1 John 2.15-17


Little did I know it at the time, but August 1998 was the month that changed my life forever.
It was the month that I connected to the Internet.
Being online has opened up to me a whole new world of understanding.
I can now communicate with people instantly around the world.
I have visited web sites of great interest,
I have purchased books and music on the Internet.

The Internet is full of things that I love, and things that I hate.
But of course, I never visit those sites that I hate,
I only visit the sites that I love.
On my computer I have links to Internet sites about Theology, Economics, Cricket, Science Fiction shows, comic strips, Music,
News - including web sites for the ABC, the BBC and the New York Times.

But the fact is that the Internet is one of the things I love.
Now I also love my family.
What else do I love?
I love Thai food,
I love the humour of Monty Python,
1I love my close friends,
I love watching cricket,
I love God
and I love chocolate.
The fact that I have used the word “love” here quite judiciously should be of some concern.
Of course I love God, and I also love Chocolate,
but that doesn’t somehow mean that I love them the same way.

In this part of his letter, the Apostle John teaches us and warns us about who and what we love.
In the process, he not only teaches us about God and the world around us,
but he also teaches us about what love really means.
But it is more than that, he is also teaching us about how to avoid sin.

A good way to explain John’s argument throughout this passage is to present it in the way you see it on your outlines.
Under “Introduction”, you’ll see a number of different sub-points.

The first thing John gives us is a command.
What is the command?
The command is in verse 15.
It is “Do not love the world or anything in the world”.

The second thing John does is that he gives us the reason for this command.
What is the reason?
Again we find it in verse 15
- if we love the world, we don’t love the Father.

The third thing John does is then gives us an explanation.
He’s given us the command to not love the world.
He’s given us the reason that if we love the world we don’t love the Father.
He then explains this reason in verses 16-17
- the world’s temptations and indulgences do not come from the Father.
Our world is only temporary, while those who love God will live forever.

1. Two ways to love (2.15)

Let me read to you verse 15 of chapter two again.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

So what we have here are two ways to love - which is my first point.

1John starts this verse very clearly.
There are no ifs, buts or maybes.
John says “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”
What we see here is a clear command for his readers to follow
- which is obviously a clear command for us as well.

But this verse needs to be explained a little bit more fully
if we are to understand why John was so clear in his teaching.
There are a few ways we can misunderstand this passage.

One way to misunderstand it is that John is telling us to become hermits.
We take ourselves away from the world and live in total isolation from the rest of society.
The idea here is that being part of the world around us involves choosing to interact with it.
But if you wish to not love the world, you should isolate yourself from it.
Fortunately, this is not what John is saying in this part of the Bible.

Another way to misunderstand it is to assume that we should not care about people around us.
After all, John is saying we shouldn’t love the world.
So when we see someone in distress, or we see some terrible tragedy, we shouldn’t be concerned for any person’s welfare.
If it’s someone in the church, that’s okay,
but we should ignore the world altogether.
In fact, we should all get together and live in a Christian commune,
cut off from the world and caring only for one another.
Fortunately, John is not teaching that either.

So how should this verse be understood?
John himself says in that most famous verse of the Bible, John 3.16, that
“God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son...”.
This is somewhat confusing.
On the one hand, John is telling us that we should not love the world,
but on the other hand he tells us that God loves the world and sent Jesus.
How do we interpret this?

On your outlines, you should have a few sub-points from point one.
The first little sub-point you see there is title “What is the world?”.
The Greek word for world is a familiar one to us
- it is the word KOSMOS.
But John, as well as the other New Testament writers, used the word to describe various aspects of the world around us.
In some places in the New Testament, Kosmos is used as a location,
but in many places it refers to the unbelieving world
- the world of sin and of those who live in opposition to God.
It’s obvious that when we take verses 16 and 17 into account here that this is what John is talking about here.
When he says “Do not love the world or anything in the world”, he is saying that we should not love the world of unbelief, the world that opposes God.

Now if we were to leave the interpretation there, it would still be confusing wouldn’t it?
Does this mean we should shun our friends, our neighbours and our family members if they are not Christians?
We need to refine it a bit further.
The second sub-point you’ll see there is titled “What is loving the world?”.

Let me take you back to the introduction quickly.
Remember how I was saying that I love God, but I also love chocolate?
What we have here are two different understandings of the word love.
On the one hand, love is shown in terms of relationship
- that is, of genuine care or affection or commitment.
On the other hand, we have love shown in terms of desire
- of enjoying or being excited by something or someone.

For example, think of prostitution.
How do you love a prostitute?
You can love a prostitute by doing your utmost to care for her,
to keep her safe, and to show genuine acceptance.
Or, you can love a prostitute by loving what she does,
and by indulging yourself in sex with her.

When John is telling us to “not love the world or anything in the world”,
he is warning us against indulging in what the world has to offer.
He is saying that we should hate the ungodly thinking and behaviour displayed by those who oppose God.
He is saying that we should reject that sort of thinking and behaviour.
He is not saying that we should reject the people in the world or that we should separate ourselves from them.

So when John says that “God so loved the world that he sent his only son...”,
he is not saying that God indulged himself in the sinfulness of the world,
but that he cares deeply for these lost and broken people.
When John says “Do not love the world or anything in the world”,
he is warning us against indulging ourselves in what the world has to offer.

But verse 15 has a bit more to it than just that.
The third sub-point you can see there is titled “The opposites”
John says If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Notice by the way that the words “the love of the Father” means an act of love directed towards God our Father.
In this case, the verse would be If anyone loves the world, they do not love the Father.
John loves saying things like this doesn’t he?
John likes making very clear definitions for us as Christians.

Loving the world, according to John, means we indulge ourselves in the sins and attractions of the world.
If we love the world, we do not love the Father.
But if we love the Father
- if we love God
- we actively work at avoiding the pleasures and sins of the world.
You cannot have one with the other
- we can’t love God and love the world.
We must love one and hate the other.

Before we go on to look at the rest of the text,
we need to explain this verse further.
John’s use of language can be very difficult for us to follow.
In fact, many people over the years have found this book a source of great confusion and discomfort to their lives.
The verse we’re looking at today can give that impression.
How many of us here have indulged in the sins and attractions of the world?
I won’t ask for hands up but it’s fairly clear that we all have.
So does that mean we don’t love the Father?
Does that mean that whenever I fall into sin I am no longer loving the Father?
And does that mean that I am no longer a Christian?
And does this mean that Christians have to be perfect people?

It’s important to understand that when John talks about love here he is talking about an ongoing involvement.
So when he says “Do not love the world”, he’s not talking about the occasional fall into sin -
after all, in verse 1 of chapter two he says
“If we do sin, then we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ the Righteous one”.
What John is talking about here is a deliberate, ongoing action of sinful behaviour.

Obviously John wants us to avoid sinning,
but what he is teaching us here is that those who love the Father no longer indulge in the sinful desires of the world.
John is not saying that unless we live a perfect life we don’t love the Father.
When John talks about loving God our heavenly Father, he talks about an ongoing love
- a commitment to loving God.
And that is our commitment,
we do not have a commitment to indulge ourselves in the sinfulness of the world.

2. Loving the world (2.16)

Well let’s move onto my second point - Loving the world.
Let me read to you verse 16 again.

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.

John has commanded us to not love the world.
He has given us the reason that to love the world is not loving the Father.
He now explains the reasons.
What we’ll be looking at here in verse 16 is what the world is like,
and why it does not come from our heavenly Father.

John gives a threefold description of what the world is like.
On your outlines, you’ll see the sub-points there.
The first thing he describes is something called “the cravings of sinful man”
- I’ve called this “The sinful desires of our bodies”.
John then goes on to further describe what these sins are.
He calls them “The lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does”.
And you can see these on your outline.

The first one there is “Lusting with our eyes”.
The idea here is that sinful desire is created when a person sees what they like.
And this, in turn, leads them to want that thing that they like.
We can certainly include sexual desire here, but it as bit broader than merely that.
The Bible is full of instances where a person lusting with their eyes is drawn into sin.
We all know the story of King David, peering off his rooftop at a bathing Bathsheba.
He saw her and lusted after her, e
ventually committing adultery with her and murdering her husband to cover up his sin.
There is also the story of Achan in the book of Joshua (chapter 7).
Achan was a soldier in the Israelite army who stole some plunder during a raid.
When he was confronted with his crime, Achan said
“When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them”.

Notice how it all works out.
A person sees something that they do not own,
they then desire to have it,
and then they take.
But notice here in 1 John that John simply calls it “the lust of the eyes”.
It is not the taking so much as the wanting to take that is the problem here.
That is why the tenth commandment says “Do not covet your neighbour’s wife or any of his possessions”.
Regardless of whether you take them or not, it is still sinful to desire them.

Let me tell you what “Lusting with our eyes” is not.
It is NOT walking around a shopping centre and seeing something you want to buy.
The Bible does not condemn legitimate purchasing of goods and services.
But if you steal something, or if you desire to have something that is sinful, then that is coveting.

The second one you see on your outlines is “Boasting and Pride”.
John calls this “boasting of what he has and does”.
The picture we have here is of a man or woman puffed up with pride over their position in life and their possessions.
It is not their position or their possessions that is the sin, it is their attitude towards it.

One of the central beliefs of our modern economic society is that a person receives just payment for their labours.
Therefore, the thinking goes, a person earns more because they work harder and smarter than other people.
There is an element of truth in this, but it’s not all true is it?
What it is saying is that rich people are rich because they deserve to be rich
which naturally means that those who are poor are poor because they deserve to be poor.
This in turn leads to some of the snobby attitudes that some very rich people have.
One well off person I met said of the homeless and their situation that they “should all go and get jobs”.

John is not saying here that being rich is wrong.
What he is saying is that it is wrong to be full of yourself
and to think that your position and your possessions are a natural result of how wonderful you are.
When a person believes that, they have no room for God
- for God is the giver and taker away of the riches we have.

So here we have two basic sins
- lusting with our eyes and boasting and pride in our possessions and our status.
John says that these come not from the Father, but from the world around us.
If we are to love the Father, we are to avoid these sins.

Some of you might remember the Parable of the Sower.
One of the seeds which the Farmer drops lands in soil that gets choked by thorns.
Jesus describes these thorns as the “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things” which choke the seed of God’s word in their life.
This is the same sort of thing.

When Jesus spoke the words of that parable he was referring to people who received God’s word into their lives.
When John speaks to us here in 1 John, he is speaking to us as people who have received God’s word.

John’s words here are very applicable to us as Christians today.
Our world today is much the same as the world in the 1st century,
and we as Christians are in a significant minority.
We live in a world that approves of lust, and which approves of boasting and pride.
And we are living in a world that openly opposes God.
Let me just say that loving the world is easy.
It’s the easy route.
If you want a challenge, if you want a hard life, try to be faithful to God.

It’s at this point that we need to be wary of influences within the Christian church that can lead to loving the world and its sin.
When John wrote these words, he wrote them in the context of false teachers operating within the church
- false teachers that he speaks of in very negative terms throughout his letter.
These false teachers are in view here when he speaks of the sin in the world.
In Chapter 4 verse 5, he says of these teachers
They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

Some of you may have heard of a cult called the “Children of God”.
This cult started in America during the sixties
- a period of great moral and political turmoil.
When it started, it was merely yet another fundamentalist christian group headed by a very persuasive leader.
But this leader, David Moses Berg, was obsessed with sex.
The free love of the sixties hippie movement seems to have fused together with Berg’s theology.
To him, sex meant love.
One of the cult’s most famous activities was called “flirty fishing”,
whereby female members of the cult would go to bars and seduce men in order to introduce them to the cult.
This was a very effective means of Evangelism!
Unfortunately, the free sex environment of this cult led to many divorces and to numerous cases of child abuse.
Berg’s own daughter eventually left the cult after being abused by her Father.

Now this is an extreme example,
but you must remember that the cult started off as merely an enthusiastic group of Christians trying to preach the gospel to hippies.
It developed into a cult because it compromised Biblical teaching,
and instead focused upon the visions and teachings of their leader.
The false teachers around John’s time were concerned not with the physical life but with the spiritual life.
What we see here is evidence that these false teachers were living and preaching an immoral life.
We need to be very careful with any Christian church or organisation,
that we avoid and denounce any lax attitudes to Biblical teaching.

3. Loving the Father (2.17)

So we should avoid the world.
What should we do instead?
We should instead love the Father.
And that is my third point.
Let me read to you verse 17 again.

The World and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The first thing that John tells us here is that world is passing away.
He is pointing out that the world we live in
- both the physical world and the world that opposes God
- are only temporary.
John explained this whole concept further when he wrote the book of Revelation which deals, amongst other things, with the end of the world.
John, like the other Apostles, was focused upon heavenly things rather than earthly things.
But this didn’t mean that he ignored the importance of the physical.
John made the link between the earthly world and the spiritual world by discussing how important it is to love your fellow Christians,
and by teaching about how important it is to remain morally pure in an immoral world.
What John is saying here is that we should be concerned with doing God’s will.
While the world is only temporary, the man who does the will of God lives forever.

So how do we do the will of God?
You can see there on your outlines that doing the will of God involves three things.
John doesn’t explain what “doing the will of God” is here in these verses,
but we can work it out simply by looking at these verses and the rest of 1 John.

In verse 16, John warns us not to be drawn in by the lust of our eyes.
Avoiding this is doing the will of God.
It means that we actively avoid allowing ourselves to get into this situation.
But it also means we desire to do what is good.
Rather than just avoiding evil, we need to desire doing good.
Rather than seeking to get something for our own sinful desires,
we should seek to give something for other people’s welfare.
Seeking the welfare of others and being humble are marks of true belief.
But how hard is it to do?
It’s very hard.
Our sinful nature makes us selfish.
But if we are to do the will of God we are to stop being selfish and instead care about other people.

The other thing that John mentions in verse 15 is the idea of boasting about one’s possessions and position in life.
To do the will of God means that we come to realise that our possessions and position in life are granted to us by God,
not by any greatness or wonderfulness in ourselves.
It means that we do not seek position or possessions as ends in themselves, but to serve God.
It also means that we boast in what God has done for us
- we boast in Christ.
We boast about how great God is, not how great we are.
We boast about what Jesus has done for us all,
not about what we have done for ourselves.

Chapter 3 verse 23 gives us some further help in understanding what doing the will of God means.
It says This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
Doing the will of God means first and foremost that we believe in Christ.
It means we place our trust in Christ.
It means we have committed ourselves to knowing, understanding and loving Christ.

Remember how I’ve said that 1 John can sometimes cause discomfort in people?
When John here says that “the man who does the will of God lives forever”, we may think that John is talking about works here
- that our salvation is dependent upon what we do.
But I hope I’ve made it clear that this is not what John is saying.
John doesn’t say that our works are unnecessary
- he says that they are vital.
But those who do the will of God are those who believe in Christ,
who live in the light,
who have Jesus Christ to speak to the Father in their defence,
who have been forgiven through the sin sacrifice of Jesus on the cross,
and who now no longer love the world and its sinfulness.

There are a number of applications of this I’d like to discuss.

The first concerns what it really means to love the world.
If we are to love the world properly, it means that we tell the world about Christ.
God loved the world so much that he sent his son,
that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
We are not to embrace or enjoy or condone anything that the sinful world offers,
but rather we should go to the world and tell them that God loves them,
that God sent his son to die for them
so that they may have eternal life.
God has chosen to speak the gospel in the world through his church
- it’s our responsibility to do this.

The second concerns our life here on earth.
While John isn’t only concerned with the spiritual side of life, he does make the point that our life here is only passing.
We come into the world naked, we leave the world naked.
We should therefore be focused not on earthly riches, but upon heavenly ones.
It means that we should seriously and prayerfully consider where and how we spend our time, our money or our skills.
There is no shame in being physically poor while being spiritually rich.
Now this doesn’t mean that we should all live in poverty
- I don’t think that this is what God is saying to us -
but it does mean that we should be wise.

The third thing concerns doing God’s will.
God is commanding us to not embrace the world but to do his will.
I know it is very easy to get up here and beat you all over the head and say “try harder”, when in fact it is very difficult.
I think the first step in obedience has to be prayer.
In prayer we admit to God that we do not have the capacity nor the strength to obey him,
and that we rely upon him for the strength to do his will.
Through prayer we are constantly coming before God and asking him for strength
- and God will not leave such prayers unanswered.


So what do you love?
Do you love chocolate?
I do. In fact, I have a friend who doesn’t like chocolate and I find him quite bizarre!

But who do you really love?
Do you love the world we live in?
Do you love its ideas, its achievements, its freedom?
Or do you love the Father?
And if you love the Father, you no longer love the world.
Of course we care for the world, but we are no longer part of the world.
We no longer indulge in the sinful desires or the proud boastings of those around us.

The Church is a body of people, spanning both time and space,
who have been forgiven and who now serve the Father.
While the world and its desires and temptations will pass away and be no more,
those who do the will of the Father live forever.
Those who trust in Christ and love God’s law will not perish,
but will live forever in paradise with the Father
and with his son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Let me pray.

Heavenly Father,
We praise you and thank you for wonderful greatness. We love you and wish to serve you always. Thank you for giving us your Son, that through him we have forgiveness and new life.

We admit Lord that we fall into sin, and fall into the temptations that this world has to offer. Forgive us, and give us hearts that love you. Help us to hate what the world stands for, and give us strength to resist temptation. Give us wisdom and discernment in avoiding the world’s influences, and keep us standing firm on your word.

Give us the desire to share our love for you with those in the world. Help us to speak to them about you, and give them hearts and minds that will respond to the gospel. You loved the world so much that you sent your son, and we pray that you use us to spread your gospel throughout the world.


From the Kerygmatic Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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