Do Not Love the World

Title: Do Not Love the World

Text: 1 John 2:15-17

Time: August 28th, 2011

 

In our study of the Letter of 1st John, we come to a very important passage, especially for us modern people today living in prosperous America. 1 John 2:1-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” There is so much to say here, there’s no way I’ll be able to say everything this morning, but I’ll try as best I can. We’ve all heard of the term “worldliness.” As Christians we run into its usage now and again. We hear scholars and experts say things like, “The Christian church in the present age, generally speaking, is very worldly.” What does that mean? Or we’ll hear people talk and describe someone as “worldly.” What does that mean? Parents often worn their college bound children, “Study hard, but don’t get too worldly.” What does that mean? As Christians, we often hear that there are three main enemies of our souls – the world, the flesh and the Devil. The Devil is easy enough to understand; he’s that fallen angel that led an angelic revolt against God long, long ago, and who today is trying to recruit and tempt humans to join his rebellion against God. And the flesh we understand is our sin nature, our inherited sinful corrupt nature that leads us in the direction of sin and selfishness and away from God; that we understand. But what is “the world?” Well, it can mean a number of different things, and not all the definitions apply to this passage. For example, it can simply mean, the whole world of people on the planet earth. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But what “the world” refers to in our passage today, and what we understand it to mean in connection to “worldliness” is it’s the fallen human system operating that makes sin and selfishness seem normal and that makes God and godliness abnormal. It’s the fallen system of man that makes belief in God difficult, but makes belief in our selves easy to believe. It’s the world system that makes it difficult to pray and read the Bible every day, but makes talking on the telephone and reading the paper everyday easy. It’s popular culture and common sense that makes real Bible faith difficult today, while at the same time making following the crowd and whatever is fashionable easy. It’s a system set against God’s will that we humans find easy to follow; while it makes following God’s will difficult or seemingly difficult. It’s something that the Apostle John wants to warn Christians about. The world is dangerous to our faith and we need to be aware of what it is and how it is harmful to us. We need to know how to avoid becoming “worldly.” Let me make three points from our passage today.

 

First, we’re not to love the world or anything in it. 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Now this does not mean as Christians we can’t love or like certain things in the physical or material world. If we were to read this passage and this command in the strict literal sense we’d be in trouble. It would basically mean we couldn’t love anything about living on the planet earth, the world, or anything on the planet earth. That means we couldn’t love or like hardly anything! You like ice cream? Forget it, John says don’t love anything in the world. You love sunsets or stargazing or hiking in the forest or swimming? Forget it. The Bible says you can’t love the world or anything in it! Obviously, that is not the meaning of the passage, because here John is talking about loving the sinful, fallen, human world system that sets itself against God. We can love life and many different aspects of living. We can love different things that are good and healthy and holy and pure. But we are warned by the Apostle not to love that world system of selfish, sinful humanity that takes us away from God and God’s will. The best illustration I can think of that illustrates worldliness is popular culture, especially television. If you watch television you’ll pick up attitudes and thinking and practices that are worldly. Does that mean Christians can’t watch television? No, but it means we need to be careful that we don’t pick up ways of thinking and reacting and acting that are worldly. Take for example soap operas on television. What an awful display of sinful, corrupt humanity. Look at the popular entertainment industry, the celebrities out in Hollywood. Their lives are so messed up with divorce and cheating on each other and drugs and alcohol, but it all seems so normal, so natural. That’s the world. The world system takes sin and selfishness and makes it appear perfectly natural and normal. In fact, the world looks at a sincere Christian trying to live for God and asks, “What’s your problem?” In other words, the world tries to put pressure on Christians to conform to its corrupt standards. For example, when President Clinton had his extra-marital affair with Monica Lawinski, his approval rating actually went up! Why? Because people could relate to a sinful corrupt person who cheats a little hear and there; who lies a little to escape getting caught. He’s a regular person! That’s the world. And John says to love not that human system or the things that pertain to that sinful, fallen, corrupt human system. What about you? Are you caught up in the world’s system? Do you love things in the world that you shouldn’t love? Do you watch certain television shows you know are dirty that you shouldn’t be watching? Do you love certain songs that encourage you to move away from God rather than towards God? What areas of the world are you attracted to? Maybe it’s time you took an inventory of all that you love that’s worldly. Maybe it’s time you had a thorough housecleaning and throw out all the worldly things in your life.

 

Second, If you love the world, you can’t love God. 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” Here John makes the point even stronger – either love God or love the world, but you can’t have it both ways. Jesus makes a similar ultimatum in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (mammon).” Now part of the world or fallen, sinful world system is materialism. What is materialism? It’s putting too much emphasis and value on money and the things that money can buy. If you look at the world and the people of the world – those people who just go with the flow in life and follow the crowds and do what everyone else is doing – if you look at the world, you’d get the idea that the more money you have the happier you’ll be. Isn’t that the assumption that many or most people operate on? If I can just buy this or that, then I’ll be happy. If I can just get a bigger house or a better car; If I can just change jobs, get more pay, I can buy bigger and better things and be happy. If I can just get rich! Why is economic news what’s talked about most on television, radio and in print in newspapers? Because people are so worried about money and what money can buy. And why are they so worried about money? Because they think it’s their ticket to happiness in this life. Now don’t get me wrong, we need money to live and pay our bills, but it’s not what makes us fulfilled and content and happy. Only God and doing God’s will can ultimately fulfill our deepest needs. Money can’t. Material things won’t. But the world teaches it can, so that’s why it races in the rat race to get it. John says, you can’t put God first if you put the world first. If you follow the crowd, you can’t follow God, because God is often, not always, but most often going a different direction. You must choose. Who or what do you love most? God or the world? Worldly, sinful human motivations like the drive for riches, power, position, prestige, fame, fortune, control and pleasure, will lead you away from God not towards God. You must choose whether you will resist the pull of the world or the crowd or the popular culture. You must make a decision to go God’s way not the way of the world. What about you? Do you just go along with the worldly crowd? Do you conform to the popular culture? It’s easy to do that. But if you do that, you betray Christ. You can’t love God first and then put the worldly crowd first. Do you draw a line in the sand and say, “This is as far as I go with the world, no further?” Or do you just go with the flow and end up wherever the world takes you? We need to have firm convictions about God and resist the world. Just because “everyone” is doing something, doesn’t mean you need to. That’s the world tempting you. We must learn to say. “No.”

 

Third, the world passes away, but those who follow God live forever. 1 John 2:17, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” As an added incentive to resist the pull of the worldly fallen system, the Apostle John reminds us that this sinful, human pop culture peer pressure called the world will eventually pass away. It’s only something that comes about in a fallen, sinful human society on earth. But when Christ returns and establishes his reign on earth, it will pass away. And then ultimately, when the heavenly kingdom comes, the world will pass away because there won’t be any Devil or sin or sinful, corrupt human flesh to feed it. You see, right now our own sinful human corruption and the Devil and demons produce structures and a system in society that is called the world. Each culture produces its own version of worldliness; it’s different in each culture. In our society, in our modern culture, the world shows itself on television, in movies, in popular music, in popular books and magazines, on the Internet, in popular ways of thinking and behaving. For example, today in the United States, it’s becoming more and more accepted to skip Sunday church. That’s worldliness. Instead of praying to God, praising the Lord, hearing God’s Word preached, for example, people more and more are going shopping, reading the paper, watching television, going to the park, taking a ride in the car or visiting friends. So if you just go with the flow on Sunday, if you follow the world, you’ll just skip church. Or if you’re in business, the world says it’s ok to lie and cheat your way to a deal. It’s almost normal now to conduct business like that. Well, that’s wrong, even if it’s accepted in the world. For singles today, the world says it’s ok to have sex before you’re married, everyone is doing it, it’s ok. But Christians have to take a stand and say, “No.” That’s why John says you have to choose, God or the world? You can’t have it both ways, although lots of Christians try to work it both ways. But when push comes to shove you ultimately choose your primary loyalty – either God or the sinful world. Now the really stupid and foolish thing is that this world system that seems so dominant and everywhere, someday it will all fall, but God’s will shall carry on into eternity. You can invest in the temporary world system that is passing away soon, or you can invest your life in God’s eternal kingdom that will carry on into eternity. Sure, there is pleasure in sin for a season; that’s what the Bible says in Hebrews 11:24. Sure you can live a worldly, sinful life. But where will that get you?

 

The world is a very powerful force in our lives. It might be the most powerful force we’ll ever have to face in our lifetime, although the power of our own sinful, corrupt flesh nature is powerful and so is the power of the Devil and demons in the world. But the world system is no doubt a powerful factor that influences us every day. How will we respond to such a threat to our souls? Some churches in the past got real strict and made a lot of rules for members such as no watching movies at a theater or no card playing, for example. Now back in olden days, those rules might have made sense. Card playing was done mostly in bars where they served hard liquor. But today, a lot of those rules sound silly, and many of them are silly. But those Christians back then were trying to resist the world – or in other words, trying not to just follow the world crowd into whatever they were doing. We might not agree with what solutions early Christians came up with, but we all have to figure out what we will do to resist the world. Now other Christians go the opposite direction with the world – they embrace it and forget about resisting it. They talk about being free in Christ and not under the law, yada yada, yada, and so basically just follow the world crowd in whatever it’s doing, yet still hold on to Christianity in some sense. Well, as you can imagine, that’s not a healthy way to go either. What does Solomon say in Proverbs 6:27? “Who can embrace coals without getting burnt?” If we play around with the world, if we flirt with sin and temptation in the world, we are going to get burnt. The so-called prodigal son that Jesus described didn’t end up in the pigpen immediately. No. It says that he took his money and started partying with friends and living fast and wild until it all ran out. Then he found himself in the pigpen. That’s what will happen if we think we can serve God and serve the world; we’ll end up ruining our lives in the process. The temptations of the world are strong. There is great temptation to pursue money and material possessions. There is great pressure to gain for yourself power and position in this world. All the major human motivations Jesus faced in the wilderness as the Devil tempted him, but he rejected all of them. Jesus put the will of his heavenly Father first, and so should we. A good test, besides just following the will of God found in the Bible, is to ask ourselves when we are tempted by some potential worldly thing, “Will this thing bring me closer to God or drive me further away?” That simple test will save us from many heartaches and sorrows. Are you facing a decision today about some worldly temptation? Are you torn between obeying God or obeying the worldly crowd? Now that you know the real dangers of following the worldly crowd, why would you even consider following it? Let’s pray for the power to say “Yes” to God and “No” to the world.

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