Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

November 12, 2017

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1 John 2:15-17

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we come to the end of the Pentecost season we often turn our thoughts to the end of all things. We need this reminder that the world and everything in it is passing away, especially in these days before Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are already being bombarded daily by Black Friday ads. Everyone has a door buster deal that we just have to have. Satan is very successful, especially at this time of year, at using the things of the world to distract us from God and from doing his will. We need John’s reminder that allowing ourselves to be distracted by the things of the world is not only foolish, but dangerous.

We might ask, didn’t God create all the things of the world? Didn’t he place Adam and Eve over everything he had made? Doesn’t Paul tell Timothy that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment? And the answer is “yes!” The things of this world are not inherently evil. God made everything, including Adam and Eve, and declared everything he had made “Very Good.” But then Adam and Eve sinned. They gave in to the craving that Satan set before them, the desire to be like God and to know evil. They gave in to the lust of the eyes – that fruit looked so delicious and it could give wisdom too! They wanted to be able to brag about what they had done, to say that they didn’t need God. The result of their loving the world more than God, if only for a short time, brought God’s curse on them and everything God had made. God will, one day, mercifully put an end to the sinful world and its sinful desires so that we aren’t doomed to live in this imperfect world forever.

Because we are born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve our desires are no longer pure or godly. We crave things that are bad for us. We crave what is forbidden, just as Eve did the forbidden fruit. Paul says that when the law says “do not covet” our sinful nature wants whatever is forbidden all the more. It’s like the sign that says, “wet paint. Do not touch.” When you see that sign something makes you want to touch it to see if it really is still wet. It’s like the toddler who is told, “don’t cross this line on the basketball court, you have to watch the game from behind it.” So the toddler walks up to the line, looks back, and boldly puts one foot over the line to see what’s going to happen.

Because we have a sinful nature we are enamored by what we see. Sparkling gold and diamonds mesmerize us. Solomon warns of gazing at wine when it sparkles in the cup. It might go down smoothly, he says, but in the end it poisons like a viper. Pictures in magazines and movies and on the internet stir up all kinds of sinful desires in us. Achan confess to Joshua, When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.

Because of our sinful nature we want to boast about what we have and do. We want to let everyone know about our new car, or our great vacation, our job promotion, our athletic prowess, and post pictures on Facebook. We want everyone to know that we’ve made it, that we’ve accomplished something, usually without mention of, or giving credit to, God. The ultimate in sinful boasting is to claim that you have a place in heaven because of something you have done.

John says these things come not from the Father but from the world. They show that we are in a constant battle every minute of every day to keep from loving the world and the things in the world. Yes, God created everything in the world. Yes, he gives us things for our enjoyment. But, If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. As Paul says, it is not money, but the LOVE of money that is a root of all kinds of evil.

It all comes down to the first commandment, doesn’t it? We are to have no other Gods. We are to fear, LOVE, and trust in God above all things. Jesus reminds us that anyone who loves Father or Mother, Son or Daughter more than him is not worthy of him. The things of the world are not sinful in and of themselves, but loving them is. Anything that you love or trust more than God has become your god, your idol.

John reminds us how dangerous it is to love the world or anything in the world more than God. He warns us that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Such a person may amass a lot of worldly things. They may become multi-millionaires with multiple houses, yachts and more money than they could spend in their lifetime. And, since the love of the Father is not in them, they may have secured their worldly things by skirting the law and abusing or intimidating others. And we may be like the Psalmist and wonder, “how is that fair? I do my best to serve God, love my neighbor, and follow the commandments and I struggle to make ends meet. They break all the commandments and prosper!” But, the Psalmist says, then I entered the temple of God. Then I remembered that the world and its desires pass away. Then I remembered that all the things of this world can’t save you from God’s judgment. When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ it won’t matter whether you were rich or poor. Only one thing will matter- rich or poor- did you trust that Jesus lived and died to pay for your sins, and then rose again on the third day?

Jesus makes it clear that loving the world or the things in the world is both dangerous and foolish when he concludes his parable of the rich farmer who thought he was set for life because of all he had stored away in his new barns – You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ He makes it clear when he asks the rich young ruler in our Gospel lesson to sell all he had and come and follow him, and the man went away sad, showing that he loved the world and the things in the world more than Jesus.

John reminds us, The world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
The will of God is that we love him above all things all the time. We don’t do that. We can’t do that. So how can we remain forever? How can we ever hope to be saved?

You know the answer. It is also God’s will that we acknowledge and confess our sins. It is his will that we not try to hide, or blame others, as Adam and Eve did, but that we humbly acknowledge that we have often given in to the cravings of our sinful nature, and the lust of our eyes. We have often boasted as if the things we have are only a result of our hard work, forgetting that it is God who gives us the ability to work. At times we have even tried to boast about our faith, and how we deserve God’s favor because of all the things we have done for him, forgetting that faith is worked in us by the Holy Spirit and that even our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s eyes. Doing God’s will starts when God’s law convicts us of our own sins and moves us to confess that we deserve nothing from God but his anger and eternal punishment, so that we fall before him pleading, God be merciful to me, a sinner.

God’s will is that we believe that he sent his son Jesus to save us; that we see him as our substitute; that we trust that Jesus kept the law in our place. Jesus resisted every craving and lust. He always loved the Father more than the world or anything in the world. He did the Father’s will, even when that meant taking our place on the cross and suffering the torment of Hell in our place. God’s will is that everyone who believes that Jesus has paid for their sins and is the only way they can be saved, has eternal life.

We need the reminder every day that loving the world and the things in the world is not only foolish, since the world and everything in it is passing away, but dangerous. You can’t love both God and mammon. When we realize that we have given in to temptation, the will of God is that we acknowledge our failure and confess our sins. The will of God is that we throw ourselves on his mercy for Jesus’ sake, trusting his promise that, in Jesus, those sins are paid for in full. Then we will boast, not about anything we have, or anything we have done, but about what God has done for us. Then we will be motivated to do our best every day to resist the cravings and lust of our sinful nature, and show love for God and our neighbor in all we say and do.