Good morning church! How’s everyone doing this morning? Ideally, we would’ve loved to have continued with the hybrid model but recent restrictions on public gatherings obviously means that we need to switch back to a full online service.
Even as I say that I just want to be thankful to God for the opportunity to still connect with each other on a Sunday virtually. I’m thankful to God this morning for the Gospel and I’m thankful for all of you.
As a church we have been going through an exciting series titled “Faith filled Friendships” from 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. The Apostle John has so far given us a few different test kits to help us evaluate our own friendship status with God. The first test kit was that “if we say we know God but don’t keep His commands, then we are not telling the truth – in plain words we are liars”. Then the second test kit told us that “if we say that we are in the light but hate our brother, then we are still in darkness”. And so today we come to a third test kit as we read 1 John 2:15-17
15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
I’ve personally always loved going to the doctor. Fortunately for me, the fear of doctors I don’t believe was ever there so I didn’t mind going to the doctor. One of the things that fascinated me about doctors was the part before the tests are taken. Where the doctor turns into an investigator and asks all different kinds of questions. All the way from asking about my medical history, what kind of symptoms I’ve been showing, if I’ve had past allergies to certain medication etc.
Through these various questions, the doctors attempt to diagnose my illness. Similarly in today’s passage, it’s almost like the text is asking us various investigative questions to help us evaluate our friendship status with God based on our response to the worldly values & desires. If we truly are friends with God, then it’ll be also reflected in our reaction and response to the worldly values & desires.
Are we ready for a heart diagnosis this morning? We will be reflecting on three diagnostic questions this morning. Right at the end we’ve got some application points but before that the questions:
1. Do we notice heart idols? (v15)
2. Do we see the deep roots of our heart idols? (v16)
3. Are we trusting in the Gospel today? (v17)
1. Do we notice heart idols? (v15)
15 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.
Before we arrive at the definition of heart idols, let’s try to understand what does John mean when he says “Don’t love the world or the things in this world”? Is it meaning that I shouldn’t love my family? Is it meaning that I can’t enjoy eating a plate of biryani? Is it meaning that I can’t enjoy watching sports? Is it saying that “everything is evil in the world, so I need to leave everything and live like a monk”?
No, that’s an extreme unbiblical understanding of the created world. When God created the world and everything in it, He declared it to be “good” in Genesis chapter 1.
But something happened when Adam and Eve sinned against God. Something changed in the dynamics. These very same good things that God had given us to enjoy & be reasons to praise Him now became ultimate things for us! That’s heart idolatry.
Here’s what Pastor Tim Keller says about Idolatry: “Idolatry means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing. We say “unless I have that, I am nothing”.
Some of us would think “I don’t bow down before a carved image made of wood or stone”, but that’s just half of the story. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we regularly and consistently bow down before the heart idols of people, pleasure, position and possessions. These things in itself were good things as God created them, but in our sin we have made them out to be ultimate things.
In culture, we’ve made the word “idol” to be an aspirational thing: “Indian Idol” “American Idol” but in reality heart idolatry for a person, for pleasures, for position and for possessions is dangerous and harmful. Why? Because it controls (enslaves) our heart.
It consumes our thought life. It controls the choices and decisions we make to the extent where we will do anything to get it even if it means going beyond God’s wise and protective boundaries.
That’s what loving the world means – it’s heart idolatry (making good things out to be ultimate things) & we must know that’s in the polar opposite direction of being friends with God. James 4:4 speaks about this in a much more direct, confrontational way when it says:
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Now one of the questions that might come to our minds is that – if I have heart idols right now, does that make me an unbeliever? Is my faith not genuine? Is that what this verse means: If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (v15)
No, it means that a true, genuine believer when he/she is confronted with their heart idols will want to repent and get right with the Father. True believers can’t remain in unconfessed sin.
True can’t remain in unrepentance? Why? Because if God is truly our Father, He will not leave us in a pit of sin. He may discipline us out of His love but He won’t let us be as we are. Secondly, if we are truly his children we can’t go on resisting God’s loving pursuit & call to turn back to Him.
The Spirit in us will convict us & bring us back into the loving arms of our Father. The Spirit constantly tells us “Go back to your Father, enjoy the safety and security in His arms”. Eg: Prodigal Son
At this point – can we just pause and ask ourselves what are our heart idols right now? What’s something or someone that has consumed our thought life over the last week? What’s is something or someone we have made out to be ultimate things – saying that we can’t live without this.
2. Do we see the deep roots of our heart idols? (v16)
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Many times when we evaluate our idols, we end up only looking at the surface. So we say things like: “social media is my heart idol, food is an idol” etc. These are true but what we need to understand is that all these idols are extremely deep rooted. In v16 – I think the apostle John is exposing the roots of all of our idols. It can be categorized in 3 ways:
- Self-gratification (Desire for flesh): Being controlled and shaped by our appetites & cravings of the body. In essence what we are communicating is “my life & purpose is all about satisfying the pleasures of my heart. I won’t stop until all those pleasures are satisfied”.
- Self-accumulation (Desire for eyes): Being controlled and shaped by our hunger for money & possessions that attract our greed. In this case, we communicate “my life is all about making loads of money, becoming rich and buying whatever I want to buy. I won’t stop until I get what I want”.
- Self-sufficiency (Pride of life): Being controlled and shaped by the security and stability of our earthly resources, skills and knowledge. In this case, we communicate “I’m a self-made individual. I will do whatever it takes to secure my life on the basis of resources, skills and knowledge so that I’ll never need to be dependent on anyone else.”
And this is not new deep roots that just popped up in our life suddenly. I must tell you that these are age-old sinful deep roots that was there in the Garden of Eden. Here’s what it says in Genesis 3:6:
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
- Good for food – Self-gratification
- Delight to the eyes – Self-accumulation
- Desired to make one wise – Self-sufficiency
I would argue that every sin that we commit is a product of one of these or all of these deep-rooted idols. And that’s the heart of rebellion – it’s saying “God, You should not be in the center of my life. You should not dictate what I should or should not do. It’s my life and I chose to live it my way for my pleasures and goals. I can figure this out apart from You”.
Why am I saying all this? To help us realize that merely dealing with the surface level idols isn’t solving the problem. For example, if I say I have a “food idol” – merely taking steps to discipline my eating habits will not remove the root of “self-gratification”. One of the symptoms of COVID-19 that we all know is fever. Now what would happen if we just took a Crocin to treat it? The fever will subside temporarily but that doesn’t do anything to the infection that’s there on the inside. That needs to be treated differently and we need the help of doctors and physicians to help us with that. We can’t self-medicate. Similarly these heart idols are too deep for you and I to do anything about them by ourselves. We really need God’s rescuing grace for this. “Grace” precisely means God doing something for us that we can’t do ourselves. We need grace.
3. Are we trusting in the Gospel today? (v17)
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
“Whoever does the will of God” abides forever. What is this will of God that John is telling us to do? John 6:28-29 – 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The disciples were like us – practical people. “Tell us what works should we be doing.” Jesus tells them what you need to do “is believe in me”. But this believing in Jesus is not a passive activity. It’s not something we do intellectually, no believing involves commitment & surrender. Eg: believing that the chair I’m sitting on can hold my weight. So what do we believing Jesus for. 3 final applications:
- Believe in Jesus’ finished work:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53:5)
First thing we need to realize regarding our heart idols is that on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the entire penalty meant for all the deep-rooted idols in our lives. There’s not a single idol which hasn’t been covered by the blood of our Savior. He paid it in full! So when we are made aware of our heart idols, it’s not something to become fearful or anxious about but rather realize that the payment for these idols have been made by Jesus in full. We can repent immediately as a result of that. We don’t need to delay because the payment is made.
- Believe in Jesus’ intercession
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15,16)
Many times in our lives we will be overwhelmed by the extent of our heart idols. Especially when we see repeated patterns of it. But here’s what You are I need to know. We aren’t left alone to deal with our idols. Help is available right now. There is someone (Jesus) understands the temptations of these heart idols. It’s a big statement to know that in every respect Jesus was tempted as we are but without sin.
Yes, Jesus as our perfect Savior didn’t yield to sin but he understands the full force of temptations. So that’s why He is the perfect person to pray for us and ask the Father for the right and appropriate help that is needed. All those times when you’re weary and disappointed, remind yourself and each other – “Help is available because my Jesus is praying for me right now”.
- Believe in Jesus’ second coming
28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb 9:28)
The first two applications dealt with reactively responding to our idols. This one is proactively responding to it. What I meant by that is if we know that our bridegroom is definitely coming soon, then in eager expectation we should take radical steps to not put ourselves in positions of compromise.
Would anyone of us ever approach a bride-to-be (someone who is about to get married) just a day before she’s about to get married and ask her to put on her bridal gown and come and play in the mud? No matter how brave you may be, no one would dare to put forward that suggestion because you’ll get a solid beating.
Her wedding dress is prepared for her to wear on the day when she gets married to her husband and she’ll do everything she can to ensure that it remains clean. The Bible calls us the bride of Christ. Brothers and sisters, our wedding bells are going to ring soon. On that wonderful day when Jesus will rid us completely of every single heart idol. So today we will take steps to keep our wedding clothes ready and clean for that upcoming day.