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Posts Tagged ‘worldliness’

We are looking at a familiar passage today – 1 John 2:15-17. And we’re looking at its clear word to us – Don’t love the world.

Now these verses can stand on their own; you don’t have to  go through the whole letter of 1 John to make sense of them. And so I want us just to take these verses today and work at understanding what the message is here for us.

“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 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.”

We begin by asking what “the world” means. It is used six times in our three verses.

Some background

In Greek the word is “Cosmos.” We use this transliteration in words like ‘cosmology’ or ‘cosmic’ or ‘the cosmos’ – as in the universe. It’s used 78 times in the Gospel of John and 23 times in 1 John, which is a lot.

It can mean several different things, but here are some that are more relevant to our passage, from the writings of John:

  • It can mean “the earth,” as in the natural world – John 11:9. Here Jesus talks about how the sun lights this world.
  • It can mean “the people” who live on the earth – John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . ..” Here it means all the people in the world.

But it can also have a very negative meaning, something like the world system that stands in opposition to God. This system is made up of people, spiritual powers, values, ideas, institutions and nations. And it promotes a way of life that is not submitted to God’s will or God’s values. And this is what we are dealing with in 1 John 2:15-17.

Here are some Scriptures that speak to this understanding of the world in John’s writings:

  • John tells us that, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” – 1 John 5:19.
  • It is a place of “darkness” and “evil” deeds – John 3:19.
  • Jesus said that, “the world does not know” God – John 17:25. It doesn’t understand God or have a relationship with God.
  • “The world . . . has hated” Jesus – John 15:18.
  • And as John says, “do not be surprised, sisters and brothers, that the world hates you” – 1 John 3:13.

As we see from these last verses, there is conflict between God and those who live by God’s values, and the world and those who live by its values. The world can take two different approaches. It can persecute Christians. Or more commonly in our context it seeks to lure us with what Scripture calls ‘the passing pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:25). Either way it’s trying to get us to walk according to its values and not God’s.

Now let’s look at –

The world in 1 John 2:15-17

We get a bit more specificity here. That’s because, when John says in v. 15 – “Do not love the world . . .,” he also says “. . . or the things of the world.” And then in v. 16 he says more about what he means by the things of 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.”

So we have three things highlighted here. 1) the desires of the flesh. These are the desires that come from within us; our fallen humanity. Things like greed, wrongful sex, excessive food, excessive comfort, revenge, a desire to be popular, rebelliousness – whatever can come out of hearts that are not submitted to God.

Here are a couple of Scriptures that talk about the desires of the flesh with examples: 1 Peter 4:3 – “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” Galatians 5:19-21 – “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies . . ..”

When God is not giving us guidance, direction or a framework of values, we find it in these desires of our flesh.

2) the desires of the eyes. This refers to the same kinds of things. The difference is that these are the desires that come from what we see around us that tempts us. When God is not giving us guidance, direction or a framework of values, we find it in what we see in others in the world.

3) pride in possessions. This one is pretty specific. It has to do with our material possessions that we have accumulated. More broadly it has to do with our status in life. When God is not giving us guidance, direction or a framework of values, we find it in what wealth or social standing we have.

The world promotes all three of these. It tells us to follow these desires and goals. Because this is how you will find meaning; this is how you will be happy; this is how others will respect you.

What we’re talking about in all this is –

Worldliness

This isn’t a word you hear very much anymore. I was a part of what is called the ‘holiness movement’ for a while. The college I went to was a part of this tradition. And worldliness was a big topic. But frequently, as in other traditions (Mennonites), it meant doing things that stood outside of church culture. For instance going to a movie theater (even if it was a Billy Graham movie). Or a certain style of dress that was deemed unacceptable, even if it was modest. Or a certain kind of music that was different (usually louder).

But we trivialize the concept when we do this. Does not being worldly really mean just being a generation behind in styles, music and technology? Or stopping at a certain point in history and not moving forward anymore?

No. Worldliness has to do with values and attitudes and behaviors that go against God’s will. Things like we have seen already: sexual immorality, drunkenness, greed, and boasting in your possessions. You can listen to the right style of music, dress properly and still do these things!

Worldliness has to do with wrong values like craving power and control; always wanting to be better than others, or lording it over others (Mark 10:42-43). This is the goal of your life, instead of humbly serving others.

Also big in our society is seeking the praise of people. We are very concerned with what others think about us, but not too concerned with what God thinks of us, even though this is most important of all.

Another example from American culture is our worship of celebrity idols. We give them our offerings of money and time; we do what they say; we honor and worship them.

The world operates according to these values. And when we love these things; when we do them – we have been lured into worldliness.

Finally our verses speak to –

Why you shouldn’t love the world

There are two reasons. 1. Loving God and loving the world are mutually exclusive. John says this in v. 15 – “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You’re not loving God if your loving the world. You can’t have both at the same time. That’s because the things of the world are a part of a system that opposes God. As John says in v. 16 – “For all that is in the world . . . (all that we have looked at) is not from the Father but is from the world.”

There is a conflict between God’s values and the values of the world. And let me say it again, when you choose to love the world, you show that you do not love God. You have forsaken God.

The great and fatal mistake of so many Christians is to not understand this. They think they can have both. And you cannot. You really do have to choose. One or the other. God or the world. If you try to have both, you have made your choice for the world, since God requires our complete commitment.

2. You will be doomed along with the world. John lays out a basic contrast in v. 17 – “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

The world’s time is just about up. It doesn’t have a future. So if you make yourself a part of the world system that opposes God; if you follow its desires, you will perish with it in God’s judgment.

But here is the contrast – if you do God’s will; that is you love God and not the world, you will abide forever. There’s a future in this, even if it is hard now.

And that future is being a part of an eternal kingdom that will not pass away. It will remain forever. You will remain forever.

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So I encourage you to hear the message today – don’t love the world! Give yourself fully to God, to love God with all your heart. Don’t allow the world to lure you away and destroy your love of God and your hope for the future.

William Higgins

 

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