Summary: Loving God and loving the world are mutually exclusive commitments.

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First Presbyterian Church

Wichita Falls, Texas

March 27, 2011



The ABCs of Spring Cleaning: Part 3

1 John 2:15-17

(NIV © 2011)

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Robert Frost recounts hiking through a yellow wood one day. He says he stopped where ‘two roads diverged’ before him. ‘Sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler,’ he said, ‘long I stood and looked down one as far as I could.’ Then he considered the other road. ‘It was grassy,’ he noticed, ‘and wanted wear.’ Which way would he choose? Which path would he take? He paused before he made his decision. ‘Both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black.’ And then he made his choice. ‘I kept the first for another day,’ he said. ‘Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.’

That’s how it is with some choices. You reach a point of no return, like a pilot whose plane is running low on fuel. Does he go on or go back? At some given moment, he can’t go back; his reserves are too low. He is committed.

Making choices is not always easy, especially when to choose one course of action necessarily rules out another. A woman with two suitors cannot marry them both. She must decide in favor of one, and, when she does, she decides against the other.

We like to keep our options open, but some commitments are exclusive. Like loving God or loving the world. You can’t do both.

‘Do not love the world,’ John says, ‘or anything in’ it (1 John 2:15). On first hearing these words, they sound a bit extreme. What is John requiring of us? What is he asking us to do when he says, ‘Do not love the world’?

Perhaps, we will understand him better if we know what he means when he talks about ‘the world.’ What does he have in mind when he says we are not to love the world? What is ‘the world’? What is it we’re not to love?

The Bible uses the term ‘world’ in three different ways. Many times, it simply means the earth. Acts 17, verse 24 says, ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth....’ Here, obviously, the Scriptures use the term ‘world’ to refer to the planet on which we live, a very fragile planet by the way, for which we are to show our love by our stewardship of its resources.

Sometimes, when the Bible uses the term ‘world,’ it means all humankind. This is the meaning in John 3:16, where Jesus says, ‘For God so loved the world [that is, the human race] that he gave his one and only Son....’ If God loves all the people of the world, then we, too, should love them.

So, when John says, ‘Do not love the world,’ he is not talking about hating the planet earth or the people who live on it. He is using the term ‘world’ in a third way. He is referring to an invisible spiritual system that is opposed to God. When he tells us not to love the world, what he has in mind is Satan’s intricately coordinated scheme for opposing the work of Christ on earth. In 1 John 5, verse 19, in fact, he says: ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’

If you understand the ‘world’ this way, you can see why we are not to love it. We can’t love the ways of this world and still be very convincing about claiming to love God!

From time to time, when I was a kid, a group of us would want to play football, but we had an unequal number. So what we would do is: we would let one kid play quarterback for both teams. Usually, it was the kid who could throw best. And he would have to try to win as hard for one team as he would for the other.

That’s okay in a pickup game. But get into competitive sports and try it. When Philadelphia plays Dallas, you won’t find Jason Garrett agreeing to let Michael Vick run the plays for the Cowboys. He’s going to want Tony Romo in that spot. Why? Because he knows what Jesus said is true. ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both....’ (Luke 16:13). Again, Jesus said, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall’ (Luke 11:17).

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