“Money, Sex & Power”

  Our Sermon text this morning is 1 John 2:15-17. 
Imagine reading the Bible like a gold mine. You read it with your pickax, searching for some truth that will give you happiness, more desirable than gold. If you imagine the Scriptures like that. How do you know when the next mother-load is? How odo you know that these is a good paragraph to meditate on and plunk away at to really understand what it means? Well, one of the things to look out for is apparent contradictions in the Bible. When it seems like the Bible is saying both A and ~A. This is one of those verses. We just saw two weeks ago that John commands us to love our fellow man. And we all know the famous verses in John 3:16, for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotton son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. So God loves the world, we are to love the world too, but this verse bluntly says, “Do not love the world.” At this point, we can either reject the Scriptures as being contradictory or see that in one way we need to love the world, but in a different way we are not supposed to love to world. And that’s what God wants to teach us this morning. That Christians are not to love the world, in that our greatest desires are things of this world, but that we are to enjoy the things of this world for God’s sake, not for our own. And we’ll do so in three steps. First, we have to define our terms. What is the world, and these things in the world. Next, what are the reasons why John commands us not to love it. And third, what is the will of God for us instead. So first, what is the world. When the Biblical authors use the word “world,” they can mean a couple different things. They can mean the whole created physical universe, like when it says that God created the whole world. Or it could mean all of humanity, like in John 3:16, that God offers salvation to all of mankind, to any who believes him, trusts him, loves him, and thus obeys him, regardless of their past, who they are or what they’ve done. But it can also refer to the world as sinful human culture, think of this like sinful worldviews or sinful world systems. Like how Satan is called the ruler of this world. In John’s writings, he depicts the world in this regard like so. The world is sinful human culture. The world cannot know God nor Christians. It cannot help hating Christ and Christians, nor help loving others who are in the world. The world lies in the power of the evil one. The works of the world are only and always evil. Life in the world must be lost in order to attain eternal life. The world cannot receive, see, or know the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus has already overcome the world and cast out the ruler of the world. Think of this victory like the vaccine to a disease. The creation of the cure overcomes the disease, but that doesn’t mean that the disease has been eliminated yet. However, there are real pockets of people who have been inoculated and have escaped the dominion of the world. The world cannot help but listen to the worldly false teachers, because they belong to the same kingdom. We are not of the world, but still in the world. Jesus prayed that God not take us out of the world, but to keep us from the evil one. Still we are called to go into the world as Jesus went into the world, expecting to be treated the same way Jesus was, because God loves the world, and we ought to love them in this way too. So when we read world we think of sinful human culture. And it makes sense then why we ought not to love this, because it is the world that is pumping out an ungodly message in every media channel that commends us to treasure other things more that God. So then what are the things of the world? The Bible calls them the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life. The desire of the flesh is the cravings our body experience for physicall things. The craving for food and drink, for finely tasting food. For sleep, and comfort, and security, and warmth. And perhaps cheif over them all the sexual yearning our bodies experience. The desires of the eyes then would be the yearning for things that we want for ourselves. Things we seen are covet after. Be it possessions or vacations, house improvements or new cars. Gadgets and apps and the latest iPhone, or the trendiest clothing. In short, it is the things that our money can buy for ourselves. The last one, the pride of life, in order to understand it, we really ought to translate it pride of one’s possessions. In Greek there are two words for life, Bios and Zoe. All throughout John’s writings, he always uses Zoe. But here, he used the word Bios, and there is only one other time he used that word in all his writings, and that is in the next chapter, when in 3:17, he says, “But if anyone has the world’s BIOS and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Your translation probably has the world’s goods, instead of saying the life of the world. But the idea here is the things of the world that give us life. So, we can translate pride of life as pride of our possessions. Or the arrogence that comes from the abilities our possessions give us. The smugness and lack of need we feel when we can enact anything we desire because of the things we possess. In short, this has a lot to say about Power. Now, if you put these three things together. What John is cautioning us against is loving money, sex, and power. It’s no wonder why we lump these three things together. John did way back in the first century when he wrote this letter. So God is cautioning us against loving the world, the way the world does things, the general mindset and value system of the world, the direction and attitude of the world. And specifically he cautions us against the world’s values and loves of money, sex, and power. Paul says that the love of money has cause some to make shipwreck of their faith. We don’t need to go very far to read of church leader after church leader that ruined his ministry in pursuit of a romantic affair with another woman. So are stories of those in positions of authoriy abusing their power far too common. I would venture to say that the reason why anybody chooses to not follow Jesus or to abandon him once doing so is because of one of these three temptations. So why does John warn us not to love them? We’ll start at the last one first. In verse 17, it says that the world is passing awayalong with its desires. No body purposely bets on the loser. Nobody would want to go back in time in order to ride on the Titanic. Nobody is going to knowingly invest in a pyramid scheme. The reason why is become we know the end of these. The loser gets no prize. The Titanic sunk. You never get your money back in a pyramid scheme. In the same way, the false promises that money, sex, and power make to us will always ultimately leave you unsatisfied. I want to take a moment and direcly address the children with us. Kids, especially those who are teenagers or who are going to be a teenager soon. The world is trying desperately to get you to believe that you will find your greatest happiness in these things. The world will tell you that you need these certain shoes or clothes in order to be cool. That you need a certain type of car, that you need to walk in this certain way, do you hair just so, have make-up, have certain brands of products. And that if you don’t have it, you are less valuable. You will want to be cool and be with the cool kids. You will like the way that they stand up against teachers and seemingly get away with it. You’ll be tempted to do the same, to not do your homework and complain at the very mention of work. You’ll think that if you get into fights and show how tough you are that it will somehow make you more of a man, when it actually doesn’t the exact opposite to you. They will tell you that you are missing out if you do not have sex, that you are a prude or unmanly if you don’t, that it is expected that you should have sex by a certain age or by a certain number of dates. That it is normal and even healthy to gratify these desires. These are all lies. You can ask anybody here and they will tell you the same thing. We can all tell you of our own failures in these regards and how they ended up causing us more pain and misery than the pleasures they promised. These desires are passing away, meaning that the so-called joy that they promise is incredibly temporarry and they bid you to go to them more and more in order to create the same level of happiness that they once gave. You see, the devil gets you to think that you are using them in order to help yourself, when in fac they are using you to serve themselves. But it not only says that the desires are fading away, it also says that the world is passing away. These are the things for which the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobediance.  God opposes the proud. The sexually immoral will be thrown into the lake of fire. You cannot serve both God and money. But why is it that these things are so powerful and hold so much sway? Let’s circle back to verse 15. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Loving money, physical pleausres, and power is anitthetical to loving God. Everybody worships something. Everybody loves certain things. We can’t help it. We were made to worship. And we as a human race rebeled against God refusing to worship him, and so we turn to worship created things instead, be it ourselves, our lovers, our pleasures, or our possessions. The reason why these are so deadly, (in fact, you could categorize the seven deadly sins into these three categories. The desires of the flesh including gluttony, sloth, and lust. The desires of the eyes including covetiousness and envy. And the pride of life including pride and wrath.) the reason why these are so deadly, is that our heart can only have one greatest love. Only one driver in the center of the truck of our heart. And if we love anything else besides God, there just isn’t enough room in our heart for him. Now, we have to watch ourselves, because we can easy think that the problem in the world is that money and sex and power exist. This is not what the Bible is teaching. The Bible is teaching the problem is the lustful craving for sex, the greedy love of money, and the prideful boasting of power that’s the problems. Look at how the last verse puts it. “But whoever does the will of God abides forever.” The alternative to loving the world, is not just loving God, but also doing the will of God. We have been seeing in 1 John that if you love God, you must also keep his commandments. So to see the two of these here is exactly wha we would expect. That love for God is demonstrated through obediance towards God. But here is the thing I want to note. What is it that God commands concerning money, sex, and power. It is not only restrictions. It’s not like God is a cosmic kill-joy who is looking around for someone who is having fun and telling them to stop it. It’s exactly the oppostie, really. For the Bible is one of the only major religions in the world that thoroughly approaves of this world. You can’t read the Song of Songs without coming away from it but seeing that the Bible deeply cherishes human sexuality and approaves of it, not just for procreation, but for the pleasure in it. There is no mention of children in the whole book. And to dismiss it as merely a metaphor for the love between Christ and the Church is to not see the obvious meaning of every page. It is good and right for a wife to cherish her husband physically and sexually. There is nothing shameful about it. So also, men are even commanded in the Proverbs to be drunk with love at all times with your wife’s body. And as something as a tangent, women, never feel like your body is not beautiful enough. That verse implies that God has given a beauty to each woman to the extent that will cause her husband to be infatated. If anything, the fact that it is commanded towards men shows that the problem is not with the wife’s body, but with the husband’s mind. The Bible thoroughly approaves of sex. So also, you cannot help reading about David or Solomon or Abraham and not see that God thoroughally approaves of wealth and power. These individuals were some of the richest and most powerful in their day. It’s not money we are commanded against, but the love of money is the root of all sorts of evils. It’s not richest, but those who desire to be rich pierce themselves with many pangs. The Scriptures also tell us that if any can aleviate themselves of their low poverty, like being a slave, they should take advantage of that occassion, but here’s the key, not so that one can have less suffering, but so that one can serve the Lord more. Money, sex, and power have been around since the beginning of the creation prior to the Fall. God created them male and female, and you can see the romantic love in mankind’s first recorded words, his poem to Eve. In Genesis 2, Moses notes about how there was gold in Eden and that the gold was good. And when God gave the command to cultivate the earth, he said that man was to govern it and rule it and put it into submission. There, he approaved of all three of these. Again in 1 Timothy 4, Paul says that  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. This to show that no food is intrinstically bad. No physical pleasure is intrinsically wrong or dirty. God created these to be enjoyed by believers, by those who believe and know the truth. But my favorite verse to go to to show the intrinsic goodness of the created world is the fact that our God who is perfect in holiness took on a body, sealing God’s approval of the physical world. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So, the problem is that that money, sex, and power exist in the world, but that they are craved after and lustfully desired, and arrogently and selfishly used. The alternative is not to call them bad, but to use them for God’s sake. So, if I were to say it in a word, instead of loving money, sex, and power, we are to love God with money, sex, and power. Every physical pleasure needs to be for the Christian an occassion to praise God more. Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God. Every pay check is not for your self, but you are a steward of it, under God’s direction to use it to advance his kingdom. All positions of authority are servants of God to do his will. The key in it all is that we ought to want these things, not for our own sake. Not to have great experiences, to save for amazing vacations, to get your way. But as opportunities to show that God is better than them. When they are taken away, your joy is not shriveled, because that is not where your treasure is. When they abound, this doesn’t make you happier, because that’s not where your treasure is. You use them to make much of Christ, not to go out for a steak dinner every Saturday night. You celebrate them because they show you how wonderful our God is who made them all. This is how Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 7.29-31, ” This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” We must live, yes enjoying them, but not needing them. Stewarding them, but as if it we didn’t have them. Treating them for what they are temporary. Our body will fade and rot. Our bank account when we are in the grave will be zero. All our influence and power will not be able to do anything for us after we are dead. You can really see this in your prayer life. Why do you pray for good health? Why do you pray for financial security? Why do you pray for the fulfillment of your plans and desired outcomes? Is it as James says to spend it on your passions? His word to us at those times is “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is ementy towards God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy with God.” Is it just for the aveviation of your suffering? This is not the way the Bible exemplifies prayer. Prayer in the Scriptures is not an intercom in the house asking him to bring you toast because you don’t want to get out of the warm bed. Prayer is the war-time walkie-talkie pleading with God to send air support so that the forces of evil will not advance. If you love the things of the world, the lvove of the Father is not in you. Love for Father results in loving the things of the world for God’s sake. Loving them for your sake evidences that you do not love for the Father. God demands that he alone be the center of the solar system of your life and that all these various planets of money, sex, power, family, career, hobbies, comfort, control, stability, friendships, all the different planets that make up our life orbit around his supremem worth. If we focus our life on anything else, it would be like making one of these planets the center of the solar system, the other planents would collide into each other and everyhting would fall apart. Only God has the value and worth and weight to make a life work when centered around him. Anything else will cause trainwrecks in your life. You must love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength and love everything else for his sake. In hearing this, I suppose you may be thinking. Boy, I sure don’t love God like that. To be honest, I enjoy sports way more than going to church. I don’t give God  a second thought throughout my week. If I’m going to wake up early, it’s in order to cook a special breakfast, not to spend an extra hour reading the Bible and in prayer. And I confess along with you, I see that in my heart some days. If this describes you this morning, there is either one of two possibilities. The first is that perhaps you have never been born again. The fundamental change that happens at conversion is the dawning of a love for God in the heart. That the light shines in, the darkness is beginning to dispel, and you see for the first time the beauty of God in Jesus Christ, that you are utterly wattoned and wretched without him, that everything else tastes like gravel if you don’t have him, and that you see all that he has done for you, and you run to him and embrace him, and yearn for more of him. Oh to be told the age-old story again and again. Before conversion, no onee loves God. “In the last days, the love of many will grow cold. They will be lovers of pleasure, lovers of self rather han lovers of God.” “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if any seek or understand. They have all turned aside together owards abominations. Yes, every single one is corrupt.” After conversion, God is the only thing one loves. Your heart cries with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” “I say you are my Lord I have no good apart from you.” “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul panth after thee.” “Better is one day in your dourts than a thousand elsewhere.” And everything else is an avenue or a spillover of love for God. Jesus says, no one can come after me unless he hates his father and mother and wife and children and brother and sister and yes, even his own life. God will have no rivals. God will allow no suitors alongside of him. So, the Christian loves his family, because he loves God. He loves them not in addition to loving God, but as an extension of his love for God. He enjoys them as gifts from the Lord, in gratitude, in service, in being sacrificial, in being devistated by the grace shown to him that his heart bubbles over in grace towards his wife and children. We all know the difference in a child that loves a toy because he or she is craving after it or because grandma gave it to them. God sees through us. He knows when we are just after his gifts or when we are wanting more of him in his gifts. And this is why Paul ends his first letter to the Corinthians this way: If anyone does not have love for Christ, let him be accursed. In other words, he is saying to the heart that does not have love for God in the driver seat of his life, influencing all his decisions, on the final day, God will give you want you want, he’;; ask you to pull over, he’ll step out of the car and you’ll drive deeper and deeper into outer darkness. Heaven will only be heaven to those whose first and only love is the Lord’s. To all else, it will be a Hell. And an easy test to see if this describes you is to ask yourself would you be happy if when you got to heaven, you were reunited with all your loved ones, all pain and suffering was taken away, you were given everything you wanted, but God was not there. If that describes you, I plead with you, to taste and see that the Lord is good, that the joys and pleasures you are seeking after are like mudpies compared to the fullness of joy that lasts forever at God’s right hand. The Scriptures says that you will find me if you seek after me with all your heart.” So utilize all the resources available to you to know the Lord, not just intellectually, but with your heart. Read the Scriptures, probe their depths, discover what is it about him that is so lovely and admirable and delightful. See his grace towards the children of Israel again and again in the Old Testament. See the lamb-like tenderness and lion-hearted toughness of our Lord in the Gospels as he does all things well. See his justice in the Revelation, behold his order and fairness and mercy inside of the Law. See his salvation that he brings to David and his descendents in the Kingdoms. The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and trangression and sins, yet who will by no means clear the guilty and leave them unpunished, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the child and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation. Get lost in his complexity, perfectly executing love and wrath, long-suffering and perfectly timely in his judgements, heaven, even the highest of heavens cannot contain him, and yet he makes his abode in the heart of the contrite and humble. Truly there is no greater joy that joy in God. This is what the Lord prayed for when Jesus asked that the very joy he has in the Father might be in us. The other option is that you truly are a Christian, but your heart has grown cold. You have become like the church in Ephesus whose heart is unmoved by the things of God. You have all the right answers, are doing generally what is expected of you, but you are just not feeling it. The same remedy of awakening spiritual life for the first time is the same remedy to reawaken spiritual life for the rest of us. We need to continually behold the glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Every Lord’s Day ought to be a revival of sorts, when our affections for the Lord are brought higher than e’er before, with fresh zeal and humility to live for him. And I’ll end with this final thought. These verses end by saying “But whoever does the will of God abides forever.” I was wondering why John uses the word “abide” and not just “live.” And I think it is to remind us that God saves us not just to exist for all time, but to be in fellowship with him forever. God invites you this morning to start eternal life today, in abiding with him. This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.” Let’s pray.  

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