This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday Sept. 29th, 2019.
Love God, Not the World
1 John 2:12 - 17
We are continuing our series through John’s first Epistle. Last week I talked about the importance of obedient love. I challenged you to ask yourself a core question regarding your relationship with God and it was, “What is the motivating factor in your relationship with God?”
Outline of the text
This week we will continue in 1 John 2 as I will talk about verses 12 – 17. These seven verses are divided into two sections.
Now, if you went ahead and read these passages and you are a bit confused, don’t worry because even theologians are a but mystified by verses 12, 13, and 14. One commentator writes, “If we have been following John’s argument thus far, the present text, particularly verses 12 – 14, seems to fuel the observation of many interpreters that portions of the letter lack logical coherence.” What he is saying is that up to this point John seems to have a logical train of thought in writing this letter, but now his thought process seems to take a slight diversion… but he continues, “However, these verses are a parenthesis, a pause, designed to reassure, John’s readers about their own relationship to God and, as (John) Stott says,’ to rob counterfeit Christians of their false assurance’.”
What makes these verses difficult to interpret is that uncertainty of who John is speaking to (children, fathers, young men… I will speak to this in a moment) and the repetition in his writing (He repeats himself in these verses).
However, in verses 15 – 17 John resumes his thought process as he issues a warning about being mindful that we do not allow our affections for the world exceed our love for the Father.
(Read 1 John 2:12 – 17)
Little Children, Fathers, and Young Men
Verses 12 - 14
As I mention before, the first problem in interpreting this passage is determining who John is writing to. Some take the literal approach where they say that John is talking to the children, fathers, and young men of the church. On the other hand, some say that John is talking to people at various stages of their spiritual walk or development (i.e. children = new converts… your sins are forgiven, fathers = established in faith… you have known God from the beginning, and young men = those still growing in faith… you have conquered the evil one). The third is similar to the second one and shows that John is speaking to the church as a whole (little children: If you recall at the beginning of the chapter John refers to the people of this church he is writing as “My little children”). And then he addresses the fathers as those who are the spiritual leaders of the church (i.e. church officers…elders, presbyters). The young men refer to those who are more hands on in ministry (i.e. deacons or servants).
Regardless, John is writing to these individuals to let them know their sins are forgiven, they know the Father intimately and they have overcome evil because of Jesus Christ. This is true for us today. The body of Christ, the Church, those who have believed on the name of Jesus and have received him as Lord and Savior have been forgiven (Romans 10:9 - 10). Those of you who are mature or maturing in your faith belong to Jesus you now know the Father (1 Corinthians 8:3), you love the Father (1 John 4:19), and you obey the Father (1 John 2:3). Thus, we can know for certain that we have overcome the evil one (Romans 12:21).
Do Not Love the World
Everyone (whether we know it or not) has a choice to make in life. Will you live your life for the glory of God the Father (obedience), or will you invest your life in the world? In the second half of chapter two in John’s he pleads with this hurting group of believers to keep their affections for God.
John begins by saying “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” He implores them to not devote their lives serving and seeking approval from the godless world system.
The word love in verse fifteen in the Greek is Agapeo which means affection, to love dearly, to welcome and be fond of. The world he speaks of is translated as the order, government, whole mass of men that is alienated from God, or World affairs. It speaks of the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce people from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
John tells his readers “Do not welcome or have fond affection towards the world system (which is godless) that stirs up ungodly desires in our hearts. These desires may be fulfilling for a moment, but they are short lived, insubstantial, and ultimately they seduce people from following God. This world system does not promote or line up with the foundation for living a life that Jesus has established through his teaching, his death and resurrection.
This is a portion of scripture we need to take to heart. The pleasures of this world are passing and momentary. Anything or anyone that becomes a substitute for God in your lifes, or anyone who has a deeper love for earthly or material pleasures and possessions has, indeed, a greater love for the world and the love of the God is not present in them.
At this point we can ask some questions pertaining to our separation from the world. Is John talking about not loving the physical world or earth? Is he talking about not loving the ungodly or unbelievers? Is he telling us to have nothing to do with governments or world affairs? Should we just put up our Christian bubbles around us and live in them without having anything to do with the world outside? We will see in verse 16 what this world looks like.
John gives us the answer to these questions in verse 16. He writes that all that is in the world are the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions. In a nutshell this is what the godless world is at its core. It is a promotion of self and selfish gratification. The world John talks about has NOTHING to do with God and promoting His agenda.
Lust of the flesh – This is a craving, longing or lusting after the sensuous nature of man. The flesh represents the animal nature of humanity which leads to cravings to sin. It is our mere human nature, apart from divine nature (God); therefore, it inclined to sin and to oppose God. The lust or desire of the flesh is the craving or longing to allow the animal or human nature (the nature opposed to God) to be fulfilled. It is a shortsighted and selfish desire to fulfill our base and animalistic needs. William Barclay writes, “It is to live a life which is dominated by the senses. It is to be gluttonous in food; effeminate in luxury; slavish in pleasure; lustful and lax in morals; selfish in the use of possessions; regardless of all spiritual values; extravagant in the gratification of worldly, earthly and material desires. The flesh’s desire is forgetful of, blind to, or regardless of the commandments of God.” When people allow the lust of the flesh to rule their bodies and lives, they live a life that is contrary to God’s divine call. The lives they live are selfish, self-indulgent lives that goes against God’s Word.
Lust of the eyes – The eye(s) are a metaphor for sinful passions which lead to corruption. This refers to the act of coveting or desiring something that is not yours or for you. It is longing for or lustful looking at someone or something that stirs up sinful desires. Jesus addressed this in the Gospels when he said the act of immorality is not always committed in the physical act itself. He said that if you look upon someone with lust then you are just as guilty of committing the act of immorality. The lust of the eyes can also refer a delight in being seen in a grand and magnificent way. The lust of the eyes was/is still something people (Christian and non) struggle with. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture and lust has become a product that people capitalize from. One needs to watch any television show, read many magazines or books, and see commercials to see what I mean. Sex is a multi-billion-dollar business, and many are profiting from this ungodly means of income. However, lust of the eyes (sexual desires, adultery, etc.) is not just a modern day problem (it is just more accessible) but even Job admitted to his weakness in this area as he wrote in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how could I gaze at a virgin?”
Pride of one’s lifestyle – This is boastful braggart talking. It means to trust in one’s self, and self-dependence. Many times, it is someone who is pretentious or as I call them “big talkers” or narcissists. These people love to tell stories that are modified to make themselves look better than they really are. They are the tall tale tellers who want all the attention focused on them. I have often found with these individuals they always have to one up you or have a more extreme story to tell or a possession that is better than anyone else. It is a self-reliance that makes one think he/she has no need for God or others.
The world and its lusts/or passions are not from God. It doesn’t take much to see how the world outside of Christ has a deep love and fondness for sexual gratification, an obsession with making something look so attractive that you “have to have it” , and it preys on the false teaching that the more you have and the excess indulges you partake in the better your life will be. Worldly thinking goes against God, thus as followers of Him we must not have any fondness or affection for a system that pushes us away from Him.
All that is associated with the world and its system (what we just looked at) are momentary and passing away. I have yet to meet someone who has lived a self-centered life full of indulging in the pleasures of the world without boundaries that is truly and completely satisfied and happy for an extended time. Investing in this world and its godless ways are futile and empty. However, when you invest in doing what God wants you to do (Having a Kingdom perspective) you will be continually walking in his ways and you will ultimately know true joy happiness and satisfaction that is grounded in Him.
So, what is our takeaway for today? Children of God, those who believe and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, know that your sins are forgiven. You know God and He knows you. You are loved, you are blessed, and you have overcome evil. Sin does not need to run rampant in your life. Since this is the case you should not love the world and all that it has to offer. The world will try to pull you into it’s talons and push you away from God. But know and understand this… The world has nothing for you that is of eternal value. The world may offer what falsely looks to be a promise of fun, excitement, and freedom but the end results in shackles. Shackles of evil, emptiness, and estrangement from God. My friends, do not love the world, or the things of the world because a life dedicated to the world is a life separated from God.
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 110
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G2889). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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