Welcome to 2014! As we begin a new year, I can’t help but think how amazing it is that, the Word of God in general, and the book of 1 John in particular, are just as relevant today as they were over 2,000 years ago. We still need to read the words of one of Jesus’ right hand men teaching us what He learned from His Lord and Savior.
I think that is important to remember. John isn’t teaching a religion that he dabbled with for a short period of time. He is telling us about a relationship and faith that he had been developing for over 50 years! He is an elder saint, probably in his 80’s telling us what he knew to be true. He stood by his beliefs and love for God through beatings and persecution. He was sold out 100% for God.
Sometimes I wonder what men like John would think if they encountered some of the attitudes of believers today. We live in a society where lines and standards have become gray. People are tolerating sin. Relevance has moved from presenting the Gospel so people see how it affects their lives to watering down the Gospel and making it more comfortable for the world. What would John say about this?
Luckily for us, we don’t have to wonder, because John takes it head on in 1 John 2. In his familiar straightforward, to the point style, John tells us exactly what he would say to those who want a faith that includes a little bit of God and a lot of the world around them. Let’s see what he says in 1 John 2:15-17:
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.
Ok, before we look at what John is saying, lots start off with what he is NOT saying. John is not saying we need to hate sinful, unsaved people. That would be a ridiculous interpretation. After all, John saw Jesus go and show love to the worst of sinners while He walked on earth. So, of course, he would never encourage us to hate unsaved people.
What John is saying is that we, as believers, need to stop longing for the ways of the world. We must stop looking at the things we use to do before we got saved in a nostalgic way. We can no longer try and get as close to sin as we can without crossing the line. We can’t try and waltz into Heaven with the smell of Hell’s smoke lingering around us.
I remember once being part of a conversation with some people who were telling stories of the “fun” they had with their girlfriends before they got saved. Others told “funny” stories of how they would act when drunk or high. As they spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder why they had such happy memories of the sinful time in their lives. Shouldn’t these sins break their heart? Shouldn’t it hurt them to know they were hurting God’s heart when they were walking away from Him?
Yet these types of conversations take place often…my brothers, this should not be so! John tells us that we need to hate the sin and evil around us, not long for it. He goes even further. He says that if we still long for the ways of the world, the pleasures and enticements it offers, then we aren’t really saved. How can he make such a harsh statement?
Because John understands what loving the world really meant. It is a wrong attitude of the heart that indicates a lack of a totally consuming love for the Lord God. It means we are letting other things draw us away from God and following Him wholeheartedly. It means to stop longing for the temporary pleasures around us, knowing that eternal pleasures await us. John says as much in vs 17:
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
We often lose sight of this fact in our “I want what I want when I want it society”. But the words of John still ring true. In true straightforward talk, John reminds us that:
1. When we desire and pursue the ways of the world, we cheapen the sacrifice Christ made on the cross.
2. We are not really loving or serving God when we long for the world around us.
3. We are being shortsighted when we pursue the ways of the world, because they are doomed to be destroyed.
4. We should instead realize that when we pursue the ways of God, we are pursuing eternal rewards.
John has given us a strong, relevant message. Basically, what he is describing is the choice all believers need to make…"Will I pursue becoming more like Jesus, or will I stay steeped in the ways of the world?”
Then he tells us the outcome of both paths. Now we need to listen to his message and examine our hearts. We must look at ourselves honestly.
What do we want from the world? What attracts us? What do we think we are missing?
If we were to give our whole heart, body and soul to God, what would we have to give up?
What are we willing to give up for God? What are we willing to separate ourselves from for Him?
We are not seeking to condemn anyone. We are trying to challenge you make a commitment. God is seeking men to who will make a total commitment to Him. But we can’t be these men until we all make the decision to leave the ways of the world behind us and to move forward loving and serving God wholeheartedly. I have made my decision, now you must choose.