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1 John 2:15-17 - Do Not Love This World

William Perkins, considered to be the first of the Puritans, has had his ministry described in this way, “Perkins took theology beyond knowing doctrines in the mind to experiencing Christ in the heart.

There was a story in a biography about Perkins that seemed to help illustrate what his ministry would have looked like as he helped people experience Christ in the heart.

One day as Perkins saw a large crowd gathering around the gallows where a prisoner was to be hanged. Perkins made his way through the crowd until he stood before the scaffold. A prisoner began to make his way us the scaffold and as the he turned towards the people Perkins was shocked at his countenance. He appeared to be a man who was already half dead.

Perkins called up to the man and tried to encourage the prisoner but his words had no effect. He cried out to the man saying, “What is the matter with you? Are you afraid of death?

The condemned man called back, “No. But of a far worse thing.

Perkins motioned for the man saying, “Come down again, man, and you shall see what God’s grace will do to strengthen you.

When the man came to Perkins he took him by the hand and they knelt there on the ground. They confessed sins and considered the bad choices that led to them. Perkins spoke of the eternal punishment in hell demanded by God’s justice. As he did the prisoner wept beside him.

Perkins then spoke to the man about the Lord Jesus, the Savior of all sinners who would repent and believe. He spoke about how Christ was stretching forth His blessed hand of mercy to him. He spoke of how Christ alone had power to save him and deliver him from all the powers of darkness.

The young man cried again, but this time it was with tears of joy. Lifting up his face, the prisoner looked out over people raising their hands and praising God for this amazing transformation. He then hurried back up the ladder, he accepted the noose gladly with a lifted head. It was as if he already saw heaven opening to receive his soul. (Puritan Hero’s; p.17)

As we come to 1 John 2:15-17 we see that the apostle John is also applying theology not only to the mind but he applies Christ to the heart and shows its impact upon the believer. A heart that has experienced the love of God will not love the world, it will love God, and obey God.

John says, 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 of life—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.

John writes to these believers and he gives them a very strong imperative command saying, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (v. 15) This command may seem overwhelming to most of us because we have always loved the world. Our flesh craves the things of this world. But John will also give four powerful reasons for us to heed this command:

  • To love the world is to not have the love of the Father in our heart.

  • To love the world is to lust after and desire things that are not of the Father.

  • To love the world is to love something that is temporary.

  • But those who do the will of God will abide forever.

When John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” we should acknowledge two things. First, he is writing to Christians. Secondly, he is giving them another test to determine who are true believers and who are not.

First, let us consider the Christians that John is writing too. There were some believers who needed to hear this command. The verb form, a present imperative active, suggests that John is telling these believers that they need to stop doing something right now. And then they are to continually and repeatedly obey this command from that point on.

Believers are continually being tempted to love the world in three ways: Satan, this sinful world, and by our sinful nature. Therefore we need to be watchful concerning these things. We are to look to the LORD and to be filled with the love of God which will leave no room for the things of this world. We can be assured of this, God will not give us the world to meet our needs. He gives us something far better and far more lasting. He gives us Himself to enjoy.

Consider Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” How often in our prayers do we ask for the Father to fill us with the Holy Spirit? Or are the majority of our prayers for worldly things that we might spend them on ourselves?

James warns us about this when he says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture say, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.’? But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:3-10)

Secondly, this is also a command that will help reveal who the false teachers are within the church. If there are those whose wills are consistently bent towards the things of this world then the love of the Father is not in them. If there are those whose greatest joy comes from this world then they do not have the abiding, all satisfying and eternal love of God in them.

There is a story in 2 Kings 9 that illustrates how a believer is to follow Christ. In this story the prophet Elisha sends a prophet to Jehu who is a commander in Israel’s army. When the prophet arrives he takes Jehu and anoints him as king over Israel (the Northern 10 tribes). As the prophet anoints Jehu he says, “And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.” (7-8)

Jehu gets in his chariot with a band of men and rides off towards Jezreel to confront Joram the king of Israel. As they come to the city the watchman sees Jehu coming and they send out a rider to see who approaches. We read in 9:18, “So a man on horseback went to meet him and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’ And Jehu said, ‘What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.’

The watchman sees that the man did not return so they sent out a second horseman who came to them saying, “Thus the king has said, ‘Is it peace?’ And Jehu answered, ‘What do you have to do with peace? Turn around and ride behind me.” (9:19)

Similarly, a believer has come out of this world and have come to Christ. This world can offer no true peace because the peace it promises is not real. So when we come to Jesus we turn around and ride behind him. We no longer serve the ruler of this world. We have a new Master, the Lord Jesus Christ and it is Him alone that we follow as we live in this world. We cannot serve both the world and the LORD.

What is the world that John speaks of in our text? Are we not to enjoy anything in this world? Are we not to find any enjoyment in our vocations, our hobbies, in recreation, in music, and in playing games?

In the bible, the term ‘world’ can refer to several things.

  • It can refer to the created universe.

  • It can refer to the entire inhabited world.

  • It can refer to those for whom Jesus died to save.

  • It can refer to the fallen world, the structures and order of this sinful world over which Satan rules.

It is the fourth meaning that John has in mind. We live in a sinful world whose ruler blinds the minds of men from seeing the glory of Christ. Satan seeks to speak lies and confuse us about truth. We will see this in 1 John 4:1 we read, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” A believer needs to be aware that there are many who profess false doctrines who give false testimonies in this world.

We also need to know how God has overcome these things. In 1 John 4:4 we read, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Christians have been given the Holy Spirit and we follow Jesus in this world. We no longer follow after Satan and we are no longer deceived by the anti-christ’s in this world.

Again, in 2 Kings 10 we see another story that illustrates these things. After Jehu becomes King he intends to wipe out the false worship of Baal from Israel. He calls for all of the priests of Baal to gather for a worship day. He requires that none be left out. When the false prophets arrive Jehu has them all put on the vestments of Baal. He separates them from any who would serve the LORD faithfully. Then he has them all killed. Yet, We read in 10:31, “But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn form the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

In this story we see the danger so clearly. All the prophets of Baal are at one place and they are all dressed in Baal’s garments. However, we are not always aware of the dangers that surround us. In their sinfulness Israel did not realize the trouble that had filled their land through such idolatry.

This story also shows us that we need to continually be obedient to obey the Word of the LORD. Jehu, for all the good he began to do, was not careful to walk in the things of God with all his heart. It is far easier to be a Jehu in this world than to be the type of Christian that John is asking us to be today who will not love this world but who will do the will of God.

Next John gives us four reasons that we are not to love the world.

  • To love the world is to not have the love of the Father in our heart.

  • To love the world is to lust after and desire things that are not of the Father.

  • To love the world is to love something that is temporary.

  • But those who do the will of God will abide forever.

First, John says that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. This is an either/or statement. Either you love the world or you have the love of the Father in your heart and you will do His will. You cannot serve two masters. You will love one and hate the other.

Theophilus Gale wrote about the power of love when he says,, “Love is the most vigorous, domineering, sovereign affection of the human soul. This love seated in the will governs the whole soul. What you love determines what you are. If the object loved is absent, love goes forth to meet it by desire; if it is present, love take comfort in it and delights in it; if it is in danger, love faints with fear; if its enjoyment is obstructed by others, love grows angry; if it is lost, love sorrows; if there is the possibility of its return, then love hopes!...If love sets its heart on God it becomes spiritual, noble, and divine; but if it loves the world it becomes carnal, base, and worldly.” John encourages a believer to love the LORD and in doing so he or she will obey Him.

We should say with the apostle Paul, “For the love of Christ controls (compels, constrains) us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)Paul says that because of the love of Christ we no longer live for ourselves but for the Lord.

The second reason John gives for not loving the world is because all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world.

Desires of the flesh – These desires, or lusts, originate in the flesh. They are the desires of our sinful natures. James says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (1:14-15) These are evil impulses and emotional impulses that pertain to more than sexual desires. These desires make us pursue goals and ambitions like: food, items, pleasure, material desires etc.

Desires of the eyes –These refer to the things that we are exposed with that bring temptation. This is what Eve was tempted by when she saw that the fruit looked good and pleasing. These are the subtle, and not so subtle, ways that advertisers try to get us to notice and buy their products. They use eye candy and eye catching things to draw our attention to them.

Proverbs 23:29-31 speaks of these things, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.

Pride of life – This refers to the arrogant and prideful thinking that seeks to exalt ourselves. We often boast as though we have not received anything when all things have come from God. Paul had to remind the Corinthians about these things. He recognized that they had become prideful and boastful. So Paul writes to them that they would not be puffed up saying, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

The third reason we are not to love the world is because these desires are passing away and they come to nothing. There are many people who want their accomplishments to be remembered long after they are gone; but this world is perishing. This world is passing away along with all of its desires. Proverbs 11:7 says, “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.” (Consider the great Egyptian pharaoh's who built the great Pyramids. In them they put all their wealth so that it would be with them in another world. Yet, in death their hope perished and their wealth was stolen by robbers.)

Augustine said, “The good make use of the world in order to enjoy God, whereas the evil want to make use of God in order to enjoy this world.” God chided his people for seeking this worlds pleasure and for worshiping false god’s. He said to them, “For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’ But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your god’s, O Judah.” (Jeremiah 2:27-28) A believer looks to Christ alone for salvation and for their joy.

The fourth reason why we should not love this world is because whoever does the will of God abides forever. Those who love God, come to Christ by faith for salvation and who by the Spirit of God obey the Scriptures enjoy blessings now and in the life to come. We taste the firstfruits of these blessing that we will experience in full when we come to heaven.

Because deliverance from worldliness is possible only by doing the will of God we must know what that involves. (Joel Beeke; 98-99, The Epistles Of John)

  • First, we must realize the importance of the fight against worldliness and doing the will of God. We must consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus.

  • Secondly, we must use every means to conquer worldliness. We must keep a close watch on our heart, repent, mortify the sinful nature, walk by the Spirit, put on the whole armor of God.

  • Thirdly, we must trust Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed for believers, “Father, I pray not that you would take them out of the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:5)

  • Fourthly, we must keep the future promise in view so that we do not neglect the promise and become discouraged or complacent in this world.


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