"Have no love for the world or for the things which are in the world. If any man has love for the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Because everything in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world. And the world and its desires is coming to an end: but he who does God's pleasure is living for ever." 1 John 2:15-17
I first encountered this and thought, "So, we are neither to love the world, or anything in it... Ouch."
To this day, the longer I count the things I came to love and which fall under the three categories listed in that Scripture, the farther my jaw drops, and the greater clarity of denial of self I receive. It began with inanimate objects which were given life in my chest through either nostalgia or plain old preference.
"That song was the jam..."
"That was my favorite TV show..."
"No place will ever compare with that place, in that time..."
"Man, I can eat that until I burst..."
Once I then truly submitted to the painful (and necessary) internal "purge cannon" of the Word of God and His Spirit, to those places in my heart which exalted people and things, there was additional Scripture provided (and, as it turns out, desperately needed) to steel me for those targets which I had yet to even consider.
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:31-33
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39
As my flesh began crawling, I thought, "...really? Let me get this straight... stop worrying about my needs, seek after Your righteousness, peace, and joy... and trust *You* to provide for me if I do that? ... that's trust, all right. I believe, LORD, help thou my unbelief... but this other stuff... My parents?? My children???
"Even my life?"
I became involved with the International Christian Concern, a ministry which brings awareness of, and real help to, followers of Jesus around the world, who are persecuted and even have their lives taken for it. Pastors are slain in front of their families. Children are beheaded for their parents' refusal to renounce Christ, in countries which the United States calls "ally" and "friend", like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Egypt. People are truly living and dying for Christ, while, at least for the moment, I am free to worship the LORD without sanctioned persecution in these United States.
Children beheaded before their eyes... without the grace to repent and be His, without the salvation of (and by our resulting obedience, peace with) our LORD and our Savior, what can one do in the face of such evil, such monstrous cruelty, except despair and die?
I think of my own children, for whom I would gladly trade my own life, and I fight a flood of tears at the thought of having to endure such a crucible.
Then I think of the only begotten Son of God, Who exists with His Father in the very definition of perfect love, dying for my sins--and I begin to comprehend facts which the world, including my own flesh, rejects.
Such as the fact that those things created which our five senses receive, for all their tactile registering, is of no value in comparison to the things of God which are unseen and register to our faith in His Son. If I am not to love the world or even worry about the needs of myself and my family, seeking to follow, obey and trust Him instead, and if "the world and its desires are coming to an end", it would then behoove me to live my life in the manner in which *He* said to live it.
Then I had the majority of my remaining personal delusions stripped from me.
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
So... not only am I not to love anything more than God--I do not even BELONG to my SELF.
I do not own my own head, so should someone have power to take it from my neck, it is because God has delivered me into their hand. I reserve of my own power the right to precisely nothing; not my mind, nor my heart, nor my hands and feet. I have no right to my opinions, my frustrations, my hopes, dreams, desires, wants or whims. I have been ransomed. Purchased for an unspeakable price. My insurmountable debt of sin paid for in the process, in the only Way possible. Even as the children of Israel were freed from the slavery of Pharaoh to the slavery of God, salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, was accomplished that I might no longer be captive to the corruption of my flesh, but instead to the will of God; to love, trust, and obey Him.
The undeniable, inescapable fact, is that despite all declaration of freedom or emancipation in any document written by men regarding the inalienable rights of my person, the truth is that I am, body and soul, a slave. The property of God.
This forces me to both see myself as the LORD my God sees me, and to truly know and accept my true place as His unworthily saved creation. It is only by His grace alone that I am permitted to accept it.
The simultaneous horrors of being humiliated... spit upon... beaten... rejected... subjected to suffer through the sadistic horror of Roman scourging and crucifixion... and, worst of all, being made, in the manner of the sin offering of lambs in their first year, the object of wrath of His Father, Whom He loves enough to obey to the death... for our filthy, wretched, desperately wicked selves and all our sin, was a cup which our LORD chose to endure for us unto the most horrific, bitter dregs.
He *chose* to submit to this, as made crystal clear in a statement simultaneously declaring both His sovereignty and His divinity; "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." John 10:17-18.
His sovereignty is evident in His decision to lay His life down, and His divinity in possessing the power to take it again.
He willingly endured this, to pay for and save us from the wages of sin; being burned in fire which never goes out, among worms which do not die.
Once I finally was given grace to see *this*, the Bad News *and* the Good... I finally understood the concept of being on my face in thanksgiving before God, praising and glorifying Him. If I am able to speak a coherent word through my tears, it will of itself be a miracle, and it will take conveyance of His will to get me to ever lift my unworthy face from the ground before Him.
It takes being broken by Him first to receive His grace and mercy. If this fact offends your sensibilities, as it first did mine, the alternative to being broken and remade in His image is unimaginably worse.
"And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Luke 20:17-18
We fall upon Him and are broken and reformed by His grace, or He falls upon us and are utterly destroyed by His judgment. There is no third alternative.
That takes being shown exactly who we are and being shattered by the truth of it, and then, by His grace and mercy, redeemed, reforged, and remade by the salvation of our LORD.
Without the grace of God to accept that we are "bought for a price", we are the world--which dares imagine that what was bought by the precious blood of Christ is ours to do with it as we see fit. What is worse, we then reject the Living God in favor of one that is an idol we made, which requires no repentance, and will therefore reap no consequence for defiance of His will; to be what we are instead of strongly deny and reject it in favor of *His* reforming. That Scripture is fraught with example after example of the immediate death sentence for willful sin, despite the LORD's clearly conveyed *intolerance* for such rebellion, is a truth by which such opinions are completely unburdened.
Rejection of the Way, the Truth, and the Life; rejection of the LORD Jesus, will *only* leave us to pay the un-payable debt, resulting in the Second Death, and yet so many of us, many of whom call ourselves Christian, give our love and devotion to the world's way, and therefore hate Christ despite all lip service to the contrary. We would sooner shut our eyes and cling to our idols of comfort, things *we* made to worship because we don't have to change in order to do it, than even acknowledge that we feel the heat of the open furnace at the end of the wide road.
May it please the LORD that everyone who reads this sees with clarity that anyone who will not repent of their way of life and accept Jesus as the only Way will pay the full price for every offense against the Father.
We are only hearing (or, have mercy, LORD, telling) part of the truth these days.
I humbly submit that anyone who would purse their lips and deride the Good News, the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, may want to hear the Bad News first, and reconsider the worldview which makes their own way look like the better alternative.
The Good News is that He died to pay the blood debt of our sin, and that repenting of our way of life, never to go back, and taking on His Way instead with faithful obedience, will save us from the penalty of that sin.
As rarely as the message of repentance is even told in the institutional church any longer, people are being told the Bad News, which the Good News of the gospel addresses, even less. The world's preferred worship of the things we are commanded as Christians to reject; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, blind us to the humility necessary to receive the truth of it in full.
As the institutional church welcomes in and caters to the world rather than speak the inconvenient truth to it as it was commissioned, people are by and large being spoonfed one chief ingredient of pleasant truth--that God is love--while having the rest of the truth of Who He is, those things which demand change--His Holiness and Righteousness--withheld from them, as it does not make the hearer happy.
World opinion, those things which the world prefers and are comprised largely of temporal lies rather than eternal truth, is the substitute mixed liberally with "God is love", the age old formula of making the resulting lie far more potent. The world of today retrofits love with tolerance of an ever increasing list of things--the length of which metastasizes with greater proficiency than stage 4 cancer. We end up with something which doesn't make us uncomfortable in our skin as it should... an interaction where God fits in as *we* will Him to, like a slightly glorified genie who answers when we call, and keeps its mouth shut and obeys when we tell him to leave us alone.
A deadly, potent lie.
It would behoove us all to toss that away and lend credence instead to what the LORD says of Himself. Scripture shows us that God is love in context with everything *else* that He is.
In addition to love, God is also righteous, which is to act in accordance with His everlasting divine law.
In addition to love, God is also holy, which is exalted above all things, and separate, especially from our opinion of fairness, as nothing has parity with Him to even discuss it.
These are aspects of the Creator of Heaven and Earth; He Who does not now, nor ever, tolerate sin--and that means as *He* has defined it, not as the world and its fickle moral codes accept.
May it please the LORD that we each remain permanently aware that He gave His only Son to be crushed, His blood poured out as the final sin offering for us. May we be given grace from Him to never again spit upon and reject that supremely loving sacrifice. May we receive grace to turn from our way and submit to His. May we not through our rejection join in the cries to crucify Him ,or share in the cry that His blood be upon us and our children, as those who ordered His execution--the same who praised Him with those same lips scant days beforehand, even as we do.
Father, if it is in accordance with Your will... if it would glorify and honor You... may all who read this, if they have not already, receive the grace to receive the Bad News of our truly decrepit, destitute state--that we have no hope of salvation without You--and our resulting desperate need for You to draw us to You and transform us, that we might then receive Your further mercy and grace to be one of Your own, and repent, and thereby submit themselves to be slaves to You rather than to sin. May we see that there are no other true choices, Father. May I be faithful to the same task of living a life that is not my own, but Yours. May I root out all pride and will of my own and put it to death, that I might live a life which is pleasing to You, LORD. In the matchless Name of Your Son, Who made it possible through obedience to You.