Last time, we looked at what John means when he says “the world.” Today, let’s consider what John means when he says “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). John adds, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts” (v. 16–17).
Here are the things in the world we are not to love:
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eyes
- The boastful pride of life
- The lusts of the world
We are not to love the world system Satan has created or the primary features of that system, as listed above. We are not to have an affection for, or a devotion to, anything that’s a part of the world system Satan has created and that stands opposed to God and His will. John is effectively saying, “Don’t love the world or the things in the world.” That’s a categorical prohibition.
Thankfully, John does not command Christians to not love the world, and then not explain why. He gives his readers four compelling reasons as to why we are not to love the world, nor what’s in it. We will look at the first reason today: loving the world is mutually exclusive with loving God, taken from the second half verse 15: “…If anyone loves the world [if anyone is habitually having an affection for, and a devotion to, the world in this sense, including someone who claims to know Jesus Christ], the love of the Father is not in him.”
While some may find the expression the “love of the Father” ambiguous, the meaning is quite clear in this context. It is contrasting a person’s love for something: either you love the world or you love the Father. But notice what John says about the person who loves the world. He doesn’t say, “This person who loves the world does not love the Father.” While that statement is true, John goes even further and says, “…there’s no love for the Father in him,” meaning that love of God does not even exist in him. Search his soul, and you won’t find a trace of the love of God. You can’t love the world and love God at the same time. They are mutually exclusive!
The Lord Jesus supports the separation between loving the world and loving God. In Matthew 6:24, He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” You’ve got to choose whom you’re going to serve and whom you’re going to love.
2 Timothy 4:10 describes Demas, one of Paul’s traveling companions on his missionary journey, and it says, “…Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” Why? Because you have got to choose. You can’t love God and love the world too. And Demas, having decided he was going to love the world, abandoned Paul.
James 4:4 puts it this way: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world, makes himself to be an enemy of God.” So, you don’t have to actively choose to be God’s enemy; just choose to love the world, and, by choosing the world over God, you’ve declared yourself to be an enemy of God.
Lastly, John Calvin explains that “There is no medium between these two extremes. Either the world must become vile in our estimation, or it must retain our immoderate love.”
So, the first compelling reason that we shouldn’t love the world is because loving the world is mutually exclusive with loving God.
Next time, join us as we look into the second reason John gives us as to why we should not love the world or the things in the world: loving the world is primarily expressed by sinful lusts.