“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.”
John (1 Jn. 2:15) could not be more clear. The things that are in the world, and all that the world produces from its ungodly system are deadly for the godly man when he lives for them and not for Christ. The believer should have no desire or allegiance for anything the world produces.
We might ask what kinds of things John is referencing. He tells us:
- the lust of the flesh
- the lust of the eyes
- the boastful pride of life
In other words, he is talking about fleshly and covetous desires (the lusts of the flesh and eyes) and the pride of possessing those desires (the bragging pride of life). As one writer has noted, “The world is driven by these two things: passion for pleasure and pride in possessions.”
There are two dangers about things we see in the world: one is seeing them, not having them, and still wanting them; the other is seeing them, wanting them, and having them. Both the desire for the world’s goods and the possession of those goods can lead us away from God — and John addresses both those potential pitfalls for the believer.
“Anything in this world that is not God can rob your heart of the love of God. Anything that is not God can draw your heart away from God. If you don’t have it, it can fill you with passion to get it. If you get it, it can fill you with pride that you’ve got it.” [John Piper]
Lest we think that we are immune from those dangers — that we’ve received an inoculation against the world that will protect us — we do well to remember the warning God gave Israel in Deuteronomy 8. You remember the circumstance: they had been taken out of their captivity in Egypt and then rebelled fearfully against God by refusing to enter the promised land and so they wandered the wilderness for 40 years while the rebellious generation died off. As the next generation prepared to enter the land, God reminded them of the importance of obedience to Him and not being enticed by ungodly desires:
- So God reminded them that their hunger (and boredom with their manna) was a reminder that food was not their need, God was (v. 3).
- And God also reminded them that their prosperity (vv. 7-9) was to lead them to humble gratitude, not pride (vv. 10-14).
What happened? They grumbled for food in the wilderness and they became proud and forgetful in the Promised Land. They became discontent with their diet during those 40 years, longing for cucumbers, leeks, and meat. And their discontent was more a dissatisfaction with God than with their diet. Their grumbling and anger was directed toward God.
And then when they entered the land of Israel and had abundance of food and wealth and protection they were quick to forget God, depending on their possessions instead of God who had given them all their good things.
The story of Israel in Deuteronomy 8 is given to us to remind us that we will do exactly what they did — grumble for ungodly desires and become forgetful of God when we get what we want. That’s what the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life do in the heart of a man who does not pursue God.
And that’s the end reason why John says, “do not love the world…” When we love the world, we cannot love God. Loving the world makes us desire things that will not last not ultimately satisfy. Loving the world makes us forget God.
Do not love the world.