Today is known as Black Friday in the retail business. Most retailers will earn their annual profits in the next 5 weeks. Many enter this weekend in the red, but after this weekend they’ll enter the black.
News programs this morning are focused on shoppers who spent all night last night in line at major retail stores so they could take advantage of discounts that start today. At some stores the stampede was so fierce some shoppers were trampled when the doors opened at 5am. Reports of fist fights are rather common as shoppers protect their place in line. Theft is rampant at area malls as some prowl the parking lot for cars stuffed with holiday gift items. Everywhere you look there is the quest for stuff – stuff people want, but don’t yet have.
There’s nothing sinful about searching for a bargain. And it’s not sinful to shop, provided it doesn’t interfere with our service to God. Covetousness is sin. And there are other sins that tempt men during times like these. So, it seems fitting to spend just a few moments considering how God wants us to view this world and the stuff it offers.
1 John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. There is no contradiction between what we’re commanded to do in refraining to love the world and what God did when He loved the world. The world in John 3:16 are the people who inhabit the world. That’s what God loved. God’s interests were in seeing the people of the earth saved through obedience to Jesus Christ.
The world spoken of in 1 John 2 is the sphere of evil that men turn themselves over to. The love forbidden in 1 John 2 is a love of those things that serve self, those things that cause us to rebel against God.
Consider 3 verses in 1 John chapter 2.
In verses 12 – 14 the children, fathers and young men have been addressed. Each of these groups is commended for having good control in their respective circumstances. Even so, they are all in the world and subjected to the lures and temptations of Satan.
Now, the exhortation is to love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. The “world” that we’re commanded to not love is the sphere of evil that exists in this life. There is a universal pursuit in this life that is opposing God. We have to neglect loving that world. But we’re forbidden to love even the things in the world.
The story is told of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Here comes a young man to the Lord asking what he lacks in order to have eternal life. The Lord tells him to obey the commandments of the law. The young man responds by telling the Master that he’s does all that since he was a child.
Matthew 19:21 “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
It would seem this young man was so sincere and dedicated that he’d have done whatever Jesus commanded, but this final admonition was too much. Here is what the scriptures say about his response to the Lord’s final admonition…
Matthew 19:22 “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Jesus goes on to teach the disciples some more about the wealth of this world and the dangers associated with them.
Matthew 19:23, 24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
The young ruler would have surrendered to the Lord except for this one thing. He had something in this life that he cherished more than his obedience to God. This one thing was something of this world, not heaven. He put it before God.
We may lack “one thing.” It might not be money or wealth, but it might be love of pleasure. It might be love of ease. It might be obsession about our health (or our sickness). It might be the attraction of our house, or land or business. It might be a desire for fame or prominence or worldly honor. It might be career ambition. It might be family. There are many things of this world capable of drawing us away from God and the Truth of the Church.
Whatever stands between you and your pursuit of heaven is of this world. I’m reminded of people who make the claim that you can have it all. They’re liars. You cannot have it all. You cannot have everything this world affords and have heaven, too. I’ve known many people who have made sacrifices because they realized the truthfulness of that idea. Some have sacrificed athletic pursuits. Others have sacrificed academic pursuits, or career pursuits. A few have sacrificed family because they understood that it was NOT possible to please God and have something valuable in this world. Frequently we find ourselves forced to make a decision between something of this life and something spiritually pleasing to God.
Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Each of us must decide what we’ll serve. We can only give allegiance to one master. So strong is the pull toward material or worldly possessions that the Lord talks about this in the very next verses in Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
The Lord knew the pull that this world would have on us. The shame is that too few understand the sin of falling in love with this world or the things of this world.
“If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Loving the world and loving the Father are completely incompatible with one another. They can’t exist together in the same heart.
Romans 8:5-9 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
The phrase “do mind” means that these people deliberately focus their attention on things of the flesh. These people, perhaps us from time to time, devote themselves to those things that are solely devoted to THIS LIFE. Your career, your money, your hobbies, your family and even your health will not propel you into eternity with salvation in Jesus Christ. All these things may hold some importance in our lives, but they can hardly become our focus or concern to the exclusion of being what God wants us to be.
Carnally minded people are not necessarily evil, wicked people who do dastardly deeds. They might be Christians who have surrendered to the lusts found in this world. They might be people who have forgotten that they were purchased and purged from their sins. They might be people caught up in the game of advancing a career, building a portfolio of investments, or improving their physical health. They cannot please God by pursuing a life based in this world, according to Romans 8.
Another warning is found in the book of James.
James 4:4-8 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Spiritual adultery is what is talked about here. This adultery is one where a Christian is unfaithful to the Church. How does that happen? It happens everytime a saint falls in love with the world and denies the work needed by the bride of Christ, the CHURCH. In contrast to being unfaithful to the Lord we can submit to Him and resist the devil. Both require effort and work! I’m sure there’s a lesson there about our willingness to pay the price for faithfulness.
Another scripture points out the same lesson. 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
It’s difficult for young and old alike to be separate. It’s hard to come out from among them, meaning from among the people of the world – the people we are constantly surrounded by. The Old Law had things that were considered unclean. They were specific things. Today, under the Christian law there are many things that can be considered unclean – anything that takes us away from faithful service to God. In and of themselves, they might be okay, but when they get in the way of our Christian service – they’re unclean!
1 John 2:16 “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.”
God didn’t establish these things. The world created them and they are of this world. Three specific things are listed here: 1) the lust of the flesh, 2) the lust of the eyes and 3) the pride of life.
The lust of the flesh is the desire that exists in the minds of men to do evil. The term “flesh” here is the darkest sense of the word. It means the animal nature of man, the source of evil appetites. The lusts of the flesh are made manifest in the works of the flesh. Over in Galatians chapter 5 we have a catalog of these:
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The lusts of the eyes provide the source for us to seek after things that distract us. We see what we long for. Living in a physical world that provides so many temptations, it’s easy to permit ourselves to focus on the things around us rather than on the spiritual things that can help us overcome temptation.
The pride of life encompasses the things that feed our selfish nature. Pride of life prevents men from serving anything or anyone other than their own desires and appetites.
People have long pointed out the temptation of Eve in the garden and the temptations of Jesus after the 40 day fast in the wilderness. It’s true that every temptation is encompassed in these three concepts. That makes it true that the temptations of Eve and our Savior contained these aspects.
Awareness is the first step toward improvement. It’s clear that God’s people have to get and maintain an awareness of these 3 aspects of temptation. If we don’t, we’ll surrender to them. But I fear there may be too many people who enjoy temptation. The lure of the temptation is strong and the resolve to avoid it too weak. For that reason, too many young people may put themselves into situations that cause temptation. For that reason, too many mature people may put themselves into situations that are tough to escape from.
Our failure to clearly understand these 3 aspects of temptation will cause us to be weaker than God wants us to be. We need a devotion to clear understanding. We need a devotion to draw nearer to God. We need a devotion to avoid EVERYTHING that would take us away from the Church.
1 John 2:17 “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The reason to avoid temptation is clearly stated here. The world, which may entice us to love it, will pass away. The lust, that we may enjoy for a season, will also pass away.
Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
The ability to understand long-term versus short-term is a wonderful ability. It’s an ability that every Christian must possess. Moses had it. For that reason, he could make up his mind that he would not enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. Instead, he decided to be true to God and endure the hardships of the wilderness wanderings. Moses had respect for the eternal reward. He respected the reward that would come to faithfulness. Do we have that respect? Or do we respect the reward of this life and the things we can gain here?
Do we value the short-term pay offs in this life over the long-term eternal pay offs in the life to come?
He that “doeth” the will of the Father means the person who literally keeps on doing the will of the Father. It’s not enough to do the will of God one time. It’s not enough to obey the gospel, then slide back into sin. We have to devote ourselves to keeping the commandments of the gospel always.
In contrast to Moses we have another name revealed in the scripture, Demas.
2 Timothy 4:10 “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”
We’re not certain what temptation snagged Demas, but suffice to say, the world snagged him. He loved the present world more than he loved the idea of reaching heaven. As a result, he forsook the apostle Paul and the work.
In contrast to not loving the world or the things in this world we’re commanded to love the Lord and one another.
Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
Luke 10:27 “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
Loving the Lord is more than lip service. It’s active, it’s determined and it’s intentional.
John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
John 15:10 “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
Our goal is to make heaven our home. That won’t happen if we view this world as our home. The word we constantly use is “pilgrim.” It fits. It’s a Bible term. I leave you with two verses.
Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
1 Peter 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;”