St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Be Careful Whose Voice You Are Listening To

Sermon on 1 John 2:15-17

Text: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

You may have heard of a “siren’s song.” This is not the noise that an ambulance or a police car makes when they are in a hurry. Instead, it means “an alluring appeal” of something. You are drawn to someone or something, because there is something that appeals to you. Usually, you are drawn to something or someone that is destructive to you. The idea of a siren’s song goes back to ancient Greek mythology. There were creatures who, through music and voice, would lure unsuspecting sailors to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. The sailors caught a bit of the music and they were drawn closer and closer to the shore so that they could hear more, until their ship crashed on the shore of the sirens’ island and the sailors perished. As we go through life, there are many voices that call for our attention. As we study this portion of God’s word, we want to remind ourselves to BE CAREFUL WHOSE VOICE YOU ARE LISTENING TO. 1. The World’s Voice Leads To Destruction. 2. God’s Voice Leads To Life.

John begins this section of his letter by writing, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” When John uses the word “world” here, he is not talking about the planet on which we live or the rest of creation. As good stewards of God’s blessings, we want to take care of the world in which we live. Rather, when John uses the word “world,” he is referring to the sinful world in which we are living. These are the treasures and pleasures that are promoted that are the opposite of what God wants. The word “love” is more than just an attraction to someone or something. It is an attachment or loyal devotion to that object. It has become the most important thing in your life.

John lists several of the sirens who try to lull us to our destruction in verse 16, “For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” First of all, let’s look at the first two that are closely connected: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.” My sinful nature wants something that it should not have, because God has put it off limits in his law. This is what the Ninth and Tenth Commandments are about, when God tells us, “You shall not covet.” However, our sinful nature doesn’t want to pay attention to those commands. The sinful nature wants to gratify itself. As a result, we have all of these longings for things the things that God doesn’t want us to have. These cravings lead to trying to find ways to fulfill them. These are the lusts of the eyes. For example, there may be a lust for the opposite sex. The sinful nature looks to satisfy that lust by looking at images that are not pure or pre-marital sex or adultery. There may be a lust for getting things. Rather than working hard to obtain them, I get them by taking something that isn’t mine. The lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes lead to sinful actions.

John also mentions the “pride of life.” Everyone wants to be somebody. We long for praise. However, the sinful nature inside of us is too impatient to let other people figure out our great features at their own speed. So, we hasten the process with boasting. “Look at me and what I have done and what I have in my possession.” However, boasting forgets that all of our possessions and even the skills that we have are gifts that come from God. Boasting denies that these are God’s gifts and insults the giver. In this case, the love of the world is specifically a love of oneself.

It is an accurate description to call these lusts “sirens’ songs.” No one starts off with the intention of being an addict to pornography or substances. No one starts off with wanting to get whatever they want, no matter the cost. All of these things start off gradually. You give in to the lusts of the flesh once or twice and get the thrill from it. You realize that it is wrong, so you vow to never do it again. However, the lusts of the flesh continue with their siren song. “Remember how that made you feel? Didn’t it feel good? What’s the harm in doing it one more time?” Soon, just like the sailors in those Greek myths, we continue to get closer and closer to destruction.

It is foolish to be carried along by these lusts of the flesh, because, as John reminds us, “The world and its desires pass away.” (Verse 17) No matter what you think you have accomplished or gotten by listening to the lusts of the flesh, it will all pass away. The things that you wanted so badly that you were willing to lie, cheat or steal to obtain will someday break or go out of date or be stolen. You can cater to all of the lusts of your flesh, but there will come a day that all of the things that you most desired will be gone. The sirens’ song has led to your destruction. There may be destruction during your life time. As a result of giving in to your desires, you may ruin relationships with those who are closest to you. You may ruin your health. You may destroy your reputation. As bad as all of that is, it pales in comparison with the fact that you destroy your relationship with God. John writes, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (Verse 15) You can’t have it both ways. Either the things of this world are the most important thing to you or God is. If God is not the most important thing, even one time, you have broken the First Commandment. Yes, “The world and its desires pass away.” We, also, would pass away along with them. The difference is that our passing away would be eternal.

When we are honest with ourselves, we must admit we have all fallen victim to the sirens’ songs of our sinful nature. We all deserve eternal destruction. However, God, in his mercy sent his Son to be our substitute. Jesus, while he lived on this earth, never gave in to any of the sirens’ songs from the world around him. Although he had all power, he never used it for his advantage. He rebuffed the temptation to enrich himself at the expense of others. Even though he was the Son of God, he did not boast about himself. He gave all glory to his Father. Jesus, then, sacrificed that perfect life on the cross to pay for all of our sins. His blood washed us clean. By his resurrection, we know that all was accomplished for our salvation. We are free from having to obey the lusts of the flesh and the love of the world. Instead, we have the opportunity to live a life that honors and glorifies our loving God.

Jesus, as he summarized the law of God, said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Instead of loving the world, giving our loyal devotion to it, we love God. We want to be completely and totally devoted to him. We do not do this because of possible punishment if we don’t. Rather, when we think of all that God has done for us, we want to show our thankfulness by living a life devoted to him.

The world and our sinful nature will try to tell us that doing this makes slaves out of us and takes all of the fun out of life. In reality, we find happiness and freedom in living for God. Just think of the temporal blessings that are ours when we live for God. If I don’t give in to the cravings of the flesh and lie, people will trust us. If I don’t give in to the desire to be selfish, I will have a better relationship with my spouse. Living for God means true freedom and happiness. While all of these things are wonderful, they pale in comparison with what God has waiting for us at the end of time. John writes, “Whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Verse 17) This is not to say that we, in any way, earn heaven. Jesus has done that for us. That task is complete. Rather, all of the times that we live for God are evidence of the faith that he has created in us. Because we believe that Jesus is our Savior, we have heaven waiting for us. Because, through the working of the Holy Spirit, we listen to the voice of God, we have eternal life.

As I was thinking about this text, the question occurred to me: “Why do we so often listen to the lust of the flesh rather than the voice of God?” Part of the answer, of course, is that we are born sinful and have a sinful nature. I believe that part of the answer is also that we like instant gratification. We see it. We want it. We get it. That’s the way our sinful nature and its lusts are. The problem with that is once we get what our sinful nature wants, it’s never enough. Then, our sinful nature wants this and this, only to leave us feeling empty. The joys that God offers seem so far off in the future, at times. However, when you compare the lasting joys that God has waiting for us in heaven to these, you see that there is no comparison. The joys that God offers are eternal. They will never disappoint. In addition, God doesn’t wait until heaven to give us joy. He blesses us every day with his protection and all of the other earthly blessings that we enjoy.

Going back to the story of the sirens in Greek mythology, you might be wondering if any sailors made it past their island. A man by the name of Jason did. How did he escape the sirens’ song? He had a sailor on his crew by the name of Orpheus. Orpheus was a skilled musician. As Jason and the rest of his crew neared the island of the sirens, Jason instructed Orpheus to play his harp and sing loudly. His music drowned out the sirens’ song and the ship passed safely by. Our sinful flesh has many songs that it sings to lure us to our destruction. May God help us to listen to his voice as he speaks to us in his Word. This is why it is so important that we are constantly in his Word, whether in church or personal Bible reading. Jesus said in John 8:47, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.” May God continue to open our ears, so that we hear his song of redeeming love. Then, we will have eternal life. Amen.