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Sermon Notes – 1 John 2:15–17

By October 8, 2023Sermon Notes

Did you hear about the beautiful female celebrity who was seen at a sporting event with the famous and talented professional athlete? It was all over the news.

Terry, are you kidding me who hasn’t heard of Taylor Swift and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce?


I was talking about Marylin Monroe and Joe DiMaggio; you know it was all over the news in 1952.

71 years ago, it was all anyone could talk about.

Monroe was the most famous female of the day and Jumping Joe, the most famous athlete in the world.

But sadly, 10 years later, Monroe died at age 36 of a drug overdose.

Fast forward to 1997, DiMaggio was a long retired reclusive character who still mourned Monroe, even though they had only been married for a year before she moved on from him.

In 1997, two years before his death, DiMaggio was at an awards banquet where he was being honored…President Bill Clinton wanted to sit with him, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Muhammad Ali, all stood in line to shake DiMaggio’s hand.

He was the man.

The speaker for the event talked about how DiMaggio should be on the short list for the man or woman of the century…think about that…what happened in the 20th century?

World War II (Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Churchill), discovery of drugs that had saved millions, we landed on the moon…)

But what had Joe done, to earn his place on the list of the man or woman of the century?

Well, he did play a kid’s game for a living, and he did live largely for himself.

He was said to have supported a hospital for kids and he did lend his name to a wing, but he never gave the hospital any money (actually he gave $100).

His biographer wrote…

“For the most part, Joe wouldn’t give anything away–not even a signed ball. If the hospital officials wanted autographed DiMaggio baseballs for fund-raising purposes they had to buy them like everyone else.”

The announcer after putting him on the list of the “person of the century” thanked him for “showing us the way.”

Really? What way?

I can’t speak about the character of Taylor Swift or Travis Kelce…I know that for DiMaggio, history now records, he seemed to have been a man ruined by the worship he was given.

I know that if the Lord hasn’t returned by then, in 50 years(or way, way less), it will be…Taylor and Travis “who”?

This is not to mock them or belittle them…but to position them in proper perspective.

The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

This summer I buried my dad, after a long life of 92 years…he came from humble beginnings and went on to travel the world and see and do a lot…but in the end, he could not feed or care for himself…he could not move from his bed.

His only hope was in the gospel…and he died with that hope…he is gone from us, but he remains alive forever.

Last week I buried my granddaughter…she lived just minutes after birth.

Her life mattered as much as my dad’s…but both lives were in a real sense, short…just as our lives will be, in eternal perspective…short.

The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

The stupid stuff that bothers us, worries us, captivates us, is the stuff that will pass away.

The will of God must captivate us and motivate us and liberate us…it is what will last.

The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

Let’s read 1 John 2:15-17

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. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

John is speaking to Christians; this is not evangelism this is discipleship.

He is speaking to his dear friends, to the church.

He has already told them that they are to love God and they are to love one another and now he is telling them that they are not to love the world.

He has given them the positive vision now he gives the contrasting negative one.

Do this…don’t do that.

It is helpful when describing something to do or to become to describe it’s opposite.

“When shooting free-throws, you want to pronate like this…but don’t supinate, like that…the ball will spin out.”

Again, it can be really helpful, when explaining what to do, to explain what not to do.

That’s what John is doing here.

Don’t do this, not because the Christian life is about the negative but because the negative…what God is against…can magnify and help understand, the positive, what God is for.

It can warn us from diversions off the good path.

17The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

God is for us having his kind of life that doesn’t end…he is against the empty silly stuff that doesn’t last and doesn’t even satisfy in the short time that we experience it.

Let’s walk through this short but important passage.

Do not love the world or the things in the world.

The word world is used in three ways in Scripture.

One of the ways it is used is to describe planet earth and another is to describe the people on planet earth:

“Jesus was in the world (planet), and the world(planet) was made through him, yet the world(people) did not know him.” John 1:10

The third use is what John is describing here…do not love the world.

He is not saying “don’t love the planet or people.”

This use of the world means the beliefs, values, behaviors that disregard or directly oppose God.

World here means the human attitudes and activities in opposition to God.

He will unpack what this means in three phrases but first he warns us…

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

This is merely a description of reality…the law of non-contradiction.

You can’t go this way and that way at the same time.

James said it like this:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

This doesn’t mean you can’t be tempted or give in to temptation, this is not a matter of perfection in every thought and action.

This is about a settled life direction.

James even uses the word adultery to describe this attempt to love God and the world at the same time.

I can’t be in love with my wife and another woman at the same time.

A person could be tempted to have a heart for another person that begins to rival that of their spouse.

A person can become infatuated with another man or woman.

But in covenant marriage…you either are committed to this person or to that one.

Again, just as in relationship with God, we can, and we do sin…but that is different from wrapping our hearts around rebellion to God…embracing the values and behaviors that oppose God.

I have had people say to me “I have fallen out of love for my spouse, and I’ve fallen in love with someone else.”

The use of the word “fallen” is convenient…it implies no agency, it just happened.

Not…”I walked out of the love I had promised my spouse, and I willfully began to love another person.”

“I don’t know what happened, I just fell out of love.”

Like a kid who climbs a tree then falls from the tree…”I didn’t mean to fall!”

Well surely you meant to climb the tree from which you feel…you didn’t fall up it!

You say you didn’t mean to fall in love with her, Why didn’t you mean not to?

We can’t love God… what he says is true and valuable to believe, value and do.

At the same time love the world…which has opposite beliefs, values, and behavior.

Just as you can’t actually, love two people with covenant marital love…it is impossible.

You can’t love God and God’s opposite at the same time…it is impossible.

Remember how John began this letter…we can, and we must mess up, fess up, move one.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God will, if we confess, forgive our sin debt and cleanse our sin stain.

This is very different from what he is describing here…not mess up, fess up, move on…but wrapping your heart around what is contrary to the will and ways of God.

Now he describes in some detail what this love of the world looks like.

He uses three descriptive phrases:

16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

The lust of the flesh

The lust of the eyes

The pride in one’s possessions.

These are concise, descriptors of a heart that has wrapped around the world.

Let’s define some terms he uses from a biblical rather than common or cultural perspective.
Lust, flesh, eyes, pride.

1. Lust
-Often lust is not seen as a bad thing…it is something to be encouraged and enjoyed.

-A lust for life (power, money, pleasure)

-Biblically lust is bad and of course, in the real world, unbridled lust always has bad outcomes…always.

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire (lust). Then after desire(lust) has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. James 1:14,15

Unbridled lust=bad outcomes.

Desire is not automatically bad, clearly.

We are to desire God, we are to desire the good of others, we are desire holiness, and many other things.

This is desire gone bad…lust.

Not wanting what we are made for and what God wants for us…but a desire for what God does not want for us.

2. Flesh
Sarx: Like “world” this term is used in more than one way.

It could refer our physical bodies or to us as whole persons.

Acts 2:31 Luke writes that Jesus was resurrected and his “flesh” did not suffer corruption.

It is often used to describe human nature and inclinations in opposition to God.

“Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective (Sarx) (Fleshly),.” 1 Cor. 1:26

The “flesh” sees and measures differently than God does.

Paul wrote “Now the works of the flesh are obvious”: then he lists a bunch of bad things. Gal. 5:19

The flesh is opposition to the Spirit, to the things of God.

3. Eyes

Of course, the eyes are the physical organs by which we see things, but they are also the pathway by which desires enter our hearts.

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man
Proverbs 27:20

The eyes are often used as pathways for discontent.

There is a tragic and realistic movie about how the eyes can feed the flesh, it’s called, “The Ticket.”

In the film a blind man lives in a fulfilling and loving relationship with his wife and son, they have a simple home, simple car, and he has a simple job.

They are happy and largely content with their lives.

His eyes are dark to all the potential discontent around him.

He gains his eyesight, and it is downhill from there.

He becomes discontent with his wife, his life, his job, his clothes, his car, his house.

In the end after having thrown away all that was valuable…he loses his sight again…and the film ends with him alone and in darkness and in despair…all you see is shadow, all you hear is heavy anxious breathing.

Yeah, I know…not a great date night film.

But it is descriptive of what the Bible means by the “Eyes” in this context.

They scan for and allow discontent to enter our hearts…if we don’t control this it can ruin us.

Of the course the eyes can also scan for and take in the glory and goodness of God.

We must do what the Psalmist did…cry out to God.

“Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways.”

The heavens declare the glory of God Ps. 19:1

We scan for discontent with our eyes…we can scan for the glory of God.

This is more than “don’t look at bad stuff”

It is about looking at things that may not bad or evil in themselves…but with a heart that lusts for more than God has granted.

I don’t want my life, I want theirs…or a part of theirs…I must have more or different from what God has given to me.

Then our eyes have started collaborating with the flesh to do the harm John is talking about here.

We have dethroned God as Lord of our hearts.

*I want to be married or have kids or have a different marriage or different kids.

*I want to be healthy or have a different health than I do.

*I want their gifts, or I don’t want my temptations, my struggles.

*Okay, but what will you do with all this? Will you give in to the lust of the eyes…or will you scan for the glory of God?

Will you choose contentment?

4. Pride
Pride isn’t automatically bad.

I frequently tell my kids and grandkids that I am proud of them…they know what I mean by it, and it encourages their hearts.

Pride here is specifically a kind of declaration of autonomy from God.

When I say I am proud of my kids…embedded in that is the reality that I am grateful to God…I recognize his goodness in their lives.

John writes of the pride of one’s possessions…which means, disregard for the Lordship of Christ.

Thinking we have earned or deserved what we have.

This includes not just physical things, but we also “possess” gifts, abilities, opportunities.

In the biographical movie of George Foreman…In an opening scene they have virtually no food, sharing a single hamburger.

His spiritually minded mom gives thanks to God for his provision.

Later, grown up Foreman has become wealthy, and spiritually empty…and before a lavish meal at his beautiful home…his mom suggests thanking God for the food.

Foreman replies…”I paid for this food.”

That is what John is addressing…that very attitude.

It may not be that blatant, but any form of that attitude is the dust of death…the stuff that is passing away.

Paul said it like this,
“For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it?” 1 Cor. 4:7

Foreman said, “I bought that food?”

Who gave you life, breath, opportunity?

Who makes the rain to fall and the crops to grow?

Who is holding you in existence right now?

What do you have that you have not received? Nothing.

Then why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Now, let’s look at the three things John said describe a love for the world not God.

But let’s use them as training tools…not fear tactics.

What I mean that we shouldn’t read this like a person who is running scared, sweating, fearful, trying not to be defeated.

Instead, it should be…I know what I want…I want the will of God.

I want to experience his goodness in my life.

Here is what that doesn’t look like…good to know.

Let’s think about how to avoid these things…to recognize what is “not God” in our lives so we can thrive in relationship with him and each other.

1. The lust of the flesh

We automatically think this is about sexual sin, but it is about any form of unhealthy discontentment, an unbridled desire for more or other than what God has granted.

There is a healthy discontent…we ought to be discontent with anything less than full obedience to God.

We ought to be discontent with apathy or laziness.

I should not be content with my relationships as they are…I should want to be better.

Meaning…I need to be better.

Healthy discontent can drive us towards faithfulness.

This lust of the flesh is the pursuit of “more and different” it is unhealthy discontentment.

This is the opposite of the pursuit of being content with godliness.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. 1 Tim. 6:6,7

This is a kind of contentment that is independent of circumstances.

Paul said it like this in Philippians 4
I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

That is the opposite of the lust of the flesh…it is nurturing contentment though the gospel.

2. The lust of the eyes

This is closely tied to the lust of the flesh, but I think about this in terms of moving through life scanning for reasons to be discontent.

God is not to trusted…look at all he has kept from me.
-Clearly this may be wrong things that we can desire.
-And things that are not bad, but he has held them from me.

Proverbs says that our eyes are never satisfied…they scan the world…more, more, more.

The lust of the flesh is what is happening in our hearts…we have to pay attention to our hearts

And as we move through life we have to not leave the truth of God behind us…we have to see him and his Lordship in everything.

Maybe we gain perspective and we are spending time in the Bible and prayer (hopefully you are, because if not, you have virtually no chance to maintain perspective).

Or maybe in church community…worship, small groups…you gain perspective.

Or something difficult or terrible happens and you get a jolt of perspective.

You see clearly.

But we leak perspective…so we need continual inflow of truth.

As we walk through life…our eyes see what we don’t have…at that point the leaks become a flood and contentment is gone…God is not to be trusted.

In can subtle.

Ps 73 describes this whole process in detail.

First a statement of faith:
-God is good to his people, I believe this is true.

Then a confession:
-But I almost slipped and fell
-I envied the wicked…I saw their prosperity, their thriving lives, their pride and even violence that goes unpunished, they care nothing for God, and they are going great!

-What is going on here?

Then the cause of his near fall: Stinking thinking as he looked around scanning for reasons to be discontent.

-My efforts to obey and please God are for nothing

-My life is terrible compared to theirs

-I don’t understand what is going on

-I felt hopeless

Then his return to sanity/restored perspective:
-Then I entered the sanctuary (turned back to God)

-I understood their final destiny, and it is not good…they don’t have it better than me at all.

-I am not seeing all that is true here.

Listen to his sane perspective.

When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you. Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory., Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.

Think of the lust of the eyes like a wild animal…he said he was an unthinking animal towards God.

A wild animal…scans, looking for something, instincts seize and control them and direct their choices.

We are not animals; we are image bearers of God…we don’t scan with our eyes like a beast…we see the reality of God in the world around us and we live in line with that reality.

The third way to “love the world.”

3. The pride in one’s possessions

Again, this is not just stuff you own but also personal skills, gifts, and even opportunities.

This is clearly living in opposition to God who is the creator, giver, owner of everything.

How silly to take pride in what we have been given instead of being grateful and faithful.

Be careful…the temptation is to think this applies to people with a lot to take pride in.

This is universal trap…the godly rich can experience victory in this, and the ungodly poor can be caught in this trap.

Last week, I was pulling onto a busy street, trying to navigate traffic.

I pulled forward in order to see both ways and had to block the sidewalk.

To my left, at least 25 feet away was a man who looked like he was likely living on the streets.

He looked angry, at me!

So, I rolled down my window and said, “Sorry, do you want to go on by?”

He cursed at me.

You don’t have to have much to have this pride of what you possess.

What did he possess? His rights! That I had somehow violated.

The issue here is not whether you have stuff or not, or think you have gifts and opportunities…it is about a perspective that sees God as the giver, owner, Lord of all things or whether life is ultimately about us.

Okay, now we are back where we started.

17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

All this stuff…is the dust of death.

It might glitter like gold, but it is destined to pass away.

The one who does the will of God remains forever.

What is the will of God.

He has been telling us exactly this, in his letter so far and he will continue to do so in what follows.

Love God, Love people.

Love God by honoring him as Lord of your life.

Love God by loving the people he has put in your life.

Don’t love the world…this is the dust of death.

Do love God…this lasts forever.

At the memorial for our granddaughter, I said to my kids, “Feel what you feel, but see ALL that is real here.”

You may feel like God has cheated you in some way…he has not.

You may feel like others have more or better than you do…in some ways they very well may, but again, if you have Christ, you can say with the Psalmist…

I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.

17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.