What follows are my notes from the February 3, 2008 sermon at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Md. The sermon was a fourth in a four-part series on living a Gospel-centered life in our church, in our homes, and in the world. This message was preached by Senior Pastor John Loftness. Because my notes were fragmentary and because the message was so inspiring to me, what appears below are not a closely-worded rendering of the sermon, but rather my paraphrases and summaries. I pray I didn't take liberties in doing so that might contort or distort any of Loftness's points or worse, the full counsel of Scripture on these points.
Scripture Texts for Sermon:
John 3:16-17; I John 2:15-17; John 17:15-21
In John 3:16-17, we see God loves the world. In I John 2:15-17, we see we are called to NOT love the world. Same direct object (the world), opposite action? What's up with that? God's love was sacrificial and redeeming, with the end of redeeming unto Himself out of the world a people called by His Name. We, on the other hand, in our sinful desires tend to love the world and the world's system. But Christ has saved us, called us out of the world, and so we are no longer of the world and accordingly are called to not love the world and its pride and lusts.
So how then must we live in light of this? How do we live in the world but not conform to it?
First, it's not a matter of manmade rules. In our sinful desire to justify ourselves by our effort, we love to construct and hide behind rules to satisfy our desire to put a check mark next to this Scripture passage. These rules may be well and good guidelines for our moral behavior, but they don't address the root issue which is the heart.
The heart deals with the lust of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride in possessions/status [I John 2:16].
The flesh, Loftness argues, is any effort exercised independent of an awareness of or reliance on God. As such, one must sin in one's efforts at objectively good things (serving others, Bible study, etc.) or in objectively bad things (lying, cheating, sexual sin) because the heart in both situations is engaged in these pursuits sinfully in pride.
Lust of the eyes is a lusting after something pleasing to the senses. It can also be for things good or ill. Pride of possessions or "pride of life" is a pride in one's possessions or social status or any thing that could be a cause of boasting in self and one's attainments from human effort.
The world cares for and is motivated by these things. The world LOVES these things and loves to lust for them: power, prestige, sexual conquest, money, influence, success. We, on the other hand, are called to put God front and center of our entire lives and all our pursuits. Our life at work, in the home, in family relationships, in friendships, in the church, everything is to be in light of God's eternal kingdom and for His glory.
How then can we relate to the world humbly and informed by Scripture. How can we guard against pride and so be able to evaluate our daily interactions with the world?
Loftness gave three practical points:
- Remember that at one time we too were of the world
- All of us, redeemed or unregenerate, are made in the image of God and as such everyone bears the dignity associated with it
- Remember that we are, with those who are unbelievers, recipients of God's common grace. We can and should appreciate the common grace God has lavished on the lives of unbelievers. Loftness used the example of the non-Christian doctor whom God has gifted with a mind and talents for medical practice. Numerous people can be blessed through his practice of medicine, and its all ultimately because of God's grace.