Lesson Three
1 John 2:15-17

One of the fundamental challenges of education is learning how to study. A person can know how to read but not know how to study. Learning how to research does not guarantee that a person will know how to study. Research can empower study to find valid understandings and correct insights. But, research can also misdirect study to invalid conclusions and incorrect views.

Learning how to study is a cumulative, continuing process that develops progressively. Study produces growth, and growth advances study. Growing in the ability to study scripture involves much more than learning the meaning of words. The goal is to understand scripture's message in the clearest, deepest terms possible.

It is easy to think that studying scriptures involves no more than putting together verses or sentences that use similar words or similar thoughts. If that is all we do, we learn words and thoughts without learning the message.

  1. When we read the first two chapters of 1 John, we need to immediately ask, "What is happening? What is going on?"
    1. Obviously there were:
      1. Christians who were self deceived about having fellowship with God.
      2. Christians who thought they could live an evil lifestyle and still practice the truth.
      3. Christians who were so confident that they did not sin that they claimed to have no sin.
      4. Christians who thought that they could hate some Christians without that hate affecting their faith or faithfulness.
      5. Christians who thought that they could live in God's light even if they caused another Christian to stumble and fall away from Christ.
    2. It seems that John anticipated that some would ask why he wrote this letter.
      1. In 2:12-14, John addressed three groups twice: the young Christians, the mature Christians, and the maturing Christians.
      2. "I am writing you, young Christians, because your sins are forgiven, and you know the Father."
      3. "I am writing you, mature Christians, because you have known God for a long time."
      4. "I am writing you, maturing Christians, because you have overcome Satan, you are strong, and the word lives in you."
      5. All of them (young Christians, mature Christians, and maturing Christians) needed a clear understanding: you must love Christians; you must not love that which opposes God.

  2. You must love Christians; you must not love the world.
    1. What did John mean by not loving the world?
      1. John was not referring to the earth, to created matter, to nature, to this physical creation.
        1. God is the origin of the physical creation, and when God brought it into being it was good (Genesis 1:31).
        2. When you read the Psalms, the creation is declared to be the hand print of God; to David the physical world was a powerful evidence of God's wondrous existence (Psalms 8 and 19, for example).
        3. John was not saying the spiritual is good and the physical is evil.
      2. John already had stated that Christians who hate Christians are blindly walking in the darkness and do not know where they are going (2:11).
    2. The world is that which rejects God and opposes God.
      1. It is that which refuses to be in subjection to God.
      2. It is that which opposes God's influence and purposes in people.
      3. Regardless of how they present themselves, the world is all the spiritual forces that oppose God and produce evil in people.

  3. Look carefully at what John said.
    1. Christians must love Christians.
      1. Why? Because we are all alike? No!
        1. Christ saves people living in every human diversity that exists.
        2. He saves from among the earthly wise and the earthly ignorant.
        3. He saves from every race and every culture.
        4. He saves from the educated and the uneducated.
        5. He saves in every social and governmental environment.
      2. What do all these people have in common? Only one thing: Jesus Christ.
        1. They all receive the mercy and grace of God.
        2. They all are forgiven.
        3. They all are sons and daughters to God.
        4. God clothes all He saves with Christ by placing each of them in Christ.
      3. Christians love anyone who belongs to God, who is in subjection to God, and who is committed to God purposes; that means Christians love Christians.
      4. Christians do not love the things or the forces that oppose God, reject God, or work against God's purposes; that means Christians do not love the world.
    2. It is impossible to love God and to love the world at the same time.
      1. God and the world are mutually exclusive.
        1. Love for God rejects and opposes love for the world.
        2. Love for the world rejects and opposes love for God.
        3. Each of them works for dominance in the life of the person.
        4. The dominance of one seeks to destroy the other.
      2. See the very distinct contrast:
        1. We know that we have come to know God if we keep His commands (2:3).
        2. Keep the old commandment and the new commandment (2:7,8).
        3. What old and new commandment? Love Christians (2:10,11).
        4. Do not love the world, nor the things in the world (2:15).
    3. John gave three examples of ways that we must not love the world.
      1. These are not the only three ways to love the world.
      2. However, they are three basic ways that people should easily identify in every age.
      3. The first is the lust of the flesh.
        1. The word "lust" is used here to mean the desire for something forbidden.
        2. The lust of the flesh appeals to the things that work against God by stimulating the Christian's desire for physical pleasure.
        3. The list of sensual, physical pleasures that oppose God in our lives is very long.
        4. Examples include any physical desire that opposes God's influence in our lives and God's purposes in us: the abuse of sexual desires; greed; recreation that glorifies pleasure as the supreme human concern; escapism through addiction; anything that focuses us on physical gratification in opposition to God.
      4. The second is the lust of the eyes.
        1. Again, these desires rivet our attention on the forbidden.
        2. Our eyes are the doors to mental and emotional desires.
        3. We get mental or emotional pleasure by looking at or fantasizing about situations that oppose God's influence in our lives.
        4. This lust includes things like pornography, the power and greed produced by money or possessions or social position (the "look who I am" mentality), jealously, or the "I want what is yours" mentality.
        5. Anything that moves us in the direction of ungodly pride usually involves the lust of the eyes.
      5. The third is the pride or vain glory of life.
        1. John is talking about arrogance, the arrogance that comes when I pridefully measure myself by me and my accomplishments, not by my relationship with God.
        2. The list of this kind of arrogance is long: educational arrogance; the arrogance of personal achievements and accomplishments; the arrogance of power; the arrogance of position; the arrogance of self perceived significance and importance.

  4. May I focus your attention on three spiritual facts.
    1. Fact one: all of these oppose God in my life.
      1. When I focus my attention on physical gratification, I will oppose God in my life.
      2. When I focus my attention on myself mentally or emotionally, I will oppose God in my life.
      3. When I allow arrogance to capture me, I will oppose God in my life.
    2. Fact two: all of these deceive me into believing that all that matters is right now; the only true measure of life is the physical.
      1. Through these I am convinced that the world is permanent.
      2. Because of these I refuse to think about not being physically alive.
      3. Moment by moment I am deceived into believing that the physical, the material existence is not temporary; to the contrary it is the real existence.
    3. Fact three: these forces convince me not to love Christians.
      1. Because physical desire controls me, I use Christians; I do not love them.
      2. Because of mental and emotional desires, I am selfish; when I am selfish, I do not love Christians.
      3. Because arrogance controls me, my eyes are so full of looking at me that I cannot see God; when I cannot see God I surely cannot love Christians.

The situation is simple. The Christian who loves the world and is controlled by ungodly desires will fade away, cease to exist when that which opposes God is eternally destroyed. The Christian who lives his or her life doing the will of God will continue to exist eternally. And it is the will of God that I love those who belong to God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 February 1999
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