1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
John begins his warning to his readers with a command: “Do not love the world, neither the things in the world.”
Last time we learned that the word “love” is our word agapao. This is the word that describes God’s love for a lost race of sinners. It’s a love that is self-sacrificial in its essence.
John writes, “Do not love the world…”
The “world” John forbids Christians to love is the Greek word kosmos. Kosmos is more than the millions of people on the planet earth. Kosmos is the invisible spiritual system of evil where Satan is the head.
1st John 2:15 tells us that we're not to love that evil system or the features of that system because the world's system is opposed to God.
Pastor John MacArthur says, “Just a cursory look at society will reveal that it is hostile to godliness and dominated by carnal ambition, pride, greed, self- pleasure, and evil desires. Its opinions are wrong, its aims are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is demoralizing, its politics are corrupt, its honors are empty, its smiles are fake, and its love is fickle. It's a system of rebellion against God that's run by Satan.”
This is the world (system) that John is commanding Christians not to love. He is not forbidding us to love the lost people of the world but the spiritual system of evil that is in the world.
In the New Testament we are also given another command concerning the world. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world…” We are not to be like Jell-O and conform to the shape of the world’s ways.
In 2 Corinthians 6:17, Christians are commanded to come out of the world system and live separate lives:
2 Cor 6:16b … For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."
2 Cor 6:17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."
The New Testament writer James tells us to not even to allow the filth of the world to stain us.
James 1:27- Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Back in our text, John ends verse 15 with these sobering words, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
The expression “if any man love the world” is a hypothetical statement. It is also in the present tense, which means “continuous action” in the Greek. In other words, this person loves the world continuously or as a habit of life.
John wants his readers to know that if any loves the world as a habit of life, the love of the Father is not in him—in other words, this person has no love for the Father dwelling in him.
If this person has no love for the Father in him, he is not a Christian. Again John “cuts to the chase” concerning who is a Christian and who is not. We have found in this series that John wants his readers to examine themselves to see if they are genuine Christians.
In verse 16 John lets his readers know why they shouldn’t love the world:
1 John 2:16 - For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
When John uses the expression, “…all that is in the world…” he isn’t referring to the quantity of things that are in the world. He is referring to the things that are in the world, collectively.
He is in essence saying, “When it all boils down, all you have in the world is…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life…” That’s all you have.
The word “lust” is epithumia, which is “a craving or a passionate desire.” It can be used to describe a good or evil desire. One can have an intense desire for something good or lawful.
For example, one can have a passionate desire for his or her spouse or even for God. In Philippians 1:23 Paul writes, “I have… a desire (epithumia) to depart and be with Christ…”
In our text the word “lust” is used to describe an evil craving.
The word “flesh” is sarx in the Greek and refers to the totally depraved nature that governs the individual’s reason, will, and emotions.
It is the part of you that wants to do wrong even when you know the wrong is sin. This sinful part of us is typified in the words that were made famous by Luther Ingram’s hit in the 70’s--“If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to do right.”
But when one becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives him a new desire to want to do right.
In Romans chapter seven, Paul writes his classic discourse on this tension between the lust of the flesh and the desires of the new nature we receive upon salvation.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Before a person is saved there is no struggle.
The unsaved person doesn’t wrestle with a desire to please the Lord and a desire to please self.
There is no contest; the flesh always dominates, dictates and directs.
But after one surrenders to Jesus as Boss of their life the real struggle begins.
The Bible says, when you were not a child of God you did just what your father the devil wanted and you did it without fussing.
But when you surrendered your life to Christ, God’s Word and His Spirit began to alert you to Satan’s schemes and now you and I must fight against the temptation to sin.
This is the lust of the flesh that John is writing about. It is a desire that seeks to govern our reason, will and emotions to get us to act independent of God. This is the “lust of the flesh.”
Next, John writes about the “lust of the eyes.”
Have you ever laid your eyes on something and all of a sudden had a desire to get it? That thing that you saw and now wanted, you had the hardest time getting it off your mind until you got it? This is “the lust of the eye.”
I remember when I was in my late teens I wanted a Toyota Celica. The sporty styling of that car and dashboard with all its instrumentation mesmerized me. It also didn’t help that one of my friends drove on and was a member of the Baltimore Celica Club.
After three cars and about four years I finally was able to get one and then the thrill was gone—that is, until I saw a later model.
Catering to the “lust of the eye” is seen in many fast-food restaurant commercials. I cannot count the times when television has blitzed my mind and created a desire to purchase something like Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuffed Burrito or KFC’s honey barbeque chicken wings or IHOP’s Stuffed French Toast. After seeing the commercials I had to get some.
The lust of the eye has led to much destruction in the lives of God’s people.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua chapter seven, the children of Israel were spying out the country of Ai. After spying out the land, the spies determined the people of Ai to be an insignificant challenge so Joshua sent about 3000 men to do battle.
The Bible records that the men of Ai chased the Israelites out of their city and killed about 36 men. As a result, fear permeated the people of God and the Scripture says, “…the hearts of the people melted and became like water.”
Upon seeing this Joshua, their leader, tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD and put dust on his head and stayed there for hours as he mourned over the defeat.
Then Joshua asks, "… Lord GOD, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all; to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?"
So the LORD says to Joshua, "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?”
God goes on to tell him the reason for their defeat: "Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.”
God goes on to say to him, "Get up, sanctify the people, and say, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: "There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you."
Joshua was instructed to take each tribe of Israel, family-by-family, person-by-person and inquire as to who had taken the accursed thing.
When Joshua gets to a man named Achan, this man confesses his sin. Listen to Achan’s confession:
Josh 7:20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, "Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done:
Josh 7:21 "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."
The Bible says that Joshua sent messengers who ran to the tent and found the accursed thing with the silver under it.
Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.
And Joshua says to Achan, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day."
Then all Israel stone Achan and his family with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. Then they piled the stones over him high.
And the Bible says, “the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger.”
And it all started with “the lust of the eye.” Remember Achan’s words, “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.”
Because Achan sinned, all of God’s people were affected.
They lost the battle with the people of Ai.
They lost 36 of their men—being chased off by an inferior army.
Achan not only lost his own life but the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had was destroyed.
Are you harboring worldly things in your life that are accursed before God? I could name a list a mile long but I do not think that that list would be as effective as the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind things you need to deal with—those things the lust of your eyes have brought into your home or your life.
It could be something as simple as an item you have financed but now the payment is getting the best of you.
It is stifling your ability to serve the Lord.
It is hindering your ability to meet the needs of your family.
It is draining your marriage of intimacy because of the financial pressures.
Perhaps you have been wondering why the full blessings of God haven’t been evident in your life.
Perhaps you have been wondering why you haven’t got that job or that raise or that measure of good health or peace of mind.
Are you harboring an accursed thing that your eyes have brought into your life? The “accursed thing” for you doesn’t have to be a thing, it can be a person. It could be a sinful habit or attitude. It could be a spirit of bitterness, unforgiveness or rebellion that is robbing you of the full blessing of God.
Another example of the devastating effects of “lust of the eyes” can be found in the life of David in 2 Samuel 11:1-17.
David was up on his roof, which was higher than everyone else's since he was king. While there, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Perhaps if he had been a blind man, the act of adultery that followed would have never happened.
The consequences of that sin were an illegitimate child, the murder of Bathsheba's husband, and the eventual destruction of David's family. Even one of his own sons tried to kill him.
David’s eyes got him into big trouble.
How are your eyes? What have you been eyeballing that displeases God?
Have you as a married person been eyeing someone on your job or perhaps even in the church?
Are you reading and gawking at magazines that lead to sinful desires?
Are those premium channels you’ve been viewing on cable TV aiding and abetting the devil’s desire to get you to sin?
So far we’ve been talking about the “lust of the flesh” and the “lust of the eyes.” But there is one more bridge to sin that John deals with in our text. He calls it “the pride of life.”
The word “pride” in this verse refers to being proud when you really have nothing to be proud about.
For example, it can be used to speak of someone poor who would invite his friends to the Inner Harbor to see a fleet of ships that he claimed to own; when in reality none of them belonged to him.
He would be bragging about something he didn't have.
The pride of life puts on a big show for other people. Usually, in order to put on a big show, one has to live just a little beyond what they can afford because they want others to think they have more than what they have. This is the boastful pride of life.
Have you seen that TV commercial out from LendingTree.com?
The commercial shows a man with a big smile standing in front of his big two-story home. Next, he's posing with his family, driving his expensive car.
Then he’s mowing his huge yard. You hear him talking about his membership at the country club, his high-class lifestyle, and the luxuries he and his family enjoy.
"How can I afford all this?” he asks. "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs."
Credit card companies prey on the vulnerabilities in a person to give in to the pride of life. Listen to their slogans:
“Membership has its privileges ...” - I’ve made purchases flashing my American Express Corporate card. It is a symbol of prestige. Not everyone qualifies for an American Express credit card—I wouldn’t have gotten one if it weren’t for my job vouching for me.
One credit card company says, “It’s everywhere you want to be…”
Another says, “Anytime, anywhere, anyway ...”and still another, “'Master the Possibilities ...” ---what they are saying is, “You can be both omnipresent and omnipotent using their card—you can be like God!” For after all, as one card says, “There are some things money can’t buy…”
What they are doing is catering to man’s desire for others to see that he is more than what he really is—this is the “pride of life.”
Sensuality, covetousness, and pride
While introducing his readers to the world’s “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life”, the Apostle John is also identifying three ways the world entices the Christian to do evil: sensuality, covetousness, and pride.
(1) Sensuality is the corruption of the lower part of man's nature-- his base desires.
(2) Covetousness is the corruption of a higher part. It is a selfish desire for what is beautiful, whether it is a woman, a car, a house, or a dress.
(3) But pride is the highest corruption of man's being. It is the exaltation of man himself.
By sensuality, man sinks to the level of animals
By covetousness he competes on the level of men
By pride he tries to reach to the heights of God.
These three arenas of temptation are not new to mankind; they have been an enemy to be reckoned with since the beginning of creation.
In Genesis chapter three, the areas of temptation found in the world were also threefold: (1) appetite, (2) beauty, and (3) ambition or pride.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
Gen 3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
Gen 3:3 "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
Gen 3:4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.
Gen 3:5 "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Gen 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Can you see match the list in 1 John 2:16 with the characteristics of Eve’s temptation found in verse six? Let’s see if we can do it:
Lust of the flesh: “The tree was good for food…” (Sensuality/appetite)
Lust of the eyes: “It was pleasant to the eyes…”(Covetousness/beauty)
Pride of life: “A tree desirable to make one wise…” (Ambition/pride)
By the way, pride is why Satan fell from heaven.
Ezek 28:12 … 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
Ezek 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
Ezek 28:14 "You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
Ezek 28:15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
Ezek 28:16 "By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.
Ezek 28:17 "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.
Isa 14:12 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
Isa 14:13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'
Isa 14:15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Did you know that every temptation by Satan falls into one of these three areas? Temptation is primarily an attempt to get one to act independently of God by implanting a desire to put oneself out in front or a determination to go one's own way (Prov. 14:12, Isa. 53:6).
When Satan tempts the believer, he does so by attempting to get us to act independently of God by coaxing us through our appetites, our eyes or our ego to sin.
He even uses this same strategy in an attempt to get Jesus to succumb to either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes or the pride of life:
(Luke 4:1 NKJV) Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
(Luke 4:2 NKJV) being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
(Luke 4:3 NKJV) And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."
There it is! Which temptation is this? It is a temptation of the “lust of the flesh variety.”
(Luke 4:4 NKJV) But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"
Notice how Jesus fights off this temptation and passes the test…He fights off temptation by using what the Apostle Paul calls “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)
(Luke 4:5 NKJV) Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
(Luke 4:6 NKJV) And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.
(Luke 4:7 NKJV) "Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."
What temptation does Satan resort to in this test? It was “the lust of the eyes.” Satan “shows” Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Jesus “sees” what will ultimately become His (Rev 11:15) only after the Cross-, not before it.
(Luke 4:8 NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"
Again Jesus gains victory over temptation through the Word of God. “It is written” He answers again!
The process of elimination can determine this last temptation. Satan has already tried to tempt our Lord by the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. In this last temptation Satan tries to gain mastery over our Lord by appealing to human nature’s ego.
(Luke 4:9 NKJV) Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here…”
(Luke 4:10 NKJV) "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,'
(Luke 4:11 NKJV) "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
When I was a boy we used to play a game where someone would say, “I dare you.” One would find out real soon that they would do almost anything when their pride is on the line. I have done a lot of stupid things because of a “dare.”
I have kissed ugly girls.
I have stolen things from stores.
I’ve gotten into fistfights.
I’ve raced my car and gotten speeding tickets.
Satan comes to Jesus and in essence says, “Prove that you are the Son of God Jesus…If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the high point of this temple—your angels will keep you from hurting yourself. After all, isn’t that what the Word says?”
Notice with this temptation, Satan begins to quote from Scripture (Ps. 91:11-12), though incorrectly.
Again, how does Jesus deal with it? He fights off the temptation by leaning on the Word of God.
(Luke 4:12 NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"
John closes this section of our Scripture text with:
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
Christians need to understand that this world with its lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life is no friend of the believer.
Sometimes you hear someone who has had bad experiences with the government or his job or a difficult time getting a loan to buy a house talking about “the system.” He might say something like, “The system is against me.”
Well, the Bible teaches there is a system that is against the follower of Jesus Christ. This system is the world.
It is hostile to godliness and dominated by carnal ambition, pride, greed, self-pleasure, and evil desires. Its opinions are wrong, its aims are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is demoralizing, its politics are corrupt, its honors are empty, its smiles are fake, and it's love is fickle.
It's a system of rebellion against God that's run by Satan.”
In verse seventeen or our text John tells us “the world is passing away, and its lust; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
The Bible teaches that one day this system will be flushed down into the cesspool called the lake of fire.
Rev 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
Rev 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Rev 21:4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Rev 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
The world is now passing away. Things are not getting better. Humanity is not evolving as scientists, philosophers and educators are saying.
At the end of verse, John offers still another test you and I can take to see if we are Christians. He says though the world is passing away, the one who does not love the world, but does the will of the Father “abides forever.” In other words, the one who does the will of the Father possesses eternal life and will live forever.
Are you a lover of the world or a doer of the Father’s will? Are you a puppet on Satan’s string? Do you follow him on a whim?
Whenever He tempts you through the lust of your flesh, the lust of your eyes and the boastful pride of life, do you succumb?
Do you subscribe to the latest fashions and trends? Are you compelled to watch the popular shows on TV or at the movies or listen to the music that’s made it to the top of the charts? Do you have a desire to get that thing “no matter what it takes?”
When your friend made that move, got that car, bought that system, picked up that dress, got that girl, purchased that furniture, upgraded that cell phone, bought those threads or purchased that home, did you feel that intense desire to do the same? Did you follow through with it?
If so, you may be worldly. Satan, by way of your appetite, eyes and ego is quite possibly running your life rather than the Spirit of God and His Word. What is the solution?
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:2-5 )