Monday May 22, 2023
Monday May 22, 2023
Monday May 22, 2023
A father told the story of taking his 5-year-old to Disney-world. It was all the little boy could talk about for weeks and now they were finally there and the boy loved the idea that he’d get to see Goofy and Mickey and Minnie and the gang. He was so hyped.
They parked the car and could see the castle and the rides in the distance. They made their way to the ticket sales and then entered through the gates, into a relatively small area where families could have their pictures taken with all the Disney characters. Then they were going to go into the main park… but the little boy didn’t understand that.
He thought that THIS ENTRANCE AREA WAS the park and when his dad tried to herd him into the park itself, the boy threw an absolute fit. The boy thought that, they’d FINALLY gotten to the wonderful world of Disney and his dad was going to take him home.
He fought it with all he had … but as his dad brought him around the corner, THERE WAS THE PARK WITH ALL THE RIDES and the boy's cries became shrieks of joy.
Think about it: the boy had to leave what HE THOUGHT was good; to get to what his dad knew was better.
One of our hymns says the following:
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me, from heaven’s open door. And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
That song declares that this world is just “GOOD”, but heaven is “BETTER.” Our text today takes it even one step further. I John 2:15 tells us “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
And that’s repeated elsewhere in Scripture: James 4:4 says “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity (hatred) with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
And in Mark 8:36 Jesus says “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his very own soul?”
Now, there’s a couple of reasons why I think God stresses this so hard. The first is: the things of this world are deceptive. The world offers things that are just GOOD… but they’re not from God. These “good” things can often become substitutes for that which is BETTER.
Notice what it says in I John 2:16 - “All that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world.”
Years ago, I heard a preacher preach on this very passage, and he tied I John 2 to a story out of Old Testament – the story of Adam & Eve. I know you’ve heard it. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and He created all the animals/birds/fish of the sea. And then He created man in his image - male & female He created them. And He placed them in a beautiful garden.
And I know the Bible doesn’t say, but I can picture Adam and Eve treating the animals there as if they were their personal pets. I can imagine seeing them scratching the ears of a lion, playing tag with the monkeys, jumping around with the Kangaroos.
And there are many Bible scholars who think that there were occasions where God would come and walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evenings. And God told Adam “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) They had everything they could possibly want - just not that tree!
But then, one day Satan began whispering in Eve’s ear. “Did God REALLY say ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And with that… Satan planted a doubt in Eve’s mind. “you shall not surely die!” (he told her) “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5
Once Satan got Eve to doubt God - to take her eyes off of God - the rest was easy. He got her to thinking “Maybe you’re right. Maybe GOD has deceived me. Maybe God has denied what I’d really want and doesn’t want me to have what I REALLY want.”
And she began to look at that tree with new eyes.
I want you to notice what it says Genesis 2:9 says “the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground trees that were PLEASING to the eye and GOOD for food." Did you see that? There were all kinds trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food… but then in Genesis 3:6 we read “when the woman saw that the tree (of the knowledge of good and evil) was GOOD for food, and that it was a PLEASING to the eyes… she took of its fruit and ate.”
There were all kinds of fruit in the garden that was “good for food”; and there were all kinds of fruit that were “pleasing to the eye.” But this fruit was DIFFERENT! It wasn’t like all the other kinds of fruit, because… this was the fruit that God had denied her. And so, she desired it. And she wanted it so badly… SHE COULD ALMOST TASTE IT.
And that’s what our text TODAY (in I John 2) is talking about. This tree appealed to her “desire of the flesh”. Eve believed that THIS tree was “good for food”, even though every other tree in the garden was GOOD FOR FOOD.
And it also appealed to her DESIRE of the EYES. Genesis says the tree appealed to Eve because it was PLEASING to the eye, but Genesis tells us that all the other trees were pleasing to the eye too.
Now there’s kind of an overlap with these two desires because when people SEE what they want, they sense a desire in the flesh for what they’ve seen. And when that happens, they’ll do what they have to do to get what they want. And when it’s something they shouldn’t have, their desire for those things can trap them in sin.
ILLUS: I remember reading the story of a 6-year-old boy in Wisconsin who tried playing one of those crane operated game with toy prizes inside. I’ve tried it before, and I can never get a prize so I just don’t try anymore. But this little boy was ENTRANCED. The plush toys inside were pleasing to his eyes, and although he probably had better toys at home, he felt the desire of the flesh to have one of them for his very own.
Several times he’d tried to work the crane and couldn’t get anything. He wanted the toy, but the stupid machine wouldn’t cooperate. So, what do you think he did?
That’s right – he climbed INSIDE the machine! By the time the firefighters arrived he’d managed to get almost completely inside with just his right foot hanging out. HE WAS TRAPPED, but the firemen finally got the game unlocked and he was released unharmed.
For a short period of time, the desires of his eyes and his flesh trapped him.
There’s an old saying that “All that glitters is not gold.” It encapsulates what our text tells us today. Lots of stuff glitters like gold, and lots of stuff catches our eye and our imagination – and we JUST HAVE TO HAVE that item. But it’s not what it appears. When people fix their eyes on the things of this world they end up fixing their eyes on things that will trap them in sin.
That trap could be pornography; or drugs or alcohol, or gambling; or it could be the approval of their friends that makes them engage in activities they shouldn’t be doing; or it could be possessions they can’t afford, but they just have to have them. And so they’ll do what they have to do to get what they shouldn’t have or can’t justify.
My point is this: your desires and my desires can hurt us just like they hurt Adam and Eve. And the only way to combat this evil is to get our eyes off the things of this world and focus on God and His will for our lives.
But there’s a 3rd thing mentioned in I John that I found interesting. It’s called the pride of life. That was the real target of Satan’s temptation of Eve. He told her “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) And then the next verse says “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate...” Genesis 3:6
The “desire to make one wise” was where she really bought into Satan’s lie… because she wanted to “be like God.” The pride of life is when WE want to be in charge. WE want to be right. We want to express OUR opinions, and WE want our way. That’s why there’s so much conflict in our world. Everybody wants THEIR way. You can see it in politics; You see it in churches; You see it in homes. People fighting over stuff because they want things their way. They want to be God.
And the only way to combat that evil in our lives is to fix our eyes on Jesus.
Colossians 3:1-4 says “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. SET YOUR MINDS on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Now, at the beginning of the sermon I noted that I believed that there at least a couple of reasons God focuses on telling us to not love the world.
The FIRST was that the world can deceive and us and trap us into accepting substitutes for what God really wants to give us.
The SECOND reason I believe God stresses this so strongly is because we kind of like this world. I mean, I kind of like this world. I’ve got a great church to preach to; a wonderful group of family and friends; I’ve got a nice house, a nice car; my health’s pretty good. I’ve got no complaints. So… why shouldn’t I like THIS WORLD?
And that’s not an uncommon thought. One preacher observed that there’s all these songs about heaven.
There’s “When we all get to heaven”;
“Sing to Me of Heaven”;
“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”;
“In The Sweet By And By”… and the list could go on and on.
But he said – “you know, when it’s all said and done, and when people are on death’s bed - they tend to NOT be so homesick for heaven anymore. They want to have just ONE MORE MINUTE, one more hour, one more day. They literally grasp at life with greedy hands to have just a longer time on earth.
That’s what happened back in the Old Testament: One of the most godly kings of Israel was a man named King Hezekiah.
2 Kings 20:1-3 tells us “… Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah… went to him and said, ‘This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’ Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD… And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
Why did Hezekiah weep bitterly? He didn’t want to die! And he was a godly man. Lots of people don’t want to die. They don’t want to leave this world behind. I mean it’s all they’ve ever known. It’s easy to fall in love with this world.
But God says “Don’t Do That! It’s a trap!!!!” This world is not your home … we’re just passing through. As I John 2:17 tells us “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
In verse 17, John reminds us of the fleeting nature of worldly pursuits: "And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." The world and its attractions are temporary, destined to fade away. Our fixation on accumulating possessions, seeking self-gratification, and pursuing worldly success will ultimately prove futile. None of these endeavors can provide lasting satisfaction or eternal significance.
On the other hand, when we align our lives with God's will and seek to please Him, we participate in the eternal purposes of the Kingdom. Our obedience to His commandments and the pursuit of righteousness grant us an everlasting inheritance. We find true joy, peace, and fulfillment by living in harmony with God's design.
And why on earth would you want to stay here? This is just the place where we get our pictures taken. The real park is just on the other side of the gate… and that’s where our Father has something far better waiting for us - just inside the gate.
CLOSE: What is the most important thing? Many Christians have noted that “it is knowing that this life is not all there is. Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal before the real production. You will spend far more time on the other side of death - in eternity -than you will here. Earth is the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity… This life is preparation for the next. At most you will live a hundred years on earth, but you will spend forever in eternity. It has been said that this life is “but a small parenthesis in eternity.” You were made to last forever.
the words of 1 John 2:15-17 echo throughout the ages, guiding us in the choices we make each day. As we navigate a world filled with enticing distractions, we must guard our hearts and minds against falling prey to its empty promises. Let us remain vigilant in our commitment to prioritize our relationship with God above all else, recognizing that the pleasures and pursuits of this world pale in comparison to the eternal treasures found in Him. May we continually seek God's guidance and strength to overcome
Sermon Contributor Jeff Strite