Christians are strongly warned about the dangers of worldliness by the apostle John: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15–17).
Two specific spiritual dangers are mentioned by the apostle. No Christian should consider these dangers of worldliness to be trivial matters. Herein we have a very crucial message for the modern Christians who are increasingly embracing worldliness.
Firstly, John warned: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (v. 15b); that is to say, such a man has no relationship with God. It is impossible to love the world and God at the same time. Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world. Love for the world cannot coexist with love for God.
The absolute thrust of this statement by John is striking, and compels careful and serious reflection. The stakes are high. Because the Father’s kingdom is at war with the kingdom of this world, the two will never coexist peacefully. When love for the world increases, love for God dwindles. No human heart can hold these two opposing loves together.
To pledge allegiance to one side is to declare opposition to the other. Worldliness will put you together with all the God-haters of the world. James 4:4 – “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Because of worldliness, many Christians are vexed and disturbed by the demands of a godly and service-oriented Christian life. The subtle existence of worldliness within the hearts of Christians keeps them away from God and His kingdom. A look at most Christians today tells us that they have much of earth, and little of heaven.
Worldly Christians are not large-hearted or open-handed when it comes to the service of God; they are not willing to spend and be spent. They are not like those whose eyes are ever set on the incorruptible inheritance which God has prepared for them. They have low spiritual vigour, and are apathetic towards the things of God. They want to be engaged as little as possible in the things of God, and indulge more in their worldly comforts. They grudge and murmur about the labour, fatigue, expense and trouble that they have to bear in the service of God’s kingdom.
They would rather cherish the company of worldly men than that of Christians. They choose to stay away from fellowships, prayer meetings and other spiritual activities. They prefer the amusement and enjoyment that the houses of this world offer.They spend more of their time and money in the activities of the world, whether it be shopping, clubbing, watching TV or other entertainment.When the pursuit of the material world increases in their hearts, their delight in the things of God fades away.
This danger is further emphasised by John in v. 16 when he wrote: “For 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.” All that constitute worldliness – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – are not of the Father. Once the world takes over the heart of a Christian, he will soon lose his enjoyment of the Father’s love, and his desire to do the Father’s will. The Bible will become boring, and prayer a difficult chore. Even Christian fellowship will seem empty and disappointing. It is not that there is something wrong with those Christian activities, but rather, the Christian’s heart has become worldly.
Secondly, John warned: “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (v. 17). The world and its lusts are heading towards everlasting destruction, while the obedient Christian is going to live eternally. The world and the genuine Christian do not share the same destiny.
The world is passing away! It is rushing to eternal hell. Would you buy stock in a company that is sure to go bankrupt? Would you like to spend a day to relax on a sinking ship? Would you like to dance a night away in a nightclub that is on fire? Truly, for anyone to set his heart on the perishing world, it is to inherit heartache and misery at the end.
No reasonable person would lay up treasure where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, would they? The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:31, “the fashion of this world passeth away.” The world, with all its fashion and lust, is heading towards eternal peril. This is also affirmed by the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:7, 10, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men... But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
So, if you love the glories and the pageantry of this world, you will pass away together with them. You will not only lose your treasure, but also your soul. If you love the world, it will pass away, taking you along with it. Christians, be cautioned: worldliness distracts us from taking delight in things that abide forever, even doing God’s will. So, if you are stuck in some worldly living, be forewarned of your quick destruction.
Are you surprised that this world and its glories are facing a perilous end? Well, it is going to be worse and worse. Sin is destroying this world. But there is a blessed hope – “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (v. 17b). What is the will of God that you should obey so as to live forever? Jesus gives the answer to this question. He says, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). If your heart would love the Lord Jesus and follow His Word, instead of loving and following the world, you will abide forever.
Do not flirt with the world; it will seduce you to destruction. Rather, follow the will of God in Christ Jesus and you will have eternal life.