Over the past year, I’ve probably referenced (1 John 2:15) more than any other verse. I keep coming back to it because its message is so clear and sobering: “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” Do you love the world? If so, then you don’t love God. It’s a harsh statement, but impossible to avoid.
There isn’t any wiggle room in the verse to accommodate how much we love the world, so we can’t rationalize and say we love God more than the things of this world. God has never been one to accept partial love. We cannot serve two masters; we will love the one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24).
An old Keith Green song contains the line, sung from God’s perspective, “You love the world and you’re avoiding me.” When we love the world, we forget about God. Our focus is on the pleasures of this life rather than on the glory of our King. God created this world for our enjoyment, but our enjoyment of it must be in the context of recognizing the wonder of God and being thankful for His gifts and provision. We’re to enjoy the world because we find pleasure in the One who created it, nor for the sake of the pleasure we receive from it. When our love for the things of this world keeps us from spending time with God, it shows what and who we love. We love ourselves more than our Savior.
What exactly are the things of this world that lure us away from loving the Father? John doesn’t leave us wondering, but spells them out for us. They are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle (1 John 2:16). In other words, anything we consume, desire, or boast about that is not of God. That pretty much covers how we spend our days, constantly in search of things that will satisfy our physical and emotional cravings, and then the desire to make ourselves more important than others.
The sad reality is all of these things are illusions, temporary satisfactions that are forgotten almost as soon as they occur (1 John 2:17). To quote Keith Green again, “Nothing lasts… except the grace of God by which I’m saved.” No earthly pleasure will keep us from the grave. Nothing that is of this world can save our souls. Only the shed blood of Jesus can do that. Only the love of the Father can cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you clean before Him (1 John 1:9). Love for the things of this world leads only to death, while love for the Father brings life, full in the present, and abundant in eternity (John 10:10).
Do you love the world? I’m not asking if you love the world more than you love God. John wasn’t talking about degrees of love, he was speaking in terms of an ultimatum. If you love the things in the world, then you don’t love God. I don’t think John is saying if we ever sin and desire the things of the world, then we abandon our love for God forever. It’s about the focus and habits of our lives.
If our desire is to please God at all times, it shows we love the Father. But if the pleasures of this world are always on our minds and the overriding focus of our days, there is no way our love for God is genuine, no matter how much we might protest. In an uncertain and dangerous world, there can be no more important decision than to love God and surrender your life to the Lordship of His Son, Jesus. If you love the world and the things of the world, your eternal soul is in the greatest of perils.