Love the Father, Not the World. Exactly What Does That Mean?

In his first letter, John talks about where we live, and where God lives. In it, he offers us a juxtaposition of the Father versus the world, and describes two kingdoms with radically different agendas. Have you ever stopped to think about what John really means? If there is a heavenly father, how is he different from the world? Are His values different from the world’s values? And what exactly does “the world” refer to?

(As you answer these questions, take a moment to congratulate yourself for reaching Day 70 of Reading through the Bible; just a few books to go and you will have read passages from Genesis to Revelation!)

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16, NIV) The conflict between what the world has to offer against God’s promises has been going on since Esau traded his birthright for a pot of stew. (Well, actually you could go back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve traded being God’s subject for independence. She wanted to experience the world in the worst way, and she succeeded!)

John sees a dramatic contrast between the Father and the world: they have different values, priorities, and characteristics. Perhaps we should take a closer look.

father love

The world, in John’s eyes, was made up of carnal appetites, earthly ambitions, and temporal values. It is a place where human nature pursues its lusts, and where men vie for wealth and power. The world is, candidly, a place where humans are concerned primarily with self-fulfillment. It’s what we see around us every day.

Contrasting Domains

On the other hand , John contrasts the world and its agenda with the Father. What are the Father’s characteristics? In his Gospel and in his letters, John spells them out. God is love. He is truth. The Father is goodness. He is life. The Father’s domain includes faith and redemption, hope and transformation… It is about servant leadership and new birth.

The world, on the other hand, is characterized by self: it includes all greedy desires, lust, appetite, pride, and self-sufficiency. The world caters to the flesh and the temporary. It is about building yourself up, and salving your insecurities with temporary fixes. As a result, the world is about grasping, power-hungry leaders, and even ordinary people who can be cruel and selfish. In short, it is about death.

John warns us not to love the world, but we do anyway: we abandon grace for gratification and accept lust in place of love. Have you ever stopped to realize that the world mimics the Father? For every good thing the Father offers, the world offers a counterfeit replacement that is either a watered-down version of the real thing or the opposite of it.

Conflicting Agendas

The Father offers humility; the world offers pride. The Father offers peace; the world offers thrills; the Father offers Truth. The world gives us relativism with its spin, half-truths, and outright lies…with the Father, it’s all about HIM; in the world, it’s all about ME. God’s kingdom is based on unusual logic, where you have to accept another’s will to be free, give to gain, die to live, and serve to lead.

The world is based on selfish logic, where freedom means doing whatever you want, people worship shallow possessions or money (it’s all about the Benjamins in the Lifestyles of the rich and famous), they look out for number One (“nice guys finish last”), and leaders covet and capture power using sophisticated deceit. It was John who informed us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now he’s telling us there is a simple choice to make: love the Word, or love the World. John says you can’t love both.

Tell me, what choice have you made? Look at your priorities, your time, your inner thoughts, your desires… what do you love? John says, “the world passes away, and the lust of it: but he that does the will of God abides forever.”

Love, Instead

The world is full of fun and flesh, and thrills that are forever fresh:
The biggest house, the latest styles, the nicest car, the biggest smiles…
The orbit of the world, you see, revolves around the planet “Me”–
Where consequence brings no regret, and I should take what I can get!
Eat and drink today! Get High! Because tomorrow we may die!
The Father says, “Love me instead.” Don’t give the world your heart or head;
Love me, my child; remember this: the world is never all there is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Flesh is Flesh. Spirit is Spirit; Do You See? Can You Hear It?

The Forgotten Dimension

In one of the pivotal conversations in history, Jesus told Nicodemus something really quite amazing. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 KJV) Do you ever notice the spiritual dimensions of life? Out of all the animals on the planet, only man concerns himself with spiritual things. Ever wonder why that’s so?

Animals don’t debate morality, they don’t pray, they don’t pass laws, they don’t worship God, and they just really don’t pay attention to spiritual things. They have emotions, yes, and they can even love after a fashion; but they’ll never understand spiritual things. Like it or not, the spiritual dimension is clearly around us humans all the time, even when we don’t notice, or even when we just flat-out ignore it…

flesh vs spirit

The Optional Dimension?

Now, that doesn’t mean that a man HAS to notice spiritual things. He can stay as carnal (fleshly) and as practical as he wants to. In fact, millions of people disregard spiritual things because they require physical evidence, or it could be that they just choose not to see them. But the spiritual dimension is always there, waiting to unveil its power and beauty, pointing to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest. The Bible speaks about being born in the Spirit. One can only infer that a spiritual birth leads to the experience of a spiritual life.

flesh or spirit

So, What’s the Difference?

A sunset can merely be a cosmological array of physical properties—flesh—but the way it moves you with its beauty speaks to something deeper (perhaps an artist of the highest caliber)—spirit. A history book can be a bunch of dry facts—flesh—but when we find ourselves motivated by the gallant acts or lofty notions from those who have gone before, well then—spirit! And a kiss can be merely osculation, which is the physical contact of two curved surfaces between a common tangent—flesh—or it can be—well, you know… It can take your breath away, and speak to the passion and love behind it!

Elevation over Sensation

It’s interesting to me that if you live in the flesh you will minimize the Spirit, and lose its enhanced perspective and all of its attendant blessings. But if you live in the Spirit, you can actually elevate the experience in the flesh and complete it by allowing it to be all that it was intended to be. A kiss can merely be the exchange of saliva, it can even be limited to lust, OR it can be—LOVE! It can point to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest!

The more we stay in the flesh, the less we experience the spiritual aspect of things. And the more we live in the spirit, then… That’s right! The more it gives meaning to life, and it elevates the true meaning behind everything.

The Why

Jesus didn’t encourage Nicodemus to be born of the Spirit so he could live a life of drudgery and self-flagellation. He was encouraging him discover who he was made to be. God’s purpose for us is not to live like animals but to discover another dimension to life above and beyond mere flesh. The question is, have you found it? Are you discovering something more than mere flesh? Read John 3 and listen to what Jesus told Nicodemus. You may just unlock a whole new dimension…

Flesh or Spirit?

Are we merely carnal creatures?
What can set mankind apart?
Is it instinct? Are there features
That transcend the human heart?

When I live in stress or tension,
When I limit how I feel,
There’s a spiritual dimension
Where God’s love is fresh and real!

Let me walk in realms of glory,
Even with my feet of clay;
Help me see salvation’s story
Every ordinary day.

Into Thy hands I commend my Spirit,
More than just in words or talk;
Make my heart like Yours—or near it;
Help my feet to walk the walk.

As I sense the world around me,
Let me see you, Lord, afresh;
Let your loving heart surround me
In the Spirit, and the flesh.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread