On one of the many airplane flights that I had while traveling on vacation, I came across an article in a newspaper that hit me like a truck of bricks. There was a gentlemen reading the July 6th, Daily Mail out of the UK, where the newspaper interviewed Ann Furedi, who is the new head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. During this article interview, Ann commented that abortion should be regarded as just another form of birth control. Currently in the UK there are approximately 60,000 abortions conducted every year, and Ann is growing tired of the abortion controls. Because it should be as easy to get an abortion as it is to get some sort of birth control whenever needed. As I read this, the first thing that struck me was, how could anyone ever think of entertaining these ideas. Then I remember in mankind’s history how the religions of Satan’s demons caused men to take little babies and throw them down shoots into consuming fires so that Satan would be pleased with their sacrifice. This woman merely sounded like she wanted to be the priest for Satan’s armies. Then I thought, how could mankind even comprehend to consider this acceptable. Imagine what kind of outcry there would be if we over the period of two years just went around and killed all of mankind in Vallejo or all of mankind in Napa over a year. Whole cities of people just slaughtered for the sake of birth control. If you are thinking well that is the UK, the United States is nowhere that bad. Well in the United States to date for 2017, there have been over ½ a million abortions.
This morning is not a sermon about abortion, but I have provided to give each of us a sobering understanding of how far this world has come. While our Lord was here in the flesh, He knew that his disciples including you and me would be faced with a world that consumes all and has no conscience of what is right and what is wrong. It is for this reason that our Lord pray for you and me while he was here in the flesh. In John 17:15 our Lord prays for us where he says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Notice that our Lord closes off his prayer for us, by saying that he sanctifies himself so that you and I may be truly sanctified. It is easy in our haste in the busyness of today’s society to speed over key truths that quite honestly you and I should pay closer attention to. So today we are going to take the next 30 minutes to better understand what our Lord was meaning, when He prayed this for you and me. So turn with me to 1 John 2:15.
1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)
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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Engaging the Word
What is the World?
In the beginning of this passage we see that our Lord refers to not loving the world. If we hastily just read this there are often two thoughts that come to mind. The first is that the “world” could be a reference to this physical world. The second is that it could be a reference to the way of the world. Perhaps the actions of those within the world. In both senses, this could a reference to those things but if we just dig a little deeper, we can quickly see that it goes even further than that. In Romans 12:2 we are often called to no be conformed to this world. So knowing this how can we prevent ourselves from not being conformed to the ways of this world. It is evident between the life of a true believer and that of someone within the world that Christ and the world live life in two extremely different ways. One responds to those who hurt and humiliate him with kindness, love and peace and the other responds with anger, hate and revenge. One seeks after one’s self, one’s self interests and pleasures of the flesh. Whereas our Lord responds with grace, forgiveness, a desire to see humankind see it’s fullness and purpose in him. So knowing this, does there exist a world within us today? Do we respond, live or act in ways that we know would not please our Lord and creator? At the beginning of this passage it is evident that it is easy for mankind to love the world. In fact John tells us to not love the world. So why is it easy for us to live which embrace the world around us? The truth revealed in Psalms 51, tells us that we are born into sin, and because of that it is easy to embrace the world in our lives. It is for that very reason that our Lord prayed for sanctification. For it is only by the removal of the desire that you and I can have any hope to desire anything else other than the world in our lives. Our Lord knew that this was so important in the life of the believer that he stressed its importance in Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” It is for this reason that we are faced with choice today that if we desire to have the love of the Father within our lives, the only way that we can experience that is through losing the love of the world within us. Simply put, the love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father. Therefore if we claim to love God and yet love the world, the claim to love God in its self is untrue and we need to examine our lives so that from it only speaks truth.
Elements of the World
In this passage we see as John illustrates in verse 14, elements to which illustrate the characteristics of the world that draw us away from God. In verse 16 it says, “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life”. What are the characteristics?
The Desires of the Flesh
The lust of the flesh – The word “lust” is used here in the general sense of desire. It is not used to illustrate a sensual lust, rather it is focused on a sense of want. So the phrase, “the lust of the flesh,” speaks towards those things that satisfy our wants or appetites, it is those things connected with the indulgence of the mere animal propensities.
So for us in the world or church what does this mean? For example in the world, many have found it easier to feel better about themselves if they indulge in treats like ice cream, shoes or alcohol when they are feeling down or are in a time of struggle. In the church, some have found it easier to talk about others when they have been hurt. Or maybe they still go to food as a way to feel better about their lives. Finding fulfillment in the things of this life to feel better about one self does not provide the righteous life God desires. For it is loving the world rather than the things of God. Our fulfillment, our joy, our moments of encouragement can be realized in the presence of our Lord if we will just take up our cross and follow our Lord event in those moments of discouragement.
The Desires of the Eyes
The lust or desires of the eyes, these are those things that are designed merely to gratify our desire. This would include, of course, houses, clothing, jewels, furniture, etc. There is a very good reason why the advertisements that we are exposed to look so much better than the actual substance. From the hamburger advertisements that make the burger look perfect and juicy and then when we get the hamburger we ask ourselves; is that it? This is not to say that all things beautiful to the eyes are a sin. For instance enjoying the majestic beauty of God’s creation in wonders of the world does not constitute sin. Rather it is the desire after that which holds our lust. If it is a car or house, that we find our purpose in, it is then that we lose our souls to the love of this world.
So what does this mean for the believer? Because we still reside within this world, there are even times in the life of the believer, where the desires of our eyes can draw us away from the fulfillment that God desires to give us. For example, isn’t funny how the sizes of our televisions have increased exponentially over the years and how the life of entertainment has unfortunately taken so many people’s lives, even within the church. Imagine, what life would be like if all television no longer worked ever? Imagine how much more time we would have with our families, with our sisters and brothers in Christ, and more important with our Lord? Sometimes the lust of our eyes can take away more than we could ever imagine. Today if you find your eyes drawing you away from the purpose and promises of God, whether it is through a television or anything else in this world, our Lord desires for you to set your eyes upon him and nothing else in this world.
The Pride of Life
The pride of life – This phrase in the Greek is intended to refer to an ostentation or boasting an arrogance resulting in pride. It is referring to those things that cause us to entertain pride in our lives that is not of God. It is for this reason that Proverbs 16:18 tells us “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” So how can pride cause us to fall? For some it may exist in oneself where we find ourselves boasting to those around us about ourselves. From the things that we have done in this life, to the achievements we have. Even within the Christian realm it is easy as believers to point out to those around us, all the good things that we do in the church, the leadership positions we hold, the greatness of who we are because we read the word of God all the time, or we spend all our waking hours on our knees. It is for this reason that Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, that those who boast, boast in the Lord. When we boast in the Lord it is not about us, it is not about how great we are, but it is about the wonders and beauty of our Lord in our lives. It is not about the fact that I prayed, but it is about the amazing miracle God did.
Conclusion – Abiding Forever in Christ
John finishes this small paragraph by illustrating to the believer that these things of the world will not last forever but the desire after the will of God will abide forever. These illustrations that we have spoken about are transient in nature. What we find is that if we find fulfillment in ice cream during our times of trouble, soon we need a bigger and bigger tub of ice cream to fulfill the sadness that exists within our lives. Or if we find ourselves illustrating our great we are as believers to those around us and not the glory of God, pretty soon those stories of our greatness have to grow because they never seem to be big enough.
However as illustrated by John, when we find that our joy lies in person and presence of Jesus Christ, it is then that we don’t need ice cream to fulfill our lives and it is then that beyond measure and experience a joy is beyond explanation. If we search after the glory of God in all things, when his miracles are revealed our praise resides in Christ and not in ourselves.
Our Lord says to each of us today “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” This morning, we need to ask ourselves is there an area or areas in our lives where we find ourselves loving the world elements of the world that surrounds us. Even as believers we can at times entertain elements of this world that we should not. Today if there is an aspect of your life where you know God desires to reveal himself, today is your day. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. These are questions that you and I need to wrestle with today. Today is an opportunity, a moment to save our lives, a moment to experience what it means to abide in his will forever. It is a moment to experience what it means to put something to death in our lives and truly experience his sanctification, a desire after the things of God and not the things of this world.