely not die!” the devil lied. In other words, “Don’t take God at His word. Question His authority no matter what form it takes!”
He continues to say the same thing today. “Don’t trust anyone God puts in authority!” If you doubt that, ask yourself. When was the last time I watched a TV sitcom where the father was pictured as wise, responsible, and worthy of trust? That isn’t the way the world views authority. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” we were told back in the 1960s, and shame on us, many of us bought into that. And as a result, our culture is now coming apart at the seams, because authority is the structure by which God holds a society together.
4) The world tells us the world can satisfy us. Become the next American Idol, the Sole Survivor, win the Amazing Race, and you’ll find the happiness you want. The problem is it rarely materializes. One example is Jack Whittaker, a hard-working Christian businessman from West Virginia who raised a loving family and built a $6 million business as a contractor. Then he bought a lottery ticket, won $315 million, and everything in his life went sideways. First, he gave away tens of millions of dollars to churches and charities, and then the frivolous lawsuits began. Jack started to drink to cope with the stress, was arrested for drunk driving, separated from his wife, robbed twice, had his bank account hacked, and finally lost his teenage granddaughter to a drug overdose. His conclusion 10 years later: “I wish I’d torn the ticket up!”
So how do we overcome these lies of the evil one and survive in this wicked world? Well, sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and I think that’s the case here. The first thing to recognize is as a child of God, this world is not your natural habitat. I think a good analogy is scuba diving, in that you and I are not naturally equipped to live under the water. So what do we have to do if we want to breathe? We have to take our oxygen with us. And the same thing is true of the Christian who wants to survive in this wicked world. The first thing to do is to take advantage of all the resources our Heavenly Father gives us for spiritual breathing—like the Word of God, prayer, and the fellowship of other Christians. Because without those things, we don’t stand a chance of survival!
But there’s also a second thing we need to do, and that’s to learn how to counteract the lies of the evil one. And that’s what my second major point in this study. The first reason we must not love the world is because of what the world is like. The second reason is—
2. Because of How the World Deceives Us
John says there are 3 major tactics the world uses to lead us away from Christ. All 3 are found in verse 16 where John says this, “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 first lure is the lust of the flesh. This has to do with our physical appetites—food, sex, drink, sleep—whatever brings pleasure to the body, not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself. The Bible says that God gives us richly all things to enjoy, but not in excess or in violation of the guidelines He’s given for using them. Some people will say, “That’s just how God made me. He made me with this craving for food or sex or whatever they’re fighting. But that isn’t true. God didn’t make us like that. Sin made us like that and rather than be overcome by it, God offers to deliver us from it through faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, man was originally created with body, soul and spirit, but because of the sin passed onto us by our parents, we were born with the roof caved in and without the spiritual part that makes it possible to fellowship with God. That’s what it means when it says we were dead in our sins. By the way, the house was also flipped upside down, so what the natural man cares about are not the things of God, but the desires of his body. When we’re born again through faith in Christ, our spirits are made alive again and we’re able to fellowship with God for the first time, but our bodies remain unredeemed until we’re taken up in glory. So that’s what the world appeal to—the lust of the flesh.
The second thing we must fight is “the lust of the eyes.” This is an appeal to our love of beautiful things: beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful bodies! Again nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty God made unless it makes us covet the beautiful things others have – like their wife or husband, their home, their clothes, their car, their boat, their vacation home – because at that point we’ve crossed the line and let them take God’s place in our affections.
The world’s third tactic is “the boastful pride of life.” This is an appeal to ambition. Again, nothing wrong with ambition itself. Without it, nothing on earth would ever get done! The question is: Why are we ambitious? Are we doing it out of love for Christ and others? Or are we doing it to impress others and boast about what we’ve done?
By the way, have you ever noticed that the serpent used these same devices with our parents in the Garden? Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), and that it was a delight to the eyes (lust of the eyes) and that the tree was desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she took from its fruit and ate and she gave also to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Notice Adam was right there with her when she was sinned and could have stopped her at any point, but he didn’t because he was tempted just as she was and just as we are today.
So how do we gain the victory over these things? Jesus is our example in everything, for the Bible says He was tempted in all points just we are and yet without sin! The devil said to Him, “Are you hungry? Turn this stone into bread.” That’s the lust of the flesh. Then he took Him to a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and said to Him, “All this I’ll give to you if you bow down and worship me.” That’s the lust of the eye. And finally He took Him to the pinnacle of the Temple and said, “If you really are the Son of God (that’s the pride of life), cast yourself down and God will save you!”
But Jesus withstood each one of these temptations. How? He not only quoted Scripture, He also believed it and submitted His life to it! “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” “And it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And that’s how we must do it too—not only by knowing and quoting Scripture, but by believing it and submitting our lives to it.
There are 3 reasons we must not love the world: Because of what the world is like, because of how the world deceives us, and reason #3 –
3. Because of Where the World Is Headed
Verse 17 concludes: “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” John is describing the disintegration of the world as we know it. That’s what the word “passing away” means.” And based on 2 Peter 3 and other passages in the Bible, we know that the present universe will “pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” And what will follow in its place is a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
But as true as that is, that isn’t exactly what John is talking about here. What he’s talking about isn’t the destruction of the created world. He’s talking about the destruction of Satan’s kingdom and all the systems of this world that he’s co-opted and turned against God. In other words, he’s guaranteeing that one day soon Lucifer and all his demons who have tempted and tormented us for so long will be cast into the lake of fire and that all the false religions of the world and those who promote them will come to an end, as well as anything else that challenges the glory of God. His kingdom will come and His will shall finally be done on earth as it is in heaven.
A good analogy I came across is the ice hotel of Kemi, Finland. Anyone ever stayed there? It seems that every year the Finns, who can’t get enough of winter, flock to the town of Kemi for the opening of a sprawling ice castle, 250,000 square feet in size and featuring a restaurant, an art gallery, a wedding chapel, 20 five-star hotel rooms, and a theater that seats 3,000 and hosts rock concerts, operas, musicals, and other events. All of this takes 3 months and millions of dollars to carve out of solid ice. But here’s the kicker! It melts away every year in mid-April. And I think that’s a good illustration of where all the pride, lust, and ambition of this world is headed. They’re about to pass away in the twinkling of an eye and never be found again.
“The earth shall soon dissolve like snow; the sun forbear to shine. But God who called me here below will be forever mine.”
I finish with the story of this man. Do you recognize him? His name is George Beverly Shea, an aspiring young singer in the 1920s who lived with his parents in Houghton, New York and due to financial problems had to drop out of college and take a job as a desk clerk. But he never gave up his dream of singing. In fact, he continued singing for both churches and Christian radio stations all over the New York area. Then one day he was discovered and offered a job singing with the Lynn Murray Singers who had a nationwide radio program. There was just one drawback. If he took the job, he couldn’t sing for Jesus any longer.
It was a difficult decision. This was during the great depression and his family needed the money badly. Then one Saturday night his mother—Thank God for mothers!—found a poem written by Rhea Miller and put it on the piano. The next morning Bev Shea read it, a tune popped into his head to go with the words, and that Sunday he sang it for the first time in the church his father pastored. The words helped him make the decision of a lifetime. He turned down the offer to sing on the radio and soon after met a preacher named Billy Graham, and as they say, “the rest is history.” What were the words that changed his life?
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be his than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
Let me ask you. Is that true of you? Do you love Jesus more than anything this world has to offer? Or have you given in to the Demas Disorder? Don’t answer too quickly because this world is more seductive than you may think. As John Wesley the great evangelist put it, “Anything that cools my love for Christ is the world.” Or as John says in our passage, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Honestly ask yourself: Do I love Jesus as much today as I once did? Or have I left my first love for Him? And if it hasn’t been able to cool your love for Him, the second thing it’ll try to do is slow your obedience to Him. So check that too. Am I as eager to do the will of God as I once was. If not, take a moment to pray and make things right with Him now.