“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 ESV)
The lure to gain our identity, salvation and satisfaction in this world is real. John tells us not to love this world or the things in it. Just like Jesus saying that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), neither can we chase both God and the world. A regenerate heart breaks (though it is slow and progressive) our love affair with the world. Chase both the world and Jesus are mutually exclusive. John is referring to a love for the world system, not for people in the world. We must ask where our affections really lie? How is this desire and affection for the world destroyed? By seeing Jesus as far more desirable. Matthew Henry says that the heart is narrow and that it cannot contain both loves. Lord, Help us!
John gets specific by defining what some of these things are. We all have God given wants and desires, but they become twisted and perverted when they terminate upon us and what we want instead of upon God. Sin is a disordering of our affections. The heart motivation question is what we must answer; the reprobate mind will justify all sorts of things to get what it wants. Matthew Henry calls these “The three predominate inclinations of the depraved nature”
- The desires of the flesh. John Wesley says that these are largely external & outward pursuits. Paul unpacks this in more detail in Galatians 5 when he compares & contrasts walking in the Spirit with the desires of the flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV). In our self righteousness, we want to feel better about ourselves because we aren’t pursuing the “varsity sins” of sexual immorality, orgies, drunkenness, etc. But, who has not struggled with jealousy, envy and idolatry. They are in the same list. Are you indulging fleshly appetites or godly appetites? The appetite that you indulge in is the appetite that will grow.
- The desires of the eyes. This is “of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful” said John Wesley. ““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23 ESV). What do you fantasize about? What fuels your hopes & dreams; what is your internal imagination fixed upon? Are they morally good things that have become “god” things? We delight & distract ourselves with the toys, trinkets & treasures of this world as we crave these things. This is covetousness. For what we behold and set our gaze upon shapes & controls us. What we say that we must have sets the course of our lives.
- The pride of life. Again John Wesley’s comments are helpful: “All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity.” This is the desire to be “someone,” to be admired, to be esteemed, to hunger and thirst for the applause of man. This is the person that must have friends, must have applause, must be significant in order to be OK.
The world, with all of these desires, is passing away. To set our ultimate hope and affection on these transient things is as meaningless as chasing after the wind – it is vanity. And yet the depraved parts of our minds still say that God alone is not enough. Ah, but the man who walks in glad submission to God abides for ever. Our joyful obedience to the commands of Christ are only possible when we are abiding in Christ. We are in Christ now and will be in Christ forever. God, help us to see you as the true Treasure that you really are!