Monday, April 25, 2022

The Victory that Overcomes the World

 1 John 5:4-10

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.  And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.  If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son.  The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.

Sermon for Quasimodogeniti Sunday                                                4/24/22

The Victory that Overcomes the World

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There is a lot of confusion in the world concerning religion.  There is a great deal of unbelief, of course, but that is not what we want to focus on this morning.  Those who worship false gods, like the Hindu's and the Moslems, and such, are confused, to say the least.  Actually they are what we once would have called pagans.  Then there are those who claim to worship the same God we do - Jews, and the Baha'ai and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and the like.  They also worship false gods, by denying who God is and what He is like and what He wants from us and for us.  Theirs is confusion of a sort too.  We call that paganism as well.  There are also those who do not acknowledge the existence of a god - atheists and Buddhists and so forth.

Our direction this morning really has nothing to do with that sort of confusion and unbelief.  We want to look at the confusion that exists among those who call themselves "Christians."  There is still a great deal of confusion among this group about what the Gospel is and how we access all that it promises and conveys.  What it promises, of course, is the victory of Christ over sin and death and hell.  Our text calls it "the victory that has overcome the world".  That is our focus, this morning, and our theme is "The Victory that Overcomes the World".

"The victory that has overcome the world" is our faith.  Our faith receives all that Christ has won for us.  Our faith receives the forgiveness of sins.  Our faith receives blessings and strengthening.  Our faith receives eternal life.  In this life and in this world we see none of what we receive.  Our flesh experiences none of it.  The world would have us sin and die like the rest of humanity.  Our victory over this desire to destroy is our faith, which shares in the victory of Christ over sin and death and hell.

It is not our will, as so many like to think, that brings us the victory.  Our will is corrupt and sinful even as Christians.  We don't make the choice to believe.  It is not our decision.  Scripture tells us we do not have the ability to make that choice.

Our salvation does not depend on our good behavior, or our good works, or the depth and sincerity of our repentance, or on our doing some sort of penance, or anything like that.  Most religions teach that it does, but this is simply not what the Bible tells us.  The simple truth is that Jesus Christ has won us the victory, and it is ours by grace through faith.  There is nothing else required of us and there is nothing else expected of us, and there is nothing else possible.

Faith is the victory.  By faith we see the things of God and we live in the light of His promises.  By faith people turn from pursuing works and riches and fame and all sorts of things to follow Jesus.  By faith we expect things we have never seen and we struggle to be better people than we really feel that we are.

Not everyone who calls themselves "Christian" agrees – or believes, for that matter.  Some people who want to claim a place in the Christian Church deny the Word of God altogether.  They would tell us that it is a fiction, or a re-telling of history with a decidedly "Jesus-Movement" spin on it.  Some call the Bible Man's Word about God, or Man's encounter with God.  C.S. Lewis once wrote that if Christianity was a myth, then it was a true myth, by which he meant that it was so true to spiritual realities and truth that we could overlook the lack of historical truth in it.  C.S. Lewis was a great writer, but not a great, or orthodox, Christian theologian.

Most who call themselves Christians do not consider the Bible to be false or misleading.  They profess that they believe it is God's Word and honest and true in every word it says.  Their most common problem is that they do not know what it says, or understand what it means, and what they do believe is often in direct contradiction of the Bible.  Most common among the mistakes and confusions of a great many people is the idea of having to earn, deserve, work, merit, live up to, and be somehow worthy of salvation.

For such people, the victory of the Christian faith is often conceived of as managing to stop doing something they really like to do – or something really awful that they can't seem to control their desire to do.  The less ambitious set their sights on making a decision, and praying a prayer.  Still another group considers the victory to be remembering the day that they had a particularly powerful or religious feeling within them, so that they may be certain that they have what it takes - or had it once upon a time.

Our victory, that is to say the victory that overcomes the world, however, is faith – and by that I mean faith in what God has revealed.  Those who try to find the victory elsewhere are calling God a liar, because His Word speaks clearly and teaches the Gospel clearly.  John writes that those who do not believe what God has taught about Christ are guilty of "making God a liar" because they do not believe "the witness that God has borne concerning His Son."  Remember those words the next time someone tries to tell you that sound doctrine is not important, or that feeling good about one another is more important than agreeing on what the Word of God teaches.

John also mentions the three witnesses - the water, and the blood and the Spirit.  This is where John refutes the Gnostic heretics of his day. The Gnostics said that Jesus was fully human, and that at His baptism, the "Eon Christ" descended and took possession of the ordinary man, Jesus, making Jesus a great and wise teacher.  Gnostics also taught that the "Eon Christ" departed from the man Jesus just before the passion, so that all Jesus suffered was merely one ordinary man suffering, and that His death was merely the death of man, not the death of the Son of God for us - and that His death had no particular redemptive power.  This idea would destroy the Gospel, of course.  The Gnostics didn't mind, because they believed that it was knowing and understanding the true nature of the universe, and of God - who they understood as different from the creator of the world - that saved one.  They also denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ because material things – the physical things in and of this world – were evil and undesirable to the Gnostic theology, so who cares about a body?

John was saying here that Jesus came as the Son of God, the Christ, not just by means of a baptism, and not just to teach, but also to suffer and die.  The water is not the only witness, nor the cause of salvation, but the blood shed on the cross is the very blood of the only-begotten of the Father - the Son of God.  Jesus was Christ already at His baptism and He was Christ still at His death - and the witness of the Spirit is added - the Holy Spirit of God.  It is the Spirit who bears witness to Christ, and His witness is truth because the Spirit is truth Himself.

John also makes a Trinitarian statement here - calling the Spirit "the Truth" .  Jesus proclaims God is true and His word is the truth.  Jesus also proclaims that He Himself is the Truth. Now John connects the Holy Spirit here, saying that "the Spirit is the Truth."

He takes this talk of the Spirit one step farther, saying that "The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself."  When you believe in the Son of God - which includes believing all that God reveals to us about Him - then you have the Witness, which is the Truth, which is The Holy Spirit, which is God Himself, within you!  This is something we teach, but I don't think people consider what it means very often.  It means that God is always aware of your situation, and wrapped up in your life.  God reveals this truth to us for our comfort.

John also uses this wonderful truth to contrast those who believe and those who do not.  He says, "The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son."  What a contrast!  The one who believes has God dwelling within him and blessing Him, and the one who does not believe is guilty of calling God a liar, publicly.  He doesn't need to say anything - his unbelief itself asserts that God is dishonest and lying simply by not believing what God has taken the time to reveal.  He is guilty because he has not believed the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.  The witness of God is what He has revealed in Scripture - so false doctrine is more than just a silly error, in the face of God's clear revelation of the truth in Holy Writ, false doctrine is blasphemy - it is calling God a liar.

It is what the world does.  The world proclaims that God is not truthful, and that we cannot trust what He says.  And so, our faith is the victory, just as John teaches us.  We believe, and we have God in us, and we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting and salvation, by grace, and received through faith.  This faith, your faith, this is the victory that overcomes the world.

Your victory is not "out there".   "And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"  "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

No comments: