Do Not Love the World
Published June 5, 2023
Do you love the world or are you intent on doing the will of God?
This is the contrast presented to the readers of 1 John 2:15-17 – and it is a stark one between the believer and the world. There is a massive gulf between Christians and the world – not only in who we are and what we do – but also in our eternal destiny.
The apostle John gives us a command not to love the world – or the things in the world – as one of three primary tests of salvation. In this test, we find three key truths, starting with the aforementioned command. The prohibition against loving the world and the things in the world is an indicator of whether we have eternal life and love God, or whether we are part of the temporal world system, which is passing away. The world is the realm where Satan rules, where Satan has power, and where his children do their evil works (see John 12:31; 16:11; 1 John 3:8; 5:19). The demonic and Satanic nature of the world is seen most clearly in the hatred the world has for those who love Christ. Although Jesus conquered the devil, the final consummation of that victory has not occurred, and so the battle rages on.
What is so incredible in John’s writings is that God so loved the world! The world hates God and is in rebellion against God as it follows the evil one, but God did not respond with hatred of His own – but in love by sending His Son to die for the sins of the world. God looked at the sinful, wicked, rebellious world and, rather than sending His Son to destroy it, He sent His Son to die on a cross so that those in the world who repent and believe might be rescued from the devil, become children of God, and receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.
We as Christians should model that same love God has for the world in that we should desire sinners to be saved through faith in Christ. But we should never love the world in the sense that our affections are fixed on what its affections are set on, because the world is opposed to God and loves sin; and we are to be precisely the opposite of that! Here, then, is the command that forms the basis for this test of our relationship to the world: we must not love the world.
John then leads into the clarification of his command by breaking down the world into three basic things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. The flesh refers to something spiritual within us, passions and desires that are contrary to the will of God. The lust of the eyes speaks to man’s insatiable desire to acquire what he sees. It refers to eyes that look on the things in the world (riches, houses, cars, clothes, and so on) with unquenchable greed. The boastful pride of life is a temptation we can all relate to: we find our value, worth, and significance – not in God – but in what we have, in who we are because of something earthly, or something about us that is temporal.
These three things – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life – are the things that the world lives for and that sinners seek after as their idols. In Genesis 3:6, we see the first time humanity was seduced by these things when Eve was deceived by the serpent and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: Satan attacked her at all three points. Never underestimate the enemy’s design to hit you at every level with a temptation, because the most powerful temptations don’t just appeal to your body or your heart or your pride; they appeal to all three at the same time.
John closes with a contrast and a hard reality as was mentioned at the beginning: there is a stark contrast between the believer and the world.
The world and its lusts are passing away. We are assured of this in 1 John 2:8, where John writes that the darkness is passing away. The world is the realm of darkness, and its days are numbered. That means that history is not one endless loop. We are not living in a circular pattern of history.
History has a goal and a destination; history is linear, and it is moving toward a purpose and a conclusion. And when that conclusion arrives, the world and its lusts will not survive.
We are so close to that conclusion, which is why John speaks in the present tense in his first letter. This has already begun through the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus destroyed the works of the devil, and so the world and its lusts are running out of time. If you live for what is temporary, your life is temporary, and you will fall under God’s divine judgement, suffer the second death, and spend eternity in the lake of fire. You cannot live for a temporal world and think you have eternal life.
But the contrast is that those who do the will of God live forever. And the beginning of that is to believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We who are trusting in Christ as our Savior and Lord seek to do what God has revealed in His Word, so that what God desires trumps every human desire, whether physical desires, desires of the heart or the mind, or whether desires that appeal to our pride. We put to death those things, and we seek to live for Christ, for His will, for His glory, for His pleasure.
May we all see God’s Spirit at work in our lives so that the world will see in us the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.