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1 John 2:15-17: The love of my life!

Marlena and I have been married for over sixty years! She is still the love of my life. People often ask, “What’s the secret of your long marriage?” My answer is always the same, “commitment!” You see I chose to love her and that choice has never changed. When we said “I do,” that was a lifelong commitment. I have asked people who were thinking of divorce, “What does, ‘till death do us part’ mean to you?” By the same argument, when I accepted Christ as my Savior, it was a lifelong commitment! I chose to love Him all of my life! You must choose your love and then maintain your choice: you love either the world or the Father, but not both.

“Do not love the world or 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, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17, NKJV).

“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity” (1 John 2:15-17, MSG).

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” (Romans 12:2, Phillips).

Verse 15a: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”

Our text begins with a command and it is the only command in these verses and therefore probably the main point. Everything else in the text is an argument, or incentive, for why we should not love the world.

“That which we most love—we worship as our God. For love is an act of soul-worship. To love and to adore are sometimes both one. That which one loves—he worships. This is undoubtedly true, if we intend hereby that love which is superlative and transcendent—for to be loved above all things is an act of honor and worship, which the Lord demands as His due in peculiar. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5). In this the Lord Christ summed up all that worship which is required of man, ‘Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37). Other things may be loved—but He will be loved above all other things.” – David Clarkson (1621-1686)

Then there’s the old story of a Pastor visiting a family. As is often the case, the parents were trying to impress the Pastor with their spiritual depth. They talked about how much they loved the Lord and how much, and how often they read the Bible. They said to their little three-year old daughter, “Please go get that book that mommy and daddy are always reading from.” The little girl returned with the TV Guide. Children see what we sometimes cannot.

The world's philosophy continually shouts: “The only important thing that is important is this life.” “Just do it.” “You only go around once so grab for all the gusto you can get!.” “It doesn't get much better than this!” Wrong! It will get a whole lot worse!

“Love,” agapao in Greek means love in its highest, most pure form and speaks of the unconditional, sacrificial love which God Himself expresses toward undeserving, sinful men, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is the love with which He loves His Son, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). It is the love which He is by nature, “God is love” (1John 4:8), and it is the love which is produced in the heart of the yielded saint by the Holy Spirit, “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22).

Ray Stedman offers the following secular quote of how the world describes the love of the world “There is nothing better, there is nothing higher, there is nothing more precious than what this earth can give you: its money, its pleasures, its fame. You had best eat, drink, and be merry, for there is no nobler life than that.”

Verse 15b: “The world…”

The “world” here is not the earth or the physical globe on which we live. The “world” is the Devil’s system of values. The systems that operate our culture are not His. The Greek word translated “world” is kosmos, which means “the world apart from God.” The world's systems generate and sustain our government and politics, entertainment, fashion, religion, business ethics, medicine and health care, culinary tastes, social programs and institutions, education, science and technology, economics, and the use of power. The world's systems have formed much of our belief systems and attitudes, and these in turn have shaped our conduct.

“Kosmos, the sum-total of human life in the ordered world, considered apart from, alienated from, and hostile to God, and of the earthly things which seduce from God.” –Vincent

Kosmos gives us our English words “cosmos” (the ordered universe), “cosmopolitan” (literally a citizen of the world!) and “cosmetics” (those things we put on in order to bring order out of chaos).

The word “world” occurs 22 times in this epistle. There are four different words for “world” in the New Testament: 1) The earth, 2) The inhabited world, 3) Age or generation, and 4) An adorned system of values. John uses the fourth here.

Verse 15c: “The things in the world.”

John is prohibiting his readers from a love relationship with any and all specific aspects of the fallen, evil world system and he will amplify this in the next verse (2:16) as under the umbrella of those things that incite “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.”

Note that John is not saying we are not to love God's creation, the natural beauty of this world, nor are we not to love the world's people, God loved them with Christ’s death on Calvary. He is speaking more of material things and/or ideas that are at basically anti-God and anti-Christ. It is not true like the bumper sticker says that He who dies with the most toys (things) wins! In fact it is exactly the reverse, John says in 1 John 2:17 this world is passing away (and that would include its “things”). Do not be lured, snared, trapped or deceived by the subtle seductions of the world system.

Verse 16a: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

“For,” explains the preceding verse as to why the love of the world will displace our love for God. And why worldliness excludes God’s love or is incompatible with the love for God, because there is nothing in the world, the kosmos, which is of the Father, the love of the world is utterly incompatible with the love of the Father.

“All,” pas in Greek means all without exception. ”All that is in the world” collectively, regarded as a unit.

“All that it can boast of, all that it can promise, is only sensual, transient gratification, and even this promise it cannot fulfill; so that its warmest votaries (devoted admirers) can complain loudest of their disappointment.” – Adam Clarke

Verse 16b: “the lust of the flesh…”

“Lust,” in Greek is, epithumia from epi, at, toward., and thumos. having one’s passion toward. The root verb epithumeo, to set the heart upon) it is a neutral term denoting the presence of strong impulses or desires, yearnings, longings after or passionate craving (whether it is good or evil is determined by the context) directed toward an object.

James 1:14.15, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

“Lust is like rot in the bones.” –Jewish proverb

“A little will satisfy nature; less will satisfy grace; nothing will satisfy men's lusts.” –Thomas Brooks

“Our eyes, when gazing on sinful objects, are out of their calling and God's keeping.” –Thomas Fuller

“A man may be said to be given to covetousness when he takes more pains for getting earth than for getting heaven.” –Thomas Watson

“What lust is so sweet or profitable that is worth burning in hell for?” –William Gurnall

“Love can wait and worship endlessly; lust says, “I must have it at once.” –Oswald Chambers

“Lust is appetite run wild.” –F. B. Meyer

“Lust describes the inner motions of the soul, the natural tendency of men in their fallen estate toward things evil and toward things forbidden.” –W.E. Vine

“The lust of the flesh stands, therefore, for the temptation which proceeds from our corrupt nature, a nature which, owing to sin, stands opposed to the will and commandments of God.” –W.E. Vine

“These fundamental desires of life are the steam in the boiler that makes the machinery go. Turn off the steam and you have no power. Let the steam go its own way and you have destruction. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters; and this we can do through Jesus Christ.” –Warren Wiersbe

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12).

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

“The lust of the flesh,” sarx in Greek, the insatiable appetite to indulge in pleasures that inflame the flesh but never satisfy. “Flesh” is that urge within us toward total autonomy and rebellion, toward being our own little gods accountable to no one, responsible to no one, obeying no one, respecting no one, and running our own little world to suit ourselves. It is that continual tug of self-centeredness and selfishness within each of us that fights to keep us from being wholly devoted to God.

“Sarx can be used in three different ways. It can speak of the body, the physical body that we have, the meat that is on the bones. It can speak of weakness, meaning that which is psychological. It can also mean that corrupt nature which you and I have, that fallen nature. That is the spiritual meaning. So this word can be used in a physical sense, in a psychological sense, and in a spiritual sense. Paul uses the word flesh in all three senses but more frequently in the sense of the old Adamic, fallen nature.” –J. Vernon McGe

Verse 16c: “…the lust of the eyes…”

Eyes that continually want more riches and possessions but always remain covetous. “I see it. I want it. I take it!” The cravings and lusts stimulated by what is seen. It started with Eve in the Garden of Eden, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6).

Solomon whose eyes saw all that the world had to offer and who partook of most of this world's offering had this warning… “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure…Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10,11). And “Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions” (Proverbs 4:25 MSG)

Job learned this lesson, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1).

David, who in his late 40's or early 50's had a serious eye problem: “And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.” (2 Samuel 11:2). We all know the outcome of his “lust of the eyes!” Later he will write, “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar” (Psalm 101:3).

Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

“Lust of the eyes speaks of...Inordinate desires after finery of every kind, gaudy dress, splendid houses, superb furniture, expensive equipage, trappings, and decorations of all sorts.” –Adam Clarke

Pornography damages users and victims alike. It feeds lustful desires in ways that can never satisfy. True satisfaction is found only when we give our affections to eternal things to a right relationship with our heavenly Father and with those He has created in His image.“The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Verse 16d: “…the pride of life…”

“Pride in Greek is alazoneia it means, originally, empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and thence an insolent and vain assurance in one’s own resources, or in the stability of earthly things, which issues in a contempt of divine laws. The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life…“Vainglory” occurs only here and James 4:16, “But now you boast in your arrogance. The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life” –Vincent

“The word here used means, ostentation or boasting, and then arrogance or pride.” –Robinson.

It refers to whatever there is that tends to promote pride, such as, the ostentatious display of dress, art, jewelry, furniture, property, education, relationships, et al.

Now we can see how the three descriptions of the world relate to each other. The first two — lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes — refer to desires for what we don’t have. And the third — the pride of life — refers to the pride in what we do have. The world is driven by these two things: passion for pleasure and pride in possessions.

“Pride of life" will be reflected in whatever status symbol is important to me or seems to define my identity. When I define myself to others in terms of my honorary [or earned] degrees, the reputation of the church I serve, my annual income, the size of my library, my expensive car or house, and if in doing this I misrepresent the truth and in my boasting show myself to be only a pompous fool who has deceived no one, then I have succumbed to what John calls the pride of life.” –Gaebelein

Verse 17: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

The world is passing away every moment that the clock ticks. The world is inching that much closer to total destruction. In other words, whatever it is that you are coveting that this world offers you, it is going to go up in smoke sooner than you think. Every day you live you are getting closer to the world passing away. Why in the world would you anchor yourself to something that is temporary, something that is passing away?

2 Peter 3:10,11 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?"

Revelation 21:1, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

“The world is passing away. It is only a puff, a phantom, a bubble, a mirage which will melt away as you try to approach it; there is nothing substantial in it. He who does the will of God abides for ever. Not, ‘He that does some great thing to be seen of men,’ not, ‘he that builds a row of almshouses,’ or leaves a great mass of money to charity when he dies, because he could not possibly carry it away with him, not, ‘he that sounds a trumpet before him to let everybody know what a good man he is;’ not, ‘he that must needs outdistance everybody else;’ but, ‘he that does the will of God abides for ever.’ Obedience to the will of God is the pathway to perpetual honor and everlasting joy.”–Spurgeon (edited by the author)

When we love anything more than the true and living God revealed in the Bible, we are worshiping it. Whatever it is, it won't last. And it won't be able to help us when our plans shatter, our health fails, or death beckons. Only the one true and living God can help then. Beloved, time is passing, have you chosen the eternal love of the Father for the passing, empty love of the world? “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Why are we not to love the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? Because all of those desires are passing away and it offers absolutely nothing for eternity. Anchor yourself to the things that are eternal. One day you will understand that if you don’t understand it now.

Those who make the things of this world their god are doomed to failure! Wealth, power, fame, honor, and such things, are all passing away. People hoard money, and inflation steals its value. But God says, “he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

God's people have been confused and frustrated and have relied upon hunches and weird hocus-pocus to discover the will of God for their lives. They are filled with guilt, because God's will is a mystery to them. Is God playing some guessing game with His children? Is God some cosmic Easter Bunny who has hidden His will under a rock or behind a bush, and our goal is to find it? Every one of us is guilty of some of the weirdest tactics to discover God's will.

Here's the most important principle: God's will has more to do with what we are, and what we are becoming, than where we are or what we are doing. Once you learn this, it will be the greatest victory of your Christian life.

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).

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