Tag Archives: God’s will

The Biblical Command Not to Love

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church the 27th day of July, 2014:

Familiarity

We are familiar with many commands in the Bible that tell us to love. We know all too well the passage where Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about the greatest commandment: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-39). We know 1 Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And there are many other commands in the Bible to love others, to love God, to love the things of God . . . But have you ever considered that there may be a command in the Bible not to love? Well, there is, and we find it in John’s first epistle, the second chapter. We are very familiar with the biblical commands to love, but not as much with the biblical command not to love. It is a fatal spiritual tragedy if we ignore the biblical command not to love and as soon as we start obeying the command not to love, we will be loving God more, and loving others.

The Text: 1 John 2:15-17, ESV

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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The Exhortation: Do Not Love the World (v. 15a)

The first thing John tells his readers is “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” That is the only command in this text. The rest of the passage is John’s argument for why they shouldn’t love the world. So what does John mean by “do not love the world or the things in the world?” First of all, John isn’t talking about not loving the people of the world. To understand what he means, it’s important to define what the word “love” here means.

If you’ve studied the Bible for long, you know that the New Testament was not originally written in English. It was written in Greek. This presents some difficulty for readers today because the same English word may not be the same Greek word. There are actually many terms used for the word “love” in our English Bibles, and they don’t all mean the same thing. The word for “love” here is agapate. It means “to delight in.” Often times in the New Testament, it carries a negative sense to it. Let me show you.

This same Greek word is used by Jesus when He describes the hypocritical behavior of the Pharisees, listen for it: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you (agapate) love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces” (Luke 11:43). They loved the adoration and pride of place, seen by the people as the religious rulers of that day. This was not a love for God, but loving to be worshipped by the people. John himself also uses this Greek word in his own gospel: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people (agapate) loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). The people of the world, John writes, loved and delighted in the world because their works were evil.

So here in our text, the word “love” is negative. It is not the same word for love that John has been talking about when he says that we ought to “love our brothers” (2:10). This love that John is saying his readers ought not to have is a love that is focused on self-pleasure and self-gratification. He is talking about the sinful attractions of the world, and John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” By him saying, “Do not love the things of the world,” he gives us more insight into what he means here. Do not love worldly pleasures, do not love the attitudes and values and attractions that are opposed to God!

What John means by “things in the world” is described in v. 16, which we will look at. People will do crazy things for what they love. Love for the world is to be avoided by the Christian.

The 1st Reason: Love for the World is Incompatible with Love for God (v. 15b)

So John commands against loving the world. But why? Why would it be a problem to love the world? John gives four reasons. The first reason John says not to love the world is because love for the world is incompatible with love for God (v. 15). Do not love the world because you cannot love God at the same time. He presents a possibility here and says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” If it is true that there is anyone among you who does love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. If that’s a possibility to happen, who would be the one John is describing as the one who could love the world? It’s the person who doesn’t have the love of the Father in him.

What does John mean by “the love of the Father?” It does not mean God’s love for the believer—God is going to love you whether you love the world or not—He’s going to love you no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done: His love endures forever. What John does mean here is “your love for God.” He must mean that because he isn’t talking about God’s love for the world at all in this passage. He is talking to believers (like you and me) who were susceptible to falling in-love with the world, when they should be falling in love with God. If Christians could not love the world, then John wouldn’t have written this letter. He was writing to people just like us—they loved their brothers and sisters—they loved fellowship with one another, and fellowship with God. But they, just like anyone, can easily fall into the death trap of loving the world that promises us nothing!

Love for God is incompatible with love for the world; James writes an interesting statement about that truth: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). James says that if you love the world, you put yourself over here in the category of the God-haters who are His enemies. Loving God and loving the world is like fire and water—they don’t mix. Either you’ve allowed the world to water down you love for God, or you love for God is so fiery hot that it has evaporated the love for the world. Don’t you be deceived into thinking that you can fully love God and love the world at the same time, but that is not true according to v. 15: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Love for the world will push out love for God, or love for God will push out love for the world.

If your love for God has grown cold, then you have allowed other temporary things to creep in and choke your love for God. You have been allowing yourself to eat the crums at the floor of the world instead of feasting at the table of our God who gives spiritual satisfaction to all who seek Him.

The 2nd Reason: All That is in the World is From the World (v. 16)

John has commanded the believers against loving the world and says that the first reason they should not love the world is because love for the world and love for God is incompatible. The second reason, John writes, why we should not love the world is because all that is in the world is not from God, but is from the world (v. 16). John is explaining here why love for God and love for the world is incompatible. So what’s to be said about the good we see in the world? The trees, rocks, lakes, family, children and relationships? Is that what John is talking about? No, John defines what he means by “all that is in the world” in v. 16. He names three things that build on each other:

A. “the desires of the flesh”

First, John says that the “desires of the flesh” are of the world and not from God. Let’s talk about that word “desire” for a moment. The Greek word for “desire” here is epithymia. It is used 38 times in the New Testament and only three times is it used in a positive way. This word, like love that we talked about, is used mainly in a negative way. Here are some Scriptures that demonstrate its usage:

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil (epithymia) desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own (epithymia) desire. Then (epithymia) desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

“By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful (epithymia) desire” (2 Peter 1:4).

John doesn’t say that there is anything wrong with desire, but the “desires of the flesh,” that is from the world! He literally means that desires that come from the flesh. It is the whole of sinful man; in his rebellion. The flesh is our enemy! We have been born with a sin nature that is naturally rebellious against God—that gives us no excuse for running from God and having desires for other things besides God . . . But more so as a believer, we have no excuse for giving in to the sinful cravings of our flesh! We’ve been made new, we’ve got the Holy Spirit of Almighty God to give us the strength to resist sin and be obedient to the Lord, we need to heed the Bible when it says to “Crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” as in Galatians 5:24.

Your desires rule you. Did you know that you cannot even make a choice without a desire? You must first have a desire before you can ever even make a choice for something. And when it comes to the moment of decision, whatever you desire most is what you are going to choose. I’ve been trying to eat healthy for a few weeks now, and so when I go to town for lunch, I desire to eat a good salad. Well, when I get to the restaurant and I glance at the menu and see a bacon cheeseburger staring at me, begging me to eat it, my desires change. I have a conflict in me: I desire to eat healthy, but I also desire to eat the cheeseburger. If I choose a salad, ultimately my desire to eat healthy was stronger than my desire to eat a bacon cheeseburger. If I choose a bacon cheeseburger, then my desire to indulge was stronger than my desire to eat healthy. If I choose not to eat at all, my desire to not eat salad or the cheeseburger was stronger than my desire to eat.

We are desiring people by nature. That’s why it is so important to have a stronger desire for God than for the world! Because if you are desiring God, then the things you do will be influenced by that desire for God. The problem is, when we were born with our sin nature, we naturally desire sin and evil over God: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:22-23). I don’t know about you, but I’ve got the Lord, and that’s enough! I don’t need that sin that promises me nothing but sorrow, pain, and hurt. We need to fight sin and our evil desires of the flesh and replace those desires with desires for wholehearted worship and adoration and white-hot passion for God.

B. “the desires of the eyes”

It is important that John names this next in his list. Why? Because what you desire with your eyes is what you will desire with your flesh. The sinful cravings of the flesh are activated by what people see. The eyes are often the source of desire. And John tells his readers that the “desires of the eyes” are from the world, they do not originate with God. Jesus has much to say about the eyes:

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matt. 18:9).

What Jesus means here is not to be taken literal—please there was an early church theologian named Origen who castrated himself because of this verse. Jesus means here that we need to take whatever measure necessary to eradicate the sinful desires in our lives.

Another penetrating statement about this from Jesus is found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23).

We need to get filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and keep ourselves under control when it comes to our eyes. We need to identify with the Psalmist David when he says, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3). The “desires of the eyes” are from the world.

C. “pride of life”

Pride is the chief sin—Pride lifts you up far above others and makes you think that you are even above God. John means here that the “pride of life” is boasting and arrogance. It is being puffed up in pride because of what you have on the earth. It expresses a sense of human self-sufficiency and independence from God. When you look at all that you have, Pride says, “Look what I did! I did this!” Against this, Paul writes, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 3:7) So to boasting Paul says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:31). Pride is rooted in every sin that we commit. Pride is saying to God’s face when we sin, “I do not need You to be satisfied; I do not need You at all! I will find meaning and satisfaction in things of the world.” Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”

John has named three things that make up “all that is in the world.” The desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. Are you desiring God or desiring the world? Surrender your sinful desires to God, give Him all the room He needs to work—but be willing to get rid of those sinful desires. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12).

The 3rd Reason: The World is Passing Away (v. 17a)

John has exhorted the believers against loving the world and has given two reasons why not to love the world. Don’t love the world because love for God and love for the world is incompatible. Don’t love the world because all that is in the world is not from the Father, but is from the world: the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, the pride of life. But further, the third reason why we should not love the world is because the world is passing away along with those desires which entice us: “And the world is passing away along with its desires” (v. 17a). John writes to his readers that it would be foolish to love the world, because it doesn’t last—it is passing away. Not only that, it is passing away along with its desires. The world is passing away and its days are numbered. All that is against God and His grace is passing away. There is no future in worldliness. There are two ways in which the world is passing away:

A. Temporary by Nature:  What it offers is temporary—it is not eternal; it does not last. Solomon has some wisdom from Ecclesiastes concerning this: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10). Solomon is establishing a very important truth: Sin never satisfies. Sin will always tell you need more and more of it to be satisfied, that you will not be satisfied until you have it. But that is a lie! The author of Hebrews writes that the pleasures of sin are fleeting (11:25). Sin will never be enough—only God is enough. Further, Peter writes, “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable (impossible to be satisfied) for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Pet. 2:14, emphasis mine).

B. Consummation: It will one day be gone, but made new. The Bible says that we are awaiting a new heavens and new earth. Again from Ecclesiastes, “All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (Eccl. 3:20). Everything in this world that is material and contrary to God, will one day waste away. Back in 1987, Kansas released a song titled, “Dust in the Wind.” Kansas guitarist Kerry Livgren wrote this after reading a book of Native American poetry. The line that caught his attention was “For All We Are Is Dust In The Wind.” This got him thinking about the true value of material things and the meaning of success. The band was doing well and making money, but Kerry realized that in the end, he would eventually die just like everyone else. No matter our possessions or accomplishments, we all end up back in the ground.

Do not be fooled into living for the moment. “Do not conform to the ways of this world” says Paul in Romans 12. Let us work and think and plan and desire all to exalt God and to make Him known—let us do those things which really matter: worshipping God and making His name known where it is not exalted. This world will one day pass away with everything in it.

The 4th Reason: Whoever Does God’s Will Abides Forever (v. 17b)

John has given three reasons so far as to why we ought not love the world. The fourth reason is found in the latter part of v. 17: ” . . . but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” In contrast to the person who loves the world, the Christian who does God’s will shall abide forever. This is the climax of John’s argument for why not to love the world. I don’t know about you, but this is who I want to be: “whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Who is the one who would do the “will of God?” Well, in this context, John is talking about salvation because he says that whoever does God’s will “abides forever.”

John writes much about abiding forever in his gospel:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

“I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

“And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).

So who is it that will overcome the world? Who will be able to overcome the sinful desires of the flesh? Who will be able to overcoming loving the world? John asks the same question in 1 John 5:5, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Friends, if you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—if He has made you a new person, you will abide forever. You have the power accessible to you to overcome loving the world and loving the desires of the world. You know what the difference is between you loving the world and someone who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior? John answers that question: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (5:19).

John Presents the Biblical Command Not to Love

John gives the biblical command not to love. If you are loving the things of the world, God can change your desires. Confess it to Him, repent, allow Him to work in you—fall inlove with Him by getting to know Him through the Bible. John tells us that everything in the world is not from God, but from the world. If you have problems with these desires that John named, get things right with God, and through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will overcome them. Overcoming our desires is not just something we ought to do, or something we need to do—it’s something we can do through Christ who strengthens us. John reminds us that this world is passing away, but whoever does God’s will abides forever. What John presents for us in this text, my friends, is the biblical command not to love.

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You’ve Got Questions: How Do You Know if You’re Doing What God Desires/Wants?

You’ve Got Questions: How Do You Know if You’re Doing What God Desires/Wants?

There are a few practical questions you need to ask yourself in every situation that will help you determine whether or not you are doing what God wants. Here are a few:

1) What would be the best way to glorify God right now?
2) The classic: What would Jesus do?
3) Does the attitude or action please God?
4) Would God say it is good?
5) Would it cause me or someone else to lose touch with God?

While these are essential questions to ask yourself in every situation, I think there is a green-light indicator that shows whether or not you are doing what God desires. Fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is the evidence of our doing what God wants. Fruit is the direct result of whatever controls our hearts (Matthew 15:19). The fruit of a life not surrendered to Jesus includes “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,” and many more evil acts (Galatians 5:19–20). In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit of God is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). In addition, God the Father is the gardener (John 15:1), and He desires for us to be fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As branches cling to the vine, we cling to Christ, drawing our very life from Him. The goal is “much fruit,” as Christ uses us to bring about blessed, celestial results in a broken, fallen world.

The evidence that you are being obedient and doing what He desires is the fruitfulness of your Christian life. Are you producing fruit? Fruit-bearing isn’t always winning souls or gaining a greater number in your Sunday attendance, but your attitudes will be different, your desires will be different, and your actions will be different. So how do you know if you’re doing what God wants? It is helpful to ask the questions above in every situation, but we need not forget about fruitfulness in our Christian lives.

Congratulations: My Words to the BMHS Class of 2013

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on the 19th day of May, 2013 during Graduates’ Recognition Service:

Introduction and Congrats

Congratulations once again to all of you. For your achievements and success, for your hardships and difficulties which have now resulted in victory and honor as you have walked across the stage of Ballard Memorial High School; congrats. I will never again ask you for as much focus as I am asking for tonight. Allow me to please have your full attention in these next few moments. Thank you.

The Text

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57, 58 ESV)

Following Jesus Wherever

At the end of Luke 9, after Jesus offers an invitation to follow Him, we are introduced to three people who initially seem eager to be followers. However, as they process how following Jesus will impact their specific situations, they begin making excuses. As they try to negotiate the terms of their commitment to Jesus, it becomes clear that they were really just admirers of Jesus. At first, it seems that the first guy to respond to Jesus’ invitation is serious. He states, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Wherever. That sure sounds committed. No restrictions or boundaries. No borders. Wherever. Then Jesus utters nearly the most unusual statement and says, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” I have certainly wrestled with the meaning of His words here. When Jesus says to love your neighbor or to pray or to ask in His name, those things are easily understandable. But what in the world did He just tell this guy? Here’s what’s happening: Jesus points exactly to the place that would threaten this guy’s comfort and security. Jesus basically says, “I’m homeless, will you follow Me there?”

It’s much easier to speak about following Jesus when you are making a general statement without making any specific commitments. You may be a Christian and say, “I will follow Jesus wherever,” but what if Jesus points to Thailand? What if He points to the slums of New York City and calls you to plant a church there? What if He points to the neighbor across the street? What will you do if He points you somewhere and asks, “What about there? Will you follow Me there?” Following Jesus means literally following Him wherever He goes.

Anne Judson was the wife of America’s first foreign missionary, Adoniram Judson. Adoniram was 24 when he decided to leave America and sail to Burma. Burma didn’t have a single missionary and was an extremely hostile environment. He was in love with Anne who was 23 at the time. Adoniram wanted to marry Anne and then move to Burma to spread the gospel. Before he married Anne, he wrote her father the following letter asking for her hand in marriage:

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness?”


Her father told him that it was her decision to make. So in 1813 they left for Burma. They would experience one hardship after another. In 1824 Adoniram was put in prison. He was there for eighteen months. At night his feet were tied up and hoisted up into the air till only his shoulder and head rested on the ground. It was often 110 degrees and the mosquitoes would eat him alive at night. When he went to prison Anne was pregnant, but she walked two miles every day to plead that Judson be released. After a year in prison, eating rotting food, Adoniram had wasted away, with hollow eyes – dressed in rags and crippled from torture. His daughter, Maria, was born while he was in prison. Anne was as sick and thin as Adoniram. Her milk dried up. Mercifully the jailer actually let Judson out of prison and beg for women to nurse the baby. Eventually Adoniram was released. Not long after that Anne died at 37 from spotted fever. Because of Adoniram and Anne’s efforts though, the entire Bible was translated into Burmese. Today there are over 3700 congregations that all trace their beginning to when Adoniram and Anne Judson said to God, “Wherever.” God pointed to Burma and said, “What about there?” This man in Luke chapter 9 was happy to say wherever, until God said, “There.”

Conclusion: My Hope for You

As you now move into these next chapters of your life, my hope is that you will do two things: Follow Jesus wherever, whatever, and whenever; and seek God’s desire for you with each passing moment. Many of us wonder and ask “What is God’s will for my life?” Or maybe you say, “I just wish I knew God’s will for my life!” I know I’ve longed to know that before but, now I see that as a misguided way of thinking and talking. There are very few people in the Bible who received their life plan from God in advance (or even their five-year plan, for that matter!). Look at Abraham. Read his story. He was told to pack up his family and all his possessions and start walking. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know if he would ever be back. He didn’t know any of the details that we might consider vital (his destination, how long it would take, the costs/rewards, etc). God said go and he went. I think you need to forget about God’s will for your life. Now, listen to me seriously. I would hate for you to think for a second that God doesn’t have purposes and plans for each of our lives or that He doesn’t care what we do with our lives. He does. Here’s the key: He never promises to reveal these purposes all at once, in advance. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day. 


I am proud of you.