Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. C.J. Mahaney of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg:
Historian, theologian and dean of Beeson Divinity School Timothy George several years ago writes of visiting Thomas Jefferson’s famous home at Monticello. While touring his library, he writes, “We were shown a copy of Jefferson’s New Testament. The curator held it up to let us see how it was full of holes. Jefferson had gone through with a pen knife and cut out all references that offended Him. All the verses about God’s wrath, hell, judgment and so forth. While no Bible-believing Christian would be so impudent as Jefferson in actually deleting a part of God’s word, in reality, we are guilty of a similar offense when we deliberately ignore any portion of what God has revealed to us in Scripture.”
This morning we encounter a passage many professing evangelicals in our country conveniently or deliberately ignore: 1John 2:15 “Do not love the world.” And by God’s grace, we will not ignore this passage. If we modern evangelicals cannot ignore this passage, then we attempt to impose upon this passage qualifications and explanations which alter or soften the original meaning or intent so that ultimately this passage is emptied of its authority and application to us.
God is saying clearly, authoritatively, passionately and personally: “Do not love the world. Do not love the world.” Upon first reading, I think, “What’s up with that? You created the world. Why would You forbid us to love what You created and identified as good throughout the creation process described in Genesis 1? And didn’t the author of 1John record these words in the Gospel of John: ‘For God so loved the world’”?
With deep pastoral concern, John writes to define and impart authentic assurance to those who are genuinely converted. He desires them to experience and enjoy the full assurance of their salvation. And this letter also serves to expose false teaching and false salvation as well. And that proves to be extremely relevant to us today, as James Means observes:
“In the evangelical church in the United States, it is quite common for someone to remain in the lifestyle of an unconverted, unregenerate individual but with confidence they possess eternal salvation.” Sad to say, I must agree with Mr. Means.
The forgiveness of sinners providing reconciliation of God with man and man with God is the most exciting thing of which the Bible speaks, and we never get beyond it. To quote David Prior, “We never move from beyond the cross of Christ. Never. Only into a more profound understanding of the cross.”
There is nothing subtle about this exhortation. It is abrupt and categorical. It is authoritative and it is comprehensive: “Do not love the world.” What John is referring to in “world” is an organized system of human civilization and activity that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God. That is the world he is identifying and forbidding us to love. The world is fallen humanity hostile to God. All thinking, all attitudes, all practices that are opposed to God and in defiance of God.
God loves not an attractive, compliant world. God loves those who are defiant of Him, in opposition to Him, alienated from Him and richly deserving of His wrath. This, my friends, is amazing grace. We are to love this world with God’s holy love but never participate in this world’s defiance of God.
Seduction by the world, not persecution from the world, is the particular challenge to the church in this country at the present. Charles Spurgeon writes, “Put your finger on any prosperous page in the church’s history and you will find a marginal note reading thus: ‘In this age, men could readily see where the church began and the world ended. Never were there good times when the church and the world were joined in marriage. The more the church is different from the world in her acts and her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ and the more potent is her witness against sin.’”
Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Lynn Cairns at Millcreek United Methodist Church in the District.