"First, there are 'the desires of the flesh'. The world John is commanding us not to love is the world where selfish craving is pursued and praised. John is not condemning pleasure; he is condemning a system that makes 'my pleasure' and not God's glory the chief pursuit of life. This was precisely Eve's downfall. She put her own desire above God's revealed will. The point is not that our bodies are evil or that sex is bad, because God gave us our bodies, made us sexual beings, and 'richly provides us with everything to enjoy' (1Tim 5:17). But when we make God's good gifts ends in themselves, we make our pleasure and satisfaction the goal of existence. In short, we make pleasure our God (2Tim 3:4). This is the world depicted in the TV 'Soaps', in teenage, and so-called 'adult' magazines. It is a world where God, his son and eternity are dismissed, and selfish desire is king. The reality, and tragedy, of course, is that when God, his Son and eternity are ignored selfish gratification leaves people unsatisfied and aching for more (Eccles 3:11). We are spiritual creatures and only the living God can satisfy our longing for life.

Second, there is 'the desires of the eyes.' John probably has in mind here our native fallen tendency to be beguiled by appearances: 'It looks good; it must therefore be good.' We live in a superficial age, an age where outward appearance and presentation matter more than substance. This was part of Adam and Eve's downfall too. God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). But when 'the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…she took of its fruit…' Gen 3:6. The world of advertising in particular is geared to seduce us through images that bypass our minds and beguile our eyes. John warns us to beware of this seduction. All that glitters is not gold!

Third, there is 'pride in possessions.' The world Christians are not to love is the world that makes a man's life to 'consist in the abundance of his possessions' Lk 12:15, that says 'I am what I am, not by the grace of God, but by my own achievements, and here they are.' Jesus himself counsels us not to 'lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal' but to lay up 'treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' Mt 5:19-21

It is possible that John is also thinking here of Gen 3. The word translated 'possessions,' can be translated 'life' (as in the AV). In the Garden, Eve saw 'that the tree was to be desired to make one wise' Gen 3:6. She was reaching out in her pride to take possession of what she thought would enrich her life. But what she thought would make her 'wise' brought her death.

Satan never wearies of tempting us to believe that life can be found outside God''s will and ways. It is little wonder that our Lord Jesus calls him 'a liar and the father of lies' and John describes him as 'the deceiver of the whole world' Rev 12:9. Satan was bold enough to try and tempt our Lord himself with these very temptations Mt 4:1-11, but to no avail.

One of sin's 'fingerprints' is its consuming passion to praise self. How rarely do we hear the greatly gifted acknowledging that every ability they possess is the gift of God's grace. Paul needed to ask the Christians in Corinth, 'What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1Cor 4:7. If self-praise is a mark of a fallen, God-denying world, it is a sin that needs constantly to be put do death in everyone who professes to belong to Jesus Christ Rom 8:13.

John is not content merely to tell us not to love the world; he gives us three compelling reasons why we should not love the world.

First, 'If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him' v 15. You cannot, whatever you may think, love God and the world at the same time Mt 5:24; James 4:4. The fundamental issue has to do with the first commandment Ex 20:3. God will brook no rivals, and especially rivals that deny and despise him. A man who truly loves his wife does not enjoy the company and promote the interests of anyone who despises her and treats her with contempt. Perhaps it would be good to pause here and ask yourself this question: 'Is God's love truly in me?' If it is, you will not love the world.

Second, 'The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." Robert Burns, in his poem Tam O'Shanter, captured precisely what John meant in the first part of verse 17:

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts for ever.

It is the essence of folly to love what is in the process of 'passing away' and heading for eternal oblivion.

Fading is the worldling's pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show.
Solid joys and lasting treasures
Non but Zion's children know.

John Newton,
Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken

Third 'but whoever does the will of God abides forever.' More positively, John highlights the glorious future that lies before 'whoever' makes God's will and not the world's ways the object of their desire. To abide forever, is to live in unending communion with God in the glory of his nearer presence Jn 17:3.

Once again God's Word confronts us with two ways to live. There is a broad way, apparently spacious and inviting, but that leads to destruction. And there is a narrow way, apparently hard and uninviting, but that leads to life Ps 1; Mt 7:13-14. John is warning his readers to choose the narrow way that leads to life."—Ian Hamilton, 'Let's Study: The Letters of John'


The Chestnut Mare
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.
- - - -JRR Tolkien "Lord of the Rings"