The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: 1 John 2:15-17, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: 1 John 2:15-17. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
1 John 2:15-17, An Assurance of Eternal Life: Doing God’s Will
- This morning our section deals with a great warning in order to make us aware of the precious reward of our faithfulness to God. See, if we pledge allegiance to the world and fall in the trap of loving the world – then there is no reward, only judgement. But if we are faithful to God and live in accordance to His will, we will experience His eternal life.
- Let’s read together. John not using the word “world” (cosmos) to speak of God’s good creation (Acts 17:24) or even the world of people for whom Christ died (1 John 2:2; John 3:16). He is referring here to a worldview perspective (cf. John 16:11) that is led by “the evil one.”
- Let me clarify, worldliness or “being of the world” is often misunderstood. It is often identified with cultural issues that are of a particular concern to us. John is not telling us to reject any and all aspects of culture, much of which reflects the glory, goodness, and gifts of God. What he is telling us is we are not to love and idolize thoughts, values, and behaviors that are contrary to God’s Word (v. 14) and His will (v. 17).
- This would be the things that appeal to our sinful flesh; drug abuse, drunkenness, gluttony, abundance of possessions, sexual perversions, etc.). John describes worldliness as the cravings of our sinful flesh, lust of our eyes, and arrogant pride that causes us to boast in ourselves without ever thanking God.
- Therefore, John reminds us that the world is going to burn up in the end; but if we belong to God we will live forever with Him, and so we must remain ever vigilant to love God and not the world. John highlights three things the world promises but cannot deliver. And so we’ll look into the negative in order to pursue the positive.
1. Choosing Who to Love:
- Text – 1 John 2:15
- Explanation – Isn’t it true that the longing of the human heart is to be loved and to love. John says, “Choose your lover, but choose carefully; choose wisely.” Remember, John has told us that if we walk in sin’s darkness and claim to be in fellowship with God, we are lying.
- So John points out a specific area of sin that especially threatens our fellowship with God: worldliness… His not referring to the created world but the evil world system opposed to God. The ‘world’ of God’s enemies. Therefore loving the world means to love world’s system or its way of doing things.
- Illustration – Thomas Watson has these words regarding the world…he said, it is a part of our Christian profession to fight against the world. The world is a flattering enemy. It shows its golden apple only to drown you in its luscious delights!
- The world never kisses us—except with an intention to betray us. The world is no friend to grace; it chokes our love for heavenly things. Therefore, the sin is not in using the world—but in loving it. Believers are called out of the world. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)
- The world is DECEITFUL. Jesus calls it, “The deceitfulness of riches.” (Mt 13:22). The world promises happiness—but gives weariness. The world promises to satisfy our desires—but only increases them. The world gives poisoned pills—but wraps them in sugar! The world is POLLUTING. And the world is PERISHING. It is like a flower which withers while we are smelling it!
- Application – But John draws a sharp line, with no middle ground: If you love the world, you do not love the Father. So you must choose your love and then maintain your choice: you love either the world or the Father, but not both.
- He’s saying the same thing that Jesus said in Luke 16:13, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” You must make a basic decision in life: Will you live to know God and His eternal love, or will you live for this world and its fleeting pleasures? You can’t take a little of both.
- Conclusion – “Love” is the Greek agape, indicating that it is a commitment, not a feeling, that John is commanding. The only way that you can fight the love of the world is to maintain and grow in your love for the Father, keeping in mind that the world can never satisfy you with what you truly need.
- Bridge – Now if you’ve experienced God’s gift of perfect love in salvation, then there really isn’t a choice. In fact, it isn’t ever a choice, for we are either instruments of wrath or grace, which brings us to…
2. (In)compatible Love:
- Text – 1 John 2:16
- Explanation – The main point of this verse is to explain why love for the world is incompatible with love for God! John does this by showing us the things which make up the world. The desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. These are the three faces of the world, or three sources of worldly temptation.
- Illustration – These are the weapons the world uses to seduce us into joining its side. The frightening reality is, each of these weapons resides in us! These are the same three weapons that slew Adam and Eve in the Garden. Genesis 3:6 says, “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh] and delightful to look at [lust of the eyes], and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom [the pride of life].”
- But these same three weapons were conquered by Christ in His temptation in the wilderness. Luke 4:1–13 explains that the Devil beckoned Him to “tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3), which is the lust of the flesh.
- Then he “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5), tempting Jesus with the lust of the eyes. Finally, from the pinnacle of the temple, the Devil challenged him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Luke 4:9–10).
- But even the pride of life could not lead Jesus into sin. Seeing how dominant these temptations are, a close and careful inspection of each weapon will be helpful in our pursuit of spiritual victory.
- Application – Firstly, the desires of the flesh appeal to our appetites. “Desires” means cravings, lust, or passion. The word is neutral. The object determines whether such desires are good or bad. John tells us that worldly desires are of the flesh. Now the “flesh” refers to the tendency of humans to fulfill natural desires in a way that is contrary to God’s will.
- For example, sexual appetite gives way to immorality, and physical appetite gives way to gluttony. We give in to the flesh because we are sinful. It is important to realize that we are not sinful because we sin. Instead, we sin because we are sinful. The lust of the flesh is powerful because we are sinful at our core. To us, sin is fun, enticing, and attractive. We are drawn to it like a fly to flypaper, like a fish to a baited hook.
- Conclusion – Secondly, the desire of the eyes appeals to our affections. Our eyes, like our natural desire, are not evil. Proverbs 20:12 says, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord made them both.” However, the eyes are windows to the mind (soul) by which sinful desires enter in. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:27–29,
- You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
- We are creatures of sight, therefore, we must especially be on guard here. Remember, it was David’s eyes that led him to lie, commit adultery, and murder (2 Sam 11).
- Bridge – Thirdly, the Pride of life appeals to our ambitions. Pride is vainglory, boasting, or arrogance. It refers to the bigmouth who exaggerates what he has in order to impress others. It is the “I, me, my” person. The “pride of life” speaks of the person who glorifies himself rather than God.
- It is someone who makes an idol of their stuff, their career, their achievements, and their social standing. They suffer from “affluenza!” Pride, power, possessions, prestige, and position are what life is all about. These love are incompatible with God as He stands in direct opposition to these.
- James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time.” Therefore we come to our final thought…
3. Abiding Now or Forever:
- Text – 1 John 2:17
- Explanation – Whatever we love more than God, won’t last. And it won’t be able to help us when our plans shatter, our health fails, or death beckons. Only the one true and living God can help us and sustain us. Therefore Jesus presented the proper perspective for loving this passingworld over. Matthew 16:26, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
- Illustration – This text reminds me of Demas. His probably not that well known to you, but he is part of the saddest stories in the Bible. Yet, his life serves as an important and tragic lesson for those of us who love the Father who sent His Son.
- We first hear of him in Colossians 4:14 where he is working hard for the gospel alongside Luke. He is listed along with nearly ten others for their faithful service to Christ (Col 4:7–18). We do not hear of him again until 2 Timothy 4:10, toward the end of Paul’s last letter.
- Listen to these haunting words, “Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world.” You can almost feel Paul’s heart break as he pens these words.
- Application – What does this teach us? Don’t let love for the things of this life cover your love for the Father. Don’t let a love for the things of this life cause you to chase after that which is fleeting and passing away. Spurgeon said, ‘this world is fading away! Hate the world, value its treasure at a cheap price, estimate its gems as nothing but fakes, and its strength as nothing but dreams.’
- ‘Do not think that you will lose any pleasure, but rather remember the saying of that early Church leader Chrysostom … “Despise riches, and you will be rich; despise glory, and you will be glorious; despise injuries, and you will be a conqueror; despise rest, and you will gain rest; despise the earth, and you will gain heaven!”’
- Conclusion – So why side with the world? Why give your life to an empty imitation or a temporary illusion? The world, this evil and deceptive system of Satan, is continually passing away and its desires with it. So what remains? What lasts? What endures? The answer is, the one doing the will of God. This one abides forever.
- Jesus said many things about the will of God, especially in John’s Gospel. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) He also said “I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30)
- And finally He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
- Bridge – Friends, Jesus’ work is lasting and effectual because it was the will of the Father for Him to do that work. For our work to abide like Christ’s, our hearts must not be attached to the things of this world, but to the will of the Father.
- Therefore, to continually have the assurance of eternal life, we ought to love the Father with all our hearts, and to see every room you enter become a place of love from the Father, all your work a sacrifice of love to the Father, and every praise that rolls off your lips a confession of love for the Father. Love the Father, for He first loved you.