What in the World Do You Want?
Crawford Loritts: Thank you so much, Bob, Nancy. It is indeed a joy to be here with you. I’ve got to tell you this. Normally, I do not get too intimidated to speak; I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m anxious—I want God to use me—but I’ve got to tell you . . . 6,000 women! Before I came over here, I stood in front of the mirror in the hotel and kept saying, “I am a man; I am a man; I am a man.” (Laughter)
It’s absolutely a joy to be here with you, and my wonderful wife, you’ll get a chance to hear from Karen, she’s the absolute joy of my life. We will have been married for 40 years on May 22, 2011, and I love her more today than I ever have in my life. She really is the joy of my life.
It’s a pleasure indeed to be here with you.
Many of you have traveled a great distance, and you have maybe been a little worn out in the issues at home and phone calls and this kind of thing, but typically, when you start up a weekend like this, you want the first message to be a little lighter, just to engage the people.
Well, I’ve got to tell you: I don’t have a very light message tonight. I have something really heavy on my heart and mind. It’s a burden of mine. It’s a deep concern of mine for the Church of Jesus Christ and for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ—how the world has affected us.
So, I’ve entitled my message, really, it’s a question, but the title of the message is: “What in the World Do You Want?”
Karen and I flew up today with the director of our women’s ministry, Chiree DeCudo. I asked her several weeks ago, knowing that I was going to be speaking here, I said, “Chiree, what are the top four or five issues that the women in our church face?”
Chiree did a brief survey of some of the women, and I was amazed at what she summarized that was on the hearts and lives of the women.
Number one was keeping up with the Jones, or at least the appearance of what we think they are.
Secondly, it was the “What About Me Syndrome?” This search for affirmation and appreciation in a world in which some of the women feel lost.
Thirdly were feelings of inadequacies, comparing themselves with other women, listening to what the world tells us we are supposed to look like.
Number four was being people pleasers, getting our priorities out of line because we’re so busy and trying to be like everybody else.
Then struggling, number five, with respect and support for our husbands. Why? Because the world tells us that if you’re not happy, of course, you change your environment because you were born to be happy. That’s what the world says. If you’re not happy, then you change the arrangement; you change the decorations; you move out of the house, and if need be, you change your marriage.
If you have a Bible, I want you to meet me in 1 John chapter 2. One of the things as a pastor that I have the unfortunate occasion to hear and to see and experience from time to time is the profound betrayal that typically a woman goes through when a husband commits adultery.
Now, that’s not just a man’s sin; that’s a woman’s sin as well. But all too often, when that happens, and I look into the eyes of this woman with the tears just streaming down her cheeks, they are most devastated because not only have the vows been broken, but someone else is loved more than them. Don’t miss that. The pain is not just because the vows have been broken—somebody else is loved more than them.
How do you think God feels? How do you think He feels when we love some things, some issues, some possessions, some stuff and some people more than we love Him? The Bible uses shocking, searing language when it talks about spiritual infidelity.
In the Old Testament there is a terrible, terrible, shocking statement: “Israel going a whoring after other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:16).
He says in James, don’t you understand that “friendship with the world is to be the enemy of God” (James 4:4)?
Now, I’m going to define worldliness way back at the end of my message as I go through 1 John chapter 2, verses 15-17, but the issue is: How should we relate to the world around us? How should we relate to this life?
I want to quickly give a balancing perspective. Obviously, not everything in the world is evil or wrong. God created all things for us to enjoy, but you’ll see from a framing perspective this evening as I walk through this text that that’s not what I’m talking about. We should enjoy life. We should smile. We should enjoy the good stuff that’s all around us, but there’s a heart attachment issue that is very, very dangerous.
When John picks up his pen and writes these words in 1 John chapter 2, verses 15-17, he basically tells us what our attitude and relationship to the world should be about. He answers the question: How should we relate to the world? Basically, he says three things.
He says, number one: Don’t love it.
Number two: See it for what it is.
And number three: Live your allegiance.
Don’t love it; see it for what it is, and live your allegiance.
He begins by making this statement in verse 15: “Do not love the world”—do not love the world. The word love there is the Greek word agapao or agapé. Many of us have heard the difference between phileo and agapé. Phileo is sort of a family-friendship love. Agapé is God’s unconditional love.
I sometimes think we’ve trivialized that definition. Agapé is God’s uncommon, unconditional, supernatural love. It is a love that ran us down. It is this pursuant love. It is this special love that’s outside the realm of the normal. It is the love that drove Jesus to die on the cross in our place and for our sin. It’s that love that reached out to us.
What John is saying is don’t give the world the same kind of love that only God deserves. I want you to marinate in that a second. Don’t give the world the same kind of unconditional, uncommon, supernatural love that belongs to God.
Basically, although the English text doesn’t tell you this, but the very reason he employs the word agapao, he is saying, don’t pervert God’s love by transferring it from Him to the stuff in this life. Love not the world. I think there’s another implication in that statement. He says, in other words, don’t expect from the world the lasting contentment and acceptance that only God can give to you.
Many of us as Christians, we get disappointed because we live duplicitous lives. What do I mean by that? There is this crazy expectation that the world is going to feed me and stroke me and give me what I need.
So when John says love not the world, he’s saying, “Look, don’t give to the world the love that only comes from God. That’s disloyalty. Neither expect from the world the kind of love that only God can give you.” It doesn’t work that way.
Then the expression: Love not the world. He uses the term cosmos here. I hope I don’t bore you, but I want to drive into this for a moment because at the end of my message, I’m going to make some very specific applications.
He says love not the cosmos. Literally, don’t fall in love with this physical planet. The earth and the environment are not to be worshiped. Frankly, this is not mother earth in the sense that somehow or another, by some evolutionary process, the earth gave birth to people who are going to live forever in the presence of God.
No. He says love not the world. Don’t fall in love with the cosmos, this world. We are stewards of the earth, and its resources, but we should not make the earth and our environment god. Some people love their trees, plants, and animals more than they love God.
John says, “Look, don’t take this agapao, this uncommon, unconditional, supernatural love that is God-ward, pervert it, and give it to the world and then expect the world to be what only God can be in your life.”
Then he says, take a step back. Don’t be worshiping the creation. You worship the Creator. That’s what he’s saying. Appreciate His creation. Appreciate this world. Go green if you have to—wonderful. Take care of the environment. But this world is not the fourth member of the Trinity. (Sounds of applause.) It belongs to God.
And then the next line, he says, agapao—don’t love the world. Then he says, neither the things that are in the world. He makes a distinction: Don’t take this uncommon, unconditional, supernatural love and pervert it, transfer it over to this life and expect that this life is going to be sovereign and god in your life and it’s going to meet all your needs—your career, your husband, the future husband that you will have, your goals, your visions—all that stuff—that’s not going to cut it.
Then he says “neither love the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). What does he mean by that?
I think there are three implications of that statement—I promise you I’m going somewhere. The three implications in this statement:
Number one: He’s talking about the aggregate appeal of this world’s system. Listen to me. The world is not neutral. It is not neutral. Ephesians chapter 2, verse 2 tells us that the prince of the power of this air runs this world system. This world is not a neutral environment.
Now, I’m always a little bit leery. Some Christians go to the extreme on their obsession with spiritual warfare and struggle. In a perverted sense, they almost worship the struggle. Jesus is alive, and greater is He that is in us than he that is in the grave. He’s seated at the right hand of the Father, and we are in Christ, and the devil can’t get to us. The only way he can get to us is, he’s got to get passed Jesus, so we shouldn’t be obsessed with that.
At the same time, be very careful. This world system is not neutral. There is a riptide that we’re living in, and the enemy is very, very deceptive. When we take the agapao, the love that only belongs to God, and we transfer it to this system, and we begin to deify the structures and the patterns of the system, and we begin to think that my fulfillment is going to come from a relationship, or my fulfillment is going to come from a house, or my fulfillment is going to come from a car, or my fulfillment is going to come with my body image, then we’re in danger. We’ve played into the hands of the wicked one.
So it is the aggregate affect of this society. I think this whole idea of the things that are in the world, not loving the things that are in the world, number two, means that the pleasures and pursuits that compete for our hearts.
One of the problems with defining worldliness is that there is no categorical definition because it’s a very subjective thing. It has to do with where your heart affection is. What gives you joy? What gives you pleasure, truthfully? So, when we get attached to things of this life and the stuff of this world—your family, your job, your lifestyle, your dreams for the future—that becomes the source. Then we have been seduced by the stuff of this life.
I think there’s a third implication coming out of that expression, “or the things that are in the world” (verse 15), and that is—and I’ve alluded to this—that the things of this world that seduce us intentionally from God.
Here’s a perspective: You can’t say that someone is worldly because they live more comfortably than we do. You can’t say that. You can’t say that because they have more liberties than we do. You can’t say that someone is worldly because they have a shorter list of rules than we do.
It all has to do with the drift in the heart. It all has to do with what we place as the determinant factors in our heart. Not what we say, but how we really live. It is what brings definition to my fulfillment. It is what defines my joy, really defines it. I don’t mean the PR nonsense that we give, but the real stuff. What really defines my wellbeing? That’s what worldliness is all about. It is, in fact, what we subconsciously worship that becomes so very insidious in our lives and how we view things.
The flip side of this is that God does not want us to retreat from the world. He doesn’t want us to retreat from the world. Be very careful of any Christian movements that, in the name of “spiritual protection,” really promotes spiritual isolation. That is unbiblical; it is dangerous, and it is a gateway to cults. To withdraw from society is not biblical. To, in the name of protection, insulate ourselves and isolate ourselves is not biblical.
Jesus prayed in John 17 as He’s about to be crucified, He says, “God, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I don’t want to take them out of the world because you can’t impact that which you don’t come in contact with. No. I want them to be in the world but not of the world” (see verses 15-16).
I love what John Stott says in his marvelous book, The Radical Disciple. He speaks of nonconformity in his opening chapter, and he says,
The church has a double responsibility in relation to the world around us. On the one hand we are to live, serve, and witness in the world, and on the other hand we are to avoid becoming contaminated by the world. So we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by escaping from the world nor to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world.
Well, what’s the answer? The answer is the spiritual tension. We’ve been called upon it just like people who have to clean up hazardous waste. They don these suits, and they cover their bodies, and they go out there and clean up the mess. God has called us to engage our culture. He has called us to be in this world. He has called us to mix it up with non-believers. He has called us to be salt and light in our society. He has called us to make a difference.
Don’t ever run from that. Don’t ever hide from that. But He has not called the world to be salt and light to us. He has not called us to go out there without our protective suits on. So we go in the power of the Holy Spirit to impact our culture and our moment in history.
Now, here’s the truth about us. It’s the second part of verse 15. He says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” He uses the term again, agapao. It’s uncommon, unconditional, supernatural, transcended, other worldly love.
If we take that love and give it over to the world, the question that John raises, and, by the way, when you read 1 John, you understand that John draws a relationship between behavior and beliefs and beliefs and behavior. If that’s consistently true, then we cannot be of God.
Again, James 4:4 says friendship with the world means to fight with God. In other words, what he’s saying is we love that which we are related to. Over a long period of time, if our lifestyle continues to reflect the values of the world, the values of the culture around us, and there’s no sense of conviction in our hearts, then maybe we need to ask the fundamental question: Do we have a primary relationship with Jesus Christ to begin with?
I love what Warren Wiersbe says, the great Bible teacher. He says, “To the extent that a Christian loves the world system and the things in it, he does not love the Father.”
We are lovers of God, and to be a lover of God is not theoretical. It’s not just the singing of “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” To be a lover of God, no, it’s not perfection, but it means to declare an allegiance, and I’ll get to that in a moment.
So how do we relate to the world system? John said the very first thing is, number one: It’s a matter of the heart. The very first thing is, don’t love it.
The second thing is, how do you relate to the world system? He says to see it for what it is. That’s what verse 16 is all about. He says in verse 16:
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride and possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
I’m going to make a statement here: It is my conviction based upon this text and other studies that we don’t have time to go through tonight, that really, worldliness is the celebration of self. John describes it as my desires. Worldliness is the celebration of self. It’s all about me. The truth of the matter is that even some of us who struggle with body image problems, or we struggle with low self-esteem, or we struggle with arrogance, the problem is we struggle with obsession with ourselves.
That’s what worldliness is all about. John says take a step back and really look at what the issue is here. What’s in front of us?
There’s a song that I absolutely love. I love this song until I think about the words, and I’m going, “That’s awful!” You know that Whitney Houston song, “Learning to Love Yourself is the Greatest Love of All”? That’s not true. It’s a great song, great music. Every time I hear it, I wish I didn’t know so much of the Bible. (Laughter) But that’s what the world tells us, isn’t it? Hey, you’re the one! Hey, make it happen; it’s all about you! Hey, don’t let anybody stand in your way. Love yourself.
John decries that. He says, “No. That’s not the essence of what it’s all about, learning to love yourself.” He says all that is in the world, a system of values and goals from which God is excluded. He’s going to list three of them, and I don’t need to do too much explaining about these three, but these are the three things. He says that God is excluded from these three things.
He says to check it out. Look at what the world appeals to. Look at what it elevates. Look at how it positions you. He says for all that is in the world (pay close attention), verse 16: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eye, and the pride and possessions.” Bear with me. That Greek word for desire is epithymia. It means “strong craving and longing.”
The history of these cravings and longings find itself all the way back in Genesis 3, the passionate desire, the craving and the longing to pervert the agapao, the love of God, and to redefine it so that I feel happy and significant.
Satan in Matthew 4, when he came to Jesus in the wilderness, when He had fasted for 40 days, he had the nerve to attack the Son of God basically in these three areas here, thinking that the very Son of God would pervert agapao.
He says all that is in the world is driven by number one: the flesh. In other words, what I feel; I do. Boy, I could go down the pipe on this one quite a distance. This whole philosophical relativism, and I don’t mean to shoot over anybody’s head here, but we are impacted with that every single day with the society today. “There’s no such thing as truth.” “Your truth, my truth, it’s the same thing.” “Don’t tell me that things are right and wrong.” “If you feel like doing it, just do it as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.”
So we elevate the flesh, epithymia, the strong cravings of the flesh. He says the eyes—basically, what I see; I want. Go after that. That’s great. I can have it. If I can envision it, I can do it. If I desire it, go get it. Eve, look at that. Isn’t that pleasing? Don’t you want that?
That’s what he advertises, tells all of us. Don’t you want to look like that you teenage girls? Some of you are into cutting, maybe. By the way, statistics say that if there are more than a hundred of you here, some of you have gone down that route. Struggling with Bulimia? Anorexia? You see things. “I need to look like that.” “I need to have that.” Epithymia—desire. You see it; you’ve got to have it.
Then he says, thirdly, pride and possessions. By the way, my interpretation of the text is that there is a progression here. Notice: What I feel; I’ve got to do. What I see further; I’m going to go ahead and take that. And once I get it, I’m going to worship what I’ve accomplished. I really believe that is the progression that he’s speaking of here.
He uses an interesting Greek word here. The word translated for pride there is a word that was used for someone who is an “empty braggart,” whose life really doesn’t have any substance, who is superficial. All that defines him is the stuff that they’ve accumulated. But there’s nothing there. They’re empty.
Let me give you an illustration: I have done some speaking for professional sports teams through the years, a great deal of that, in fact. I was speaking at a conference many years ago of NFL players and their wives.
One of the more mature Christian player couples said, “Crawford, would you meet with this young couple? They’re having some serious marital problems.” So I met with them, and I couldn’t help but notice that the woman . . . I’ve seen some big rocks before, but I almost had to get sunglasses. This thing was humongous. She was there, and they were beating around the bush about what the problem was. I said, “What is the issue?”
She began to cry and she said (I won’t use his real name. I’ll just call him George). She said, “George bought me this engagement ring. We got married at the end of last season, and it was so unique and so special that I didn’t think anybody else would have one like it. Then I met another player and his wife, and she had the same ring.”
This was not one of my more sensitive counseling moments. (Laughter) Have you ever had words that just kind of bubble up in you, and they come right out of you? I said to her, involuntarily—I should not have said this—but I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me, honey.” (Laughter) Then I kind of reeled it in, and I said, “You are worth more than what just came out of your mouth, sweetheart. You certainly have more substance than that.”
I wonder, when God sees us go down that trail . . . We pour our passions out for the bigger house and for more money and for the labels that we wear and the stuff that we have and our body image stuff. I wonder, I absolutely wonder if God just does not say, “Is that all there is to you?”
Please forgive my directness, but there comes a point, ladies, in our lives where you must decide who and what defines you. You must make that decision, not just intellectually but viscerally, here in your heart. Who and what defines who you are? If you don’t do that, then you will assign yourself to permanent confliction.
John says you’ve got this epithymia that’s always there, this undertow in the world. You’ve got the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the empty, braggart, boastful, superficial pride of life. You’ve got it. What are you going to do with it now?
Well, how do we relate to this world system? Don’t love it. That’s where it begins. Guard your heart. Don’t give the love to the system that only belongs to God.
Number two: See it for what it is.
Then number three: Live your allegiance.
There’s this inviting contrast in verse 17. Notice how he bookends all of this: Don’t love it; agapao. Please, don’t give that uncommon, unconditional, supernatural love that only belongs to God. Don’t give it to the world. Don’t throw that away. Don’t expect the world to give you uncommon, unconditional, supernatural love. Don’t go there. It’s empty. It’s not going to happen.
But what do you do? He says, “The world is passing away along with its desires.” Did you catch that? That strong passion that you have, that you just have to get this thing: “I want that man, and I’ll violate biblical principles to get him.” “I want that house, and I’ll drive my husband to the crazy house and just about bankrupt us to impress people.”
When you get to the finish line and you look back, you realize that was fool’s passion. This world and the epithymia, the cravings and desires are all passing away, every last one of them. It is short lived. In a brief moment, everything is gone—everything is gone!
The question that is implied but not stated here is: What are you really living for? He underscores that unstated question by raising the other side of the contrast when he says, “And the world is passing away along with its desires.” But then he says, “But whoever does the will of God.”
When you do Bible study, make sure that primary statements in the text define the rest of it. What are you trying to say here? I really believe that what he’s saying here is that whoever does the will of God, the world is passing away, and then he talks about all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the empty, boastful, pride of life—he says that’s all transient, strong transient, powerful transient, tempting transient.
But then he says the one who does the will of God—did you get that? There’s a transcendence here. The one who lives life by God’s purposes, the one who lives life by God’s intentions, the one who determines to live life based upon God’s definition of what life is all about, that person lives forever.
Sowe don’t go horizontal for definition. We go vertical for definition so we impact the horizontal. If you go horizontal for definition and assume the vertical, you will be come like the system, and the world in which we live, the world is passing away.
Well, Crawford, what in the world do I do about this then? What do we do?
Let me give you a definition of worldliness, and then I want to finish my time by giving you some suggestions, three big questions to ask.
Here’s the definition: Anything in your life that causes you to lose the enjoyment of the Father’s love or your desire to do the Father’s will is worldly. Anything in your life or my life—anything—that causes us to lose the enjoyment of the Father’s love or our desire to do the Father’s will is worldly, agapao.
Now, how do we overcome worldliness? How do we overcome it? Again, I believe this text begs us to ask at least these three questions.
The first question is this: We have to ask the motive question. When I find a pull toward something or I begin to get obsessed about something or unduly defined about something I want, whether it’s a new car or a house, or I feel the envy and jealousy rising up within me, or I feel like competing or comparing myself with somebody else—how come they have this and I don’t have this? With all of that stuff, ask the motive question.
The motive question is: Why do I want this? Crawford, why do you want this? Why are you doing this? That’s the motive question.
Secondly, this is a hard one: Ask the worship question. Does what I want consume me? Does it control me? Does it change me? Anything that consumes us or controls us or impedes us from worshiping God with freedom is worldly.
We have just taken agapao and placed it on the desires of our hearts, our flesh, our eyes, or the empty, boastful pride of life. So we need to ask ourselves the worship question.
Then thirdly—we ask ourselves the worship question, the motive question, then, number three, ask yourself the purity question. Am I clean? Let me ask you. Are you clean?
Karen and I live in the Atlanta area. We absolutely love the Atlanta area. It’s a very beautiful area of the country, great climate, except in the springtime, particularly early spring, pollen is everywhere. You go outside the house and there’s this yellow film everywhere. It’s on the driveway; it’s in the parking lot; it’s on the cars; it gets on your clothes. It is everywhere. Car washes have great business during that time because people are washing their cars, just getting the stuff off of them.
That’s what worldliness is like. We all get the pollen of this world system on our bodies. All of us have to examine our hearts and our thinking, and we have to come to Him as John said in 1 John 1:9 and confess. “If we confess our sins.” We have to confess our divided loyalty to Him. We have to confess that we’ve allowed other things and the expectations of other people to be the practical pragmatic god in our lives.
I’m going to ask you right now if you’ll bow your heads with me, please. While our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed, perhaps some of us need to do business with God right now. In the quietness of this moment, maybe the Holy Spirit has spoken to you and shown you areas in which you have loved the stuff of this life more than you have loved your Savior.
I want to encourage you right now to confess that to the Father: Lord Jesus, I turn from the contamination of my thinking and of this world. I want to do Your will. I want to love You more than anything in this life—more than my home, more than my vision of a desired future, even. I want You to define my life.
Then there may be those of you who are here, and you don’t know for sure if Jesus Christ is living in your heart and life. You have felt the conviction of sin; there’s guilt on your heart. Your need is to say: Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sin. I turn to You. I want You to live Your life in and through me. I want to know that love, that unconditional, uncommon, supernatural love of God that will never leave me. I want to know that love, so I turn from my sin. I repent of it. I turn to You to cleanse me and forgive me and to help me to live life from Your perspective and to make a difference with my life.
If you prayed that prayer and you really meant it, Jesus Christ has come into your heart and life.
Lord Jesus, help all of us, including me. Oh Father, we don’t live in heaven, and boy, down here, this stuff in life gets to us. We don’t want to run from this world. There’s much that You want us to enjoy, but Lord, may the love of the Father be our guiding light. May the will of God and what He wants from our lives be the thing that we stake our lives on. May we not look for this world to be more to us than You ever intended for it to be. But may we make a difference during our moment in history.
God, bless every woman here. Give her profound joy, Lord. Give her profound peace. Give her a profound sense of mission. Oh God, have Your way in and through us, in Jesus’ name, amen.