The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on John's Epistles
Christians don’t seem to worry about this much any more, but in the churches of my youth it was common to hear sermons on the evils of “worldliness.” “Worldliness” was always tied to certain things–cigarettes, alcohol, playing cards, women wearing pants, men with long hair, and other assorted man-made blue laws. We were taught that if you avoided these things, you would not become “worldly.” If you are old enough to remember such sermons, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you are not, count your blessings! Yes, John commands us “do not love the world, for the world is passing away.” But John is not warning us about sinful things, but a sinful attitude tied to the lusts of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of possessions. Not only does John warn us about loving the world, he also reminds us that everything connected to this fallen world is destined to perish. Darkness will one day give way to light, because the light (and everything connected to it), will abide forever.
We are continuing our series on the Epistles of John, which give us a fascinating look at some of the serious issues facing the churches of Asia Minor toward the end of the first century. We are now in the second chapter of 1 John, working our way through John’s catalogue of the four things which should characterize those who walk in the light–those who have been given life by the word of life, who is God manifest in the flesh. According to John, those who walk in the light will confess their sins (1 John 1:5-2:2), and will strive to obey the commandments of God (2:3-11). We have covered these two distinctives on previous Lord’s days. The third thing which should characterize those who walk in the light is that they are not to love the world (2:12-17). This is our topic in this sermon. And then in verses in verses 18-29, John warns the churches that many antichrists have already come into the world–a topic to which we’ll turn next time, Lord willing.
Recall that John is dealing with an early form of Gnosticism which stresses “secret knowledge” and which sets up a dualism between spirit (good) and matter (evil). In our previous three sermons, I’ve spent considerable time on the distinctives of this proto-Gnosticism, so I would encourage you to listen to these sermons to help you understand the circumstances and context in which John’s three epistles were written. In order to properly interpret these epistles, we need to know three things: 1). Why does John write these epistles? 2). We must understand the error John is writing to correct, and 3). We need to notice that virtually everything in these epistles echoes John’s earlier statements in his gospel.
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