The First Letter of the Apostle John : Study No.6

Study No.6 (1 John 2:15-17)

Review (1 John 2:7-14)

There are no greater two commandments than those given by God through Moses and affirmed by the Lord Jesus the Messiah. True holiness consists in loving God with all of our heart and with all of our mind and with all of our soul and with all of our strength and loving our neighbour as we would love ourselves. Upon these two great commandments hang all of the other commandments written in the law and the prophets. The Lord Jesus also said “If you love Me keep My commandments.” So this command to love is the key to all of the spiritual blessings bestowed upon a believer who walks in that “faith of obedience,” i.e., “a faith that works by love.”

Every born again child of God has the capacity to love others with the same love that God has. The blessed Holy Spirit has poured out His love into the heart of every true believer empowering them to love as God loves (Romans 5:5). To walk in love is to walk in the light of God’s presence and to align what we says and does with what He commands in His Word the Bible. If we walk in the light of His Commands which are not burdensome but a delight to walk in, then we will not only be empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God with all of our being but also empowered to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus.

God’s love is not primarily an intense feeling although it can express itself in that way, but a tough kind of love that loves what is not so easy to love or even lovable about others especially when it concerns our brothers and sisters in the Messiah or even our family members for that matter. It is primarily an action of the will not the emotions.

To love our fellow believers is to walk in the light of God’s Word and to know His abiding presence with us in all of the ups and downs of life. Having said this if we say we love God but do not love our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus then we walk in darkness. We cannot walk in darkness and light at the same time as they are mutually exclusive and darkness must always give way to light. If we choose to walk in the light of God’s Word then we will not stumble into sin.

However, if we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us then we will eventually stumble into sin because we will be walking in darkness. Hate produces a terrible legacy, not only for the one who hates, but also for those around that man or women who also suffer especially within a family. Hate will bring on spiritual blindness and inhibit the capacity to walk in the light of God’s presence continuously. Hate, like love, is an ongoing continuous action.

In the local Body of the Messiah there are three categories of believers or three levels of spirituality which John writes about. Firstly, he writes to the “little children” and these are brand new spiritually reborn babies in the Messiah who know that their sins are forgiven and have come to know God and the Lord Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour from sins power and penalty. They still have a long way to go in their walk with God but they are well on their way.

Secondly, he writes to “the Fathers” who are well acquainted with God having weathered many spiritual battles and are seasoned campaigners and who know God well. They can anticipate how He will act in all situations they face as Generals and seasoned officers in the army of the Lord.

Thirdly, John writes to the “young men” who are the ones who have overcome the wicked one, knowing well his strategies and devices used against the saints of God. These also know God and are strong in the Word of God which is sharp and active in their daily lives and they use it as naturally as the mechanic wealds a wrench. All three together make a formable spiritual army that can defeat Satan at every turn.

Some then are “fathers in the faith” while others are “young men” and yet others are “little Children.” Spiritual fathers set the example for the young men and the young men watch over and encourage and set the example in life and speech for the little ones newborn into the family of God.

Now John deals with loving the world, something which every believer needs to be aware of and the implications for all of us who believe in our Lord Jesus the Messiah.

Exposition: (1 John 2:15-17)

(Vs.15) “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

In the Christian life the will is vitally important. Before we were born again our wills were captive to sin and the devil and we did not have the capacity to obey God or His commands even if we wanted to. Before we became believers in our Lord Jesus we loved the things that God hates and hated the things that God loves. We were aliens and strangers to the covenants of promise revealed to us through the Hebrew Scriptures being both the Old and the New Testaments. On the inside we were spiritually dead men and women without God and without hope in this world being subject to all manner of vice and sin and by nature and by birth children of wrath and under sentence of death and eternal damnation. We loved sin and not God; neither did His Word have any place in our affections, our minds and especially in relation to our human will. We were spiritual corpses incapable of loving the Triune God or His Eternal Word.

Love for the world and the things of this world is always a clear and present danger for every born again child of God whether they be “fathers”, “young men” or “children” in the faith. The phrase “to love” that John uses is the Greek word “Agapao.” It is a derivative of the word “Agape.” To “agapao” in the Greek language means, “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly, to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing.” In relation to our brothers and sisters and our neighbours we should most definitely welcome and entertain them when appropriate to do so and to be fond of them and to love them dearly. It is to be well pleased and to be content with the things we have, not striving to have what others have. This is one thing.

However, concerning material possessions, the attitudes, the ambitions and the desires, pleasures, the pursuits, the inappropriate entertainments and the philosophies of this world we are not to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly or to be well pleased or contented with them. While God does give us earthly blessings in this world He always does it according to His infinitely wise and perfect will. He will always give us what we need but not always what we want or think we should have.

It is not wrong to own a car or a house or to earn a good salary but the thing that matters is how we use these things. Do we just own them knowing that everything we have comes from God’s providential and generous bounty or do they own us? We have the desires of the old nature within us that are constantly at war with the desires of the new nature within us and the nature we feed the most will ultimately be the nature that controls us. We cannot serve two masters! We cannot serve God and money!

Remember the Lord Jesus Himself said; “Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Money is not an evil in itself and it is a necessity for daily living and will be advantageous for living but when money becomes the motive for working and living and acquiring wealth it becomes an idol and controls us. Scripture says “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1Timothy 6:10). Most evils committed in this world are related in one way or another to the love of money.

God does not choose the rich and the wealthy and those who are extremely successful in this world but He mostly chooses those who by the world’s standards are failures and even misfits in society. As Paul writes; “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

We must always keep in mind what King Solomon wrote; “As a man came from his mother’s womb, so he will depart again: naked as he arrived. He takes nothing for his labour to carry in his hands” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). As the Lord Jesus also said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

To set our affections, our emotions, our pastimes, and our pleasures on the world and the things in the world and to exclude God is to love the world. It is to embrace the world, to welcome and become pre-occupied with the world and the things that this world has to offer. If this is our case then the love of the Father cannot be dwelling in us because a love for God and a love for the world are mutually exclusive. We are either dwelling in God’s camp or Satan’s camp. We cannot be living in both camps at the same time any more than darkness and light can dwell together. As the Lord Jesus also said; “He that is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters!” (Matthew 12:30).

Now John specifically defines three things that clearly define what he means by a love for the world because the whole world’s attitudes, desires, ambitions and pursuits  resides in the power of the wicked one, being Satan (1 John 5:19).

(Vs.16) “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

There are three basic lusts that all of us as believers must be aware of and that Satan puts before us constantly as we seek to walk in that wisdom, holiness, righteousness and redemption that comes by and is received through faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 3:21-26) (1 Corinthians 1:30) (Philippians 3:7-9).

The word John uses here for “lust” is the Greek word “Epithumia” meaning “to desire, to crave, to long for, to covet and to desire what is forbidden.” This is precisely what we see in the temptation Satan offered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and later offered to the Lord Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness. This “lust” then concerns the eyes. What we allow our eyes to see will open the way for the lusts to enter into us. The Lord Jesus put it this way when He said; “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good (healthy), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad (unhealthy), your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

The word used for lust implies something much stronger and much broader than just sexual lust although this is included. This lust is all of the lusts and impulsive desires and cravings that drive us to love and to lust after what God hates and to lust after and to hate what God loves. As Paul rightly states; “In my flesh dwells no good thing!” When we are born again God does not patch up the old nature but gives us a brand new nature being the very same nature of the Lord Jesus has making us a new spiritual creation in Him through the mighty power of the blessed Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The new wine of the spiritual life from God is for the new wineskin of our spirit made all over again through the new birth. The old wineskin of the flesh will not hold the new wine of the Spirit.

Firstly; we see then “the lust of the flesh” in that these strong lusts drive the soul to crave after inappropriate sexual gratification, the lust for rich food and alcohol, the craving for comfort and ease in this life, the satiation of every desire to please ourselves and to enjoy the pleasures and pursuits this world offers and to run after them without restraint. To let go of self-control and to give into our feelings, our passions and our desires even if they run contrary to the truth and will of God as revealed in his Word.

We cannot enjoy the continuous and abiding presence of God and the righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit which marks all who live in the Kingdom of God and enjoy His favour while at the same time indulging in the lusts of the flesh. Our Lord Jesus said temptations to sin would always come to us and we cannot avoid them in this life. Sometimes the desires to fulfil the lusts of our fallen human nature will be strongly arrayed against us but not to the point where we cannot overcome it because greater is He in us than he that is in the world, namely the devil (1 John 4:4).

Secondly; we see “the lust of the eyes,” being that craving for material possessions and for the things others have and seeking by all means to getting those things whether it be houses, cars, lands, wealth success in business or the adulation and praises of man. All these cravings and desires are part and parcel of the works of the flesh also being the fallen human nature. This is the spirit of the world which is governed and overseen by Satan.

Thirdly; we see “the pride of life” being proud of what one possesses whether it be lands, titles, accolades for success, pride in the latest fashion, motor vehicles or the lavish house and the opulence that comes with being rich in this world. It is craving after the praises and acknowledgement from man and the proud and superior attitude that it produces. Those ensnared by the pride of life are proud of their own success.

There was a man in the Bible who exhibited this lust and craving related to the pride of life that the Lord Jesus spoke about. The Lord Jesus said concerning this man; “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).

As King Solomon rightly said; “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth—a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:1-2). Many there have been who sought to build their empires in this world and were cut down in the prime of their life either through accident, natural death or at the hand of others coveting what they had possessed and in eternity standing before God to give an account to Him for the life they had lived on this earth. As it is written; “There is a say that seems right to a man but the end of it is destruction” (Proverbs 14:12) or as it is also written; “It is appointed once for a man to die and after that comes the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27).

James, the brother of our Lord Jesus gave us good advice when he said; “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).

And so the temptations to fulfil these lusts that war against the desires of the Spirit will always be out there in the world and offered to us by Satan as he offered them to our Lord Jesus and also come at us thick and fast and without letup. What did our Lord Jesus do when tempted as we are all tempted and that with the same three temptations we face every day? He used the Word of God to resist the devil. He said to Satan; “It is written.” Satan even misquoted the Word of God as he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden but the Lord Jesus was a wake up to his wiles and used the sword of the Spirit being the Word of God to resist him and drive him out! If we resist Satan, draw near to God and purify ourselves from all known evil, then God will draw near to us especially when we are confronted by Satan or one of his demons seeking to entice us into committing sin.

The same power that resided in the Lord Jesus also resides in us if we have been truly born again by the Holy Spirit then we too, like the Lord Jesus, can resist Satan and he will flee from us every time but we must be persisting in resisting. All of us need to learn how to say “No!” calling upon God to give us the power to drive Satan out of our affairs. As it is written; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour, Jesus the Messiah” (Titus 2:11-13).  A salvation that does not loose a sinner from their bondage to sin is not Biblical salvation. As it is written of our Lord Jesus; “He will save His people from their sins” not in them!

Because we have the Holy Spirit down on the inside of us as born again believers we can say “no!” to Satan every time while calling on the name of the Lord Jesus and we are told that “whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD will be delivered, saved, rescued, empowered to prevail!” Also it is written; “The name of the LORD is a high tower, the righteous run into it and is safe!” (Proverbs 18:10). His name can do anything He can do! When tempted let us cry out to the Lord Jesus using his name and calling on the power of the blood to deliver us from the evil one. As it is written; “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11). And so John concludes…

(Vs.17) “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Life in this world is temporary and transient at best and like a vapour that is here and then vanishes swept away with the wind. It is like a flower that appears today but withers tomorrow. Nothing is permanent in this world and is subject to change. We may be building our empire here on earth today and leave it all behind tomorrow to stand before the judge to whom all of us must give an account of how we have lived on earth in this life. Our present life is a gift from God and the means by which He offers us the opportunity to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus the messiah for our eternal salvation. This offer is only for this life while we are still living in this body of flesh. Only those who do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven will live forever in God’s eternal kingdom. But what is the will of God for anyone of us?

Firstly; “God’s will is to believe on the One God has sent.” As it is written; “Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” (John 6:29). This is where God’s will is firstly activated fully in our lives when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus the Messiah, whom God sent into this world to save us from the power and penalty of sin.

Secondly; “God’s will is our sanctification” As it is written; “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). When we were saved the Lord set us apart to himself and started the process of separating us from the world, the flesh and the devil and to follow after and to do God’s will which is good acceptable and perfect to all who unreservedly submit their wills to His wise, infinite and loving will (Romans 12:1-2). This sanctification can be completed according to God’s will to the point where we are empowered to love God and our neighbour and to love the Lord Jesus with all of our being and in so doing fulfil the law of God.

God calls us to this end and He can do it in us, a perfect and complete work of the Holy Spirit! As Paul writes; “Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your entire spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Messiah. The One who calls you (to this) is faithful, and He will do it” (2 Thessalonians 5:22-24). What is impossible with man is possible with God because “with God nothing is impossible” and “all things are possible to him who believes.”

Faith is the key that unlocks the door to the entire sanctification of the body, the soul and the spirit and this faith pleases God and He rewards it (Hebrews 11:6). While we are being progressively sanctified (set apart to God for His exclusive use) the possibility is there that we can be wholly sanctified, wholly set apart to Him. It is possible even in this life to come to the point where we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk completely free from the downward pull of the sinful nature with its appetites, desires, sinful dispositions, tempers and behaviours that all run contrary to the true knowledge of God.

Thirdly; “God’s will is that we live in righteousness joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.” As it is written; “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For whoever serves Messiah in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17-18).

Joy and peace are the bi-products of righteousness bestowed and imputed to the believer when they put their faith in the Lord Jesus to save them from their sins, both the power and the penalty of them. This is the righteousness that comes from God through faith in the Lord Jesus the Messiah for salvation (Romans 3:21-26) (Romans 5:1) (Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who are spiritually reborn into the kingdom of God, will, upon their initial faith, be declared righteous in God’s sight and have that righteousness imputed to them. The results will be that righteousness revealed in their daily living accompanied by the joy and peace (shalom) of God. This is the blessed lot of all who live and walk by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fourthly; “God’s will is that we be constantly filled or controlled or topped up with the Holy Spirit’s power.” As it is written; “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:17-19).

Without being filled with the Holy Spirit, God will be dishonoured and our witness ineffective. In the Greek text being filled with the Spirit is a command to be obeyed and an experience to be maintained and sustained by faith. It is God’s will that every believer in the Lord Jesus be constantly filled and topped up moment by moment with the oil of the Holy Spirit flowing out as light from the lamp of their human spirit.

When a believer is filled with the Spirit they are filled with the love of God and as long as they remain filled they are totally sanctified or set apart to God and fit for His exclusive use. Just as we are saved by faith, so by faith are we filled with the Spirit of God. Obedience to God’s Word, with the will laid down and the love of God shed abroad in the heart are the keys to the Spirit controlled, Spirit empowered life.

Submitting to the will of God is not easy but when we do in the end it will prove to be the most satisfying and fulfilling experience we can ever have in this life and a preparation for the life to come in the Millennial Messianic Kingdom and in eternity. The world and its lusts are passing away but he who does the will of God remains forever. We are as strong in the Lord and in the power of His might as the will of God is strong.

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