“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” (I John 2:15-17).
The world is a pretty cool place; it really is… What man has taken and built and accomplished is nothing short of amazing. That was God’s plan from the beginning… It is what He intended when He gave the primeval commission to Adam and Eve, to “…subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
We have certainly accomplished that, to the uttermost parts of the earth and beyond… But because of our rebellion against God, man has exercised that dominion in a way completely contrary to God’s plan and design. The result has been the establishment of what the Bible refers to as The World. In this passage of Scripture found in I John, the writer is not referring to the world that God made, but rather to the world system that mankind has established on the earth.
And that world is anything but “of the Father.” It was founded and developed by the intent and design of our first common enemy, the Devil, to appeal to our other common enemy, our Flesh, which is to say, the hearts and minds of all people who are not at any particular moment, being led by the Spirit of God. It was successful in leading the first man and woman to rebel against their Creator, and has led to the rebellion of every man, woman, and child born into the world since.
Understand, we all are born into it, and many will never desire anything else but what the world has to offer. It often feels like the most natural course in life, to pursue “the things that are in the world.” I personally have struggled from my youth up… “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…”
All three have been a problem; perhaps it is the same for you… The things of this world are enticing indeed; they just seem so much cooler than the things of God… And it often seems that the entire world is pursuing those things; so why shouldn’t I??
We don’t really like to think of ourselves as lustful. The Greek word here translated as “lust,” simply means intense desire. And this world very much appeals to our intense desires; it is in its express design, and millennia of time has passed in the perfection of that system.
But John give us a very clear warning about this world, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof…” This present world system, and everything in it that appeals to our fallen nature, is going away. The Greek is very specific; it, the world passeth away… It’s a done deal. In its place, the Scriptures promise “…a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13).
Paul also gives us this warning in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short… and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (I Corinthians 7:29, 30b-31). We are to use the things of this world, but not abuse it; that is, do not love the things of this world, rather love the things of God. Paul explains those things include “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
But we cannot win in our struggles against this world on our own; in fact, only one has ever done it… Jesus told his disciples the very night before he went to the Cross, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
You may say, “Well that’s real nice Jesus, but I’m not you, and you aren’t here today to help me in my struggles…” John reminds us later in the Scriptures that, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the people and things of this world): because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world ” (I John 4:4) parenthetical mine.
The apostle Paul echoes the words of John in his first letter to the Believers at Corinth, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Cor. 2:12). There is the key, “…Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The only one who has ever overcome the world system now lives in the Believer through His Spirit, and offers that power to the same…
Can I explain how that is possible? No, I cannot; but I know it to be true, because of what I read in the Word, and what I have seen in the World and in the lives of Believers. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the son of God” (I John 5:5)?
The world is real, the battle is real, failure is real; but so is the promise of power beyond what we possess. Left to our own, we will always lose the battle against the world, because it’s never just the world system that is arrayed against us… The enemies we face are three-fold; the World, the Flesh and the Devil. In my next several posts, we will examine those other two enemies, and continue exploring the only thing that can defeat them all.