Loving What Won’t Last

Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

1 John 2:12-17 | July 16 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
July 16
Loving What Won’t Last | 1 John 2:12-17
Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

Unto the grave what shall we sing, Christ He lives, Christ He lives. It’s only because Christ, You are alive today, that we don’t have to love the world, we don’t have to love the things in the world because You are alive, ruling, reigning forevermore. We pray that this morning our hearts would not just not love the world but our hearts would love Christ all the more. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our text this morning comes from 1 John chapter 2. I invite you to turn there in your copy of God’s Word, or in the pew Bible in front of you. 1 John chapter 2, verse 12. Continuing our series in the book of 1 John, going through it in the morning and the evening. So if you want to find out what happens after 1 John 2:17, come back this evening.

1 John 2:12. John writes:

“I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Amen.

One of my favorite albums is the Beatles One album. It’s a compilation of the Beatles’ all-time hits from roughly 1962 to 1970. One of the reasons that I’ve so enjoyed this album lately is because our whole family has gotten into it. Sing it, we listen to it. We’re not quite like the Georges’ but we do, might sing a little bit.

A few months ago my youngest son Patton goes, “Daddy, all these songs are about love.” And he gave me a little 7-year-old look, like a gag look, like “I can’t believe you’ve been fooling me like this.” And it’s true. Many of these greatest hits are all about love. If you look at the first several songs, it starts off “Love love me do, you know I love you. I’ll always be true. So please, love me do.” The album goes on. “If there’s anything that you want, if there’s anything I can do, just call on me and I’ll send it along, with love from me to you.” Third song: “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.” Fourth song: “I want to hold your hand.” Fifth song: “Can’t buy me love.” Not to mention “I’m in love with her and I feel fine” or “I ain’t got nothing but love, babe, eight days a week.” And maybe most notably, “All you need is love.” Great song. We love singing it together.

I don’t think there’s any coincidence that these songs went number one. Here we are 50, 60 years later still singing some of them. I think it’s because love is at the very center of what it means to be human. It’s one of those things that makes us different from the rest of creation. We have the ability and the capacity to love and to be loved.

The problem is sometimes we love the wrong things. Sometimes the object of our love actually does great harm to us. That’s one of the things that John writing this letter is very concerned about. Love, one of the great themes of this book. If you’re in your Bible, flip over to chapter 4, beginning in verse 7, and just scan with me and see how many times John references love.

Verse 7 – beloved, let us love one another for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God.

Verse 8 – and who does not love does not know God because God is love.

Verse 9 – and this is love of God. The love of God was made manifest among us.

Verse 10 – and this is love, not that we have loved God but that He has loved us.

11 – beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. If we love one another, God’s love abides in us. His love is perfected in us.

Down to verse 16 – so we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God.

Verse 17 – by this is love perfected with us.

Verse 18 – there is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. Whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Verse 19 – we love because He first loved us. If anyone says “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar. Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

John is very concerned about our love. He’s very concerned about the source of our love, the experience of our love, and in this passage today John is very concerned about the object of our love.

Our outline for this morning will be very easy to follow. We’ll first look at the what. What is John telling us? What are we not to love? That’ll take up the bulk of our time.

Second. We’ll look at the why. Why should we be careful? Why shouldn’t we love this?

Finally we’ll look at the how. How are we able to carry out what John is telling us to do? How are we able to keep ourselves from loving that which John tells us not to love?

What, why, how.

Let’s first look at the what. What is John telling us in this passage? What is the central message in these six verses? It’s right there in the middle. You and I can both clearly see it – Do not love the world. John gives an imperative command. Don’t love the world. Don’t even love the things in the world. He’s bold, he’s clear, he’s concise. Don’t love the world.

But though on the surface it may seem like a very simple and straightforward command, Christians throughout history have struggled to both interpret these five little words and maybe more importantly, apply these five little words.

Charles Simeon says that on one hand we need to be careful that we don’t interpret John’s prohibition more strictly than God intended, but on the other hand we should not give a latitude that would essentially dilute its force. We shouldn’t interpret this command more strictly than God intended, and yet we should not ignore its message either.

How do we do that? The key hinges on our ability to properly understand two words, two words. What is meant by the word “world” and what is meant by the word “love”? We’re going to examine those two things.

Let’s look at what is meant by the “world” first. It’s the word “cosmos” that John uses often in his writings. A hundred times in both his Gospel and his first letter here. Scholars generally agree that there are three meanings that we can discern for this word “cosmos.”

First. Cosmos could be referred to as planet earth. Think of John 1:10 – the world was made through Him. That is, planet earth.

Second. Cosmos can be used to describe the inhabitants of the world, namely mankind, people like you and me. Think of John 3:16 – for God what? God so loved the world, that is, the inhabitants of the world.

Finally, cosmos can be used to refer to the affairs of the world, the world’s systems, the world’s principles, its practices. These systems, these principles, these practices, they’re not neutral. They are the things under the authority of the evil one. They are the things that are opposed to God. Think of John 14:30 where Jesus refers to Satan as what? The ruler of this world.

So we have three uses for the word cosmos in the New Testament – the earth, the inhabitants of the world, and the affairs of the world that are opposed to Christ.

In this passage we can safely reason that cosmos means the things that are opposed to God, His rule, His reign, His purposes, and His world. That’s what John means by the world. The cosmos is the things that are opposed to Christ. That is what we are to stop loving.

He doesn’t tell us to stop taking care of creation. He doesn’t tell us to stop loving our neighbor. He gives a clear instruction. The things in the world, the things that are opposed to Christ and His rule and His reign, don’t love them. Don’t give yourself to them. That’s first. What does John mean by the word “world”?

Second. What does John mean when he uses the word “love”? Because much like “world,” love can have different meanings. Maybe not in there essence, but certainly in terms of their degree. The word “love” means different things to different people in different contexts. Even in the New Testament there are many different words for our English word “love.” Here the word for “love” is agape, indicating the highest degree, or most serious form of love.

You and I may use this word in many different contexts. Maybe you are thinking of a friend of yours that grew up – I just love that guy. That’s one way to use the word “love” but that’s very different than when you get down on your knee and you tell that certain special someone “I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” That’s very different.

Maybe it’s a new restaurant that you try – I love that place. Recently my wife and I were on vacation. We went to a place we heard great things about. We hadn’t had the opportunity to try it for ourselves, so we said, “Hey, let’s go on a date.” We went on a date there, we go and we sit down. It’s a wonderful place. We’re reading the menu and all of a sudden, my goodness, they bring out these little yeast rolls. Oh, my goodness. We just looked at each other with those big eyes of wonder. Sure enough, we take them and we put a little mountain butter on them and they just melt in your mouth. Those things were full of gluten. They were amazing. They were fantastic. They were spectacular. And it is not an overstatement to say that I loved those little yeast rolls. But just because I said that with the same word doesn’t mean that my wife is threatened by my love for those little things.

It’s an important distinction to make because in our passage, we’re talking about something, we’re not talking about something that we can casually like. We’re not talking about something that we appreciate. We’re not even talking about something that we enjoy. Lesser degrees of love. We’re talking about a very serious form of love.

John tells us that we shouldn’t agape the world. We shouldn’t love it.

One scholar points out that in its essence, this type of love requires both a desire for and a commitment to. What does it mean to love? You have a desire for it and a commitment to it.

I may desire those little gluten-filled yeast rolls, but I certainly don’t have a commitment to them. Yet.

John is giving a warning that we should be very careful if we find in our hearts a strong desire and a strong commitment to the world and the things in the world.

What’s clear just by reading this is that John’s context, his audience, they had become too comfortable with the world. It seems like they had begun to compromise with it. Maybe they had begun to think like the world. Maybe they had begun to act like the world. Maybe they had begun to value the same things that the world did. Guys, when that happens, friends, when that happens, it is like skiing downhill. It is harder and harder to stop. The world looks more and more appealing each and every day, and our desire for it and our commitment to it, only grows.

It seems as if John’s audience was struggling, that they were tempted to take their eyes off of Jesus and place them on the shiny and sparkly things around them. Our translation, the ESV translates this verse to say “do not love the world.” But another equally if not more appropriate translation may be “stop loving the world.”

See, there’s a negative participle attached to an imperative command, and that implies that this was a command to stop an action that was already in progress. It was an action that was already in progress, and John says stop right there. This isn’t just a warning sign for what’s ahead. It’s something that was already lodged in their hearts.

Friends, when you and I think about our own lives, don’t we need this some exhortation? This same command, this same set of instructions? John says stop it. He says stop it. He says don’t do it anymore.

Got to remember that John’s very old at this point. Letter was written late first century, so John may have been in his 80s. He’s writing this as a grandfather. Grandpa John, to his little spiritual children. What does he say at the beginning of this chapter? He says, “My little children.” He says, “I’m writing to you.” He says, “I’m thinking about you. I’m writing and I don’t want you to sin. I’m writing to you so that you may not sin.”

And what does he see? What is the sin that John sees? What does he see? What does this grandfather in the faith see in his little children? He says, “You love the world too much. Don’t love those things. Don’t love the world around you.”

And you have to imagine if John saw those things in the first century Church, how much more would he see them in the 21st century Church? How much more would he see them where we live? There weren’t any iPhones in the first century, weren’t even any cars. It’s not to say the things that we have now are forbidden, but it is to highlight the enormous amount of temptation that you and I in our context have today. This is something we still struggle with, something God’s people have struggled with and wrestled with throughout history, but even now more so than ever with our affluence and our wealth and our access to information and ideas.

Brothers and sisters, I don’t know all of you, but we love the world too much. We may not even realize it because it’s all around us, 24/7. It’s expected of us. It’s engrained into us. Why wouldn’t we? We aren’t even aware of our propensity to love it, and therefore it can be very difficult to do any self-evaluation, to ask and answer the question “Am I in love with the things of the world?”

I came across one old pastor. He was preaching this text and he gave four very probing questions to his church. I think they’re helpful for us here today.

First question for us to help us evaluate do we love the world too much. He asked, “Does it,” that is the world or the things in the world, “consume your thoughts?” Does the world consume your thoughts? Is it about what you think about day and night? Does it consume your final thoughts right before you go to sleep? Is it on the front of your mind when you wake up in the morning and you check your phone? Does it consume your thoughts?

Second. Does it consume the content of your conversation with others? Is the world or the things in the world, is that what you talk about? Is that what you steer the conversation about? Is that what you ask other people about? When you get together, are those the things that you are talking about? Is the world always on the tip of your tongue?

Third. Are you unwilling to part with it? If push came to shove, and the world or the things in the world were a stumbling block in your relationship with Christ, would you freely give it up? Or could you not let go? Would you sell that house? Would you pass on that promotion? Would you freely discard it? Would you change directions if the things in the world were an obstacle to knowing Christ? Are you unwilling to part with it?

Fourth. Are you discontent with what you do have? Do you constantly compare what you have with what others have in an unhealthy manner? Are you always aware of what others have and always aware what you have in relationship to them? Are you unhealthily aware of the possessions, accomplishments, acclaim that others have in relationship to you? Are you discontent with who you are and what you have?

Friends, if you’re like me, just hear those four questions, you read those four questions. It’s pretty overwhelming. It’s overwhelming the answer is yes. I do. I love the world. I love the things in the world too much. For me, as long as I’ve been walking with God, one of the scariest verses in the Bible for me is 2 Timothy 4:10. It says “For Demas,”, Demas is someone who Paul wrote about, he wrote about him in Colossians and Philemon, he was a co-laborer of Paul’s, and now in 2 Timothy 4 Paul writes, “For Demas, in love with the present world, has deserted me.” He’s deserted me. He loved the world too much, and so he left me and he left the Gospel.

John tells us not to love the world. He tells us to stop it, to stop loving the world.

That’s the what.

Here’s the why. Why shouldn’t we love the world? John gives two main reasons.

First reason. You shouldn’t love the world because you can’t love God and the world at the same time. You can’t love both at the same time.

Second. You shouldn’t love the world because it’s not going to last.

You can’t love God and the world at the same time, and the world isn’t going to last.

Why shouldn’t we love the world? It’s because if we love the world, the love of the Father isn’t in us. This is an issue of fidelity, of faithfulness. You can’t love both God and the world. You can’t love God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, with all of your strength, and still have room for something else. There isn’t room in our hearts for both. It’s one or the other.

James 4:4 – Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.

Matthew Henry says the heart of man cannot contain both loves. The world draws down the heart from God and so the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God dwindles and decays.

John gives us three descriptors for what we should watch out for. Three things to watch out for. He says we should watch out for the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. These three things are not from God.

First. The desires of the flesh. The word “desires” here means “lust,” it means “inordinate desire.” It usually refers to sexual desire, but here has a much broader context. It’s referring to our appetites, our appetites for food, for sex, for money, for power, for technology.

David Allen says the desires of the flesh describe what it means to live a life dominated by the senses. A life dominated by the senses.

Another commentator would say the desires of the flesh are our fleshly pleasures, the things that excite us, the luxuries in life. Sensuality. The things I see, the things I want, are the things I live my life by.

Friends, do we live lives dominated by our senses? By our appetites? By our desires?

Second. John warns us of the desire of the eyes. The Bible often uses the eyes as the principle source of temptation. Just think of David and Bathsheba. What did David do? He saw Bathsheba and then he took her.

Indeed, Matthew 6:22 reminds us that the eye is the lamp of the body. The desires of the eyes describe the person who is captivated by materialism. It’s the things that we see that causes us to say in our hearts, “I have to have that.”

Now, this past week was a particularly challenging week. It was Prime Week on Amazon. I like a good deal. I like to find the best deal for things we need. So I would be looking across the internet for good deals and see if we can catch one. But you know what happened. Right? I started looking at these different things and inside your heart says, “Yeah, I could use that. Boy, that would be really cool to have. I really never thought I needed that new TV, but a 90-inch, 4k ultra HD TV would look really great in the bathroom. It would look fantastic there. I need that. It’d be awesome.”

John warns us about the desires of the eyes. He says we shouldn’t be ruled by materialism. He says that’s a person that’s in love with the world.

Third. John warns us of the pride of life. This is the person that desires recognition, applause, the praise of man, status, advantage, and maybe in our context, acceptance and approval. This may be the person who’s always one-upping someone else. The word “pride” more accurately is translated to mean boastful, and John warns of the man who is always boasting of his accomplishments, always bragging about his achievements.

The comedian Brian Regan points this out in his act “I walked on the moon.” He says, “Why do people need to top other people? I’ve never understood it. I see it all the time. Obviously, people get something out of it. What is it about the human condition that people always get something out of topping one another?” It’s a worthwhile skit to go watch. It’s very clean. You could watch it. He talks about being in a setting with other me monsters, people who always bring the conversation back to them. He says, “You know what I could do to top the me monster? I wish that I was one of those people who walked on the moon because then any conversation would end with the fact that, oh, I walked on the moon.”

The pride of life. John warns us about our desire, our need for recognition, for approval, for applause.

Three temptations – our lusts, our materialism, and our pride.

These are the three same temptations that Eve faced in the garden back in Genesis 3:6 – so when the woman saw the tree was good for food, lust of the flesh, and that it was a delight to the eyes, lust of the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, pride of life. The sad reality is that these are the things that you and I are still tempted with today.

John tells us that there’s an impermanence to all the things in the world. The world isn’t going to last forever. These things that we so crave, we so want, we fall in love with… John says they’re not going to last. There’s an impermanence to everything in this world. The world isn’t going to last forever. It’s temporary, it’s fleeting, it’s passing in the wind.

You can even notice the present tense there – the world is passing away. It’s not that it’s going to one day, it’s passing away right in front of our eyes. It’s already started. It’s happening now. Physical beauty will face. Material possessions can rust and be destroyed. Financial gain can be lost.

In the first century the Greek word for passing away was often used in the theaters of the day. At the conclusion of a scene, the curtain would come down and the props and the materials, they would be scooted off off stage to move in for the next scene’s props.

That’s exactly what John is telling us. The world and the things in the world, they’re nothing more than a scene in a play. The curtain comes down and something else comes on the scene. When it’s over, they aren’t used anymore.

Why shouldn’t we love the world? Because it’s passing away. Let us not love what will not last.

So how do we do it? Brings us to our last question – how? How in the world do we stop loving the world? How can we guard ourselves against loving the things in the world when they’re all around us 24/7? Where we will get the source, the strength to overcome this?

If you’ve been paying attention at all, which I hope some of you are, you’ll notice that I’ve completely skipped the first three verses. I haven’t looked at them at all. A casual reading might suggest what is the connection between verses 12 and 14 and verses 15 and 17? There doesn’t seem to be much connection. I think that’s the source, and that’s the strength for us. They are vitally important if we’re going to guard against the world in our hearts and minds. How do you carry out this imperative from John to stop loving the world? How can you win? You need to remember who you are and what’s been done for you.

You see, before Grandpa John gives his spiritual children and grandchildren a hard lesson, he reminds them of exactly who they are. Look back at verses 12 and 14. Grandpa John writes, “I’m writing to you, little children. I’m writing to you fathers. I’m writing to you, young men. I’m writing to you children. I’m writing to you fathers. I’m writing, I’m writing. I’ve written to you.”

And he starts by addressing the little children, and he doesn’t just mean children, kids, babies, infants. He means all Christians. John uses this phrase “little children” seven times in this letter. It’s his grandfatherly term of affection for the people he cares about, and he says “little children, remember that your sins are forgiven.”

He reminds them of the most basic, fundamental aspect of being a Christian. It’s that your sins, if you are in Christ, have been forgiven. The forgiveness of our sins is at the very heart of the Gospel, that God loves you and has sent Christ to be the propitiation for our sins. It’s what Nathan preached on last week. If anyone does sin, there is an advocate, there is a substitute for you that can turn God’s favor in your direction. Little children, your sins have been forgiven.

Therefore, you and I, we don’t need to clean our act up before we come to God. We don’t need to first stop loving the world in order for God to love us. No, God loves us and He’s forgiven us and He’s accepted us and that love and that forgiveness empowers us in the battle against the world.

That’s what is different about Christianity from every other religion and worldview out there. It’s only the Gospel that tells us that we love only because God first loved us. Everything and everyone else out there will tell you that you need to work your way to God, to acceptance, to salvation. No, no, no, no. Friends, the Gospel tells us the exact opposite, that we don’t need to earn our salvation, we need to receive it. We don’t work our way to God, we trust in the work that Christ has done on our behalf.

Friends, if you’re here this morning and if you’re not a Christian, or maybe you just don’t fully understand the message of the Gospel, each and every Sunday we have leaders and men and elders down here who would love to pray with you and share with you more about what this message means in your life, who would love to tell you how your sins can be forgiven. I invite you after the service to come to talk to them if that’s something that you’re questioning or struggling with or you don’t fully understand.

John writes to fathers, to spiritually mature men and women in the faith, and he reminds them of what they already know. He tells them to remember Him who’s from the beginning. Remember the One who you met many years ago as a young man or a young woman and you’ve been walking with a long time… Don’t forget Him. Remember Him who you know.

He writes to young men and to young women, those who are still growing in the faith, those who haven’t been through the trials and temptations, that those older and wiser who have walked through, and he reminds them of what? He reminds them of their strength. He reminds that them how they’ve already overcome the evil one. He reminds them that their strength comes from the Word of God which abides in them.

He writes to children and he reminds us what children already know, that God loves them, that the Father loves them. He says, “You know your daddy. You know how He loves you. You know how He cares for you. You know how He always has your best interest in mind. You know Him.” He says don’t forget that.

So no matter who you are, or where you are in the Christian life, John writes to you and he reminds you of who you are – you’re a Christian. You’re not of this world. This is not your home. That empowers us not to love the world.

In his commentary, David Allen tells the story of the actor Charles Dutton. Charles Dutton is perhaps best known of his role in the movie Rudy. He played the role of Fortune, the janitor who gave Rudy a job and a place to stay while he’s walking on at Notre Dame. Maybe you’ve gotten a meme or something like that with just those three quick claps and he walks off. You may know who I’m talking about there.

What you may not know is that Dutton actually spent seven years in prison for manslaughter as a young man. It was during this time in prison that he began to discover a desire to act. So upon his release he began to pursue a career in the theater and on Broadway, eventually leading to television and movies and a long, successful career. One time later in life Dutton was asked this question. Someone asked him, “How did you make the transition from being in prison to being a successful actor? How’d you go from one to the other?” To which Dutton replied, “Unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell, because every day I wanted to remind myself that this place is not my home.”

Friends, brothers and sisters, let us not be in the business of decorating ourselves here in this world, of loving the things that will not last.

John says, little children, stop loving the world because the person who does the will of God, that person is going to be the one that abides forever.

Amen.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your Word here this morning. We thank You for what You’ve taught us. We pray that You would strengthen us and that You would help us to not love the world, to not love the things in the world, to turn from the world and turn back to Christ. I pray for those here that may not know you, or may be ensnared in a deep love for the world, the things in the world, the acceptance and the approval of man, I pray for them, Father. Would You free them? Would You free those who are in Christ and struggling with these things? I pray, Lord, that there would be a repentance of sin and confession of sin and the freedom that comes in the Gospel. More than anything, God, we pray that Christ would be our hope in life and death. Nothing else, nothing in this world, but that Jesus and Jesus alone would be all that we desire. In His name we pray. Amen.