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What Is Your Greatest Affection?

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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What is Your Greatest Affection?

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What Is Your Greatest Affection?

Today we are going to simply read the passage, , define a few terms, and then I am going to ask you a question. This is not the tests we talked about last week that helps you to know if you know Him, this is just a simple question. It is not at all like the question I ask Raechel each Sunday afternoon while we are walking home; ‘What do you remember about the sermon’ (she hates that question). This question does not draw upon your vast biblical knowledge or even you memory of what I preached or read. But it is a deeply personal question that you and you alone can answer, no one can give you the answer to this question. At this point you are asking yourself the question; “What could that question be?” But you need to know that the question is only important in light of the Word of God and specifically the passage we will look at this morning. So let’s pray and then we will look at God’s Word.
15 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 all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.[1]
The three words we are going to define this morning are love, world and lust. The word “love” is used three times the word “world” is used six times and the word “lust” is used 3 times. Just as a suggestion when you are reading the Scriptures, anytime you see a word repeated several times it should be paid close attention to. Since the word “world” is used six times in these verses let’s see if we can define what John is talking about.
In the Greek the language “world” or “cosmos” can be used in several ways. It can mean all of mankind as in “for God so loved the world”. It can also be used to describe the entirety of God’s creation as in 25And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. There is another possible meaning to look at before we get to the one I believe John is expressing. The word “world” could also be used to express a specific age or time span as in where Jesus says that He will be with His disciples to the ends of the world or the end of the age. Of course all of those meanings are not unlike our word “world” that can be used in much the same way. But John is not talking about all of humanity, nor all of God’s creation and not even the age or time we live in.
What John is talking about is described in Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. John and James are talking about a system of belief and behavior and attitude that is opposed in every way to God; which includes the people of God and the things of God. The ruler of this system that is opposed to God is Satan himself who Paul tells us is the god of this world who blinds unbelievers (). John goes on to tell us in that the whole system that is opposed to God (world) is under the sway of Satan or the evil one. What John is talking about here is an evil organized earthly system controlled by the power of the evil one that has aligned itself against God and his kingdom [2] We need to understand that we are not talking about a dualism whereby there is a battle going on between God and this world system controlled by Satan. Let me draw for you an illustration. It is like Isaiah having a wrestling match with me. Notice how I worded that; “Isaiah having a wrestling match with me”. The outcome is a foregone conclusion. He cannot stop me from doing what I want to do, he cannot harm me in any way; I am free to act in any way I want. Satan cannot injure God, he cannot in any way thwart the plans of God nor can the evil one even harm the kingdom of God, which includes you and me, without it bringing glory to God.
So this “world” that John is talking about is an evil organized earthly system controlled or swayed by the power of the evil one that has aligned itself against God and his kingdom[3]but cannot harm God or thwart His holy will. So now let’s define the second word: LOVE. John uses this word three times here and all the uses are in verse 15: 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. You all know that the Greek language has four words that we translate “love”. Two of them are used in the New Testament, one of them is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament and one of them is not used at all in the biblical context. The word John uses in this passage is the word we often call Godly love, agapeo. The word is often used to describe the love that God has and shows for His creatures, mankind, or for His people, the children of God in the redemptive context. But that is not the only use of that word in Scripture. It is often used to describe an overwhelming affection for other people, for God or Christ, or for things. When I tell my wife that I love her that is the kind of love I am talking about because that kind of love demonstrates itself in wanting to promote or encourage or make the loved one or thing more prominent in your life and in the eyes of others. It is the kind of affection that will give itself completely over to that which is loved. That is love that John is talking about in this passage, a supreme affection that gives itself up for the good of what or who is loved. As we will see that can be both good and bad.
The “world” is an evil organized earthly system controlled by the evil one that has aligned itself against God and His kingdom but cannot harm God or thwart His holy will. Love is that supreme affection that gives itself up for the good of what or who is loved. Now let’s look at; LUST. Like love, lust is also a strong affection for someone or something. But where love sought the good for that which is loved, lust has a strong affection based on what the person can draw out of what is cared for. What am I getting out of my affection rather than what can I do to aid or promote what my affection is aimed at. Lust is strictly aimed at “what can I get out of it”. This can easily be understood in the sexual context or the new car context or almost anything, what will be the pleasure or satisfaction I receive. Lust has no concern for the object of affection only the personal benefit. Love and lust can be easily confused but from a believers perspective we can know which it is in our lives if we look at who we want to get the benefit. So lust is a strong affection aimed at the satisfaction of the individual rather than object of the affection.
We have defined the three words; world, love and lust, now let’s look at three phrases found in verse 16 that need some explanation: 16For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. Let’s take the lust of the flesh first. Our flesh is that part of us that includes our bodies that consistently cry out for satisfaction and pleasure. The flesh is in effect our human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from God’s influence that is prone to sin and oppose God. In other words we are not sinful because we sin. We sin because we are sinful (if you don’t agree with that go back and read ). So when John talks about the lust of the flesh he is talking about that affection that the flesh has to satisfy itself outside of God’s commands. describes it when Eve looked at the fruit and it saw that it would be good to eat. She wanted to satisfy her affection for something to eat even though it was against the only law God gave her. The lust of the flesh then is the affection that the flesh of mankind has to satisfy itself outside of God’s commands.
Now let’s look at the lust of the eye. Back to Eve again in : She looked at the fruit and it was pleasant to the eye. It was so pleasant to the eye that she took it for herself against the law of God. She had an affection to satisfy herself and that affection was magnified because she gazed on what she knew she could not have and stay within God’s law. So the lust of the eye is a strong affection for what is seen and desired even if it breaks the law of God. This can include TV, internet, sporting events; even art can be lumped in there. The lust of the eye is the tendency to be captivated by the outward show of things, without really looking into their real values and determining whether they will glorify God.[4]
Finally let’s look at the “pride of life”. Since we are picking on Eve we may as well go back to again. She looked at the fruit and saw that it would be good to eat, it was pretty and the tree was one that would make her wise. She wanted to be the best, the wisest, the most, the greatest…That is the pride of life. It is the desire that leads one to say or believe; I have acquired this, or I have made this, or I have accomplished this on my own.
We have looked at the definitions of what John means by world, love and lust and we have looked at the meaning of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life”. So now let’s go back to our passage and look at it in light of and with the insertion of the definitions.
Do not have your supreme affection be for the evil organized earthly system, or the things of that system has aligned itself against God and his kingdom. If anyone’s supreme affection is aimed at that evil system swayed by the evil one then his supreme affection is not for God the Father (if you love the world you do not love God). For all that is in this evil system that sways man to put his affections on the satisfaction of his own desires (lust of the flesh) and causes him to long for what he sees whether it brings glory to God or not (lust of the eyes), and brings him to the point that he proclaims his own glory (pride of life) is not of the Father and is of the evil world system that has aligned itself against God.
But what is so important about all of that? This desire to please ourselves and this desire to have whatever pleases our eyes and this pride that results from love of self and in worldly possession is an affront to God, for it leads to a glorification of the self and a failure to realize the dependence of humanity upon God, the Creator, for existence. In these areas of temptation, individuals make idols of their livelihood, social standing, their stuff and any other status symbol that the world determines is important but that matters little to God. Pride, prestige, power, and position count for nothing in the kingdom of God. The value system of this world is turned on its head when God provides the evaluation as seen in Verse 17: 17And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. John is being very clear: This evil system that is opposed to God, that has aligned itself against God and His kingdom, cannot harm God or thwart His holy will. It is passing away, it is going, going, gone. Everything your flesh tells you is important everything you eyes and therefore your mind tells you that you have to have and everything your pride has claimed for itself is going away, it will not endure for all time. But everyone who does the will of God abides forever.
There you have it folks. If you love the world, if your greatest affection is aimed at the things of this world system that is opposed to God then you do not love God, He is not your greatest affection. Well can’t I have more than one “greatest affection”? Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. God the Father said in and Jesus paraphrase in 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Besides that, why would you want your greatest affection be for that which is going to be gone, that is passing away? Wouldn’t you want your greatest affection to be on that which will be with you forever?
That is what John had to tell us in those three verses and by the way that was a command and since it is God’s word it is a command from God not to love the world or the things of the world. I guess that pretty well covers everything. Oh ya, what about the question? This question I am going to ask you is one that you will have to answer, it is not if you will answer it or not, it is if you will answer it honestly after you have searched yourself. We can easily lie to ourselves. Are you ready for the question? Well here it is. What is your greatest affection? Like I said it is a simple question but the answer is most likely not a simple one. You see that question came to me on Tuesday as I started preparing for this sermon. I kind of tossed it around looking for every excuse in the world not to answer it because I did not want to. I dare say you will do something similar. Finally on Wednesday I had to come to terms with the question and began seeking and answer. When I give you my answer please understand that I am still struggling with the fallout from it and I may always struggle with it. When I tell you my greatest affection it is not going to be what you might expect, no confession of sin like pornography or adultery or television or sports or any of those things but you will be somewhat shocked. Here goes: My greatest affection is studying the Scriptures. There you have it, that is my greatest affection. You’re probably thinking that it is sort of anticlimactic. But here is the problem that I have to come to terms with. My affection for studying the Scripture is because of the pride of life. I want to be able to say that I know more or I have a deeper understanding that other people. My point in telling you this is not to get it off my chest, though Scripture does teach us to confess our sins to one another. My point is to demonstrate to you that even the best of things can become essentially idols. The great reformer John Calvin said: “The human heart is an idol factory.” And let me add that any passionate desire of our heart not put there by God for His glory can become an idol. The problem is not that God created the material things of the world and that they are bad, He pronounced them good. The problem is that people have made these things into idols.[5] They gather our greatest affection. John the Apostle says: Do not love the world or the things of the world, if you do you do not love the Father. John Bunyan the great poet/author in Pilgrim’s Progress described the believer this way: He is one who “lifts his eyes to heaven, grasps the best of books (the Bible) and the world is cast behind him.”
The world behind me the cross before me. The world behind me the cross before me. The world behind me the cross before me. No turning back, no turning back. Let’s pray.
[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[2] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 108). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[3] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 108). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[4] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 110). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[5] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 109). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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