1 John 2:12-17
Encouragement in a Difficult World
I’ve said it somewhere already – that the world is not our friend. John bears that out again and again, in his gospel, his letters, and Revelation. (Bear in mind that we do not mean “world” in the sense of the natural world, but “world” under the dominion of sin.) The world, in John’s writings, is the means whereby we are tempted to sin. It brings before us desires that are not of God. That is why John can say, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
And how does the world tempt us, or better, how does Satan use the world to tempt us? One way is through the desires of our flesh. Now here again, we mean not our bodies in and of themselves, but our bodies under the dominion of the sinful nature. These are sinful desires that arise from our sinful nature, such as sexual immorality, greed, and intemperance. The desire of the eyes is much the same since the eyes are often the way that temptation enters into the soul. Lust and envy are two examples. We see something that we want for our own pleasure, without regard to the harm it may do to ourselves or to others, and certainly without regard to God’s wishes. Pride of possessions is obvious as it speaks to arrogance and vanity, as we desire for the prospect of show.
These are the ways that Satan uses the world to turn us away from the Lord. This is why the world is not our friend. And what is even worse: the world will not benefit those who become slaves to it; indeed, in the end, it will utterly betray them since “the world is passing away along with its desires.”
So John encourages us. He singles out three different groups, which some understand literally and some figuratively. He singles out children because they know the Father and their sins are forgiven. He singles out young men because they are strong and have overcome the evil one. He singles out fathers because they know “him who is from the beginning.” If we will be sure to fall into these three groups, we can face the wiles of the devil and ward off the temptations of the world. The heavenly world will not betray us, as this world will. There, we shall have an eternal reward, kept in heaven for us, ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:4-5).