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Kingdom Conflict

Why does John speak so negatively of the world?

“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.” (1 John 2:15, NKJV) 

“This is My Father’s World” (Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901) is a hymn that resonates with the soul of the believer. It engages our senses to behold the wonders of creation, to listen to sounds of nature, to revel in the ordering of life, and to render to our God glory as Creator and Redeemer. 

Why then does John speak so negatively of the world? “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” (1 John 2:15). 

There are those who look at the world and don’t see it as God’s world. They see evidence of His presence and power, but in their unrighteousness they suppress the truth of a Creator, designer, and sustainer. In their rebellion, they worship and serve what is created. 

John, however, has something even more basic in mind when he speaks of world. He is talking about a kingdom in rebellion against God, a kingdom ruled by sin and Satan. Later John will assert that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). 

In his Gospel account, John records the prayer of Jesus to the Father whose world this is: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). 

By world, John is speaking of a fallen kingdom beset by sin, characterized by rebellion, and destined to be destroyed. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). As Christians, we are in the world but not of it. We have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and death, and we serve our Lord Jesus in this world, praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

What are these lusts of which John speaks that are associated with this fallen world? John lays them out for us. “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). 

To lust is to be desire-driven rather than commandment-driven. It is to make ourselves the arbiter of good and evil rather than submit ourselves to God in the power of the Spirit. Driven by the lusts of the flesh, we engage in depravity and sensuality. Driven by the lust of the eyes, we crave and covet what the world offers and values. Driven by the pride of life, we exalt ourselves and seek first our own glory and righteousness. We want people to know our name. 

How will we live in this world if the love of the Father is in us?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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