Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Hohn unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through seventeen of the second chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the apostle John transitioning within the epistle to a reality that is perhaps incredibly difficult to handle—much less actually bear and flesh out within our lives. As you begin reading this passage of scripture you will immediately notice that it is only three verses, however those three verses pack an incredibly powerful punch—one that strikes you at the very depths and core of your heart. Within these three verses you find the apostle John opening up with four specific words which present us with an an incredibly powerful challenge—one that challenges every area and facet of our walk. Within the fifteenth verse of this chapter we find the apostle John emphatically declaring unto those who he is writing to to love not the world, nor anything that is within it. Please don’t move too quickly past these words, for there is the temptation and growing tendency to rush quickly past these words, and to not allow them to truly resonate within the depths of our heart and spirit. I have to admit that when I read the words which the apostle John wrote in this passage I have to do an incredible amount of self examination within my own life as I examine the condition of my heart and mind. As I am sitting here this morning I am finding myself with a great need to examine my own heart and life and really ask myself in what ways and in what areas I love the world. What’s more, is that I find myself having to ask myself what things within the world I love—what things within the world I allow my heart to gravitate toward and passionately pursue. What makes these words so much more difficult to bear, is that the apostle John uses the word love when speaking of affection toward the world. It would have been one thing for the apostle to say “Do not pursue those things which are in the world,” or “do not desire those things which are in the world,” and yet that simply isn’t the case. Instead of using either of these phrases the apostle Hohn uses the word “love” and instructs ya to not love the things which are in the world, or even the world itself.
The more I think about, and the more I consider this passage of scripture, the more I can’t help but get the strong sense that loving the world carries with it the ideas and notions of not only desiring the world and the things which are in it, but also pursuing those things which are in the world. We have heard it said that we are in the world, but we are not of the world, and such a statement actually carries with it a tremendous amount of truth. One of the most important things we must recognize and realize is that we live in a world—we live in an environment—where there are so many things that are vying for our attention and vying for our affection. Each morning I find myself praying the very same thing—“Lord, would you help me to manage my affection and my attention, and would you help me to set my attention and affection on you.” I read an article yesterday how a popular soft drink company is offering to pay $100,000 to anyone who can go the next year—three hundred and sixty-five days—without touching their smart phone. This particular company believes that we have allowed ourselves to become so inundated and consumed within our smart phones—almost as if we have created our own alternate environment and artificial reality. I can attest that technology is one of the single greatest culprits when it comes to allowing, permitting, promoting and even encouraging us to be drawn to and love the things of the world. Those devices we hold in our hands make it absolutely possible to reach out and connect with pretty much anything and anyone we want, and with little to any difficulty. We would be incredibly naïve and perhaps even a little foolish to think for one iota or a moment that this is not the case, and that we are not, and have not been utterly and completely consumed within our technology. The iPhone recently experienced a feature that was added to its latest software update, and that is that each Sunday it gives you an alert to how much time you spent on your smart phone during the week. It calculates how much screen time you have used, which indicates how much you actually use your phone.
When I consider this update that has been developed for the new iPhone I can’t help but actually think that it could very well be an indictment towards and against us. I can’t help but think that this update and the information it provides us with can—if we allow it—to be a reality check. I am convinced that one of the easiest and one of the greatest ways we as the saints of God can find ourselves loving the world is by allowing ourselves to become completely and utterly immersed and saturated within the virtual world and the virtual reality our cell phones present us with. I am convinced that it is absolutely and incredible it easy for us to create an alternate reality, and an alternate world through our smart phones—a reality which is particularly and especially true when you consider the various social media platforms which are present in our culture and society. We dare not be so naïve to think and believe that we haven’t allowed ourselves in this technological age to find new and innovative ways to allow our attention and our affection to be guided and governed by the things of this world—a reality that is particularly true when you consider the various devices we hold in our hands. What’s more is that companies are even making the devices and screens larger, so as to enhance the experience we have with such devices. I have to admit that I personally have two cell phones, and before you say anything—I fully recognize that unless you have one for work, no one needs two cell phones. I have to admit what both of my phones have the largest screens you can have on a cell phone, and that I bought into the reality that a bigger screen can, will and should enhance the experience I have with my device. WE have gone from smaller cell phones to larger cell phones, and we have done it in the name of enhancing our experience while we are using the devices. Regardless of whether it’s reading the news, or posting on social media, or looking up updates for our favorite sports teams, or texting those within our phone’s contact list, or playing video games, or anything else we could possibly use our cell phones for—we have bought into the lie that a bigger screen is absolutely necessary for our experience with the device. Please note that I am in no way preaching condemnation for any who have a device with a larger screen, for I myself have two devices with larger screens. Also, please note that I am not in any way stating that screen size is ultimately a factor, for the size of the screen doesn’t always matter, as we can do with a device that has a smaller screen the same things we can do with one that has a larger screen. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand just how much of a pull, and just how much a stronghold our cell phones and mobile devices have within and upon our lives.
I mentioned and wrote about this popular soft drink company, and how they are offering $100,000 to anyone who can go a full year—three hundred and sixty-five days—without using their cell phone. What I didn’t mention earlier was that in order to qualify for this experiment and trial period if you will, is to include in your entry what you would do if you gave up your cell phone for an entire year. Pause for a moment and think about what you would do during any given day if you did not have access to your cell phone. Think for a moment how you would spend your day if you didn’t have access to your cell phone, and couldn’t post, couldn’t tweet, couldn’t like, or couldn’t reach to the world around you. For many in this generation, cell phones are the one way we connect ourselves and are connected to the world around us. There are many who believe that cell phones themselves are absolutely necessary, for they allow and permit us to connect to and with the world which is all around us. I recently watched a video on YouTube which bore the title “Look Up,’ and within the video the individual who made the video made the argument contrary to what you just read, for this individual believes that we actually lose touch with, and we actually lose sight of the world around us, and even grow disconnected from the world which is around us. I have to admit that having spent the last three years working in two major cities—Boston and Philadelphia—I have seen this reality firsthand, as well as up close and personal. If you commute in to work using public transportation—regardless of whether it’s the subway, or perhaps one of the local commuter rails, or perhaps Amtrak, or perhaps even the bus system—you will notice how many men and women are completely saturated, immersed and inundated with their cell phones, and with the world that lies before them. Here’s a social experiment for you: Next time you commute into work—regardless of how you commute—pause and look around you and see how many people are engrossed and inundated with their cell phones. Look around you and see how many people have their headphones one, or headphones in their ears, and how many men and women have their heads down doing whatever they are doing with their cell phones. Look at how many people focus their attention and their affections on what is before them on their cell phone screens, and are completely oblivious to the world which is around them. I have to admit that I myself am guilty of this, for in the morning I start these writings from my cell phone before transitioning to my tablet, and in the evening I am either watching something on my phone, or I am reading the passage of Scripture for the next day. I am by no means innocent when it comes to being completely saturated and immersed in my cell phone—regardless of whether it’s in the morning, throughout the day, or even during the evening on my commute home from work.
This YouTube video presents us with a tremendous challenge—one that challenges us to get out from behind our cell phones, and to actually engage ourselves in and with the world around us. I am amazed that such small devices can not only create, but can also be such great walls which are present within our hearts and lives. In an attempt to “connect” ourselves to the world in which we live, we are actually building and putting up walls around us, and are completely shutting ourselves off from everything and everyone that is around us. Consider your own home environment—whether you live with a spouse, or a partner, or a friend, or a co-worker, or a roommate—and think about how much time you spend on your cell phone while you are at home. I am convinced that we have allowed ourselves to be completely gripped, and completely saturated with and by our cell phones, and we have allowed ourselves to become engrossed in an alternate reality, and in a virtual world—one that allows us to be completely disconnected from the actual world around us. In all reality, I would dare say that we have never been more “connected,” and yet at the same time so disconnected to the world around us. We think and believe that if we have a large number of friends on Facebook, or a large number of followers on Instagram and Twitter, or a large number of contacts in SnapChat, or any other social media platform that we are actually connected to the world around us, and yet I am convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. What’s more, is that we are living in a generation when this process starts much earlier, as our children are learning this process from a very young age. I have to admit that I am absolutely and utterly horrified by how much we are disconnected from the world which is around us—all the while thinking and believing that we are actually connected to it through our devices. I would dare argue that we are by no means more connected to the world around us through and because of our mobile devices than we are by actually putting our devices down and engaging ourselves with the world around us. Each day I come to work I have to take an elevator to get to the floor I work on, and even in the elevator most people are on their cell phones with head phones on—except for during the day when men and women will go out for coffee, or will go out for lunch. Most elevators no longer play music in them, and most people no longer talk or speak while taking elevators where they are going.
I am convinced that one of the greatest tragedies that faces our generation and our society is one that surrounds our being disconnected from the world around us because we are so consumed, so enammored, so engrossed in our cell phones. We spend more time allowing our senses to be engaged by what is on our cell phone screen than we actually do with the world around us. We spend more time allowing ourselves to be completely immersed in the virtual world we have created, and perhaps even the alternative person we have become through online platforms such as social media. You cannot convince me for one moment that there aren’t men and women who are one way on their job, or one way at home, or one way in church, and aren’t something and someone completely different when they are on their cell phones. We used to talk about hypocrisy in the church, for men and women would be one way in the house of the Lord, and would be a completely different person outside the four walls of the church. While this is still true in many ways within our culture and society, I am convinced that we have taken this a step further, and not only can we be one way in church and another way outside the church, but so also we can be someone and something completely different through and with the devices we hold in our hands. What’s more, is that these devices, the social media platforms they give us access to, and ultimately everything these devices afford us with, allow us to create an alternative reality to who we really are as individuals. I have seen it happen time and time again when men and women have created for themselves a completely different reality from the one that is actually true and accurate within their lives, and I have to admit that I have been guilty of that as well. Men and women tend to find greater freedom when they are on these devices to engage themselves in this alternate reality, for it allows them to do so in a controlled environment where they feel there is no risk whatsoever. I can’t help but examine my own heart and life and to see just how much I have allowed myself to be completely and totally saturated and immersed in my mobile device, and how I have allowed myself to get caught up in an alternate reality—one that allows me to freely be someone I am not. What’s more, is there are men and women who think and believe that they can engage themselves with little to no consequence or recourse for their actions, and completely neglect and ignore the fact that such a though process is nothing more than naïveté and complete and total deception. We dare not think and believe for one moment that we can allow ourselves to become saturated and inundated in this world, and there be no consequence or recourse for our actions. OH how many of us allow ourselves to be completely and totally deceived by this alternate reality, and by this virtual “self” we have allowed ourselves to create in an attempt to “connect” in a greater way to the world around us.
When you come to verses fifteen through seventeen of the second chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle John, you will find the following words written by the apostle unto the saints which are at Ephesus: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:15-17). One of the first things you will notice when reading the words which the apostle John wrote in this particular passage is how not only are we encouraged and instructed to love not the world, but we are also instructed to love not the things which are in the world. What’s more, is that the apostle John goes on to write and declare that any one who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle found within the New Testament. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the following words written by James unto those which were scattered abroad:
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because he ask . Ye ask, and received not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw night to God, and He will draw night to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-9).
You will notice in this particular passage of Scripture how James not only declares that friendship of the world is enmity with God, but also that whosoever would choose to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. The words which James writes in this passage of Scripture are actually remarkably similar to those which the apostle John wrote, for John declared that anyone who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. James presents a similar reality when he declares that he who makes themselves a friend of the world is the enemy of God. ENEMIES OF GOD WITH HIS LOVE ABSENT WITHIN THEM! ENEMIES OF GOD ABSENT THE LOVE OF THE FATHER! I can’t help but think how many men and women among us today are in fact enemies of God because they have allowed themselves to be friends with, and develop a friendship with the world. I can’t help but think about and be reminded of how many men and women right now are enemies of God because they are choosing to allow themselves to be friends with the world, and to engage themselves in the desires, the lusts, the passions, and the pleasures which are found within it. There is a passage found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews which takes this reality even further, and actually presents us with one who deliberately and intentionally chose not to allow himself to develop an affection or desire for the things of the world. The individual who I speak of is Moses, and the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews had something to say about this man who chose not to allow himself to be friends with the world. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-fourth verse of the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find the following words concerning Moses, and the conscious and deliberate decisions he made within his life:
“By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them” (Hebrews 11:24-27).
REFUSED! CHOOSING! ESTEEMING! FORSOOK! The words which are presented in this passage of Scripture are actually quite intense, and quite powerful, for they present us with a strong and powerful reality concerning Moses—Moses who not only refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but he also forsook Egypt and all it had to offer, not fearing the wrath of the king. What’s more, is that the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared how Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Those words are absolutely and incredibly difficult for us to handle and bear, and yet I am convinced that they provide tremendous insight into why we allow ourselves to be captivated and consumed with the things of this world. You will notice how the author of this epistle wrote concerning Moses that he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. I am utterly and completely convinced that one of the greatest reasons why we allow ourselves to indulge in and pursue the pleasures of sin within his present world is because it so much easier to enjoy and pursue the pleasures of sin than it is to actually devote and commit ourselves to Christ. It is so much easier to enjoy the pleasures of sin—even if it is for a brief season within our lives—for it allows us to be completely removed from anything that would hold us accountable. It is so easy for us to enjoy the pleasures of sin, for it allows us to abstain and remove ourselves from the afflictions of Christ, and the afflictions which we share with the people of God. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fifth chapter of the first epistle which he wrote in the New Testament. Beginning with the fifth verse of the fifth chapter the apostle Peter writes the following words:
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).
Notice within this passage how the apostle Peter not only instructs those who had been scattered abroad to be sober and vigilant, but he goes on to declare and describe unto them why such an action is necessary—because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. The apostle goes on to write unto those who had been scattered that we are to resist the devil steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in all our brethren which are in the world. Did you catch that? Please don’t miss those words, for the apostle Peter wrote concerning the same afflictions which are being accomplished in our brethren which are in the world. I can’t help but be absolutely and utterly gripped and captivated by the words which the apostle Peter wrote, for not only does he write and speak about the afflictions we experience within our own lives, but he also writes and speaks about how those same afflictions are being accomplished in our brethren which are in the world. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this—particularly and especially when we consider the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote—for Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. In other words, this author seems to suggest that though Moses could have enjoyed the sins of this world for a season, he would have disconnected himself from his brethren. What’s more, is that the author of this epistle seems to suggest that we use the pleasures of sin which are present all around us within the world as an escape from experiencing the afflictions of Christ, and doing so with the people of God. If I am being honest with you who are reading this, I would dare say that more often than not when we choose to enjoy the pleasures of sin rather than partaking of the afflictions of Christ with the people of God, we do so in a personal and private place. What I mean by this, is that we isolate ourselves, and we remove ourselves from those around us—even the people of God. WE do so because it so much easier to enjoy the pleasures of sin than it is to suffer the afflictions of Christ with the people of God. What we find and what we read about Moses in this particular epistle is that he esteemed the reproach of Christ of greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, and he did so because he had recompense of the reward that was before him. The question we must ask ourselves when reading these words is whether or not we have the resolve, whether or not we have the desire, whether or not we have the courage to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. It was James who emphatically and without reservation declared that anyone who makes themselves a friend of the world is in fact an enemy of God, and we dare not miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality.
IN order to fully and completely understand that which the apostle John was writing in these three verses, it is necessary that we turn and direct our attention back to the words which he wrote in verses twelve through fourteen. If you read the words which are found and recorded in these three verses you will find some intense language concerning those to whom the apostle was writing. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in these verses unto those to whom he was writing: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:12-14). Notice what the apostle John writes within these three verses—“your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake,” “ye have known Him that is from the beginning,” “ye have overcome the wicked one,” “ye have known the Father,” “ye have known Him that is from the beginning,” “ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you,” “ye have overcome the wicked one.” The apostle John had some incredibly strong words to say within these three verses, and after writing concerning knowing Him who is from the beginning, and after writing how young men and fathers have had their sins forgiven for His name’s sake, he goes on to write concerning overcoming the wicked one. Immediately following his statement concerning overcoming the wicked one, the apostle John then transitions to his statement and instruction to love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. In all reality, I am convinced there are two ways that we can guarantee we love not the world, neither those things which are in the world. The first way is to truly love and truly know the Father, and the second is to not only resist, but also to overcome the wicked one. I have long and often believed that the single greatest way to guard ourselves against and guard ourselves from idolatry is to truly and deeply love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength. I am convinced that if we are going to disconnect ourselves from this love of the world, we need to replace it with a different kind of love—a love that is neither love of self, nor a love of money, but a love of the true and living God. The apostle John wrote that all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. We must recognize and pay close attention to this reality, for by doing so, we position ourselves to truly love the Father, and to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength. What’s more, is that I would even add loving our neighbor as ourselves in this reality, for if we allow ourselves to love the Lord our God, and if we allow ourselves to love our neighbors as ourselves, and if we engage ourselves in doing so, we can and will allow ourselves to be completely and utterly set free from loving this world, and from loving the things of this world.