1 John 5:4-5. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
John is using the language of warfare here. Overcome. Conquer. Victory. To prevail. To defeat an enemy. Wait there’s a war going on? Yes. THE war. The war for your soul, and the souls of all mankind. John presents a battle between two forces. Both forces exist outside of us, and both forces want to control us – the world, and faith.
The world (the cosmos) is, and always has been, John’s greatest concern. The world is everything that opposes God. From immorality to moralism. From being bad to being good. The world stands against the power of the gospel, and against simple faith in God’s glorious grace. The world loves earning, it loves self-righteousness, and it loves to see us all crash and burn when we fail. The world is ruled by the Devil and is hell bent on your destruction.
The world is a force from outside of you that seeks to infiltrate your heart. It seeks control of your thoughts, and your motivations, your affections, and your desires. This is why John warned us about the world, saying:
1 John 2:15-16. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
The world sneaks into us through the eyes of flesh, penetrating the mind and heart. It hijacks our desires and fills us with pride. Pride that can look like anything from meth to ministry. From porn to preaching. The world’s influence makes us think we can control our own lives and earn our own way. The world in us looks at the Law of God and thinks, “with just a little more time I can get it right.” Or, it looks at the Law of God and thinks, “I don’t need this burden, I’ll do things my own way.” Like Adam and Eve in the garden, the world says “You can figure life out for yourself. You got this. Good and evil are now your domain to rule over.” But the world never tells you that the end is despair, and death, and hell. And, it never tells you that there’s a whole other way.
Remember we said there’s TWO forces at work outside of us, both trying to enter our hearts. Yes, the world is one of them, but praise God it will never, ever win. In fact, the world, and its system, has already been defeated by Christ’s cross. If you are in Christ, then the force of faith has defeated the force of the world – And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
We often think that faith is something that we have to find “deep inside” of ourselves. But actually faith is also an outside force that enters into us. The Apostle Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Just as the world enters in through our eyes and flesh, so too faith enters in through our hearing. Faith hears the gospel, it hears the promises of God in Christ Jesus, and then it receives them as a gift of his grace. Faith hears what someone other than ourselves has done for us, and it trusts that person and his work – Jesus the Son of God.
This is why faith is our victory both NOW and in the future. We have overcome the world presently and we will overcome the world someday. How? By our present, ongoing, and future faith in our union with Christ. Trusting that his victory is now our own victory. His overcoming of the world (Jn. 16:33) is now our overcoming of the world.
“To live is Christ” means we are a part of the greatest conquest of all time – the victory of Christ Jesus over the world. Christian, ours is a life of victory. Not barely getting by. Not wondering how things will turn out in the end, hoping for God to come through today with some new miracle. No. Ours is a life of faith. Passive faith that our victory is complete in Christ, with nothing left for us to achieve, or fight for, or even ask for. Love has won! We are more than conquerors – right now and forever – because Jesus has conquered! And now our passive faith becomes active as we stand up to the Devil and his worldly system of selfishness and self-righteousness, and choose to trust God and love others, rather than seek our own way. Choosing today to actively share in Christ’s victory as we hear and believe his promised good news, and live within his overcoming love and grace.
Which force is at work in you lately – the world or faith?
You in Christ
Do you see your life as victory in Christ? Why or why not?
Christ in you
How might your life look different today if you lived it by faith in your overcoming Savior?