Do not love the world or the things in the world.
I John 2:15
Hebrews 13:7 declares that pastors are to “watch out for your souls.” As a loving shepherd, Pastor John is being “watchful,” just as Paul tells Pastor Timothy to be (2 Tim. 4:5).
What does John mean by “the world”? In usage here, it refers to the world system of this present age before the return of Christ. It is a world system hostile to righteousness, led by Satan who works against Christ and His people. Remember the world magnifies humanity, celebrates depravity, rejects God’s Word and His ways. In this negative sense, the values of the world, its pleasures, pastimes, objectives and attitudes have no use or respect for Christ, nor those who follow Him. Perhaps you also increasingly sense this in the culture of our day.
John then describes three specific aspects of the world. The first being “the lust of the flesh.” The idea of “lust” in context refers to a strong craving and desire. It is far more than a person who is hungry or desires food. It’s akin to an addict who will do anything for another drink or fix. “Flesh” refers to physical things, particularly in the material nature of the human body. Paul used this term in reference to a rebellious attitude of thought and deed that reveres the values of the world. The “flesh” is a part of our fallen state that opposes God and is in conflict with His Spirit. The “lust of the flesh” is self-generated. As Swindoll notes: “The flesh is our internal sinful tendencies taking shape and looking for something to satiate our carnal tendencies. It finds focus in self: my comfort, my possessions, my money, my future, my career, my passion(s). The lust of the flesh starts with me, ends with me, and keeps me in the middle of it all.”
John next refers next to the “lust of the eyes” (2:16). These are the sinful cravings triggered by what we see, leading us to covet and envy. Usually it is what somebody else has, which we don’t. What we have seems inadequate. Our home, car, spouse, family, job, etc. just isn’t enough. The lust of the eyes makes us “need” something God, in perfect love and goodness, is withholding.
Finally, John refers to the “pride of life” (2:16). The lust of the flesh comes from within our own sinful depraved hearts. Lust of the eyes comes from our surrounding world. The pride of life is often expressed in our communication. It involves boasting words and prideful claims extolling self. It is a lack of humility. It is an increase of self, and a decrease of God.
These are the things of the world according to the Bible. Again, from Swindoll: “This cocktail of cravings is not a spiritual nourishing drink served up by the Father of Light, but a toxic poison pushed and promoted by the father of lies through the means of the world. The object of a Christian’s unconditional devotion and commitment should be to God and His people, not to the sinful world and its delights… When we fall in love with the world, we fall out of love with God.”
A needful warning for us today. Never forget “the world is passing away” (2:17). Live daily with eternity in mind… “lay a good foundation for the time to come” (I Tim. 6:19). He is coming soon!