What is lust? How can we deal with it? I believe that John answers both questions in the above verses. One form of lust is to love this world’s system and the corrupt things that it has to offer. The solution is looking beyond this world’s system to another world and to the Lord Jesus. The Christian needs to focus on the Lord who will administer that future world of bliss and remove his eyes from the fading lust of this present evil world. Lust And Maturity According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the first definition of lust is “to have an intense desire or need.” The Lord has promised to take care of our legitimate needs, as Paul wrote: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). According to 1 John 2:15-17 quoted above, lust is an intense desire for something that is not legitimately needed. Most often, it is an intense desire for something that is not good for us.
Before encouraging the believers to love the Father above the world, John informed the saints about their spiritual levels. “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you overcame the wicked one” (1 Jn. 2:12-13). It is important for Christians to mature spiritually. John addressed children, fathers, and young men. The children knew about having their sins forgiven; this is a good and necessary first step. The fathers had a deep relationship with the Lord; they were mature believers. The young men were strong and the Word of God lived in them and enabled them to overcome the devil.
Believers are exhorted, “Do not love the world or the things in the world,” but it is extremely difficult to accomplish this without spiritual maturity. The immature believer wouldn’t see anything wrong with putting his interests ahead of the Lord’s. Joseph was mature as a young man (Gen. 37:2). He was seventeen when he told his father of his brothers’ bad behavior. Why did he do this? He was concerned about his father’s reputation in the land of Canaan. He did not want his father’s name and reputation to be dishonored because of his brothers’ behavior. Believers must act the same way. Therefore, there are at least two ways to overcome lustful desire: know the Lord Jesus Christ deeply and personally as the fathers did, and fill our souls with the Word of God to overcome the wicked one as the strong young men did.
Love Not The World
John exhorts us to not love the world. God created this world; some of the beauty of His creation still exists – breathtaking sunsets, beautiful flowers and picturesque fall foliage. What’s wrong with loving all this? Nothing. John is talking about this world’s system – a system of corruption, immorality and injustice. The world system is driven by Satan, the god of this world. At one point, we were under his authority: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:1-3). But thank God He made us alive in Christ and saved us!
Unbelievers may cheat on their taxes; believers are not to follow this world’s ways. We are called to be honest and pay our taxes. Paul encouraged the saints at Ephesus to put on the new man. Among the things mentioned in Ephesians 4:17-25 – deceitful lusts, lewdness, lying, anger, stealing, corrupt words – he also wrote: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). The world and its corrupt system could be an easy thing to love, however, it is more precious and beneficial to love the Father!
Lust Of The Flesh
It is very natural to gratify our flesh; in fact, it is instinctive. The Lord has provided proper ways for our legitimate needs to be met. He has provided food to meet our nutritional needs, yet we are encouraged not to be gluttons. We are told to be content with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8). We have spouses, and are exhorted to be faithful (Eph. 5:22-33). Yet the desire to strongly want something that is not needed is a constant threat; it is simply the principle of lust in action in us (Gal. 5:17). We read in James 1:14 that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
Many believers blame the devil. Yes, he tempts, but we are drawn away from the Lord by our own desires. There are numerous scriptural ways to deal with this problem; however, John focuses our gaze on the Lord. He stresses that the world is passing away. Even the lust of the world is passing away; it will come to an end. The believer needs to look for the return of the Lord, not simply to take us out of this world, but to administer the world to come. We will be in a world where righteousness will dwell. It is the same apostle John who gives us a glimpse of that world in Revelation 21:1: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away.” The thought of living for the world to come puts everything into perspective.
Lust Of The Eyes
Christians of this era are bombarded with many things that are pleasant to the eyes. Believers of every era had to face this problem, but the problem is magnified today because of technology. We have to deal with the images that come into our homes. We are a world of consumers and advertisers use it to their advantage. Billions of dollars are spent on marketing. We are manipulated into buying things that we don’t need. The marketers know that “sex sells.” Now we are faced with a double problem (especially men): lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh. Yet, the Lord tells us that we should be content with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8). How do we deal with it? We are to realize that this world is passing away, and the lust of this world is passing away as well. We are to look to the Lord and to the future. He is to be our object. Psalm 37:37 states, “Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace.” We are to look at the truly blameless and upright man, our blessed Lord and Savior.
The Pride Of Life
Finally, the saints were warned not to be proud. Scripture is replete with warnings about pride. Pride is a lust too. The world is full of people who are overly proud of their accomplishments. Paul warned Timothy about selecting novices when he was determining brothers who were qualified for oversight in the assembly: “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). The word “condemnation” literally means “crime.” James tells us, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). Pride is the crime of the devil and a worldly concept. The Lord Jesus was the one who humbled Himself. There is a beautiful thought concerning having the mind of Christ; “Christ Jesus … made Himself of no reputation … and … He humbled himself” (Phil. 2:5-8).
It is often the reverse with pride; we make reputations for ourselves and we exalt ourselves. Again, the answer is found in the Lord Jesus. We are to look to the One who will dominate the world to come. We are to realize that this present world and its lust are passing rapidly away. There is a new world coming, Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:13: “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
Lust is present in the world, and we live in the midst of it. We have a sinful nature that wants to be gratified. Lust is that strong desire to improperly satisfy the flesh. But if we really understand the admonition of the apostle, that “the world is passing away and the lust of it,” we can be numbered with those who want to do the will of God. We can be numbered with those who want to please the Father. We can be numbered with those who will abide forever (1 John 2:15-17).
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org