The word translated "world" is cosmos in Greek. John uses it six times in three short verses, emphasizing its importance to us. It literally means "an orderly arrangement." In other words, it means "a system." The apostle refers to the environment and lifestyle system into which we were born. Our values originated from this source, and those values are a confused mix of good and evil, specifically designed to entrap us in a web of death.
Cosmos identifies the system on earth established apart from the Creator God. Since the system's source is Satan, it cannot produce life. The problem for us is that this system is quite appealing to human nature, and it is continuously exerting pressure on us to return to it. Yet, if we love the world, it precludes love for the Father. The Father is then pushed to the background of our lives.
John points out that love for the world is essentially meaningless because the world is passing away. If it and its values pass away, what will a person following that system have to show for his life?
The basics of that system's values are contained in the words "flesh," "eyes," and "pride." Flesh indicates a self-oriented outlook that pursues its own ends independent of God, a focus that clearly produces idolatry. Eyes suggests being captivated by everything that entices the sight, drawing attention to the human attraction to covetousness, which is idolatry. Pride indicates a pretentious hypocrisy that glories in self, possessions, and accomplishments. This too is idolatry because pride focuses devotion on the self.
So, to whom or what are we loyal? II Corinthians 4:3-4 identifies the source of the spiritual beliefs and values of everybody in the world prior to his calling:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
This system is the source of much of what we believed, and its author, Satan, has been our god, though we did not realize it. Because Satan has been clever enough to include some of the true God's system, beliefs, stories, and practices within his, the Devil's system has an air of righteous authority. We can feel good, even joyous and inspired, while doing evil—like committing idolatry—in submitting ourselves as servants to his way.
Romans 1:18-32 provides us with a compelling history of mankind's efforts to avoid God as the source of their values, and it shows what this has produced. Satan has made strong and persuasive efforts—seemingly doing everything in his power—to diminish the importance of obedience to the Ten Commandments. Mankind's failure to keep these godly standards is responsible for the condition of the world.
The undermining of their importance began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan's persuasions were so enticing that they submitted to his values despite having seen God literally eye to eye! None of us has been blessed with that gift. However, in God's judgment that does not let us off the hook. Yet, mankind cannot plead complete ignorance of God because He is revealed by His handiwork. Since men will not seek out and obey the true God on their own, the best they can do in regard to a standard of values is their own experience, and that has produced this perverted and violent world. That is the story of idolatry in Romans 1.