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Lesson 5: Walking in the Light: Rejecting Worldliness *

Introduction: Living by the ocean means I'm spending a lot more time at the beach than I have in the past. From time to time I see Muslim women at the beach. The contrast between them and the regular beach people is obvious. It reminds me of when I was a young man and members of my church would show up on Sabbath on the nearby beaches of Lake Michigan. Church members would often still be wearing suits and church clothes, while people sunbathing would be wearing something much different. Our lesson this week is about "worldliness." Are these two examples of rejecting "worldliness?" Is sticking out like a sore thumb God's goal for us? Or, is that making a plain statement to the world? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what John has to teach us about worldliness!

  1. Children, Men and Fathers

    1. Read 1 John 2:12-13. John says he is writing to children, fathers and young men. Is that why we have three epistles: 1st, 2nd and 3rd John?

      1. If so, why is John mentioning the other two groups in 1 John? (John does not have a separate epistle for each group.)

      2. Does John have three different messages depending on the group being addressed?

      3. Why are women left out of the message? Are they already righteous?

    2. Let's look at the children first. It says that they have been forgiven their sins and that they have known the father. Would that not also be true for all three groups? (I think John is talking about new believers, not actual children. A new believer would not have an extensive knowledge of the gospel. However a new believer who was a Jewish convert would "know the Father," meaning the God of the Old Testament. A new believer would be at the stage of understanding that Jesus was the "new" sacrifice for sins. Reason why John does not mention women is that he is writing about spiritual maturity, not gender.)

    3. What message do we have for the fathers - the most mature Christians? ("You have known Him who is from the beginning.")

      1. What do you think this means? (As we have seen before, this is a reference to Jesus (John 1 and 1 John 1). These are Christians who have an understanding of Jesus.)

    4. What message do we have for the "young men?" (They have overcome the evil one.)

      1. How can we say that any human has "overcome the evil one?" (These are the growing Christians. They understand that Jesus has forgiven them of sin, but that they have a spiritual walk towards righteousness. They set a daily goal of obedience.)

    5. Read 1 John 2:14. What else do we learn about the "young men?" (The word of God lives in them. They read God's word. They rely on the Holy Spirit.)

    6. Let's review: John writes to believers of all different levels of Christian maturity. He compliments each group on the progress they have made so far. Next, we turn to his message for all of them.

  2. Loving the World

    1. Read 1 John 2:15. Everything I know and touch and experience is "in the world." How can I not love it?

      1. Since we are told that loving the world is the opposite of loving God, what do you think is meant by "the world" and "anything in the world?"

    2. Read 1 John 2:16. What do we find "in the world?" (Cravings, lust and boasting.)

      1. Are these "things" "in the world?" (No. These are attitudes about things.)

      2. Let's stop and consider this a moment. If John is talking about worldliness, is he teaching us that worldliness is an attitude or an outlook?

        1. If that is the case, what connection is there between how a Christian dresses and a Christian's attitude?

          1. What does this say about the "beach dress" I mentioned in the introduction? Is covering up, or wearing different clothes, a rejection of worldliness?

      3. If craving, lust and boasting are attitudes about things, does it mean that people without things (the poor) can be worldly? (The irony is that those who don't have things may have more problems with this than those who do have things and have decided "stuff" is not all that great.)

    3. Re-read 1 John 2:16. The phrase "cravings of sinful man," is more commonly translated "lust of the flesh." How does this help us to understand what this means? (A person who has these cravings (this "lust")has a focus on earthly things.)

      1. How about you? Do you have a focus on the earthly? Do you crave certain things? Do you wish you had certain things?

    4. On the way to church last week, my wife and I were talking about the future. We plan to sell our present home and we were discussing ideal places to live. The perfect place for me is this house (presently for sale) right on the beach over looking the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic ocean. The price? 1.3 million dollars. My wife would like to live in the Blue Ridge mountains - about 3 hours away from the beach. I said, "If we had an extra couple of million dollars we would be set" - meaning that we could buy the beach house and a house in the Blue Ridge. Is that the "cravings of sinful man" and "the lust of his eyes?" (Yes! At least if it gets to the point of craving and lusting as opposed to merely considering these things are not possible.)

    5. What does 1 John 2:16 mean when it refers to the "lust of his eyes?" (You want what you see.)

      1. Why is this wrong? (Spiritual things are not generally seen. Spiritual things are often relationships. Thus, you are lusting over the wrong things in life.)

    6. What does 1 John 2:16 refer to when it speaks of "boosting of what he has and does?" (This is an arrow through my heart. I have always loved being a lawyer. I love to say I'm a law school teacher because it suggests I'm not just a lawyer, but a smart lawyer. This seems to be precisely what John is condemning as being worldly. If anyone wants to save me by suggesting another interpretation, I'm open to hear it! Right now I'm repenting.)

  3. The Long View

    1. Read 1 John 2:17. What is wrong with those kinds of desires? This worldliness?

      1. Is John saying that the focus on the earthly, being passionate about having "things," is sin? Or merely a foolish preoccupation?

      2. If a person does not love God, isn't that an indication of "sin?" (All of this is very logical to me. If we are preoccupied with acquiring stuff, then we are not preoccupied with knowing God. Matthew 6:24 says that money is a master. We cannot love and serve both God and money.)

      3. Have you ever heard the term "it was good while it lasted?" Does it apply here - to the statement in 1 John 2:17?

      4. What does God offer that is so much better? (Eternal life! Eternal stuff. I think John is making a practical argument. What you have and what you are now is all temporary. When you die, who remembers or cares? Your money goes to someone else. How does it make any sense to be preoccupied with something that you will surely lose? On the other hand, God offers us eternal stuff and reputation.)

    2. How much do you know about your great-grand parents? How much do you know about your grandparents? (As I was writing this lesson, my wife found and sent me a news clip about my father's resignation from his final post. The article had a big headline and a picture showing that my father was a very handsome man. But it said almost nothing about his work or his accomplishments. Instead, it reported he had a heart attack, said how much he earned, and that they were looking for a replacement. What we have and what we do is all so temporary!)

    3. Friend, how about you? Are you focused on the eternal or on the things of this world? Why not decide today to focus on those things which will last! How about becoming "heavenly" instead of "worldly?"

  4. Next week: Walking in the Light: Rejecting Antichrists.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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