Trinity Seven, Sunday August 4, 2019 — 1 John 2:14-17 — Staying Strong in a Crumbling World
Sermon for Trinity Six – Sunday August 4, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
1 John 2:14–17 (NKJV)
14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. 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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Our hope and our treasure,
As we live in this world, but not for it…
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
We live in the age of so called ‘Reality Television.’ Our society seems infatuated with these supposedly unscripted programs presenting real-life drama and real-world situations. Well, call me a skeptic, but there isn’t much that’s real in most reality television.
There was, at one point, a ‘reality’ program entitled ‘Doomsday Preppers.’ It claimed to interview real people who were convinced that society is about to come to an end for a variety of reasons, like: Economic collapse, Electromagnetic pulse, Terrorist acts, Fuel shortage, War and even disease. Since these individuals were convinced that the end is near, they were prepping to survive, including stockpiling food supplies in underground bunkers. They are earnest and serious about preparing for the collapse of our society.
I wish more people were concerned about preparing for the real Doomsday, for the Day of Judgment. But there is no reality program entitled, ‘Last Day Preppers.’ Moreover, it seems to that precious few are seriously concerned about the coming Day of God. It seems that what the Lord foretold through the Apostle Peter is more prevalent than ever (2 Peter 3:3-4, NIV):
3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Reality Program or not, there are a few who are actually preparing for the Last Day…and you are among them. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has promised that He will return to judge the living and the dead. He who died for sins also rose again the third day will return in glory. It is our desire to remain strong in Christ, because we live in the midst of a perishing world.
Praise God that He has given us His Word, to prepare, guide and direct us in this life. This morning we consider the words given to John by the Holy Spirit, because they tell us how we can be strong in this perishing world, and what would undermine our foundation and make us weak and unprepared.
May God the Holy Spirit bless us that we seriously consider these words and taking them to heart, check and recheck our priorities in life. Amen.
Do you remember the days you attended confirmation? I know that for some of you a few decades have passed. Were you a serious student…or did you do as little as possible to slip by? Did you take it seriously? Do you ever dust off your catechism and read through it…or did you just put it away once you were no longer required to complete assignments in it?
Let me urge you to dust off your catechism, because there are treasures in there that need to be reviewed. Faith is a living thing, that is either growing or weakening.
We may be confirmed, but we should never stop learning and reviewing God’s Word. It is the height of arrogance to think that we have mastered Holy Scripture.
The Holy Spirit directed the Apostle John to write the words of his epistles to those who did believe in Jesus, but who needed to be reminded and encouraged. We are no different.
In this case, John wrote to two classes of people, those who were older and had learned to know and trust in Christ…and those who were younger and had just begun the battle of faith. They both needed to be encouraged, because they both faced the same dangers. We also face the same dangers and are wise to take these words seriously and meditate upon them.
14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
In the first part of verse 14, the Lord speaks to believers who have been ‘around the block.’ Some of you are like them. They had come to know, to believe in the One who is from the beginning. God had revealed Himself to them through the Word of the Apostles and Prophets. They believed in the Triune God, who is eternal, who has always existed.
While they had been converted, they still needed to be encouraged and strengthened. The contents of this book, and the others in the New Testament, were intended for them and for you…to keep you in faith. We should therefore treasure God’s Word, not just because the teachings are familiar to us, but because they are the inspired words of the Living God.
God keep you fathers, and mothers, you grey haired and even middle-aged believers, in Him who is from the beginning.
However, the Holy Spirit didn’t only have encouragement for those who had believed for some time, but also for those who were newer to the faith:
I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.
It is not uncommon for young men and women to live as if they were indestructible and invincible. They from time to time do foolish things because they don’t think that anything bad will happen.
When the Lord through the Apostle tells younger believers that they are strong, he’s not speaking of their own personal will power or physical strength. He’s not encouraging them to take their life in their own hands. He’s not urging them to take pride in their physical strength or will power. He’s talking about spiritual strength, which they have only because the Word of God has come to dwell in them.
Their strength to stand in the midst of the Devil’s attacks comes from the Word of God (the Scriptures) in which is found the Word of Christ.
If you want to be prepared for the Last Day, then don’t beat your own chest or take pride in your strength of will or faith. Instead, look to Christ and His Word. He is your strength, the only inexhaustible source for spiritual life and power. In fact, that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said (John 15:4-5):
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
It was only because the Word of God dwelt in them that they had overcome the wicked one. In the Word of God, they possessed the tools necessary to fend off the Devil. They were there told how God promised Christ would crush the head of the foe (Genesis 3:15) and how Christ did (1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Their strength to stand came from God’s Word, for those in whom the Word of God dwells overcome the Devil.
This is why the most important task of fathers and mothers, pastors and teachers is to raise young people strong in the Word of God. There is no better way to prepare your children for life in this world than to give them a Christian Education, to teach them that God is their dear father through faith in the living and dying of Jesus Christ. Even though they graduate from Sunday school, be confirmed and continue on to Immanuel Lutheran High School and College, they will still need to be encouraged and built up by the Word of God, specifically the Gospel of Christ.
A full Christian education is the way to prepare your children for life here and the life to come. This includes at the very least regular Sunday School, home devotions, confirmation and the regular use of the Sacrament of the Altar. This also ought to include an education at home in which all subjects are taught in accord with God’s Word.
If you think that what is most important is that your children learn how to get along in this world, then I urge you to remember these words of the Savior (Mark 8:36):
36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
If your children are to be strong in the midst of a perishing world…then they need Christ. They need to know that their futures are well assured, not because they have a good job with good benefits, but because Christ lived for them and died and rose again. They need to be taught by the Holy Spirit to build all their hopes on Christ, and Christ alone.
What will be their foundation if you allow strangers to build it and you do not take an active Christian presence in their lives? They may be successful and happy in this life…but will they be prepared when the Day of the Lord arrives?
The Apostle John reminds us of our high station and spiritual riches…because Satan is working hard to tempt us to forfeit them for things of far lesser value. It is for this very reason that we are here warned:
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.
Maybe you think these words are a little over the top. Well, actually, verse 15 could be accurately translated even more strongly: “Don’t ever love this world or the things in the world.”
“Don’t love this world”…does this mean that I can’t appreciate and even love God’s creation? Does this mean that I can’t love and look forward to the change of seasons? Does this mean that I can’t love the park or fishing on the lake?
Certainly not. These words do not forbid appreciating God’s creation, and marveling at His wondrous works. When the Scripture speaks negatively of this world, it’s warning about sinful philosophies and sinful activities. It’s talking about doing things contrary to God’s plainly revealed will.
We are being urged to avoid and even detest the things which unbelievers enjoy. We have been separated from our sins through the living and dying of God’s Son. We have been redeemed from slavery to sin at a tremendous price. We have been cleansed of sin…not so that we return to wallow in it with the ungodly.
The Apostle Paul said it like this (Ephesians 5:8-12):
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
We are called to live in the light, to live according to God’s Word and will, to prove what is God’s good will. For it is written (Romans 12:1-2):
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We can’t ride the fence on this. We cannot claim to serve God’s will and oppose it at the same time. We can’t live for Christ and still live according to this world’s sinful principles.
Christ isn’t looking for a place in your life. Christ is looking to be your life.
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
Very often the things that are loved in this world…lead away from the Father and from His Son. What is most frightening is that there are dangerous desires that arise from within our human natures and can be present in us. They are here described as the lust or desire of the flesh, of the eyes and the pride of life.
The lust or desires of the flesh…are things that we see around us all the time…on television and in movies. They include things that our neighbors like to do, and we ourselves are tempted to practice. What are these desires of the flesh? God offers examples in His Word, Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) –
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
What about in our neck of the woods? What fleshly desires are prevalent here?
Materialism...it is beyond dispute that people in our world live for money and personal wealth. Why is the gambling industry so strong a force in our state and country? Greed…is a spiritual disease that afflicts many and leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Do you live for that next paycheck? If you had to choose between a better paying job and your church…what would you choose? What would be your first concern?
Getting ahead in this world…at the expense of the next…is dangerous business.
Sexual sins…are also prevalent in our neck of the woods. It’s not just participating in such sins and justifying them; it’s also dangerous to covet the lives of sinners (cf. Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 1:10).
We are not only warned about the desires of the flesh, but also the lust or desire of the eyes. An optometrist friend of mine says that more than 80% of all learning comes through the eyes. Our eyes are important…and it’s also important that we are careful what we place before them.
We are not only tempted to sin by our sinful natures. We are also led to sin by the things we see. We wouldn’t think of sitting down to a meal of stinky, rotten food and a side of steaming poison…yet we very often allow sinful things to come before our eyes. Lust and other sinful desires can start with a picture, a song, even a commercial.
Finally, we are warned about the Pride of Life. It’s not just the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins” …it’s trying to keep up with the joneses, trying to climb the social ladder, worrying more about what you have than who you are.
Is this a temptation for you? Do you find yourself bitter that someone has something you want? Do you covet the things of others? Remember what Jesus said (Luke 12:15, NIV):
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Be thankful for…Yes. Take pride in …No. Let us share the attitude of the Apostle Paul, who said (Galatians 6:14):
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life…do not come from God…but from us. These desires come from the flesh and are sin. They are part of this world, which is passing away, as it is here written:
17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
This world is passing away. It won’t help us to stockpile food and supplies in underground bunkers. When Christ comes in glory, all things will cease and all will come to stand before Him. Those who have spent their lives pursuing sinful desires will also pass from this world to eternal death.
He who does the will of God, who trusts in His Son, Jesus Christ, will abide forever. We escape this life and enter into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus said (Matthew 24:35):
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
Therefore, if we would be prepared, then let us stockpile His Word, safeguard every word of promise in our hearts. God grant us grace that we continue in Christ and His Word, for then we will be strong and prepared for doomsday when it arrives.