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Choose Your Love: the World or the Father?

Updated: May 2, 2023

by Steven J. Cole, retired senior pastor, Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, Flagstaff, AZ

John states the main command: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” Then, he gives the implication: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It is either/or, not both/and. “The love of the Father,” could mean His love for us. But to be parallel to the first half of the verse, it probably refers primarily to our love for God. John means that the one who loves the world does not love God. Or, conversely, our love for God should be the ruling principle of our lives. The only way that we can overcome the strong desires of the flesh and the world is to be consumed with loving God. John uses “Father” to describe God in 2:15 & 16, as he did in 2:13, where he said that the children had come to know the Father. It focuses us on God’s tender love for us as His children (3:1). It is the Father’s first love for us that motivates us to love Him in response (1 John 4:19). In light of the Father’s great love in sending His own Son to be the propitiation for our sins and adopting us as His children, loving Him should be our great delight and joy. It is significant that the Bible directs its commandments to our hearts or affections. The greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Solomon wrote (Prov. 4:23), “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” As Jonathan Edwards argued in his “Treatise on Religious Affections” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:236), “True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” If your heart is cold toward the Father and captivated by the glitz of the world, you need to ask yourself, “Do I belong to the Father or to the world?” So John’s commandment (2:15) challenges us: Choose your love. Either you love the world or you love the Father. You cannot straddle the line. The Father is a jealous lover who deserves and demands total allegiance. Loving the Father begins at the cross when you receive His supreme gift of love, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the substitute for your sins. Any love relationship must be maintained, and that is true of your relationship with the Father. It is especially true in that the enemy is trying to lure you from the Father’s love with all of the temptations of the world, as John shows in 2:16. If you yield to them, you will maintain love for the world. In 2:17 he shows how to maintain your love for the Father.

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