If we don't read or watch cartoons now and then, we miss out on some importnat levity for life. In a particular Flintstones episode, the Flintstones and Rubbles are dressing up for a masquerade party. Fred, thinking that he will have a superior costume to Barney, shows up in the red outfit with pitchfork and horns. Much to Fred’s dismay, Barney shows up in the same costume, and jokes – “will the real Satan please stand up.” This makes us laugh…and it also helps us to realize that our society, with all of its cartoon and real life illustrations, treats Satan like he is some joker in red underwear. Yet, this is far from the truth. John points out in this section of his first letter, Satan, the world and the flesh are very real enemies that we struggle against on a daily basis to one degree or another. We need to be aware of these enemies and seek to stay away from them….we need to seek to be right with God rather than with the world system.
As we are aware, the “world” as seen in 1 John (2:12ff), is not the “earth,” but the invisible spiritual, system opposed to God and Christ, and which is controlled by Satan. Worldliness is not so much a matter of activity, as of attitude…although the first follows the second. It is possible for a Christian to stay away from questionable entertainments and doubtful places and still love the world system, for worldliness is a matter of the heart. The world not only affects our ability to respond to the love of God, but also to the will of God. It is possible for people’s hearts to become hardened. Our devotions with God, sharing His love, daily spiritual conduct, seeking His will, are all tests for the heart of the Christian.
John points out three devices of the world system which Satan can manipulate in order to trap Christians – the lust of the flesh (immorality), the lust of the eyes (greed), and the boastful pride of life (power). “Flesh” is not the body, but the basic nature of unregenerated man…and his natural desires that, when out of control, can blind him to spiritual truths. “Flesh” is the nature we receive at our physical birth….Spirit is the nature we receive in our second birth, when we come to Christ (John 3:5-6). The old nature and the new nature continually battle for supremacy in our lives. Hunger, thirst, sleep, sex, hearing, sight, ego are not evil in and of themselves, they are neutral…but, when the flesh controls any one of them, it leads to sinful lust, which is from the evil one. Hunger is natural…gluttony is a bad thing; thirst is natural…drunkenness is a sin; sleep is natural…but, laziness is shameful; sexuality is God’s precious gift, but when it is abused, it becomes immorality. Lusts do not come all of the sudden, rather, they creep in (James 1:14-15). If we are not spiritually alert, we can stumble and fall – temptation, enticement, and lust lead to sin.
A great astronomer (not me) once said that a man who carries a sack of corn on the earth could as easily carry six sacks on the moon. But, on a world the size of Jupiter, with its heavy atmosphere, even to pull some keys out of your pocket would be to tug at a weight of five or six lbs. It would, literally, be impossible even to raise your arm…and if you were to lie down, you could never get back up! That would be just a bit distressing. Well, in the spiritual realm, the weight of our burdens is directly proportional to our attraction to the world system…the deeper we are into the world, the heavier our hearts and consciences. If the world is everything to us, then our burdens will crush us. This is precisely why John gives his hearers, including us, these directions. He understood the pull of the world, the flesh and Satan. And it seems that there is more opportunity to than ever in our present world for people to find themselves up to their eyeballs in a world of filth. We cannot be tempted to lay aside our spiritual walk, quench God’s Spirit and dive headlong into sin that will ruin us, spiritually, and ultimately, eternally. Know yourself…know your weaknesses…and do not allow them to be exploited, be it something in any category, whether immorality, greed or power.
Faith and spirituality are really not that complicated. It is just our human nature and sin that complicates our lives and makes us anywhere from uncomfortable to miserable. We must continually seek to be growing spiritually in our relationship with the Lord -- “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8)). We must continually seek God’s strength, the guidance of His Spirit and His Word in order to grow and prosper, spiritually. When we are seekers, our burdens are not heavy, as if we are living on a spiritual Jupiter…they are light, as Jesus says… “My yoke is easy, and burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).