‘Do not love the world or anything in it’. So what was John thinking of when he spoke here about ‘the world’? There are two categories here, there is the world itself and then all the things in it. John knows how important it is that we walk in the Light in every area of our lives if we are to show Jesus to the people around us and walk in close undisturbed, fellowship with our amazing Father who loves us.
He tackles one of the most deeply ingrained wrong attitudes in everyone’s lives. We need to show active obedience in every area of our lives if we are to have the close intimate friendship with God that Jesus paid for us to have. John uses the same word in his gospel “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. And yet in 1 John 5:19 it says ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one’. So it has been hard for Christians to have a balanced attitude to the ‘world’. So we have either withdrawn and become exclusive or been very involved in the ‘world’ and it is hard for anyone to see us as anyone different from the secular society we live in. Our Father who loves us, wants us to have the right attitude to the world so when you pray, ask Him to show you where He wants you to change your thinking, Romans 12:2. After all Jesus did commission all His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Mark 16:15
The world, the ‘kosmos’ (Gk), is the beautiful Creation of earth and galaxies where we live. ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Psalm 24:1. God’s plan was for the earth to be made ‘good’ (Genesis 2:1) and everything was beautiful, but after the Fall when Adam and Eve chose to give everything over to Satan the earth was under a curse, Genesis 3:17-19. This changed the whole focus for people, taking it away from God and placing it on toiling and working to get what we need and want. Instead of being dependent upon God for all our relationships and provision we chose to be independent and to look after ourselves and our world. This all changed when Jesus came to buy us back from Satan and show us a new way of living, being in the world but NOT of the world.
John challenges us very directly about our attitude to the organised system of human civilisation that we live in which is opposed to God and alienated from Him. James agrees in James 4:4 ‘You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’. The problem we have is that we can water down the radical behaviour and requirements of following Jesus in order to hold hands with the world. We think just a little won’t matter but the Word is very clear about what our attitude should be, Matthew 6:21; Mark 4:18-19. So if we choose to make the world our priority and chase after ‘things’ that the system tells us we need, we will live a life as an enemy of God!!
A new way of living
1 John 2:16 John is pointing out our attitude to the world and what is going on inside us. This is so important. The world affects us far more than we realise or care to admit but what is going on inside us is the fundamental root of man’s problem. ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’. In Mark 7:20-23 Jesus states; “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’. ”
John tells us that everything in the world that he collects under three headings come from the world. There is the ‘craving of the sinful man’. Whatever we want when we are being sinful and not walking in the Spirit, will draw us away from God and His best for us. We become focused on gratifying our physical desires. This can be uncontrolled excesses of any kind, laziness, and self-indulgence. We are also never satisfied because when we get what we think we want, we want more. The ‘flesh’ can act as a tyrant over our physical nature which was made by God and is not evil in itself. The world can never give us what it promises, but as we are led into disobedience by our ‘flesh’ we are drawn away into rebellion against God and His way of doing things which instead could bring satisfaction and peace. The world will tell us we can have freedom if we follow its way of doing what we like. What it does not tell us is the destruction and bondage that will follow with a constant drive to have more, just like an addict.
The second point is ‘the lust of the eyes’. In our society today, with television having hundreds of channels and the Internet connecting all over the world we are constantly bombarded by things to watch. We are led to believe in the ‘fame’ generation that if we have all these things we will be happy. Our thoughts say ‘I see it, I want it, and I’ll have it’. That is what advertising is built on, but we see the results of years of this in the ‘boom and bust’ credit crunch. We worship the idol of materialism. The cares and anxieties of the world, the distractions of the age, along with the pleasure, delight and false glamour of wealth and the cravings and passionate desires for more things all lead to the choking of the Word making it unfruitful, Mark 4:19.
The third point that John warns against, which is caused by loving the world, is ‘boasting of what he has and does’. This is our attitude to all the things God has given us. We think our value is in how much we have and what we do. When we become Christians we exchange our boasting about worldly things and we boast of the prayers we have had answered, our ministry, all that we do for God, and how many Bible verses we know. As we have seen recently all our worldly boasting is fleeting and can disappear in a day. Today’s treasure will be tomorrow’s trash.
When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden he used these areas of temptation and when he tempted Jesus he did the same thing. After fasting for forty days the craving for bread was very real, so Satan taunted Him ‘tell these stones to become bread’ So Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4. Then at the highest point of the Temple, Satan tempted Him with the ‘lust of the eyes’ but Jesus’ victorious reply was ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ Matthew 4:7. When Satan showed Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshipping him, encouraging Him to ‘boast of what He has and does’ Jesus told him directly and forcibly “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Matthew 4:10.
This is exactly what we should do every time we are tempted to succumb to all that the world tries to offer us. We need to speak the Word out loud and ‘guard our hearts for out of them flow the issues of life’, Proverbs 4:23. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
We find John’s positive direction on how to deal with all this worldliness when he states ‘But the man who does the will of God lives forever’, 1 John 2:17. It is hard to imagine that all that we have worked so hard to obtain and we think of as so valuable will pass away and be worth nothing. We are seeing this every day at this time in history, people having heart attacks because of stress and fear as their security disappears before their eyes.
Issues of the Heart.
A heart attack occurs when the flow of life-giving blood is stopped in the heart by a blockage. There are several possible causes for this. The root problem can be that we react to the world, instead of just responding to God and allowing His Life and passion to flow easily through us to the people He wants us to love. We cannot allow this relationship blockage to clog our spiritual arteries and harden our hearts and cause a heart attack which can take us out of the race for life.
Some causes of a blockage in our heart:
- Boredom – We need to develop a relationship rather than allowing ourselves to fall into a formal, sluggish religion where we just go through the motions, we must stay regulated by the Holy Spirit. Be bold and dynamic seeking the heart of God Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
- Familiarity – This can be seen in marriage but leads to a sluggish, weak heart. The best way to counteract this is an attitude of gratitude, 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Lust – Seeking after false empty ‘lovers’ in worldly possessions. Do not seek the provision over the Provider. The answer is to ‘seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well’ Matthew 6:33.
- Laziness – The Christian life for eternity takes hard work, ‘Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,’ Philippians 2:12. Choose to love with your whole heart (Matthew 22:37) and check out that you have not lost your first love, Revelation 2:4.
- Disobedience – This deadens His love in our life, His voice becomes dull, and we become very dissatisfied. Sometimes we can go out and look for our satisfaction elsewhere and so involve the other blockages to a healthy relationship and a healthy heart towards God.
We don’t want anything to block our heart and stop us moving forward in His purposes, particularly not the things of this world which are so transitory. We must declare war on the sin of loving the world and all that is in it. We must uproot it and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into God’s way of doing things. That will help to focus our life on His life. As we seek first the Kingdom of God and being in right standing with Him we will receive everything we need and more to fulfil the ‘great commission’ of telling the whole world about the freedom found only in Jesus.
07 Do not love the world – 1 John 2:15-17 Challenge Questions
Read the beginning of these notes on 1 John 2:15-17. Do not love the world
1. How do you think you can get the balance between loving God’s creation and not loving the world?
2. How do you show God that He is number one in your life? Do you have advice for anyone who feels the ‘pull of the world’
3. According to 2 Peter 1:4. What is God’s answer to the problem of worldliness?
Read the notes ‘A new way of living’
4. From the three temptations in the world which do you find the hardest and which verse did Jesus use when He had the similar temptation.
5. When looking at a new activity how can we tell whether the activity is spiritually healthy for us?
Read ‘Issues of the heart’
6. Can you see any of these blockages being a problem in your relationship with God or your partner? What do you think is the answer to clear this blockage?
Read 1 John 2:18-19
7. Why do you think John loved the people he was writing to so much, even though he could see their problems (e.g. worldliness)?
8. What time in history was John talking about?
9. Who do you think are ‘many antichrists’?
10. Who do you think is ‘the antichrist’? How has he been presented to you?
11. Have you listened to any false teaching? How did it affect you? Is it still around?
12. How do you think an antichrist could be in a Church?
13. How can we protect ourselves from those who want to divert believers away from the Truth?
14. If we are aware that there is someone in our circle who is speaking heresy how can we help constructively?
Read Matthew 24 completely but focus on Matthew 24:3-25 Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 24:36-39
15. What are the signs of the end of the age?
16. Which of these signs have already taken place?
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
- What are the activities of the antichrist – the man of lawlessness – according to these verses?
18. What verses of encouragement are there for us here?
19. Who do you think is holding the lawless one back?
20. What encouragement do you get from looking at all these verses in this study?
21. Focus now on God’s love and how you can show Him to others. Read the prayer in Lesson 1
Memory verse 1 John 2:17 ‘The world and its desires pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever’.