Of the world, in the world? – 1 John 2:15

This week’s Sunday Series post has to do with the world and how we, as believers, are to relate to it.  Many well-meaning believers have taken the concept of the world to two incorrect extremes.  One on side you have people who say we should be completely separate from the world, as in live in somewhat of a bubble.  People with this view will say that Christian people should not watch television, have cell phones or enjoy anything that people who don’t follow Jesus enjoy.

On the other hand, you have people who desire to be ‘relevant’ with the world and would say that we should do everything in order to relate to the people of the world.  They claim that in order to reach people for Jesus Christ, we must hang out, without limits, in places where non-believers gather.  This one is a topic for another time, but I list it here just to give the comparison.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”- 1 John 2:15

What is the difference between living in the world and living of the world?

This is a question of definition.  The Bible uses ‘world’ in three different ways:

First, we have the physical creation.  These are the things that we see with our eyes and touch with our hands.  If you read through Genesis 1, this is the world referred to there.   Of course, that is not a problem as God himself called it good.

Next we see human beings referred to as the world.  This is how it is shown to be in John 3:16 with God so loving the world.  God loves the world, so why would he tell us not to be a part of it?  That is because this world is more about the people and less about the devil’s work.

Lastly, we have the fallen creation.  This is the part that is in organized opposition to God.   An example of this is in the description in Ephesians 2:2.

“in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” – Ephesians 2:2

The word for world is cosmos and that is the opposite of chaos.  In Genesis 1 there was chaos and God spoke His Word and created cosmos.  (orderly and organized)

Satan coveted that and desired his own place where all the glory goes to him instead of God. So, the world as it is often referred to in the Bible, is that which is headed by Satan and opposed to God.  It is the alternate cosmos, known as the world.  (Ephesians 6:12)

The devil is the prince of this world.  That comes right from the mouth of Jesus, in John 14:30.  His time is limited because once the end comes and that final judgment occurs, he will not have any more control.  The world, as a result, is in organized rebellion against God, at the direction of the devil and the powers of evil.

Why does he keep trying?  Well, generally because he has nothing more to lose.  He is out to try to steal glory from God by encouraging people to disobey God and to turn from him.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  1 Peter 5:8-9

The main point here is that Scripture is not saying that you cannot have a cell phone, or watch TV.   What it is saying is that you should not love that which stands opposed to God.  We are all affected by the world, it is all around us and it often goes undetected because of its familiarity.  So, we need to be paying attention to what is influencing us and what it is that we love.  Our love should be first directed to God.    If anything else gets in the way of God, it has taken a place it does not belong. This is loving the world over loving God.

“He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27

Satan’s primary tactics are deception and fear.  The place where he gets those things done is the world.  So, we need to know the truth of God’s Word, living it and applying it.

So,  yes you live in the world, which is the physical reality of life.  You don’t live in the world that is against God and shapes you to behave the same.

“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

What is your reaction to this?  How do you balance involvement in the world with the command to not love the world? 



  1. This is a difficult concept for all. We are to be ‘missionaries’ to the world, go among them, live among them, but not allow ourselves to become them. We love them because God does, and we love God first, any other love means we have become worldly. Of course someone will read that and not understand that the love I speak of is not what the world thinks of as love. It is what we put first in our lives. Great post. 🙂 Angie

    1. This is where we need to understand what this actually means. Anyone can take this to the extreme, on either side. Be wise and careful. Relevance is a buzz word and one that I talk a lot about. I don’t think you need to be “cool” as the world would describe it, to be relevant. Relevance is about God’s work in you, not about your own work.

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