G-Rated People in an R-Rated World

Title: G-Rated People in an R-Rated World

Bible Book: 1 John 2 : 15-17

Author: Frank Page

Subject: Christian Living; Morality; Ethics



We are a G-Rated people in an R-rated world. It is this fact which causes the uneasy feeling we often have in relation to this world. In the pilgrimage of the believer, there must be an increasing separation morally from this world, and an increasing separation mentally, philosophically, from the mindset of the world.

One of the most horrible observations one may make of modern Christianity is that we feel so at ease in an R-Rated world. We should . . . experience revulsion rather than comfort, a desire to redeem rather than a desire to conform, and a will to reach our world rather than a wish to couple Christian theology with paganism.

Turn to I John 2:15-17 for a word from the Lord. Here we find several reasons why believers should not "love the world."

I. We Mustn't Love The World Because Of The World's Tragic Allegiance

Look at v. 15. The New Testament word world has at least three different meanings. It sometimes means the physical world, the earth: "God that made the world [our planet] and all things therein" (Acts 17:24). It also means the human world, mankind: "For God so loved the world" (John 3:16). Sometimes these two ideas appear together: "He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world [earth] was made by Him, and the world [mankind] knew Him not" (John 1:10).

But the warning, "Love not the world!" is not about the world of nature or the world of men. Christians ought to appreciate the beauty and usefulness of the earth God has made, since He "giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17). And they certainly ought to love people--not only their friends, but even their enemies.

This "world" name here as our enemy is invisible spiritual system opposed to God and Christ. We use the word world in the sense of system in our daily conversation. "The world," in the Bible, is Satan's system for opposing the work of Christ on earth. It is the very opposite of what is godly (I John 2:16) and holy and spiritual. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19, NASB).

Jesus called Satan "the prince of this world" (John 12:31). The devil has an organization of evil spirits (Ephesians 6:11-12) working with him and influencing the affairs of "this world."

Just as the Holy Spirit uses people to accomplish God's will on earth, so Satan uses people to fulfill his evil purposes. Unsaved people, whether they realize it or not, are energized by "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Unsaved people belong to "this world." Jesus calls them" the children of this world" (Luke 16:8). When Jesus was here on earth, the people of "this world" did not understand Him, nor do they now understand those of us who trust Him (I John 3:1).

An excellent modern example is Ted Turner. Cable television's Ted Turner recently received the 1990 Humanist of the Year award. He will be a keynote speaker at the 49th Annual Conference of the American Humanist Association to be held in Orlando, Florida, in April. In 1989, Turner made bigoted statements about pro-lifers, Christianity, and the Ten Commandments. Turner called those who oppose abortion "bozos." He sank half a million dollars into a program promoting abortion on his Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) network. He said that pro-life people "look like idiots."

Turner was also quoted as saying that "Christianity is a religion for losers" that "the Ten Commandments are obsolete" and they should be replaced by his "Ten Voluntary Initiatives." Turner ignores his own "voluntary initiatives," he still calls those who believe in the sanctity of human life bozos and says they look like idiots.

A Christian is a member of the human world, and he lives in the physical world, but he does not belong to the spiritual world that is Satan's system for opposing God. "If ye were of the world [Satan's system], the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18).

"The world," then, is not a natural habitat for a believer. The believer's citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20, NASB), and all his effective resources for living on earth come from his Father in heaven.

Were it not for the Holy Spirit's living within us, and the spiritual resources we have in prayer, Christian fellowship, and the Word, we could never "make it" here on earth. We complain about the pollution of earth's atmosphere--the atmosphere of "the world" is also so polluted spiritually that Christians cannot breathe normally!

But there is a second, and more serious, reason why Christians must not love the world.

II. We Mustn't Love The World Because Of The World's Influence

(vv. 15-16). Look at v. 15.

Worldliness is not so much a matter of activity as of attitude. It is possible for a Christian to stay away from questionable amusements and doubtful places and still love the world, for worldliness is a matter of the heart. To the extent that a Christian loves the world system and the things in it, he does not love the Father.

Worldliness not only affects your response to the love of God. It also affects your response to the will of God. " The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. “ (I John 2:17).

Doing the will of God is a joy for those living in the love of God. "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." But when a believer loses his enjoyment of the Father's love, he finds it hard to obey the Father's will.

When you put these two factors together, you have a practical definition of worldliness: anything in a Christian's life that causes him to lose his enjoyment of the Father's love or his desire to do the Father's will is worldly and must be avoided.

Responding to the Father's love (your personal devotional life), and doing the Father's will (your daily conduct), these are two tests of worldliness.

Surely the world was created by God (John 1:3); how, then, can everything in it be opposed to God and said not to stem from him? Is everything in the world so tainted that the believer is not to desire it? The answer to these questions becomes clear when we consider the kind of specific things which John has in mind. These show that he is thinking of the world insofar as it has become fallen and rebellious, the source of desires which stand in opposition to the love of God" (p. 144).

Many things in this world are definitely wrong and God's Word identifies them as sins. It is wrong to steal and to lie (Ephesians 4:25, 28). Sexual sins are wrong (Ephesians 5:1-3). About these and many other actions, Christians can have little or no debate. But there are areas of Christian conduct that are not so clear and about which even the best Christians disagree.

John points out that the world system uses three devices to trap Christians: the lust (desire) of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). These same devices trapped Eve back in the Garden: "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit" (Genesis 3:6).

The lust of the flesh includes anything that appeals to man's fallen nature. "The flesh" does not mean "the body." Rather, it refers to the basic nature of unregenerate man that makes him blind to spiritual truth (I Corinthians 2:14). Flesh is the nature we receive in our physical birth. Spirit is the nature we receive in the second birth (John 3:5-6). A Christian has both the old nature (flesh) and the new nature (Spirit) in his life. And what a battle these two natures can wage! (Galatians 5:17-23)

God has given man certain desires, and these desires are good. Hunger, thirst, weariness, and sex are not at all evil in themselves. There is nothing wrong about eating, drinking, sleeping, or begetting children. But when the flesh nature controls them, they become sinful "lusts."

Now you can see how the world operates. It appeals to the normal appetites and tempts us to satisfy them in forbidden ways. In today's world we are surrounded by all kinds of allurements that appeal to our lower nature--and "the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

It is important that a believer remember what God says about his old nature, the flesh. Everything God says about the flesh is negative. In the flesh there is no good thing (Romans 7:18). The flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). A Christian is to put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). He is to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). A person who lives for the flesh is living a negative life.

The second device that the world uses to trap the Christian is called "the lust of the eyes." We sometimes forget that the eyes can have an appetite! (Have you ever said, "Feast your eyes on this"?)

The lust of the flesh appeals to the lower appetites of the old nature, tempting us to indulge them in sinful ways. The lust of the eyes, however, operates in a more refined way. In view here are pleasures that gratify the sight and the mind--sophisticated and intellectual pleasures. Back in the days of the Apostle John, the Greeks and Romans lived for entertainments and activities that excited the eyes. Times have not changed very much! In view of television, perhaps every Christian's prayer ought to be, "Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity" (Psalm 119:37, NASB).

The third device is the "boastful pride of life" (NASB). God's glory is rich and full; man's glory is vain and empty. In fact, the Greek word for "pride" was used to describe a braggart who was trying to impress people with his importance. People have always tried to outdo others in their spending and their getting. The boastful pride of life motivates much of what such people do. Why is it that so many folks buy houses, cars, appliances, or wardrobes that they really cannot afford? Why do they succumb to the "travel now, pay later" advertising and get themselves into hopeless debt taking vacations far beyond their means? Largely, because they want to impress other people - because of their "pride of life." Most of us do not go that far, but it is amazing what stupid things people do just to make an impression. They even sacrifice honesty and integrity in return for notoriety and a feeling of importance.

Yes, the world appeals to a Christian through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And once the world takes over in one of these areas, a Christian will soon realize it. He will lose his enjoyment of the Father's love and his desire to do the Father's will. The Bible will become boring and prayer a difficult chore. Even Christian fellowship may seem empty and disappointing. It is not that there is something wrong with others, however--what's wrong is the Christian's worldly heart.

It is important to note that no Christian becomes worldly all of a sudden. Worldliness creeps up on a believer; it is a gradual process. First is the friendship of the world (James 4:4). By nature, the world and the Christian are enemies ("Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you," (John 3:13). A Christian who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.

III. We Mustn't Love The World Because Of Where The World Is Going

Look at v. 17.

That statement would be challenged by many men today who are confident that the world, the system in which we life, is as permanent as anything can be. But the world is not permanent. The only sure thing about this world system is that it is not going to be here forever. One day the system will be gone, and the pleasant attractions within it will be gone: all are passing away. What is going to last? Only what is part of the will of God!

Spiritual Christians keep themselves "loosely attached" to this world because they live for something far better. They are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).

John is contrasting two ways of life: a life lived for eternity and a life lived for time. A worldly person lives for the pleasures of the flesh, but a dedicated Christian lives for the joys of the Spirit. A worldly believer lives for what he can see, the lust of the eyes; but a spiritual believer lives for the unseen realities of God (II Corinthians 4:8-18). A worldly minded person lives for the pride of life, the vainglory that appeals to men; but a Christian who does the will of God lives for God's approval. And he "abideth forever."

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even Christians think, the world is passing away; but the man who does God's will abides forever. "Many people are tempted to live for the moment, to conform to the way of life of a material world, and either to question the temporary character of material life or to hope that there will be no judgment. It is a natural tendency to make oneself comfortable here in the present real world rather than to deny oneself here in hope of a better life hereafter.

But John's reply would be that the judgment is taking place already; even now the world is in process of dissolution; men are blind if they do not realize what is going on before their very eyes . . . For John it is indeed already 'the last hour' (2:18)" (p. 146-7 NICNT).

To sum it up, a Christian is in the world physically (John 17:11), but he is not of the world spiritually (John 17:17). Christ has sent us into the world to bear witness of Him (John 17:18). Like a scuba diver, we must live in an alien element, and if we are not careful, the alien element will stifle us. A Christian cannot help being in the world, but when the world is in the Christian, trouble starts! The world gets into a Christian through his heart: "Love not the world!" Anything that robs a Christian of his enjoyment of the Father's love, or of his desire to do the Father's will, is worldly and must be avoided. Every believer, on the basis of God's Word, must identify those things for himself.

A Christian must decide, "Will I live for the present only, or will I live for the will of God and abide forever?"

Love for the world is the love God hates. It is the love a Christian must shun at all costs! It is okay to be G-Rated in an R-Rated world.


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