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Love of the World

Another corruption of self-love.

Getting Love Right (6)

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world… 2 Timothy 4.9, 10

The idols of covetousness
The fear of God is the first affection that must be in place in a well-kept heart. Love, issuing from that fear, is the greatest affection, and it’s important that we work hard at getting love right. Because love involves self-love, it can easily become corrupted. So we need to be on guard against the various ways that self-love can undermine true love and compromise our effort to realize a strong soul.

The apostle Paul warned against covetousness, against desiring unlawfully things that might satisfy our self-love, but that undermine love for God (cf. Col. 3.5-7). Where covetousness rules our heart, we are in danger of coming under the judgment of God, which He uses to help us in getting love right in our souls.

Covetousness is the gateway to all sin, as we see in Adam and Eve, and in Satan’s attempts to use covetousness to derail Christ and His mission. Covetousness is an inordinate desire for things, which take the place of God as our source of fulfillment, satisfaction, delight, and joy. As we fear God, and study diligently to nurture love for Him in our hearts, we should be able, like Asaph (Ps. 73), to recognize when covetousness is seeking to assert itself within us. Then we must be quick to denounce the inclination to covet, and seek those ways of escape through temptation that will keep us focused on God, fearing His judgment, resting in His love for us, and trusting in the sufficiency of His provision in Jesus Christ.

Giving in to covetousness is merely another form of self-love gone awry. David coveted a little peace and quiet. Ananias and Sapphira coveted things and esteem. Peter coveted safety and peace. Each of them fell through the temptation of covetousness onto the slippery slope of unbridled self-love and sin.

Demas was different from them only in the thing that he coveted. His desire to gratify himself with worldly things and ways caused him to fail in his calling from the Lord, for he no longer believed in the sufficiency of God and His love to meet all his needs through His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4.19).

Love of the world
The Scriptures counsel against loving the world. We cannot love the world and love God at the same time (cf. Matt. 6.24; Jms. 4.4; 1 Jn. 2.15-17). Loving the world to satisfy the lusts of self-love will cause us to set love for God and neighbor aside, so that love for self can receive all our best attention.

So it was with Demas. We don’t know what form of world-love Demas fell prey to – whether the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 Jn. 2.16). It may have been some particular sin that he longed to indulge, or that he found the work of the Gospel too demanding, or perhaps desired a more regular income and the material pleasures it could afford. We don’t know. We do know that, whatever it was, Demas loved this present world more than the Kingdom which is coming in this world as it is in heaven by means of the love of God.

Demas’ love for the world led him to abandon Paul and his mission and return to the familiar and more agreeable confines of Thessalonica. Doing the work of the Gospel was not as satisfying to Demas as pursuing the pleasures of the world.

But where Demas abandoned the work of the Gospel, covetousness and love of the world keep many believers from entering that work in the first place. The comforts of life, the security of settled ways, the longing to be liked, and the desire for things keep many believers mired in unbridled self-love, so that they never seek their proper calling from God, to love Him and their neighbors as His witnesses.

Overcoming love of the world
It’s not that we may not love the world and enjoy its many benefits. After all, the goodness of the Lord is throughout all the earth (Ps. 33.5). We would be wretched churls if we did not seek out that goodness wherever in the world it might be found. God Himself loved the world so much that He gave His only-begotten Son for its redemption and restoration. God, Who owns and rules the world, is pleased to give us in the world many good blessings and wonderful gifts from the world. But He gives these to us as expressions of His love, so that we may receive them with love and use them in love as witnesses to God’s love in Jesus Christ.

We get in trouble when we allow the gifts of God to become idols, ultimate sources of our happiness, which we must possess more and more of to maintain wellbeing. We can recognize when love of the world is seeking to assert itself within us whenever we find ourselves thinking we simply must have something, or do something, or become something or else our happiness will not be complete. When things or conditions or agreeable situations come to fill our minds more than Jesus Christ and His love, self-love has become unhitched from its tethers, and we will soon be on our way to Thessalonica.

If acquiring and holding onto the world too much is an evil manifestation of self-love, then the remedy is to give away the world, and cling to Jesus (Rom. 12.21). It is better to give than to receive, as Jesus explained, because giving is a gesture of love which reflects the giving love of God (Acts 20.34, 35). Whatever in your life – or in your imagination – might distract you from loving God and your neighbor, you need to forfeit, relinquish, give away, or get it in right perspective, lest you, like Demas, find that your proper love for the world has been taken captive by corrupt self-love, and your well-kept heart is falling gradually into disarray.

If the world is too much with us, it will soon weigh us down and keep us from soaring in the love of God. Empty your hands of whatever in the world is keeping you from reaching up to God and being renewed in the sufficiency of Christ and His love; and do not let love of self, in the form of love of this present world, rob you of your true calling.

For reflection
1.  What forms does love of the world take in our day? What does loving the world too much do to our time for loving God and others?

2.  How can we train ourselves to find our sufficiency in Christ rather than in things or situations?

3.  How can you see that love of this present world is keeping many Christians from fulfilling their calling as witnesses for Christ?

Next steps – Conversation: How can we love the world as God intends, so that we use His gifts to get love right? Spend some time before the Lord meditating on this question. Let Him search your life as you do, to show you any places where you might be in danger of loving the world improperly.

Your soul in the Kingdom of God
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

Jesus has conveyed us into the Kingdom of God. It is in the context of seeking the Kingdom that we can grow strong souls. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you understand and begin making yourself more at home in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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