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?
Overcomers. This is one of the names of Christ followers in the New Testament. Probably few of us feel like “overcomers” at the tail end of a year filled with pandemic restrictions, hosts of inconveniences, and unexpected twists and turns in our personal lives. No doubt we are looking forward to restrictions being lifted and the prospect of resuming “normal” activities. We have persevered twelve months of precautions and daily decisions related to Covid-19, which is cause for mild celebration. But does that perseverance translate into real victory in our walk with Christ? Some of us may simply have a sense of weariness, which is understandable. I would like to exhort us as Christ followers to consider how we can be those who have victory in Christ
First, remember that you are born of God. To be “born again”, as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter three, is to have God rescue you spiritually. His Holy Spirit makes you a new creation and changes your entire direction and outlook on life. Just as a person does not cause himself or herself to be born physically, we do not cause ourselves to be born again spiritually. We access God by faith, but first we need the Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts. Consider the truth that God has set his love upon you and has adopted you into His family by sheer grace! Nothing can separate us from his love; we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37-39)! This love humbles us, because we realize there is no logical reason why God should save sinful people in the first place. When we meditate on the truth that we are born again by God’s grace, we remain humbled and grateful for our salvation. Remembering that God has rescued us also reminds us that each person we meet is someone who will face eternity either with Christ or without Christ.
Second, choose a posture of compassion towards the world rather than a posture of hostility. Even though Christians are commanded not to “love the world”- the desires of the eyes, the pride of life, and the desires of the flesh, we are still called to a posture of compassion. God wants people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. The culture around us shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to distrust, cynicism, overreactions, accusations, and slander. As Christ followers we are tempted to lower our approach to those standards in order to be heard. But when you read the gospel accounts, what do you notice about Jesus’ primary posture towards people? He did get angry with the Pharisees and religious leaders, disrupting the money changers in the temple, but I think most often he led with compassion. He led with mercy and He valued people who were on the margins of society: tax collectors, lepers, beggars, the blind, men and women of ill-repute, and the poor. This compassion is not the same as always choosing the side of those who call themselves victims. Jesus told his followers to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16) But showing the compassion of Jesus DOES mean getting involved in people’s lives and being willing to inconvenience ourselves. Showing Christ’s compassion does mean choosing to be involved with others at the level of personal resources and on an emotional level. When you feel the world pulling you into its fray of hostility, remember Jesus’ words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). May we be those who choose to care for people, instead of simply choosing sides.
Third, invest yourself in the community of believers in Christ. Notice that 1 John 5:4-5 says that “our faith” is the victory that has overcome the world. No one can overcome the world by his own individual faith, his faith needs to be located in and among others who will come alongside and strengthen him in time of need. When we feel as if we do not have enough faith to endure a particular trial, we ask God for strength AND we ask others to come alongside us. When we face temptation to sin, we identify and avoid tempting situations AS WELL AS asking those close to us to hold us accountable for living according to Christ’s teachings. Whether we have had a triumphant week or a week in which we struggled, we pray individually AND we come together before God in corporate worship. I need other people in my life such as my wife Emily, the Trinity elders, other pastors, friends and counselors. These people speak encouragement into my life and have permission to correct me if they see me straying into worldly thinking or behavior. We live in a world where the “selfie” pose is the norm. Let’s be countercultural and make sure that our faith is not a “selfie” endeavor, but a collective one.
How do we overcome the world? We walk in the light of Christ, and we proclaim that Jesus is the light of the world:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
In Christ, Pastor Jim