Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17
We are to live in the world but not to let the world live in us. We Christians are like corked-up bottles tossed in the ocean, and to stay afloat in Christ we must be sure that the world stays out of our hearts.
Of course the challenge is just this: the world is already inside us, because formerly we were part of the world system and have its thoughts already rumbling through our minds. And we also have this old sinful nature within us that cannot be changed. In Christ we are given a new nature but the old still remains as long as we are on this earth. No matter how long we have been saved, we cannot erase the influence of the world from our thoughts.
But John is writing about our affections here, that we are not to let the love for the world or the things of the world, specifically the lust for things we have not and unholy pride in what we do have, rule our hearts. He is not referring to the love of the created order as the work of God, or the love for the people whom God Himself loves, rather he limits himself here to the love for the things of the world that are away from Christ. This does not rule out the possession of goods and the achievements in our lives, so long as we have put God first and not let these dominate our hearts.
David Brainerd (1718-1747) was an American missionary to the American Indians and a young man who surrendered his life to the Lord. He did live to reach his 30th birthday but kept a daily diary to chart his spiritual journey. His diary has touched people through the years since it was first published. In it he wrote, “If you hope for happiness in the world, hope for it from God, and not from the world.” This is the sentiment that John is expressing.
The surprising thing is that the one who puts God first enjoys all things. He finds the truth Paul wrote of,
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
1 Corinthians 3:18-23
We take real pleasure in things only when God is first in our hearts. In Christ, all things are ours and we enjoy all things. All that we are we attribute to the grace of God and all that we have we surrender to Him. Let His love be your chief joy and you will find, as Christ said, “and all these things shall be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).
It could be that you have some personal items that you hold too dearly to your heart, that has resulted in your enslavement to these things, and you need to pray to God that you can release them into His hands. Only when we have put all we own into God’s hands are we really free to enjoy any of it.
Lord, You are our chief joy and delight and You have made us for Yourself. Forgive us when we have gotten caught up in the values of the world. Let find our joy and fulfillment in You and in Your graces. Amen.