A Simple Life – Sunday Summary for April 15, 2018
On Sunday I preached from 1 John 2:12-17. The first part of the passage (12-14) describes the security that all Christians possess. The second part (15-17) calls every Christian to reject “the world” and to live a life of simplicity. You can listen to the sermon here, or keep reading for a summary of the content and a key application.
John describes our security by referring to us as “children, fathers, and young men” who share certain blessings. We are all “children” who have been forgiven and adopted into God’s family; we are all “fathers” with the exalted status that comes from being close friends with Jesus; we are all “young men” supplied with strength from the Holy Spirit and from Scripture.
Though we possess this security from the moment we come to faith, our experience of it grows throughout life. At times we may feel more like children, care-free and bold because we know that we are forgiven. After experiencing many trials, we may come to feel more like fathers – wise elders who have learned to appreciate sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. Still at other times we may feel like young men – eager to learn Scripture and doctrine, to serve, and to strive for the advancement of the kingdom.
One thing that can derail this growth is love for “the world.” It is to that topic that John turns in the second part of the passage.
When John mentions “the world,” he does not mean the planet, but human society organized in opposition to God. Whereas the Kingdom of God is built upon love for God and neighbor, “the world” is built upon “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life.” For those who love “the world,” good things like physical health, bodily appetites, possessions, accomplishments, and reputation become ultimate things – sources of security, definitions of success, and guarantees of status.
John warns that it is futile to love “the world” because it is passing away. By allowing Jesus to be killed on the cross, the Father showed those who love “the world” where their lives are headed – to condemnation and destruction. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father signaled the creation of a new world – one where our desires are satisfied with good things in a way that “the world” can never equal.
One spiritual practice in particular can begin to set us free from love of “the world” – simplicity.
A life of simplicity is marked by peace and contentment. It doesn’t obsess over standards of beauty or health, but instead rejoices in being “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It doesn’t envy the talents or possessions of others, but instead rejoices in everyone’s gifts and blessings. It doesn’t demand fame or recognition, but instead rejoices in sharing the name of Jesus.
So, how do you get there? Through the habit of giving thanks.
Giving thanks re-orients our souls towards God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. In this way, we place God and his gifts in proper perspective: they are to be enjoyed, He is to be worshipped. As ingratitude is the root of all sin, so thanksgiving is the wellspring of all holiness.
To cultivate a thankful heart and a simple life, make a time of thanksgiving part of your end-of-day routine. Allow yourself ten or fifteen minutes and find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Then practice these two elements, taken from a pattern of prayer called the Examen (descriptions reproduced):
- Remind yourself of God’s presence with you and His desire to be with you. Consider praying for the Holy Spirit to help you be attentive to God’s presence. To become more focused, it might be helpful to repeat a simple verse during this time, like: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), or “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
- Look back over the past day, the big and small aspects of life, and recognize the reasons you have to be grateful. If you’re using a journal, consider capturing your thanks in writing, expressing simple words of gratitude and giving testimony to God’s generosity and faithfulness. Give thanks for anything and everything that comes to mind. It could be a good meal, the sight of a child playing or a dog running, or a spiritual conversation with a close friend. Let this verse stretch your vision and direct your gratitude: “Praise be to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” (Ephesians 1:3)