by Pastor Leslie
I have been thinking quite a lot about the difference between God and His goodness and rule, and that of the world and its power and allure. There is a battle raging between the forces of Christ and those antichrist forces arrayed against Him. It is a battle we all are involved in. The verses that have been on my mind for some time are 1 John 2:15-17.
In this blog I will explore the passage, write about the nature of the world, and consider how this impacts our character, integrity, personality and spiritual gift/gifts. This is linked to the sermon series on Hope Arising, and the Holy Spirit’s role in our relationships and commitment to Christ. I will also look at how we can defend ourselves in this ongoing battle.
1 John 2:15-17
NLT, ‘Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.’
TPT, ‘Don’t set the affections of your heart on this world or in loving the things of the world. The love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible. For all that the world can offer us—the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance —none of these things come from the Father but from the world. This world and its desires are in the process of passing away, but those who love to do the will of God live forever.’
God loves the world, He created the physical universe, and all the systems of government and authority. In the Genesis 1 Creation account – God saw that His work was good. He created everything to fit perfectly into His plan, work as it should, and contain the seeds for future life, productivity and prosperity.
Satan and the Fall into sin not only corrupted humankind, but also nature, and all the systems of authority which God originally had made as good. As the worldly systems and life developed, these were no longer good in a spiritual sense. They were corrupted, humankind sinners who then sinned, and all the power of death enshrined in the least sinful lie or act.
Therefore, moving forward to 1 John, for John, the world is the sphere of antichrist dominion – the realm that is not for God nor under willing submission to Christ. It includes ‘all unbelieving and unspiritual people, and the social organisms of evil’ (Robert Law, The Tests of Life, 148).
John sets ‘the world’ and God as two opposites. Love for the world and its systems is incompatible with love for God, His authority in Christ, and His Kingdom order and rule.
There is genuine power in the world’s systems. It is the power to control, motivate and captivate people. Worldly rule is unrighteous in nature, prone to lust, antichrist in nature, and destructive for the souls of people.
Lust itself is a sinful craving for things which are destructive to the soul, and our spiritual integrity. If left unchecked – lust is so powerful that it will shape our lives. Many people are controlled by their lusts or cravings. These have gained mastery over them, and they are subject to their whims and desires.
The pride of life is all about power, status, and our importance in our own eyes. It is about what we have accumulated and possess, and about our standing in relation to other people. It is about the exaltation of self, and the drive in self to elevate itself and gain status.
When Satan tempted Eve and then Adam, Genesis 3, there was real dark power in the temptations. Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was hanging on a beautiful tree, and the fruit looked delicious – good to look at, would make her wise, and she would be like God. It was about replacing God’s rule in her heart with the rule of Satan, sin, self and this world.
You can see John’s list of three at work in this story: lust of the flesh – good to eat, lust of the eyes – looks desirable and beautiful, and the pride of life – you will be wise and be like God in knowing good and evil. Satan was on good fertile ground with Eve and her husband, they were susceptible to his three-pronged attack.
When Satan tempted Jesus, Matthew 4, He used the same three temptations.
Lust of the flesh – Jesus was hungry, turn these stones into bread;
lust of the eyes – see all these nations, I will give them to You;
pride of life – throw Yourself off because You are so important, God will send His angels to protect and bear You up, also in the 3rd temptation – I will give You the nations to worship You – if You will worship me.
Living Out Our Love for God
Unlike Eve and Adam, Satan had no hold on Jesus. He was tempting One who could resist and turn the tables on Him bringing the full authority and power of God’s word to bear on the Accuser. Jesus was able to exercise His true authority and godly power in the battle with Satan.
Last Sunday morning, I spoke about the importance of our character, integrity, personality and spiritual gifts to our relationships with others; and, they are also at the heart of living out the life of Christ within. Therefore, these are still the areas where Satan seeks to gain mastery over us, the areas where the battle so often happens.
Character is about our moral base/code, and our ethical values. The moral base is what we believe – the Bible is our moral base. Ethical values are how we live out the teachings, injunctions and rules for life in the Bible. Ethics is the application and science of our morality. In John’s writings, obeying Jesus’ commands is the source for true spiritual freedom and life.
Integrity then is the level we are committed, each and every day, to live by and live out what we believe to be true, the love of Christ, and to operate in our spiritual gift/s. A person of integrity will live out their moral beliefs through a word and Spirit-led ethical code. Thus a person with integrity will live according to their moral code when people are watching, and when they are not. When it is easy to do so, and when costly to do so.
Integrity is about daily taking up our cross and following Jesus. Integrity means that we will act, react, behave and reason in Christ-honouring ways even when no-one else is watching.
The personality is both ours by nature and nurture, and by choice and wise learning. Knowing your personality at any given moment is so helpful. In time, our personality can grow, develop and change under the influence of i. Scripture;
ii. learning – by choosing to read and learn about how to develop it and in a more Christ-honouring, community conscious, self-effacing and engaging way;
iii. Interaction with believers of good and wise hearts.
The battle between the allure of the world and the power of Christ at work in us is a daily one. People talk about being true to themselves – that is being ‘real’ and acting as they believe their nature, desires and personality should. In the world outside of Christ this will mean following the desires and outworking of the sinful nature; in Christ, our nature is being renewed and the Holy Spirit is with us working in us – therefore our nature develops in Christ-honouring ways.
Galatians 5:22-25 is an antidote to the allure of the world. NLT, ‘But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love [agape], joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. 25Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.’
How can we be true to Christ, real as a Christian loving Him and those we are in relationship with, and adhering to Christ’s teaching? Because of His word and the Spirit in us.
The work of the word and Spirit includes helping us to nail the passions and desires of the sinful nature to Christ’s cross. This means opening up our inner passions, thoughts and desires to the Lord, confessing them to Him, and asking for cleansing, renewal, and His mercy and grace.
This transparency before Jesus, with the Spirit and word’s help, brings victory, and deepens our love and commitment to the Lord. It leads to acting in accordance to our new nature fashioned like Christ’s, learning how to walk in His desires – knowing that His word. Another important part of this is our spiritual gifts – they are important in helping shape us into Christ-honouring people.
This is where the spiritual gift/gifts come into there own. To be Spirit-filled means that I have the wonderful Holy Spirit working in me to a greater degree than if I am not living a Spirit-filled life. He creates a word-based focus, and guides me in how to be true to Christ.
This all helps guard me against the lust, allure and pride of this world. My spiritual life is renewed in the image of Christ, and my soul is being renewed in the image of Christ as I love Him, and others as myself.
He teaches me how to develop my godly moral base, and ethically apply these biblically based morals. He enables me to focus on the importance of integrity; also working on my personality so it carries the fragrance of heaven. He teaches me how to operate in the gifts He gives me. Isn’t the Holy Spirit wonderful!
Father, we pray for Your Spirit’s fullness and help, Your word’s efficacy, and Your grace to step into that place of victory over the lust of the eyes and flesh, and the pride of life. We ask to live out our faith in Christ-honouring ways, obeying Your word, and exalting and glorifying the Lord Jesus thereby. Amen