Do Not Love The World
1 John 2:15-17
By Dave Butts
John was in prison for preaching the gospel. In England, during the 1600’s, it was a requirement to have a license from the established church to preach; and he didn’t have one. So for twelve years he sat in a prison cell because he preached unlawfully. John used his time wisely, however. His experiences with law and government had taught him that the structures of this world often conflicted with the Kingdom of Christ. He began to write about this issue from his prison cell.
But John Bunyan did not write a dull theological treatise against the world. Instead, in story form, he told of a pilgrim who travels from his hometown, the city called Destruction, to the beautiful Celestial City. Along the way, Pilgrim, (later renamed Christian), encounters all sorts of adventures, terrors, comforts, and often, enticements intended to lure him off of the Way that he was on.
Many times Pilgrim meets individuals who attempt to dissuade him from his journey. Soon after leaving his hometown of Destruction, he meets his old friend, Obstinate, who asks him, "What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?" And Pilgrim replies, "I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that will not fade away."
In a sense that is the theme, not only of the book, but of the following passage of Scripture as well: "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
Like Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, we too have embarked on a journey to a new city. And in so doing, we pass through many perils. Sometimes they seem horrible, while others seem fair, yet are even the more dangerous because of it. In John Bunyan’s story, Pilgrim almost immediately falls into a miry pit called Despond…and can’t get out because of the burden on his back, needing the help of a fellow traveler to escape. Then he runs into Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who tries to get him to turn aside to the town of Carnal Policy, with its rules and regulations that seem to be wise, but are not. He escapes this entanglement with the Law only to run into a person called Passion, who insists that the ultimate joy is in having all good things now.
Along the way, Pilgrim encounters helpers set there by the Lord of the Celestial City. He is equipped, trained and armed for the battles he will face along the way. He will need that armor as he moves through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, fights persecution in the town of Vanity, escapes greed on the hill of Lucre, and is captured by the Giant Despair in the Doubting Castle.
Poor Pilgrim…it seems that everywhere he goes, there is someone or something trying to get him off of the path toward the City to which God has called him. But through the mighty help of God and his own persevering faith, Pilgrim at last reaches the City of Light, where God Himself dwells, and receives his eternal reward.
We don’t often think of ourselves as pilgrims…travelers…but that is what the Bible calls us. Peter said to us that we are aliens in this world. Jesus said to the disciples, You are in the world, but not of the world. He told them, and us, that he was going to prepare a place for us, and then come again to take us there. It is a promise of a place of permanence for us…but it strongly suggests to us that where we currently dwell is but temporary.
Now as soon as we start talking about heaven, or a world to come, someone is sure to say, "Oh, get your feet on solid ground. Sure, there may be a heaven, but we have to live in this world and it does no good to talk about what is to come. Just try to live a good life here." Or you’ll hear someone use the old line, referring to someone else, "they were so heavenly minded that they were of no earthly good." I believe that phrase is a lie from the PIT. I’ve never met anyone so heavenly minded. In fact, just the opposite is true, even among Bible-believing Christians. We seem to have forgotten heaven and decided that earth is a pretty good place to live. Our attitude is, "Let’s see if we can own and use as much of this earth as we can." I heard one Christian speaker say it this way, "We want to get all we can and can all we get." It is to counter that thinking that the Apostle John writes, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
I ask a lot of "why?" questions when I read the Bible. Oh, I’m going do what God says, whether I understand it or not. But knowing why often helps me to walk in obedience with cheerfulness. Why should Christians not love the world? Here are some reasons:
1. Our final destination is not this world. Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven." Have you ever traveled to a foreign country? It may be beautiful, but it isn’t home…you’re not a citizen there! We really need to be attached to our eternal home.
2. This life is a journey to our final destination. Earliest believers were known as followers of the Way. They understood they were on a path that led through this world, but not to this world. Hebrews 12:1: "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
3. The world (system) tries to distract us from our final destination. The New Testament presents the sad story of Demas. We don’t know much about Demas really. He was a Christian who was converted under the ministry of Paul, and was one of Paul’s traveling companions. What a privilege! Can you imagine what he saw and heard? Yet, in 2 Timothy 4:10 we read, "…for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." Love of the world causes us to abandon the cause.
4. The world is under the control of the evil one. In John 14:30, Jesus said, when referring to Satan, "…the prince of this world is coming." Paul writes in Ephesians 2:2 , "…when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air." When we flirt with the world…when we believe that we are the one person who can handle the charms of this world without it harming us…we must realize that we have set ourselves up against the Ruler of Darkness, a cunning deceiver.
5. The world is passing away; but we are intended to live forever. 1 John 2:17 says, "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." It’s really not that tough of a choice is it? Several years ago, my father died from cancer and just a few months earlier my mother had suffered a disabling stroke. I found myself sitting in their modest, little home, surrounded by a lifetime of accumulation of things. There were many things that my parents couldn’t use now, and that I had no desire for. It seemed like such a waste. It hit me hard, how temporary everything in this world is. When we look at our fellow believers, we are looking at the only things that will last.
With this in mind, what shall we do then, with this command of John’s to love not the world? The Apostle Paul gives us the key in Colossians 3:1-4: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
We think about and spend our time, energy and money, on the things that are really important to us. If Christ is our life, as Paul say in Colossians, then not loving the world will not be a problem. It is in drawing near to Jesus in intimacy that we overcome the world and its draw upon us. It is in loving Jesus with such passion that there is no room for a love of this world. And in that love for Jesus, we are able to move through this world, with His love in us, caring for others and doing His ministry as we serve them.