By Kenneth A. Folsom, Jr.
We as Christians have a hope of eternal life. But this hope is conditional upon our submitting to God’s will. Striving to please God and abstain from evil is the fight that every child of God faces. But what is it exactly that we fight against? We are to fight against anything and everything that is not of God! God tells us that everything that is in this world is not of the father, and that if we love what is in the world then the love of the Father is not in us.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John 2:15-17).
The word world comes from the Greek word kosmos which means “primary order, arrangement, ornament, adornment. The present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God” (W.E. Vine). In John 8:23 we read, “And he said unto them; Ye are from beneath I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” Jesus not only claimed that they were of this world, but that they were from beneath. Those who live their lives by the world’s standards are of the Devil! It’s that simple.
In Philipians 3:20, the Christians were told that their citizenship is in heaven, not on this world. We are only here for a time. We are not commanded to abstain from this physical world. We are to abstain from the present conditions of human affairs that is in alienation from, and opposition to God. It is in this sense that Christians are (to coin the phrase) “out of this world.” In the following verse (1 John 2:16), we find the three characteristics of the world from which we are to abstain.
The Lust Of The Eyes
The word “lust” comes from the Greek word epithumia, which denotes “strong desire.” So we may be fair in concluding that the lust of the eyes is the strong desire of the eyes. Eye comes from the Greek word ophthalmos, and in this context it is used as the instrument of evil desire, or the principle avenue of temptation (W.E. Vine).
God created us with eyes for a purpose. Although our eyes may be a “principle avenue of temptation,” we know that this was not the purpose for them. If we believe this, then we would be in direct opposition to God. The Bible plainly teaches us that God tempts no man (Jas. 1:13). With our eyes we can behold the beauty of God’s creation. The value of sight can be seen in the example of Christ’s compassion on the blind and how He healed their blindness. Yet, at the same time, this wonderful blessing that we share, may, if we are not careful, supply the avenue for our spiritual demise.
Jesus once said, “If your right eye offend you, pluck it out.” It is better for us to go into heaven with just one eye, than to loose our salvation (Matt. 5:29). Some things like a job, money, or a material possession may be considered as precious as an eye, but nothing should be considered of more value than a right relationship with God. We should be cautious of what we see. We must be in control and not let the desires of our eyes lead us into sin like Eve did, when she saw the fruit of the garden, and the lust of the eyes led her to disobey God (Gen. 3:6). King David is another good example. When David saw Bathsheba, the lust of the eyes led him into committing such transgressions as adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11:2-5).
God has not left us without hope. He promises us that no temptation will overtake us, but that He will provide a means of escaping (1 Cor. 10:17).
“The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eyes is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil the body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34). If our eye is single we will be in subjection to the Lord. Our priorities will be in the right place. We will seek God’s will and this will insure us victory over the lust of the eyes.
The Lust Of The Flesh
The word lust comes from the Greek word epithumia which denotes strong desire of any kind. Here it is used in the context of those evil desires that are ready to express themselves in bodily activity. Lust of the flesh then is desire within man that leads him to participate in some bodily exercise that is sinful (e.g., adultery, smoking, gluttony, etc.). Eve was taken by the lust of the flesh, or the desire to fulfil her fleshly appetite when she saw that the fruit was good for food (Gen. 3:6). It is not easy to resist temptation to the lust of the flesh; however, we that trust God’s word can take comfort in knowing that God will not allow us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear. The Bible says that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). If we continue in His word, obeying His commandments, striving to please God according to the truth, then it is written, “We will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. “
Even when we fail and find ourselves in error we have Jesus Christ as our propitiation. If we confess our sins and repent of our error, then He will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But we must as the Hebrew writer says “strive as a runner strives to win a race”! Striving to abstain from any sin that might hinder or beset us and get in our way of pleasing God.
The Pride Of Life
There once came a rich young ruler to Jesus. He told Jesus that he had kept the ten commandments since he was a child. “What do I yet lack?” he asked Jesus. Jesus replied, “If thou will be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasures in heaven: and come and follow me.” But the rich man went away sad because he had many possessions (Matt. 19:24). This rich young ruler may have kept up with the moral laws of Moses, but his eye was not single. The love of money was stronger in his desires than was his relationship to Christ. Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 19:24). Why? Because when a person has riches and everything that the world has to offer then it is easy for them to forget God and credit all of his wealth and fortune to themselves. Consider what God had to say to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:11-14.
Because that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
The pride of life is the desire to have all the worldly pleasures and all of the fame that goes with it. Everyone is your friend when you are rich. The abundance of riches brings with it worldly power and with worldly power comes arrogance and pride. And with pride comes all manner of evil. “Only by pride cometh contention” (Prov. 13:10). “The rich man’s strength is his strong fort and as an high wall is his own conceit, before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility” (Prov. 11-12).
The serpent beguiled Eve through the pride of life. The Scriptures tell us that, when she saw that the fruit was good for to make one wise, she did eat (Gen. 3:6).
There is nothing wrong with knowledge or wisdom, just like there is no evil in money, but in the love of money. But we should desire the wisdom that is from above and not the wisdom of this world. In James 3:17 the inspired writer gives us the characteristics of wisdom from above. “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”
If anyone claims to be wise by God’s standards, then his life should exemplify these characteristics. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).
The way to avoid pride is to remain humble and obedient to God, seeking the wisdom that is from above. God says that the way we receive this wisdom is by simply asking for it (Jas. 1:5). But we must ask in faith nothing wavering. If we steadfastly seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, then all things will be added (Matt. 6:33). God holds the answers and we must humble ourselvds before Him in full submission, and ask for his wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).
Jesus, Our Example
A person is never convinced of something until it has been proven. There is an old Swedish Proverb that I read somewhere once and it reads, “Never buy a new bucket until you are sure that the old one doesn’t hold water anymore.” No one will change his way of life until he sees that the way that he is living is unsatisfactory, and that the option that you offer is proven to work. Jesus is our example. He has shown us how to escape the “lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.” In the gospel of Matthew (4:1), we are told of how the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. After fasting for forty days, Jesus was tempted of the Devil to turn rock into bread, thus appealing to the Lord’s hunger; but Jesus replied, “Thou shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Again the Devil tempted Jesus. This time he tried tempting Him through the lust of the eyes by showing Him all the kingdoms of the earth. He tried to appeal to the Lord’s pride by suggesting that He jump off the cliff and the angels would save Him from harm. But the Devil was not successful. There were two things that the Lord did each time the Devil tempted Him: (1) He rebuked the Devil (“Get thee hence, Satan.”) (2) He quoted the word of God, giving him an answer for every suggestion the devil made. Then the Devil left Jesus and the angels ministered unto him.
When we are tempted in any way we can resist the temptation (“Get thee hence, Satan”) and turn to God’s word for our strength (for it is written). This is the armor with which we fight the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
Does your bucket hold water? If you answer this question “yes” because you feel that you have everything under control and have no need of Christ, the Bible, or God’s wisdom in your life, then you have been deceived by the pride of life. But don’t worry, Christ offers you a new bucket, filled with living water.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 10, pp. 299-300
May 17, 1984