Don’t Get Distracted

Posted: May 23, 2010 in 1 John

1 John 2:12-17, “Don’t Get Distracted”
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Ever get distracted? It’s easy for us to get distracted by any shiny object that gets set in front of us. But distraction can be a huge problem. We tend to think of it as just an annoyance, but if you get distracted in the wrong place at the wrong time (say, trying to pull a cell phone from your pocket in the middle of traffic), distraction can kill you. Spiritual distraction can be just as bad. As born again Christians, we’ve been given the most wondrous privileges that can possibly be given in the universe – and yet through worldly distractions, we take our eyes off our king & head for spiritual destruction.

Obviously, that’s not what God wants for His people. For those He’s saved, He wants us to be assured of our salvation & continue to grow the in the grace of knowledge of Him. That’s what John is exhorting us to in this section of Ch 2.

1st John gives his readers several reasons that he’s written to them. To sum it up, it’s because John believes they truly are Christian. For all the tests of true faith we’ve seen so far in 1 John, and the tests we’ll see later, John is absolutely convinced that the people he’s originally written to are believers…and that ought to be a huge comfort! …

2nd John gives his readers the reasonable response to their Christian faith. Because they ARE Christian, they’ve been given so much by God through Jesus Christ…thus there’s no reason for those in the Church to be distracted by the various temptations the world has to offer. …

1 John 2:12-17 (NKJV)
12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

A. “little children”: This is a favorite phrase of John’s…he’ll use it 7 times in the letter…at some point, this is a reference to everyone. Keep in mind that John is fairly aged by this point – likely close to 100 years old…just about any one is a little child in comparison! 🙂 It’s also possible that John was instrumental in many of their individual conversions, which only makes it natural to refer to those in the Church as “little children” as a term of endearment. [] We see this contrasted with “fathers” & “young men.” There are several different theories as to why:
__a. Perhaps these are literal age designations among the people. There are some whom John is addressing that are literal children, others as teenagers & young men, and others as elders within the church. This is possible, but highly unlikely considering John’s subject matter. It’s not as if the sins of little children are forgiven, but they don’t know God the Father – nor that young men have overcome the devil, but their sins aren’t yet forgiven. The things John writes of each age group are still absolutely true of the others.
__b. Perhaps these are designations of certain types of offices within the particular church to which John was writing. (As in deacons, elders, bishops…) Again, this seems unlikely due to the content. Besides, at some point John refers to ALL the readers as “little children,” which would defeat the purpose of the distinction.
__c. It seems best to think of the distinction as differing names for the same group, perhaps at different levels of maturity. I.e. they are ALL born-again Christian believers, though at some point in their walk with Christ they feel like children – other times like fathers – other times like young men. At our most basic level when we’re rocked back on our heels by our sin, we need to remember (as children) that we are forgiven. When we’re pondering the depths of our relationship with God (in father-like maturity), we realize that we know Him. When we get ready for spiritual battle, we need the strength of young men & realize we are victorious.

B. 1st mark of a Christian: the forgiveness of sins. Amen! That our sins (as monumental as they are) are truly forgiven! Once a person turns to Jesus Christ as the Son of God crucified for sin & risen from the grave – once a person humbles themselves before God & in faith asks Christ for forgiveness & new life, the most wonderful thing happens: God gives it! Every Christian has their sins forgiven. Every wrong rebellious thing you’ve ever done has been put away by the blood of Jesus Christ – every wrong thing you’ve yet to do is covered by His sacrifice. When the Lord Jesus forgives you, you are truly forgiven. As far as the east is from the west, God has removed your transgression from you (Ps 103:12)… Your sins were once as red as scarlet, but now your life is as white as snow (Isa 1:18)…
__a. Not just general forgiveness; this is writing of personal forgiveness. “your sins are forgiven you…” This is a personal promise for the believer & a wonderful one in which we can rejoice! Psalm 32:1-2 (1) Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. (2) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. [] As a born-again Christian, that’s you!

C. Why is forgiveness available? Not because of anything we’ve done; it’s all “for His name’s sake.” As Peter said at Pentecost, there’s no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). It’s not that there’s something supernatural about anyone named “Jesus”; in the ancient culture, someone’s name encompassed all that they were – it represented the person himself. The Lord Jesus Christ provided the perfect sacrifice for mankind at the Cross as God the Son died for sinful man. Our forgiveness is made available to us solely for the sake of the Lord Jesus. He did not suffer in vain; God’s forgiveness will be granted to all who call upon Him.
__a. Have you received His forgiveness yet? You don’t have to wait until the end to respond to the message. …
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13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

A. 2nd mark of a Christian: relationship with God. We know Him. John has written a lot about “knowing” God (and will continue to do so). The idea isn’t so much one of “knowing facts” (though that’s important); it’s one of experiential knowledge – interactive knowledge. The person who knows God actually KNOWS God in relationship. [] Some would claim it is arrogant to say “I know God,” yet that is the very reason God created us! That we would know Him & glorify Him forever…and this is the privilege available to every believer in Christ!
__a. Growing in our relationship with God is a sign of maturity (hence, “fathers”). Too many believers stay in a place of spiritual immaturity. They love the fact they are forgiven, but they never take the time to learn more about the One who has forgiven them. They continually feed on milk (which isn’t bad), but never move to meat. … Christian: spend time getting to know God YOUR God. Let your mind be blown away by His infinite goodness & Person. …

B. How is God described here? “Him who is from the beginning.” The Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is eternal…He never had a beginning, and He will certainly never have an end. God has simply always ‘been.’ [“I AM” – the ever existent One] It’s not simply that God came from the beginning; God existed before the beginning. There has never been a time that God was “not”, because God actually predates time itself & is outside of time. THIS is the God we can truly know!
__a. It is little wonder why the primary activity in Heaven seems to be worship: we have been privileged to know the eternal God! It’ll take an eternity simply to understand God’s eternal past, much less enjoy Him for the eternal future…
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…I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one.

A. 3rd mark of a Christian: victory over the enemy. Notice the tense here: “have overcome” – Gk perfect tense = an action fully completed in the past, not needing to be repeated. IOW, this is done. In Christ, Christians have already overcome the wicked one. “Wait a second…I sure don’t feel like I have overcome the devil. Am I really a Christian?!?” We may or may not feel very victorious from day-to-day, and we will certainly battle against the evil one as long as we draw breath (Peter told us to be sober & vigilant & watch out for him!). But be assured, if you are a Christian, the final victory is already assured because the devil is already defeated! The proof? The empty tomb…
__i. Christian, this ought to give you hope! There will be days when you struggle against the attacks of the enemy – there will be days that Satan will show himself to be the punk that he is…but ultimately he has no hold on you. Those who are in Christ Jesus are free from the devil, and Satan is ultimately defeated by His hand.

B. BTW – the devil truly IS “wicked.” He’s a liar & the Father of Lies (John 8:44), and comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Beware of movies that tend to portray Satan as merely flawed or compromised or misunderstood. He is none of those things – he is evil & he desires to have as many people as possible suffering in the lake of fire alongside of him for all eternity.
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…I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.
A. Back to “little children…” only this time John uses a different word for “children.” In vs 12, τεκνίον = “infant,” in a nursery context. In vs 13, παιδίον = “young child” up to 7 years of age. Both are terms of affection – the difference between them being one of age…the “young child/ παιδίον” being of the age where schooling begins.

B. 4th mark of a Christian: not only do we have relationship with God, we have adoption by Him. We know Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Lord & Savior, but we also know God the Father as OUR Father… John 1:12-13 (12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: (13) who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [] Sometimes we have a tendency to forget what a glorious privilege this is! We have been given the spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15), and granted a co-inheritance with Christ the Lord (Gal 4:7)…amazing! …

C. For those who attempt to know God outside of Christ, this is something that they can never know. There are all sorts of people that try to claim, “Oh I’m not a Christian, but I’m spiritual. God & I are on great terms.” That’s delusion – a lie of the wicked one, plain & simple. The plain fact is no one CAN know God as Father outside of Jesus Christ. They may know some facts about God, but they cannot KNOW God Himself because Jesus Christ is the only way. [John 14:6]
__a. “Why does God make it so exclusive? Why can’t all roads lead to heaven?” Because they simply don’t. How cruel it would be for a parent to tell his/her child, “Just go to any grown-up you want to – all parents are the same, anyway.”? That’s simply not true – it’s a lie. Likewise with God. God is God, and that’s just the truth. And God wants us to know Him – and loves us enough to have shown us how to know Him: through Jesus Christ alone…
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14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

A. Other than the change in tense, this is basically repeated from verse 13. Why the repetition? Because it’s that important & that amazing! Christian, you have been blessed to know the Almighty Creator God – never let that fact become trite or taken for granted…
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…I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.

A. Back to “young men…” – again back to that place where Christians need strength to be on the front line of the battle. [] No matter where you are in your walk with Christ (child, father, youth), you’ve got something in which to rejoice!

B. 5th mark of a Christian: Christians are empowered. We have been made “strong.” The idea is one of being “capable/powerful.” And again, this is not something we always feel…but the Scripture doesn’t limit this to our feelings; this is something we simply ARE in Christ Jesus. In Christ, you ARE strong (present tense). How so? Through the abiding work of the word of God… The Scripture is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17), and equips us for every good work as believers (2 Tim 3:17). When we face spiritual battle, our strength is not found in our own wisdom; it’s found in the wisdom of God & His word!

C. Notice who this ties into our victory over the devil. The implication is that not only have we already been made victorious over the enemy in the future, but God empowers us & equips us through His word to be victorious over the enemy in the present. …
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15 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.

A. Change of subject – but only slightly. John has given some wonderful assurances of the Christian’s faith in Christ – some great marks by which we can know we have been born-again, and some wonderful privileges that come with that. But now that we know what God has done for us in our salvation, how ought we respond to His work? By loving God & not the world. …

B. Define “world…” Gk κόσμος (~ “cosmos”) It can mean anything from the physical universe, to the population of people, to the worldly governmental/social system. This is a word highly dependent upon its context. So which is it here? It doesn’t seem to be talking about the physical planet – after all, God created the world & called it “good” prior to the Fall. The heavens declare the glory of God & that’s a good thing! … It doesn’t seem to be referring to human population – after all, this is the same word used in John 3:16 where the Bible specifically tells us that God loved the world (and thus sent Jesus the Son to die for it). … It thus must be a reference to the worldly gov’t/social system. Anything ranging from political power to Hollywood prestige to social pride (and more) would be wrapped up in the kosmos.

C. Define “love…” We know there are several words used for “love” in Greek: eros – storge – phileo – agape. Obviously we cannot have eros for the world (though we often see a perversion of eros IN the world!)… Storge doesn’t even make sense in dealing with the world… Phileo could certainly apply in the same context – James says to be friends of the world is to be an enemy of God (Jas 4:4). However, John is very specific here in his use of ἀγαπάω (verb form of agape). In fact, this is the only word for “love” John uses throughout this letter. When John writes of loving God, its ἀγαπάω. When he writes of loving one another, its ἀγαπάω. Thus when he writes of loving the world, it’s loving the world with the same love that we would have for the Holy Triune God or for one another within the Body of Christ.

D. Put it together. “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” The kind of devotion we are to give to God ought to remain with God, and reserved for God alone. We’re not to give that type of love & devotion for the world… [] What happens if we do? I.e., what can we say about the person who loves the world with the same love by which he/she ought to love God? Simple: that person obviously does not love God or know God. Someone who claims the name of Christ yet worships the world in the place of God obviously does not know Christ at all. …

E. Keep in mind that John describes things in stark terms. Black/white, either/or…there’s not a lot of middle ground here. John is NOT saying that any Christian that struggles with sin or attachments of the past is not truly a believer. ALL Christians struggle from time to time (as is made clear in 1 John 1:8, Romans 7 & more). The difference comes in the battle. For the one who battles against sin & worldly influence, you have marvelous assurance of the work Jesus Christ is doing within you. For the person who never battles at all – you don’t have that same assurance. IOW, the person who dives into sin & gives lip-service to God on Sundays has no assurance; instead they have a warning that the love of God the Father does not abide in him. …
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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.

A. The world offers “the lust of the flesh…” At 1st glance, this phrase seems to apply to sexual immorality – although that is indeed included, it includes FAR more than that. NIV, “the cravings of sinful man” gives a good idea… (Barclay) “It is to live a life dominated by the senses. It is to be gluttonous in eating habits, soft in luxury, slavish in pleasure, lustful and lax in morals, selfish in the use of possessions, heedless of all the spiritual values and extravagant in the gratifications of material desires.” IOW, the “lust of the flesh” is to engage in all the hedonistic pleasures this world has to offer.

B. The world offers “the lust of the eyes…” If the lusts of the flesh apply to those things which we can feel; the lust of the eyes applies to those things we can see. Poets call the eyes “the windows of the soul” & there is a lot of truth to that. What we take in visually has a huge effect on our lives & character. The “lust of the eyes” has a particular draw in our culture that is in many ways founded on materialism, covetousness, and entertainment. Anything ranging from pornography to salivating over the “Best Buy” catalog would fall into the lust of the eyes.

C. The world offers “the pride of life…” Some translations tie this into material possessions (ESV, “pride in possessions”). The word at its most basic use applies to life itself (βίος ~ biology), but it can also refer to “livelihood, or things that sustain/make up life.” So “stuff” may well be involved, but it’s not the focus; John’s focus here is on “pride.” Where possessions are involved, it’s in how we use them to attempt to impress others & glorify ourselves.
__a. Beware of underestimating the pull of pride! The desire to be lifted up above God is what likely brought the angel Lucifer down to become our enemy the Devil. Pride causes the pastor to think he’s more important than the One he preaches – pride causes the executive to think his/her salary gives him importance – pride causes the spouse to think “I deserve better than him/her” at every unhappy turn. Simply put: pride destroys lives. Our culture exalts those who boast in themselves, but spiritually speaking in the end, that only brings emptiness. Let those who boast, boast in the Lord!

D. This is all the world has ever offered! This is how Adam & Eve were tempted – Genesis tells us “that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…” (Gen 3:6) [] This is how the Lord Jesus was tempted (Matt 4): (1) stones to bread = lust of the flesh to satisfy hunger… (2) cast self down for angels to bear up = lust of the eyes for spectacle… (3) give all the kingdoms of the world = pride of life for exaltation outside of God’s…
__a. If they went through this, one thing is for certain: we’re obviously going to be tempted the same way. We are not exempt…

E. In the end, this is all the world has to offer; it’s never going to offer something better or greater than what we have already been given. The Christian has been given so incredibly much by God! Forgiveness – relationship – victory – adoption – empowerment, but yet the world only has to offer lusts & temptations. It ought to be a no-brainer for the Christian of which to follow…
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17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

A. Why give our devotion to God & not the world? If for no other reason because the world has an expiration date! It’s “passing away…” This isn’t simply poetic language; this is a literal truth. 2 Peter 3:10-12 (10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (11) Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? []

B. Not so with the born-again Christian. We will not pass away with the world – we will abide with Christ Jesus forever & ever! John makes the same point as Peter here: since we are to live with Jesus forever & love Him eternally, what business do we have devoting ourselves to the world today?

Conclusion:
Don’t get distracted! God has done so much for you – you have so much in Him. What can the world possibly offer in His stead? Remember what God has done for you in Christ Jesus:
A. You have forgiveness of sins
B. You have relationship with God
C. You have victory over the devil
D. You have adoption by God the Father
E. You have empowerment for the battle through the word of God

Amazing! What more could we ask for? … Yet how quickly we forget & tend to replace it with the very things God hates: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. … Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by those things – keep your eyes upon Jesus Christ, the One who has saved you & given you life in His name…

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