Don’t Fall in Love with the World

Paul Yarrow of South London has a weird hobby. He seems obsessed with appearing in the background of any news camera he can find. He has appeared in the background of live reports almost daily and across various networks throughout London, reading the newspaper, standing and loitering, staring at the camera, or smiling and waving. It seems that if there is a camera crew around, Yarrow is there as well. He loves appearing on the news.

We all love something. John recognizes this and challenges us about what we love. Last week we remembered that genuine believers love one another. They do this because they are forgiven, have a true knowledge of God, have overcome Satan, and know the Father. However, in the following few verses of 1 John 2, John challenges us about what we should not love. 1 John 2:15-17 – 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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

If we summarized this text into one statement, it would be that God calls us to be holy. To be holy means to be distinct and separate. We also see this challenge in 1 Peter 1:15-17. While we have entered into a new loving relationship with God, our old nature and its temptations have not ceased. For this reason, John challenges the believer not to love the world.

John begins this section with a reminder to us to be holy. He states this with two distinct challenges. First, don’t love the world. Two choices stand before everyone – even in the church: we love the Father or the world. But what does it mean to love the world? Isn’t this a contradiction to John 3:16? In his commentary, Danny Akin notes, “In these epistles and the gospel, John employs this term in three distinct and basic ways: (1) the created universe ( 3:17; 4:17; John 1: 10 ); (2) the world of the human person ( John 3:16; 1 John 2:2); and (3) an evil organized earthly system controlled by the power of the evil one that has aligned itself against God and his kingdom ( 4:3 – 5; 5:19; John 16:11).” So, when we speak of the world as the people in the world, we are to love them. But when we speak of the world as an evil system organized under Satan’s rule, we must not love it.

One cannot love both the world and God at the same time. While loving God, one cannot become infatuated with the world’s systems and goals. What equals a successful life for you? What must happen to reach the end of your life and think, “I was successful?” We could even simplify it and ask what equals success in life for you now? Is it possessing a lovely family, advancement in your job, or the ability to buy bigger and nicer toys? The reality is that success in life is faithfulness to God. The ability to stand before God one day and hear Him say well done because you lived with eternity in mind. Anything else demonstrates a love of the world.

However, we see second that John goes further and states that we are not to love the things of the world. We are not to fall in love with stuff. It is not wrong to have something in this world. For some, God has chosen to entrust them with lots of stuff in this world. Worldliness does not reside in things, but it does undoubtedly reside in our concentration on things. I am reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Can you live without your stuff? If God took it away, would you be ok with it? This is the measure of an idol. You can’t live for your stuff, friends, family, job, or yourself and live for God simultaneously. God is exclusive.

Too many Christians are in love with the world. God takes a back seat to the things we love more than Him. We quickly allow our families, jobs, seasonals, ATVs, and sports to move God to the backburner. We give our funds to these things and choose not to give God his own money. Sadly, through these actions, we demonstrate that God is not the most important. Have you fallen in love with the world? Does it bother you when you miss church, miss serving others, or fail to give sacrificially because you are too busy doing other things? May God strike into each of us a love for Him. Next week we will look at verses 16-17 and examine the motivation for abstaining from a love of this world.