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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 2

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

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. 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

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. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

Now to the third type of enmity.  To a certain extent, it is difficult to distinguish between the “lust of the eyes” and the “pride in possessions”, but it helps to keep in mind that the first refers to the covetous nature of the heart, always seeking to acquire what it does not yet have; the second refers to the way a person establishes their identity and purpose in what it they have obtained.  This could be the pride that results from material wealth and possessions, or it could also be the result of some other prestigious achievement in the eyes of the world—a certain position or title (be it in the church or in the secular world), a degree from a recognized university or institution, peer recognition as an authority or expert in a certain subject matter, or the public persona that accompanies accomplished actors, athletes, politicians, ministers, musicians, and published authors.

Whether by possessions, achievements, or simply by status (i.e., worldly recognition), a person can easily an unknowingly persist in enmity with God.  Other factors that can be even harder to detect might be a person’s family name, skin color, place of origin, place of worship, neighborhood, or “social circles”.  These, too, can put a man at enmity with God.  When a person forgets that all of those things are theirs purely by God’s providence, and instead they find glory for themselves in those things, they are in fact at enmity with God.  The more subtle the source of our pride becomes, the more insidious is its effect.  It was exactly these types of intangible possessions that the Apostle Paul deemed rubbish (or refuse–or even dung, depending on the translation) in chapter 3 of Philippians, forsaking all in favor of obtaining Christ.

The ESV uses the phrase “pride in possessions”.  The NIV translates this as “boasting of what he has and does”.  Young’s Literal Translation adds the curious phrase, “the ostentation of the life.”  The Random House Dictionary defines “ostentation” this way: pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display intended to impress others. The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary also defines this word as an “outward show or appearance”.  It also adds this helpful bit:

Ambitious display; vain show; display of any thing dictated by vanity, or intended to invite praise or flattery. Ostentation of endowments is made by boasting or self-commendation. Ostentation often appears in works of art and sometimes in acts of charity. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)

In this regard, I think that I prefer the Holman Christian translation, “pride in one’s lifestyle” and perhaps even moreso the American Standard Version’s “vain glory of life” for a better understanding of this third great danger.  I think what the apostle is driving at goes beyond “pride in possessions” or “boasting of what he has and does”; it is the pride that a person takes in their own self.  In this sense I understand the lust (or the desires) of the flesh pertain to physical appetites of our fleshly bodies—food, sex, and sensual (or sensory) pleasure.  Whereas the desires of the flesh and the eyes pertain to the physical body and to the mind (or the heart), the “vain glory of life” (or “pride in one’s lifestyle”) really has to do with the condition of the soul.  This is a much more subtle, yet much more serious sin.  The warning here is against self-glorification.

Created by God and in the image of God, our souls are designed to desire Him, worship Him, and see the glory of Him.  This is the condition of the soul created by God, and untainted by sin.  But in the garden, the serpent deceived Eve who also gave the fruit to Adam.  Now to be sure, the serpent was dishonest and deceived the woman.  But as is so often the case, there was some very real truth mixed in to the lie of the serpent when he said “you will be like God.”  In a certain regard, they would be.  But they would also be like the serpent: seeking their own glory.  Just as God does all for His own glory, now fallen man would attempt to do the same.  Just as God determines what is good and what is evil, now fallen man attempts to do the same.  This results in a definite conflict of interests between the Creator of all things and one of His created beings.  And this is the great irony of what Satan told Eve in the Garden.  The result of rebelling against God to “be like God” was rather not to be like God at all, but like his adversary the devil.

The result of this sin is this: in his fallen state, man (just like Satan himself) seeks to exalt his own self over all else.  This conflict of natures—man’s self-exaltation and the position that only God Himself occupies on His throne—is the reason man incurs God’s judgment (as well as the reason that God is just in judging us).  This is also why Jesus can say to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:44)  This is not just true of the Pharisees, though, but for all mankind, for it is the seed of the devil himself that his been sown into the heart of every man (read Romans 1-3).  That is why it is necessary for a fallen sinner to be spiritually reborn according to the power of the Spirit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for we are born into this world just like everything else… according to our own kind.  We come from a long line of sinners.  Without a supreme work of grace and divine intervention, we cannot help but be the seed we have been sown.

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