1 John 2:15-17
"15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the
world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not
of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust
of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever."
How does this strong command and warning follow from the previous passage about who were now are in Christ? Well, it looks like there were people in the churches that John was writing to who were claiming the new life in Christ, but were harboring hate for others and were continuing to pursue the things of the world. They were like someone who visits the doctor, believes in this doctor's great ability to heal, writes down all that the doctor commands, and yet goes away and does none of it. John insists that this new life in Christ, that we now have in union with Him, is reality and affects real change. It is not possible for followers of Christ to go on living as before because that is to live a lie, to live in an unreality.
We already talked about the passage on hating your brother so I won't go back to that one now. Why is it that we cannot love the world and have the love of the Father in us? Well, to have the love of the Father in us is to know ourselves as His children--really, truly His sons and daughters. That is not just a new label to add to all the rest, it is the reality that all roles, labels, even thoughts about ourselves must conform to. We are His sons and daughters and God is making this reality more and more manifest--someday there will be no doubt as to our true selves.
God is our life, not just the origin of our biological life but the only source of true life in every dimension. The particular Greek word often used for eternal life is zoe. It is not just bios, biological life going on forever and ever. It is life from God—God-life, the only source of life. It goes beyond the biological and yet of course includes it, because God is the author of all life at all levels. The life God gives us in Christ is a life that involves removing and destroying all the brokenness, evil and twistedness of sin in us. It is the life that comes from the very heart of the triune God--full of love, joy, peace, and hope.
To love the world is to still be seeking for something out there, apart from God, that is going to give us our meaning, purpose, security, identity, life. John is not speaking here of enjoying the earth and the beauty of God's creation. He is not speaking against music and art that can be enjoyed and reflected upon.
He says in verse 16 that what he is warning his readers about is "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life." Lust is a desire for possession and control of some object, person, or circumstance. It looks to created things for ultimate fulfillment and meaning. It wants to be overcome and absorbed by or even become one with created objects of desire or what they seem to be able to provide if we devote ourselves to possessing them, sacrifice for them. Lust is a form of idolatry.Why does one lust? Because he/she is not trusting that rich, full life is only found in God. A lustful person is not convinced that what God is giving is truly enough.
The pride of life refers I think at least partly to the ever present concern in this world with how we appear to others or what we perceive to be our status in society. It is a concern for power (not just positional power), a desire to have influence, to be well thought of by others. As with acting out of lust, someone caught up in the pride of life is not trusting that they are already empowered by God, loved by God and "famous" with God (CS Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”), so they seek these things elsewhere.
John wants to uncover for us what is really going on when we love the things of this world and indulge ourselves with them. We cannot receive God's life when we are looking for life somewhere else. We cannot live in His love and peace. In fact, what the world offers is, as John put it earlier, darkness. It twists and breaks us. What the world offers is what God is healing us from, so that we can receive His life. And John ends this section by telling us "And the world passes away, and the lust of it." These other things we are tempted to pursue to give us life, security, power and identity, John says, have no lasting substance--they will pass away. It is not like there really are two places to find life--God and the world, but that God is a little better. The world will pass away. It is a shadow, an empty promise that cannot fulfill itself. Real life, life that lasts, is in God alone.
But aren't we all still struggling at times with loving the world and the things of the world? Does this mean that God is not abiding in us? Well, I think if we go back to the 1st chapter, we see that John has already said that yes, we still sin. In fact, he says we need to keep admitting that truth and handing it over to the One who can and does forgive us and who is destroying that sin in us. God will remind us over and over of the emptiness of the world's promises. We will soon or later be very disappointed, be betrayed by them. Our participation in God's work in our lives is to agree with God that our lives and true identities are only to be found in Him and to not place ourselves in temptation's way. And our obedience to what we sense God is calling us to, should come out of a trust that God is the only source of life. God does desire that we trust Him and live as if He is who He reveals Himself to be—our ultimate joy and life. As we struggle to live in this world and not be of it, we can place our hope in God, to finish His work in us and to lovingly continue to show us the emptiness of all other "sources" of life.
This passage reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that you have may have heard before:
"When he said, 'Be perfect," He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder--in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad..."
(Mere Christianity, bk. 4, chs. 8, 9)
Thank God, He has in mind for us so much more than we do! I hope that God is able to give you hope and renewed trust in Him.
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