Sermon Manuscript . . .
Weighed Down by Worldliness
Test series–1 John 2:15-17
I love current special effects. They can actually show you what it is like to float weightless in outer space–something I have always wanted to do. You too? At dinner time, you pop a shrimp out of your meal pack, let it float around, then snap it in your mouth like a fish. Everything you do is without weight. Without gravity, there is no pull toward the world.
Scientists tell us, if you can lift 200 pounds on Earth, you can lift 1,200 pounds on the moon. But if you lived on a planet the size of the sun, to pull your watch out of your pocket is like lifting 6 pounds out of mud. You’d never be able to ever lift your arm. And if you laid down, you’d never be able to get up again.
What is true in the physical realm is also true in the spiritual realm. The weight of our efforts to live for God depends on our attraction to the world. If the world is big in importance to us, then it will be impossible to move for God. If we’re heavenly minded and the world is small to us, then living for Christ becomes easier. If we see ourselves as belonging here, it’ll be difficult to accomplish God’s purposes. If we see ourselves as foreigners, we will have all His resources at our disposal.
Where are you today–weighed down or weightless? If you’ve lost your joy, feel far from God, are busy but with no purpose, bored with spiritual things, then maybe you’re too attracted to this world. Quite possibly you have become worldly. Today, God is going to test you to see how worldly you are and how you can live in this world, but not be of this world.
I caught you–you’ve already said to yourself, “I don’t swear, cheat, steal, or own a Rolls-Royce. In fact, I attend, give, serve, and love the preaching of the Word of God–I’m not worldly.” But family, that is not what determines worldliness. This morning, erase what you think is worldliness and allow God’s Word to rewrite your definition in his own words found in 1 John 2:15 to 17. Turn there and take your outline as we continue in our series on tests–testing to see if you are in faith by surveying the meaning of worldliness, then expose the message found in these verses.
Stand and read these familiar verses with me. “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:l5- to l7). Let’s pray.
#1 The MEANING of Worldliness
The purpose of the book of 1 John is to give Christians true biblical assurance of salvation. The main tests of the book are DOLES, D.O.L.E.S.–right D.octrine, O.bedience, L.ove, E.ndurance, S.pirit manifestation. A genuine believer will pass these tests. John repeats these tests through this letter. But this morning John will repeat the love test again from a different perspective–if we love God, we will not love the world.
These verses contain one main commandment and three incentives. The commandment is–don’t love the world. The first incentive is–if you love the world, you don’t love God. The second incentive is–if you love the world, you’ll perish with the world. And the third incentive is–if you love God instead of the world, you will live with God forever.
Look at verse 15 as John asks you to evaluate your spiritual lives by this test of love. The apostle says, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Here’s the command–“do not love the world.” There is a love that God hates. The world is to never receive the kind of attention God is due.
You see, a Christian who loves the world is either 1) really interested in the things of this world, or 2) he is not interested in the things of God. You know, worship, Bible study, prayer, service and outreach are boring to him. When you teach children, it is easy to determine who is bored with spiritual things–they are polite enough to show you with yawns, talking, and goofing off. But when you teach adults, you can’t tell if they’re bored with spiritual things, because they hide it better.
To not love the world means that God gets more time, energy, focus, excitement, joy, happiness, conversation than the world ever does–since the primary object of love for the Christian is God Himself.
But don’t misunderstand–when John says not to love the world, he is not talking about people. God is not telling you to not love the unsaved. He is commanding you not to love the fallen wicked system that leaves God out and lies under the influence of Satan. The world John is talking about is the one referred to in 1 John 5:l9, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
This is Satan’s arena for now, and whenever you decide to play his game (what’s his game?–rebellion to authority, pride or lying) we end up loving this fallen world. But when John says in verse 15, “nor the things of the world“–this is different than merely loving the world. The things of the world are the particulars–the evidences and actions of worldliness. In verse 15 when he says not to love the world, it’s the attitude of worldliness. When he says not to love the things of the world, it’s the actions of worldliness.
There are many so-called Christians who do not look worldly, since they keep all the external do’s and don’ts–the Polly perfect. But their heart craves, lusts for, envies and longs for the things of the world–therefore they’re worldly. Even an attitude that loves the world is against God. John goes on to say, “if anyone loves the world…” as a continual pattern of their life they are not saved. “For the love for the Father is not in them.”
The Bible says it is utterly impossible to love God and at the same time love the world. Jesus taught us the same truth–He said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” And James affirmed the same truth when he said in James 4:4, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Here’s the test–no true Christian can continually love the world and make a biblical claim to be saved. If you have a so-called Christian friend who loves this fallen world system, the most loving thing you could do is to humbly tell them they look lost. And if they continue to love the world, they are lost. You can’t love both God and the world as a lifestyle.
But why can’t you love both God and the world? Verses 16 and 17 give the answer. Even though God created the world, it is fallen, rebellious and ruled by Satan. Look at verse 16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
All that is in the world–the lust of the flesh is emotional desires, the lust of the eyes is earthly longings, the boastful pride of life is external cravings for praise. All are part of the fallen world system and not from God. All our emotional desires that are independent of God, all the earthly longings for things or experiences, and all the seeking for recognition and self-fulfillment apart from God do not come from God but are part of this fallen evil system.
John says worldliness and God are mutually exclusive. There is no harmony, working together, literally sympathy or companionship between God and this world–they are enemies. The issue is black and white. There are only two kinds of people–those that love the world and those that love God. What a minute–is that really true? Don’t Christians all love God and love the world? Can’t a Christian love both God and the world–don’t we?
The answer is found in verse 17, “and the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” John is saying, “judgment is coming.” This is very unpopular today. We like soft thoughts of God, but not accountability to Him. But God affirms, there will be a judgment day–a day we will have to answer for how we have lived. For the Christian, it’s a judgment of reward followed by eternal life in Heaven. For the non-Christian, a judgment of punishment followed by eternal torment in Hell.
This whole way of life as we know it is going to end. John says the world is literally ending itself. Like a bad battery, the world is running out of juice–and those who love it will run out of time with it. But verse 17 says, “The one who is continually doing the will of God, participating in God’s plan; doing what Jesus came to do, will live forever with God in eternity.” The one who trusts in God’s perfect will, as if it were an unbreakable law as compared to the fleeting desires of worldliness–that one will remain forever with God and not be condemned with the world. Now if that is what 1 John 2:15 to 17 means, then what is its message for us today?
#2 The MESSAGE of Worldliness
Let’s now focus in on some essential truths and pointed tests to consider when evaluating your life in light of 1 John 2:15 to 17. If you’re open to the Spirit of God, these beliefs will radically change your life. These come from the text and all begin with the letter P. What is the message of 1 John 2:15 to 17?
First Worldliness is a PROGRESSION
Real Christians are in the world, but we are not of the world. We interact with the world, but we are not to be submerged in the world. When a boat is in the water, there’s no problem. But when the water is in the boat, you’ve got problems. It is good for a Christian to be in the world as a witness, but it is not good for the world to be in the Christian. And the influence of the world in the life of a Christian usually begins as a slow leak, as a subtle progression.
Just as no Christian suddenly stumbles into immorality, but many little sins led up to that final major sin, so no Christian is captivated by the world all at once, but many little sins lead up to it. “So Chris, how can I prevent it? How can I verify if I’m headed down the worldly path?” The Bible gives us some clues.
ONE Don’t become Stained by the World
James 1:27, “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” It usually goes like this. Things that used to bother you as a younger Christian aren’t a big deal anymore–little lies, grumbling, discontent, impatience, pessimism, quarreling, fear, lust, trash TV, internet voyeurism and more. “Hey,” you think, “I can’t stop sinning anyway, why try?” So you stop guarding against being stained by the world with those little sins, the “acceptable sins”.
All of you have tried to do some painting. I’m talking about the “roll the stuff on the walls” kind of painting. If you’ve done it like I have, you start out being very careful about where the paint goes and where it doesn’t go. You try to not get any paint on you at all. But as the day wears on, so does the paint–and eventually you get to the place where you stop caring whether you get paint on yourself or not. I’ve said to myself, “Oh well, it’s too late now.” So not only do you stop wiping it off, but inside you there is some secret desire to see how much of it you can get on you. You roll it on your arms and legs to see what you look like if you are one of those wild football fans.
Being stained by the world is the same–you see little sin in your life, but you stop doing anything about it. You say to yourself, “It can’t be helped,” or “It’s too late now,” and you become stained. If this continues unconfessed, God loves us by warning.
TWO Don’t become Conformed to the World
Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the world… But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” You remember Play-Doh, don’t you? You mash it into any shape you want. God says, “Don’t be mashed into the thinking and values of the world. Don’t let the world press you into its mold.”
You see, once you get covered with enough of the world’s paint, you don’t look any different than the world. You can’t tell the difference between you and a non-Christian. You’ve become conformed–literally adopting and imitating the way of the world. There’s nothing about you that causes people to think you are different. They do not see Jesus in you, just another person just like themselves–covered in paint.
It’s just like the Susan B. Anthony dollar–remember them? They looked just like a quarter, except that they had a funny edge. No one wanted them, because they kept getting them mixed up with quarters. They were useless, because they looked the same. It’s the same with a Christian who is conformed to the world–they are useless to God. We live in day that presses Christians to conform to worldliness. If you move from being stained, to living conformed, the Bible warns you may be condemned along with the rest of the fallen world.
THREE Don’t become Condemned with the World
First Corinthians 11:32 warns, “We are disciplined by the lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.” The world is going to pass away in judgment and it will take all those who love it with it. If you remain conformed to the world as a lifestyle, then there’s a good chance you’re on your way to eternal death in Hell with the rest of the fallen world. In other words, according to 1 John 2:15 to 17, if you’re continually loving the world, then you are lost and will be judged with those of the fallen world. Are you progressing toward the world like Lot did? Remember how he did it in the book of Genesis?
First, he looked toward Sodom–heart desire. Second, he pitched his tent toward Sodom–stained. Third, he moved into Sodom–conformed. Fourth, he was almost condemned with Sodom. Did you ever see the progression toward worldliness in Psalm 1:1? “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” To become worldly is a progression. Becoming stained (looking no different–conformed), then finally, if living worldly as a lifestyle, showing themselves not to be truly saved–condemned with the world. If you continue to look like the world, then chances are you are of the world. Worldliness is a progression.
Second Worldliness is forsaking a PERSON
Did you notice in verses 15 to 17 that John compares a relationship with our personal God to a craving for an impersonal, fallen system? Verse 15, “the love of the Father,” verse 16, “is not from the Father,” verse 17, “the will of God.” To love the world is to do two things–#1 to love an impersonal system, and #2 to turn your back on a personal God.
To love the world is to ignore God–you know, you say, “Hi,” on Sunday, then ignore Him the rest of the week. You don’t have to crave a classic car, get a mohawk, see an X-rated movie or gamble in Vegas to be worldly–just ignore God. When your relationship turns into a religion, you’ve become worldly. When you worship with empty hearts or think that do’s and don’ts without love for God is good enough, you’ve become worldly.
Anything in this world that is not God can rob your heart of the love of God. Anything that is not God can draw your heart away from God. A worldly heart is one that has allowed someone, something, or some desire, or some person to compete for God’s rightful place as first love in everything. Can you say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25)? The heart free from worldliness is the one that desires nothing but God, possesses nothing but God, pursues nothing but God.
But someone will ask, “You mean I can’t desire dinner, or a job, or my spouse, my children, or a healthy body?” And the answer is, “No”–unless it involves a desire for God! You desire dinner, because you desire God? You want a job, because in it you’ll serve God and love God? You long for a spouse, because you hope to love God through your partner?
Do you have an eye for God in everything you desire? Is that not what I Corinthians 10:31 calls us to? “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” St. Augustine captured the heart of this truth when he prayed to the Father saying, “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee which he loves not for Thy sake.” We often think of worldliness as overt gross sin, but it merely is ignoring God. We’re His creation, bought with a price. We were made to have continual communion with Him, walk with Him and enjoy Him.
Therefore, the first step to overcoming worldliness is to go to God regularly in the Word and prayer to restore your relationship. When you become His friend, you will not be the world’s friend. If He is not your best friend (your first love), then someone or something else will be. What is your first love? Re-establish your relationship with Him. Look beyond the printed page into the face of Christ. You will find love, joy and peace in His presence. He loves communion with His children. Have you forgotten what you are missing? Either God is your passion or the world is.
Worldliness is turning your back on God. Worldliness is redefining your relationship with God to a set of rules, maintained out of fear, not love. Imagine your spouse turning to you at lunch today and saying, “You know this married stuff is for the birds–how about you and I go back to just being friends?” That would be awful, yet no different for a believer who turns their back on their Abba Father. When you ignore God, you’re treating Him no different than a spouse who ignores their marriage partner. Which brings me to ask you this question–if the Lord were your spouse, how healthy would your marriage be?
Third Worldliness is a Heart PASSION
If a Baptist preacher can get his people to burn their nasty CD’s, videos, cigarettes, or immoral clothing, then everyone feels less worldly. Some think, “If you’d smash your TV, never go to a movie, or use the internet, you’d be less worldly.” Some feel, “If women only wore dresses and wore long hair and men had short hair and suits, then we’d all be less worldly.” Others believe, “If everyone drove used cars and never borrowed money, then we’d all be less worldly.”
But that is not what the apostle John says. All of those things are worthy of discussion and they might be evidence of a believer who loves the world. They may indicate a heart given over to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. But you do not have to do those things to be worldly. A clean-cut man in a business suit, driving his Ford to work for a charitable organization, can be more worldly than a tatted, unshaven, leather-wearing dude on a Harley. A nicely-dressed church volunteer can be more worldly than a poorly-dressed social security dependent.
How can that be? They may not do any of the particulars–the outward, external deeds that indicate worldliness. Yet they can still be worldly if they have emotions, lusts, desires, imaginations and passions toward the things of this world that are found in their heart. No one may see it, but you may be filled with love for the World. Notice our text again.
The word for lust in verse 16 means strong desire–a heart issue. It is what you long for in your heart that makes you a lover of the world–not what you do. That is only the result. It is not what you do that makes you worldly–that might only be the result of a worldly heart. The apostle John says, “No one may see it, but you may be filled with love for the world.” What do I mean? You crave pleasure, you fantasize over sin, you lust over possessions and become envious of the unsaved.
So much of worldliness is blamed on externals, yet sometimes externals are no indicator at all. Someone may look worldly or be wealthy, yet have a passionate heart for Christ alone. The externals are not the real issue, for worldliness stems from a heart that desires anything but the Lord first in all things. Notice verse 16 again, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Have you discovered how these three descriptions of loving the world relate to each other? The first two–lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes refer to desires for what we don’t have. And the third–the pride of life refers to the pride in what we do have. And the world is driven by passion for pleasure and pride in possessions–advertising.
And the passion for pleasure is described two ways because there are two large classes of pleasure–physical and aesthetic. There’s the lust of the flesh–bodily pleasures. And the lust of the eyes–aesthetic and intellectual pleasures. John is not naive. He knows that the world is not limited to shopping at Nordstrom’s. (The Mueller family only shops French and Italian–Stater Frère and Hey Tar-geto.
There is the lust of the gutter and the lust of the gourmet. There is the lust for hard rock and the lust for classical. First John ends with the ringing command, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” It doesn’t matter if they are crude or whether they are cultured–anything in this world that is not God can rob your heart of love for God, because worldliness is an inner heart passion.
Parents, do you want to know what’s in the heart of your teenager? Don’t look at how many verses they used to know–no, now look at their current desires. Their want-O-meter. Do they desire discipleship or dances? Verses or video games? Who do they want to hang out with–God’s people or the world’s people? Do they love the Bible and church? Do they talk about the sermon, or are they bored with spiritual things? Verse 17, worldliness is a desire. If your desires head toward God, that is a good sign. If they point to the world, that is a bad sign.
Fourth Worldliness is a wrong PERSPECTIVE
Verse 17 reminds us that “the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Notice the words “passing away” and “abides forever.” A person who does not love the world has an eternal perspective. The Christian not living for the world has Heaven on his mind. For most of us, the problem with an eternal perspective is that it’s removed from our daily life. It’s detached from the way we really live.
What difference does eternity make to most Christians? There is so much confusion about the future. There is pre- trib, post- trib, mid-trib and pan-trib. (Pan-trib is for those who believe it will all pan out in the end.) There is so much to worry about today, why worry about the future? We think to ourselves, “I’ve got a job, a house, my spouse, my kids, my grandkids. Plus I’ve got retirement, homework, friends, and school. I’ve got to live my life now and not worry about eternity.” The consequence to that type of thinking is we start seeing life as merely 80 years.
But the apostle John is telling us, if we don’t allow eternity to rip through every aspect of our lives, we become worldly. We live for feeling good, possessions, being known, or only our family. We become worldly when every day is not impacted by eternity. We are so crafty about it too. We think to ourselves, “If I do these things, then God will bless me now. If I’m nice to her now, then she’ll treat me nice later. If I work hard now, then I can relax later.” Basically we sow now–why? So we can reap in this lifetime. And the only difference between the world and us is we ask God for help. But we don’t have an eternal perspective. God says we are to sow now to reap in eternity.
Do you remember what Jesus said after the rich young ruler walked away from salvation because He was unwilling to leave his riches? The disciples were wondering–“If this guy wouldn’t leave anything for Christ and we have left everything for Christ, will this make any difference in eternity?” Jesus’ answer is startling in Matthew 19, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” You are to sow now to reap in eternity.
The next time you try to figure out your net worth, remember all your possessions and holdings are only for two purposes in God’s eyes. As a tool to be used for the kingdom of God to support the work of the Gospel and to invest in eternity–or all you have is a test of your true spiritual life. Where your treasure is, there your heart is also. None of your money, possessions, even your children, are yours–all of it is God’s and you are merely a steward.
Stewardship is using all I have for the owner’s purposes–not accumulating or hoarding, but wearing things out for the King. Stewardship isn’t keeping things clean and unscratched, it’s using all your resources for the Master. Nobody buys stock in a company that is sure to go bankrupt. No one sets up a house on a sinking ship. No reasonable person stores their valuables where they will get ruined or stolen–where moth or rust destroy and thieves break in.
This world is passing away–so real Christians work at maintaining an eternal perspective. Only two things are eternal–people and the Word of God. So true Christians use what God has given them to invest His Word into people. Our perspective toward our things and money must be eternal–otherwise we’re worldly.
Fifth Worldliness is neglecting your PURPOSE
Again, look at verse 17. “And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Notice the phrase, “does the will of God.” John is not talking about God’s personal will for our lives, but His sovereign will for this planet. Understand, if you love God you’ll love what He wills.
It is empty talk to say you love God, but not love what God loves. We are to be focused on God’s will. In John 4:34 Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” And listen to John 17:14 to16,18 to see what Jesus prays right before He is to be crucified. ” ‘I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world… 18As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.’ “
Worldliness is neglecting God’s will. For Christians, worldliness is neglecting God’s purpose for us, which is the same as Christ’s–to make Christ known. To share Christ with the aints and build up the saints–for people to come to Christ and become like Christ. Practically that means taking 30 seconds at the cashier to share the Gospel. It’s talking to your barber, hair stylist or dentist about the Lord, since you have them trapped for 30 minutes.
It’s helping your lost family understand being a Christian is not just merely not doing certain things, but showing them the reality of Christ with your words and actions. It’s doing the one thing in this world you can’t do in Heaven–share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost. Christianity is filling out your purpose on this earth by proclaiming Christ–and if that is not a part of your life, then 1 John 2:17 says you are worldly.
God wants you to know there is a love He hates. Are you progressing toward holiness or conformity? Do you ignore the person of God or are you pursuing Him? Is the passion of your heart toward God or the world? Do you live with a heavenly perspective or a worldly one? Are you fulfilling God’s purpose or your own?
I used to work at a hospital–when the tours would go through, they told me the nurse would ask the kids, “Why are doctors always washing their hands?” And she always answered her question the same way–“Because they love health and hate germs.” It is the same with Christians–we love God and hate the evil world system that leaves God out. As Romans 12:9 says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Some of you may be saying, “I don’t feel very much love for God right now.” There are two possible reasons for that. One possibility is you are not born again. It’s possible you are a cultural or a hereditary Christian. You call yourself a Christian because that’s your culture or your family, but you have never experienced a deep change in your inner nature by the power of the Holy Spirit, who changes your nature so dramatically. Romans 5:5 guarantees that God’s love is shed abroad in your heart.
And 2 Timothy 3:1 to 5 warns the last days will be difficult–why? Because “men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” Today you can expect there’ll be many religious churchgoers who know nothing of the new birth, nor a genuine love for God. If that describes you, cry out to Christ to open your eyes to know God. You should plead with God to take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, that you might love God with your whole life.
Seek to forsake all known sins until Christ shines so bright in your life, He is irresistibly attractive and you exchange all that you are for all that He is in worship. And don’t quit pursuing Christ until you’ve been born into a whole new life. Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me; when you search for Me with all your heart.”
The other possibility for not loving God very much right now is this–you are truly saved, but your love for God has simply grown cool. You’ve tasted what it means to have a heart for God, but this morning the wick is smoldering. And the prescription for your ailment is not much different than for the non-Christian. The same Spirit that begets life also nourishes life. The same Word that ignites the fire of love also rekindles love. The same Christ who once brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light can take away the dark parts of your soul.
So yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Don’t be content with anything but passionate love for Christ in all things. Then you will find your love for this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.