1 John 2:15-17 - “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
What constitutes “the world” and everything in it that we are not supposed to love? What is it that draws our attention away from God and onto ourselves and the things of this world? I would contend that the root of it all is laid out here in verse sixteen for us. These three simple things are the cause of what takes our eyes off of God and onto ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s go through them one-by-one.
The first is the lust of the flesh. The word “lust” sure carries an ugly connotation in Christian circles, and rightfully so! We so often think of this word in the context of sexual sin, but a simple word study shows us that the evil associated with this particular word goes much deeper than that. The actual definition of this word means “a desire for what is forbidden”. In what other contexts is this word used? In Romans 1, it is used to describe sexual sin. In 2 Timothy 3, this word is used to describe that which sways people and their hearts away from God. James even says, in chapter one, that once this “lust” or this “desire” conceives, that this is what results in sin. In other words, the actual manifestation of sin in one’s life has its origination in this desire for the things of this world. There are two telling statement we find in Scripture about this “lust” that touch on the subject of spiritual warfare. The first comes from Christ Himself. In John 8:44, Jesus says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires”. Jesus here is actually giving us the origination of this desire for the things of this world – it comes from Satan, as does all sin. Therefore, if we are seeking to serve ourselves by means of the things of this world, we are in actuality serving Satan’s agenda. However, the Christian is not to have any part of this. Paul writes to the church in Galatia, in Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If we are to serve Christ, we cannot do so without first crucifying our flesh and its passions and desires.
The second is the lust of the eyes. Why the differentiation between the lust of the flesh and that of the eyes? When we read of this word that is translated into English as “eyes”, it always either refers to the physical eyes or spiritual eyes (i.e. – Matthew 13:16, “Blessed are your eyes because they see…”). In fact, it is from this Greek word “ophthalmos” that we get our English word “ophthalmology”. Where does this lust begin? Think about it: what is it that makes people discontent with their own cars, houses, clothes, jewelry, etc.? It is when they see what others have. I remember hearing an interview with Bo Jackson about his youth, and how poor they were. His response was that he had no idea; he thought everyone was just as poor as they were, because poverty was all he ever saw. It is our eyes that look upon things and desire them. We are to “turn our eyes upon Jesus” and not onto ourselves and the things of this world. This is why Jesus refers to the eyes as much as He does in His earthly ministry. Here are a couple of examples:
Matthew 5:29 – “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
This lust of the eyes is so often what leads people into hell, and 1 John 2:17 will highlight this fact.
Matthew 6:22-23 – “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Again, Christ here highlights the fact that darkness in the body often enters in through the eyes.
The last is the pride of life. Again, this word “pride” carries with it a very negative connotation, and again, rightfully so. Do you know what the literal definition of this word “pride” is? It is “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources”. Did you catch that? It is insolent and empty – these are not good adjectives to describe someone’s life! This happens when someone begins to put their assurance in themselves, and their own power, and their own resources. This is why Jesus says, in Matthew 19:23-24, that it is hard for a rich man to enter Heaven – harder, even, than a camel getting through the eye of a needle. The more power we seek to consolidate for ourselves, and the more resources we amass for our own kingdom, the less we trust in the power, resources, and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.