Connect it to Christ for Confidence // God’s Children Overcome the World
1 John 5:1–6 sermon, 5.13.18
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 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.
Jim and Julie celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary by going to a marriage enrichment seminar. At one point the husbands and wives were separated. The husbands were told to write down the #1 worry for their wives. Jim thought long and hard about his wife’s world and which would concern her the most. Then the light bulb went on and he was so sure he came up with a good answer, the right answer, as he followed the instruction to return to his wife, hold her hand, and talk about it.
“Julie, I know what worries you the most. Me. You worry about me. You always ask about my day, you’re down and concerned when I’m sad or out of sorts; you rejoice when I rejoice. I know how much you love me and how much you think about how I’m doing all the time.” As he looked deep in her eyes, his bubble of love quickly burst as she began to shake her head. “Actually, no, that’s not what I worry about the most. I worry the most about the kids. You’re an adult and I know what’s going on. But God gave me these kids and I think about them, their future, what decisions they’ll make, what faith challenges they’ll face in the world, how are they going to find their way and stay close to Jesus. What will happen to them when I’m not right there in their lives or when I’m gone. Who will be there when they suffer? What will they be thinking when they die?”
No doubt these are huge concerns for any mother. But there are plenty of mothers or parents or caretakers who don’t get the half of it. Christian parents, Christian friends, have a whole different set of concerns to add to the mix when you talk about the truth of sin, death, separation from God, unbelief, Satan and hell!
All of these concerns send us sprinting for the answer to the question at the center of our reading today from 1 John…who is it that overcomes the world? Whose story “turns out OK”?
“Who overcomes the world?” is actually the second of just two questions in all of 1 John. Only twice does John ask a question to draw the listener or reader in so that they carefully think both about the question and its answer. The first question is “Who is the liar?” back in chapter 2. The liar is the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. You want the worst lie - it’s the lie that takes Jesus out of the world, denying both the Father and the Son. You want a rough world, try taking God out of it! What a horrible lie!
But that helps us understand that the world is not a safe place but filled with lies and darkness. Whenever the apostle John speaks of the world, it’s a loaded word that means fallen world, evil world. This is a lost world that is so lost it thinks it’s found. Ever since sin entered it, this world is home to all evil and contributes nothing to life in a relationship with God, not love for God, but hatred, not holiness before God but deep-seated rebellious ways.
So when John talks about the world, he thinks of sinful desires, danger, and death, yes, the very dominion of the devil. That includes your parents and the children they have. Sorry, moms and dads, but you’re not by nature part of the solution, but part of the problem. You give birth to sinners who are by nature dead in sin and objects of God’s wrath. I’d be worried about them too! Think of the life we leave behind if all we have to give the world is ourselves. Underneath all the worldly advice, legacy gifts, hard sweat at work to give the next generation a better life, all the next generation receives from parents is a burial plot next to ours. Welcome to the family!
When John thinks and talks the world, he’s sees all of these harsh realities connected. But here’s the rub. When he thinks and talks about God, do you know what he sees? Connections.
As John writes throughout this letter, he seems to be the master of the run-on sentence, or the paragraph that starts with one topic but ends with another. I’m not sure how modern teachers would grade him for organized thought. Every line has a way of connecting to the next line, every topic like faith in Jesus as Savior, following God’s commands or love for your neighbor, they overlap like the circles in the symbol for the Olympics; they find a way to blend into each other. Listen:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.
Isn’t that crazy? He links together trust that Jesus is the Savior God sent to you, and love for God, and also connected to love for others, especially fellow believers, and finally, holding onto all God’s commands and doing them. But did you hear what’s at the head of the chain? Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is...born of God. This fallen world may give birth to all kinds of misery, but there is another who gives birth and that’s God.
Do you remember when I talked about what John saw when he thought of God and the Christian life? He saw connections. It’s way too simple just to envision God all by himself. Many people think of God as aloof and alone - like if you could take his picture that’s all you’d see. Untouchable and perhaps out-of-touch with us today, glowing with holiness but in a way that always moves out of reach of sinners. A God of such glory he has no idea what it is to suffer and what kind of pain we feel everyday. If only we could get his attention. But he sits on such a lofty throne, always too important to care about each minute of mine, always staring over my shoulder making me sweat it out by judging everything I do, even the thoughts I have.
But what does John see? He sees God in Christ. You can’t think of God without Jesus - no good comes from it! Don’t think of your neighbor without him either, don’t think of death without him, don’t enter the world without him, don’t fight Satan without him, don’t define love without him, don’t think of following God’s Word or keeping his laws without him. You see? John knows that at the heart of any Christian if they are a Christian is Christ alone. Not some lofty God who doesn’t care, but oh-such the opposite. Jesus did more than got his hands dirty among us. He more than showed the world polite kindness and spared a few hours of his precious time. He more than served his Father’s will by washing someone’s foot and helping the poor.
God has rescued the world from its sin, he’s saved us from Satan’s jaws, and plucked us from hell. He did it all in Jesus - the one he sent, the one he loves, the one with whom he said he was well pleased. And he gave us that confidence to believe it too. He blesses us with faith that Jesus’ life is all mine, that his death was even for my sins. The law doesn’t threaten me with sin - I’m holy because of him. The devil is no match for him, any worldly threats against me are no match for him, he gives us his Spirit to struggle against our sinful nature - I don’t just want to sin, I want to please God. He has empowered us by his love to say no to sinful desires. He’s prepared us for suffering in this world and all the more so because we love him. And I know that when I die it has lost its sting and has no victory. Death does nothing to me.
Why does John see a Christian who loves God and loves his neighbor and holds to God’s Word and believes in Jesus as Son of God? One reason! Because God is with us and for us. Jesus has overcome the world and so do believers in him. These are all his works. John knows who Jesus is and what he does as our risen and ascended Lord.
We are not parents, leaders, people who look at the world and see only half of its connections that leave us terrified. Don’t look at half of the world’s reality. Don’t tell only part of the story. Satan sin and sorrow may have their mark all over this place, but the world does not belong to them. We live by faith. Look at death and talk about Jesus. Look at disease and cancer and talk about Jesus. Look at your sin and be honest and talk about Jesus. Look at people and opportunities for love - and see Jesus. Think about Jesus and connect it with people and connect it with his Word. This is the victory, our faith in Jesus and all he brings to our lives here and for eternity.
John knew too well how easily early Christians were led astray from the true God, how quickly they lost Christ at the center, moved away from love for their neighbor and grew lax in moral living and paying close attention to God’s commands.
Well, what has he done? Isn’t the list pretty long!
God has given birth too - and look how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. “Stephen, where did you get your confident prayer to lay your soul in the Father’s hands as they stoned you to death? Where did you get that loving concern, even for your enemies, that you prayed for their forgiveness?”
See, the world is not the only one who gives birth, John says - look at all that God has done!
You are born of God. You are God’s children. These are huge statements in John’s letter and one of his favorites for giving confidence - born of God. God also is giving birth - God also is doing things, but not just any things, victorious things…
he is giving birth to believers right in the heart of unbelief. He gives you holiness right in the darkness of your sin. He preaches truth right in the face of Satan’s lies. He brings to life right fr… He brings heavenly joy right there to those who deserve hell alone.
Not his power to condemn, but his power to bless.
Just as you lament a world tied to so many defeats and dangers, so you rejoice to see God tied to so many victories through his Son. Yes, this is to his glory that we stay here, in this lost world, sharing with it a life it never knew.
First and foremost identification of God’s child will always be this precious trust in Jesus alone for everything. But don’t shrink your faith just to that...see his power spread and link and connect to everything.
When he sees a world with its sinful desires, he sees God give birth to new desires. Satan’s temptations, the Spirit’s conquering power to overcome, the world’s rebellious way to hate God, God gives birth to love for him; death that steals your final breath, Jesus who gives life that never ends.
He does not leave us as orphans like all earthly parents must. He is God, and he is your God and your Father forever! Welcome to the family!
Stephen can say - I know just how God loves
Why? God hasn’t just done one thing...he’s done a lot! Death isn’t so scary and dark that I curse God for letting it happen...Satan doesn’t have the only say in my heart now that God has given me his Spirit and led me to listen to other words and moved me to do his will.
Not just what he took away, but what he brought in and gave to it. This world is fallen and dangerous, but make no mistake, because of Jesus our risen and ascended Lord, there’s more to the world than darkness, there’s a world of Jesus there as well, for wherever his children are, there he is as well.
And they enter a world filled with , he’s talking about a dangerous one that is home to all evil and lacks all true life resources like a relationship with God, holiness, love for God. That’s all gone. , We are by nature dead in sin. We can no more contribute good works that earn God’s favor than a dead log contributes to a leafy-green spring. We are born this way. Thanks, mom and dad. We inherit this as
Here’s the rub - we know this story so well. But there is another life, another story, another source of all that is good and good sounds like a huge understatement. See the world as one completely overcome. Where does Stephen learn to say, “
Too narrow a victory...just to look to God and say “take me home.” It’s also overcoming that
Born of God would have no comfort or even meaning if all this were possible for us. Instead, precisely because of how impossible it was for us on our own, John can point to faith, point to love, point to his Word and instructions at work in your life and say, look at you - born of God!!!
Multiplies these expressions on purpose - to help you identify...
How does this give you confidence? As complex as it gets and as it really is - love everywhere, as many beautiful commands there are for us in Scripture, they are not a burden, because they are not bare or isolated or alone.
Give them birth! Let them hear the name of Jesus and be protected by it in all their complicated lives.
Anti-compartmentalized…The Christian faith is just what you say when you stand in church and recite the creed. Makes connections to everything. An intricate web, of huge knot of many strands, never to be separated from on another. Brace yourself, Christian faith is about to go everywhere.