Remaining in God
Open Your Bible
1 John 2:15-27, Isaiah 61:1-4, James 4:4-7
Over coffee and croissants overseas, I listened to my new European friends talk about the United States. Together, we laughed over the stereotypes of Americans, but quietly, my little heart protested. After all, the people I love most and hold dearest are among those Americans. I’m one of those Americans. The thread that tied me to my family and friends at home is strong, and despite our national foibles, the States are my home.
When I read this passage in 1 John, I immediately shrink back and mildly peep: But I love this world! It’s where all my favorites live! I’m crazy for the mess of small-town fall festivals, the sight of new dresses from fancy stores, and the secret glee that comes from winning at a game of cards. I love the world, and I miss going out and connecting with other people in it. What could John possibly mean when he says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world”? (1John 2:15).
The world, intrinsically speaking, is made to be good. God Himself declared it “very good indeed” (Genesis 1:31). So John isn’t questioning the beauty of a sunset, but rather the things of this world that pull our affections away from God. “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” (1John 2:16). Those three categories belong to the world, according to the inclinations of our hearts.
The lust of the flesh: Do we indulge our bodies with food, drink, touch, and comfort? Are we seeking luxury over knowing Christ?
The lust of the eyes: Do our minds crave worldly extravagance and grandeur? Do our ears strain for applause and accolades?
The pride in one’s possessions: Do our eyes rove for treasure, possessions, and delights? Do we covet the trinkets of the world?
My answer to all these questions is, “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!” Gimme those tacos, massage my feet, get me a robot butler, and bring down the house with your applause. We’re all enticed by the comforts of this world. But John is teaching us that all these delights belong to the world, and the world is passing away (v.17). We shouldn’t tie ourselves to a ship that’s sinking.
Instead, we should tie ourselves to our anchor, Jesus Christ, who is pulling us heavenward. We should “remain in Him,” and keep His ways (1John 2:27). We should reserve our deepest affections for God, rather than throw them away on ice cream cones and iPhones. Before social distancing, the world seemed so readily available. Easter Sunday would come, and it was easy to distract ourselves with singing over a new dress, rather than genuinely praising the risen Christ.
But the love of the Lord is infinite and lasts forever. The Spirit’s peace never fails us. And while this world and its trappings are passing away, our hope in Christ’s promises is secure. He is our rock, quieting our hearts in the midst of whatever chaos the world throws at us. He is our real treasure, and our very great reward.