LOVE NOT THE WORLD
Dr. Ron Woodworth
“Do not love the world nor 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 lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
As a new believer I was intrigued when I first “discovered” this Bible verse. A book by Watchman Nee also called Love Not The Worldi further helped me to understand the revolutionary implications of this text for the sincere disciple of Jesus Christ. Think with me for a moment about what this instruction from the beloved Apostle John might mean.
Note first the contrast that is immediately made between loving the world vs. loving the Father. There is a battle within us all as to whom we will devote our lives to in loving service: the world or the Father. But what does John mean by the world? Is it the earth we walk on, the people who occupy the planet, or, as most scholars agree, the values and structure of unredeemed human cultures.ii Indeed the word “world” comes from the Greek word “kosmos,”iii which is what both Paul and John cautioned believers was a domain of darkness (Ephesians 6:12), under the control of Satan (1 John 5:19), operating by principles contrary to God (Colossians 2:20), and is a pervasive pattern of human existence that threatens to malignantly mold the believers thoughts and actions in opposition to the will of God (Romans 12:2). Indeed the world is seen as a formidable foe which must be overcome by the discerning and diligent Christian.
But John goes further and gives us three earmarks of the world:
1. The lust of the flesh–which is carnality…The needs of our physical body (or sensuality)
2. The lust of the eyes–which is materialism…I need what I am visually attracted to (or greed)
3. The boastful pride of life–which is egoism…Worship of self (or idolatry)
Notice how these three earmarks of the “world” are directly related to the fall of man. For in Genesis chapter 3 verse 6 it says that there were three things about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: 1. It was “good for food” corresponding to the “lust of the flesh.” 2. It was “pleasing to the eye” corresponding to the “lust of the eyes.” 3. It was “desirable for gaining wisdom” corresponding to the “pride of life.” In other words, it was through the willful transgression of the command of God that Adam and Eve sinned–and by sinning subjected the human race to the corruption of lust.
This power of sin, in the form of lust and fear (Genesis 3:10), now turns people away from God in pursuit of themselves and their own needs. And though it is true that we all have physical, material, and self-esteem needs, it is also true that we can take these needs to such an extreme that our love for God can be replaced by our obsession to acquire these things. As a result, our lives can be so dominated by our earthly needs that we become distracted from our spiritual mission—being bound by fear and/or lust.
This is why, in the wisdom of God, Peter asserts that God’s divine power in Christ Jesus has transformed our old nature [inherited from Adam] thereby allowing us to “escape the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4b). Peter further affirms that God has promised, in Christ, to meet our every need in this life and in the next one as well (2 Peter 1:3)! As a result, we don’t need to be afraid that our daily needs might go unmet. For our heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask him and he has promised to meet our every need as we seek him and his will first above all things (Mathew 6:8-13; 33 c.f. Philippians 4:18).
Listen to and remember these words the next time you are tempted by lust or fear regarding your physical, material, or self-esteem needs…
“Do you worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not your life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?… So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For these are the things that the pagans run after [live their lives for], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you [in the process] as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow [a command!] for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:25, 31-34a)
“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles, it drains today of its strength.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
Closing Personal Testimony: When I was 22 years of age I was miserably plagued with doubt, uncertainty, and fear regarding my future. In desperation I decided to go on a three-day fast and seek the Lord about the torment in my soul. The Father graciously led me to Matthew chapter 6 and some of the lessons in this article. I decided to boldly break my fast by taking the Lord’s Supper in which I made a covenant with God to give the rest of my life in pursuit of him and his will. Part of that covenant was that I was going to trust him with my life and declare war against worry—especially regarding what I would or would not become. Now, thirty years laterJ, I gratefully look back over a life that has been full of meaning and blessed with abundant provision.
My friend, God is no respecter of persons—he doesn’t play favorites. His promise is just as true for you today as when Jesus spoke it 2,000 years ago (Hebrews 13:8). If you are fearful and worried or bound by worldly lusts and evil desires, God wants to deliver you from Satan and give peace to your troubled soul. Simply acknowledge your need before God right now and humbly ask and boldly trust him to be the source of your provision from this day forward. Then arise in faith and live your life to honor God and he will honor you.
“Come unto me, all you who are weary and [worldly-]burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [of discipleship] upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my [kingdom]-burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Let the Lord be Magnified
[i] Now published under the title, Love Not The World: A Prophetic Call to Holy Living. CLC Publications. Available at Amazon.com. I highly recommend this text!
[ii] The Revell Bible Dictionary, p. 1036, Articles on “world” and “worldly.”
[iii] From kosmos we derive such words as cosmopolitan and cosmetics.