Lay Up for Yourselves Treasures in Heaven
Lord Jesus there is so much in the world that is appealing to my flesh and it looks “good” just as the fruit looked good to Eve. I am often tempted to love the things of the world and to live for them. Forgive me when I fall into this temptation. Increase in my heart a love for You so that my treasure and heart will always be with You. Send Your Holy Spirit to us in worship today and fill all of our hearts with the joy of our salvation! In Your name, I pray. Amen.
Moses asked to see God’s glory. No sinner can see God face-to-face and live. Yet Moses and we can know and experience God’s glory through His Word. In the proclamation of His Word, God shows us His goodness, His grace, and compassion. As God reveals Himself to us in His Word we see Him for Who He is. All who make their treasure with God will also see Him face-to-face in eternity.
If we are living for things in this world and our treasures are earthly, then there will be plenty over which to worry, because everything in this world is temporary. However, when our treasure and hearts are with our Savior in heaven, we will find no need to worry. Our heavenly Father who loves us will provide for our earthly needs and, more importantly, has given us a heavenly inheritance.
Text: 1 John 2:12-17
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 have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
In Christ Jesus who is our greatest treasure and, therefore, can fill any holy desire or need, but is contradicted by any unholy desire—dear fellow-redeemed:
The road to destruction is littered with people who have become caught up in the world. These are the ones of whom Jesus spoke in His parable of the sower and the seed when He described the seed landing in thorny ground. In Jesus’ parable, the seed grows in the thorny ground and flourishes for a little while, but then the thorns choked out the tender plants. These are the ones, Jesus said, “who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14)
ACHAN an Israelite soldier at the time of Jericho’s fall is an example of someone who became caught up in the world. Achan and his fellow soldiers of Israel were told to enter Jericho and leave nothing, but rather, destroy it all. However, Achan himself later confessed, “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it” (Joshua 7:21). Achan certainly did not go into battle thinking that he would disobey the Lord God whom he served…but he did…because he was enticed by the things of the world.
GEHAZI, the servant of the prophet, Elisha, was also enticed and fell victim to worldliness. Elisha had told Naaman, the Syrian, to go wash in the Jordan River to be cleansed of his leprosy. After Naaman finally did go to the Jordan and was healed, he wanted to reward Elisha with gifts. Elisha refused the gifts. However, Elisha’s servant later thought: “Look my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives I will run after him and take something from him…” (2 Kings 5:20). When the servant caught up with Naaman, he lied by saying that two young men had come to Elisha and in order that he might provide for his guests Elisha had changed his mind about receiving the gifts. Elisha’s servant fell victim to the allurement of the world. His desire for worldly gifts led the servant into his sin.
Being seduced by the world is a serious matter indeed. In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus’ say, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also”(Matthew 6:21). These words are both warning and encouragement. Jesus WARNS that if your treasure is here on earth, beware! for your heart is here also and will have only earthly pleasure; but if your treasure is in heaven, REJOICE! for your heart is there also and you will have an everlasting inheritance.
This morning we want to consider that you LAY UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES IN HEAVEN We will first consider I. The passing appeal of what is in the world; and then II. The everlasting glory of what is from God.
The apostle John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” [v.15] John is not speaking about the world itself, but rather the world in its sinfulness—the sinfulness and wickedness that is in the world trying to allure us, the base pleasures of the world as we know it “out there.” That is the world against which John warns. It is the “world” that is guided by the Devil himself. John writes a little later in this same epistle, “We know that we are of God, andthe whole world lies under the sway of the Wicked One” (1 John 5:19).
Now, here is the challenge: We live in the world that is under the sway of the Wicked One. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul admonishes the Christians against being caught up in sexual immorality. Paul tells the Christians, “I’m not suggesting you can TOTALLY remove yourselves from being around the sinners in the world because to do so you would have to leave the world, but what I am saying is don’t get caught up in that worldliness” (cf: 1 Corinthians 5:9ff). Be IN the world, i.e., living here, but NOT OF the world and part of it. When praying to His heavenly Father on Maundy Thursday, Jesus said, “I do not pray that you should take them(His disciples) out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16).
It is impossible to love God AND the world. It can NOT be done. Hear again Jesus’ words, “You cannot serve God and mammon”(Matthew 6:24). You cannot serve two masters for you’ll love the one and hate the other, or vice-versa. Loving the world simply does not leave room for loving the Father. They are opposed to each other. They are seeking to lead you in two totally different directions. In Ephesians, Paul describes this world as being governed “…according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), that is, the DEVIL!
If the things of this world are being governed by and directed by the Devil, we cannot love those things because they are automatically and completely opposed to God. John says it so plainly: The love of the Father is not in the one who loves the world. Still, there are so many who try to have it both ways. They maintain the idea in their minds that they love the Father while yet living and loving the world to its fullest.
This deadly love of the world is very enticing. John says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” [v.16]
All of the things that come into our bodies through our senses have the potential of being very enticing toward sin. John describes the negative use of these senses as “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.” This is exactly what appealed to Eve when she first fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it waspleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
The Devil had told Eve that if she ate of the fruit she would be like God knowing good and evil. This was true because Eve would then know evil when up to this point she had not, but the Devil’s deception was that such knowledge would be a good thing. The deception appealed to Eve and created the lust of the flesh desiring to make her “wise.” When Eve saw that the fruit looked pretty delicious and that it would be good for food (who was God anyway that He should say she shouldn’t eat such pleasing fruit), it was appealing to the lust of her eyes…and she fell. When Eve sinned she loved the world more than she loved God.
We are created to be very sensual beings, that is, guided by/affected by all of our senses. What we hear, what we see, what we experience, what we feel affects us! You may have heard the lie that people can experience these things, see these things, be part of these things and not be affected. OH! Do not be fooled!! God says the exact opposite—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life.” You can NOT see and experience these things without it having an effect on you! The love of the world does NOT abide with those who love their Father. No one can tell you otherwise when God Himself says so.
When something appeals to our most base sinful desires, whether it is…
- monetary appealing to our greed…
- anger, when we see we or experience something and the anger arouses in us and we WANT that anger, and we want to feed on that anger…
- whether it is a feeling of superiority when we see violence…
…WHATEVER part of the world it is that is appealing to our flesh it is a temptation from Satan; and he is seeking to use it to pull us into a love for the world and worldliness in order to destroy us.
Another of the world’s allurements mentioned by John is “the pride of life.” It is the worldly arrogance that delights in controlling one’s own life as if God had no hand in it. It is the pride that comes in accomplishments as if God had not given them. It is an arrogance that lives for SELF and serves SELF.
The apostle James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16). This is the pride of life about which John also wrote.
Worldliness is opposed by God, it is enticing to our flesh, and it is very temporary. John writes, “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” [v.17] Everything in this life and world will one day be gone. We live in a world that is corrupted and consumed by sin. On Judgment Day, God will end sin’s corruption by destroying this present world. The world is “…reserved for FIRE…” and on the last day “…the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in nit will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:7, 10ff).
The things of this world will perish in the fire of judgment. The things of God endure forever. Where will we want to place our treasure and our hearts?
The apostle John is very clearly warning against worldliness. It is pretty easy for us to read the newspaper, consider the news and say, “Oh, yes, there is all that worldliness out there…that’s awful, God condemns that.” It is also fairly easy for us to say, “I know that we can be worldly sometimes and I need to repent of that,” and then move on. But when John warns his readers about worldliness, it needs to become much more personal than that. We need to dig deeply. We need to examine ourselves carefully and ask where do I have worldliness? Where am I harboring love for the things of the world? I can assure you that we all have in some way degree at some times a love for the things of the world.
It is a further lie and deception of the Devil if we are led to believe that we can speak out strongly against certain kinds of worldliness while tucking other “smaller” kinds of worldliness into the corners of our own hearts and keeping them for ourselves. Worldliness is worldliness. It affects old and young alike. But worldliness doesn’t really lie in the places we go nor in the things we have. Worldliness is an issue of the human heart, our affections, our attitudes. It doesn’t lie in “things” but how we concentrate on those things or address them in our lives.
Consider Abraham and Lot of the Old Testament. Both were very wealthy men. In fact, they had to separate from each other because their flocks and herds were so large that the land simply could not support all they had. Lot loved the things of the world, so when he had the choice of where he should go he chose the best part—worldly speaking. Lot’s choice and possessions were not really the problem, but his DESIRE to have for himSELF the best part is where the worldliness began. He was enticed further and further until he was living right in the city of Sodom.
The enticements of the world are never satisfied even though we might be deceived into thinking that they can be. In Proverbs, God says, “Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20). In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Worldliness lies in the heart but we can then see evidence of it externally in our lives. If we enjoy worldly humor—laughing at the things the world laughs at when God would be offended. Laughing at the things that would make Jesus cry. Laughing and enjoying those things that led Jesus to the cross, whether that be in what we read, entertainment, how we act, what we find for our pleasure. Or even “just” materialism, putting our trust in things of this life, wanting more and more, keeping up with our peers. All of these are worldliness in some of its most obvious and ugly forms.
There are other things. There are things that are GOOD that can also become part of our worldliness if we take them to an extreme or pursue them to excess.
Time spent in recreation and other pursuits in this world is fine, but not if it takes the place of God. Working to make a living and providing for things in this life is good, but not if those things overshadow our love for the Savior. Is the house and the lifestyle that I provide for my family more important than the family members who live there? Better to live in a shack with Christ than a mansion without Him.
Prosperity can lead to worldliness but so can hardship. If we make anything into an idol—making it more important than God, that is worldliness. If I HAVE to buy things when I don’t need them, if I HAVE to have the most updated model even though my old model is working just fine, if matters in this life (what I own, where I live, etc.) are affecting my role and involvement in the work of God’s Kingdom in a negative way, that’s worldliness.
Worldliness goes beyond things. It may involve philosophy and approach to life. If I am friendly with the world and way it lives…if I am finding that I’m very much like the people of the world, I enjoy the same pastimes, the same practices, and find that I have common ground of every sort with unbelievers…I’d better ask myself, “why? What common ground would I have with those who hate my Savior?”
None of this means that we leave the world. We WANT to have contact with those walking in darkness so that we can share the Gospel with them. But are we going to associate and take part in those things? James again writes, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4)
Jesus speaks about the world HATING us as a matter of course. He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world… Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. (John 15:18, 17:14; 1 John 3:13). But if it loves us we should examine ourselves to be sure we are not falling into worldliness.
It is worldliness when the Gospel is confused with national & political ideals. If the rule of the Gospel is associated with the latest peace-keeping force sent out by the United Nations then the Gospel has been politicized. That’s worldliness. That is bringing matters of the soul down to the matters of this life. If the Kingdom of God is associated with an external “super-church” so that congregations which are meant to be earthly havens of the truth of God’s word for the nurturing of souls become corporations. If pastor becomes a CEO with more time for the financial books and the income than for the people and souls under his care, that’s worldliness and not of the Father.
This worldliness contradicts God. We need to understand that none of this nor anything like it can coexist with a love for God. Worldliness in every form is SIN. When we look at ourselves and find worldliness we need to repent…TODAY, TOMORROW, the NEXT DAY, and EVERY DAY thereafter. Repentance includes sorrow and turning away. It is addressing the question, “What can I do with the strength of Christ to get rid of the worldliness from out of my life?”
We need to know that the enticement and allurement of the world is great. I KNOW, because I am just as allured by it as you are; but it is an allurement that is as false as it was when the Devil said, “Here Eve! This is wonderful fruit! Why not eat some?”
Fortunately, there is a cure for worldliness. The one effective antidote to worldliness is to have one’s heart so filled with love for the Father that there simply is no room for worldliness to exist.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (earthly needs) shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God knows what we have need of in this world. Seek FIRST the kingdom of God! Find your completion, your fulfillment, your confidence, and your worth in the Kingdom of God, and God will make everything else fall into place. Make the Kingdom of God your life and you won’t be disappointed because although the things of this life fade away and are gone, “he who does the will of God abides forever!”[v.17b]
He who does the will of God abides FOREVER!! There is the cure! There is the antidote for worldliness! God’s Word, the Gospel, is what will fill our hearts with such a joy that we will look at the world and say, “That’s not joy. That’s not pleasure. That’s not where I want to be. I love my Savior, I want to be with Him.”
In the opening words of our text, John uplifted the Christians with the joy that was theirs in Christ Jesus. John was about to warn them of the dangers in loving the world, but first he encouraged them with the assurance of the Gospel. “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 have overcome the wicked one.” [v.12-13a]
Then John repeats many of the same thoughts to emphasize what he was saying and to assure his readers that this has been the truth about which he has consistently written. “I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.” [vv.13b-14]
When John wrote these words he was not writing to specific groups of a certain chronological age—to little children, young men, and fathers, alone. Rather, he was speaking of spiritual qualities, and the role our faith plays in our lives and work. Throughout his letters, John addresses the Christians a number of times as his “dear little children,” drawing attention to the closeness and precious bond he shared with his fellow Christians.
So John addressed the “little children”—those reading his words who possessed a simple child-like trust in Jesus their Savior. Perhaps these would be those new to the faith, perhaps they were some who had been part of the Church for a longer time but still had that first love and simple-straightforward faith. To these John said, “I’m writing to you because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.” [v.12]
John wrote to them because in that child-like faith they had the very basic yet wonderful truth of the Gospel: YOUR SINS ARE WASHED AWAY!! That simple truth is all they needed to stand against the world. The world is out there and it is evil but LOOK! Here is the cross…here is your Savior, Jesus, who died on that cross to take every single one of those sins away. In simple child-like faith know this to be true and THERE is where your treasure is! There is where your joy is! THERE find your peace, knowing that all your weaknesses toward worldliness and every other sin is washed away.
John wrote to those he described as “fathers” saying, “you have known Him who is from the beginning…” [v.12] From child-like faith there also grows a spiritual maturity. Among the Christians to whom John was writing were those who were spiritual leaders (fathers). These, John said, knew the eternal nature of God, the fullness of who He is and of His glory. They had the knowledge of God which they could share with those whom they led. They shared in the joy of salvation and as “fathers” also shared in the privilege of leading others with the knowledge of the Lord.
To the “young men” John said, “you have overcome the Wicked One…you are strong and the word of God abides in you.” [vv.12,13] With youth there is strength. It takes strength to stand against the Devil. It takes strength to be in the trenches doing battle against sin and temptation and conquering them. John speaks to the Christians as those who were battling in their Christian fight of faith, “You have conquered through Christ! You are strong through the Word of God! The world is wicked, therefore, don’t love it and don’t fear it. Rather, prevail against it through Your Savior and His salvation!”
You have the Gospel to be in the trenches. We are in the world, fighting the good fight of faith, taking the Gospel to others, defending our faith in Christ. We are those people who have overcome the wicked one, we are the ones who have the knowledge of God to use wisely as “leaders” (fathers); and we pray that we always maintain a child-like faith that holds onto the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel message.
To us, John writes, “Take a look at what you have. Don’t love the world, nothing it offers can compare to what you have!” To us, John writes, “Take heart! The world is evil and wicked, but look at what you have…through Christ you have the victory over wickedness and shall prevail!” John writes a little later in the letter (and in these words God is speaking to YOU), “You are of God, little children, and have overcome [your soul’s enemies]because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world!” (1 John 4:4).
We have eternal life and everlasting glory in the blessings of God—the salvation He has provided for us, the every day care that He showers upon us, and all things. We have no need for the world. What is the world to me??!! (cf: Hymn #430, TLH) I have my Savior and He is everything!
So, love not the world, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL these things shall be added to you; and you will enter everlasting glory to see Him face-to-face (cf: 1 Corinthians 13:12). He who does the will of the God abides forever!! Amen!
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt