1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
What does John mean when he talks about the things in the world? These are things that appeal to our senses. We associate cravings with food, maybe also sex. But other senses may be involved. For our hearing there are music or stories. For our smell there are colognes and perfumes. For “the lust of our eyes” there are the beautiful form of the human body, the exotic sights of faraway places, and the entertaining displays of talent that take place on the stage, the silver screen, or the athletic field.
In their proper place and amount, none of these things is wrong. But as the cravings of sinful man they become perverted. They are separated from their useful purpose. They are made the center of all life, the purpose for living. When satisfying these cravings and desires, even the wholesome ones, becomes the reason for getting up in the morning, the focus of our lives, then we lose our focus on the love of God who sent his Son to save us.
C.S. Lewis once illustrated the danger John is describing this way: “One great piece of mischief has been done by the restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motorcycle the center of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to her clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as ‘intemperate’ as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals.”
It’s not as though these two competing loves–the world or the Lord– are simply different but equal choices. They end in two vastly different ways. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
The world and its desires pass away. Do we need much convincing? A house will last a long time, but it requires constant maintenance. I used to store my favorite music on vinyl platters. We called them “record albums” for those of you born after the 1980’s. Then came compact discs. Today it’s microchips no bigger than the size of your fingernail. They say our computers become obsolete in only about 18 months. Cell phones last about 2 years. If our clothes don’t wear out they go out of fashion.
If we attach our hearts to the world and its things, we will share the same fate. Driving past a cemetery near Fredericksburg, TX, many years ago, I was struck by its size. It stretched along the highway for nearly a mile. Fredericksburg isn’t a very large town– only about 10,000 people. But marker after marker in the cemetery tells us that thousands more have died there over the years. Death is not the absolute end of our human existence, but for those who die in love with the world, what follows is not better.
“But the man who does the will of God lives forever.” John isn’t saying that doing God’s will is the way to receive eternal life. But those who are going to live forever become the kind of people who do God’s will. Putting our hope of eternal life in our own actions, our own love, even our own act of believing, is just another form of worldliness.
But God loves you so much that he gave the only Son he had to rescue us from the world and save us from ourselves. Jesus gave up heaven, every divine privilege, his own comforts, and finally his own life on the cross to give us the forgiveness of sins. This was purely an act of love on his part because he did it all for free and demanded nothing of us in return. He left no requirement for our salvation unfulfilled. He left no features of God’s plan incomplete. He left no conditions that we have to meet. It was pure, unconditional love. And since every sin has been forgiven in its entirety, sin can no longer condemn us. We are going to live forever. Someday we will be buried in a cemetery like the one I passed in Fredericksburg, but even after death, we will rise to live a life that never ends. The world can’t give you life like that.
There’s only room for one first love in our hearts. Let it be the God and Savior who gave us first place in his.