Vol. 12 No. 3 March 2010
In 1 John 2:15-17, the apostle solemnly declares, “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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Perhaps the best known and most quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Our Lord continues in verse 17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
As Jesus prayed for His apostles shortly before His death, He said, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).
How do we reconcile these passages, which seem out of harmony? The message is we are not to love the world of created things. During the devil’s temptations of Jesus in the wilderness Matthew 4:8-9 records, “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship Me.’”
Luke writes of this same event in Luke 4:6-8, “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’” Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Paul and James also set our thinking straight on what our attitude and disposition is to be toward this world. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul says, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.”
James 4:4 reads, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” From these passages we are told that we as Christians are in the world, but not of the world. First Peter 2:11 reads, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Peter further tells us that through the promises of God we “may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). One definition of lust is an intense craving and desire for something or someone left unchecked. Jesus said, “…whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
We cannot fall in love with the pleasures, enticements and lusts that are all a part of this world. The world says do whatever you want, with whomever you want to do it with, and if you like it, do it again! The love of this world always leaves us wanting more things and wanting them again and again. When this becomes our mindset, godliness with contentment is a complete unknown! Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6-9, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Do we really believe this eternal truth, without question or reservation?
What are some of the distinct signs that the love of the world or the things in the world could be creeping into our lives?
Our core values and standards, which were once an absolute because they were based in Scripture, tend to become relative.
Our lines of division based on Scripture are no longer clearly drawn or known by others.
Our scriptural view is slowly and continually engulfed by the world’s view.
Our biblical principles are slipping; we are “settling in”—willing to “live and let live.”
Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19 is one of the early accounts of those who loved the world and all that was in it. When the men of God came to Lot’s house and told him of the impending doom of those cities, he tried to warn family members, but to no avail. Genesis 19:14 reads, “So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, ‘Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!’ But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.”
Even Lot, his wife and two of his daughters had to be urged insistently by the men of God to get out of that place, to hurry, to escape for their lives! Lot’s sons-in-law and his wife did not believe and heed the warning of the coming destruction. Unfortunately, human nature has not changed much. Today during floods, hurricanes, tornados, mudslides, earthquakes, typhoons and other weather disasters, authorities trying to get people to safety are ignored and resisted.
An even graver situation is living in this world surrounded by people who do not believe that “…the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10b).
Idolatry was perhaps the sin above all others that incurred God’s wrath against the children of Israel. Exodus 32 records Israel’s idolatry when Aaron made the golden calf. God told Moses in verse 7, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” Moses took immediate steps to end their madness.
Exodus 32:25-26 continues, “Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is on the LORD’s side, let him come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.”
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord…I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.’”
There are only two sides, two ways and two masters. This world is just a temporary stop on our way to heaven. Coming out of the world means choosing eternity with God. Remaining in the world means choosing to spend eternity with Satan!
The result of choosing the road of lest resistance is as predictable as it will be tragic. Choosing to come out and stay out of the world will be a lifetime endeavor, because there is a war going on between God and Satan for the eternal destiny of our souls!