Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of the Father abides forever. – 1 John 2:15-17
Forever is a long time. And I can mostly grasp what that means starting with me and moving forward in time. Starting a clock now and letting it run for ever is huge, but doesn’t necessarily phase me. But then I think about before me. Going back forever. No beginning. That makes my brain hurt. To think that there is a whole eternity before we even existed, I can’t wrap my brain around that. Before Genesis 1:1, there was eternity. There was this never-ending time before, as the Bible states, “In the beginning.” Not only was it timeless before Genesis 1, but it will be timeless after Revelations 22. But this later “time,” we have the opportunity to abide with the Father. We have the option of being with the One who created the Earth. God paused eternity to insert time so that He could create us so that we then could be with Him in eternity. As Augustine wrote, “Hold fast to Christ. For you he became temporal, so that you might partake of eternity.”
I don’t know and can’t even imagine what it will be like to be in eternity, but I know I want to be with God when I am there.
We know that in eternity, there will be things that we won’t have. As John states, things of this world are passing away, especially the desires. Specifically, the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life or possessions. You could say that I desire to be with God when in eternity, and that would be true. But this kind of desire isn’t the kind that is passing away with the world. This is a desire that isn’t of the world, or my flesh, but rather comes from the Spirit and from the hope of the promise of Jesus Christ. It is a longing to be with Him, not a desire that can be fulfilled and then move on. It is one that builds as I get more, strengthening me each step of the way.
The desires of this world are more like cravings. I desire ice cream from time to time. And by time to time, I mean daily. Sometimes hourly. But when I have ice cream, my desire is filled for the moment. But, soon enough, it comes back and I want more. And if I get too much, it makes me feel sick, it doesn’t build me up or strengthen me. It actually can start to dictate how I make my choices. It can lead to me compromising other things in my life that do lead to health. The desire of the flesh leads to being weakened and controlled. The desire of the Spirit leads to being strengthened and ability to be led by God who knows everything.
Jesus tells us in the sermon on the mount that we are either building with wood, hay and stubble or we are building with precious gems and metal. The desires of the world are wood, hay and stubble. Doing the will of the Father is the precious gems and metal. What are you building with?
Satan uses these worldly desires as tools, or weapons, to keep you from being in Christ. He uses them to get us to compromise. But he is sneaky about it. He doesn’t get us to turn the full turn away from God, just a little bit here and a little bit there. It is a “Slow Fade” as the Casting Crowns song puts it. These desires creep in unnoticed until they become a controlling force in our life. This is why Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We need to be wise of the ways of the devil so we can notice them. And we need to have the innocence, or purity, enough so that anything that isn’t of God sticks out like a sore thumb. If you had a bucket of white paint and you dropped one drop of black paint into it, you would notice it. But if you let that black drop stay there and stirred it in, you wouldn’t know the difference. Add another drop, you can still see it until you stir it in. Then another, then another. Each time you stir it in, the white paint becomes grayer and dimmer, but not really noticeable. That is, until you hold it up to another can of pure white paint. We may look pure white until we come close to Christ who is pure.
We need to check where our desires are coming from in order to know if we should pursue them. There is nothing wrong with desiring a nice house, or a better car, or a great marriage as long as our motives are driven by God’s will. If our motives are focused on ourselves, then these desires are coming from the flesh. There is a difference between, “I want a better house for my family so we are safer and have the ability to fellowship with others,” and “I want a better house so people think better of me.” There is a difference between, “I want a better marriage so I am going to invest time in my spouse and work together,” and “I want a better marriage so I am going to look for someone else.”
It is easy to see how these desires creep in by comparing different examples. Think about children that you have seen in any third world country. They have no fabricated toys, but find things naturally to play with and their joy is abundant. Now think about children in America. They have an abundance of toys and yet only want more. Has it always been like this in America? No. But as we have built more and become more able to get things, the desire to have more things has grown even more.
Think about body images. It used to be a status symbol to be “well-rounded” physically speaking. The extra fat meant that you had money to buy food. Now, women are told you have to look a certain way and show off certain things. They are told to, dress sexy for their man in order to please him, to break out the lingerie. But, just for a moment, question where did that idea come from that you had to look sexy. It comes from the desires of the eyes. Now you may say that I only do this in my marriage and keep it behind closed doors. Great. That is between you and your spouse, please don’t tell me about that. You can’t un-hear that. But this desire can then open the door to seeking to fulfill it elsewhere. If you are approaching your intimacy with you spouse from the outside-in, this can lead to seeking it in other visual ways. But if you approach your intimacy with your spouse from the inside-out, then your connection will be stronger, will sustain more storms and it will be an intimacy that grows no matter what.
Men aren’t immune to the body image corralling. We feel we need to have the 6-pack abs, the pecs, traps and bi-ceps. We take Sampson and portray him as Conan the Warrior with 5% body fat, chiseled muscles and larger than other men. But there is nothing in the scriptures that supports that. More than likely, Sampson looked less like the Terminator and more like the father from Fiddler on the Roof. His strength came when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him not because he had 22” biceps. Yet, we as men strive for this body image instead of striving for the strength of the Lord to dwell in us.
We all know when a desire comes up. So now is the time to start checking each one to see where it is coming from. Is it from the Lord or from the flesh? Is it based on our desire to be sanctified by the Lord or our desire to be liked by others? Are we basing it off of the world’s standards or is there a biblical basis for it? Could you imagine how simple life would be if we only lived in the desires that are from the Spirit? Priorities would line themselves up, conflicts would be minimized, and our joy and satisfaction would sky rocket.
We each have choices to make each day. Make sure you are make the choices that are guided by the Lord and not influenced by the world. With each choice made this way helps keep you pure. Each choice strengthens you to make it again. Soon you will not only just feel the strength, you will know your strength comes from the Lord.