1 John 2:12-14 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
We all like a word of encouragement – an affirmation that we’re on the right track and our efforts are paying off. That’s what John does here in these first 3 verses of our passage. He addresses 3 groups twice each. The 3 groups are not categories of chronological age, but spiritual development.
The first word of encouragement may actually be to the whole of his listeners. He uses a term (teknia – “little children”) that he uses 8 times in this one letter to address everyone – “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” What is basic to being a Christian, what is the one thing that binds us all together? We are forgiven. We are sinners who deserved condemnation and punishment, but who by the grace of God have had our sins wiped away by the sacrifice of his only Son upon the cross.
He will address children again in vs. 13, but this time he uses a different word (paidia – “newborns”). And what is characteristic of a newborn? He is focused on a person – his mother, his father. The first words he learns – mama, dada. It’s the same with spiritual newborns – they may not know much, but they know their father – “Abba.” John writes, “I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.” (Lit. “have come to know the Father”) There is the delight of that new relationship, of falling in love with God – let’s never lose that. Let’s never become so sophisticated or full of ourselves that we lose sight of how important that relationship is and how delightful it is to love God.
In vs. 13 and again in vs. 14, he writes to the spiritually mature – he calls them “fathers” – not being exclusive in reference to males, but speaking to those, who by years of faithfulness and experience, have come to a maturity that deserves respect. What does he say about them? “I write to you fathers because you have known him who was from the beginning.” That relationship gains perspective with experience. It centers not just on you and what God is doing with you, but sees God in the big picture – God who has always been, God who was at work long before I arrived, God who continues to work even when I can’t see the results, God who may answer my prayers, not in my lifetime, but in the generations of my children and grandchildren long after I have died.
In between newborns and the mature in the faith, John writes to those who are in the thick of it – not babes in Christ, but not yet to maturity. He calls them “young men” (again, not gender exclusive) and he addresses them twice, first briefly, then more fully – “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” One of the great words of courage in the NT is “victory” – the promise of winning the battle. Paul cries out, “but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In ch. 5, John says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” The churches in Asia were locked in a deadly battle for their spiritual lives and Jesus sent 7 letters to the churches and to each of them he promised, “To him who overcomes…” We are not defeated by Satan, but we cannot beat him on our own. John says, “You are strong” – what makes them strong? “The word of God lives in you.” There is no greater weapon you can have in your fight against Satan than to be armed with the word of God written on your heart. The Psalmist writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word… I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9,ll). That’s when the word becomes powerful – when we take it off the page and plant it in our hearts and apply it in our lives.
Where are you in your spiritual development? A newborn, learning to fall in love with God; a seasoned veteran, who through years of experience has a deep and abiding sense of God’s presence; or a soldier on the front line doing battle, who is learning that his strength comes from God? John says, hang in there, don’t give up, God is on your side.
Where is the front line of this spiritual battle? That’s where John takes us next – vss. 15-16 “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.” It is a battle for our hearts, our loyalty, our love. The operative question is, “Who owns you?”
Mt 6:21 – “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”
Mt 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money.”
Rom 6:16 – “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey –whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness.”
[Remove words – picture only] John says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” We’re going to have to wrestle with this a little bit, because when we use that word “world” it has a number of different meanings and it can really cause us concern – a bit like Jesus telling us to “hate your father and mother and wife and children” – what is he talking about? Shouldn’t we love the world?
• After all, God loves the world – John told us in his Gospel that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (3:16).
• In this letter of 1 John – 4:9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. ; 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
• Nevertheless, we are reminded again and again that the world stands against God and against his people. John, in his Gospel says, “He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (1:10). In John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Three times in John’s Gospel, Satan is referred to as “the prince of this world.” In 1Jn 5:19, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” He is a controlling force, he is the one who sets the world in conflict with God.
This is an adversarial relationship – the world is ruled by different values, morals, principles, agenda. It takes its direction, not from God, but from Satan. And like the Israelites of old, when we settle in and start feeling at home in the world, we start adopting its values and morals, we compromise our principles, we start living by its agenda.
John says bluntly, “if you love the world, you cannot love the Father.” If you feel at home, if you are comfortable with the world, you are out of touch with God. Does that mean we can’t enjoy life? Does that mean we should isolate ourselves and deny ourselves the pleasures which are God-created? No – in fact, Paul, in response to those who adopted that kind of ascetic lifestyle – whose motto was “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” – those who say deny yourself everything – Paul wrote: For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:4-5) God did not create an evil world, but Satan has a way of twisting the good things God created and making them into traps and snares to destroy us. So, we need to be acutely aware that everything in this world is temporary – how easily our hearts can be seduced – how easily Satan can deceive us into thinking this world is our home. Let’s not kid ourselves – it happens to us, and it happens so subtly and imperceptibly that we don’t even recognize it.
John doesn’t leave this ambiguous and general – he nails us between the eyes in 3 different areas – “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.” These are the essential marks of the worldly way of life.
• The cravings of sinful man (lit- “lust of the flesh”) – John is talking about that driving force inside of us which declares its independence from God. It is self-sufficiency, it is dependence upon MY abilities and MY resources. It is the neglect of the spiritual and the focus on physical and financial and external needs which consume us.
• The lust of his eyes – This can certainly refer to sexual lust, which brings its own devastating consequences – but it is really a much broader meaning. John is talking about everything that seduces my senses. It is that desire for things that appeal to the eyes. It is when we are greedy and covetous of things that would make us look good. It is when we make superficial judgments on others on the basis of what is external and visible, and surround ourselves with things that we think will make others think highly of us. It is the desire for more and more and more. And folks, we live in a world that has gone absolutely crazy with this kind of desire. The world has convinced us that we can’t be happy and fulfilled without more and bigger and better. And it is a lie.
• Finally, the boasting of what he has and does (lit. “the pride of life”) – This characteristic follows naturally on the heels of the first two. When we are driven by the desires of the flesh and the eyes, we will take pride in what we have and what we do. The pride of life is holding ourselves up for others to admire because of our position, or our possessions, or where we live, or what we drive, or what we wear. It is thinking that a person is better because they wear designer clothes instead of a Wal-Mart brand, it is looking down on others because they don’t hang out with the “right” people. It is being arrogant and thinking we’re better than others based on superficial things.
Let me tell you what John says about all those things: “The world and its desires pass away.” They are temporary, their importance is overplayed, they will not bring happiness. They are addictive because they cannot fulfill, but make you think that just a little bit more will. And if you put your trust in them, you are holding hands with the world, and your trust is misplaced. You’ve settled for a straw hut, when God wants you to have a mansion. You’ve been scammed into believing that this world is all there is, when God says, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The world’s focus is on here and now. God’s focus is on heaven for all eternity.
This world is not your home – don’t settle for bargain basement junk when God offers you the riches of heaven. He brings these 3 powerful warnings to a close by reminding us that “the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
The point is not to make you feel bad, but to change how you live.
C.S. Lewis wrote this: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” He continued, “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in, aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Posted on Sun, October 2, 2011
by John Roberts