Loving The World, Loving GodErwin W. Lutzer | January 20, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
John made it clear: if you love the world, the love of the Father isn’t in you. But we’re all desire-driven, so how do we resist the temptations that we see every single day on our computers, on our televisions, in movie theaters, and on our cellphones?
Pastor Lutzer shares his advice. He starts by telling us to submit all of our technology to God, then gives us four practical ways in which to do just that.
This happens to be the third message in a series titled Guard Your Heart – Sexual Purity in a Media Culture. One of the things that we have learned so far is that technology is not neutral. The media is not neutral. It comes with a bias against holy living.
Someone has written these words. “Technology has developed a dynamic of its own and passed out of human control.” Neil Postman says technology has displaced traditional culture to our great harm. And it’s true, isn’t it? We are obsessed with technology. During the Christmas season what is it that is purchased the most? It is updates in technology.
Now this was back in 2008. Teenagers averaged 2,272 text messages a month, which averages out to about 80 text messages a day. Psychologists and doctors say that it is the leading cause of anxiety distraction, failing grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation. Thirty-seven percent of our teenagers say that they have sent sexually suggestive messages in some form of the social network, and more than half say they have no rules for how they use the Internet, iPads, iPhones, and all the other technology that is out there.
Now in the midst of this the Bible says this. And I want you to take your Bibles and turn, if you would please, to 1 John 2 because we are going to be there in just a moment. It says in verse 15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” I need to stop right there and ask you a question. How do we reconcile the fact that the Bible says that “we are not to love the world” with the fact of John 3:16 that says, “For God so loved the world”? Well the enigma is not hard to unravel. Sometimes the word world refers to people, and that’s, of course, what John 3:16 is all about. For God so loved the world – the people – and we’re to love the world and people, but we’re not to love the world system which the Bible says is in the hands of the evil one. And technology and the media in ways that have never been true throughout history have presented these values to us – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, such as in video games. And I don’t have time to discuss that today but we’ll probably comment on that in more detail in a future message.
There it is – technology. Throughout two thousand years of Church history the Church has debated as to how to relate to this world. Of course the world in which they were discussing this was entirely different from ours, but there were those who said that the answer is separation, and monasteries came about as a result. What you do is you separate from the world.
Let me tell you about a family that Rebecca and I know very well. In fact, we know them so well that whenever they travel through Chicago the children stay with us. And I’m going to call these children kids, even though they are in their late teens and twenties. At my age I think I have the right to call them kids. And they were in our home again before Christmas and then before that in the fall, and they come through and they stay with us and we love to be with them. But I want you to understand who they are. They belong to a specific denomination, which I will not mention because not all people who belong to this denomination agree with this lifestyle, but they are growing up in a home and in a church where there is no Internet. You can have a cell phone but it can’t be an iPhone. You can’t access the Internet with it. There is no radio, no television. If you ask them, “How do you know what’s going on in the world?” they say, “Well, sometimes we’re in town and we read the headlines of the newspaper, or maybe neighbors tell us.”
Now I want you to put your mind around this. Here are two children in our home, and sometimes there have been more than that, and these kids in their twenties have never heard of Lady Gaga. They have no idea who J Lo was or is. They are not concerned about whether or not Brad and Angelina get married. It’s never occurred to them. As a matter of fact, if we had asked them to tell us what they knew about MTV, I’m convinced that they would have said it is a certain chemical farmers use to kill weeds. (laughter) They never heard of this. They have been totally isolated from pop culture - completely, knowing nothing of this.
So what are these kids like? Well, for one thing they want to sit down and they want to talk to you. They look you in the eye. They have wonderful conversations about God. They’ll tell you where they are in their Bible reading, and they’ll catch you up to date on their families and all of those other things, and I bet…. Excuse me. Let me rephrase that and say I would venture to say that none of them probably have eating disorders, because you know the whole idea that somehow your body has to fit a certain shape, and if it doesn’t you are devalued and nobody will look at you, has never occurred to them. They have never heard of Britney Spears. And so, as a result, they are unaffected by it, and we just had such a delightful time with them. And of course they are modestly dressed because the whole idea of modern culture with the dresses that young people wear today and all that, they don’t have any of that.
Now, you say, “Well, we can’t do that. We can’t isolate ourselves like that. I mean, clearly they are divorced from culture. They have no idea what’s going on. They have no input into culture,” and on and on we could go to give reasons why we don’t want to go there. “After all, what about this socialization process? How do they socialize if they don’t know anything about pop culture?” And so I understand that we don’t want to go there, but you know, they don’t have it all wrong.
Just two days ago I heard about a man in a church – not this church, though I’m sure it’s happened at Moody Church and may even be happening now – who connected with a woman online and got an online romance going, and then when his wife discovered it he did what most people in that situation do. He confessed to only as much as he absolutely had to and hid the rest, and then months later, of course, it all crops up with all of its ugliness again because he left some roots in the ground.
I’m sure that these young people have problems. I know they do because they have a sinful nature, but probably if you are raised in a culture and in a church where there is no Internet, and there is no radio, probably those kinds of incidents do not happen because they can’t happen. It’s not all bad to be isolated like that.
“Well,” you say, “Pastor Lutzer, we can’t go there. That’s just nothing but legalism.” Okay. All right, I hear you. So let’s go to the opposite extreme. This is what Steven Gallagher says the average teenager encounters today – the average teenage boy. “While waiting for his younger sister to get ready for school he turns on MTV and catches some of the latest videos, most of them filled with plenty of innuendo and skin. Later that morning he has health class. His teacher refuses to take a moral stand against premarital sex or even homosexuality, and a text message from a girl who thinks he is cute casually lets him know that her parents will not be home tomorrow night. While he walks down the hallway he overhears the popular boys talk about the girls that they’ve hooked up with. On the way home from school he stops at a friend’s house to log into social media, cruises the latest pix and posts from their friends, hoping that some of the girls they are looking to hook up with have responded. A few hours later he’s home in front of the television where the characters of his favorite shows regularly engage in various sexual scenarios. When his sister isn’t looking he scans her stack of Cosmo Girl and Seventeen magazines, drinking in the seductive advertisements.” And on and on it goes. And then Gallagher says, “Why are we surprised that we have so many sex addicts today?”
So the question that we have to answer in the moments that we have left is this. What do we do if we are going to redeem the media for the glory of God? Now I know, of course, as I mentioned last time, the Internet is being used mightily to spread the Gospel. I get that, but I’m talking about our individual, personal, private use of the media. What do we need to do?
Now what I’m going to share with you in this message is kind of hard stuff, and I pray that I would have the proper balance between being pastoral, which of course I always want to be, and putting it very clearly. And remember whatever I say to you applies to me as well. What an agenda for the next few moments!
You know, it was Tozer who said that men (that is Christian men) today think that the world is not a battleground but a playground. “We’re not here to fight,” he says. “We’re here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land. We feel very much at home. What is there in the world that we haven’t imbibed? We do feel at home. What’s this business about being strangers and pilgrims and singing This World Is Not My Home? This world IS our home. Name one thing that the world has and listens to and watches that we don’t.” And then he says, “‘We are not getting ready to live,’ the average Christian thinks, ‘but we are already living.’ The question is, how do we live it to the full?”
All right, all of that by way of introduction and getting us into the text of Scripture, and then talking about technology and the Christian.
You’ll notice it says in 1 John 2, “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. For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eye and pride in possessions -- is not from the Father but is from the world.”
When John says, “Don’t let the world” and he speaks about the lust of the flesh, that has to do with our basic human fallen desires. Of course, there are good lusts and good desires if we use the word desire to describe the desire to eat, the desire for sexual intimacy, the desire to drink, the desire to enjoy ourselves, but all of these have been perverted because of the fall. And the world now sucks us into its mold, and it’s the desires of the flesh.
Remember in the last message I preached I mentioned that we have within ourselves a flammable substance, and with all of the sparks and with all of the fires that are burning out there, they set us aflame within. And turn on your television set at any time and you can see that.
So John says here that we should not love the world and neither the things that are in the world, and of course, we’ll talk about those implications. Secondly, it says the desires of the eyes! You could in context actually translate the word desire here to refer to craving, the craving of the sinful flesh which we have, of course, whether there be a media or not. Fighting the passions is not a new challenge for the Christian. Even those who were in the monasteries had to fight their passion because, as we learned last time, it arises from our inner nature. But it’s the stimuli without. It’s the stimulization without!
And then it says, “The craving of the eyes.” Your eyes have an appetite. They crave certain things and the power of the eyes to influence the brain and to have a permanent effect on who we are and what we value is powerful and unrelenting. And by the way, do you remember Achan? The Bible says he saw a garment he wasn’t supposed to touch or steal. He saw, he coveted it and took it, and then it says he hid it in his tent. Isn’t that technology? It gives us an opportunity to see, to covet, to take and then to hide? And John says, “That’s the world.”
And then he says “the pride of possessions.” Actually the pride of life is a good translation. It refers to possessions, but notice this. The first two categories refer to that which we don’t have, which we would like to have. We covet. And the second category now is to take pride in what we have, the pride of life. And could we say, as you’ve heard me say on another occasion, pride of race? That’s the root of racism. It’s the pride of life.
There’s pride of grace - our abilities which are given to us of God that we take credit for! Price of face! Oh my, you know today beauty is the gold coin of human worth. You know you young people, and many of you are here today, and some of you young ladies are very beautiful. There’s a sense in which I feel sorry for you because our culture is going to put so much pressure on you to become immoral. The pressure is going to be huge and unrelenting.
Years ago I was preaching at a Bible college and I said the same thing I told you now, and I said, “I think beauty is a curse.” Later on a student told me that a girl went into her room and said, “Oh God, if beauty is a curse, smite me with it, and may I never recover.” (laughter) But those of you who are striking in your appearance, you will have so many more opportunities than the rest of us, but so many temptations.
So you have pride of race, pride of grace, pride of face, and pride of place. Who are you? Look at where you work. Look at what you own. You know, Pastor Wiersbe who preceded me here as pastor said on one occasion that when you think of the world, the Bible says first of all that we shouldn’t be friends with the world. You know what James says? He says that to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. Wow! So Wiersbe says you shouldn’t be friends with the world, and then, if you are friends with the world, you are spotted by the world. James uses that illustration in chapter one – spotted by the world.
And then we should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and then if not, we may be condemned by the world. How seductive it really is!
But the question is how do we counter it? How do we say to ourselves, “Well, we’re going to use technology privately and personally, but we’re going to use it for the glory of God?” How’s that going to work? Well, let’s look at the text again and remind ourselves of a couple of things.
First of all, every heart loves something. In fact, the Bible is very clear about this, and we are basically desire driven. Whichever is the greatest desire wins. So I would like to give you three or four ways in which we should love God and we’ll relate it to the temptations of this world and we’ll see how God leads us from there.
First of all, you’ll notice it says very clearly here that if you love the world (verse 15) the love of the Father isn’t in you. What it means is that you and I should love God exclusively. He should have full right into every single crevice and closet of our minds and heart with nothing cordoned off that says this is for me. “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all thy soul.” Loving God exclusively!
John Piper put it rather bluntly but clearly. He says, “If you love the world you are a God hater.” Now is that too strong? What did I quote from James? “You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?” I guess Piper is right. If we love the world it really doesn’t matter how loudly we sing on Sundays. It doesn’t matter how many verses of Scripture we memorize. The fact is that the love of the Father is not in us if we love the world because clearly we are to love God exclusively and the love of the world and love of God are mutually exclusive.
Have you had the experiences, as I know I have and you probably also, where you come home from church maybe or maybe you’ve had a great time in your devotional life, and you just say to yourself, “You know, I just really met God,” and you’ve been cleansed, and you’ve confessed your sin, and your relationship with God is just so satisfying. Then you get home and you flip on the T.V. and you see a sensual scene and you begin to carry it out, and immediately this love for God that you had begins to drain away like a pitcher that is broken at the bottom, and the water drains out. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a believer necessarily, but it means that you can’t love the world and love God simultaneously.
Now we are to love God, therefore, exclusively so let me ask you a question about technology. If you and I are to be radically separated from the world, and radical God lovers, then the question is this. Are we willing to submit all of our technology to God? Are we willing to say, “God, whatever it is that’s the great stumbling block in my life, I want to get rid of it?” You say, “Well, you know you can’t get rid of television.” Well yes, there have been people who have done that. You know, you could unplug the thing and leave it for the garbage people to pick up. I mean there’s nothing that says you absolutely need to keep it.
What about the iPhone? You know, one thing about the young people that I was telling you about who aren’t allowed to have any Internet connection at all, they probably are not sitting in a worship service playing video games or texting one another. It’s amazing isn’t it? What I’m simply saying is this (and I give this challenge to myself). The challenge is this. Are we willing to give our addiction to technology (and I’ll use the word there) to God? Seven hours a day the average young person is in some way connected with technology. There are homes where you cannot eat dinner without the television set on. Imagine that being gone and you actually sitting and talking to one another and you are not sitting there trying to text somebody a new picture that you just got.
What is it that God says? What does exclusive love of God mean in your life? What does exclusive love of God mean in mine? And here’s the question now. How do we manage temptation, sometimes even temptation over which we have no control?
Well, you know that in this series of messages every time I’ve been giving you an assignment, and if you missed some of the assignments, you can go online and I’m told that they are there for you. Notice that you can go online. I’ll give you permission to go online. You can always go to the Moody website. We give you exclusive privileges to do that.
But today’s assignment is going to be there, and let me tell you why I give it to you. You know, speaking of assignments, the first assignment was three consecutive days without television, without social media and so forth. I have been doing that now. This past week has been my third week of each week having three consecutive days without television, and I’ll tell you something. Because of what it is doing in my life I’m saying, “Wow, why haven’t I been doing this before?” There’s a sense of freedom and time and silence if God actually wanted to talk to you! He’s not going to shout at you. He’s not going to shout over against your stereo set – shout louder than it does – or the Internet with all of its images. Are we willing to ask God?
Well, anyway, here’s the story. Young men come to me and they say, “You know, I always swear it off.” Of course, that’s exactly what people do, as I mentioned last week, and then they go back. “But there I am back in these websites that are so destructive (or pornography or whatever).” And I ask them a question. What are your resources? None. You know a verse that almost seems to be the key verse for this whole series is Proverbs 25:28 where it says “A man without self-control is like a city that has been broken into and left without walls.”
Where are your walls? I mean if you lived in a city and the enemy came over the same place over and over again wouldn’t you eventually say, “You know, I think I should up some defenses right there.” That might just actually occur to you. No weapons!
One day my wife and I were walking in a forest area. We were walking along the road and a bear just jumped out and went across the road ahead of us. Well we were there and I don’t know if this would have helped or not (I’m glad we didn’t need to find out) but we at least each grabbed a stick so that we’d have something if we were to see him again rather than (pardon the pun) just our bare hands.
And people get into temptation without any resources. If you weren’t to have resources where do you find out? Does the Bible give us any hint? Yes! I wish I had time to expound on it but notice it says in verse 14 of the very chapter we are in (That’s why you bring your Bibles to church.), “I write to you fathers because you know Him who is from the beginning. I write to you young men because you are conquerors.” It says, “You are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” And how do you overcome the evil one? Well, the word of God has to abide in you.
So this is what I tell young men, and I’ve had some testimonies as to how it works. What you need to do is to memorize five of six verses of Scripture that you know cold. This is not a time where you are stuttering, wondering whether or not you can recite them. And then you need to make a promise and say, “Before I open that magazine or before I go to A-B-C-D (wherever that means), I am going to recite each of these promises three times and I’m going to concentrate on what it is that I am reciting.”
The best way to overcome temptation is through worship and praise. The Bible says in the Psalms that you should praise the Lord seven times every day. The best you can do is to worship, but part of that worshipping could be the quotation of Scripture.
So I give this guy the assignment. He memorizes it cold. This was back in the days before the Internet. He’s standing at the magazine rack. His heart begins to race but a promise is a promise is a promise. So there he is! “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” “‘Be ye holy for I am holy,’ says the Lord God.” “Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest and whatsoever things are of good report, think of these things.” And on and on he goes. And I remember how he told me how he was not only able to walk away, but to do so with a great sense of peace that he did not have to be bound by this habit.
Now that’s why I’m giving you this week’s assignment. The first week was to detox. The second week I gave you a regimen for when you wake up in the morning. Today’s assignment is Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” and the next verse I am giving you is “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
Can you look at me and can we say this together? Let’s say both verses together. Okay, because you probably know them? “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” “Be ye holy for I am holy.” And then, of course, I’m also giving you 2 Corinthians 6 beginning at verse 17, and there are many other verses, but you have to memorize them.
Now for many of you it’s not going to work and I’ll tell you why. To put it a little indelicately, it’s not going to work if a demon is in too deep, and you are not yet desperate. God delivers people but He usually reserves His finest deliverance for the desperate, for those who are willing to pay any price. And that’s why I encourage you also to join a small group. We have many ministries for women. We have many ministries for men. You need to be able to connect. You need to be able to pray together because the battle that we are fighting is huge and the Scripture says we must love God exclusively.
Secondly, we must love Him gratefully. I won’t take time to turn to it but you had better turn to it when you have a few moments. First John 3:1 in this very same book (I love the King James version here) says, “What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God, and such we are,” and it goes on to say that His love is so great that we are not only called children of God, but it says, “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.”
Christianity is different from all the other religions of the world at this point. They all say that we should love one another out of a sense of duty. Christianity says you love because you’ve already been loved. “From before the foundation of the world and eternity past,” Jesus said, “You have loved them (speaking of us) even as Thou hast loved Me.” I mean, who can’t love a God like that? Imagine a God who has lavished Himself upon us with indescribable overwrought blessings, and so we love gratefully.
We also love passionately. “Like a deer,” David said, “that is thirsty I want the water, so my heart longs for you, oh God.” You say, “Well, how do we develop a passionate heart?” Well there are many ideas I could give you but may I remind you that there are some things that won’t work? Sitting in front of a television set hour-by-hour won’t pull it off. Using the Internet to go to places just out of curiosity to see certain images – I don’t think that’s going to work. Texting 80 times a day probably is not the way to go. When you are filled with anxiety as to whether or not you are in the loop about absolutely every little detail, there has to be a time when you say, “Enough already. I am going to set aside time for God and technology will not get in the way.” Do you agree with that? (applause) We have to love God passionately.
The bottom line is simply this. It’s that we have to develop a love for God that is greater than our love of sin. Let me say that again. We have to develop a love for God that is greater than our love of sin. We love God passionately.
Could I also say that we love Him eternally? Don’t you love this verse – verse 17? “And the world is passing away along with all of its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” The world and its desires are passing away. Someday Heffner’s empire will be incinerated, the Bible says. It says in 2 Peter 3, “This world and all of its works are going to be burned up and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” No more Hollywood! No more flat screen TV’s! No more iPads, iPhones, and God knows what else! None of that! It’s all gone with all of its desires and all of its aspirations, and all of its false promises. The world passes away and all of its lusts, all of its desires. But the one who does the will of God abides forever.
Folks, let me put it to you clearly. We are training for another world. That’s what the whole thing is about, and we are totally distracted because some new technology comes out that we haven’t had the opportunity to get hooked on yet. As I said, this might be a little hard around the edges but I’m saying it the way we need to hear it I think.
Now you know that D. L. Moody founded this church in 1864. He was the greatest evangelist. Wow! What a guy! He had a passionate love for God. He had an obsessive love for God. If there’s any man for whom I could use the word intoxicated it would be D. L. Moody, and he preached exactly what the Bible teaches. And what the Bible teaches is that we are not born with a love for God. Furthermore, you can’t wake up some morning and say, “You know what? The first commandment is ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind.’ I’m going to do that today.” You can’t. Uh-uh! You can’t turn it on and off like a faucet.
Here’s what happens. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, He gives us that new heart. It says in the book of Ezekiel “a new heart will I give you. I’m going to take out the heart of stone, the heart of callousness, the heart of self-will, and the selfish heart is going to be taken out, and I’m going to give you a heart that’s going to love me and fear me and love me.” All that, my friend, is birthed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God.
Now if you are not a God-lover you do have to question whether or not you have ever been born again because one of the indications of being born again is to love God. And sometimes our love drains because of what I told you about, but fundamentally we love God.
I know someone who has struggled with numerous addictions and has fallen many times but every time this person bows in prayer, this person says, “Oh God, I’m so sorry that this happened because I do love you.” And I say, despite all their struggles, that is a mark of the new birth.
Now there’s another reason I bring D. L. Moody in at this point in the message. About 20 years ago I was in Northfield, Massachusetts, where D. L. Moody is buried. Now his home is there. About a quarter of a mile away he’s buried on what is called Roundtop. It’s kind of like the top of a knoll of a hill. And as I had the opportunity of being there and staring at his gravestone I was also looking at D. L. Moody’s favorite verse. “The world passes away and all of its desires but he who does the will of God abides forever,” is written on his tombstone.
The battle is absolutely huge and unrelenting. The God-lovers will make any sacrifice they need to, to honor God, no matter the cost (applause), even in the face of technology that just keeps coming at you, coming at you, one stimulus after another. They say, “No, God comes first.”
Well, there are still three messages in this series. You’d better show up to find out what else I have to say.
May we pray?
Father, we have all fallen. Today we have all been convicted. We all stand guilty. May we remember that if we love the world we are counted as Your enemy. Oh God, we pray for the businessmen who travel, who have so many temptations. We pray, Father, for all those who can understand technology and use it in privacy. Father, we just fall on our knees and we do give You our hearts, but Lord, if You don’t come and help us we are doomed. It is too big for us. Rescue us we ask. And for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior we pray that today they will believe and be saved. Give them a new heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.