I John 2:15-17 identifies three ways Satan works through the world’s system to try to take us down.
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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
THE LUST OF THE FLESH
We have some desires that result from our human condition. We have desires for food, water, shelter, sex, and comfort. Those are things we crave, and God has created us with those desires. Those desires in and of themselves aren’t sinful. However, the desire to please ourselves, regardless of God’s moral laws, is sin. When the lust of our flesh is leading our lives, ruling over us, the lust of our flesh takes priority over God’s will for us. That is a problem we need to address and wrestle to the ground. Tough to do in a culture that shouts, “If it feels good, do it.”
God has told us ahead of time what kinds of things are off limits because He loves us. Everything we need to avoid is in the Word of God. The lust of the eyes is an easy way for Satan to get our attention. He dangles something in front of us that is harmful and makes it look good. Look at Genesis 3:6, “Eve saw the forbidden fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
Eve gave the fruit a look, but she also gave Satan a listen. She listened to Satan. He told her she would be better off if she ate the forbidden fruit. He told her she wouldn’t receive a consequence, but that it would actually bless her life, that it would be good for her to act on her lust, to act on her look. He accused God of lying to her. Satan told her she would be better off if she disobeyed God and ate it. He said it would make her wiser and more like God. (Read the account in Genesis 3.)
So, instead of taking the Word of her Creator who obviously had a purpose and plan for her life, she listened to the creepy devil after just one conversation.
Do you know what that tells me? It doesn’t take much to get us to act on our lustful instincts.
Friend, when we get caught up in lust, we will look for and listen to anyone who will approve of our lust. We live in a perverted, twisted, evil world. You can always find someone who approves of your sin. It won’t be hard. If you don’t know anyone personally, just post what you are thinking of doing on Facebook, say you are asking for a “friend,” and you will have scores of people telling you to go for it. That is the kind of conversation the world eats up.
Satan told Eve that pursuing the fruit would add value to her life, that it would make her life better. When we are driven by the lust of the flesh, we can easily convince ourselves of the same. We start to tell ourselves things that aren’t true and eventually, we believe them. “This drink will make my life better. It will make me feel better. I will forget my troubles. This drug will help me relax. I can just do it “recreationally”. I work hard and deserve to be happy. I deserve to feel good. I need to de-stress. I need an escape. I need to be with someone who appreciates me. This pornography will help me spice things up. I mean, at this point in my life, I need a little extra excitement.” I could go on and on.
Well, it cost Eve and Adam big, didn’t it? They were distanced from God and got into it with each other. We’re connected to each other, aren’t we? One person’s sin is never an isolated incident. Sin will stain our relationships with others as well as ruin our relationship with God. If something looks good that God has called bad, don’t listen to any other influence. Steer clear. It’s a trap.
THE LUST OF THE EYES
Let’s move from the lust of the flesh to the lust of the eyes. With the lust of the flesh, there is a desire for physical pleasure. With the lust of the eyes, there is a desire for material things. With the lust of the eyes, there is an emphasis on desiring what your neighbor has. The lust of the eyes includes coveting someone else’s status or possessions. If you spend your time and effort trying to get what someone else has, you’ll miss what God is trying to give to you. Can you see that?
One of the Ten Commandments addressed this very thing. Exodus 20:17 reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? That last phrase, “or anything that belongs to your neighbor” pretty much spells it out. Our eyes are supposed to be on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith and not on the material stuff of this world.
If Satan can’t get you focused on your lusts, he will try to get you looking at other people. He wants you comparing yourself to other people to get you sucked in to trying to find value and worth in having some kind of contest with others.
Listen church, there is a whole lot of shiny, glittery, fast, new, alluring stuff out there to arrest our attention. The world says, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Things, in and of themselves aren’t wrong, but pursuing things and the acquisition of things because you are competing with your neighbor or co-worker or brother-in-law for some kind of status or working for things to try to give your life meaning, value or worth is sin. Things cannot take the place of God in our lives.
We should enjoy things, but not live for them. We can enjoy things while we live for God and others.
THE PRIDE OF LIFE
How can we understand the third way we are negatively impacted by the things of the world that John describes? What did he mean by the “pride of life?” Whatever leads to arrogance, self-sufficiency, presumption or boasting will be tied to the things of the world and the pride of life. Let’s go back to the Garden for a second. When Eve saw the fruit, it appealed to her fleshly appetite, to the lust of the flesh. She also saw that it was pleasing to the eye, something she saw and desired to own or possess. That is the lust of the eyes. But believing that the fruit would make her wise, would give her a wisdom beyond her own ability, making her like God…that is the manifestation of the pride of life. She wanted to live above where God had established her. She wasn’t content to live in a perfect world under the perfect grace of God and be cared for by Him. She was going to exalt herself. Perhaps this is the most anti-God move a person could make.
Your flesh will never be satisfied. If you think you can go beyond the boundaries God has established for you and still live a life pleasing to Him, you are wrong. It’s a trap. If you live for competition or to find fulfillment in bling and bigger, better, newer, faster stuff, you will live exhausted and sad because the competition will never end. It’s a trap. If your goal is to make a name for yourself, to have power or prestige or to ascend to some height, it is futile. No one will take the throne Jesus occupies, and life will have some tough reminders for you that you aren’t Him. Pride leads to destruction. (Proverbs 16:18) It’s a trap.
Satan wants to use the world and the things in the world and the allure of the world to trap you. I John 2:15-17 one more time, 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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.