1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)
15 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. 16For 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. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
During a Bible study last week, we studied into the above verses of 1 John (well I’m just sharing a part of it). It left me thinking a lot about what John was talking about and how relevant and real his words were to the people then, and to us in the present time. A concern then was the false teaching that would lead to an early version of Gnosticism… that is the incorrect thinking that separated the physical reality from the spiritual reality in people’s understanding and how these two parts were not connected, and so that disconnection often led to thoughts such as the denial of the incarnation of God as the Son… (I’m over simplifying it, but it has many variations).
This may also be why John writes with much contrast throughout 1 John… but it is probably also why he wrote in such a way in these verses to challenge the readers of his letter to not separate their spiritual faith from their lifestyles and how both are connected in their lives. Anyways, I’ll stop being a nerd and share about how this all comes together in my mind… that more than anything I can feel the urgency in John’s words.
In verse 15, John warns the reader not to love the world or the things in the world. He then points out how those that love the world do not have the love of the Father in them. There is an element of how these two are mutually exclusive; you can only have one or the other. In verse 16, John moves on to define all that is in the world… that it consists of the lust of the flesh… the lust of the eyes… and the boastful pride of life. None of these things are from the Father, but from the world. In looking at these things, it involves the physical desires that often may overwhelm our minds whether checking out women, or men… pornography, or even pursuing physical pleasures in relationships outside of marriage. It also involves the pride of pursuing careers, successes and achievement of our lives, which can lead to boasting. Ultimately, John is warning the reader to the danger of the enticement of the world and how these unhealthy craving and attitudes can create footholds for the enemy to work in our lives. Then John in verse 17 reminds the reader that the world is passing away, and also its lusts…but the one who does the will of God lives forever. This to me is where the urgency becomes really apparent. None of the things that are in this world last because they are created and temporary. Due to this finiteness, what is most profoundly essential is our obedience and pursuit of following in the way of Jesus.
These pursuits of worldly choices and passions do not satisfy, and they do not last… and this idolatry even blinds us to the urgency in which we need to share about God to our loved ones. Following these verses, John states that “it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Like a thief in the night, Scripture points to Jesus’ imminent return. This means that when it happens… it will be too late for many. People delay their acknowledgment of what they know in their heart that something is not right, and they often continue in sin simply because their sin has obscured them to the fact that their lives are at risk… distracting their attention from their eternal hope and salvation. How many of us will continue to dishonor our God with our lives and allow our poor choices and sin to disconnect us from the seriousness of the truth of the Gospel? How many of us will continue to fail to glorify God in our lives and even to share the incredible love and grace of the Good News, which leads to life and hope?
The reality is God is King, He is sovereign, and everything in creation cries out to a Divine Author; his fingerprints are seen in everything. In our lives we have made idols of our pursuits/desires, our careers, our hobbies, our relationships, and especially people, and these are the very issues that God addressed in his commandments given to Moses. Our idolatry of the world in one way or another… or our self idolatry … leaves us never satisfied and super broken. So many of us keep chasing after these empty things, and then when they do not satisfy, we complain and mope because our lives are empty and unfulfilled. Why do so many believers knowingly desire to continue in sin and compromise even when we profess to know the Gospel? How do we worship and sing praises to Him with our mouths during a time of worship, and then use our mouths to dishonor Him in the company of our friends as we joke, critique, slander, and talk smack about others?
The question to ask ourselves as we ponder this passage then is how are we living our lives in light of these words and in light of the Gospel? Do we feel the urgency in our lives and the reality of hell being the final destinations for some of us and those we love the most? Do we realize that some of our choices in our lives and our lack of feeling this urgency dulls our desire to love, serve and share the Gospel to those we love?
Take a long look at John’s words in the 3 verses. Some commentators have pointed out that John’s words here seem to be somewhat of a digression or an exhortation to his readers about their mindset and lives that they are to live as professing believers of Jesus. John’s words stab my heart because I know that our lives are often filled with this fight between the love of this world and the love of God. We think we can have both. We think that God can be compartmentalized in our lives to Sunday and the occasional bible studies or times of fellowship we have.
Do you realize that hell is not a joke? It is not a place that you want to go… and it is not a place that you can just visit temporarily, but it is FOREVER. It is a place that lacks hope, lacks love, lacks joy and is devoid of anything that is of God and positive. It is a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Look at those around you, think of your unsaved family and your friends… would you want this for any of them? This eternal hopelessness?
This reality breaks my heart because like a sinking ship… like the Titanic… I feel as though so many people are unaware as to the plight they are in. If you knew something was wrong and the ship (Titanic) was sinking, could you simply sit there and pretend as though everything is alright? Could you look at your loved ones around you… the families with their young children… as they are blissfully unaware of their final destination because of the sin that has so corrupted them? Could you live with yourself and sit in a half empty boat with people drowning and freezing to death in the waters around you because of your fear or doubts… as you pursued your own selfish preservation?
I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I know is that we have a measure of freedom given to us by the grace of God to live lives unburdened and unfettered to the power of sin. In Christ, we are able to overcome all that so easily entangles and dulls our senses, and we have been given an incredible privilege to live our lives as light and as salt to glorify our God and to bring the saving work of God into the lives of those around us. This is the reality… and this is how we should live. We are not to live compromised, dulled and without flavor. There is no use for tasteless salt!
You and I are meant for more. We have been paid for by a price of the cross and that price comes with an inconceivable power to live our lives radically for Him. We need to have urgency as we reflect upon our personal lives… and on the lives of those around us. We need to first stop compromising and desiring to please ourselves and those around us. We need to focus first instead on finding our peace with Him. As we learn to see Him and His will, what you will start to see is His incredible love and desire for those around us.
May this inspire in you a sense of the urgency and an even deeper connection with our Father in Heaven.