1st John 2:16-17 Do Not Love The World Pt. 2—The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life
16 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.
In verse 16, John takes a look at this worldly system that God empowers us to overcome. When we willingly choose to participate in the worldly system, choose to “play the game”, then we have to understand that “all that is in the world”, as John says, all that the world has to offer apart from God is a threat to us. John wants to show us how loving this worldly system will sap away all your love for God, and introduce a distance from God that is harmful to the life of a Christian, and will hinder your walk with the Lord. The worldly system and “the things in the world,” really offer nothing but temptation and sin. These things stand in opposition to God. John summarizes all that the worldly system apart from God has to offer in three phrases: “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.” These three categories of temptations are the three ways that the enemy, through the worldly system, tries to tempt the believer into sin.
In Genesis 3:6, all the way back to the fall of man, we see these same three. 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate. She desired the one food forbidden to her “the lust of the flesh”. She saw the tree fruit was good for food “the lust of the eye” tempting her to eat as if it would be good for her to do something God had forbidden, and it was desirable to make one wise the prideful desire to be wise as God is wise, and to come to God on our own terms instead of His.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan, we see the same three temptations. In Matthew 4:1-11
And the fact that the enemy used the same 3 temptations on Eve at the beginning of creation, when she failed the test, and the same 3 types of temptations to try to snare Jesus almost 2,000 years ago when He passed the test, and he uses the same 3 temptations to try to trip us up today says that the enemy may be clever, but he is NOT original. Why? Because people don’t change! These three “the lust of the flesh”, “the lust of the eyes” and “the pride of life” arise from us.
The Lust of the Flesh-By “lust of the flesh” we mean a lust related to our “flesh”, our human nature corrupted by sin, and describes what it means to live life dominated by the senses—the body. In the extreme, it would include “gluttonous in food , . . . slavish in pleasure, lustful and lax in morals, selfish in the use of possessions; regardless of all the spiritual values; extravagant in the gratification of material desires.” The “lust of the flesh” is all desires centered in your nature without regard to the will of God. It is that which constantly fights against the things of God in your life. The lust of the flesh is contrary to the desire to do the will of God. In Galatians 5:19-21, we see Paul catalogue some deeds of the flesh. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, So, we see that these deeds of the flesh, are often borne of lusts of the flesh, or in some cases lusts of the eye. All of these things are born out of a love of sin, a desire to feed our corrupt human nature instead of the New Life in Christ that we have been given.
The Lust of the Eyes-John now addresses those desires arising from what we see around us in the world. John is describing desires that are aroused visually; eyes that see and wrongly desire. In the Bible, the eyes are the primary way that we perceive the world around us, and also a primary gate of temptation. Consider the case of God’s servant David who saw Bathsheba, lusted after her, and later committed adultery with her, not to mention murder. Job had a lesson for all of us men when he said in 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully on a woman.” But it’s not just sexual lust, or wrong sexual desire that’s in view here. In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says that the eye is the lamp of the body. “If your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Your eyes are closely related to your heart! Proverbs 17:24 says that “wisdom is in the presence of one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” The Psalmist says of the arrogant in Psalm 73:7, “Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot.” How many people know that our eyes can get us into a lot of trouble? No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 18:9 “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. The “lust of the eyes” describes someone who is captivated by an outward show of materialism, physical beauty, or desire for stuff.
The Pride of Life–The boastful pride of life is all about a haughty attitude. It has to do with pretension and arrogance, the desire for Position, status, fame. This term was common in the Greco-Roman world as a one of the character flaws of the wealthy and powerful who abused those who they thought were beneath them, and in general, just thought of themselves as better than everyone else. This word describes the pretentious, prideful braggart. We become trapped in this egotism.
is not from the Father, but is from the world.” -Everything that makes up the world system is what is not from the Father, not from God. All of these temptations do not come from God. As James tells us in 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life are evil, and are used by our flesh, the world and the enemy to cause inappropriate desire in us, and entice us to evil desires, which lead to sin, and eventually, to death.
17 The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God continues to live forever. A love or lust for the things of the world can prevent us from having a close relationship with God. Remember the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17-27. Both the world and its lusts are passing away. The world and it’s evil system are dying. We should not spend all our time focused on this temporary world.
but he who does the will of God remains forever.
The Christian who is following Christ in obedient service to the Kingdom of God does not need to worry about his status in this world, because he has a place of honor in the next world. He doesn’t need to worry about glory and applause and adoration here, because he will be a treasure to Jesus in the next world, and receive glory and honor because he is a fellow heir with Christ.
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Do not love the world
An obstacle to the spiritual growth which can hinder the progress toward spiritual maturity that we talked about last week is having a love for the world. John is concerned that his flock’s love for the world will prevent them from surrendering to the leading of God the Holy Spirit in their lives.
John doesn’t say abandon the world, leaving it to it’s own devices. In John 7:15 Jesus says 15 I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one. Just as Jesus did not ask that His disciples be taken out of the world, only protected from Satan, John is linking together victory over the evil one with rejecting the love of the world that characterizes those who are still overcome by sin.
When John says “the world”, he uses the Greek word Kosmos, which just means orderly arrangement, an order of things, so basically the worldly system under the temporary authority of Satan. He means the corrupt system set up by the enemy that dominates most people’s life in the world. It is this same world from which the disciples have been separated by God. God gave us to Jesus as an inheritance out of the world John 17:6 6 “I have revealed Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world;they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have followed Your word. John 17:14 lets us know that we will always be separate from the World as followers of Jesus 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. It hated Jesus and hates His followers. John 15:18 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. The world hates us because we belong to Jesus, and we no longer belong to it’s corrupt system. And the closer that we get in our relationship with Jesus, the more the world recognizes that we are not participating in their worldly system, and so they resent and hate us. It is this evil system that Christ has overcome, and we as His followers MUST overcome. Victory over this worldly system is supposed to mark our lives, as we grow in Christ, so it makes sense that a child of God should not love the worldly system.
A person is either in the World or in Christ. How did the Young Men in our verses last week overcome? 1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. Their growth in spiritual maturity was evidenced by their victory over the world, and especially over the evil one and his minions, when they are tempted. It’s their rejection of the world and commitment to Jesus that makes them pure. The faith that we have in Jesus, that He can be trusted with our lives, and that we will see Him face to face some day is a purifying hope. 1 John 3:3 says 3 And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. This rejection of the world and complete faith in Jesus is key to overcoming. In Revelation 12:11 how do they overcome Satan, the accuser of the brethren? 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Again they overcame because of their faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross to save them, and their committed life to Him, walking with Him by the Spirit, even when they were threatened with death if they did not deny Him.
Or the Things in The World
There is the tendency to tell ourselves that we’re not in love with the world, and then spend our lives accumulating stuff. When someone asked Jesus in Luke 12:13 to spend his time settling legal disputes over money and possessions, Jesus basically said “I don’t have time for that triviality”. Continuing in verse 15 he said 15 But He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one is affluent does his life consist of his possessions.” And in the parable that follows, when the rich man in verse 17 17 And he began thinking to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and I will store all my grain and my goods there.19 And I will say to [l]myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years to come; relax, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself!” This man had spent all his time accumulating stuff, good’s wealth, but not cultivating a relationship with God, and getting close to Him. And what is God’s reaction? God calls him a fool. In Luke 12:20 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is demanded of you; and as for all that you have prepared, who will own it now?’ In other words, one day each of us will die, and all that we have accumulated in worldly possessions will do us no good! Someone else will have them then. And Jesus comments in Luke 12:21 21 Such is the one who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich in relation to God.”
If anyone loves the world
Is this true of us? Do we love the worldly system? Do we “play the game?” Do we “go along to get along?” Do we love the world’s “stuff”? We each must ask ourselves these questions. It is important, because John lets us know that if we have love for the world, then we lack in love for God.
the love of the Father is not in him.
A love of the worldly system and it’s stuff is inconsistent with experiencing intimacy with God. This happens in a few different ways.
You can be sure that to the extent that you love the worldly system and it’s stuff, the love God is not expressing itself in us toward other people. We cannot be focused on the world and it’s stuff, and also be focused on those lost sinners that God loves, and our brothers and sisters in Christ who need our love and attention.
We will find that as we love the world and it’s stuff, it interferes with the amount of love that we have toward God—it gets in the way. Jesus says in Luke 16:13. 13 No servant 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.” Serving money or wealth or greed will lessen our love for God, and distract us from His plan for our lives.
And lastly, we will find that if we focus on God, and His love for us, He will fill us up to the point that we don’t want the things of the world. “The things of earth will grow strangely dim”. Hebrews 12:2 We must focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We must look to Jesus keeping our hearts and minds on Him. He is the cause of our faith. Our faith is in Him, through Him and by His spirit alive in us. As we fix our eyes on the love of God, be become more rooted and grounded in Him, we become fully convinced of our faith in Him as the foundation of our life, and we know that nothing can separate us from Him, then we understand that we can depend on the faithfulness of God to be able to make us stand, even when we cannot in our own strength. We can be sure that He will help us to finish the race that He has set before us. He will supply all our needs, bear all our burdens, and comfort us from all our pains. We just need to keep focused on Him. And we will find that this removes, piece by piece, our focus on the world. Jesus wants to reveal himself to you, where you are in your own personal world; live in you and through you, as you focus your eyes and life upon Him, and wants to express His love for others through you. Let Him!
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you on account of His name.
John’s just spent time giving them evidence that they’re saved saying that if they follow God’s commands out of love for Him, then it is evidence that they are saved. If you’re a true believer you’re going to obey the Word of God and have love for and serve their brethren, and so both of these are evidence that someone is truly saved. Buthe knows that none of them will be perfect at doing either of these things. And this imperfection, falling short, and missing the mark in these two things would tend to make even genuine believers doubt their salvation. So, verse 12 is here to pause, and give true believers reassurance that they are saved not through these works, but on the basis of what Jesus has done.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
We are all equally redeemed. But now John wants to recognize the fact that not all believers are at the same place in their spiritual walk with Christ, their submission to the will of the Holy Spirit. John asks the question: Where are you at in your spiritual maturity? John is speaking in terms of family, where there are people who are at different maturity levels.
I am writing to you, fathers
John begins at the top level, and then will work his way down. When John says “I am writing to you, fathers”, he’s describing those men who were spiritually mature—the spiritual fathers amongst the congregation. These are believers who’s life is characterized by a deep, close, intimate relationship with Jesus as the most important relationship in our lives.
because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
These have grown in the grace and knowledge of Christ over many years. These are people who have spent many hours in the Word of God, studying, meditating on it, taking it to heart, and letting the Holy Spirit deal with their heart, and mold them into people who are more conformed to the image of Christ. They have learned Truth from God’s Word, and applied it to their daily lives. These are people who have followed Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:2 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. It takes time, to be “fully convinced”. Romans 4:20-21 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
From the Beginning
These “fathers” have known God from the beginning of their relationship with Jesus, and continue to know Him and grow in Him. Their lives are characterized by obedience and submission to God over a long period of time, in fellowship with God.
I am writing to You, Young Men
John now addresses the “young men” among his readers. They have a personal relationship with Jesus, and have walked with Him, but not for as long. This is a level below the Fathers. This Greek word, for young men, Neaniskos (Nay-an-is’-kos) describes a man from 20-40 years old or so. This is a person who as matured into young adulthood. This could be described as the worker stage. You’re no longer a spiritual spectator, but are getting about the business that God has for you. Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Those good works are part of what the life in Christ is about. Those who are workers, are laboring for Christ not to earn salvation, it is a free gift, but out of Love for Him. They’re getting to know Him enough to know that He wants their entire life, and they’re surrendering it to Him, piece by piece. When we surrender our hearts to Him, we begin to prioritize what He wants for our life more, and when that happens, we’ll surrender our time and efforts more and more to Him. So, in terms of where you’re at in your spiritual journey with Christ, think about how you prioritize Him in your life In terms of time and resources. How important is Jesus to you compared to everything and everyone else in your life, as evidenced by your calendar, your desires, your passions, and your priorities. This will tell you where you’re at in terms of maturity.
because you have overcome the evil one.
John points to another great evidence of gaining some spiritual maturity—VICTORY! Overcoming. John states that a mark of having maturity to this level is overcoming the evil one when we are tempted. John writes this group precisely because he wants to encourage them as victorious Christians. His use of the perfect active indicative form of the word Nikao describes their spiritual status as a victory over evil or “the evil one,” won in the past and enjoyed in the present. “The past remains effective”. You can point to things in your life that you used to struggle with, that are no longer an ongoing problem for you, and haven’t been for a long time. You have victory in areas of your life, you are an overcomer, not struggling to win against evil.
I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
And the last group that John writes to are the Babes in Christ. Do the babes in Christ not know the Lord Jesus? Yes, they do, but they do not know Him in His full character. They know Him as a child knows their parent. They know that He loves them and takes care of them and shelters them, but they don’t know all about their Father’s Business. They know Him as having forgiven their sins, and that is a lot, but it is not all to know about God. Like babies, they are to feed on the pure milk of the Word. How do they do this? By cooperating with the Lord in allowing Him to wash them with the Water of the Word 1 Peter 2 2-3 2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 and like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. So, baby Christians will still have a lot to work on-but God can help them grow, just as He did us.
God holds us responsible for spiritual growth. The author of Hebrews lets his audience know that he is not pleased with their spiritual growth in Heb 4:12-14 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil. It is walking with God that matures us, and it is understanding the Word of God in our hearts that lets us know Jesus more and more, an understanding of who God is by fellowshipping with Him. And this means that we don’t need, so much, others to teach us about God, because we learn about Him directly from Him. And because we have been in fellowship with God, we’re not led around by strange doctrines, but discern what is the truth of God’s Word ourselves, and are able to distinguish between the good and evil, the truth and falseness.
14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
John uses the past tense here to emphasize our personal relationship with God through Jesus. He’s addressing fathers again to underline that what distinguishes them is their long-term personal, abiding, fellowshipping intimate relationship with Jesus. This has given them wisdom and spiritual maturity needed in their own lives, but also to help those around them grow.
I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
John emphasizes to the young men that their advantage is their energy and strength. And this is because God’s word is “in” them in the sense that they know it and apply it. It is “enduringly and effectively present” in them. God’s Word, it is influencing them, guiding them through life. And this victory over Satan comes as we live according to God’s Word. They were living out their lives on the basis of an orthodox biblical worldview. And this is why they “have overcome the evil one.”
As the forgiven children of God who are imitating Jesus’ walk, our goal should be to daily overcome Satan and grow to the stable faith of the “fathers” more and more in every aspect of our life. None of us can become strong or mature any other way. There are no short-cuts! Spiritual maturity is not automatic. It results from daily decisions to walk with God, to do what is right, to practice justice and mercy, to come alongside others, and especially to get to know Him more and more, and to spend time with Him, and grow in deeper and deeper relationship with Him.