I hope you spent some time wrestling with that question this week because the answer we give to that question determines whether or not we will be able to receive today’s message.
When we decide that we are going to pursue spiritual maturity...that we are going to do what it takes to stay connected to God...we start by spending time in God’s Word and allowing it to speak to us and grow inside of us. Choosing to mature, choosing to abide or remain in Christ, choosing to spend time in God’s Word means that we choosing to NOT do some other things.
The challenge comes when our loves are split. When we love God and want His way...but we also love something else...something that is not God.
So we have to learn to “keep our eyes on the prize” as they say in the world of athletics. We have to keep our eyes...or in John’s language...our love...focused one the right things.
I found this clip of someone who didn’t keep his eyes aiming in the right direction...
Let’s look at today’s passage...
1 John 2:15-17 says,
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”In today’s passage John’s call is for us to not love the world. For those who want to mature in their faith, John says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
What is the World?
If we are to live a life that does not love world...our my first question has to be What does John mean by the world?
The word used here has several meanings.
It can be mean creation, the earth, or the universe. John is part of a Hebrew culture, though, that values the present world and the Creation of God. Just a fast reading of 1 John and the Gospel of John reveals that John is highly influenced by the book Genesis...and understands that God views His creation as good and that Jesus is part of the master plan to rescue and renew God’s created order. Besides this verse doesn’t make sense if we translate it as Do not love creation.
It can also mean the people of the world. But John 3:16, a verse many of use learned in Sunday School or have at least seen on a sign at a football game, says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son...” God is invested in this world and its people. John has also been talking about how one of the signs of a person really loving God is that they really love their brother.
So what does John mean? He means that we are not to love the ideologies, methods, and ways the world operates that are estranged from God. One simple look around and it is fairly easy to see how the world operates in ways different from God or at least it should be easy if we have spend time allowing the word of God to live in us...that is the point of the last section as it connect to this one.
The world’s ways run contrary to God’s. So we are not to love the world...We are to “quit considering the world precious.” And the reason we stop loving the world is that everything in the world comes from the world and not from the Father. For John, those who are a part of true discipleship, those who truly love the Father, do not love the things that God does not love. And God does not love the brokenness in our world.
Remember, the word for world here is not about the creation or the people, but about the systems and ideologies that characterize a broken and fallen world. John even lists three things that characterize the world’s ideology he is calling us to turn away from: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.
Let’s take a look at these...
First, Lust of the flesh...the desires of the flesh...John would likely have in mind sexual sin, but he would also have in mind appetites and desires that are not centered on God. This is an unhealthy desire, lust, for things that fulfil appetites and desires in ways not centered on God.
The world has a way of taking good and wonderful things and turning them into something sinful by misuse. Sex, according to God’s Word, is wonderful and great...He created it for our enjoyment...but it goes wrong when it is done outside the bounds He sets for it. Working hard, earning a living, and making money are all good things...until the desire for them leads us to neglect our loved ones or to pursue wealth at the expense of others. Food is a great thing. God even talks about feasting and enjoying great food together...but gorging and gluttony are not God’s design for food. Same with having a beer. We are hard pressed to find a verse that says drinking a beer is sinful...but we all know the impact alcoholism has on people’s lives.
Most sin hapens when something good is take too far or takes on more importance than it should have...when lust of the flesh creates a sinful desire for something.
Second, John points out the Lust of the eyes. This is a greed for things we see. When we feel like less or desire something wrongly because we see what others have...a sinful lusting grows inside of us. The biblical term for this is coveting. Desiring something that is not ours...something we don’t need...something God has not given us...but because we have seen it we now want it for our own.
Third, John points out the Pride of life. This is a bragging about what we have...a desire to impress people with what we have or have done or are doing. Yeah, well my kid is honor student at The Emporium of Learning more stuff than your kid! This is that feeling that makes you want to compare yourself to others from your high school graduating class. Or, put just the right spin on your resume. It is believing that what you have or have done are what makes you important.
These three are characteristics of people who love the world, and our sin fits into one of these categories. We struggle with these on a regular basis. Satan uses them to fight against us constantly...and John says that when we love the world...we can’t love God because we allow these things become our core values rather than Love of God and Love of neighbor.
If we are drawn away by our love of the world...we demonstrate that God’s love is not in us. Why? Because who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become. We can’t have competing loves in your life. We can’t love two things that at their very core are opposed to each other. You can’t love the way of a world that values things opposed to God’s Way. You can’t love sin and righteousness. You can’t love both Michigan and Ohio State. Love of God and Love of the world are incompatible because they lead to different destinations.
And John says, Why would you want to love the world’s ways anyway...because it is all transitory anyway...it is all passing away...it won’t last. Only the things of God last. Verse 17 says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Pursuing the things of the world is like chasing the wind. If we truly believe there to be a resurrected life after this one...and that God’s Kingdom really is what matters...then this will affect our attachment to the things of this world.
What house I own...doesn’t matter because I have a home with God.
My bank account doesn’t matter...because real riches are found in doing God’s Will.
What car I drive doesn’t matter...
That is why Paul can tell Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8,
“Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”This world is passing away and what matters is what we are building for eternity. So the focus of our lives become very important...who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become.
We can have children and build large families...but are we doing it in such a way that God’s Kingdom is being expanded?
We can build businesses and great companies...but is God’s Kingdom being expanded by it?
When we get Crossroads Vineyard up and running, but it becomes another business-as-usual church...then we have failed...we must be a church that pursues God’s Kingdom, making Him known, spreading the influence of His word and Kingdom in people’s lives.
And really it all starts with everyone of us centering the purpose of our lives on bringing the Kingdom of God wherever we are. If you are an accountant...why has God placed you where you are? How can you bring the Kingdom of God there and in other areas of your life? If you are truck driver...how can you bring the Kingdom of God in your sphere of influence? Soldier? Receptionist? Burger-flipping, minimum wage making, student?
When we allow the love of the world to creep into our lives it distracts us from what should be our true love...from where our eyes should be focused.
Making Straight Lines
When Lori and I first moved to Kansas City, I took a job as youth pastor. The church sat on about 20 acres of land, 10 of which needed mowed...which as youth pastor meant that that responsibility naturally fell to me. It was the natural connection. Teenagers and cutting the grass.
So they showed me how to use this tractor that was one generation removed from a team of oxen, and every week it would take me about 4-6 hours to get the thing running and another 4-6 hours of cutting and trimming to get this yard looking nice.
Part of the problem is that I’m a bit OCD. Things have to be symmetrical. I like to have straight lines. And, you never really notice how uneven your lines are until you have driven a tractor across a 10 acre field and then turn around and look at what you thought was a straight line.
So I began this search for instructions on how to cut as straight a line as possible across this field. Then I read this article, I don’t even remember what it was or where I read it, but it said that farmers, before GPS and all the other fancy gear, would pick out a point at the far end of the field and drive toward that because if they looked at anything closer their lines would not be straight. So I tried it. I picked out a tree at the far end of the field directly in the line I wanted to go...and my lines were as straight as I could get them.
John knows that where our vision is located...what we love...determines the direction of our lives. We talked about this awhile back as we worked through the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And then when talking about how to stop worrying, Matthew writes in 6:33, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The secret to living the life God desires us to live is not a set a rules...it is about focusing on the right thing and pursuing it. I focused on a tree at the edge of a field, and was generally able to get a straight line. When we focus on Jesus...we will get a generally straight line as we pursue Him. Not that we will get it right every time...not that we will be completely perfect in the sense that there is not flaw...the point is that we will be headed in the right direction.
You see the Gospel is about attachment. Jesus is very clear the things or people we attach ourselves to define us. What we pursue or love defines our character, our actions, and, ultimately, our destiny.
For those who pursue the Kingdom of God...they don’t need to worry about such trivialities as food, and shelter, and clothing. Our pursuit, our one love should be love of the Father, and when that is our ultimate goal...everything else seems to fall into place. When we pursue God with all of our heart...we don’t have to make rules about what is or is not a sin because God begins to brings those things up for us. We feel uncomfortable when we watch that kind of show...we sense that something isn’t right when take part in that activity...
Who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become.
So when John is righting back to this church in Ephesus, he says, “Do not love the world.” Keep loving what should be your first love. Keep loving God. Keep your focus on the right thing.
A generation later, one of John’s disciples, a man named Ignatius is writing to this same church and writes these words, “Apart from Christ, let nothing else dazzle you.”
That is the question for us this week...what dazzles us? Where is our focus?
Is our focus on things that will not last? On things that have no eternal purpose?
Or is our focus on things that really matter? Do we love the Father with our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Does all that we do flow out of our pursuit of God?
Awhile back I was reading through the Bible and as I came to 2 Chronicles 20:12 it struck me really hard; especially the last phrase.
King Jehoshaphat is going to battle with an enemy. He is vastly outnumbered, and the enemy troops are better equipped and better prepared. Rather than fret or worry, Jehoshaphat calls the people of Judah to pray and fast. During this time, He prays a corporate prayer with the people and ends it with this sentence, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
That line sums up my leadership and church planting ability, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you." It sums up my Christian walk, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you."
That line should at the least, be the starting point for each one of us as we pursue God, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you."
Let me end with this story...
I was listening to a podcast of Rich Nathan the pastor of Columbus Vineyard this week, and he told the story about a pastor friend of his named Doug Murren. Doug’s daughter, through a series of childhood things, developed cerebral palsy, and struggled to walk. She was confined to a wheelchair most of the time. She was a strong little girl, cheerful, and happy...though.
One day she came home from school, and Doug sensed there was something wrong. He asked her how her day went. “Fine,” she said. But Doug didn’t buy it. He followed her into her room and repeated the question. “No, really,” he said, “How did your day go?”
She broke down into tears. The teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, and she raised her hand and said, “I want to be a ballerina and a mother.” This little girl sitting next to her began to laugh and said, “You are cripple...you are never going to be a ballerina! And no boy is ever going to date you looking like that!”
As the little girl sobbed, Doug wrapped his arms around his little girl to comfort her, and then got a stick and beat that other child to death for hurting his little girl...no...that’s what I would have done. He is a better man than I am so he said, “We have been talking about what God thinks of us...so Who’s opinion about us really matters this girls or God’s?”
“God’s,” the girl responded.
“And what does Jesus tell you you are going to be?” Doug asked.
“He says I am going to be a ballerina!”
“Then you are going to be a ballerina!” He said.
You see, When we start listening to anything other than Jesus...when we allow love of the world’s values to creep in and take over, we lose sight of what Jesus wants to do in our lives and what He wants to do in our world. We become deaf and blind to God’s action in our world.
We can spend our lives loving a world that is going to use and abuse us...a world who’s value system has no lasting influence over our world...or we can invest our lives in the Kingdom of God where everything we do has an eternal impact. Where we are not ruled by the lusts and passions that bind up so many people...a place of true freedom. But the choice is our...what are we going to pursue? Who are we going to love?
For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads