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Walking with God in the World

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walking with God in the world

1 John 2:15-17


We have been looking at knowing God and walking with God. This usually meets with a positive response on Sunday. We may still feel positive about walk­ing with God on Monday when we wake up. Our problems begin, how­ever, when we try to walk with God in the world. This is our theme to­day from 1 John 2:15-17. As we face the chal­lenge of walking with God in the world, we need to define our terms …

1        DEFINING THE WORLD (v15)

1.1      Do not love the world

Having assured us in vs.12-14 that our sins are forgiven, that we can know God, and that we can overcome evil, we are encouraged in vs.15-17 not to love the world. Verse 15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them.” A paraphrase says: “Do not love the world’s ways or the world’s goods because this will squeeze out God’s love.”

1.2      A philosophy of life

The idea of the world is used at least seventeen times in 1 John, and six of them are in today’s passage. Here, the world is not the place where we live; it is not the people who live in the world; it is a philosophy of life. It is way of thinking and living that leaves God out of the world. It is not an outright denial of God, but a subtle life­style that lives as if God does not exist.

As peo­ple made in the image of God, we should love the world, but as a phi­losophy of life, we should not love the world or any­thing in the world. Romans 12:2 says we should not conform to the pattern of this world. A paraphrase says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” When molten metal stays in a die long enough, it comes out shaped like the die. When we stay in the world long enough, we come out shaped like the world. We come out think­ing like the world, talking like the world, and acting like the world. When we spend time with God, however, we come out think­ing like God, talking like God, and acting like God.

1.3      Be transformed not conformed

Romans 12:2 says that instead of being con­formed into the pattern of this world, we should be trans­formed by the renew­ing of our mind. The NLT says, “Do not copy the behav­iour of this world, but let God trans­form you into a new person by chang­ing the way you think.” This is not only reflected in the way we think, but in the way we talk, the way we re­spond to people, the way we work, and in the way we serve the commu­nity. When we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, we will not go with the flow, but swim against the tide. To under­stand and ap­ply this, we need to broaden our definition by…


2.1      A more specific description

After reading v15, we could still be guessing about the identity of the world, but not after reading v16. This says, “Everything in the world: the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boasting about what they have and do is not from the Fa­ther but from the world. This is worldly behaviour, and it begins with the lust of the flesh.

2.2      Following worldly desires

The word lust or desire appears three times in vs.16-17 and is the same word through­out. The NIV translates the word differently on each occasion. So we have cravings and lust in v16, and desires in v17. It is a passionate desire for something good or bad. In v16, John speaks about the lust of the flesh, which is a gratification of our fallen nature. Be­fore we were converted, this is all we knew and it is little wonder we still crave it. He then mentions the lust of the eyes. Our eyes always seem to be look­ing in the wrong direction. This is why Je­sus said if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and get rid of it (Mat­thew 18:9). John then mentions boastful pride or arro­gance. This is pride in one’s status. All three expressions of worldly pas­sion were seen in Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God. Gene­sis 3:6 says, “The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food (the desire of the flesh), pleas­ing to the eye, and desir­able for gaining wis­dom (the pride of life).” The same was seen in David when he desired Bathsheba. The results of his lust led to con­niving, deceit, murder, and loss of integrity before God and his people. In a word, he no longer walked with God.

1 John 2:16 says that every­thing in the world: the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boasting about what they have and do is not from the Father but from the world. It does originate with God; it originates from the world.

2.3      The antidote: walking in the Spirit

Gala­tians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. In other words, they will not know God or walk with God. In response to this, Romans 8:12-13 says, “We have an obliga­tion—but it is not to the flesh… If we live according to the flesh, we will die; but if by the Spirit we put to death the mis­deeds of the body, we will live.” Note the spiritual irony here: there is a kind of life that leads to death, and there is a kind of death that leads to life. He says if we live according to the flesh, we will die; but if by the Spirit we put to death the mis­deeds of the body, we will live.

The antidote to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is to walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the de­sires of the flesh.” Romans 13:14 puts it another way when it says: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” If we live like this, we should then be…

3        DEFYING THE WORLD (v17)

3.1      The world is passing away

To defy means to openly resist or refuse to obey. It is to challenge something and to prove it wrong. When we know God and walk with God we openly resist, we refuse to obey, and we challenge a way of life that leaves God out of the equation. In this con­text, 1 John 2:17 says, “The world and its lusts are passing away but whoever does the will of God re­mains for­ever.

3.2      God’s way remains

John is emphatic. He says, “The world and its lusts are passing away.” One day, all forms of athe­ism and worldliness pass away and we will live forever under God’s will. The sec­ond part of v17 says the world and its lusts are passing away but who­ever does the will of God re­mains forever. To remain is one of John’s favourite words. In 1 John 2:6, he said: “Who­ever claims to abide or remain in him should live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:14 says the word of God abides or remains in us. 1 John 2:17 says: who­ever does the will of God remains forever. The world and its lusts in v16 are passing away, but those who do the will of God remain forever—into the ages! It is like a fine piece of music com­pared to a less enduring one.

3.3      Defying the world for God

To be part of this new world order, we have to choose between following Christ and fol­lowing the world. We cannot love God and the world at the same time. Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters.” James 4:4 says, “Friend­ship with the world is enmity against God? Anyone who is a friend of the world is an en­emy of God.”

In making your choice, look at the world with all its problems. Ask if this is what you want. Is this the kind of world you want to live in forever? Having looked at the op­tions, we should then defy the world and seek God’s will and God’s way in our lives. We should have our heart so filled with the love of God that there is no room for any love that is incom­patible with that love. This should lead us to a fresh commitment…

As the deer pants for the water

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