“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)
From this passage we learn first of all, that there are certain temptations associated with the flesh. In the New Testament the term “flesh” refers to that part of our nature which is without the grace of God. The flesh offers a conduit to sin. To be honest, every mature young person, and every adult, is all too familiar with the sexual temptations of the flesh. The passions of the body are powerful. They can be self-destructive, and other destructive, if not properly channeled and controlled. The Bible tells Christians to flee youthful lusts. The Bible tells Christians not to make any provisions to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
But the flesh is more than sensual passions. Biblically, the flesh includes worldly ambitions, and selfish aims. To live a fleshly life is to live a life dominated by the senses. How a person feels at any given moment is paramount. Objective reality is not to be considered. Rational thought is abandoned.
When the flesh is in control of a person’s life, it is a mess.
The commandments of God are quickly disregarded.
The judgments of God are not heeded.
The standards of God are mocked.
The very existence of God is denied.
The Bible says that those who live in the flesh cannot please God. It is even more serious. Those who live in the flesh, and for the flesh, shall die, not once, but twice. They will die physically, and they will die a second death. So the flesh is one way to be tempted.
There is another way to be tempted called the lust, or desire of the eyes. This refers to the tendency to be captivated by outward show. There is a spirit which can see nothing without wanting it, and having acquired it, and then flaunting it before others.
The lust, or desire of the eyes finds value in those things which are material. In the world, this lust, or desire of the eye is best illustrated by Hollywood. In the Church, this lust of the eyes is embodied in the Health and Wealth Gospel, also known as the Prosperity Gospel.
The Prosperity Gospel is a religious philosophy which says that “gain is godliness.” The Prosperity Gospel is a religious belief which identifies lavish ostentation with spiritual prosperity. The Prosperity Gospel may have disappointed and damned more people than any other false gospel in the last two centuries.
Its appeal is simple. The Prosperity Gospel teaches that God wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy. With that simple concept, the ministers of this false gospel do not like to talk about the ruin of man, the redemption Jesus has provided, and the need for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The Prosperity Gospel preachers are way too busy making people feel good. Their sermons are mostly about saying positive things that are uplifting, but not eternally helpful.
People are not invited to be saved from the power and pollution of sin. What sin
Nor are people given any hope of heaven, based on gospel terms.
Those who have succumbed to the Prosperity Gospel are too busy sowing seed faith. They are busy making pledges and promises of financial support. They are busy trying to bribe God into giving them what they want, in the name of faith. I tell you, there is a religious temptation of the lust of the eyes.
Then, there is what the Bible calls, the pride of life. The word here in the original is, alazoneia. The term refers to a person who claimed possessions and achievements which did not belong to him but which he called attention to in order to exalt himself. In short, the alazon is the braggart.
The challenge which faces every believer is how to live out the ethics of the Christian life without being dominated by the senses, without identifying lavish ostentation with spiritual prosperity, and without boasting about things that have no real lasting value.
The good news is this. The temptations which every Christian faces were also faced by Jesus Himself, for the time came when the Lord was tempted by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. By studying the life of Christ, every Chrisian can learn how to confront, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.