IN JESUS WE OVERCOME THE WORLD 1 John 5:1-21 June 18, 2006 Key verse 5:5 “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Last week we learned God’s command: “Whoever loves God must love his brother.” If we try to love others based on our desires or ever-changing emotions, we always fail. But by trusting in God, obeying his command, we can love even the worst sinners. May we learn God’s absolute command, to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To love another person we must overcome ourselves. To grow in Jesus’ image, we must overcome the world. For Christians, overcoming is not optional. It seems to us that overcoming the world requires some kind of super human strength. The Apostle John teaches us that the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world. It’s not easy to believe while living in an unbelieving generation. We need God’s life-giving words every day, every moment. May God revive our spirits and encourage us to overcome the world by faith in Jesus. First, the true children of God (1-3). We learned that we really are children of God. We have also been learning about what it means to be a child of God, and to love God. Let’s see what it means practically to live as a child of God. Look at verse 1. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” According to this verse, everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. They believe God sent his only Son into the world as a humble servant of all. He believes that Jesus Christ laid down his life for sinners. While on earth, the Son preached the good news of salvation and healed the sick. Finally, he became the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. Human beings are stained with sin. But Jesus is the holy lamb of God, without blemish. He is most precious to everyone who believe he is the Son of God. In fact, a child of God would rather have Jesus than anything this world has to offer. We’ve been reading the words “born of God” in 1 John. “Born of God” has deep meaning to the children of God. Those who are not born of God are by nature children of the devil. They want to carry out the devil’s work. The devil works to plant the diseases of doubt in people’s hearts, making them sick with sin. The devil is real. Devils were originally God’s servants. But they became proud and rebelled against him. Jude verse 6 says, “And the angels who did not keep their position of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment and the great day.” When he disobeyed God, he became twisted and corrupt. Though the devil is the prince of this world, and people of the world like to follow him, he is revealed in the Bible to be an evil beast. Revelation 12:3 says, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.” Children of the devil become proud and rebellious like him, to our own downfall. But God wants to make us his precious and beautiful children. All who believe in Christ are God’s children. Praise God that he has made us to be his children! Now that God has made us his children, how do we respond? We thank God. Thankfulness to God is clear evidence that one is a child of God. As God’s children we can count our blessings, one by one, which God has given us. We can meditate on the evidence of God’s love in our lives. We have received grace and the forgiveness of sins freely from God. If we believe this, gratitude toward God forms in our hearts and we become deeply thankful. Ingratitude to God is a serious matter. Romans 1:21 teaches us that not giving thanks to God is the root cause of sin and all kinds of human suffering. Therefore we need to remember to acknowledge God, giving thanks to him in all circumstances. As children of God, we love our heavenly Father. How do we express our love for God? Look at verses 1b-3. “…and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” We express our love for God by taking care of his children. God’s children are not loveable to us. They are like Levi, the tax collector, sitting at his tax booth. Though he was blessed and privileged to be one of God’s people, he sold his birthright to be able to skim profit from the sufferings of his brothers, the people of God. No one could love this man. He got rich by collaborating with the Romans. He was a cheat and a traitor. He didn’t deserve to be a child of God, and nobody liked him. If he were among us, we wouldn’t like him either. But Jesus saw him as a child of God. He called him to follow and become his Bible student. He lived common life together with Levi. Jesus did this because he loved God. Loving God’s children does not come naturally to us. We can easily love ourselves, our spouses and our children. But to love a stranger just because he or she is God’s child feels strange. Meeting students on campus and inviting them to be our Bible students, offering free Bible study, devoting our precious lifetimes to them, does not always feel right. But we love God’s children, because God first loved us. We obey a law of love, loving others more than ourselves. Love is not a feeling; rather it is obedience to God. We love others unconditionally, not because we feel like it, but because we draw near to God, to be conformed to his image. At first, it seems so burdensome to become a one-to-one Bible teacher. Then, we obey God’s command and try it. Strangely don’t feel all that burdened anymore. If we think about it, his burden is very light. Jesus already paid the price for students’ sins. Jesus already bore their sins on the cross. We simply need to bring them to Jesus. Second, Overcome the World by faith (4-5). Let’s read verses 4-5. “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Most people in this world are defeated by the world. Life is very tough; this world is not friendly to God’s children. But Jesus clearly showed us the way to overcome the world. The night before Jesus offered his life on the cross, his heart was heavy. Under those circumstances, who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by sorrow and dread. But Jesus encouraged his disciples. He told them in John 16:33b, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” When St. Paul wrote the epistle of 2 Timothy, he was very old, and his body was broken from a hard life of travel and many persecutions. But he did not say, “Dear Timothy, I’m tired and my back hurts.” Paul said in 2 timothy 4:7-8a, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…” Paul testified with confidence that he won the victory over the world. He was about to pass away. But at the same time he was standing ready to be crowned with the crown of righteousness. This is a familiar story to us, but it is not common in this world. It is a unique testimony of victory in Jesus. In Jesus, Paul overcame the world. How can we overcome the world? Let’s read verse 5 again. “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” One who believes in Jesus is a true victor in life. May people in history perceived that there is a God and a spiritual world. But they didn’t know Jesus, so they made idols and worshiped them. Idols made by men number in the billions. For example, the Greeks developed Hellenism, which is basically the same as humanism. To them, man is the measure of all things. They liked philosophy, science, culture, and sports. They claimed to not believe in God. But strangely, this culture is permeated by Greek mythology and Greek gods. When Paul went to Athens, he found the city filled with idols. Most had names, but one of the idols didn’t even have a name. People throughout history have been seeking God, but their pursuit was always tainted by their sinful desires, so they made idols. Idols do not make people victors in life. This verse teaches that true victors in life are those who overcome the world by believing that Jesus is the Son of God. They are the women and men of faith who believe God sent his one and only Son to this world and made him an atoning sacrifice for their sins. They believe Jesus rescued them out from under the power of darkness into his wonderful light. They believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6). Although he was the Son of God, Jesus came to this world and humbled himself to the state of being a servant. He served us sinners by making his own life a sacrifice for us. Jesus is God whom many ancient peoples were seeking. Jesus is God whom the Magi of the east were seeking in the star. They did not know the name of Jesus, but when they found him they worshiped him. When they put their faith in him, they overcame the world. Each of us experiences victory when we put our faith in Jesus. Students today face overwhelming odds against them. They are bombarded by temptations, struggles and unbelief. But they too can be victorious and overcome the world when they simply believe in Jesus. May we be Bible teachers to Penn State students. May we give them God’s word until they can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so they can have victory. Third, Jesus gives eternal life (6-12). Look at verse 6. “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” John is confronting Gnostic teaching. Gnostics, under the influence of Plato, claimed that spirit is good, and matter is evil. They claimed Jesus could not be a man, and that he could not be the atoning sacrifice. If Jesus took a human form and died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice, he could not be God. But John clearly states that Jesus came in physical form as a man. He was baptized in real water, and shed real blood on the cross. Look at verses 8-9. “…the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.” God’s testimony refers to God’s word, the Bible. The Bible contains a spiritual history of God’s redemptive plan. The Bible teaches the work of God through the lives of men and women. For example Abraham was an ordinary man with ordinary life problems. He was not a mythological construct, but a real person. The Bible teaches how God promised to bless the world through Abraham’s descendants. God fulfilled this promise by sending his Son, Jesus. Abraham believed this promise and became the ancestor of all who believe in God through Jesus Christ. The Bible is God’s testimony about his Son, Jesus. Why is it essential to believe Jesus is the Son of God? Look at verses 11-12. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” It is important to believe that Jesus is the Son of God because only through the Son of God comes eternal life. Men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever (1Pe 1:24,25). Eternal life seems to be something to think about only as we approach the time of death. But look at this verse: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Eternal life starts when we believe in Jesus. John 5:24 says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” When we receive eternal life from God through his Son Jesus Christ, we cross over from death to life. Eternal life starts the moment we accept Jesus personally as my Savior. The one who has the Son, that is, who believes in Jesus, has life, right now. The Spirit of Jesus gives us new life every day. The Spirit of Jesus gives us a new day every day. For those who have eternal life, everything becomes new every day. Your old house becomes your new house. Your old sheep becomes your new sheep. Your old husband becomes your new husband. Those who have eternal life can see the kingdom of God and can enter the kingdom of God. Worldly people ask, “What will be the reward for my lifetime of work?” Those who do not believe in Jesus have no reward, but face the judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” We can be thankful in all circumstances when we remember God gave us Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, to give us eternal life. Fourth, Approach God with confidence (13-21) Look at verses 14-15. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us— whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” To those who believe, Jesus is their best friend and shepherd to whom they can tell everything and ask anything. It is impossible for us to tell everything in our hearts to people. If we try, our words fail us, and they do not understand. We need deep love and fellowship. We need Jesus to be our Father, our Mother, our best friend and confidant. Look at verse 16a. “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” According to verse 16, there are sins that lead to death, and sins that do not lead to death. Everyone commits sins. Those who reject Jesus as the Son of God are not forgiven of their sins. Those who are born of God commit sins as well. We must pray for God to forgive us our debt of sin, as we forgive those who sin against us. We must also pray on behalf of those children of God who fall into sin, that God will give him life. Children of God come to their heavenly Father with repentant hearts. When we do, he purifies us from unrighteousness. We must go through the painful consequences of sin in this world. But when we believe in Jesus, we overcome the world. Look at verse 21. As his final words in this epistle, John says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” Everyone must worship something. Those who don’t know Jesus worship idols. We must worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We must believe in Jesus, and bring others to believe in him too. STUDY QUESTIONS 1. Read verse 1. What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ? What is God’s promise? What does it mean to be born of God? 2. Read verses 2-5. How do we show love for God? How can we love God’s children? (2Co 5:14) Why are God’s commands not burdensome? Why must we be thankful to God? (Ro 1:21-31) 3. Who is it that overcomes the world? (5; Jn 16:33; 2Ti 4:7,8a) How? (4,5) How does believing that Jesus is the Son of God give us victory? Why is faith in Jesus the only way to overcome the world? (Jn 14:6) 4. Read verses 6-12. How is Jesus proved to be perfect God and perfect man? Why is it of eternal importance to believe in the Son of God? (11, 12; 2Co 5:10) What does it mean to have life? (Jn 5:24) 5. Read verses 13-15. Why can we approach God confidently? (13; Ro 5:1,2; Mk 11:24) What does it mean to you that he hears us? What else can we learn here about prayer? 6. Read verses 16-21. How must we help our brothers? Why must we not continue to sin? What kind of world do we live in? How can we escape from the one who is a liar and murderer? (Jn 8:44) Why does John warn against idols?