“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).
A continuous battle rages in the heart of every believer. A continuous battle rages for the heart of every believer. The battle is over which love reigns supreme in the believer’s heart. Is it the love of the world or the love of the Father?
This boils down to how we are inwardly sustained in our everyday lives. As we go through the day are we sustained by the clinging to and cherishing the “world,” or are we sustained by clinging to and cherishing the Father? The two loves cannot exist alongside each other. At any given moment we are either finding life in the world or we are finding it in the Father. If we strive to fill our thirsty souls through the love of the world, the love of the Father is not filling us.
So what exactly does it mean to “love the world”? Don’t misunderstand this to say that we are not to love the people of the world. God loves the people of the world (John 3:16), and so should we. What John is describing here is loving the ways of the world. The world, then, is the system of values and goals which excludes God and appeals to the sinful nature.
John goes on to explain: “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).
The “cravings of sinful man” are the sinful desires that seethe within our sin nature. The “lust of the eyes” describes our covetous tendency to acquire more and more. The “boasting of what he has and does” points to pridefully seeking the notice of others for what we have accumulated and accomplished.
These three manifestations of the love of the world are very powerful in the human soul. They are deceiving in that they entice us to find our sense of inner well-being from these worldly passions and desires. And at least for a season, these passions and desires make us think we are happy. But it doesn’t last long. Our hearts are restless and will never be satisfied by the things of the world.
The opposite of this is being sustained and finding our inner sense of well-being from the “love of the Father.” Our heavenly Father’s love is the only thing that will quench the thirsting of our souls. The Father’s love is unconditional, all-encompassing and altogether satisfying. His love is steadfast and never ceasing.
The love of the Father is very real and experiential. We feel it. We are strengthened by it. It fills our innermost beings with eternal delight. This love flows from obedience to the will of the Father. As we live each day committed to following His commands we are acknowledging that it is His love, not the things of the world, that ultimately sustains us.
The love of the world will never satisfy us because it is transitory. John says, “The world and its desires pass away…” (v.17). We know this instinctively when we sense the shallow, fleeting nature of the pleasures of the world … how they don’t really satisfy deeply or in a lasting way.
However, “the man who does the will of God lives forever” (v.17). In faithfully obeying the will of God we are expressing our complete dependence upon the Lord. Doing his will means we value His pleasure more than we value the pleasures of this world. And as we do there is something eternal about the joy this brings. “Living forever” means really living.
The “love of the world” may provide momentary pleasure but it always runs down and leaves with only a cheap, hollow thrill. The “love of the Father” is never-ending and intensifies right up to the time when we are ushered into the presence of unimaginable joy in the presence of God for eternity.