Because everything that belongs to the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle – is not from the Father, but is of the world.
1 John 2:15b-16
Desire unfulfilled dominates the world’s affections. It leads us to idealize having more and to vaunt ourselves over those who have less. In the marring of the original image of God we have been left foundationless yet pushed along by a desire to build our lives like tall and impressive structures.
The lust of the flesh is that which feeds our appetites, which feels good to our senses. These are senses, however, that are un-surrendered to God, and as such are never truly fulfilled. Solomon called this like chasing after the wind and feeding on it. The lust of the eyes is that which we find attractive, pleasing in appearance, and beautiful. It is a nobler malady, but a malady nonetheless. The pride in one’s lifestyle is the heart that has deceived itself as to its own importance.
John has actually drawn an inclusive circle around all the people in every society. In Greek culture you could spot those overwhelmed by the lust of the flesh. They would be among the prostitutes, drunkards, gluttons, and idlers. Those dominated by the lust of the eyes, however, would appear to have more disciplined lives and might be focused on the arts or architecture. It is not that these things are bad in themselves, no more than is food that should be enjoyed (1 Tim. 4:3-5). The matter is one of worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. The leaders of the society, however, the most respectable among them, could be dominated by pride.
But these three matters go to the heart of each of us for they are things we each must deal with and we have each witnessed a leader among us filled with pride getting cut down for underestimating the power of a lust-based temptation.
We must keep these drives in check but the solution is not mere moderation for moderation’s sake alone. The secret to fulfillment in life is more than just controlling our baser desires, like penning in the wild dogs of our souls. If that is all we can think to do sooner or later one, if not more, will leap over the fence. It will do so at first in private so no one will see, we think, but eventually we will find that we are dominated by these things. There is more to life than keeping our desires in check.
The secret to fulfillment is relationship with God where the real needs of the human heart are met, where a foundation for real life is built. Then every appetite, every thought of beauty, and every accomplishment is surrendered to Him. He is the Bread of Life to our souls, the face in whom we see the Father, and the One who lives and reigns forever. “Lord, who will we go to?” asked Peter of Christ, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68)
Lord, let us not be dominated by unquenched desires. Let our hearts be captured by You, our wills surrendered to You, and our lives lived in Your presence. Amen.