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How Ungodly Beliefs are Formed 3

This is the third part of a six-part series that investigates eight major ways that ungodly beliefs are formed in our lives. Part three shows how ungodly beliefs are formed through believing the lies of the world.

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This blog post is part 20 of the series Seven Invisible Barriers to Spiritual Growth.
To see all the posts in the series click here
.           To listen to the audio version click here.

The World

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. 16 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.17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Now wait a minute. The Bible says that God loved the world, but John tells us to not love the world. Isn’t that contradictory?

One of the challenges and limitations of our language is that the same word has multiple definitions. The meaning of the word comes from the context of the passage. The word “world” is just such a word. According to Larry Richards it has four main meanings:

  1. the world, (i.e. all created things)
  2. the arena where human life and experience occur
  3. humanity itself
  4. human society as a system warped by sin, tormented by beliefs and desires and emotions that surge blindly and uncontrollably. The world system is a dark system . . . operating on basic principles that are not of God.

The world that God loves is humanity itself. The world that we are to shun is not people (Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors), but the evil thoughts and actions of a world that is opposed to God.

We are bombarded on a daily basis with the mindset of the world. The daily news, movies, books, magazines, and the people we live and work with speak forth the views of the world.

The apostle John warns us about loving the world. He groups the thoughts and actions of the world into three broad categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The Greek word “lust” means to have a strong desire. The desire itself is not bad. A strong desire can be for a good thing like Jesus desiring to eat the Passover with His disciples. It can also be evil like desiring anything that is opposed to God’s will.

Lust of the Flesh

These are strong desire to do things out of our evil nature that is opposed to God and fueled by the encouragement of the world. These things are clearly evil and feed the evil desires of mankind. The apostle Paul gives us a list of the deeds that flow out of the lust of the flesh:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Surrendering to the lusts of the flesh always leads to sin. It is a heart that refuses to fear God and submit to His ways. No wonder John warns us against loving the world.

Lust of the Eyes

Lust of the eyes has to do more with mental self-gratification. It is probably a precursor to fulfilling the acts of the flesh listed above. Whereas the lust of the flesh are those that are carried out physically in a person’s life, the lust of the eyes are more internal and take place in the mind.

Jesus gives us some insight into what the process looks like in the sermon on the Mount. He says, “You have heard that it was said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28)

This type of mental lust can include pornography and other types of fantasy thinking, but is in no way limited to just sexual issues. The last of the Ten Commandments is about coveting. We are told not to covet a neighbor's house, wife, male servant, female servant, ox, donkey, or any other things he might have (Exodus 20:17).

The lust of the eyes has to do with wanting those things that are forbidden by God. It is a deep internal longing to have something one is not supposed to have.

Pride of Life

Another word to describe this attitude is vainglory. Vainglory is an excessive amount of pride in oneself or one’s accomplishments. It is the vanity of a person who looks to his or her own strength and ability.

Richards gives us greater insight into the heart attitude behind the pride of life. He states:

The root of arrogance and pride is refusal to consider God or to respond to him. Instead, the arrogant supposes that human beings can live successfully apart from an obedient relationship with the Lord.

The pride of life ignores God and seeks to live without His interference. Man take his own destiny in his hands and take great pride in the kingdom he has built.

As you can see, to be in love with the world and its attitudes, actions, false presumptions, and outright resistance to God is to be opposed to God.The way of the world is an attempt to live life apart from God and a purposeful choice to reject the truth revealed in God’s word.

The world is constantly telling us that the ways of God are narrow and intolerant. That somehow believing in God is archaic and for weak people who need a crutch to get through life. The world boldly contradicts God at every point seeks to squish believers into its mold.

Here are some of the most prevalent lies that the world portrays as truth:

  • Lust of the flesh
    • If it feels good do it.
    • God wants me happy (which means I can ignore what He says in His word and do whatever makes me happy)
    • I can sin as much as I want, God will forgive me.
    • Throw off the restrictions and do whatever you want to do.
    • Reject all limits.
  • Lust of the Eyes
    • He who has the most toys wins. You have to have this item to be seen as wise, handsome, prosperous, important.
    • What I do in the privacy of my own home doesn’t hurt anyone (viewing pornography)
    • No harm in looking.
    • Life is too short. If you see something you want get it.
  • Pride of Life
    • I did it my way.
    • No one is going to tell me what to do.
    • I am a self-made man/woman.
    • Only the weak need God.

These thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg. Are there any key thoughts of the world that you can think of? Put them in the comments below.

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About the Author

Terry Tuinder is the co-founder of Experiencing His Victory. His experience includes thirty-one years of pastoral ministry, an earned Doctor of Ministry degree from The King’s University, and nineteen years involvement in deliverance ministry. He helps people grow in their relationship with God.