A Love We Cannot Afford

Bible Book: 1 John  2 : 15-17
Subject: Spiritual Warfare; Love, Wrong; Valentine's Day

Today we begin a new sermon series entitled, "Terrorism in the Spiritual World." In warfare there is always the hoped outcome of victory. However, there is always the possibility of defeat and there is even the possibility of an ongoing stalemate. The enemy may attack in a frontal attack in force with battle colors clearly marked. Or the enemy may attack from an ambush. Terrorists always choose the latter of the options listed above. The ultimate spiritual terrorist is here with us today. He wishes your defeat. His name is Satan.

What specifically does he want and how can he do what he wants? These are questions we will ponder over the next several months.

Each Sunday, we will ask and answer the following questions.

What does God want? What does Satan want?

How do they influence me in these areas?

What can I do to see the spiritual reality and lesson involved?

Where is the battle fought?

In 2000, the tuna were running for the first time in 47 years, only 30 miles off Cape Cod. And they were biting! All you needed to catch one was a sharp hook and some bait. And the rewards for doing so were substantial. Rumor had it that Japanese buyers would pay $50,000 for a nice bluefin!

That's why many would-be fishermen ignored Coast Guard warnings and headed out to sea in small boats. But what these new fishermen didn't realize was the problem is not catching a tuna - the problem comes after they're caught.

On September 23, the Christi Anne, a 19-foot boat, capsized while doing battle with a tuna. That  same day, the 27-foot boat Basic Instinct suffered the same fate, while Official Business, a 28-footer, was swamped after it hooked onto a 600-pound tuna. The tuna pulled it under water.

These fishermen underestimated the power of the fish they were trying to catch. That is what our world does to us. It takes us by surprise. It all looks manageable on the surface. Only after we hook into the real world do we discover its strength.

It is my earnest belief that few persons understand the spiritual battles that face them in their Christian walk. Whether the person ever achieves spiritual maturity is dependant upon their recognition of these spiritual battles and the usage of proper spiritual weapons in the battle. Satan uses many tools to hinder the believer's growth and victory. Paul experienced warfare in his life as well as Jesus Christ. We need to understand the crucial areas of spiritual warfare and how to combat Satan and his attacks.

We begin this series of studies today on spiritual warfare by concentrating on a phrase that we desperately need to hear, "Love not the world!"

Turn to 1 John 2:15-17 for a word from the Lord. Here we find several reasons why believers should not "love the world."

I. We Mustn't Love The World Because Of The World's Tragic Allegiance

Look at v. 15. The New Testament word world has at least three different meanings. It sometimes means the physical world, the earth, as in "God that made the world [our planet] and all things therein" (Acts 17:24). It also means the human world, mankind, "For God so loved the world" (John 3:16). Sometimes these two ideas appear together, "He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world [earth] was made by Him, and the world [mankind] knew Him not" (John 1:10).

However, the warning, "Love not the world!" is not about the world of nature or the world of mankind. Christians ought to appreciate the beauty and usefulness of the earth God has made, since He "gives us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17). And they certainly ought to love people--not only their friends, but even their enemies.

This "world" which is our enemy is the invisible spiritual system opposed to God and Christ. We use the word world in the sense of system in our daily conversation. "The world," in the Bible, is Satan's system for opposing the work of Christ on earth. It is the very opposite of what is godly and holy and spiritual. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19, NASB). Jesus called Satan "the prince of this world" (John 12:31). The devil has an organization of evil spirits (Ephesians 6:11-12) working with him and influencing the affairs of "this world."

Just as the Holy Spirit uses people to accomplish God's will on earth, so Satan uses people to fulfill his evil purposes.

Unsaved people belong to "this world." Jesus calls them "the children of this world" (Luke 16:8). When Jesus was here on earth, the people of "this world" did not understand Him, nor do they now understand those of us who trust Him (I John 3:1).

A Christian is a member of the human world, and he lives in the physical world, but he does not belong to the spiritual world that is Satan's system for opposing God. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first"(John 15:18).

"The world," then, is not a natural habitat for a believer. The believer's citizenship is in heaven, and all his effective resources for living on earth come from his Father in heaven.

Were it not for the Holy Spirit's living within us, and the spiritual resources we have in prayer, Christian fellowship, and the Word, we could never "make it" here on earth. We complain about the pollution of earth's atmosphere but the atmosphere of "the world" is also so polluted spiritually that

Christians cannot breathe normally!

But there is a second--and more serious--reason why Christians must not love the world.

II. We Mustn't Love The World Because OF The World's World's Influence

Worldliness is not so much a matter of activity as of attitude. It is possible for a Christian to stay away from questionable activities and doubtful places and still love the world, for worldliness is a matter of the heart. To the extent that a Christian loves the world system and the things in it, he does not love the father.

Worldliness not only affects your response to the love of God. It also affects your response to the will of God.

Doing the will of God is a joy for those living in the love of God. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." But when a believer loses his enjoyment of the Father's love, he finds it hard to obey the Father's will.

When you put these two factors together, you have a practical definition of worldliness, anything in a Christian's life that causes him to lose his/her enjoyment of the Father's love or his desire to do the Father's will is worldly and must be avoided.

Responding to the Father's love (your personal devotional life), and doing the Father's will (your daily conduct)--these are two tests of worldliness.

Many things in this world are definitely wrong and God's Word identifies them as sins. It is wrong to steal and to lie (Ephesians 4:25, 28). Sexual sins are wrong (Ephesians 5:1-3). About these and many other actions, Christians can have little or no debate. But there are areas of Christian conduct that are not so clear and about which even the best Christians disagree.

John points out that the world system uses three devices to trap Christians, the lust (desire) of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16).

The lust of the flesh includes anything that appeals to man's fallen nature. "The flesh" does not mean "the body." Rather, it refers to the basic nature of unregenerate man that makes him blind to

spiritual truth. Flesh is the nature we receive in our physical birth. Spirit is the nature we receive in the second birth(John 3:5-6). A Christian has both the old nature (flesh) and the new nature (Spirit) in his life. And what a battle these two natures can wage!

God has given man certain desires, and these desires are good. Hunger, thirst, weariness, and sex are not at all evil in themselves. There is nothing wrong about eating, drinking, sleeping, or begetting children. But when the flesh nature controls them, they become sinful "lusts."

Now you can see how the world operates. It appeals to the normal appetites and tempts us to satisfy them in forbidden ways. In today's world we are surrounded by all kinds of allurements that appeal to our lower nature--and "the flesh is weak".

It is important that a believer remember what God says about his old nature, the flesh. A person who lives for the flesh is living a negative life.

The second device that the world uses to trap the Christian is called "the lust of the eyes." We sometimes forget that the eyes can have an appetite! (Have you ever said, "Feast your eyes on this"?)

The lust of the flesh appeals to the lower appetites of the old nature, tempting us to indulge them in sinful ways. The lust of the eyes, however, operates in a more refined way. In view here are pleasures that gratify the sight and the mind--sophisticated and intellectual pleasures. Back in the days of the Apostle John, the Greeks and Romans lived for entertainment and activities that excited the eyes. Times have not changed very much! In view of television, perhaps every Christian's prayer ought to be, "Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity" (Psalm 119:37).

The third device is the "boastful pride of life". God's glory is rich and full Man's glory is vain and empty. In fact, the Greek word for "pride" was used to describe a braggart who was trying to impress people with his importance. People have always tried to outdo others in their spending and their getting. The boastful pride of life motivates much of what such people do.

Why is it that so many folks buy houses, cars, appliances, or wardrobes that they really cannot  afford? Why do they succumb to the "travel now, pay later" advertising and get themselves into hopeless debt taking vacations far beyond their means? Largely because they want to impress other people--because of their "pride of life."

Most of us do not go that far, but it is amazing what stupid things people do just to make an impression. They even sacrifice honesty and integrity in return for notoriety and a feeling of importance.

Yes, the world appeals to a Christian through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And once the world takes over in one of these areas, a Christian will soon realize it. He will lose his enjoyment of the Father's love and his desire to do the Father's will. The Bible will become boring and prayer a difficult chore. Even Christian fellowship may seem empty and disappointing. It is not that there is something wrong with others, however--what's wrong is the Christian's worldly heart.

It is important to note that no Christian becomes worldly instantly. Worldliness creeps up on a believer. It is a gradual process. A Christian who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.

By the way, one of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that God offers us an escape route. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Isn't that wonderful? Every time you are at odds with the world and are tempted by its on going influence, God will give you a way out. There is an escape route divinely authored by the Lord.

III. We Mustn't Love The World Because Where The World Is Going

That statement would be challenged by many today who are confident that the world--the system in which we life--is as permanent as anything can be. But the world is not permanent. The only sure thing about this world system is that it is not going to be here forever. One day the system will be gone, and the pleasant attractions within it will be gone: all are passing away. What is going to last?

Only what is part of the will of God! Spiritual Christians keep themselves "loosely attached" to this world because they live for something far better. They are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth".

John is contrasting two ways of life, a life lived for eternity and a life lived for time. A worldly person lives for the pleasures of the flesh, but a dedicated Christian lives for the joys of the Spirit. A worldly believer lives for what he can see, the lust of the eyes, but a spiritual believer lives for the unseen realities of God (II Corinthians 4:8-18). A worldly minded person lives for the pride of life, the vainglory that appeals to men but a Christian who does the will of God lives for God's approval. And he "abides forever."

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even Christians think, the world is passing away, but the man who does God's will abides forever.

Many people are tempted to live for the moment, to conform to the way of life of a material world, and either to question the temporary character of material life or to hope that there will be no judgment. It is a natural tendency to make oneself comfortable here in the present real world rather than to deny oneself here in hope of a better life hereafter. John's reply would be that the judgment is taking place already. Even now the world is in process of dissolution; men are blind if they do not realize what is going on before their eyes. For John it is indeed already 'the last hour' (2:18)".

To sum it up, a Christian is in the world physically, but not of the world spiritually. Christ has sent us into the world to bear witness of Him (John 17:18). Like a scuba diver, we must live in an alien element, and if we are not careful, the alien element will stifle us. A Christian cannot help being in the world, but when the world is in the Christian, trouble starts!

The world gets into a Christian through his heart: "Love not the world!" Anything that robs a Christian of his enjoyment of the Father's love, or of his desire to do the Father's will, is worldly and must be avoided. Every believer, on the basis of God's Word, must identify those things for himself.

A Christian must decide, "Will I live for the present only, or will I live for the will of God and abide forever?" Love for the world is the love God hates. It is the love a Christian must shun at all costs.