Sunday, March 03, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Overcoming the World"

“Overcoming the World”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
March 3, 2013 :: 1 John 5:1-5

I thought a couple of weeks ago that I had studied the hardest passage to understand in 1 John.  Remember I said that it was like trying to follow John in a down-hill ski through the woods in the dark?

Well, that one was easy compared to this passage–1 John 5:1-5!

It’s not that this passage is full of hard things to believe or even to understand individual phrases or sentences. But it is very difficult for me to follow John’s argument. To know why he was saying what and when and where he wants us to come out.

It’s full of important truths, but it was hard for me to untangle them.

Imagine with me a big ball of multicolored yarn.  (Now my wife is paying attention.)

And this ball has got lots of threads poking out of it.  Lots of ends. So there are different threads in here.

And we modern Americans want to pull out each thread and lay them down in order.

But John doesn’t like that. Not here. John wants us to examine the ball all together and see how all of these threads are intertwined.

Even if we started to pull out a thread, we’re going to find that it leads to another thread and back again in unexpected ways.

Do you remember this list?

I’ve showed a few times over the last several months:

Moral
Social
Doctrinal

Or we could put it this way:

Moral = Obey
Social = Love
Doctrinal = Belief

What we’ve seen so far is that John keeps circling around these three areas of essential Christianity.

It’s essential to obey the commands of Christ.
It’s essential to love Christ and to love other Christians.  (God is love.)
And it’s essential to believe in Christ.  (God is light.)

That’s what we’ve been learning.

Well, we’re turning the corner into the last stretch of 1 John, the last chapter of the book.

And in the first 5 verses, John ties all three of these areas together once again.

I have a pastor friend who said to me this week that 1 John is like an airplane buzzing over the same airstrip again and again but from different directions.

Nearom. ... Nearom. ... Nearom.

Well, in this passage for today, he comes at that airstrip like lightning.

Nearom. Nearom. Nearom. Nearom!

But it’s the same three areas.

And the bottom line promise is that those who believe in Christ are “Overcoming the World.”

Again, there are three main threads that are intertwined in these five short verses.

And, together, they add up to “Overcoming the World.”

Now, whatever else we see today, I want us to learn about overcoming the world.

Doesn’t that sound good?

The World is our enemy. Bible talks about the World as one of our 3 major enemies: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

In the Bible, the World is human society organized in rebellion against God.

John has already told us about the world. He told us, in fact, not to love the world.  Remember that in chapter 2?

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Well, it sounds pretty important to defeat that, doesn’t it?

It’s very important to overcome the world with all of its temptations and its troubles.

And we’ve just read that John tells us that we, who are followers of Christ, have overcome the world.

But I’m getting ahead of the text.

Let’s start in verse 1 and begin to examine thread #1. BELIEVE.  V.1

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.”

Notice how we don’t get through even one verse before we get to the second thread?

Let’s just take the first part of the verse to start with.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God...”

Believe.

This truth goes both ways, I think.

If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, you will be born of God.

John 1:12. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...”

But it’s true the other way, too, and I think that’s what is being emphasized here.

If you are born of God, then you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

No exceptions.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God...”

Now, that word “Believe” is going to be very important in this last chapter.

John is going to say it again and again again.

Believe. Believe. Faith. Believe.

But it’s not just “have faith” or “believe” with no object.

This is belief in someone and something in particular.

There are lot of people out there who encourage faith.  But when you start to put specifics on the table for what to believe, and you start to say what not to believe, then people start to fidget around. They don’t want doctrinal content, they just want faith.

Believe!

Well, believe what, exactly?

Verse 1 says, “Believe that Jesus is the Christ.”

Verse 5 is going to tell us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

That’s not just believing in some God somewhere.

That’s believing in a specific God and saying that the other so-called-gods are not God at all.

And it takes the Spirit of God giving us new life in our hearts for us to be able to believe like that.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God...”

Now, we’ll come back to that thread. It won’t be long, because John says that our faith (our believing) is actually the victory that overcomes the world.

So, we’ll get back to “believe,” but John quickly moves to thread #2. LOVE.

V.1 again.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.”

Now, every time I read that this week, I went, “Huh?”

And, honestly, I’m still feeling the “Huh?”

Where is John going with this?

Listen to it in the King James Version. I think that the KJV brings out the flavor of the Greek a little bit more than the NIV does: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”

I think what he’s saying is that Christians have been born of God, given life by God Himself and will therefore naturally love their father.

“Thank you for giving me life, Father!”

And if you love the one that begat you, then you will also love those others are begotten of him.

Now, that could be loving God the Son, and that’s true. If you love God the Father, you will love Jesus, too.

But that hasn’t been the theme of the last two chapters, has it?

How many times in chapters 3 and 4 did we get the message–love your brother?

Love your brother!

I think that’s where he’s going here.  So the thread so far is faith, birth, love for the Father, and love for other Christians.

How are you doing at that?

I was struck this week at how many times John has told us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in this short little letter.

Do you think that John knows that it’s hard to love other Christians?

It’s not easy to love other Christians.

It’s easy to say that love is patient, but it’s not always easy to be patient.
It’s easy to say that love is kind, but it’s not always easy to be kind.
It’s easy to say that love keeps no record of wrongs, but it’s not always easy to keep no record of wrongs.  Is it?

How are you doing at loving your spiritual siblings?

The world makes it even harder to love them.

Because the world says that it’s not worth it to love others and that they are not worth it.

But God says, “Everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.”

V.2

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”

Now, that one threw me, too!

“This is how we know that we love the children of God...”

How would you have finished that sentence?

“I know by how I treat them?”
“I know by living out 1 Corinthians 13?”

Something like that.

But that’s not where John goes.  He heads right into thread #3. OBEY.

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”

I’m not sure how that works. I know that I love the children of God by loving God and carrying out his commands.

Maybe the commands we’re talking about here are those commands that get specific about how to love other Christians. I’m not sure.

It’s all tied in close and tight to John.

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”

However that works, it works!

So, we should count on it. We should love God and obey God, and we’ll know that we love the children of God.

I think that this is a good word for those who think that we can be good Christians simply by loving people but ignoring God.

There are plenty of people who call themselves Christians who give very little thought to Christ, though they try to be “nice people.”

But Christians are not “nice people.” They are people who love Jesus and love His other children.

And they obey Jesus! In fact, it’s part of what it means to love God. V.3

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

Now, that’s not saying that love is just obedience, but love for God is not less than obedience to our Lord and Master.

It is obedience to our Lord.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

How are you doing at that one?

How are you doing at obeying God’s commands?

Do you love God?

Here’s one way to tell. Do you do what He says?

Are you changing?

Are you submitting?

Are you taking what God says and applying it to your life even if it hurts?

Or are you going your own way?

If you are going your own way, then you are not loving God.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

“But!” we say, “It’s so hard. It’s so heavy. I can’t do it.”  V.3

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.”

I think what that’s saying is that Christians have a new power to obey.

The commands of God become blessings for us, not burdens, and because we are born of God, we can obey His commands.

Now, for example, I have had a lot of things on my mind recently.

And I have allowed worry and anxiety to crowd into my heart.

Enough worry and anxiety and “stress” that I think my weak and tired feeling in the pulpit last Sunday was a physical reaction to the stress in my life.  I just felt like I could lay down right in the pulpit and fall asleep.

I proved last week that this new pulpit is really sturdy, because it held me up through the sermon last week.

What is the command of God for me?

“Fear not, for I am with you.”

“Matt, be anxious for nothing.”

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”

But I say, “Oh, Father, I love you, but I can’t keep those commands! That’s burdensome. I’ve got to worry. It’s my super-power! I’m awesome at worrying!”

And God says, “Matt if you love me, you will obey my commands. And they are NOT burdensome.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God says, “Matt, everyone born of God overcomes the world.”

The world says that God’s commands are impossible to keep.

The world says that God’s commands are bad for you.

The world says that God’s commands are burdensome, grievous, too difficult.

But God says, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

And now, all of a sudden, we’re back to thread #1!

BELIEVE.

Our faith is the victory that is victorious.

The Greek word here for “overcome” or “victory” is that same word we encountered in chapter 2 and chapter 4.

Nikao. To conquer. To be victorious. To overcome. To win!

This is how we win over the world–we trust God!

We believe.

We have faith. V.10

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Now, that means, at least, that we are converted. That we trust Christ for the first time.  We come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And if you never have, we invite you to do so today!

But I think it’s more than that.

I think this overcoming is not just coming to faith for the first time, but also trusting God for the power to say NO to the world’s temptations and to not get dragged under when the world brings us trouble.

Faith is the way that we say no to the “everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of [our] eyes and the boasting of what [we have and do].”

Faith is the way that we take heart when troubles come.

Because our Lord Jesus said (John 16:33), "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome [there’s our word again] the world."

And if He’s overcome it, all we have to do is trust Him, and we will overcome it, too.

John believes this so strongly, that he sees it already done.

“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

Believe!

Believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And believe that Jesus has conquered the world.

And you will conquer, too.

***

Messages about Essential Christianity

A Letter Arrived from John
The Word of Life
God Is Light
Talk & Walk
If You Love, You Live in the Light
I Write To You Because
Do Not Love the World
This Is the Last Hour
Children of God (Part One)
Children of God (Part Two)
Love Your Brother
God Is Greater Than Our Hearts
Test the Spirits
God Is Love (Part One)
God Is Love (Part Two)

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