I. Awe [1a]
That’s exactly what you find in verse 1. At the beginning of this chapter John just marvels at the thought of being adopted into God’s family. He says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Now, if you’ve ever been amazed at something. Perhaps there was a fantastic sunset. I remember a few years ago we were on vacation in Erie, PA. We were right on the lake, and we got to see the most dazzling sunset. The sky turned a myriad of colors. And I remember my wife just kept saying, “Look at that. Look at that.” She was just astounded by the beauty of it.
Here you have the same thing. John says, “See!” or “Behold!” or “Look at this!” It is the language of pure awe. And the way he phrases this backs this. When it says, “See what manner of love,” understand that the editors of your Bibles are helping to smooth out the language to make it more understandable. Literally it reads, “of what country of love is this.” John’s saying that this love is so awesome—being adopted into the family of God is so radically amazing—that he can’t even express it with normal everyday language.
If someone walked in here today and started speaking to you with a thick accent, what would you think? You’re going to say, “You are not from around here, are you?” That person would be from a whole other country. They are so different. They are so foreign to our everyday experience that we marvel a bit at them.
This is what John is doing here. God’s love is so different. Being adopted into his family is so amazingly profound that he says, “Look at it! It is out of this world!”
And this is the experience of every child of God. The thought that God would take a sinner like you—that he would take one of his greatest enemies, and bring you into his very own family, and lavish upon you all the rights and privileges that belong to an heir, this should cause you to stumble back with awe and say, “Look at that love!”
But not only will your adoption produce awe. It also produces alienation.
II. Alienation [1b]
Look at the second part of the verse. John says, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” I like what the ESV Study Bible says on this verse. It says, “There is a built-in friction between those who know and serve Christ and those who do not.”
Since you have come into the family of God, you have been excommunicated (or extracted) from the family of the devil. You are estranged because you know Christ and your faith radically alters your life. Your likes and dislikes are different.
It is odd sometimes too because people you used to fraternize with on a regular basis. You used to fraternize with the world, but all of a sudden you find yourself being somewhat distanced from people who were close friends.
During this time of year I hate going to play basketball in the mornings. Its not because I dislike basketball. I love playing. I look forward to it every time. But this time a year it takes forever to start a game. I want to start playing, but they love to shoot the breeze and talk about the playoffs. They talk about Lebron doing this and the Celtics doing that. This team will beat that team because of this guy who can do this move. They love talking about it. Me and another guy are just left standing there waiting for them to finish. It’s because we don’t know anything about professional basketball. And so for a few minutes we experience a bit of alienation from them. They know the NBA; we don’t. So until they are done sizing all the teams up, we find that we don’t have any real association.
That’s the way it is with you who know Christ. Once you become a member of his family you will find that you don’t always in.
I want you young people to understand this. There are going to be times when you find yourself in awkward situations. You will be with some people—maybe even some friends of yours, and you will feel like you are a complete oddball. They might even look at you strange, almost as if you are from another country. It may even come to the point where they treat you like you are from a completely different planet!
And there is some truth to that. Because when you love Christ you will be something of an alien. You are alienated because your life has been changed by your membership in God’s family.
And you need to understand that you shouldn’t change in order to fit in. That is not what you are to do. Never conform in order to be accepted. Just accept the fact that you are different. Be willing to be different. Be willing to endure the scorn that may accompany your differences. But above all know that your differences are due to the fact that you belong to God.
You are a member of God’s family. That produces awe. It produces alienation. But you’ll notice that our text says that it also produces anticipation.
III. Anticipation 
In verse 2 John talks about what is in store for us in the future. He says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
John is talking about the resurrection. He says, “Yes, we are God’s children now. But we have not yet experienced the fullness of this adoption.” At some point Christ is going to come again and it will be consummated. We will be resurrected—that’s what he’s talking about when he says, “What we will be has not yet appeared.” We are still waiting for the finalization, so to speak.
When my wife and I adopted our two children there was a probation period. We had to wait for 6 months before we could formally finalize our adoption. They were our children, but there was something that we were anticipating. It was that court date where we appeared before the judge. Once we did that the adoption was completed.
That’s analogous to what is being said here. We belong to the Lord. We are members of his family right now because of the shed blood of Christ and faith in him. But, in a sense, we are waiting for our adoption to be finalized. We know that there is a date where we will be called to appear before the Judge of all the Earth. He will come again in his flesh, just like he did 2000 years ago. And on that great day the finishing touches will be applied to our adoption: we will be resurrected and be given glorified bodies.
But it’s not just the resurrection that we anticipate; we also anticipate the relationship that accompanies it.
The verse goes on to say that “we will see him as he is.” In other words, Christ will no longer be at a distance. We will be able to look at him. Presently we are only able to see him with the eyes of faith. But then we will be able to be see him with the eyes he has given us. We will be able to enjoy his very presence!
Do you remember what it was like before you were married? Do you remember being apart from your beloved? It was tough, wasn’t it? You wrote letters. You talked on the phone. And every once in a while you got to see each other. That was different, wasn’t it? Seeing each other was a thousand times better than talking on the phone. Even now, with the advent of Skype and face to face calling over the internet, it does not compare with seeing each other in person. But you anticipated that meeting. You looked forward to it. You counted down the days. You couldn’t wait to see her or be near him.
That’s what every Christian feels in his heart. He anticipates that great day with great fervor. It’s just burning in you, and you cannot wait for that time.
I know that there are people who say that there is no such thing as a second coming of Christ. But that just shows that they are not true Christians. Every true Christian not only knows that it is true, but they have a deep yearning for it embedded in their hearts.
Once you are a member of God’s family you will find that it only produces awe or alienation or anticipation. But you will find that it also produces action!
IV. Action 
In verse three John says, “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
John is thus saying, “You become what you are.” Once you enter the family of God, your life will change. You don’t go on acting the way you did before you entered his family. Your life changes. You start living like you are one of God’s children. You purify yourself by purging the sin that characterizes your life.
It sounds like the basis for a Walt Disney movie, doesn’t it? You can see it can’t you? You have a little girl who grew up in a rough neighborhood. She didn’t have anyone teaching her her manners. So she’s a little rough around the edges to say the least. But then she becomes a part of royal family. She’s adopted by some regal king and brought into his house. When she enters that family she knows she’s not supposed to act the way that she did back at her old bungalow. She’s got to start living like a king’s daughter should. She’s got to purge her old lifestyle. She can no longer run around in dirty clothes. She can’t put her elbows on the table at dinner time and slump over her plate and hog it down. She’s got to be more refined now.
That’s the way it is when we are adopted into the family of God. Once we become a part of his household, we have to start living like the king’s children. We must seek to do away with the those habits that are not keeping with God’s law. We have to purify ourselves.
The logical question that I have to ask here is, "How is your adoption affecting you? Are you acting differently now that you are a member of God's family?" You fathers, can your children see in you the love of God that we spoke of earlier? Do they come to marvel at the affection that you show them? As a father your love for them ought to reflect the tender firmness that God has shown you.
You ladies, do you find that you are purifying your life? When your husband makes a bad decision, do you support him lovingly? Or is it a time for you to peck away at him? Wives shouldn't be like vultures who prey upon the the open wounds of the afflicted. The rolling of the eyes, the "I told you so's," the comments to friends about the latest failure all should be purged.
And young people. Do you find that your actions are reflecting your status as a child of heaven? Are you allowing yourself to be a ruffian, or are you seeking to be more refined in the way you life, as is characteristic of a child of royal stature?
Sometimes obedience to God's law can sound burdensome and legalistic. But when you see yourself in this light, it changes things. When you understand that you now belong to the most regal family in the world, you will understand that obedience is not a heavy yoke. It is one that is only befitting of your new status.
You all know that two of my three children are adopted. And you have witnessed over the years that there is no difference between them in my eyes. If you camped with us this weekend, you saw that I disciplined them with the same firmness. At night I took the same amount of care to tuck them in and make sure that they were comfortable in the tent.
This is exactly the way the Lord treats us when we come to trust in Christ. He bestows all his fatherly affection upon us. He tenderly looks after us with his special providence. This is a glorious thing. The blessings of which cannot be fully expressed in human terms. And thought it may make us to be outcasts (or aliens) in the world's eyes, we know that it is wonderful thing to be a member of this family. May God grant that it does change the way we act.
And I want to talk how we do that today. This passage is here to help us distance ourselves from the world. If we understand this passage well, and if we take into consideration the terminology of the passage, as well as its rational and the ultimatum that it contains, then we will find ourselves well on our way to breaking with the world.
In order to distance ourselves from the world do this we need to first understand the term used here. What in the world does John mean when he says, “do not love the world”?
I. We must understand the term
When he uses the term “the world,” what exactly is he talking about? Mind you, this is a question that has haunted the church for much of her history. It has been defined differently in different ages. And of course, it has therefore affected the way people have acted. And if you define it incorrectly, then your obedience will be skewed.
For instance, in the early church many people believed the world to be society at large and the things associated with normal everyday life. They believed you had to isolate yourself. So there was a tendency towards what we call asceticism.
Back then many people separated themselves from the world by breaking off all connection with society. This is what gave rise to monasticism. The monks thought that if they left the “secular” world and cut off as much connection with people who were doing common everyday things, then they would be more spiritual.
With time things became more and more pronounced. The “separatedness” became more and more fantastic. It came to the point where some monks built raised platforms in order to escape association with anyone. They wanted to escape society, and what better way to do that than by living by yourself in the clouds.
The most famous example of this is a guy by the name Simon Stylites. He sat on a raised platform for 37 years and would not allow a woman to come near him—not even his own mother!—for fear of falling prey to the world.
This ascetic lifestyle is not what John has in mind when he talks about the world. John isn’t simply talking about people or the general populous. As a matter of fact, I would say that kind of life is sinful. Cutting off contact with society is a violation of the cultural mandate (Gen 1:28).
So it is not asceticism or the people of the world that he is talking about. Neither is he talking about certain tabooed practices typically associated with fundamentalism.
In fundamentalist churches there are certain practices that usually called call “worldly.” There are people who say that you can’t play cards or dance because those things are worldly. If a guy’s hair is a little too long or a girl’s skirt doesn’t reach the ankles, then they are being worldly. In other words, don’t drink, smoke or chew or run with the girls who do.
Some people go so far as to say that we shouldn’t be involved in things like politics or social activities because these are worldly things. Politics is just a diversion from things that are truly spiritual. Politics is too concerned with this world and not the world to come. At least that is the rational.
I understand why people think this way. I hope you do too. There is a legitimate concern for purity that these people have. But this isn’t what John has in mind when he talks about worldiness. The things that God has created are not wrong in and of themselves. As Scripture says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
So do not misunderstand what John is saying here. He is not promoting asceticism or fundamentalism. He does not want us to withdraw from society or from the things that he has created. He’s talking about the ungodly systems out there. To talk about the world, as John does here, is to refer to the cultural patterns that are against Christ. It is the common mentality among men that ignores His lordship and his law. It is that lifestyle that seeks to live independently of Christ.
Now this is the way most people live today. This is the way most Christians live. Barna polls tell us that less than 10% of Christians have a basic Christian worldview. The consensus is that Christians think more like unbelieving people than like Christians.
When it comes to things like evolution, feminism, homosexuality, entertainment driven worship, abortion, being relaxed when it comes to doctrinal matters, most people have no clue how these are antithetical to the Christian way of life. That’s due to the fact that they are influenced more by Rush Limbaugh or CBS news than the Bible.
Our lives are to be guided by the principle in Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him.” In everything we are to lean on the teaching of Scripture. To do otherwise is to be worldly.
So there it is. That is what is meant by this term. To be worldly is to live by the principles of men rather than the principles of God. It is to follow the rebellion of culture rather than to follow Christ.
That is what we must stand against. That is the kind of thing we are to avoid. To “Love not the world or the things in the world,” is to live in reliance upon the Lord and upon his revealed word.
With that in mind, let’s consider more of what this passage says. Now that we understand the terminology of this passage, let’s understand its rational.
II. We must understand the rational
This passage contains a very tightly knit logic. Each verse contains a reason why we must distance ourselves from the world. The first reason is found in verse 15. It says we should distance ourselves from the world because it defies the love we have for the Lord.
A. Defies the love we have for the Lord 
It says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
John wants you to see how antithetical these two things are to each other. You have two choices: You either love the world or you love the Lord. You cannot split your love between them. You cannot share your love or love them equally. It is either one or the other.
This is exactly what Jesus was saying when he talked about riches. He said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
John’s point is very much the same. If you love the instincts and the desires of the world, then you are crowding out the Lord. The two are mutually exclusive and completely antithetical to each other.
I want to be very clear on this. This is something that needs to be hammered home with every passing generation. That’s because the tendency is to comingle the two. We like to try and coddle both the Lord and the world. And we need to recognize that we cannot. One will always triumph over the other.
We need to distance ourselves from the world because it defies the love we have for the Lord. But it not only defies the love we have for the Lord, it also defies the law we have from the Lord.
B. Defies the law we have from the Lord 
Look at verse 16. It says, “For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.”
That last part is what I’m really focusing you on. All these things are worldly because they are not from the Lord. They do not originate in him and flow from him. They arise out of the cesspool that is the world.
Now, what is from the Lord? Well, it is his law. The law of God comes from God. He delivers it to us in order to shows us the proper way we are to live. But the ways of the world, these are lifestyles that are completely opposed to the way the Lord calls us to live in his law.
John helps us out here by showing us the law of the world. It’s the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions. Lust, greed, pride. All these are the principles of the world.
If you don’t believe me, just turn on the television. You will find these great commandments promoted on every channel. Flip on Sports Center and you’ll see. Lust, greed, and pride are the basis for virtually every segment.
But that’s the way it has been from the beginning. The first sin was based on lust, greed and pride. Eve lusted after the fruit. She was greedy for the knowledge it would bring. She wanted to be like God. She fell from grace because she lived by worldly principles rather than the word of God.
And this is the system that we are called to reject. Since it defies the law of God, we must distance ourselves from it.
But a worldly lifestyle not only defies the love we have for the Lord, and the law we have from the Lord, it also defies the life we have in the Lord.
C. Defies the life we have in the Lord 
Look at verse 17. It says, “The world is passing away [that is to say it is going to end] along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Do you see how fleeting it is? It is evaporating. It is all coming to an end, and one day it will not be around anymore. But those who fear God will find it otherwise. Those who trust in the Lord with all their heart—those of us who fear God and keep his commandments, we have the great promise that we shall live forever.
Young people, I want you to recognize this. The world is passing away. I know that it is alluring. The world will tantalize you and beckon you to come join in. The world will say, “Don’t play around with those old fuddy duddy Christians anymore. Come! Come join our merriments and give up those old fashioned ways.”
But just remember that it’s a short lived thing. The world is passing away and it will be gone in just a matter of time. It will be a faded memory, just like last winter’s snow. Only those who hold fast to Christ will have the privilege of enjoying life in the eons ahead.
Now, that is the rational of this passage. John tries to convince us to distance ourselves from the world by giving us these arguments. And they are powerful reasons. The logic that he employs here is sound.
But now I want to talk to you about the ultimatum of this verse.
III. We must understand the ultimatum
Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how good the logic is. John’s argument is air tight. There isn’t a word here that is lacking in the least.
But you and I both know that it is going to take more than mere arguments to break our infatuation with the world. Be honest with me. Love isn’t always rational, is it? No amount of reasoning will convince a drunk to give up his drink, will it? You can talk to him until he is blue in the face, but he is not going to loosen his grip on that bottle by words alone. His love for alcohol defies logic. The only way you can pry it away from him is if he comes to have a new and greater love grip his heart.
The same is true for you when it comes to the world. Be honest. You don’t need to hide it. We all do it. We are all enamored with the world and the things of the world. There is not one of us who is immune from lust, greed, and pride.
No amount of words are going to be able to dislodge it from your heart. Not until you find a greater love to replace it. That’s why I say that this passage has an ultimatum.
In the 19th century there was a man by the name of Thomas Chalmers. He preached a famous sermon on this passage. It was entitled, “The expulsive power of a new affection.” His argument went like this: The only way our love for the world can be broken is if we come to have a new affection that is greater.
And he said that this passage ultimately points us to Christ. It is only if we come to see Christ in his redemptive beauty that our love for the world will be overcome.
So I want to point you to Christ. I want your heart to melt at the thought of him and how he has fulfilled this passage on your behalf.
You know, he did what Eve did not do. Eve was filled with lust, greed, and pride. But Christ wasn’t when he was tempted in the desert. The devil came to him and said, “Fill your lusts! Turn these rocks into bread.” But Christ wouldn’t do it.
Then he tempted him with the desires of the eyes. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and said, “I’ll give these to you if you just bow down and worship me.” But Christ wouldn’t do it.
Then he took Jesus up on a high precipice to touch his pride. He said, “Show everyone once and for all who you really are. Prove you are the Son of God! Cast yourself down before all the people. The Scripture says you won’t be hurt. God will have to catch you. Do that and everyone will have to confess it.”
Each time Christ held fast. He did what you and I cannot. Moreover, he came down from heaven to undergo those pains that are mentioned here in this text. The world is passing away. The curse that God applies to the world was applied to Christ on your behalf. He suffered upon the cross and entered the tomb so that you would not have to—so that you might have the life that is spoken of here.
The ultimatum of this verse is found in Christ the fulfillment of the verse. It is my hope that you will see the great love of Christ for you. And in seeing how great his love is, you will have a greater affection for him. One that will have an expulsive power over your love for the world.
I believe that the old hymn has it right:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face;
and the things of this world will grow strangely dim,
in the light of his glory and grace.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.