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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1199

February 1, 2015                                                                                1 John 2:15-17, 24-25

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“To Will Our Love”

 

            I want to speak with you today about our will, your will, what it means to will something to happen.  In particular for this message to will our love.  John says in our reading for today, do not love the world.  Now I don’t know if you really think about it much, but the Bible mentions the “world” a lot and its meaning can vary a bit depending on the context of its use.  Consider that John says “do not love the world” but he also writes in his gospel that Jesus said, “for God so loved the world that he gave his son.”  So which is it?  Love the world or do not love the world.  The term “world” in 1 John, I believe he is referring to anything in the world that opposes God, any system or mindset or anything that is not of faith.  The world in this context means a way of living that is advocated apart from Jesus Christ.  John’s understanding is revealed for this reading in verse 16…the desire of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride in life (or possessions).   John tells us that the things of the world are connected to our desires, the things we see, that which appeals to the flesh, and the material riches of this life. 

            Contrast that understanding of world with John 3:16, “for God so loved the world”, and the context changes the meaning of the word.  In that case I believe it means all the peoples of the world.  God loves us all and even with our depraved nature and with the sin that caused our fall and the resulting corruption of “the world”, God still loves us.   The context changes the meaning.  It is like saying, “that’s cool.”   If we are drinking lemonade we might be talking about temperature but if we are looking at a new football uniform we mean something different.  Sometimes when we read the Bible a word may take on a slightly different meaning depending on the context.  Someone once said that words don’t mean much apart from sentences.  In this case to not love the world is to not love anything that is separate from God.  Something like humanism that says we can do things without God by human will and strength and ingenuity.  We are not to love selfishness or even what we can see (the desires of the eyes) or what we perceive through any of our senses (desire of the flesh) or what we own (pride in riches). 

            The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   That context I think is obvious, the world is a system or ideology or way of living that is opposed to the will of God.  We are asked every day to conform to ways of living that oppose God’s will, on television, in advertisements, in political ideologies, in systems that promote non-Christian ethics.  This is the conflict against spiritual forces.  Do not be conformed to this stuff, but be transformed so that you might discern the will of God.  This is precisely the message from John as well in 1 John 2:17, the world is passing away but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  Paul says be transformed to know the will of God and John says the world is passing away so here is what you need to do – do the will of God.  One way to say that is to will God’s will in our life. 

Now, that may lead us to wonder, what is the will?  In reformed faith and thought the will is that which we desire the most to do.  We will will our strongest desires.  We will choose out of our desires what we most want to do.  When presented with the option to eat the slice of cake or not, we will choose our strongest desire to most likely eat the cake.  So what John asks of us is to desire God’s will.  How do we do that?  How do we transform our desire?  One thing we might do is to pray about our desires.  When Paul talks about taking every thought captive in Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) I think that could easy include taking every desire captive in Christ that we might obey his word.  Part of what that means is that we learn to discern our desires, to know ourselves well enough to know that if something comes before us we must be able to set our desires aside and ask what does God desire of us.  This discernment may be to ask if our desire is from the flesh or the eyes or to have more stuff, or is our desire corresponding with what God desires of and for us.  When we seek the things of God, we will inevitably deny the desires of the flesh and the eyes and our mistrust in possessions. 

A great blessing in this is that we are not seeking to do this on our own power or by our own will.  We can only will God’s will by the power of God’s grace.  Turn to Titus 2,

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

            This is great!  God’s grace, God’s favor is training us to do away with love for the world, for worldly things.  That does not mean that we do not have anything to do.  It does not mean that God’s grace is going to pick us up by the scruff of the neck and carry us through, but it means that God’s grace is at work in our efforts to receive training through spiritual disciplines and study of God’s word and living out the Christian walk.  God’s grace is with us in a powerful way but not a forceful way.  God’s grace trains us by doing something of a spiritual work through prayer and study and meditation, just to name a few disciplines.  We do the work in God’s grace so that we can discern what it means to seek God rather than become conformed to the world. 

 

            Let’s look at the three phrases starting in 1 John 2:16 all that is in the world, first is the desire of the flesh.  Romans 13:14 – “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”   This is how we combat that desire of the flesh, put on Jesus.  Paul talks about this in Colossians 3, I did not get it into your outline but we see in Paul’s letter this word,

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

 

The image is that of taking off the old clothes and putting on the new.  Put on Jesus Christ.  Change the way we live, and we do this through God’s grace. 

Now turn to 1 Peter 4:2  “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”  Here again is the contrast between living for God or living for self, loving God or loving the world, walking in the light or walking in darkness.  It is a contrast that leads to life or to death. 

Next is the desire of the eyes.  You need not turn to Ecclesiastes but listen,  (4:8)  7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

In the desire of the eyes we are never satisfied.  How many times do we see something and we think, “I need that”.  We could walk into a store with no needs whatsoever and see something that catches our eye and before we know what happened we walk out with a bag of goodies. 

            Thirdly, the pride in riches.  I thought first of the story of the man who was wealthy and came to Jesus in Matthew 19:16…

 

Matt. 19:16-22  16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

 

His particular issue was his pride in riches.  Because his love of the world was greater than his love for God.  What he probably desired, in keeping the commandments, was that he could love God and possessions with equal passion.  But Jesus said he lacked one thing and the one thing was not conforming to the world and following Jesus instead.  The story says went away sorrowful. 

            All of this worldly stuff is passing away, it is not eternal.  One day my car will be no more.  One day your house will be no more.  One day your favorite things will pass away. 

 

            If we manage to drive away conformity to the world, what then do we do?  Our purpose is to do the will of God.  That is what we are seeking, to will the will of God.  To will our love for God.  To will our love for one another.  Make that our desire!  Instead of conforming to the world, do this instead – the will of God.  After all, all of these worldly things will pass away. 

            Move ahead to 1 John 2:24 and John writes about what we have heard from the beginning.  Obviously John and others had been preaching about God’s love as one of the things they had heard from the beginning.  First, remember back in 1 John 1 he begins the letter with “that which was from the beginning” and now he says that again.  Look with me at 1 John 3:11,

 

1 John 3:11 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 

 

Now jump one letter over to 2 John,

 

2 John 6  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 

 

Walk in his commandments, because we display our love for God through obedience to his word. 

 

Jesus said it this way,

 

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

 

It is very simple.  Want to know what it means to love God?  Keep his commandments.  Do what Jesus said.  Follow the word of God.  It is a lot like marriage in that we demonstrate our love for our spouse that we commit our love for that person in obedience to promises made and commitment to stay true to him or her.  We are committed to God by keeping his word. 

 

            Look at John 15.  Abide in me, Jesus says.  Apart from me you can do nothing.  This is what it means to love the world, to love those things that are apart from Jesus.  Those things have no life.  When we love Jesus and the things of Jesus, we will do the will of God.  That does not mean that the will of God is so detailed that we hit or miss it in daily decisions.  God gives us room to make our own decisions in our lives, but all of those decisions are to be made in the love of God and not in conformity to the world. 

 

The final promise to see today is the promise of eternal life, verse 25.  I love the word in Jesus’ prayer of John 17, turn there…

 

John 17:1-3  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

 

Eternal life = knowing God and Jesus Christ.  To know him.  Most of us think about eternal life as something to come, something of heaven.  But to know God is to know eternal life.  That means that eternal life begins now!  As we grow in knowledge of and in God we experience eternal life right now.  The kingdom of heaven is right now.  It begins on this earth in knowing Jesus and continues on into heaven and eternity.  Life eternal now.  Life abundant now.  It is known in keeping commandment and willing God’s will, to will our love toward God and one another.  To desire the will of God.  Lord, change our desires that we might keep commandment and love as you have loved. 

 

We might ask ourselves, is there anything in our hearts or in our way of life that has conformed to the world?  How would we know?  We know by the word of God.  We know by what we love most.  Pray today that God, in his infinite grace, would train us to will his will in our life that we might will our love to God and one another.  Amen.