The past few months our international Bible study has been working through the book of 1 John. I was particularly challenged as we reflected upon these verses chapter 2:
15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
John warns us that what we most love and desire will influence our present and shape our future. Are your desires set on the things you find in this world or on the greatest thing that stands behind and outside it? John is using the term world (gr: kosmos), not in reference to people or to the creation itself, but in terms of a system that is under the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Under his reign we are captive to the impulses of our flesh, the allure of our eyes, and the promise of power and fame within his realm. It’s a reminder for us that there is a real demonic presence in the systems of this world. People are not as free as they think.
So what’s the solution to our problem of desire? Is it a form of Buddhist doctrine, the need to empty ourselves of any and all desire, to detach ourselves from the things of this earth? Not for John. He offers a better solution. The solution is not to empty ourselves of desire, but rather to heighten it to a better one, one that finds its source and aim in something beyond this world. This world is passing away along with its desires (verse 17). But. There’s the link. There’s something greater to set our passions upon. It’s doing the will of God (a word which is sometimes translated as desire). God’s will (his desire) isn’t an abstract reference to something that is beyond our reach. John tells us that the will of God is something we can do. When we set our passions and desires upon God, our present is transformed and our future becomes glorious.
How can God’s desire become our desire? Another way to ask this question, how can we overcome this world and align ourselves with a better one? John tells us: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). Being born of God through faith joins us to Christ, who conquered sin, Satan, and death, and makes us conquerors and overcomers of this world.
The wonder of the gospel is a realigning of desire. When our desire aligns with God’s desire, we have overcome the world and are on the path of eternity. Augustine said of 1 John 2:17, “Hold fast to Christ. For you he became temporal, so that you might partake of eternity” (quoted in the ESV Study Bible). Which would you rather partake of: a temporal world that is passing away or an eternity with the God of light and love? To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, why waste our time with mud pies in the slum when we can have a wonderful holiday at the sea?
Here’s the warning and rebuke for us: “The world is passing away along with its desires.” But here’s the good news: “Whoever does the will of God abides forever.”