Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Like the World -- But Love God - 1 John 2: 15-17

John, the apostle writes about getting real with God. But first we must make a choice. Either we look to God revealed in Christ, or we look to something in this world.  Jesus said in Matthew 6: 24, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Mammon is all the peace, security, pleasure, and influence that money can buy or assist in receiving. It is the world and all we know in this world. 

Loving God requires that we stop loving everything else. This is spiritual marriage. The more we try to love God and the world, the more miserable we become. 

Before we go any farther, we should make sure what John is saying. First, what does he mean by “love”?  

There are several words in Greek for love.  The Greek word sturge means “enjoy.”  If I sturge chocolate ice cream, then I prefer it over other kinds of ice cream. Another word is eros, meaning to consume to possess. If I eros ice cream, I want to eat it. John uses the word agape. Agape means to make a choice to pursue it, and to build my life in seeking it. Eros is a decision to pursue. I may like ice cream and even desire to eat it, but until I’m willing to break my diet for the sake of ice cream, then I don’t love it. I like ice cream but I love health more. 

God doesn’t say we shouldn’t “like” the world. But worldly enjoyment is best found not by pursuit but by accident. We don’t seek the beauty of a sunset—it is just there. Everything God has made in this world has an element of joy and pleasure about it. To love the world is to make a choice to devote our lives to the pursuit of worldly things. If we do not pursue it, then pleasure will come. If we pursue satisfaction in worldly things, then the pleasure will elude us.  

The second word we must define is “world”—cosmos in Greek. Watchman Nee wrote that “world” has three meanings.

The third definition of cosmos is the fallen world—the world controlled by Satan.

Second, it is all the material things-- not just sex and money, but also bunnies, butterflies, and ice cream.

 Third, the “world” is also the worldwide social network, which is any and all human organizations and associations, including countries, schools, sports teams, and clubs as well as churches, families, and Facebook friends.  Even an organization such as the church or a Christian ministry is still part of the world. Churches and families can become idols, too, if they are loved more than God. Anything we exalt above God and serve above God is the world. 

John doesn’t just say don’t love the evil world. Don’t love the good world, either. Satan doesn’t tempt us only with evil, but with good. He wants us to abandon the greater good for the lesser good. In this way, choice by choice, he tempts us progressively with difficult choices that eventually lead us to evil.

We see this in Luke 9: 57-61. Three men wanted to follow Jesus. One turned back when he found out that Jesus had no home, and another turned back to bury his father. The last man turned back to say goodbye to his parents. Jesus did not wait. There’s nothing wrong with having a home, burying your dad or kissing your mother, but all of them are worldly concerns, and God is greater than all. These three picked good things, but they lost the best.

Satan will if he can lead us away from prayer by suggesting that our prayer time would be better spent packing school lunches or walking the dog. He tempts us off our diets not with candy, but with the birthday cake of a dear friend. Later, it gets easier for us to abandon our resolve for worse reasons, but only after we’ve abandon it for some seemingly “good” thing. 

Family can come between you and God.  Your house, your car, your job, your lawn, and even the good things you do for others can come between you and God, because they are all part of the world. Everything that touches your life may become an idol if you love it too much.

Enjoy the world, but just don’t love it. 

Look at another word in verse 16—“desire” or in Greek epithumia. “Lust” is really more accurate. Thumia means “desire.” With the prefix epi it is a strong or overwhelming desire.  We enjoy the things of this world, but when we start following them, then we come under their spell, and lust after them.  At some point, this becomes an overwhelming desire, and we cannot break away from them without great effort and the help of the Holy Spirit.

 I watched a show where two men were testing how to escape from quicksand. Quicksand is ordinary sand, but underneath the ground there is surging water. When you step on it, the sand pushes into the water, liquefies, and creates a suction that pulls you in.

To test this, they filled a large vat filled with sand and put hoses near the bottom, with a run off system for the liquid sand. One of them stood on top. At first, the sand supported him well. But when they turned on the water he immediately sank to his knees, then his hips and finally to his waist. He was trapped. They brought in a crane and tried to pull him out, but not even a crane could move him. The force required to move him would break his legs.

 John says that the world is passing away. He does not mean that it is the end of the world, but that the world underneath its calm exterior is falling apart. Underneath the surface, the world is passing away. When we put our love in worldly things, then we commit to a dying system. We get sucked into it, and it takes us down with it.  At some point, it becomes almost impossible to free ourselves from the downward pull of worldliness. Only by letting go do we have the strength to break the suction into the world.

  “For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John classifies worldly love into three categories. First, there is the “lust of the flesh”—things our body physically craves. These include food, drugs, alcohol, comfort, shelter, and sex. We crave a physical feeling and will do anything to get it. Then there is the “lust of the eyes”—those are the things that give pleasure from watching. These include television, pornography, video games, sports, and the endless search for novelty. It even includes books and learning and the desire to discover the secrets of others. Gossips and busybodies are caught up in the lust of the eyes. Finally, there is the boastful pride of life—this is the insatiable desire for reputation. The desire to be someone important drives our consumer culture. It is this pride that drives us to dominate others.

In Philippians 2, Paul says that Jesus, being God did not act as if he were God, but humbled Himself, taking the form of a servant. How few of us would be satisfied being an anonymous servant!  Yet Jesus took on that role. 

By humbling Himself, Jesus never became trapped in pride and worldliness. It is impossible for worldly pride and ambition to ruin the lives of people who really don’t care.  All that mattered to Jesus was that He did the will of His father, not that He looked good in the eyes or the world, or received any reward for it.  The more we love the Father, then the less appeal the world will have for us.

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Trusting in Him is the most important thing in the world. But the first step to coming to Jesus is to let go of the world, and not just the bad things in the world, but the good things as well.  We must let go of our pride, self-assurance, egotism, lusts, desires, and false hopes in deliverance through worldly things and methods. 

There’s a story about a man who fell off a building. Halfway down, he grabbed hold of a flagpole sticking out of the side of the building.  He shouted to the heavens, “Help, is there anyone up there?”

God answered from heaven. “Yes son. Do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Then let go of the pole.”
“Help!” he cried. “Is there anyone else there?
That’s us. We must let go of what we know and trust a God we cannot see. Satan doesn’t need bad things to tempt us away from God if good things can work as well. Jesus will save us, but first we must let go.

 “Do not love the world, or the things of the world. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us.”


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