By Luther Blackmon
“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” (1 Jn. 2:15). The Bible refers to the world in three ways. One of these worlds is “a spiritual dominion and Satan is its ruler. Passages such as Heb. 1:2; Heb. 11:2; and Acts 17:24 refer to the physical universe as the “world.” In Jn. 3:16 “the world” means the people who inhabit the earth. I am sure that the prohibition of 1 Jn. 2:15 does not apply to the beauties of the world in which we live or the people who live here. The “world” of 1 Jn. 2:15 is the dominion of Satan.
Christ is King of kings (1 Tim. 6:15). He has a kingdom and he sits on his throne, now. Satan also has a kingdom. Jesus said, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you, for the prince of the world cometh and hath nothing in me” (Jn. 14:30). Again, ” . . . the prince of this world is judged” (Jn. 16:8-11). Paul said…… the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not . . .” (2 Cor. 4:4). Other scriptures could be given but these should be enough to show that Satan is the ruler of a spiritual dominion. This dominion is called “the world.”
Contrast and Conflict
Between Christ and Satan there can be no peace or compromise. We either fight in the army of the Lord or we fight against him and with his enemies. There is no middle ground-no man’s land-and the fellow who thinks he can be neutral will discover at the judgment that he has merely been a cowardly pacifist in the army of Satan. He is not even a “dedicated” sinner. James said, “ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (Jas. 4:4). Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (In. 15:18-19).
The Nature of Satan’s Kingdom
The kingdom of Satan, like that of Christ, is not territorial. It is not a place. It is a condition, a relationship. A child of the devil and a child of God may share the same roof. They may be married to each other, and as far as the marriage relationship is concerned, they are one. But spiritually they are an eternity apart, serve different masters, and bear allegiance to different governments and kings.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk.17:21). Paul said, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17). The kingdom of Christ is composed of those in whose hearts he rules. To that extent his kingdom is within his subjects-this throne within their hearts. The dominion of Satan is likewise -composed of those who do his will. Paul said, “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey (Rom. 6:17). The world of Satan is a matter of service rather than location.
I was given a gentle rebuke by a very sincere lady for playing golf. She said, “it is of the world.” Some, like her, seem to think that everything we do is either a part of our Christian duty or it is “of the world.” I am not trying to defend my golf game. I am not real sure that there should not be some kind of punishment for a fellow who plays as lousy as I do, but not on the grounds that it is worldly. A thing is not worldly simply because it is not a Christian duty, or because it is in the world. It is worldly when it violates the law of God, either by act or association. Under given circumstances this could be true of any form of recreation, even pitching horseshoes. But pitching horseshoes is not worldly, per se.
John defines the world as (1) Lust of the flesh; (2) Lust of the eyes: (3) Pride (vain glory) of life. And we would remind the reader that John says, “all that is in the world.” Therefore anything that is of the “world” is embraced in these things. Let us look at them.
“The Lust of the Flesh”
What is meant by “the flesh?” The answer to this question is not as simple as appears at first glance. Sometimes “the flesh” means only the physical body. But we make a mistake if we assume that it never means more than that.
Body is translated from the Greek soma; flesh from the word sarx. Paul speaks of the marks which he bore in his body (Gal. 6:17); he speaks of Abraham’s body as being as good as dead (Rom. 4:19); he urges us to present our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:2). In all these, body is a translation of soma.
The word flesh (sarx) is also used sometimes to denote simply the physical body. For example, Paul speaks of circumcision of the flesh in contrast with circumcision in the heart (Rom. 2:28). He speaks of his “thorn in the flesh” which undoubtedly means a physical, bodily affliction. But sarx often means more than flesh and blood and bones. Sometimes it seems to mean a disposition acquired by giving too much rein to the fleshly appetites. A notable example of this, it seems to me, is found in Romans, chapters 7 and 8. “So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). Again, “For to be carnally minded (carnal also is from sari LB) is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:6-8). In his little book, Flesh and Spirit, William Barclay points out that “when Paul lists the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:19-21 he certainly begins with immorality, impurity and licentiousness, but he goes on from there to enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, the party spirit which are not sins of the body at all” (p. 18). The body standing alone is neither good nor bad. It is possible, however, for one to give place to the appetites of the body to such extent that he develops a disposition to be controlled by these bodily appetites. Then he is “Carnally (fleshly) minded.” In this condition he cannot please God.
Although the fleshly body is neither good nor bad of itself, it is, nevertheless, a bundle of appetites and desires. These appetites are not wrong. They were given us by our Creator. For every natural desire God has provided legitimate satisfaction. Even so, these God given propensities provide a door of access through which Satan many, if we are not careful, enter our lives and make us his slaves – a part of his “world.”
“The Lust of the Eyes”
The “lust of the eyes” means inordinate desire for things. In this category would fall covetousness, greed and like sins. The pursuit of things has caused many people to lose their perspective and their sense of values. Such became easy victims of Satan’s wiles. It may be a fine house, an address in an exclusive part of the city. It may be the desires to be rich-to make and hold money-just plain sordid money. Whatever it is, remember that unrestrained desire for material things is an open invitation to Satan to move in and take over. Such a one is his legitimate prey.
“The Pride of Life”
This includes a lot of things. But if I had to say it in one sentence, I would say that it is the inordinate desire to curry the flavor of our fellows, to be popular, to have the praise and approval of men. Popularity is not wrong unless it costs too much, but it nearly always does. Experience and observation, as well as the scripture, have proven that popularity often exacts a heavy toll.
Go to the homes for un-wed mothers and ask those girls about it. Most of them are there because they wanted to be accepted by a certain segment of our society. Ask them if they think it was worth it. Go to the penal institutions and ask those young men (and women) if they did not start the life of crime partly because they wanted to be popular with certain people. So they allowed themselves to be bullyragged by some social misfits with an inferiority complex, or sweet talked by some friends (?) who convinced them that an easy life as a big shot with lots of money-somebody that everyone would know-was their cup of tea-fruit just ready to be picked. Ask them if it was worth it.
Preachers too numerous to mention, and who once stood for the truth, have cast their lot with the degressive movement in the church. Some of them no doubt, did it for financial reasons. Others, because they like things nice and quiet. They would rather “switch than fight.” But I am persuaded that the majority did it because they began to feel the pressure from some schools, papers, big churches and big (?) preachers. They did not want to be “cast out of the synagogue.” I say this because I have not heard of one of them that gave a scriptural reason for his change. I must conclude, therefore, that they did it for other reasons.
Of all that we have said, this is the sum. Satan is the ruler of a spiritual empire which is called the “world.” It is not a place but a relationship. His subjects are those who do his will. His appeal is through the flesh, the outer man. By this means he is able, more often than not, to bring into captivity the inner man, the heart.
Man is a dual creature. He is composed of flesh and spirit. Paul describes this dual nature in these words. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my- mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:22-23). Christ and Satan work from different directions. Satan works through the flesh to gain control of the spirit. Christ works on the spirit (heart-inner man) to control the actions of the flesh. This he does by the word of God. There is no other way by which he could do it, consistent with His plan. He created man a free agent, a creature of choice. Man can serve God or refuse to serve him, just as he likes. Therefore God will not exert a power over man that disregards his right to choose. The “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” fellows need to learn this lesson.
Where is your spiritual citizenship? Which country do you call home? The church of the world? The kingdom of Christ or the kingdom of Satan? You may say, “I don’t care.” But you will care. And there are others who care now. The Lord cares. Every faithful Christian cares.
The glitter of the world has blinded many millions. Satan sees to that. But you will see a day when you would gladly give all the pleasure you had in a lifetime for just one hour of relief from the consequences of your unfaithful life.
Truth Magazine, XX:13, p. 11-12
March 25, 1976