By Ninos Hadjirousou
(a continuation of the last article. Remember to read 1 John 2:15-17)
Thirdly, beware of loving or graving or longing the things which are in the world.
He describes those things:
1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”.
In verse 16, John emphasis is on the: attractiveness of the things in the world which are sinful and are hostile to God.
Here he is talking about graving after something in the world that is sinful and you can’t wait to get your hands on it. The Greek word is (epithimea) translated as ‘lust’ in English is specifically, according to Strong’s Dictionary, ‘a lust for what is forbidden’. When John uses the word “lust” he is describing our desire, our graving and our lustful pleasure in order to fill our own selfish appetite. When believers shows loyalty to the world, the root of their actions and thought is rooted (already) in the desire of what ‘I’ ‘self’ want. In other words, it is an ungrateful heart that desires more than what God has already provided. Same word is used when Christ warns us not to commit the sin of adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:26). When Paul wrote in Romans 13:14 “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts (epithemea) thereof” the same word is used again.
Furthermore, the way in which John writes this is similar with the Proverbs 6:26 warning: concerning the attractiveness of the adulteress women, or, the forbidden and strange women, the prostitute. In the proverb the father warns the son not to be captivated by her alluring eyes and smooth words. And so it is with our text, (John the Apostle, who treats his readers as his own children, acting as the Father figure in his letters,) warns us to be aware of worldly attraction.
Then he gives us specific things which the world uses to entice us to sin. They are put in three categories: flesh, eyes and pride of life.
Lust “flesh” here does not mean the object that we use for our own appetite as evil. For example, the flesh needs food, God has appointed food for us to eat and to glorify His name for it. Another example is the eye. The eyes are used to see the beauties and the wonders of God’s creation, marvel at them in order to praise His name. These is not lust of the flesh. But if we are not careful on handling and managing them, we could become enslaved even with those things such as: music, food and earth. Too much lust after food makes us greedy to share, leading to pride and gluttony. Wine is not evil in itself, but too much lust over wine makes us open to desire more alcohol, making us drunkards. Looking at someone’s face, if a man looks at a friend who is a women is not evil in itself. Yet, when the man is not careful, not realizing his evil desires which are still part of him, the flesh; his thought may later take him to commit lust of fornication and make him unclean in the heart. So all things have the potential to become idolatrous and sinful. Sexual sin also is connected with lusts of the flesh. It is the desire of our fallen body which is longing to take one sip or cup of that sin.
If a simple thing such as watching a television-show and there appears an attractive women who tempt a man to sin in his thought, he ought to pray about it and resist it. Or by action, that the man watching, perhaps he is so sensitive to it that he may turn his face away from the screen, walk away and go into another room. That is not extreme, that is careful awareness for not becoming captivated by the desires of our own fallen flesh. The heart and mind of Christ in us, is what makes us separate from sin. If a Christian understands well, where he was before he was saved (Ephesians 2:1-3) and realizing that he has new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-12), He is under the reign of Christ and the only thing that prevents him from growing in Christ is his flesh, the devil and the world.
Bottom line is, if these things have the temporary effect to enslave us, by leading us to sin, they are by definition becoming lusts of the flesh. For this is talking about the carnal desires prompted by our fallen nature, our flesh.
Then Apostle uses “lust of the eyes”. It is like Eve’s reaction when she saw the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:6. Or like Genesis 6:2 when the sons of God saw the women of humankind as beautiful and took them as their wives. When John refers to lust of the eyes, he is using the same meaning with Jobs words in Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” so he will not sin. Lust of the eyes are distinct to the lust of the flesh. The flesh is prompted or activated by inward desires. They are from within. Whereas, our eyes are the means of making us desire or cause a longing for sin. Lust of the eyes is David looking at Bathsheba and lusting after her in his heart is the same as lust of the eyes. It is not lust of the flesh, but lust of the eyes alone! The eyes are our gates to which we can allow ourselves to welcome or entertain, sinful imaginations. Which then lead to an arousing of our fallen flesh to desire that sin which is now making its abode in the mind. This could be adultery. This could be the sight of money. This could be the sight of someone you cannot have.
Here is another example: You may see the goodness of your neighbour and can’t get enough of it. What do mean? I mean that by just a mere looking at what he does, something in you begins to make you jealous and envious of him. Because your neighbour is receiving the praise of others rather than you. A mere sight of a man with a fancy and expensive car, can make someone lust after what they saw and be enticed by that image in their head. Consequently, to then use all they have to foolishly buy that car, until they become bankrupt and fall into poverty. The riches of this world and the celebrities in it, make us desire to become like them and act or look like them in our appearance and attitude. Because we have found pleasure just looking at them and admiring them. And by doing so, we feed our fallen corrupt sinful flesh. We make it comfortable.
The sad part about the lust of the eyes, is that it only lies to us. Making us believe that what we see and desire to have will last long and will be worth it. It makes us believe that it fills our souls, whereas in reality, we become poor and bankrupt spiritually. As it is written in Ecclesiastes: He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance will increase: this is also vanity. 11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). This is what John meant when he wrote ‘lust of the eyes’. It is the world’s thinking that it is worth looking and graving on things which in themselves are not evil, but can be. In things which the world’s philosophies teach us to value all of them because life is just one. These are atheistic beliefs. And so if a man believes that this is all the life there is, he will strive to go after those lustful desires of the eyes. Of things he has seen and gazed upon in order to get it to fill his own appetite. He might have seen something as a child that he was forbidden by his parents to see. But now, as a grown man, he can do whatever he likes. He could go and just watch and enjoy without touching or tasting. This (that he watched) is filled in his mind and then he wants more. Which shows utter discontent and lack of fulfilment. This could be for example: someone else’s wealth, health, sensuality, sexual attraction which leads to watching pornography. It could be his best friend’s wife. Does this not prove the Scriptures point that lust of eyes, lie to us? Yes.
Lust of the eyes, is possessing the things of this world and graving over them. This is the offer that Satan tempted our Lord into: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”(Matthew 4:8-9).
Thirdly, the lust of the pride of life. That is, the boasting of our possession and our abilities and our achievements in this life. Boasting in our own acts and resources. Many mighty and powerful men, Kings, Royals and Political leaders might have this. Like the Babylonian King crying “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”(Daniel 4:30). They believe in violence and in greed. They are arrogant of their pride and blind of their own bondage. The Apostle here brings us to the conclusion of both the ‘lust of the flesh’ and ‘lust of the eyes’. That what we desire to get or possess, is ours now (pride). It may also mean the desire to please men in order to receive what you may think it to be ‘honourable’ and ‘righteous’. Fame and acceptance is also linked to this. It is something to be proud of and something to gain. It is being more concerned of what the world will say or think about our normal Christian lives that we follow according to God’s Word, than what God thinks about it. We begin to fear man.
Sometimes, we might be afraid of rejecting a certain thing that leads us to sin. ‘What will others thing or say about my beliefs?’ we say ‘We will be called fanatics!’ That is the way it begins to think! It may be harmless to the world and so we accept it. And on top of that, we accept what they consider as ‘evil’ and ‘harmless’. And reject what God has said. Thus we take the world’s standard, values, side and loyalty.
It is good to obey God’s word and fully take it’s literal and spiritual understanding on what way we are supposed to live for the glory of God. You might be limited in listening to too much music or watching sports or playing video games or even drinking wine. It maybe that we become ashamed of living out to our convictions fully so that we would not be called names and be talked bad by someone else! Or even rejected by others verbally and violently. Or even being called ‘pharisee’ ‘judgemental’ ‘mr. holy one’ ‘mr I know everything’ even by professing Christians who are acting worldly. And if I may be bold to say, who should have been more careful and more discerning in the first place! Temptation comes and tells us that there is a ‘middle ground’, where we could have both Godly things and worldly things by thus not having no division, conflict and pressure, by still becoming proud and boastful about our sinful ways and being open to the sin. Because we desire to have the world love us and accept us more than God.
And when we fall into the love of the world and make it a habit , so as to make us become (if I may use the term’ married to it, a good Christian comes and tells us to be aware or to separate from these things, we become prideful and boast in the things (which are sinful, because it is becoming a stumbling block for you to come to the Lord and spend time with, it is forming and moulding your thinking into sinning ) and make excuses on how wonderful and how lovely they make us feel good inside and how much those things meant to us at such and such a time, or how much it has shaped us to who we are. We shout: ‘We will not give it away, we will keep it!’ That is the effect lust of the pride of life.
Another example of this effect of the pride of life: homosexuality is now becoming more and more acceptable in the so called ‘evangelical’ church in Britain. The Church of England have met to make a decision whether they should allow same sex marriages in their churches or not! And they boast in the fact that this is the ‘work of God’! I would call it a work of the devil to try and have evil and good in the same room. This they do in order to make the church culturally and sociologically acceptable to the world.
This compromised movement, is effected, by the lust of the pride of life!
(if you have any questions regarding this article series please leave a message and i will try and answer your question)