In the first epistle of John, the thought of “love,” is expressed at least 40 times. There is the thought of, “Love one another“(4:7&11). There is the thought of, “The love of God toward us“(4:9). There is the thought that, “We love God” (5:2). Finally, there is the expression, “God is love” (4:8,16). Obviously, the thought of Love is preeminent in the first epistle of John.
It is most striking, then, that in contrast to all of this, we have the very solemn admonition, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (ch 2:15). It is interesting to note that the apostle warns against loving the “things” of this world. John also adds this solemn note, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The Lord Jesus used similar words when stating this divine principle of service, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24). So that, while in Matthews Gospel there is the impossibility of serving God if we love this world, in Johns epistle there is the impossibility of loving God if we love this world.
Throughout the Word of God we find examples of those who, in the words of the apostle Paul, “mind earthly things” (Phil 3:19), and the results are nothing less than disastrous.
Joshua chapter 7 begins with the words, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing.” Near the end of the chapter, we have Achans confession: “I saw…I coveted… I took” (vs 21). Sadly, this mans actions brought defeat to the people of God (vs 11-12), and death to him and his family. From that time forward, he would be known as the “troubler of Israel”(I Chron 2:7).
In the book of Judges, Gideon (chs 6-8) was mightily used by God to defeat the enemy. There are many valuable lessons concerning dependence upon God to be learned from this most interesting story. This story however, has a very sad ending, for Gideon set his eyes upon the spoil that was taken from the ungodly. In chapter 8 of the book of Judges, Gideon made an ephod from the earrings and ornaments of gold which were taken from the enemy. In verse 27 of that same chapter, we read, “And all Israel went thither a whoring after it, which thingbecame a snare to Gideon and his house.” Here we see a departure from following the Lord.
When we come to I Samuel 15, we read of Samuels charge to King Saul to utterly destroy Amalek” (vs 3). Saul failed in this, as he did in so many other responsibilities that were entrusted to him. When confronted by Samuel, he replied, “The people took … of the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed” (vs 21).
So we begin to see what effect love for the things of the world can have. It brought Disobedience, Defilement, Departure, and even Death. This warning against loving the things of the world needs to be sounded in our day, as well. In Pauls second letter to the Corinthians we are reminded that, “The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).
In his letter to the saints at Philippi, Paul wrote, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ … I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil 3:7-8).
In 2 Timothy, Paul sadly laments concerning one who once traveled with him, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim 4:10). While we are not told specifically what aspect of the world enticed Demas, we would do well to remind ourselves of the solemn admonition from Johns epistle: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I Jn 2:16).
A verse in the book of Colossians brings before us the key to having the proper perspective of the matter: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:1). We “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet 1:18-19).
Rather than loving the things of the world, our only motivation should be like that of the apostle when he wrote, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things arehonest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).
It would be good if we could say with true conviction the words of the hymn that we often glibly sing:
“Is there a thing beneath the sun
That strives with Thee, my heart to share?
O tear it thence, and reign alone
The Lord of every motion there!”
To be continued