(Link to entire sermon on audio at bottom of post)
Continuing in our study of the wonderful epistle called 1 John, the first epistle written by the Apostle John, finding ourselves in chapter 2 and looking at a section from verses 15 to 17. This would be the third week that we’ve looked at this small section of Scripture, but it’s very definitive and I trust that the message tonight will be as helpful as the last two have been. Let me just read these three verses again, 1 John 2:15 to 17.
“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For 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. And the world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
We basically have sort of taken that passage apart and put it back together again in terms of its structure and its main message. But for tonight I want to just focus on verse 16 really. I want to focus a little bit on diagnosing the cardiology of worldliness, all that is in the world, the sum of it is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. None of that is from the Father, all of it is from the world.
When you’re talking about the world, by that we don’t mean the created physical world and we don’t mean the world of men, we mean the system of sin or the system of evil, all that is in that anti-God, anti-Christ system is made up of a matrix of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. This is really diagnostic, this is getting down into the essence of sin and why we sin and what compels us to sin. Instruction that is very helpful for us. But I want to put it in a larger context because we’re only dealing with just a brief portion of Scripture tonight, I can kind of broaden the big picture a little bit and maybe put together a message tonight that will give us a sense of the reality of sin.
Solomon was right when he wrote that there was not one person on earth who was righteous and good. There wasn’t one person who did not sin. It is the universal problem. All have sinned. None are righteous, so says Romans chapter 3. Sin then is the universal problem. There is none good, no not one. Sin has essentially generated the cosmic chaos that exists in the heavens between God and Satan, between holy angels, between fallen angels, as well as between men and men, and men and God. The chaos of the heaven has become the chaos of the earth. All of the realm of created beings has been devastated by the reality of sin. And we want to talk about its impact on human life. Sin attacks every baby at the moment of conception, and it waits, it lurks to embrace that baby fully when it leaves the protection of the mother’s womb. Sin rules every heart, it intends to damn every soul to hell. Sin turns beauty into ugliness, wholeness into deformity, joy into sorrow, bliss into wretchedness. And that’s why the Bible in Joshua 7:13 calls sin the accursed thing. It is compared in Scripture to the venom of snakes and the stench of rotting death. Understanding sin is critical so that we understand, as we heard tonight in the testimony, our need for salvation from sin.
Now just a few questions to sort of frame up the big picture. Let’s ask the question, what is sin? And the answer is simple, 1 John 3:4, “Sin is the transgression of the Law.” That is to say sin is any violation of God’s Law…any violation of God’s perfect holy Law. Sin is unrighteousness while the Law of God affirms what is righteous. Any act, any word, any thought, any motive that violates God’s holy, just and perfect Law constitutes sin. It’s not a narrow category, it’s a sweeping and broad one. And God has the right as God, as holy God, to establish what pleases Him and what does not. He is the authority. He set the standards for man to live by. He established what is right and what is wrong and anything that God says is wrong constitutes sin.
Now what is sin’s nature? Going beyond just a simple definition of what it is, what is its nature? That is to say what is its characterization or what are its essential components? What is it like? How is it described in the Bible? And obviously you could spend a lot of time on this, but let’s just give you some insight into that. First of all, sin is defiling. It is not just an act of disobedience, it is an internal pollution. It is likened to filthy rags. Man even at his best is only doing what is essentially filthy rags.
You know, 1 Kings 8:38, sin is likened to sores that come from a deadly plague. In Zechariah 3:3 it is likened to filthy garments that cover someone. It stains the soul. It degrades man’s nobility. It darkens his mind. It makes him worse than an animal, baser than a beast. It is so defiling that according to Zechariah 11:8 it causes God to loathe the sinner. And it even makes the sinner loathe himself. And you will remember, writes the prophet Ezekiel, your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done. So sin is defiling, that is to say it stains and it pollutes. That is why Paul calls it the filthiness of the flesh.
Thomas Goodwin, the Puritan, wrote, “Sin is called poison, sinners serpent. Sin is called vomit, sinners licking dogs. Sin is called the stench of graves, sinners, rotted sepulchers. Sin is called mire, sinners pigs.” Graphic language to describe the pollution, corruption and defilement of sin. It has turned all of the human race into defiled beings.
Secondly, sin as to its nature is rebellious. It is rebellious. It isn’t just that you slip up and break the Law of God. It is that there is in you a will to rebel. Psalm 12:4 says, “Our lips are our own. Who is Lord over us? So says the sinner.” Jeremiah 2:31, “We are lords, we will come no more to you, says the sinners to God.” Jeremiah 44:17, “We will certainly do whatever thing goes forth out of our own mouth, say the sinners.”
Sin is so rebellious it is God’s would-be murderer. Sin would dethrone God and ungod God and replace Him with the sinner. Sin is defiling but it is also blasphemously rebellious.
Thirdly, we could say about sin that it is ingratitude. It is in its own nature ingratitude. It is God, after all, who has given us all things. It is God who gave us life and breath and food and beauty and joy and love. It is God who has given us all the goodness of life, knowledge, wisdom, fun, laughter, skill, health, relationships. The sinner is literally engulfed with the goodness of God. But he abuses his privileges. He is like Absalom, remember the story of Absalom. As soon as David, his father, had kissed him and taken him to his heart, Absalom went out immediately after that and plotted a treason against his own father. And so it is that the sinner who is kissed by God in the realm of common grace, who indulges himself in God’s graces and God’s mercies, turns rapidly to betray God by being only the friend of Satan, God’s avowed enemy. Sin is such gross ingratitude and Romans 1 says it is characteristic of the sinner that he is not thankful to God.
Further, sin is incurable…it is incurable. Man does not have in himself the capacity to do anything about his sin. He is sin to the bone. And he cannot alter that. In Isaiah chapter 1, “Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evil doers, sons who act corruptly, they have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel. They have turned away from Him. Where will you be stricken again as you continue in your rebellion?” Then he says this, “The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint from the soul of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.”
In other words, sick…sin sick from head to toe and utterly incurable, like a leper. Jeremiah chapter 13 verse 23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, color? Or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good that are accustomed to evil.” Can’t do anything about sin. John Flavel, another Puritan, said, “All the tears of a penitent sinner should he shed as many as there have fallen drops of rain since the creation cannot wash away one sin. The everlasting burnings in hell cannot purify the flaming conscience from the least sin. Not anything in this life and not anything in all eternal hell could expiate sin from the sinner.” Hell is where men pay an unpayable debt. There is no human cure for sin, not good works, not reformation, not education.
And then we need to add that sin is deadly because the Bible says the soul that sins it shall die. The wages of sin is death. It’s amazing knowing that how hard people work at sin. This defiling, rebellious, ungrateful, constant violation of God’s Law which is incurable and deadly is still the choice of men. Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. They pursue sin gladly. Jeremiah 9:5 says, “They weary themselves committing iniquity.” They wear themselves out sinning. Psalm 7:14 says, “In pain they bring forth evil.” They literally bring forth evil with such commitment and devotion that they will pain themselves to achieve it. Proverbs 4:16 says they can’t sleep unless they do evil. Isaiah 5:18 says they drag sin around like a beast pulling a wagon.Ezekiel 24:12 says, “Jerusalem’s people weary themselves with lies.” People go to hell sweating, make amazing effort to sin. This is all they know. This is all they’re capable of. This is life. This is where they seek their pleasure and their fulfillment.
Sin then is to its nature is defiling, rebellious, ungrateful, incurable and deadly. The next question you might ask about sin is how many people are affected by sin? And the answer to that is everybody, all, Romans 3 says, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:10says, “There is none righteous, no not one.” No one escapes sin. No one. The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one, says 1 John chapter 5. In fact, in Romans 5:12 it says, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned.” The whole human race is infected with this virus. No one escapes.
We might then ask the question further in our little discussion, what are sin’s results? What does it do to us? Well, these are pretty clear. First of all, let me just give you a handful of them. It causes evil to overpower man. It causes evil to overpower man. Man is utterly and totally dominated by evil. His mind is dominated by it. His will is dominated by it. His affections are dominated by it. All man can conceive in his mind is that which is sinful. He has a futile or an empty mind as regards righteousness. His will is polluted so that he will do whatever he wants to do. His affections are polluted so that he loves darkness more than light. It causes evil to literally dominate man.
Secondly, it holds all men under Satan’s control. Because all men are sinners, they are therefore under the power of the general, you could say, or the monarch, or the king of the kingdom of darkness, Satan himself. They walk according to the prince of the power of the air, says Ephesians 2:2. The devil then rules the sinner because the devil rules the world system in which the sinner is held captive.
Thirdly, sin results in bringing man under God’s wrath. And the Bible is clear about that, it even calls sinners, all men who are sinners, children of wrath. It says that God is going to bring about retribution on all sinners and they will spend eternity in hell if they die in their sins..
Fourthly, another result of sin, it subjects men to all the miseries of life. Because of sin we have misery. That’s why Job 5:7 says, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” That’s whyRomans 8:20 says, “The creature is subjected to futility.” That’s why Isaiah says there’s no peace for the wicked. That’s why Solomon who had everything the world had to offer could look at it and say, “Vanity of vanities, it’s all nothing. It’s all meaningless, it’s all empty.”
So sin overpowers man, brings him under Satan’s control, brings him under God’s wrath. Subjects him to all the miseries of life and ultimately, number five, it damns him to eternal hell. Jesus, frankly, is personally responsible for the precision and the clarity which the New Testament gives us to the doctrine of hell. It was Jesus Himself who described hell with clear, unmistakable language in Matthew 8, Matthew 13, and many other places. So that’s what sin does.
Now let’s get to our issue for this text. Where does sin originate? We’re going to answer this question and then move into a couple of related questions. Where does sin originate?
Well, you remember years ago Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it.” And that’s a popular viewpoint. The devil made me do it. It’s the devil who makes you sin. That is the pretty traditional viewpoint of many, many people who call themselves Christians. That is a dominating viewpoint in the Charismatic Movement. In fact, I’ve talked to people who have come out of Charismatic churches who tell me that they lived the time they were in those churches under the sovereignty of Satan. And the great liberating doctrine of the sovereignty of God set them free. There is a view that Satan is sovereign, Satan makes you sin, Satan brings all the trouble in your life. Satan is the problem, if you could just rebuke the devil, if you could just figure the formula out, sort of cancel out the devil and the demons, if you can find the right little prayers to pray to bind Satan, and bind the demons, you’re going to eliminate the problems from your life.
There are other people who think that society makes you sin. That the problem is the world. The problem…the problem is the society around you. The problem is the television. The problem is the media around you. Or the problem is people that you have to work with and live with who exacerbate you and get you angry and that makes you sin. And it’s really not your problem at all. You’re a victim of society.
And there are some people who think that it’s really God. It’s God, after all, who allowed evil in the world. It’s God who allowed sin in the world. And I’m just human and I was born human and since Adam sinned and we all fell, it’s not my fault. God allowed it to happen and so it’s really God’s fault. And that’s where Adam was, you know, when he said to God, “The woman YOU gave me, she made me do it.” I went to sleep single and woke up married, You picked my wife, what do you expect out of me?
You can blame the devil, or you can blame society, or you can blame God. But not really successfully because that’s not the problem. Turn to Mark chapter 7, there is a straightforward answer in the Scripture to where sin originates. Mark chapter 7, “He called a multitude…in verse 14…together, going to give them a little hamartiology, you know, the study of sin here. And he began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand.” All those words indicate the importance of what He was going to say. “There is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him.” Boy, what an interesting statement that is. There’s nothing environmental. There’s nothing outside of you natural or supernatural, no human being, no demon, not Satan, not the world around you, certainly not God, James says, who tempts no man, does not solicit anyone to do evil, there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him. Nothing that comes from the outside constitutes the problem. But the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. The problem is not outside of you, the problem is inside of you. Verse 17, “When leaving the multitude, He entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Are you so lacking in understanding also, do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him because it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach and is eliminated?” Thus He declared all foods clean. And He was saying that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within out of the heart of men.” Now there is the problem. That is where sin originates. It is in you, in your heart. And from out of the heart, inside of you, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness, all these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.
The problem is inside of you. We have met the problem and the problem is us. This is basic.Genesis 6:5 says, “All the imaginations of man’s heart were only evil continually.” Jeremiah 17:9says, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Then as I noted earlier, the passage in James chapter 1 perhaps it’s worth looking at, “Let no one say when he is tempted, verse 13, I’m tempted by God, God cannot be tempted by evil, He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Here’s the problem, verse 14, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” It’s not about the outside, it’s not about God and it’s not about Satan and it’s not about society. It’s about you. And if you lived in a cave, you’d be living with sin. If you lived in a cave, like a monk, if you isolated yourself from every societal influence, if you hold yourself up in some assumed to be holy environment in a church monastery, away from the realm of Satan and demons, you would still be literally in the grip of sin because it’s not outside, it’s inside. It originates in man’s sinful nature. It’s really important to understand that.
Now that leads me to another question, as we move toward the text, what arouses sin? It’s there, it comes out in evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride foolishness and other things. What arouses it? What incites it? Doesn’t it…isn’t it capable of just sort of lying dormant? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just create a Christian society? We’d have all Christian radio and Christian TV and Christian books and Christian…we’d have a Christian newspaper and we’d have a Christian insurance salesman and a Christian doctor and a Christian dentist and we’d just…we would just be apart from sin?
I remember a guy years ago who bought land in Lancaster. Of course, a lot of people bought land in Lancaster, but he was going to build a sinless city with a big wall around it. Wouldn’t it be great? And we could just get all the people in the sinless city and we just read the Bible all the time.
May I tell you that wouldn’t help. In fact, turn to Romans 7:5, you might be shocked. You might really be shocked to read this. Romans 7:5, “While we were in the flesh, that is while we were unconverted, the sinful passions…listen to this one…which were aroused by the Law were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” Now there’s an interesting twist. I thought if we all got together, got inside the cave and all we did was read the Bible, that would make sure we didn’t sin. No, here he says man is so sinful in his flesh, his sinful passions are so strong that they are actually aroused by the Law of God. What an indictment that is.
Do you think it takes…you think it takes bad movies and bad literature and exposure to bad people and twisted representations in the society? No. Man is so corrupt down inside that even the pure, holy, just Law of God will arouse his sin. If you’re in the condition of being in the flesh, there is down in the evil nature of the unconverted person, below the rational mind, as I’ve been saying to you, down below the rational mind there is this defiled, corrupt, wretched, polluted nature. And at the end of verse 5 it says, “And it works in the members of our body.” It works its way out in every area of being human. The mind, as well as the physicality. And it produces, according to the end of verse 5, death. And I said that, one of the characteristics of sin is that it’s deadly. So the sinful passions, these deadly things that are endemic to us, that are down in our nature polluting and corrupting all of our rational mind, these sinful passions, fascinatingly, are actually aroused by the Law.
How? How? Because if you tell such a person what God says is good, the pollution in their heart rebels against that and seeks to violate it. You say, “Well, I know how to fix America. We’ll just get the Bible everywhere. We’ll just get the Bible in the schools and we’ll get the Bible in the courts. And we’ll get the Bible in Congress. And we’ll get the Bible in the White House. And we’ll get the Bible in the Senate. And we’ll get the Bible up in Sacramento. We’ll have the Bible everywhere. That will fix America.”
Oh no it won’t. All that will do is arouse rebellion. It’s already done it, that’s why we are where we are. You understand that? We had the Bible everywhere. This is what it produces. You either embrace it or you rebel against it. That’s like when you’re trying to train your little kids to behave, and you would say to your little kid, “Don’t touch that.” And he’d look at you and go………right? You just incited something in him, he didn’t know there was something forbidden about that, but the forbidding made it attractive. It’s endemic to the human soul. Listen, I say it again, the nature of sin is that it is by its own essence rebellion, it is lawlessness. So you put the law down and it reacts. It actually, the Law of God, imposed upon the sinful passions of unregenerate people, literally generates a stronger compulsion to evil than they had known before the heard the Law of God.
Well, all of that to say the problem is not outside a man, the problem is inside. And it’s so bad inside that you can put him in any environment, including an environment where the Law of God prevails and all that’s going to do is incite greater rebellion. That is the sinfulness of sin.
Now that leaves a final question that finally gets us to our text. And that’s okay, because we can do this quickly, since we’ve covered all that ground. Here’s the final question. Given that this is our condition, we’re talking here about humanity, not Christians, we’re talking about the world.
Given that this is our condition and it’s so systemic and it’s so endemic and so deep, so profound, so incurable, what does the world do, what does the world appeal to to draw out our sin? That question is what’s answered here. All that is in the world, now remember, the world is the system of evil overseen by Satan, energized by demons, what does that system appeal to in us? What is the matrix of fallenness? The pathology of fallenness? The cardiology of the unregenerate that the world appeals to?
It is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. Those are the three gateways to which the world system finds its way into the fallen heart and generates sin. All that is in the world, the world is the anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture, anti-righteous, deceptive order, controlled by Satan. The world is synonymous with the kingdom of darkness. It is dangerous. It is deadly. It is designed by Satan to appeal to these three avenues into the fallen heart.
For the entire sermon on audio as well:
(Part Two coming up tomorrow…a definite must read, as Pastor MacArthur continues this solid teaching on the heart of worldliness, and holds up a scriptural mirror.)