1 John 2:15-17

We are a woman being courted by two men, Christ and the world. John urges us to go with the right man, though the wrong man is more flagrant with his promises.

15 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.
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.
17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

This is an abrupt shift in context. We are talking about little children, young men, and fathers, and how their good merits are motivating him to write, and he launches into this. I think it is clear he wants to emphasize that he is writing these warnings to them BECAUSE they are believers and true Christians, not because he doubts the authenticity of their faith. Many might, and actually do, take these warnings and admonitions in a way that brings doubt concerning the authenticity of their faith. He has categorically stated that he is writing to his intended audience of readers as those who really are believers, and that these warnings and admonitions and encouragements are for them.

This means that it is possible to be a real believer, one of the ones John is writing to, and to still be in danger of loving the world. You can be saved and love the world. It is inadvisable but when he says “the love of the Father is not in him,” it is not a damning or final absence, but a present existential but temporary absence. Just as he acknowledges that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from ALL sin (1 John 1:7), yet asks us two sentences later to confess our sins so He will cleanse us (1 John 1:9), so here he confirms that he is talking to real believers whose sins are forgiven and who know God, yet need the warning not to love the world. This is practical advice, not soteriological doctrine. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, but we may need help interpreting this meaningfully into our current situation. We may be real overcoming forgiven knowers of God, but we may need advice to keep us from getting starry-eyed over the world’s shiny poison apples.

So what is the advice? Can we actually read the verse now without worrying about the soteriological dangers of it? It hinges around love. Don’t “love” the world. The “love” of the Father.

The world is calling out for our affections. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life. It makes its promises, it appeals to us. John says, don’t believe the promises, because if you set your desires and hopes on anything that is in the world, you will be disappointed. The pleasures of the world are not eternal, because the world is passing away. It isn’t that the world WILL pass away, but at this present time, the world IS PASSING AWAY. Just as momentary light affliction IS PRODUCING for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17), so momentary light affections are pinned on pleasures which are passing away. If you pin your precious affections on the fleeting vaporous pleasures of the world, you will be disappointed because they won’t last.

Note that there is not a corresponding admonition to love the Father instead. He doesn’t say, don’t love the world, instead love the Father. He says, if you love the world, the love OF THE FATHER is not in you. There are two universes calling for your affections, initiating romance towards you. Constantly through entertainment, advertising, media, provocative fashion, colleagues, and general worldly people, the serpent calls out to us and reasons with us about the desirability of the forbidden. There is the promise of applause, accolades, admiration if we will embrace the world’s pleasures and promises with our desire. You may be torn about who to respond to, but John says, don’t respond to the world. Nevertheless, our place is to respond. In this is love, not that we love God, but that God loved us (1 John 4:10). We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Within 3 minutes of writing or dictating this paragraph, John is going to write those things.

We are a woman being courted by two men, Christ and the world. John urges us to go with the right man, though the wrong man is more flagrant with his promises.

John is clear, that if you love the world, if you set your desire on the forbidden, the present manifest experience of the love of the Father is not in you. You can’t date both men. The love of the Father leads us on to better passions, honorable passions, lasting successes. The pleasures of the Father are eternal (Psalm 16:11). Perhaps in order to persuade us to eschew these pleasures, the love of the Father withdraws from us when we turn our affections towards the flesh, because these things are harmful to us and He doesn’t want to be a part of causing us emotional and spiritual injury.

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