Do not love the world [Grk. kosmos] 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. (1 John 2:15-16)
When John writes and tells the Christian “do not love the world”, he’s not talking about the physical planet. The Greek word kosmos as it is used by the apostle John and others most often refers to “that which is hostile to God…lost in sin, wholly at odds with anything divine, ruined and depraved.” The world, or world-system, originated with Satan and consists of those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God and His Word. The world-system is mankind and society functioning without God. It is first and foremost “a way of thinking about life that is contrary to the biblical way or divine viewpoint.”
The kosmos is a vast order or system that Satan has promoted which conforms to his ideals, aims, and methods. It is civilization now functioning apart from God-a civilization in which none of its promoters really expect God to share; who assign to God no consideration in respect to their projects, nor do they ascribe any causality to Him. This system embraces its godless governments, conflicts, armaments, jealousies; its education, culture, religions of morality, and pride. It is that sphere in which man lives. It is what he sees, what he employs. To the uncounted multitude it is all they ever know so long as they live on this earth. It is properly styled “The Satanic System” which phrase is in many instances a justified interpretation of the so-meaningful word, kosmos.
Satan’s world system is a spiritual darkness that envelopes and permeates the human race, influencing every aspect of thought and behavior in such a way that the depraved nature of man is magnified while God is excluded. We should be careful to understand that Satan’s system is a buffet that offers something for everyone who rejects God, whether he is moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, educated or simple, rich or poor. Satan is careful to make sure there’s even something for the Christian in his world-system, which is why the Bible repeatedly warns the believer not to love the world or the things in the world. We are to be set apart (Col. 2:8; Jas. 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16).
The world is the Christian’s enemy because it represents an anti-God system, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the will and plan of God. It is a system headed by the devil and therefore at odds with God (2 Cor. 4:4). Likewise, the world hates the believer who lives for Christ (John 17:14). The Lord never kept this a secret from his own. He told them often of the coming conflict with the world (e.g., John 15:18-20; 16:1-3; 32-33; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-12). It is in this wicked world we must rear our families and earn our livelihoods. We are in it, yet are not to be a part of it.
Jesus came as the Light of God’s revelation and salvation into Satan’s hostile world system, yet the majority of those who personally witnessed Christ rejected Him, because they “loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Man is depraved to the core of his being, and that depravity is most manifest in the life of the person who has excluded God and His Word from having any say over his life. The worldly person makes no room in his life for God, and is often hostile to those who do.
The worldly person is perhaps best described by the word autonomous, which comes from two Greek words (autos = self + nomos = law) that mean to be self-governed. The worldly person seeks to live independently from God, as a self-governed person who regulates his own life and establishes his own rules and laws. He refuses to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and rejects the Lord as having any say over his life. More so, the worldly person, whether he is a believer or unbeliever, loves those who are of the world, but hates those who belong to the Lord and walk in His will.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:14-17)
Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13)
The growing Christian faces real struggles as Satan’s world system seeks to press him into its mold, demanding conformity, and persecuting him when he does not bend to its values. The world-system not only has human support, but is backed by demonic forces of spiritual darkness that operate in collaboration with Satan. Scripture tells us “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The battlefront is more than what is seen with the human eye, but also encompasses that which is unseen. Whether visible or invisible, the battleground finally rests in the believer’s mind, for what he thinks determines how he lives. If the Christian thinks biblically, then he will make right decisions on a regular basis to live for God. However, if the Christian chooses to think like the world around him, then he’s defeated and becomes a spiritual casualty.
As Christians living in the world we are to be careful not to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). Realizing the battleground is the mind, we are to think biblically in everything, which is our only safeguard against the enemy.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
Christians face situations every day in which they are pressured to compromise God’s Word. They face difficulties at work, school, home, or other places, in which they are confronted by worldly minded persons, both saved and unsaved, who demand and pressure them to abandon their biblical values. There is room for personal compromise where Scripture is silent on a matter; however, where Scripture speaks with absolute authority, there the believer must never compromise!
The world, or world-system, puts pressure on each person to try to get him to conform (Rom. 12:2). Jesus Christ was not “of this world” and neither are His people (John 8:23; 17:14). But the unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values and attitudes of this world.
It is the epitome of worldliness to have discussions and devise plans which exclude God, and then use His resources independently of His wishes. This is what happened at the Tower of Babel, in which godless men used divinely given language and earthly material to build a tower to heaven in order to make a name for themselves (Gen. 11:1-9). Those who built the Tower of Babel were intelligent, religious, and hardworking, but they excluded God from their plans and operated against His will, so God disrupted their activities by confusing their language. Biblically, God has a pattern of disrupting the lives and activities of sinful men (e.g. expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the universal Flood, the Tower of Babel, the Exodus, the First and Second Coming of Christ, etc.). God’s greatest disruption so far occurred when He sent His Son into the world, into Satan’s hostile kingdom of darkness, to be the Light of the world and to provide salvation to those enslaved to sin (John 1:5-9; 3:19-21). Jesus declared, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 812). Thank God for His disruptions!
By promoting the gospel and biblical teaching, the church disrupts Satan’s kingdom by calling out of it a people for God. By learning God’s Word, Christians can identify worldly conversations and either avoid them or participate in them by interjecting biblical truth. It need not be a rude avoidance or participation. When sharing God’s Word with others it’s proper to know that not everyone wants to hear God’s truth, and the personal choices of others should be respected. We should never try to force the gospel or Bible teaching on anyone, but be willing to share when opportunity presents itself. Christians are to be lights in the world and this means sharing God’s truth so that the light of His Word shines forth into a dark place. At times this will bring peace, and other times cause disruption and may even offend.
Once saved, the Christian can live for God and enjoy His creation. There is a difference between enjoying the creation and being worldly. The spiritual Christian enjoys life and celebrates the many wonders of God’s creation and takes pleasure in things such a walk in the woods, a baby’s smile, a beautiful sunset, a satisfying meal, and good friends. The spiritual Christian always keeps the Creator and creation distinct in his thinking, worshipping the former while enjoying the latter. Worldliness, however, is a mindset that perverts the enjoyment of the creation by calling men to use it in ways God never intended. The worldly minded person, whether Christian or not, uses the creation for selfish and destructive ends, and at times will even worship it in place of God (Rom. 1:18-25).
The world and “worldly” Christians turn to so-called “worldly” things because they discover in them an anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. The anesthetic, which is often quite innocent in itself, is not so serious a matter as the empty heart and life. Little is gained toward true spirituality when would-be soul doctors have succeeded in persuading the afflicted to get on without the anesthetic. If these instructors do not present the reality of consolation and filling for heart and life which God has provided, the condition will not be improved. How misleading is the theory that to be spiritual one must abandon play, diversion and helpful amusement! Such a conception of spirituality is born of a morbid human conscience. It is foreign to the Word of God. It is a device of Satan to make the blessings of God seem abhorrent to young people who are overflowing with physical life and energy. It is to be regretted that there are those who in blindness are so emphasizing the negatives of the Truth that the impression is created that spirituality is opposed to joy, liberty and naturalness of expression in thought and life in the Spirit. Spirituality is not a pious pose. It is not a “Thou shall not”; is it “Thou shalt.” It flings open the doors into the eternal blessedness, energies and resources of God. It is a serious thing to remove the element of relaxation and play from any life. We cannot be normal physically, mentally or spiritually if we neglect the vital factor in human life. God has provided that our joy shall be full.
People who live in Satan’s world-system exclude God and Scripture from their daily conversations. This is true in the news, politics, academic communities, and in everyday conversations. God is nowhere in their thoughts, and therefore, nowhere in their discussions (Ps. 10:4; 14:1). The growing Christian thinks about God and His Word all the time, as he delights “in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2). The contrast between the growing Christian and the worldly person is stark, as their thoughts and words take them in completely antithetical directions.
The growing Christian must be careful not to fall into the exclusion trap, in which the worldly person (whether saved or lost) controls the content of every conversation, demanding the Christian only talk about worldly issues, as Scripture threatens his pagan presuppositions. Having the biblical worldview, the Christian should assert himself into daily conversations with others, and in so doing, be a light in a dark place. He should always be respectful, conversational, and never have a fist-in-your-face attitude, as arrogance never helps advance biblical truth. The worldly minded person may not want to hear what the Christian has to say, but he should never be under the false impression that he has the right to quiet the Christian and thereby exclude him from the conversation.
The Bible provides the Christian with the necessary foundation for making sense of the world in which he lives, providing the necessary presuppositions to have a correct worldview. Scripture alone gives the true origin of the universe created in six literal days and reveals that mankind came from the hand of God as a special creature made in His image and in no way evolved from a lower species. More so, the Bible explains the origin of sin and evil, the beginnings of language and society, and why the earth is in a state of decay. The Bible gives hope to mankind, showing that God has provided salvation to all who trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior (John 3:16-18; 20:31; Acts 4:12; 16:30-31; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). Lastly, the Bible shows that evil—which had a beginning—will eventually come to an end, and that God will, at some time in the future, create a new heaven and earth (Gen. 3-11; Rev. 21-22). (excerpt taken from The Christian Life, Chapter 8, by Steven R. Cook)
Steven R. Cook, D.Min.
- The Christian and the World (John 15:18-16:11) – by Bob Deffinbaugh
- What does it mean that we are not to love the world? – Gotquestions
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 562.
 Robert Dean, Thomas Ice, What the Bible Teaches About Spiritual Warfare (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2000), 64.
 Lewis S. Chafer, “Angelology Part 4” Bibliotheca Sacra 99 (1942): 282-283.
 Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology, 206.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 18.
 Lewis Chafer, He that is Spiritual, 60-61.