Sermon preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church (actually, it was at Concord Community Park in Springville for our outdoor worship service!) for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost on July 24, 2011. Sermon Text: 1 John 2:15-17
As we were getting ready to try this outdoor worship service and picnic for another year, I really wanted the weather this year to be out of this world. In the past there have been some less-than-ideal weather situations for this service. I remember people with jackets on, huddling to stay warm and keep the sprinkles of rain from getting them too wet. I’ve heard that in some previous years there were loud crashes of thunder and storms during the service. And last year, though I was out of town, I heard that we didn’t even bother going to the park because of rain was so bad.
That’s why I (and I’m probably not the only one) wanted weather that was out of this world. Not too hot, not too cold. No rain. Some sunshine, maybe a nice breeze. I wanted it to be perfect. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if we got perfect today or not.
But having an outdoor service makes the first sentence in our text from 1 John today seem a little bit strange. Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1 Jn. 2:15) What!? How can someone not love the world? Look around at this world! Western New York is a beautiful area and it doesn’t take too much looking around to see plenty of things to love in this world. So how can the apostle John tell us, “Do not love the world”?
Then you think back to some words of Jesus that John wrote down for us in his gospel. And they make us wonder again. Jesus said, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16) God loved the world by sending his Son. Yet, we’re not supposed to love the world? Something seems wrong.
Well, here’s the thing: the Bible, even the same writer — in this case John — will sometimes use the same word in different ways. In our text for this morning, “world” does not mean the great outdoors or God’s creation. Here in this part of 1 John, “world” does not mean all the people in this world that God loved by sending his one and only Son. No, here, “world” means the sinful desires, the sinful thoughts, and the sinful actions that are found everywhere in our world.
The sins of this world — God says, “Don’t love those!” Don’t love sin! Instead, let your love be out of this world! Let your love focus your life and all you do on the God who loved you so much he died for you. Don’t hang on to the sins of this world which will someday disappear, look to God’s out-of-this-world love for you, and respond to it by loving him with all your heart.
You can get some of that feeling from our text when you hear the entire first verse. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 Jn. 2:15) The key part I want us to think about this verse right now is the second half. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” In other words, you can either love sin in this world, or you can love God. You cannot do both.
Now, maybe you’re thinking you would never love sin. Sure, we know we sin. Sure, we know we slip into temptation sometimes. But love sin? It seems like a bit much. After all, we know sin is wrong, and we don’t want to continue in it, and so we would never think sin is fun.
If that’s what you think, my answer is, “I don’t believe you!” Part of our sinful nature isn’t just that we sin, it’s not just that we have weaknesses, it’s that there’s a part of us that doesn’t sin, but that delights in sin, that revels in it. Part of us loves sin!
Let me give you an example. There are fresh baked cookies that have just come out of the oven. They are warm, they are gooey, and you just know they’d be delicious. But as a mom sets these cookies out for her kids, she tells them, “Don’t eat these cookies now! They are for after supper! Don’t eat them now.” Then she leaves. What do you think her kids want to do?
They want the cookies! They want to eat them, too many of them. They would love to eat them! They’re probably already dreaming of eating them. And if they did eat them, they would love every last bite of them. It might seem like a minor example, but that is loving sin. And if you don’t think you’ve ever done that, I don’t believe you.
Our text continues, 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. (1 Jn. 2:16) Here you see the dangers we face in this sinful world; they are literally all around us.
This verse mentions “the cravings of sinful man.” In other words, sins that human beings want to do. Just because it says cravings and just because I mentioned cookies does not mean these sins have to do with food. It’s simply anything sinful that we want to do.
You might know some sins that tempt you in this way. You know what your pet sins are, those things you know are wrong that you keep coming back to. When you go to those things, you’re not loving God; you’re loving sin.
Our text also mentions the “lust of his eyes.” This is talking about the sinful desire for things that we see. This is kind of like the kids looking at the forbidden cookies. This is like the warning Jesus made when he says that when a man looks at a woman lustfully he’s already committed adultery with her in his heart. The tough thing about these sins is that, unless we are blind, our eyes are bound to see all kinds of things. And who knows when one of them will ignite that sinful desire in our hearts.
Finally our text mentions “the boasting of what he has and does.” It mentions how our way of life can get in the way of our love for God. Again, we like our lives. We like our stuff — our possessions. We like to do the things we like to do whether it’s going to a park or swimming or watching TV or gardening. These things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. The problem is, we want to keep doing them, and we don’t want to be bothered with what God wants. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by following our Savior. This, despite the many fine things we may be doing, is one of the most dangerous examples of loving sin instead of loving God.
And the biggest problem is where it leads: it gets us nowhere. Listen to our text: The world and its desires pass away. (1 Jn. 2:17) We are on a sinking ship here. This world is dying. It might not look like it now. But everything about this world, every sin that we crave, every sin we are tempted to love, is eventually going to be destroyed. And if we continue in our sins, so will we. Our faith could die. Our souls could die.
And on our own that’s exactly what we could expect. But our God had love that was out of this world. He sent his Son. Jesus lived without ever once putting anything above his heavenly Father. Jesus was more than inconvenienced by this, he ended up being persecuted, tortured, and killed for following his heavenly Father’s will. Jesus love was so out of this world that he suffered hell for you. He died for you! Because he loves you.
And now, he’s forgiven you. Those sins, those sinful desires you have, those sinful thoughts, those things you would rather be doing instead of putting God first…Jesus has taken the punishment for those sins. He’s paid the price. He’s forgiven them. They’re gone. He has removed your guilt forever. You are his own dear child.
And friends, knowing that, how do we live? Do we continue in sins because we like them, because that’s what we always have done? No. We live and we love out of this world! We live for our Lord! We live so that everything can be for him, even as we do our jobs, love our families, and even pay our bills. We do everything for his glory, not to satisfy our own desires.
Because, even though this world is a sinking ship, God has already rescued us. He’s promised us a home out of this world and away from all sin and death forever. As our text says, The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 Jn. 2:17) We will live forever because Jesus fulfilled the will of God for us. He showed us the greatest love that has ever been. Let’s live that love right back — a love that is out of this world.