What is the world?

all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

The world is our external enemy that tempts us to sin against God. What is meant by the term world in its negative sense? The world is an organized system in opposition and rebellion against God. In 1 John 2:16, the world is defined as corporate flesh working together in three ways.

  1. The world is the domain of the desires or lust of the flesh, which is the sinful longings for physical pleasures that tempt us, everything from gluttony to drunkenness, sexual sin, and chemical highs.
  2. The world is the place devoted to the desires or lust of the eyes, where the sinful longings for coveted possessions are manifested in everything from advertising and marketing to pornography.
  3. The world is where pride in possessions is commended, and haughty selfish ambition is considered a virtue rather than a vice.

In response to the world, the Bible commands a threefold response.

  1. We are not to love the world.1 Because the world is our mission field, rather than our home, and the source of our temptation to sin, we must continually guard ourselves from falling in love with the world and the passions and pleasures it offers, not unlike the forbidden fruit that tempted our first parents.
  2. We are not to let the world shape our values.2 Because the world is where Satan and our sinful desires converge, if we allow the world to shape our value system and define who we are, why we exist, what we believe, and how we behave, then we will be converted to the world rather than seeking the conversion of the world to the kingdom of God.
  3. Because Jesus died to the world, we are commanded to live as crucified to the world.3 This means that we are either alive to the sin of the world and dead to God or dead to the temptation of the world and alive to God. By being dead to the world we can live in true freedom from it and thereby enter into it as a missionary, as Jesus did, seeking to see people saved from the world by the gospel.

Importantly, while the world is a source of sinful temptation, it does not abdicate sinners from their moral responsibility. This is because while the world can tempt us, we are still the ones who choose to sin. In his book Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, Puritan Thomas Brooks says that our enemy will use the world to bait our hook with anything that we find desirable.4 This means that he will gladly give us sex, money, power, pleasure, fame, fortune, and relationships. Satan’s goal is for us to take the bait without seeing the hook and once the hook is in our mouth, he reels us in to take us as his captive. Therefore, no matter what our enemy hangs on our proverbial hook as bait, we must always put to death our internal flesh if we hope to avoid sin.

What bait is most tempting on your hook?

11 John 2:15.
2Rom. 12:2.
3Gal. 6:14.
4See Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices (Philadelphia: Jonathan Pounder, 1810), 16.

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