Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Love With The World


(Audio version; Music: "God Of Wonders" by: Third Day and "All Of Creation" by: MercyMe)








Introduction

            Creation is one God’s greatest and most amazing wonders. I happen to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world right here in Colorado with more than three hundred days of sunshine every year. We have a saying here that if you don’t like the weather, just wait thirty minutes. However, some people have taken their love for creation to level that can only be described as devotional. As Paul says, they have exchanged the truth for a lie and have begun to worship and serve created things instead of the Creator. These people seem to think that humanity’s salvation is dependent on saving the planet from humanity’s evil influence. Even the Pope has fallen prey to this sinful devotion to creation. God created the world for our benefit not the other way around. We have a duty to care for God’s creation, not worship it.

However, this seems typical for humanity. Every time some new shiny object captures our attention we turn our devotion to that and away from God. For example, God gave us the gift of work to be co-creators with Him and many people have managed to turn it into an obsession that has led to their own destruction, as well as the destruction of their marriages and families. God gave us the ability to earn a living and acquire things; nice things; maybe even lots of nice things, but many people have turned it into an obsession to earn more money so they can buy and own more things and surround themselves in luxury. God gave us the beautiful gift of sex to be shared between a husband and wife. However, many people have turned it into nothing more than personal physical satisfaction with anyone who is available and willing. And in many cases married couples use God’s gift of sex as leverage against their spouse to get what they want. God has blessed people with tremendous athletic or theatrical talent or business acumen or the gift of healing yet instead of praising God, some people elevate these athletes, actors and actress, business people and medical professionals as though they are gods themselves. Everywhere we look we see people devote themselves to worshiping the things created by God instead of worshiping God. Instead of being in love with the God who gave us the things of this world, people are In Love With The World.

Subject Text

1 John 2:15-17

            15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For 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. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Context

            This, John’s first pastoral letter, was written sometime between 85 A. D. and 95 A. D. Most people think of John as being exiled to the Isle of Patmos late in his life but he wrote this letter while still in Ephesus. John is a very old man at this point and is writing this letter to encourage Christians everywhere and to warn them against false teachings and against false teachers. John is the one who coined the term, “antichrist.” We’ve become somewhat accustomed to the belief that the idea of the antichrist originated in the Book of Daniel and continued in the Book of Revelation. However, the actual word, “antichrist,” occurs only four times in the Bible and in all four cases it occurs in John’s first and second letter. Many people associate the antichrist with one particular person but John makes it clear that the antichrist is basically:

1.     Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (Jesus is the Anointed One sent to save us), or
2.     Every spirit who does not confess that Jesus is from God (Jesus is not fully God), or
3.     Anyone who teaches that Jesus did not come in the flesh (Jesus is not fully man).

This is the backdrop for everything John teaches in his letters. Anyone who denies Jesus, who He is in His divinity or His humanity or what He accomplished by His sacrificial death and resurrection is an antichrist. And anything that sets itself up as a kind of false god to compete with Jesus, the true God, for our devotion and loyalty is likewise an antichrist.

Text Analysis

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

            Many years ago I had a good friend who was also a pastor and he taught me the value of memorizing Scriptures. V. 15 was one of the first verses I memorized and honestly it is one of the verses that I have so often struggled with living in my particular era and culture. I am surrounded by so many “people” and “things” that are constantly screaming for my affection and allegiance that it is so easy at times to get lost and lose sight of the One who made all the blessings I enjoy possible. The difficulty for humanity is now the same as it was for people during John’s day—living in the reality of the world and culture that surrounds us that is filled with the powerful allure of money, sex, and power without diluting or diverting our complete allegiance and devotion to Jesus. Some believe that the only way to do this is to divest ourselves of all worldly possessions. Others believe that we should abstain from all sexual pleasures and become completely celibate. And still others believe we should never aspire to be served but only to serve. Historically, all these things have been attempted without much lasting success. The more people attempted these things, the more prominent and celebrated they became. At various points throughout humanity’s history, austerity, celibacy, and piety became the cause-celebre that people devoted their lives to. The people who were the best at perfecting these lifestyles were then and are now virtual celebrities. Ironically, by focusing entirely on eliminating the elements from life that distract from devotion to Jesus, these people were distracted from their devotion to Jesus and distracted others along the way.

            The truth is that we maintain our focus on and devotion to Jesus by being focused on and devoted to Jesus right where we are. For example, do our relationships reflect love for all people as equally valuable creations carrying the imprint of God’s image regardless of how obscure that image has become due to sin? Does our work honor God in a way that we can say we are partners with God in our work and that we conduct our affairs in the same way that God would conduct our affairs? Do we acknowledge that all our possessions belong first and foremost to God? Do we use our possessions to demonstrate our love for God and our love for people or only to satisfy our love for self? Does our sexuality reflect God’s design for sex as being between one man and one woman in the context of a marriage relationship? In short, is God the first thought, the middle thought, and the last thought in all aspect of our lives or only an after-thought? “‘The world’ could refer to everything but God; here it means the system in competition with God. Just as Israel in the Old Testament repeatedly had to decide between allegiance to God and allegiance to the pagan nations around them, the Christians scattered among the nations had to choose Christ above whatever in their cultures conflicted with his demands. In the case of John’s readers, refusal to compromise might be a costly proposition.”[1]

16For 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.

            Ouch! V. 16 casts a pretty wide net and I confess that I have often been caught in that net with my words, attitude and actions. This pretty much covers the entire spectrum of pitfalls that trap humanity. “The cravings of sinful man,” can be understood as the relentless pursuit of money and how humanity seeks to always acquire more money in order to satisfy the cravings of the heart that will never be satiated with more money—a bigger house, a nicer car, extravagant vacations, etc. “The reason we are not to love the world is that the world’s values are in opposition to God. The cravings of sinful man are the sinful interests and desires that draw us away from God.”[2]

“The lust of his eyes,” can be understood as humanity’s obsession with physical beauty and sexuality. There’s a reason that the pornography industry makes more than a half a billion dollars every year. People all over the world are obsessed with sex in real life, sex in books, sex in magazines, sex in movies or sex anywhere else they can find it. “The lust of the eyes refers to sinful desires that corrupt us. The eye is often used as a figure of speech to refer to sinful passions. When Eve looked at the forbidden fruit, it was ‘pleasing to the eye.’ David’s sin with Bathsheba started when he looked on Bathsheba taking a bath. It might be translated, ‘the desires that originate in what we see.”[3]

“The boasting of what he has and does,” can be understood as humanity’s desire for self-promotion and self-aggrandizement in order to maintain power or acquire more power. We see this at play in our modern system of government where political figures will boast about themselves in order to maintain or capture the power that comes with being a political figure—not unlike Caesar during John’s day who boasted of being divine in order to wield his power over those he conquered and those he governed. We saw it on display in the attitudes and actions of the religious leaders in Jerusalem during Jesus’ day when they talked incessantly about how only they were qualified to lead the people into the knowledge and presence of God. We currently have a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is insufferable when it comes to “boasting of what he has and does.” Let me just give you a taste of Trump’s humility with a few of his quotes {read: sarcasm}:

“I’m really rich.”

“I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job.”

“I’m really proud of my success. I really am.”

“I did a lot of great deals, and I did them early and young.”

“I give a lot of money away to charities and other things. I think I’m actually a very nice person.”

And finally, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

            It’s easy to point at the ugliness of Trump’s boasting because it is so blatant but there are examples around us all the time that are perhaps less obvious, like how we treat those who work under us or how we talk about people who don’t drive a car as nice as ours or live in a smaller house than we do. Or, perhaps how we look down on those who go to work wearing a cheap, tattered uniform and steel-toed boots while we go to work wearing a $1,500 Giorgio Armani suit with a pair of $600 Salvatore Farragamo shoes. “The boasting of what he has and does refers to the arrogance and pride that can overtake us as we try to ‘get ahead of the Joneses’ and when we rely on ourselves rather than God for our material possessions and worldly positions.

            “These values are foolish for two reasons. First, they do not come from the Father. Therefore, they interfere with our fellowship with the Father. Second, we are all going to die, and what we are living for will come to nothing. The well-known saying of slain missionary Jim Elliot seems appropriate here: ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to get what he cannot lose.’

            “We might paraphrase this whole passage: ‘Do not embrace the world’s ways or goods. When you do, it squeezes out your love for God. When you live for ‘getting your own way,’ and for ‘getting everything you want,’ and for ‘looking good compared to others,’ you are not living for God but for the world. This is foolish because it suffocates your relationship with God.”[4]

17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

            We have a choice when we are faced with the things of this world with respect to v. 17. Knowing that this life and the world are passing away, some insist this is exactly why we should pursue these things—because life is short and we need to acquire everything we desire and indulge in everything that brings us satisfaction. Normally it would be hard to argue with this thinking unless we realize that the text doesn’t say that we are passing away. It says that the world and its desires are passing away. Humanity has an eternal destiny and that destiny is that we spend eternity with God or we spend eternity separated from God. This life is an extremely short segment our lives in the context of eternity. Contrary to what people believe, the winners of this life are not the ones who die with the most toys. The winners of this life are the one who get to spend eternity with God. And how does that happen? By doing the will of God. What exactly does that mean though? Does that mean there is something we need to do in order to earn our way to spending eternity with God? What is the will of God? It is a very good question and it can be answered on a number of levels—on a micro level, believers have a duty to determine God’s will for their lives in every area of their lives—private and personal, sacred and secular, vocational and avocational. However, there is a more important macro level of doing God’s will and I believe that is what is in view here. So what is God’s will for humanity on a macro level? Jesus gives us the answer to this question and John records it for us in his gospel: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn 6:39-40).”

            That leaves us with one final question: Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we be devoted to God and love the world? Because we were created to choose between one or the other but not both. Once Adam and Eve began to pursue their own personal desires to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they were no longer able to be fully devoted to God. And we are no different when we allow the shiny things of this world to distract us from our devotion to God. Jesus explained this principle with respect to money but it applies to everything else as well when he said that we cannot love both God and money because we will ultimately wind up loving one and hating the other or being devoted to one and despising the other (Mt 6:24). What John is trying to say in our Subject Text is that we can’t have it both ways. We can either be in love with God and spend eternity with Him or we can be In Love With The World and be eternally separated from Him. But we can’t be in love with both because we can’t spend eternity with Him and without Him at the same time. “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 the hope of a better life hereafter.”[5]

Application

            If you’ve spent any time in Christian circles then you’ve probably heard that Christians are called to be in the world but not of the world. On paper or in abstract terms that makes perfect sense, but what does that look like in real-life application? What’s our purpose for being in the world in the first place? If we’re not supposed to be of the world, why didn’t Jesus take us with Him? If you’re asking these questions then you’re asking the right questions. What you’re really asking is, what does Jesus expect me to do now that He’s gone and I’m left in the world. Very simply, the answer to that question is: To know God and to make God known. In other words: To be in relationship with God and to help others be in relationship with God. In practical terms it means that in all things we must ask ourselves if our actions, words, and attitudes nurture our own relationship with God and provide others with a roadmap toward a relationship with God. Being in the world doesn’t mean we can’t engage the world around us. What it does mean, however, is that we are to engage the world on God’s terms not the world’s terms.

When we engage in business, people should know that it is different from the way the world engages in business. It means we deliver what we sell. It means we provide the very best product or service even if it means lower profits. It means treating employees with dignity regardless of their position. It means the quality of what we do or make and how we treat our employees, customers, and shareholders is just as important as profits.

            When we engage in sexual activity it should only be in the context of a marriage relationship between one man and one woman. It means a husband and wife defer to the sexual needs of the other as a demonstration of selfless love that makes the other’s needs a priority. It shows the world that sex is not primarily a mechanism for self-satisfaction but a wife’s gift to her husband and a husband’s gift to his wife.

            When we engage a materialistic world, it is next to impossible to avoid its materials. Nevertheless, the same principle applies to our possessions. Does the use of our money and the possessions and services it procures nurture our relationship with God and are those things used to move others toward a relationship with God? Do we own our possessions or do they own us?

            When people look at your life; your personal and professional life; your private and public life, what would they say? Would people consider you and your life to be different or pretty much the same as the rest of the world? Our lives tell a story. A story of what we think of ourselves, the role of work in our lives, how we use our possessions, how we wield the power we have, how we use our talents, how we engage in sexual activity, how we treat our students, teachers, bosses, employees, and co-workers, how we treat strangers, how we treat our neighbors, and how we treat our children and our spouse. If people could read the story of your life, would they say you are in love with God or would they say that you are In Love With The World?







[1] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 739.
[2] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II, III John, Jude—Holman New Testament Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), p. 175.
[3] Ibid, pp. 175-176.
[4] Ibid., p. 176.
[5] I. Howard Marshall, The Epistle of John—The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 146-147.