Why Lovers of God Won’t be Lovers of the World

These Loves are Incompatible

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

John sets out two loves: love of the world (hostile to God and determined to live without him) and love for God. To love one requires a buy-in and embracing of a set of values and perspectives that makes loving the other impossible. If I love God, then he is my ultimate and the goal of my life is to worship and please him. If I love the world, then the world is my ultimate and the goal of my life is to find my meaning and purpose in what this world has to offer.

It is impossible to love both. This is why loving the world is yet another test of genuine salvation because we cannot love God and love this world. Jesus said the same, “No one can serve two masters, for 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. (Matthew 6:24) He doesn’t say money and God are incompatible; it is the love of God and money that are fundamentally opposed to each other. You can’t love both.

It is like saying that I love cats and dogs. I love war and peace. I love Democrats and Republicans. I love the Sox and the Cubs. I love Ford and Chevy trucks. I love Socialism and Capitalism. I love the Bears and the Packers.

Everyone gets it. Do you get that we cannot love light and darkness; sin and righteousness; the values of Satan and the teachings of Jesus? God and sin. God and my possessions. God and the admiration of others. God and financial security. God and sex. We cannot love God and anything in this world that is not God.

When I say I love the Father but in my heart I am actually treasuring an entire system of values that hates God, my claims to love God ring hollow. They are empty. I can’t be genuinely saved without loving God and I cannot love God and love what hates God. I will either love one or the other but never both.

Let’s just pause for a moment. This is more than simply an interesting thought. John is stepping on our toes here in the wealthiest country in the history of the world and the wealthiest churches in the history of the world and the wealthiest Christians in the history of the world. Who do we really love? The answer to that is seen plainly in what we think about, where we put our money, and where our dreams and ambitions lead us.

Now don’t go taking deep breaths and straining to try and self-produce love for God so you go to heaven. This evidence, like the others we have seen, is a byproduct of God’s work in us. John will say this later and it answers the question, where does this fidelity and love for God as my ultimate come from?

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) This love for God doesn’t start with us; it starts with God. He opens the eyes of our hearts to know him through faith in his son Jesus. God’s love in us reciprocates with love from us to God.

We naturally love the world. Our flesh delights in it. We love to feel self-important based on our achievements in the world. Salvation changes our loves. God works in our hearts through regeneration so that we are born again. We come alive; alive to faith in Jesus. Alive to love from God. Alive with love for God.

For your encouragement, I received an email this week:

“Good morning Pastor Steve, I thought you might like to know about a gal in my Celebrate Recovery group. She has been trying to figure out a great many things in her life and felt like there were pieces of this puzzle that weren’t even on the table…until Sunday. She was sitting in the service and heard the simplicity of the gospel and it all finally made sense to her! She told me she started crying and told God that she was a sinner and believed that He had done all for her that He said He had done. She said she wasn’t sure what had happened but that she truly believed! As we talked about her coming to saving faith in Jesus, the light in her eyes shone so brightly! She is such a precious gal…Praising God big time!”

What happens when we experience salvation? Our eyes see through and past the temporary and fleeting trinkets in this world to eternal values and treasures. This life and the next life take on new meaning. In my heart, I exchange loves. My love and self-identity in this world are usurped by a new love for God. It is a revolution of the soul. A revolution begun by God.

Has that revolution happened in your heart? Do you love the world or the Father? From which are you finding meaning and identity? Which is the real passion and goal of your life?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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