Why The World Is Not Worth Loving
"15Do not love the world" is John's message to his readers. 'John, what do you mean, "15Do not love the world"? You were the one who wrote about how "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" to save it!(Jn. 3:16)'.
Clearly, the apostle John is using the word, "world" in a different sense here. What is described for us in John 3:16 is God's love for the people of the world. When John writes in this letter, "15Do not love the world", he is not talking about the people of the world.
What is John talking about then? What aspect of this world are we being commanded not to love? John goes on to explain, "15Do not love the world nor the things in the world . . . 16For 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."
If you are not already aware, I should warn you that this is a much-abused passage. Many preachers have used this passage to denounce such things as beer, billiards, playing cards, and going to the movies. I am not interested in drawing up a list of activities and labeling them 'worldly'. I am not interested in drawing up a list of forbidden activities because John does not do this. As we will see shortly, John's warnings have less to do with activities and more to do with attitudes.
Before we take a closer look at what it means to "not love . . . the things of this world", notice what becomes evident when someone does love the world. John writes, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him".
This is serious stuff. John says that if we love the world we demonstrate that we are not Christians. Now let's be honest. This is something we struggle with. Without even carefully delineating what it means to "love the world", most of us would confess that this is something we are guilty of from time to time. What does it mean then, for a Christian to commit the sin of loving the world? If loving the world is evidence of not being a Christian, than it follows that when Christians demonstrate a love for the things of this world we are acting like non-Christians.
At worst, we show ourselves to be unbelievers when we love the world. At best, we act like unbelievers when we love the world. John leaves little room for the mixing of the two. For John, loving God and loving the world are mutually exclusive.
Now before you question the veracity of John's word, keep in mind that this is precisely what Jesus taught. In the 'Sermon on the Mount', Jesus taught that "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and £wealth"(Mt. 6:24).
We think we can juggle our devotion to things. Jesus disagrees--"No one can serve two masters". How many times do you catch yourself saying, 'I'm too busy'? I catch myself saying this a lot. What I've found, what I've learned, is that 'I'm too busy' is a code phrase for "No one can serve two masters". As long as we attempt to follow Jesus + a) or follow Jesus + b), we will find ourselves confirming this biblical truth with the phrase, 'I'm too busy'.
Thankfully, Jesus offers us a solution for our busyness; Jesus offers a solution to our divided loyalties; later on in the 'Sermon on the Mount', Jesus tells us, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you"(Mt. 6:33).
Many of the things we are running around trying to acquire, Jesus tells us, will be ours when we seek the kingdom of God. This is why John can say, "Do not love the world". Christians are called to love the kingdom. Christians are to be people who enthusiastically seek the things of the kingdom. If Christians are found to be seeking the things of the world, then something is very wrong.
The apostle John goes on to explain why we should not seek the things of the world. John goes on to explain why the world is not worth loving, "16For 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. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever ".
If we were to pause after the first phrase, "16For all that is in the world", we might be tempted to think that everything in the world, without exception, is evil. 'John, what do you mean by "all that is in the world . . . is not from the Father"?'
'What I mean is, "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father". It is these things that you must avoid at all costs.'
The "lust of the flesh" refers to having inordinate physical desires and appetites. It is one thing to desire food, drink, and physical affection, and it is quite another thing to desire food, drink, and physical affection as a replacement for fellowship with God. For the apostle Paul reminds us that "whether (we) eat or drink or whatever (we) do, do all to the glory of God"(1Cor. 10:31).
To "lust of the flesh" then, is to believe that one can gain more pleasure by satisfying the body than by satisfying the soul. This is a danger for every Christian. Let me ask you, did anyone here today skip breakfast? And even if you did, are you planning on skipping lunch? If we are so eager to care for our body, why are we less eager to care for our soul?
If we are so quick to see a doctor when our body begins to fail, why are we so slow to see our minister when our faith begins to fail? The answer is right here: "the lust of the flesh"--our desire for physical satisfaction has become a priority over our fellowship with God.
John also warns us about "the lust of the eyes". This also, refers to inordinate desires--inordinate desires for things such as fancy clothes, large houses, expensive furniture, fast cars, and decorations of all sorts. And no, I am not giving you a 'forbidden list'. There is nothing wrong with owning fancy clothes or fast cars; we sin only when we lust for these things.
As John Piper points out, 'The first two (sins)--lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes--refer to desires for what we don't have.' The third sin named by the apostle John, "the boastful pride of life" then, is a reference to what we do have. The "pride of life" is to trust in what we possess. It is to trust in our riches. It is to trust in our career. The sin of pride says, 'I have all that I need. I am secure, and therefore, I do not have any need for God'.
The sin of lust mocks the sufficiency of Christ. It is to say, 'I need more than Christ to be content.' It is to say that, 'I need a certain type of home, a certain measure of health, a certain status in society to be content.' It is to say that 'Christ is not enough'.
Friends, I am here to tell you that Christ is enough. Christ is sufficient. Christ is all we need.
Loving Christ and loving the world are mutually exclusive for obvious reasons. Christ satisfies our every need; the world does not. Christ is the same forever and ever while John reminds us that "the world, and its lusts, are passing away"(v.17). What the world offers has an expiry date. What Christ offers lasts for eternity.
So why would we invest our time and efforts on worldly things when it is "passing away"? Nobody buys stock in a company that is sure to go bankrupt. Nobody sets up house in a sinking ship. No reasonable person would lay up treasure where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, would they? The world is passing away! To set your heart on it is only asking for heartache and misery in the end.
Friends, the world is not worth loving, but Christ is. We must do as David instructs in Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him!". Until you taste for yourself the sufficiency of Christ you will not believe what I am saying: the world is not worth loving.
As a young child I remember refusing to have steak for dinner. I could not believe that anything on this planet tasted better than a hamburger. So BBQ after BBQ, I ate hamburger while the rest of my family ate steak. What was my problem? I had never tried steak before.
The reason many of us are so consumed by a love for the world is because we have not tasted for ourselves how good the Lord is. And for those who have tasted, it has been so long that we have forgotten how sweet the taste of fellowship with our Lord is.
Christ is indeed enough. Christ is all we need. As our hymn, this morning, says, 'Take the world, but give me Jesus, all its joys are but a name; but His love abideth ever, Thru eternal years the same.' Amen.