Since there’s been an added interest in the topic of sex and carnal desires, I figured it was high time to write another blog post about that which people can relate to and that which some cannot seem to get enough. Here is the first of the three descriptions of the “things of this world.”
LUST OF THE FLESH
It is important that each and everyone of us takes a look at our own personal daily lives and determine what takes precedence in our lives. What do we keep in front of our eyes? What do we focus our minds on? What are our hearts filled with? Is it with the things of God or the things of this world?
Once we determine what takes priority in our lives we must make a decision. Do we stay the course or do we change direction? If we’ve remained obedient to the things of God then we are on the right track. But if we’ve come to the revelation that our lives are filled more with the things of this world, what must we do then? It is then that we must turn away from the things that are destructive and turn back to God. The question we then ask ourselves is, “what are we turning away from?”
I. The Lust of the Flesh
1 John 2:16- “For 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.”
I was once enlightened to an important and critical fact. We in this world must learn to transform our love for sin into our love for God. We must learn to love sin less and love God more. We must exchange our love for sin for the love of God. This is of course very difficult for many of us. We find gratification with sin. We find fulfillment. We feel as if we are whole by committing the sins that we commit. When we try and exchange our sin for God, that fulfillment may not be as tangible. We try to stay satisfied with God, but it’s difficult because God isn’t as visible or tangible as the sin we’ve been holding to.
Then eventually we feel empty. We need to be filled. God is absent. We don’t feel him. But we sure do know the feeling we get when we commit a sin. We remember how good it felt. We remember how it satisfied our longings. We could not wait for God to fill the void in our hearts. It’s much more easily satisfied by sin.
But we remember what Christ told the Samaritan woman at the well. He who drinks of the water of this well will thirst again but he who drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst. We may satisfy our cravings temporarily by committing the sins that we know make us feel good, but it is a short term gratification. We must turn away from these things and turn to God.
We are fortunate enough that the apostle John introduced us to the things that we should be wary of. In the introduction, we asked ourselves, what are the things that we are supposed to turn from? Sin, sure. But more specifically John gives us three weapons the enemy uses that we must look out for.
The first is the lust of the flesh. The Greek word for “lust” is epithumia. It speaks of “a desire, a craving, a longing, a desire for what is forbidden.” This desire is for the flesh. The Greek word for “”flesh” is sarx. It “denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” In simpler terms, when talking of the lust of the flesh, it talks of the humanly desires. “The lust of the flesh is, subjectively, the humour and appetite of indulging fleshly pleasures; and objectively, all those things that excite and inflame the pleasures of the flesh.”
This is the nature of man. Fleshly, carnal obsession and desires constitute the makeup of mankind. As sin permeates throughout our entire being, we are characterized by the desire to fulfill the desires of our flesh. It is our wanting, our longing, to indulge in pleasures of the earthly kind. Do we not find ourselves desiring to indulge in the appetites of that which ultimately corrupts our character, our integrity, our morality and thwarts any progress of our relationship with God?
Sensual and impure desires overtake that which we know is correct and moral. This world allows these desires to be accessible, attainable, and acceptable. They are lusts that are freely given. They are desires sought after by the majority of this world that if one desires not to pursue, they are of the minority, are looked down upon, spat upon, and called intolerant.
And yet, they are still desires that we justify. We crave it. We desire it. We need it. I’m suffering and it brings me temporary gratification. The flesh is good at the moment my lust is being satisfied. I only consider what is immediately in front of me. And what is in front of me is lust. Lust for violence, for gore, for sex, for men, for women, for alcohol, for drugs, for hate, for wrath, for envy, for jealousy, and uncleanness. For everything discussed in Galatians 5:19. There are nearly twice as many works of the flesh than there are works of the Spirit. We must be wary of what takes precedence in our lives.
We discussed earlier that we must decide to not fill our hearts with the things of this world, but rather to turn away from those things and fill our hearts with the things of God. This is necessary because we remind ourselves that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually mind is life and peace.
We must consider our own lives and decide if the lust of the flesh supersedes our love for God. Are we overridden with sensual impure thoughts? Worse yet, are we overridden with sensual impure actions? Do we seek immediate gratification even at the expense of our soul?
With each temptation we succumb to we make a bold statement that we would rather live for the lust of our flesh than for the glory of God. We’ve heard so many times to repent and to turn away but never the specific answer of what to turn away from. With conviction we know that which we must steer clear of. The lust of the flesh keeps us far away from God.
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary
One thing can be argued: We love this world. We love the things of this world. We love the sex, the scandals, the profanity, the debauchery, the adultery, the fornication, the drugs, the fights, the alcohol, the anger, the resentment, the lies, the corruption, the pornography, the hate, the violence, and the gore. We love it.
Every other television show provides some sort of angle that tries to hook and lure others in. When it’s sweeps week, every television producer knows one thing: sex sells. They bombard us with borderline gratuitous nudity and sex knowing that we would be hard pressed to turn away or turn the channel.
We love this world. Why shouldn’t we? The answer is given by the apostle John that as believers in Jesus Christ, we should not love the world in order to manifest ourselves as children of God.
I. Love not the world
1 John 2:15- “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.”
- The Appearance of Our Love
The apostle John continues to remind us that others will know that we are believers in Jesus Christ, not by our physical appearance, not by our knowledge of God’s Word, not our theology, but by the love that we display to others. There is a hymn that reads, “And they’ll know that we are Christians by our love.” This is all very well true.
As we take a look into our lives, do others know that we are Christians by our love? Do we love others to the point of witnessing and sharing our faith? Do we love others to the point of sacrificing what’s convenient to us for the betterment of another person? Do we love someone enough to tell them that if they don’t have Christ in their heart and life, that there is no choice for God but to judge them to eternal damnation? I asked the question, will people know that we are Christian’s by our love? In a more broader sense, can people defined and describe us by what we love in our lives?
If people can tell that we are Christian’s by our love, then we can argue that people can know or estimate what sort of people we are if they know what takes priority as the loves of our lives. Can we argue that genuine believers could very well be giving off some sort of vibe, a character trait that evidences that someone is a follower of Christ? Earlier this week, someone asked me, “Justin you’re a Christian huh?” When I responded positively, she replied, “I could tell that about you.” One pastor who wrote a book on evangelism gave a story of his interview to pastor a church. When the church board asked him, what his plan was, he replied, “My plan is to love you.” We’ve already stressed the importance of love in a church, but we cannot forget the aspect of love in our lives.
- The Object of Our Love
The question then becomes, what love to we have and what do we have love for? Is it for any of the things mentioned in the introduction? Because if so, we definitely have to consider a change in lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the verb, “love.” It is an urging or a pleading from the apostle John not to love the world. When the apostle John spoke of not loving the world, he stressed not to continue to love the world. The love spoken about here is not an absolute love for the world but a consistent repeated love.
As believers, we cannot get caught up in loving the world on a constant basis. On the contrary, the love of one’s life should be God rather than the world. “God, not the world, must have the first place in the Christian’s life… Love here signifies affection and devotion. Positively, the Christian loves God and fellow Christians. Negatively, an absence of love for the world must habitually characterize the love life of those to be considered born again.”
Once again, we revert back to the question, what do we have love for? Do we fill our hearts with love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters? Or do we fill our hearts with love for things of the world? We must be characterized by having a fullness of love for the things of God and lacking a consistent love for the things of this world. Things of this world, and the love of them, are detrimental to the growth of a believer and could very well serve as a stumbling block for others. The statement made by the apostle John that those who “love the world” (subjunctive mood) underscores the idea that those who purposefully love the world, the love of God is not in them. (Personal consideration of further exegetical insight:
“Love” is in the nominative case. It is a predicative nominative, it is normally in the accusative case. “Father” is in the genitive case because it is used with a verb that expresses a physical or emotional sense, thereby requiring it to be genitive rather than the normal accusative. “In him” is the dative of indirect, indicating the indirect object. The verb estin is the copulative, linking verb, linking the subject, “anyone who loves the world”, and the predicate, the “love of the Father is not in him.” The linking verb estin shows that there is no transfer of action. God’s love is not transferred to the person who continues to love the world. The dative case of en autos simply reveals the sphere of location, or locative dative, specifying where the love of God is not.
- The Focus of Our Love
In the event that someone loves the world more than God, it is clearly spoken that the love of the Father is not in him. It boils down to one truth. “Either one is a genuine Christian marked by love and obedience to God, or one is a non-Christian in rebellion against God, in love with and enslaved by the satanically controlled world system. No middle ground between these two…exists for someone claiming to be born again.” We must remember that the context was that of false teachers, preaching and adhering to doctrines of philosophy, but still claiming to be believers in Jesus Christ. Their love for their worldly beliefs proved that their devotion was to the world rather than God.
Where does our devotion lie? Is it with the things of the God or the things of the world? Where is our focus? Where are our priorities? Where is our dedication? Where do we spend the most time? Is it at the throne of grace or in the bowels of human immorality? Is in the light of God’s goodness or the darkness of iniquity? What have we filled our hearts with? Show me a person who applies God’s truth in their lives and I’ll show you a loving human being. Show me a selfish individual who cares only of matters concerning themselves and I’ll show you someone who has more love for the world that for God.
We need to focus on filling our hearts, our lives, our minds with the things of God rather than the things of this world. The love that should define us should be the love we have for God not the love we have for this world.
Rightfully so, the object, direction, and focus of our love should be toward God and His merciful attitude toward us. Showing God the love He deserves leans on our understanding of obedience to His will. We obey Him because we love Him.
What we learn today is two-fold. Love the Lord God with all our hearts and simultaneously, remove the love that we have for the world. And as we strive to display the love for those here on earth, let’s not forget our love for our Heavenly Father, as well as His love for us.
(picture taken from http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2009/john_316/john_316_03.jpg)
 MacArthur study Bible