Yesterday we looked at the fact that God is light and at the contrast between light and dark. In today’s reading, John contrasts worldliness with godliness. 1 John 2:12 begins with an appeal to all members of the church. John addresses the Ephesian Christians as ‘little children’, ‘young men’ and ‘fathers’. The ‘little children’ could be an inclusive name for all or a reference to newer Christians, whilst ‘young men’ denotes those who are growing strong in Christ (God’s word abides in you- v14b) and ‘fathers’ those who have reached a level of spiritual maturity. In any church this is a healthy mix and the message that follows applies to all physical and spiritual age groups.
Don’t be seduced by the world! Verse 15 is a stark warning. ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ If we are preoccupied with gratifying our own desires, we are eliminating God from our thoughts. We can’t chase our own interests and pursue God in equal measure. Just as light and dark can’t co-exist, as we saw yesterday, so worldliness and godliness can’t live alongside one another. One must always take precedence over the other. If we love the world, we don’t love God. There is no grey area and no fence-sitting. It has to be one or the other.
Love is God’s domain and we were created to love Him and one another. The desires of the flesh (physical, sensual pleasures), the desires of the eyes (lust for everything we see, craving and accumulating things) and pride in possessions (obsession with our status or importance) from verse 16 are worldly affectations that subvert our love for God. They try to lure us away from our Father. These are the three areas in which both Eve and Christ were tempted. Eve succumbed which caused the fall and Jesus resisted to ultimately bring about restoration.
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have pleasurable experiences (otherwise why would he have invented chocolate?), possess nice things or do well in our careers, but our attitude to these things is all important. Do we rely on worldly offerings to fulfil us as people or is God sufficient for us? Is our identity in worldly things or in Christ?
Verse 17 says ‘And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever.’ What we accumulate in this world is transitory, but as we abide in Jesus, we will live forever. The next iPhone will become outdated soon enough but God’s love lasts eternally.
Some years ago, Christian Aid undertook a campaign with the tag line, ‘Live simply so others may simply live’, with the aim of encouraging us to cut down our consumerism and donate to those less well-off. This slogan is a good antidote to loving the world. It helps keep our focus on the godliness of living a simple life. God values the virtues of self-control, generosity and humility which counter the desires in verse 16 and inspire a Godly life.
On my walking holidays, with a very light backpack, a small budget and no pre-booked accommodation, I have experienced the joy, peace and freedom that comes with living a really pared-back life. Walking for six or seven hours a day, then sharing a hostel with people from all over the world, is a refreshing break from the pressures of normal daily life to conform and perform. Meeting people, where everyone is on a level playing field, (all tired, smelly and blistered!) and hearing their stories affords a real connection that is harder to make in our everyday lives, where people hide behind the screens of who they want to be, rather than who they are. Each time, it has struck me how good it is for the soul to live modestly. But isn’t it just the way of God, that when He gives us a directive about how we are to live in this world, it is not because it is good for Him but because it is good for us?