Doctrine of Assurance Pt. 5
Audio for this sermon can be found HERE
How can I know if I am really saved?
That is the question we’ve been trying to answer in our current study.
Giving people a handle on whether or not they can consider themselves genuinely a Christian – the way the Bible defines what a Christian is.
In Christian parlance – am I saved? Saved from the just wrath of God for my sins. The word “saved” incorporates so much. When we ask it, we are asking all of the following and more:
Do I belong to Christ?
Are all my sins truly forgiven?
Am I born again?
When this life ends, will I will go to be with Christ my Savior and the saints of God?
Am I absolutely and eternally His?
Am I in right relationship to God?
Many a person who has believed the Gospel, asked to be forgiven of their sins and are seeking to serve Jesus, nevertheless struggle with a full assurance regarding their status before God.
And the Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has written to us to give us the means to arrive at such assurance. Not with a flip answer, but by building a cumulative case for each of us to consider.
A way to make this evaluation without falling into one of two traps: Neither depending wholly upon our ever changing feelings, nor depending upon our performance – that we can be good enough to prove it.
And perhaps avoiding a 3rd trap – that of looking to a spate of rites and rituals rather than resting in the finished work of Christ alone.
So he has been couching his approach in terms of examining our relationships to various key things.
So far we’ve look at 4 relationships.
Our relationship to the Word of God?
Our relationship to God Himself?
Our relationship to sin?
Our relationship to God’s People?
The questions are not couched in absolutes.
But John isn’t done yet. He has some more reinforcing things for you to consider.
All of which brings us to this morning’s consideration: What is my relationship to the World, and it’s values?
This comes to us by way of 1 John 2:15–17 ESV 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. 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. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
There are 4 parts to this compact but powerful section.
- An exhortation: 1 John 2:15a Do not love the world or the things in the world.
1 John 2:15a ESV 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.
An exhortation is more than mere advice or a suggestion – it is an urgent call – pleading with a sense of importance and urgency – a call to action. An imperative. Even a command.
John is imploring us on this count.
It’s as if he is right here with us and saying: “Please listen to me – this is so vital for you – DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD OR THE THINGS IN THE WORLD. This is urgent and of life impacting importance.!”
It is meant to be arresting.
I want to let that sink down into me with some force. And I am praying it does the same for all of you today.
It is a blaring klaxon not a whisper.
Here, we have some serious unpacking to do. We need to settle on some definitions of the words John uses here if we are going to understand what he is really on about.
What does John mean by “do not love the world” when earlier he wrote: – “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for us – how do we put those 2 things together? Is this a contradiction?
So you need to look at the different ways John uses the word “world” in his writings.
John is no different than we are in this regard.
We can talk about the world as this physical planet.
There is ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
We can refer to the world as all the people living on the planet.
Or when the Bible says Jesus came into the world how it means He came from the heavenly realm into the sphere of all living people.
When the Scripture says “we know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) – It’s recognizing a difference between those who belong to Christ and those who do not. Those outside of Christ are called “the world” here, the WHOLE world.
Again, we sometimes say a person lives in their own little world, or that someone has grown up and is going out into the world.
John uses all of these senses too. But most often he uses it one specific way: Don Carson sums it up very usefully for us I think: [T]he word world in John’s writings…most commonly means the moral order, human beings in defiant rebellion against God…
Most commentators concur.
John is saying, do not love the moral order that characterizes human beings in rebellion against God.
Don’t think the way and prize the things that those who are God’s enemies do.
In human wars, sides fight because they both value the same thing. Usually a piece of land or territory.
But for Christians, our battle is internal, over learning to love what has true value as God values things as opposed to what we naturally value along with the rest of the World.
We want to want new things, not the same things. At least we shouldn’t want them.
And this has a learning curve to it – since we come into life fallen.
This is a baby. Just angelic is she not?
But babies come into the world with a certain perspective on life that drives everything.
Thus, this is also a baby. If I’m hungry – I cry. If I’m uncomfortable – I cry. If I’m tired – I cry. And Heaven help those who do not respond to my liking.
Which is fine for babies. But as one gets older, they find this is an insufficient way to live, even though this is baked into our constitution from birth.
Parents who have never taught their children that as they grow, they are to gain control over themselves, so that they will learn to do some things they don’t want to, deny themselves some things at times, and live and work in spite of sometimes being tired and hungry and uncomfortable – ruin them.
And this is just as true, perhaps more true in the Christian life, in the spiritual life.
Thus John’s exhortation. And as we’ll see, to love the world is to continue to live by this remaining fallen nature. And what we’ll see is that continuing to live that way necessarily blocks the soul’s ability to live in and enjoy the love of God.
So he follows this exhortation with a warning.
- Warning: WHY? 1 John 2:15b If anyone DOES love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15b ESV 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.
This phrase can be understood one of 2 ways.
John could mean that if anyone loves the world at all, they cannot in any sense love the Father either. Total mutual exclusivity. If your eyes are closed, they can’t be open. Boom. Black and white, that’s it. If you love the world at all – you’re lost. Game over. If he means this a that kind of absolute then there’s no hope for any of us.
As we’ve just seen, that is how we are born into this life.
But given what we learned last time about how we still struggle with the remainder of indwelling sin, such a statement seems unlikely.
The exhortation to love not the world is a battle cry. It is a call to radical change – for Christians to challenge the way we see the World, and to come to grips with how we unconsciously still think the way those apart from Christ do.
The 2nd way this can be read seems more correct: If one loves the world, they cannot perceive the love of the Father, for their attention is misplaced.
Occupied with what the World values, the love of the Father finds no room in us; it doesn’t melt our heart and draw us near to Him as it ought.
I think this is what John is after here.
Truth be told, even the best of us at times can have our loves, misplaced, and split in an unhealthy way. We can get off track. We can be attracted by what doesn’t belong to us, and is unhealthy spiritually.
We are not what we should be 100% of the time. But we are being called to make a decision here. To recognize this in-born tendency, and to engage in battle against it.
But John doesn’t just lay it out there in a vacuum. He goes on to open up why this old way of thinking and living hinders our ability to perceive God’s love.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world because…1 John 2:16
1 John 2:16 ESV 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.
- A 3-fold explanation: For all that is in the world are these: The desires of the flesh; the desires of the eyes; and the pride of life – which are not from the Father.
Now John isn’t plucking these 3 things out of thin air. Here is where you see the cohesion of the Bible in a most wonderful way.
All that is in the world John says are these 3 things. And when all is said and done, they are all that the world can offer people as motivation in life.
- The desires of the flesh.
Is John a closet Buddhist here – trying to get us to simply eradicate desire? Is he saying all desire is wrong? No, not at all.
Desire is not in and of itself evil. Some desires may be evil, but the faculty of desire itself is not. God has desires, and it is certainly not evil in Him. We can have all sorts of good and right desires.
The issue here is the desire of the flesh. And what does he mean by that? Not that hunger or thirst or the such like are wrong – but when given free reign, even those might be.
We need to note John is using the “flesh” here the way Paul does when he marks out the Believer from the Unbeliever in Romans 8:8-9
Romans 8:8–9 ESV Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
In this sense, being “in the flesh” simply means being someone who is without the Spirit of Christ.
John’s point working off of that principle is: The desires of the flesh he is exposing here is simply: Pursuing what I want without regard for what pleases God or accords with His will expressed in His Word.
Just like all of those who are outside of Christ. This is how the World lives.
Living life to achieve MY goals, satisfy MY longings, please MY desires, without concerning myself with whether or not those things are pleasing to God or contrary to His will.
The whole “world” runs on this principle. As I said earlier, we’re hard-wired this way from birth.
For babies, all of life is wrapped up in: Am I uncomfortable? Am I hungry? Am I tired? And nothing at all else matters. Nothing!
How much we carry this over so that we want all of life to meet us on the same terms.
I want. And life is all about getting what I want. Oh, the objects of desire may increase in number or change, but the mechanism is the same.
Look at the message that is often repeated when someone wins an award – we are told over and over that we just need to dream big and pursue that dream and we’ll have it.
But all of this without ever asking the question: “What is it God’s Word calls me to, above what I may simply dream up for myself.”
This is not to speak against ambition or the legitimate pursuit of godly goals, it is to say that when push comes to shove, is it my dream or God’s will which takes the day?
We see it everywhere.
Walt Disney: “All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.”
Oprah Winfrey: “You become what you believe.”
And it even gets baptized into Christianity – which is part of John’s warning here.
Joel Osteen’s “It’s Your Time” Devotions to activate your faith, ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS, and increase in God’s favor.
God is here to get you what you want, you’re not here to enter into what God wants.
Or this from Kathy Duplantis: “Accomplish Your Dream.”
Love not the world is the call here. Why? Because the world – the mindest of lost humanity is bent on pursuing what I want without regard for what pleases God or accords with His will expressed in His Word. And that mindset does not come from the Father.
The 2nd thing the World caters to is the desires of the eye.
Pursuing what looks good, without considering anything deeper.
Once again babies are a wonderful example.
Babies don’t care what a thing is or isn’t – they only care that it is shiny, glittering, eye-catching.
Even when they get a bit older, Christmas and Birthday presents are about the colorful wrapping paper, and the experience of ripping it up more than the gift inside.
And we do not outgrow this. Until wrought upon by God’s Spirit, we are still more attracted by appearance than substance.
How easy it is for us to assign moral goodness to men who are handsome and women who are beautiful. And, to consider them more valuable somehow simply because they are attractive.
Haven’t you ever seen a news broadcast where some criminal was caught and you say to yourself either, “he looks like a murderer” or – “he’s so good looking, he doesn’t look like a monster”?
Look at all those paintings of Jesus with his handsome Aryan features.
What if Jesus, James, Peter and John looked like this? Would that be upsetting, because we are so attuned to what is attractive as being good and what isn’t so much as being inferior?
What if this was Jesus’ mug shot when he was arrested by the Sanhedrin? How would you feel about Him?
How easily we forget that “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Is 53:2.
Ah – then we are just like the world – and just as prone to place value in what has no value beyond today, in this place and in this time. Without regard for what is unseen and eternal as communicated in God’s Word.
It reminds us the account of Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26
Hebrews 11:24–26 ESV By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
And supremely of Jesus Himself: Hebrews 12:1-3
Hebrews 12:1–3 ESV Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
The World can only pursue the seen, the material, the surface things. But the Believer is freed to seek what is revealed to us by the Spirit in the Word.
And the 3rd is – the pride of life.
Boasting in what we have and/or do. Finding our self-worth in our possessions and/or accomplishments. And wanting others to see it.
And we need to recognize that this doesn’t have to function just in terms of how we want others to think of us a certain way.
The more subtle but perhaps more pernicious trap is how we choose things in this life outside of Christ in forming the basis of how we want to think about ourselves.
How do you want to think about yourself? And if that designation – whatever it may be is shattered – are you destroyed in the process?
For some it is to think of themselves at some certain, imagined level of spiritually. Or perhaps you have to think of yourself as the perfect parent, possessing certain intelligence, having won some awards, accolades or having achieved some goal which to YOU, represents being OK.
Then you fall. Have a rebellious child. Make a poor decision. Fail to accomplish what you planned for yourself. Meet someone much smarter; come in 3rd or not even place instead of winning. Now you are so downcast over it. With the result that any perception of the love of God for you is wiped out altogether.
This is what it looks like to love the World in the pride of life.
Now John didn’t pluck these out of thin air. He is drawing on what the Bible reveals back in Genesis 3 in the temptation of Adam and Eve. Assuming we know our Bibles and can make the connection, he doesn’t elaborate.
But let’s just see this played out in real life. Genesis 3:1-6
Genesis 3:1–6 ESV Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
When you see these texts side by side the connection is clear.
To operate in the way John is warning us about, results in sin and destruction. It is how the whole race fell back in the Garden, and it is no less lethal now.
The fruit would satisfy some hunger irrespective of God’s expressed will. It delighted the eyes and would make us like God.
So what is the first thing Adam and Eve lost? Any sense of God’s love. So they ran and hid from Him and tried to cover themselves.
The very same spiritual psychology is still in force today. If we love the things of this World – order our lives by pursuing our desires without regard to His will as we have it in His Word; place our value on and pursue that which appears attractive on the surface, without regard for what’s really there; and finding our self-worth in what we possess or what we’ve accomplished – we cut ourselves off from the love of God.
We lose all assurance of His love and goodwill toward us.
- A summary conclusion: 1 John 2:17 And all of these are temporary. Only the one who serves God remains.
1 John 2:17 ESV And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
What then is the sum of all this? To live like the world without Christ, while professing to be Christ’s – finds us living only for what is earthly, material and temporary – when we are called to the holy, the substantive, the gloriously overwhelming and eternal things.
It is to forget 1 Peter 1:3–4 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Does it make any sense to swap temporary experiences, enjoyments, possessions and accolades, for what God sets before us instead?
And that, at the expense of living sweetly and confidently in the knowledge of the love of the Father – even now?
Certainly it isn’t John’s ONLY point in all of this to avoid the desires of the flesh, of the eyes and the pride of life in order to get some sense of comfort now.
Clearly that is part and parcel of his object. But if we stop here and do not go on to see this dynamic where else it is displayed in Scripture, we will lose the real wonder of Christ in it all.
Look at this dynamic in one more place – in the Wilderness, in the temptations of Jesus.
Nowhere do we get a better picture of the difference between the spirit of the World and the Spirit of Christ than we do in considering this small portion of Scripture – and matching it up both with Genesis and with Matthew.
Let’s look at all 3 side by side.
Look at our magnificent Savior!
He was hungry – 40 days fasting hungry. And there was nothing more legitimate than eating at that moment.
So the Devil’s argument is – “you’re the Son of God – you don’t have to deny yourself anything. You deserve it. It is only right.”
But if Jesus couldn’t deny Himself then, if He couldn’t trust the Father to supply in due time later, how could He deny Himself when it came time to face the cross?
Jesus was determined he would do nothing at the behest of Satan, no matter how legitimate – that he might be given up wholly to the Father’s will. He would not allow His natural rights and desires to take center stage. Doing the Father’s will was more important than any present distress, desire or deprivation.
Thank you Jesus for denying yourself for me, when you had a perfect right to meet that natural desire.
And what a call that is to us. Do we ever deny ourselves anything wrong, let alone legitimate – if we hunger enough for it? Is there any area of life we deny ourselves so that we might serve His revealed will?
Here is the cross the Believer is called to take up every day – wherever, whenever our desires cross His will as expressed in the Word – no matter how legitimate. When push comes to shove, which wins?
Then came the 2nd test, out of order from 3 in the Garden, but just the same.
Taken up on a high pinnacle to see the kingdoms, the riches, wealth and luxury of the whole world set before Him, and granted to Him now – rather than after the Cross, if He would just bow down this once and worship the Devil.
And after all – isn’t that part of prophecy? Isn’t His destiny to rule the nations? Isn’t this legitimate too? And all of it now, without having to suffer and die that humiliating and excruciating death at the hands of wicked men. Just for a quick drop of the knee to this angelic creature.
But no. All of these kingdoms and all of their wealth and glory are temporary – and nothing compared to the Kingdom in its fullness which He was to inherit later.
Oh, it was delightful to the eyes well enough. But it was a sham. A glittering jewel to lure Him away from carrying out the Father’s plan in exchange for the surface wealth of gold, gems, buildings and art – when He was after the eternal souls of men as His inheritance. And to share His promised glory with the Father and with us.
No, brick and mortar, metals and stones, no matter how beautiful and artistic and lavish could blind Him to the everlasting destruction which would come from yielding to the Enemy.
The real value is inheriting the fullness of God for us.
And then the last “if you are the Son of God.” Come on Jesus, show us who you really are. Take your high exalted place. Let go of this humble exterior, when you know full well you are deserving of praise and glory and honor and the rushed attention of the angelic hosts to your every need. Show yourself for who you are that we all might celebrate your glory!
No. My time is not yet. In due time the Father will exalt me, so I have no need for men to do it now. Let no one on earth recognize me for who and what I am, let no one speak well of me in the least, as long as I know I have my Father’s approval.
Oh how bound we are to other’s opinions of us. We want to be seen a certain way. Appreciated for what we’ve done. Accepted by certain individuals or groups. Recognized as having a certain character, accomplishments, attributes, abilities or station.
All of which may be perfectly fine – unless it binds us to them, or becomes more important to us than our acceptance with the Father – which is in Christ alone.
Heaven deliver us from these in-born realities which run unchecked in all but those born again by the Spirit of Christ.
I would point you just briefly to 3 takeaways in closing.
- If this is the only way you live – then you are not a Christian plain and simple. This is the unvarying mindset of the World.
If you make your decisions based in your desires, and pursue them without regard to the revealed will of God;
If you accept the valuations of the World by externals, and not internals and in the light of what is eternal;
If you live for how you need to be thought of, seen and understood by those around you or by yourself – you are still lost and in your sins. You need to come to Jesus to be forgiven, and made new.
Personal wants over God’s will.
What I can see with the naked eye valued more than what He has revealed.
Seeking what I can have or be, over who Christ Jesus is and what He’s done.
This is what it means to be lost. You need to repent and believe the Gospel – today.
- But, if you recognize this problem because your eyes have been opened. If you are seeking to overcome this base, inborn tendency – then you have very good reason, joined with the other things we’ve looked at – to assure your heart in God’s love.
The World knows nothing of struggling against these motivations.
- Above all – Look at how it is Jesus lived this way FOR us. That what He did in overcoming the very temptations Adam and Eve faced, we receive the full benefit of.
He faced it for us. And His righteousness is imputed to us by faith, even though we are still in the throes of struggling against letting these ways of thinking and living control us.
That as hard wired toward this mode of existence as we are – because He overcame, denied Himself, died on the cross for our sins and rose again – He was able to send His own Spirit to indwell us, and to bring us victory over it.
Galatians 5:16–17 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Jesus has won this place for us – that we need not remain captive to the way the whole world thinks and to its motivations.
He has made us new creatures, and placed His Spirit in us as a foretaste, a down-payment of what is to come.
And so He does not abandon us in our struggle, but cheers us on, encourages and strengthens us to live not for today – but with our eye on the eternity. He has secured all this for us in His life, death and resurrection. Hallelujah!