Sermon on Mai 29, 2022
Andreas Latossek, Kirche am Bahnhof
Real or Fake – Touchstone 3: Love of the world or love of God
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
1st John, this morning part 5 and thus the penultimate sermon in this series Real or fake –
The right foundation of faith.
John writes his letter to believers in Ephesus who have been completely confused by false teachings and teachers.
In the last few weeks we have first dealt with the content of the faith, with the teaching. Then we saw:
It’s not just about agreeing or rejecting a teaching, but because we are following a person, Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, that faith has practical effects in life and people can be recognized by it.
People who follow Jesus, with all their faults and weaknesses, trust Jesus, live in close connection with him, are thus changed from within, listen to him and do what he says.
And that’s why we looked at two touchstones that we can use to check people’s lives, but we can also ask ourselves: are we on the right path.
The first touchstone was dealing with sin and obedience
Because God is light, we should also live in the light, and anyone who trusts God takes him seriously and listens to him.
This does not mean that we can live sinless, but it shows if we take God seriously and if we are guilty, we can always go to Jesus, confess our guilt and repent and he will forgive and cleanse us.
Last week it was about the fact that God loves us so much that we also love our neighbor
Because God lives in us with his love, we can choose to love our neighbor and have the ability to do the same with our words and our deeds.
And today it’s about touchstone 3 and the question: Love of the world or love of God?
Love not the world nor what belongs to it! When one loves the world, love for the father has no place in life. For all that is in the world, the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world. And the world with its lusts perishes; but if you do what God wants, you will live forever.
Does not love the world and what belongs to it.
I don’t know about you when you hear this. But I like to live, even if things aren’t always nice and easy. I enjoy enjoying fine food, the outdoors, spending time with family and friends, playing board games, cycling. And now I’m not supposed to love that?
There is another similar passage in James 4:4:
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?
That sounds like a pretty life-negating image that John conveys to us.
And that’s how some Christians understood it, life of faith happens best outside of this world.
Very early on, so-called hermits began to live their faith in complete solitude. From this, monastic forms of life developed, where people said that it was only possible for them to really live their faith.
This is certainly justified, especially in our noisy and fast-paced world. And sometimes we have the feeling: The really pious ones are the ones who stay away from everything and just the whole day
Read the Bible and pray
How is what John writes here to be understood?
Doesn’t love the world? And how does that fit with God’s promise of life in abundance?
Therefore, first of all, what Johannes does not mean.
1. What does love of the world not mean
In doing so, it is important that we do not simply take a passage from the Bible out of context, but look at what is directly related and what is in the Bible when we look at it as a whole.
In his gospel, John chapter 3:16 writes:
God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This is the same word that John uses here, but it has different meanings. We know this from other languages we learn where a word has multiple meanings.
The last two weeks have been about this great love of God and we have seen that the world at this point means us humans.
That God loves us so much. And that we should therefore also love our fellow human beings. So that cannot be what is meant if we are not to love the world.
God created this world.
He places man in a garden. And he thinks about a variety of plants, animals, colors of fruits that taste so different and so delicious. That’s really fun. It’s not just gray in grey, but not just one fruit is enough.
No, God only thinks of the best for man.
Paul writes to Timothy, who probably lived in Ephesus a little earlier, but the situation was very similar:
For all that God has created is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Paul writes here clearly that everything that God created is good.
And he starts this chapter like this:
1 Timothy 4:1-3 However, the Spirit of God has clearly foretold that at the end of time some will fall away from the faith. They will turn to misleading spirits and listen to teachings inspired by demonic powers and propagated by hypocritical liars whose consciences are as deadened as if burned with a red-hot iron.
We already spoke about these false teachers at the beginning of our series.
And now it’s interesting what they say:
These people forbid marriage and require the renunciation of certain foods—foods that God created for those who believe in him and know the truth to enjoy with gratitude.
And further in verse 8:
Solitary and celibate living like an ascetic is all well and good, but listening to God is better. Because with it we will win this life and the life to come.
So people who claim:
If you’re really spiritual, then you have to abstain. But Paul says here: These are the liars, these are actually demonic teachings. All that God has created is good, and instead of living like an ascetic, the best thing you can do is listen to God.
Then he writes in chapter 6:17 that God gives us everything in abundance for our enjoyment.
And then we have to keep Jesus in mind:
He came into this world, lived in it. He was part of this world and was called a glutton and a drunkard by others.
So he seems to have celebrated happily with his friends and with those with whom he sat together. He didn’t say: You shouldn’t do that, but made it clear: This is part of the world, a gift from God, so let’s enjoy it with joy and happiness.
Jesus says in his last speech:
I gave them your word and now the world hates them because they don’t belong to them, just like I don’t belong to them. I’m not asking you to take her out of the world; but I ask you to protect them from evil. You don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Make them consecrated to you through the truth. Your word is the truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also sent them into the world.
Jesus says very clearly here:
We don’t belong to this world.
We are citizens of heaven. And because that doesn’t add up, that’s why people will reject and hate us.
But that does not mean that we should separate ourselves, but Jesus sends us into this world with a commission to live among men as he did and to make them known of his love, while praying for us to be preserved.
So we have seen that what John writes is not about not enjoying what God has given us, about not loving people and about staying away from everything that makes up this world .
So what does John mean?
2. The nature of this world
When John speaks of the world here, he means the system of this world.
- The principles by which this world works.
- The values that define our world, the beliefs, the morals, the goals that people pursue.
All of this is contrary to God’s will, this world is in rebellion to God because it is ruled by the devil.
We read in Ephesians 2:1-3:
God made you alive together with Christ. For you were dead – dead because of the trespasses and sins that ruled your previous life.
We talked about this three weeks ago.
That sin separates us from God, but that Jesus’ death on the cross makes forgiveness possible and so, if we accept that and submit to God, we can come alive spiritually and live in friendship with God.
And now it comes :
You had judged yourself by the standards of this world and followed him who rules over the powers of the invisible world between heaven and earth, Satan, who is still at work in those who are not willing to obey God. We all used to live like this; we let ourselves be guided by the desires of our own nature, and did what our selfish thoughts urged us to do.
And that is exactly what James and John write.
That our world is marked by desires.
James talks about passions and greed that lead to envy, strife and war.
John writes of the lust of the flesh, which is the striving to enjoy life, food, sex, comfort, a life of luxury, pleasure, a nice house, a nice garden, vacations, whatever, but in one insatiable nature, not because we enjoy what we have, but because we are always looking for those things, the lust of the eyes to see something and wanting and having to have it, and the arrogance to have something to want to be, to have meaning, to compare myself to others and to be better, more beautiful, bigger and also to make it without God, to be in control of my life in my own hands.
It is a society where man tries to be happy without God.
That is the essence of this world. And we shouldn’t love this world, this system, these principles, the moral concepts that are opposed to God.
We should distance ourselves and not let ourselves be consumed by it.
Nor are we to love the things that are in this world.
3. Do not attach your heart to worldly things
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust devour them, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not eat, and thieves do not break in and steal. Because where your treasure is, there is also your heart.
No one can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be attached to the one and despise the other. Matthew 6:19-21 and 24
We cannot serve two masters, and therefore we should store up treasures in heaven and not set our hearts on worldly things.
Because what is important to us, our heart is attached to it, it influences our decisions. You allow yourself to be consumed by it, and you devote your time and sacrifice yourself to it. How fast can we get caught up in it.
We heard last Sunday the story of the rich young ruler whom Jesus looks at and loves and wants to save him from running to his perdition.
And then he challenges the young man and says sell everything you have and follow me. Not because wealth is a bad thing per se , but because he realizes that this young man has his heart set on it
And that he’s on the wrong track, that money won’t make him happy.
Paul urges us to do this in Romans:
I have shown you, brothers and sisters, how great is God’s mercy. The only proper answer is that you offer your whole life to God and present yourselves to him as a living and holy sacrifice, in which he delights. This is true worship, and I challenge you to it.
This means that we should make our life and everything that goes with it available to God.
That he can tell us what to do and then we are free to do it.
In baptism we confess that without Jesus our old life is dead and that Jesus is to be Lord of our lives.
I once saw a nice caricature of someone sticking their arm out of the water with a purse in their hand: God, everything but my money.
That’s what it means to love the things of this world.
We can tell the difference when we have desires and don’t get what we want, whether it changes something in our relationship with God.
If we are angry because we really want something, then maybe that is more important to us than God himself.
Or when God gives us something, whether we enjoy it but can also make it available to him again, or whether we attach our happiness to it and close our fists because we keep what we have to ourselves and don’t want to let go anymore.
I don’t know what your heart is in.
But you can ask yourself the question:
If God says go, do we go?
When God says give, do we give?
When God says give what you have to others, your possessions, your house, etc., are we willing to do that?
Paul writes blatant words in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
One thing is for sure, siblings: the end is coming to an end faster and faster. Therefore, in the time that is left to us, it must not be marriage that determines the life of a married man; in the case of sadness, it must not be sadness, and in the case of happiness, not joy. Those who buy something should treat them as if they did not own them, and those who use the things of this world should not become captivated by them. Because the world as it is now is doomed.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t love my spouse.
That doesn’t mean I can’t mourn or rejoice and enjoy.
That does n’t mean I can’t own anything either. But it should not imprison me in my thinking and in my freedom to listen to God and do what he says.
Do you understand the difference?
Axel Kühner once said: We were created to enjoy God and use the world. The problem is often that we want to use God to enjoy the world.
The Bible calls such behavior carnal.
To live as the world does and at the same time try to include God .
They are limping on both sides and are the poorest people. Because they don’t experience the fullness that Jesus promised them, they have a bad conscience and they can’t enjoy life like people who don’t want to know anything about God.
Half a Christian is complete nonsense, someone once said. Therefore, do not set your heart on worldly things.
John goes on to write that the world is passing away, therefore:
4. Set other priorities
Because: whoever does not let himself be captivated by the things of this world by not loving the world and the things that are in it, is free to listen to God and to do what he wants from us.
I brought you a rope. I used this example years ago. It illustrates so beautifully what John means here.
Just imagine, this rope has no end, it just goes on indefinitely.
Ok, it doesn’t, it stops somewhere over there, but imagine it. And imagine that this rope is a timeline. A timeline of your existence.
This little blue part over here represents your time here on earth. You have a few years here on earth, and then all of that comes along.
The eternity. What amazes me is that all some of you think about is this blue part.
If that’s all you think about, then you’re consumed.
You’re like, man, I can’t wait ’til I get here, I’m working harder and saving, saving, saving so I can really enjoy this part.
That’s total nonsense. What about this, this, this (showing more and more of the rope)?
The Bible tells us that what we do here will determine how we will live on forever for millions and millions and millions of years.
So during this little blue part, why should I try to make my life as comfortable as possible, to have as much fun as possible.
Esau sees the soup and wants it, and in return gives Jacob his birthright and blessing.
Samson wants a mate, and he takes the first woman he pleases, even if she has nothing to do with faith. She will ruin him.
Lot sees the pastures that are beautifully green and thinks to himself: Here my flocks of sheep will multiply and I will become rich.
Instead of asking God, he ends up in Sodom and ends up losing everything.
The main thing is to be healthy, live for the next vacation, for your career.
You have to make something out of your life or the ambitions you have for your children, that they become something big: that’s the world, it’s a different concept of life.
And the world will try to pull you, buy you, make you tempting offers.
But what does God say to you:
Invest in eternal things, lay up treasures in heaven, live your calling, use your spiritual gifts, raise your children to love Jesus, introduce people to Jesus.
Loving the world means being connected to the world’s treasures, philosophies and priorities.
However, God asks his children to set their priorities according to his eternal value system.
We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” ( Matthew 6:33 ).
No one can serve two masters ( Matthew 6:24 ) and we cannot make a commitment to God and to the world at the same time.
The only problem is that people won’t understand it.
That is why we have read that we are not of this world and that people will even hate us for it, and often enough the biggest opposition comes from the carnal Christians because it challenges them to question themselves.
We all feel that the world keeps pulling us with its offers
5. How can we not love the world,
in the sense of not attaching our hearts to them
John writes just before:
You are strong because the Word of God is alive in you and you have defeated the devil!
The key to not loving the world and its things is to be close to God and to love him more than the world.
If we seek his closeness and make ourselves available to him again and again, then what Paul describes in Romans 12:2 happens:
Do not conform to the standards of this world. Rather, let yourselves be transformed by God, so that your whole thinking may be renewed. Then you can form a sure judgment as to what conduct is in accordance with the will of God, and know what is good and godly and perfect in each individual case
God Himself then changes our thinking so that we are able to discern what is good, what God wants, and be free to do it.
Then we get a relationship with the world and the things in it that is healthy in God’s eyes and can set other priorities.
And what God wants from each one of us can look very different.
Paul writes that as we live near him and experience his love for us more and more, it will bring into our lives an abundance that is greater than anything else.
And what is it about enjoying and what God wants to give us:
There is a principle in the Old Testament that can guide us. It is about bringing in the harvest and that the Israelites should bring God his share.
In the Old Testament it was the tenth part, in the New Testament it is clear, as already mentioned, that everything belongs to God and we should make it available to him.
And when we set those priorities, don’t put our hearts into them, and have that openness, God says to the Israelites Deuteronomy 14:26:
So if you bring the tenth part of the harvest to the sanctuary, then
give the money for whatever your heart desires, whether it be cattle, sheep , in the sense of meat for food , wine, strong drink, or anything that your heart desires, and eat there before the LORD your God, and be happy, you and your house.
Before the Lord.
That means making me aware: Jesus is everywhere.
Does my behavior just honor him? Is what I’m doing right now good?
For example, I’m standing in front of the cinema, or today I’m probably sitting on the sofa and thinking about whether I should watch a film and then I ask myself what Jesus says about it:
Can I enjoy that now or is there something else to do, for example helping my wife with the dishes, rather helping out in the community or maybe also realizing that this film has so many violent and sex scenes, it’s not exactly that what is pure in Jesus’ eyes has the potential to lead me to bad thoughts.
And so it becomes clear that although we are in the world we are not of the world and that we therefore abstain from things that are not good for us and that we live differently than people without Jesus because we have different priorities , because we know about eternity.
John writes that if someone loves the world and the things in it, God the Father has no place in his life.
Because these things displace God.
As on the last Sundays, the topic of sin and charity is about lasting love, permanently attaching your heart to other things, giving them more priority in our lives.
If you live like that, Johannes writes, it doesn’t go together with God, you can’t do both, and that’s how we humans can tell whether they live with God or not.
Anyone who lives like this needs to turn back to God, maybe completely new, maybe right now.
But we all also notice that we always feel the same way or in individual areas that we love the things of this world more than God.
With this I can, because in Jesus’ eyes it is guilt that I am taking upon myself, go to God, have it confessed to me forgiven and then change my behavior.
So we saw this morning what love of the world does not mean, we got to know the nature of this world, that we should not set our hearts on worldly things and set other priorities
and that we can do this when we are close to God, that we can then enjoy what God gives us and at the same time make everything available to Him and free to do what God wants us to do.
During the next few songs we can invite God to show us how things are in our lives and maybe we already know where things are going wrong.
We can allow ourselves to be forgiven and make available to him what we may have clenched.