The World is Passing Away

I don’t mean to be morbid, but we are all going to die one day. It’s inevitable. No one is going to live forever. Sure, some of us may live longer than others, and some of us may live longer than we want. I hear getting older isn’t for wimps! But regardless of what you do, you aren’t going to live forever. That age-defying cream, magic pill, and new and improved workout routine may help you look younger, even help you live longer and improve your quality of life, but the end is eventually going to come. We all are going to pass away. In reality, we are already passing away. Every breath we take brings us closer to the inevitable.

The World is Passing Away

Just like we are passing away, John tells us that the world and its desires are passing away too.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

(1 Jn 2:17)

On one undisclosed day, this world is going to come to end. Jesus will return, judge the world, and restore it to its former glory. We can be sure that will happen because God told us in His Word to us it will. God’s Word can be trusted because God’s promises have consistently and perfectly been fulfilled throughout biblical history. The world and its corrupt and evil system is passing away.

Knowing the trajectory of the world and its declared and promised end should drive us to place our hope and trust in God and not the world.

So if you have been betting on the world, hoping it was going to fulfill your every desire and longing, that if you just held on a little longer everything would be alright, know that it won’t. The world can’t and won’t fulfill you, nor can it provide ultimate salvation because it is passing away.

Question for Reflection

  1. Where have you placed your hope?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon Why shouldn’t we love the world?

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Why Shouldn’t We Love the World?

As a parent, one of the things you so badly want is for your kids to say their first word, then their first phrase, then their first sentence. Not only are those developmental milestones, but in one sense it makes life easier. If they are hungry, cold, sick, or tired, they can actually tell you instead of crying until you happen to figure out which one it is by trial error.

But in another sense, it can make life more difficult. I know I’m constantly getting onto my oldest son for picking on his brother. In fact, I had to stop writing this paragraph in order to talk with him about something he said to his younger brother.

Playing referee is not the only thing that makes life more difficult. As your kids’ progress in their understanding and speech, you get the inevitable “why” question. I’m not saying that asking why is always disrespectful or even a bad thing, it’s what helps us learn and grow in our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. While that’s true, it does make our lives more difficult because it means we have to give an answer for almost everything that happens. A lot of time, I just don’t have the answer, or at least I don’t have the answer to the fifth “why” in a row. It either doesn’t exist, or my knowledge of the subject has been exhausted.

Even though I don’t always have the answer, I try to provide what I can because knowing why is often the difference between doing or not doing something. At least that’s the case in my life. Take algebra for instance. I think not knowing why I needed algebra as an adult was one of the reasons I didn’t apply myself to the subject in high school.

Knowing why is a motivating factor in our lives. I know this, you know this, God knows this, and the writers of Scripture know this, which is why the Bible often tells us why we should or shouldn’t do something. That’s exactly what John is doing for us in today’s passage. He tells us why we shouldn’t love the world.

Why shouldn’t we love the world?

In verse 15 of 1 John chapter 2 we read,

“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.” (1 Jn 2:15)

The first part of the verse represents the command. We are to take this command seriously because God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Lord is telling us not to do something through His inspired and inerrant Word.

Not only are we given a command, but we are also given a reason why we shouldn’t love the world.

I know you have probably seen those license plates or stickers that say: House Divided. Underneath that tag line you typically see the mascots of two rival football teams. In the South, where I grew up, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators were big rivals. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see people driving around with one of those license plates on their car.

While that tag definitely represented a division, it wasn’t so strong of a division, at least in some families, that they couldn’t marry one another, live in the same house, or raise kids together. Sure, their hearts might be divided when it comes to football. And that division might even lead them to give each other a hard time when those two teams play each other. But that doesn’t mean they can’t love and care for one another.

That, however, is not the case when it comes to our love for God and the world. We can’t slap a tag on our car in fun that says Love Divided — God and World. Either God holds our heart in His hands or the world does. If we love the world, the love of the Father can’t be in us. So we shouldn’t love the world because it means we have divided hearts. As followers of Jesus, our hearts shouldn’t be divided. Instead, they should be fully given to Jesus and the things of God over the things of the world.

Question for Reflection

  1. Is your heart divided?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon Why shouldn’t we love the world?

church steeple

Why is death important to the Christian? – Part 2

“God does not ask us to bring in our livestock and burn it on the altar; he asks us to give ourselves, to put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God. Some people think that all it takes to be a Christian is to scribble a cheque or to give a few hours of service here and there on special projects for the church. But that’s not what believers are called to. My life is to be set apart and consecrated to God. That is what is acceptable to him; that is what delights him; that is what pleases him; that is the appropriate response to him and for him.”

R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 195.

If Sproul is right, and I believe he is, how do we daily die to self?

How Can We Die to Self, Giving Ourselves fully to God?

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul says,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Ro 12:1–2)

Not only does Paul argue for why we should die to self in these verses (see my last post), he also tells us how.

(1) We can and should be motivated to die to self and give ourselves fully to God because of the gospel (the mercies of God).

The gospel is supremely about God’s love for us. It is His desire to bring us into the Trinitarian love relationship. In other words, it is the outworking of His desire for us to experience the eternal love, joy, delight, and satisfaction that He and the Son and the Spirit have experienced from eternities past.

Consistently reflecting on God’s love for us, should motivate us to get to know Him, it should cause us to delight in Him, and to love Him, as well as it should create a sense of gratitude in our hearts. Gratitude is important, because as one author puts it,

“All Christian living and ethics are ultimately rooted in a deep gratitude for what God has done for us… [so that our] [e]very decision and every action…[is] a response to His mercy.”

READ MARK LEARN Romans , 222.

In order for us to constantly be reminded of the power and motivation of the gospel, we must preach the gospel to ourselves. Constantly reminding ourselves of God’s love and action for us. The gospel, then, is both the power and motivation for us to die to self daily, not just the ABC’s of the Christian life.

(2) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by purposing to no longer be conformed to the world.

In the beginning of verse 2, Paul says,

“Do not be conformed to this world…”

(Rom 12:2a)

Paul’s use of “conformed” is meant to paint a picture for the reader. A picture of a mold. My son has a play-doh set. Not only did it come with several containers of play-doh, but it also came with several molds that allow you to form or mold the play-doh into cool things like alligators, dolphins, monkeys, and dogs.

The molds that come with the play-doh set are easy to use. All you have to do is push the play-doh through the mold and wa-la you have an animal or mammal that looks like one of the molds.

Just like it’s easy to mold Camden’s play-doh into something that resembles one of those shapes, it is easy for the world to mold us into itself. Which is something Christians must fight against because the world’s values and goal are antithetical to God’s.

While conforming to the world is something we have to avoid, it is also something with which we need to approach with caution. Why is that? On the one hand, we are naturally nonconformists who don’t conform for nonconformities sake. But we can’t just be blanket nonconformists so that: If the world wears lipstick, we don’t. Or if the world goes to the movies, we don’t. Or if the world plays sports, we don’t. We can’t reject the world outright. We were created to live in the world, to be a part of the world, and to extend God’s glory into the world (Gen 1-2). But on the other hand, because we are natural conformists, we must be careful not to allow ourselves to conform to the world’s sinful patterns. The point being, we must not run to either extreme. Instead, we must carefully balance between conformity and non-conformity, which we do by (1) purposing to no longer be conformed to the world, and (2) by being transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we know the will of God.

(3) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by being transformed by the renewal of minds.

Starting in the middle of verse 2, Paul says,

“but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Rom 12:2b-c)

Paul tells us that our minds must be renewed so that we can test what is the will of God.

While renewal is necessary, we can’t renew our minds apart from God first working in our lives. We can’t do that – renew our own minds, because we are fallen. In our fallen state, we are totally depraved. Our mind has a spirit all its own — a viewpoint, a mindset, a bent that is different than and opposed to God. Until God works in our lives to change us, we will remain incapable of knowing, understanding, and accepting His will.

By God’s grace, He doesn’t leave us to wallow in our own sin. He exercises grace by giving us what we don’t deserve – renewal.

He works in our lives bringing about renewal through the Holy Spirit, who changes us both from the outside-in and the inside-out.

Outside-In

The Holy Spirit changes us from the outside-in by:

  • Presenting God’s Word to us.
  • Drawing us into prayer, and into relationships with other godly Christians.
  • Leading us to hear the Word preached and to meditate on Christ.

Inside-Out

But the Holy Spirit also changes us from the inside-out by changing our heart. The heart is what the Bible refers to as the seat of the person. It is our will, wants, and desires. The Holy Spirit works in us to change these desires so that we will want God and His will for our lives. Without the Holy Spirit working heart change in us first, we won’t accept the truth of the gospel no matter how much preaching and teaching we receive.

Have you ever wondered why someone can grow up in a Christian home, attend church every week, meet with godly mentors, and even read the Bible cover to cover, but reject God as soon as they move off to college? It’s because an external change occurred without heart change. Unless our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit to accept the things of God, we can hear all the preaching in the world, meet with the godliest people, and read God’s Word cover to cover, but we won’t accept God’s truth, nor will we apply it to our lives.

That is why it is so crucial we experience change both from the outside-in and inside-out.

Our Part in the Renewal Process

While I have argued thus far that the Holy Spirit is the primary changer, we can’t forget that we play a part in the renewal process. We must work alongside the Holy Spirit, which we do by.

  • Reading God’s Word.
  • Attending weekly worship services.
  • Going to the Lord in prayer.
  • Meeting with godly Christians.
  • Memorizing Scripture.
  • Reading Christian books and commentaries that help us understand and apply God’s Word.

While these things won’t bring about an initial change in a person, they are the means the Spirit uses to expose us to God’s will, as well as they are the means God has given for us to continue to change and renew our minds once the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives to bring about initial heart change. It is important, then, that we use them so we will see continued renewal in our lives, thus protecting us from accepting the world’s mentality, which will allow us to continue to live as living sacrifices who remain on rather than crawl off the altar.

Questions for Reflection

(1) Have you been renewed by the Spirit?

(2) Are you using the means of grace to daily continue the renewal process?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is death important to the Christian?