Loving the world and relishing its pleasures seem to be blessings and most pleasurable to every human soul and something to which we should fulsomely aspire and totally embrace. Really? There are those pleasure seekers who would answer yes, for to them there is scarcely anything else to live for. If man's highest calling was to abandon himself to unfettered materialism then he was nothing more than a swamp-generated pest, as some would assert, wallowing in abject misery and soon to be terminated and forgotten; or was of no worth, unloved and existing in pointless irrelevance then perhaps the answer would be yes. But the Bible does not agree with such an assertion since it tells us something very different.
Whatever we may think of the Bible it is certainly true that it speaks with an authority, and enlightened knowledge that is second to none and it tells us this about man:
1. He was specially created with privileges unique to his status.
2. He was structured in such a way as to be able to correspond with, respond to and imitate God and given the ability to oppose his maker if he so chooses.
3. His status was lower than the celestial family but higher that any terrestrial being over which he was given control.
4. He, unlike all things earthy, has an eternal destination.
The Bible is geared to assisting man in self-preservation, in a manner pleasing to God and along the path ordained for him that will lead him safely to his eternal home. In truth the Bible is a manual for right living to ensure that man arrives in perfect condition. Indeed all the instructions and commands and promptings are aimed at man to make sure he is functioning at his optimum. This is essentially what the Bible is all about and to understand and appreciate this enormous truth is vital for successful living.
Do not love the world is a plea from John the Beloved (1 John 2:15) and is similar in tone and intent as the words of Paul when he said, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:2)
It is this love of the world, this passion for material gain, that has wrecked so much havoc, brutality and horror in this world. Look back at the two world wars and the common thread is that competing forces in their quest for wanting more sought to take from others that to which they were not entitled. Wars are about greed, the relentless pursuit of materialism and all power and influence that goes along with it.
Materialism when pursued as a national goal, especially by those without a social conscience, displays all the traits of evil men trapped in a vortex of wickedness, and to whom the most unconscionable acts are routinely perpetrated and justified.
Unfettered materialism led the British, and other European countries, to devastate the African continent, parts of Asia and Latin America and the untold suffering caused has not been alleviated up to this very day. Adolph Hitler and his ally Japan, pursuing the very same agenda but with different strategies and tools gave us World War 2 and its consequences. Even the USA, itself the victim of so much travail, did not relent in its pursuit of unfettered materialism as it engaged in controversial wars in the Middle East.
This love of the world is so endemic to the worldly and those opposed to godliness and so debilitating to believers that all the apostles warned about it.
Believers should not deceive themselves into thinking that they can love the world and escape untouched, because that is not the case.
Love the world and you become:
1. Unable to love God as you should. This does not mean that everything godly about you disappears and you become a blasphemous wreck. It means that your heart is not fully with God, he does not at all times command your affiliation and compromise with evil becomes routine and rational. Sometimes a person in this state is called a "nominal" Christian or a "bench-warmer" and may very well be a regular church goer. The Bible tells us, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
2. Earthbound and sensual. Whatever appetite you have for spiritual things will be eroded and replaced with a relish for carnality and the here and now. Most unhappy people are those who see no hope in the future, no happy ending for mankind and no point in the future generation expecting anything different. Paul understood this sentiment and said, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Corinthians 15:19)
3. Self-pitying and self-absorbing. This is so because when we take our eyes and our affection off God, where else is there to focus our attention and passion? Egocentricity with all its attendant shibboleths; the cravings, the lust, the boastings, the addictions consume us to the point where we cannot control ourselves. So many in this state, in need of help and redirection, are unable even to summon the willpower to ask for it.
4. A disappointed wreck. No one who transfers his love of God can have a happy ending. The Apostle John in his warning about loving the world was writing to believers in the church, he was speaking as an elder and giving pastoral directions. Coming out of the world and into fellowship with God and then adopting worldliness poses enormous risks. The warning should be heeded, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." (Hebrews 6:4-6)
When believers DO NOT love the world and instead love God properly in this manner, "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37) some things fall nicely in place, because when God is first, enthroned in our hearts as supreme then the Holy Spirit helps us prioritise everything else and give them their proper place.
This is the essence of godly living; when everything else is put under subjection to God and whatever comes into or goes from our life is never devastating.
Job found this out when he lost his vast wealth and was left destitute and sickly. What an excellent example of having a right relationship with God!!
We should marvel at the great ones who have turned their backs on family wealth and vast fortunes and live humble lives and often in the service of the poor. This springs from a right relationship with God and a submission to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
When people love God and allow God's spirit to lead them they acquire a passion for all the things of God and will make any sacrifice that God ask for. Sometimes parents can't understand why their rich son or daughter can abandon all the comforts of home and devoutly commit to poor causes and live simply with contentment.
Signs that you love God more than you love the world:
1. You love people far more than you love the materials and comforts of life.
2. You are willing to help people even at the expense of your own convenience.
3. Sacrificial giving does not cause you mental anguish.
4. You never forget the poor.
5. You do not hesitate to do God's bidding.
6. You are hospitable especially to those of the household of faith.
7. You take an unchangeable stand for that which is right.
We live in a material world, among people obsessed with materialism, but that is no reason why we should do as they are doing. It seems that the progress of civilisation is linked to increased materialism and a diminution of spirituality but believers everywhere must fight this trend and concentrate even more on the things of God. It is not that material things are bad in themselves, but when they are misused they become not the means of our comfort and for our service but instead become our gods and seriously damage our humanity.
Believers should always remember the foolishness of loving this world as told here by Jesus:
"... The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops." Then he said, "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God." (Luke 12:16-21 New International Version - U.K.)"
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013