"That world with all its allurements is passing away, but those who do God's will remain forever." 1John2,17
"What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?" Mark8,36
"for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1John5,4-5.
"The real Christian overcomes the world by faith; he sees, in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth, that this world is to be renounced and overcome. He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ's example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us." Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (biblehub.com)
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to each as his work is." Revelation22,12
The "World" Is A Real Force
The last two Preaching Hours we focused on The Lord's Voice Above All Others. There are so many voices in our world, each trying to burn itself into our minds and get us to do what it is saying.
But as anointed ones, that's what the word "Christian" means, we live in the realm of faith, which takes us into the supernatural realm, and to an extent takes out of the world, away from worldy voices and allurements, and into the "place" where we can hear the voice of Jesus.
By faith, confidently acting on the promises of God again and again (Gene Scott), we go into a separate place, away from the allurements of the world and the false god of it, Satan. This faith, supernatural in origin and operation, infills us, first as a seed, which then bears its first fruit, baptism in the Spirit, whereby the gifts of service for the body of Christ are unleashed.
This living faith in Jesus gives us an appetite for a a born again faith, and born again life, that overcomes the world, 1John5,4-5.
Last time we focused on two major times when God's people ignored his voice. The first was when the king of Judah in about 600BC did not listen to the Lord, to make and keep peace with Babylon, God's strategy whereby Judah would stay separate, and avoid exile, and await deliverance by the Lord.
The second instance was separation of church and state: "render unto Caesar that which belongs to God to God..." Jesus meant this as a literal rule and historic Christianity got this sepration all wrong, coveting power, wealth and empire. This made "Christians" soldiers of the church, not soldiers for Christ, doing what He says.
Such disobediences to the will and word of God brought the spirit of Babylon, of worldliness and all its allurements into our precious faith, all the voices and allurements of the devil and the flesh.
All have experienced the pull and allure and the voice of the "flesh?" The "flesh" is a very real spiritual force, that if not checked by the yoke of Christ, complicates the lives of the faithful and faithless alike.
Likewise most born again faithers have seen folks under the sway for the devil, the flesh and thw world, crafty folks, cloaked in deceit, bent and committed to evil, who will say or do anything to destroy a child of God, someone born again.
The devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would worship him. And Satan will present himself in some form or person making real propositions to us as well. We don't puff up the devil, and neither do we revile Him- Moses taught us that.
But the fact is we're not not just speaking metaphorically about evil, when we speak of the real evil forces of "the world, the devil, and the flesh." Each of them has a voice, demons in theoir service, and various ways and means of duping us.
"The world" is not just a word, or a metaphor for evil and alienation from the Spirit of God. It is a real and evil force, and unlike us it doesn't get hungry, tired or angry or lonely: "Do not set your hearts on the world or what is in it. Anyone who loves the world does not love the Father. 16 Everything in the world, all that panders to the appetites or entices the eyes, all the arrogance based on wealth, these spring not from the Father but from the world. 17 That world with all its allurements is passing away, but those who do God's will remain forever." 1John2,15-17
Our victory over the world is firstly our resurrection from the dead, and for some reigning over it in the millemial kingdom of God, and then heaven coming down as a new and permanent Jersualem.
Have you ever experienced the moment that the world wants to buy your loyalty? It might be a boss offering you a perk that turns your life and loyalty toward work and greed, rather than God and family. It might be somebody offering a bribe. It might a parent in a third or fourth world country who sells a loved one into slavery, just to procure his or her next meal.
As Matthew Henry puts it, "we must overcome the world or it will overcome us." There is no treading the chaotic waters of the world. Our faith takes us out of the world, or it isn't really a biblical faith. The world is like a sketchy truck or rest stop. We just fuel up, mind our own business, and keep moving on down the road of salvation
We either sink or swim to our lighthouse, Jesus.
Succumbing To The World Or Conquering It Has Real Consequences
You don't have to grow old or cynical to realize that when we Christians open our eyes to evil of the world, we will likely see many prodigals, who drifted away from their precious faith and salvation, who got sucked back into the world, into it's "Easy Money" as Bruce Springsteen puts it. "Easy money" is perhaps the first and most powerful temptation of the world, but the word says we shall earn our keep by the sweat of our brow.
Our faith and whether it overcomes the world, is not a zero sum game. It has real consequences.
The Lord brought me to Hebrews6,4-9 to unpack one of these consequences, in that the world, over long time periods, can reveal us as bad seed. Hebrews is a letter to a bunch of ex Temple Priests, who are nostalgic the worldly ways of the Jerusalem temple, where they were powerful and rich and pampered. There they enjoyed great prestige and favor. And then they found Jesus as their messiah, God in the flesh, both Yahweh and messiah, their new eternal high priest. Hebrews tells them they found a better priest, a better cult, a non worldy faith, all built on better promises.
Our Christian faith has these mighty high claims about Jesus, and in the moment of conversion these better promises are often enough for any of us along toward finishing the race of salvation. But what happens is often we get lazy amidst the high and holy demands of our Christian faith and start to drift back toward the world, nostalgic for our old way of life. We often minimize the fight to stay holy and separate from the world.
Many of us Christians have exprienced the trauma of being led out of a church. It's hard but it's doable and often God's will. In the ancient world of the Greco-Roman Empire, you couldn't just easily opt out of a religion. You had to have a religious clan to hang with, whether you were gung ho or not. The orginal Christians were all Jews, and think of the difficult situation of these backsliding temple priests from the book of Hebrews. They were not going to be welcome back into traditional non Christian Judaism. No they were traitors. They had no easy place for them to go back to, and yet they were backsliding where they were.
In the community of John there were folks who left, 1John2,19: "They went out from us, but they really did not belong to us." Their transition back to Judaism was likely easier than the ex Temple priests. These priests seemed to wanted to have it both ways, be worldy, and have that protection of the Christian group and saying "Lord Lord." The author of Hebrews is exhorting and chastening them one last time.
This is how Hebrews,4-9 critiques this "have it both way Christians: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good of the Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them agin unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, bringesth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak."
This is the serious issue of tares amidst the wheat in the body of Christ. The tares, or weeds, often don't have either the faith courage to repent and stay healthy and productive, or leave the church and publicly live out their hidden sins. So what happens? They just stop living the whole faith. Oh they stay, but stop doing what they know is God's will, stop doing the faith that overcomes the world. They hide in church, in plain sight, staying in, wolves in sheeps clothing.
They don't stop beliveing, even the devils believe, as James notes. They don't stop going to church, as many times as necessary to stay kosher. Their good initial seed of faith has gone bad, and has revealed itself to bear the fruit of the world, the devil and the flesh, the fruit of ongoing unrepentance.
A seed gone bad faith does not overcome the world. It just becomes the worldly weed again, fit for negative judgment.
It's Takes Way More Than A Mental Belief To Conquer the World
Please don't think me a heretic, but 1John2,17 just told us that the only way we can abide in the Father, and not succumb to the allurements of the world, is to do God's will. To do God's will requires an active and lifelong faith. It takes more than a mental belief and "Lord Lord." To do God's will is our path out of the clutches of the world. To do God's will is our faith victory over the world.
This is so important because our goal as Christians is not a one time mental belief in Jesus, a one time profession of faith, and or a career in "Christianity." Our goal is a life of faith, a faith that lives and acts upon His promises, a faith that finishes the salvation race. To stay untarnished by the world His word must, more often than not, become our will too, and then our action. His word says "we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God..." And from what little I know, we'll need to rely on His every word, because it seems like every life situation happens to us, ready or not. Every situation known to humanity comes right up to the door of our souls and challenges us to do God's will, do the word.
It takes more than a mental belief in Jesus to conquer the evil of the world. The author of 1John and James, and all the early Christians, realized this. After the honeymoon stage they were being lured back to the ways and means of the world, by folks who "believed" in Jesus, but didn't do the Lord's will anymore. In John's community we think it was because they wouldn't stop sinning sexually, and this became an issue in that because they couldn't overcome their flesh, they refused to accept the perfect and sinless incarnation of God in the flesh. They were "liars" because at first they knew Jesus was God in the flesh, Acts2,36, this was essential to the initial gospel at Pentecost, and later they lied about it because it showed up their sinning.
Thus they were "antichrists" because they later denied that he was the Christ, the anointed one, both God and man, that is God in the flesh. This God-man Jesus showed us how to withstand the evil forces of the flesh the devil and the world. If we won't accept Jesus as God and Holy man in the flesh, well it's easier to justify our own sins in the flesh, our own devilry, and wordliness.
His incarnation and the mercy and compassion that God showed in becoming a human being was so important that I believe this is why the Father gave all judgement over to Jesus (John5,22), because Jesus alone lived a just and perfect life in the flesh. His incarnation and shed blood for our sins makes him our perfect and just judge on all that is worldly.
His judgement on the wordly people is found at Revelation21,8: "But as for the cowardly [those who refuse to witness], the faithless [those who refuse to do the will of God they know to do], and the obscene [those who adopt Greek sexual mores], the murderers [those who start wars], fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars of every kind [those who knew the truth of the incarnation and the potential for human holiness, and now deny it, choosing wordliness, devilry and fleshliness], the lake of fire that burns with sulpherous flames will be their portion, and that is the second death."
AntiChrist Liars Tried To Take True Christians Back Into World
22 "Who is the liar if not the one who claims that Jesus is not the Christ [God in the flesh]. This is the Antichrist, who denies both the Father and Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son cannot have the Father either; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father too. 24 Let what you heard in the begining [Jesus is God in the flesh, Acts2,36: both Lord, ie Yahweh, and promised messiah, man ] remain in you... 26 So much have I written to you about those who are trying to lead you astray [those under the worldly influence of the flesh, the devil and word- Antichrists, who deny Jesus as God in the flesh]. 27 But as for you , the anointing you received from him remains in you..." 1John2,22-27.
Faith brings the anointing, and doing the Lord's will, keeps that anointing. This is the faith that overcomes the world.
Their faith was all in their heads, their minds turned away from obedience to God. An obedient faith involves more than our minds, but our feet, our ears, our hearts and our whole personality. And later, in the third century when dogma started to define the faith rather than the Word, what we had in our heads became written and recited creeds. So our biblical faith, that included our whole personality, became mostly intellectual, creedal, in our minds. It soon and later became political too, because like the priests in the book of Hebrews, who wouldn't leave, and got lazy about doing things God's way, they prefferred to do them in a worldly way again. (cfRevelation2,6 and 15, Nicolaitans, thier deeds in Ephesian age became doctrine in the Pergamean age).
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to the power of the flesh, which apparently has a mind, and will, of its own: "I do what I do not want to do..." (Romans7,15-20) His remedy was not philosophy, intellectualism and politics, but preaching Christ, Christ crucified, and remembering that the Holy Ghost had made us Temple of Him, "not I who lives," the selfish man, "but Christ in me. the hope of glory," the unselfish man. Only this bible faith of Paul is the faith can stare down the world, the devil and the flesh, and say with Paul that our temptations are merely those common to humankind (1Corinthians10,13).
An intellectual, philosophical, or hypocritical faith, and tares don't conquer the devil, the flesh, and the world. This false faith merely hides out in wordliness, no matter how shiny and politically powerful and "correct" its adherents appear.
Nor Does Quietism, Passivity Conquer the World
Another wordly allure that we might miss if we didn't have such access to the word in our day is the temptation to passivity and spiritual quietism. This is faith that surely believes, but lacks compassion for the brethren. Such faith suffers from a lack of engagement. It is a withdrawing faith, so weak in its expression that we never really get us separate from evil unto holiness, so weak it never really leads up to the love of Jesus being poured out into our hearts.
This passivity was the worldly temptation in the very humble and stressed community that James led in Jerusalem. So James at 2,14ff writes: "What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he hath faith when his actions do nothing to show it? Can that faith save him? 15 Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, 16 and one of you says, 'Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,' but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, wat good is that? 17 So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.
18 But someone may say: 'One chooses faith, another action.' To which I reply: 'Show me this faith you speak of with no actions to prove it, while I by my actions will prove to you my faith. 19 You have faith and belive that there is one God. Excellent! Even demons have faith like that and it makes them tremble. 20 Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?"
The tares-leaders of Hebrews, the fleshly antichrists of 1-3John and the disengaged pietists in Jerusalem have faith that does not conquer the world. Oh brother and sister- they believed up in their heads, but they were not doing the will of God, not acting on the promises and then feasting on the continual infilling of the Holy Ghost that comes when we line up our wills with the word, and by the grace of God put his word and will into practice
Semantics: Some Languages Do Better Than Others Describing The Fullness Of Our True Faith
Some of our difficulty with the biblical reality of serving God with a living and active and overcoming faith is that we in the good old USA and the West (as distinct from the Eastern culture of our bible) have languages that are built upon Western philosophical concepts, not on biblical Hebrew or Aramaic ways of thinking. Often our English and Spanish bibles will refer to "belief" or "creencias," which by definition are found primarily in our heads, rather than our biblical faith which is also found in our feet and hands, and heart, and in our whole personality.
Abraham had more faith in His feet than in His head. He left home in pursuit of God, before he knew in his head where he was going. His faithful feet, not his head, took him where he was going before his head even knew where he was going! Hebrews8,11. If Abraham was just a "believer" and an intellectual westerner, a Greek philosopher, or a church politician, he would have studied the matter, written a philosophical treatise, formed a commitee, or waited for a worldy army before he left his father's house.
Oh if I could learn to be like Abraham and let God do more of my thinking. And let my feet do more of my faithing. You know when you are trying to do a new thing on the internet, and keep clicking on an extra icon, trying to outhink the software, but the software just wants you to click on the icon where you are already at? Likewise we attempt to out-think God, try to get ahead of God, all philosophical, intelleftual, political. This is the definition of worldliness, of western thinking. It is not biblical faithing. No amount of appeal to reason and philosophy can cover up our non biblical thinking. We should just click on the faith icon God puts in front of us, and see what comes up next, rather than doing God's planning for us.
The word says we "know in part, and prophesy in part." I love to prophesy, upon the utmost knowledge that my limited brain can hold, about which "I know in part and prophesy in part! In other words, we have the choice to be the philosopher Christian, the Western one, or the Eastern bible student one, who does what God says, who faiths on the word of God rather than philosophizes about it. Once we start philosophizing about it, we surely change it, and won't do it, and thereby we don't overcome the world.
A life of faith, if I could speak for myself, is truly confounding in a philosophical sense. It is often irrational to our own "reasonable" minds, but it is like Jesus Himself, our way, our life, and our truth.
Or, I'll put it this way. Our knowledge of faith, of his software, our belief in our heads about it, is always going to be less important than the prompt of the Holy Ghost, and the clarity of His voice, His word, and His will. "His ways are not our ways." Our minds are not his mind. Our mind knows a lot less than His, and often only has mental beliefs up there, but his mind, the mind of Jesus, the mind of faith, has already considered everything, and is a perfect mind.
Or let me say it this way, our only mental perfection in relation to God is odedience to His will, not understanding it. Our only mental perfection in relation to His mind and its will for us is simply agreeing to do what He tells us.
The biblical faith mindset is more than our English or Spanish word "belief." Belief is in our head. But our biblical faith is more than a noun, "the sum of things hoped for, the certainty of what we do not see." Hebrews11,1 It is a verb as well, it is a participle, it is "faithing," a noun walking. The ancients of Israel were not commended merely for having the noun of faith, or mental belief, but for their "earnest seeking" of the Lord, for their obedient trust that He would reward them based on their obedient actions, the faith they put into practice according to Hebrews11,2 and James2,21ff:
21 "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offerred up his son Issac on the altar."
I don't think Abraham understood why God would go through all that trouble to give him and Sarah a miraculous son, only the take Him away in a human sacrifice. To think about it at all would be not to do it.
22 "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God [trusted, faithed on], and it was credited to Him as righteousness, and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith [belief] alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
The wicked King Ahab and his wordly Ethiopian consort, Jezabel, believed. That no good worldly prophet Balaam believed in the God of Israel too. But all three were not keen on matching up their beliefs with the trust and obedience that the God they "believed" in requires.
Many of us Christians are Balaams, Ahabs and Jezabels. Oh we believe in Jesus, and we wouldn't let anyone say otherewise. We have seen His power, and His favor on His people. We know from the word and by experience that faith without works is dead. But instead of picking up our own cross and serving the Lord, we become like Balaam. We won't do anything to serve, until someone pays us, or until we know in our heads it's going to pay off for us personally. I'm sure glad Jesus didn't think this way before he offerred us salvation, or we'd still be dead in our sins.
Such a self interested faith does not overcome the world, but bows to it. Balaam's faith invites the world into the church. And once it's in, it never leaves. It just keeps bowing again and again to the local strongman, to Balak, hater and corruptor of God's people. It just bows to the world, the devil and the flesh, no matter how many "Lord Lords" and Halleluijah's get thrown into the mix.
Now I am not saying we gospel laborors should not be paid. The ox should not be muzzled while its threshing. Oxes should be paid. Laborers in the vineyard should be paid. And Jesus raised money on which to live and minister. But there's a way that our service now comes with a bill of fare, with the meter running, with the expectation of some sort of immediate payoff, as if we're funeral directors with a la carte prices, merely for putting our faith into practice.
No, we put our faith into practice because that's God's will, and that's how we overcome the world.
People sometimes ask me why do I spend so much time talking to people? And I know I have talked about the word and the Lord and testimony long after even "Christian" folks have checked out. I'm sorry you checked out. I'm sorry you are so important and in such a hurry. Well as a pastor, why would I rush with God's people? And how could I ever guide anyone unless I've heard their story, and understand where they are at, where they came from, and where they want to go? A shepherd knows his sheep.
So why should I be looking at my watch, as long as we're getting somewhere.
How many of us Christians are willing to stay in a conversation long enough to get to the point of even knowing each other? Now many do, but we're sort of doing our Christianity with a "look-at-your-watch, the meter running" type of wordliness: tax, tithe, charge 'em, fleece 'em at every turn is a devilish and worldy spirit that has invaded so many "Christian" spaces. It's a worldy spirit of busyness and business, time is money don't you know. It is an artful dodger churchy type of spirit.
In our like precious faith, time is not money. Jesus did His ministry, talking to His people. He dissapeared out of sight too, to get some rest, and everybody has to do that, but it was his enemies who he told to be quick about their final business. It was his enemies who are quick and dirty in the end.
Faith More Than Word Games
Anyway, faith and faithing is way more than our beliefs, or creencias, and hopes of wordly payoffs. There is no sepration in the bible between believing in our head, and professing'Jesus is Lord,' and moving our feet and hands to do His will.
Now some doctrines in our heads are occasionally important, but clinging to Him for dear life as savior and Lord is the essence of our faith. Confidently acting on His promises is of the essence of our faith too. Philosophy and debating about things are the stuff the world. What good is it to know Jesus' example of service if we are not going to follow his example? What good is it to know the story of salvation if we are not going to spread it? What good is it to have a holy witness, if we are not going to use it for His kingdom?
Our Core Beliefs Lead to Core Actions Of Obedient Faith
"One Lord. One Faith. One baptism" says the word.
One Lord, so what do we do? We obey Him!
"One faith." That is, one gospel, not 1000 gospels, one gospel. We have no right to make them up gospels as we go along, for the sake of efficiency and hierarchy, and call it good. That's worldliness. What do we do? Live this one faith.
"One [adult] baptism! Baptism is personal faith itself. It is James2,24 "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." It's not a works righteousness. That's a philosophical way of attacking our biblical faith, a way and faith that doesn't conquer the world. Adult water baptism is faith in action, and it conquers the world by putting us into a new personal covenant with the Lord of all.
A non adult baptism faith is like the little kid always asking "Why?" to everything his parent tells him to do. If you have to answer that question go to Mark16,16: "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." Doing his will is our overcoming faith.
One way fully into His body. Don't argue with me about it, argue with Him, form a committee that argues with the word. Publish a three ring binder filled with hundred dogmas and beliefs, like infant baptism, or no baptism at all.
Circumcision for babies was the way the Jews enter their people. But adult baptism with personal faith is the way bible believers enter the new body of Christ. And please don't tell me about a whole family being baptized in Acts chapter so and so. This is just more philosophy and sophistry and debating skills. No we'll stick with the expressed written will of God, and the practice of the early church that overcame the world.
It's time for us Christians to throw away our own "beliefs" and language deficits and do his word, his will, to do our One Faith, and stop with the quibbling philosophies!
Only By Graceful Faith Will We Repent Of False And Wordly Beliefs
Only when we realize that we have overemphasized the mental assent and thus compromised our faith will we understand what 1John2,17 means by saying that we overcome the world by doing the Lord's will.
What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our souls by failing to do the will of God?
John7,38 (Interlinear bible): "The one believing into me, as Scripture said, 'Out of his belly [Holy Ghost baptism] will flow rivers of living water [will flow Jesus and His gifts]." If our more philosphically based English was more like biblical Aramaic, it would read "Everyone who trusts in me, just as scriptures have said, out of ..." Aramaic Bible in Plain English.
"Believing" here is a participle, a noun (belief) walking. "Trusts" here the Aramaic to English is a big verb, a global verb, closer to the full and active idea of biblical faith, trusting God, hanging our lives on God's promises, just as Jesus hung himself on the cross. Beliefs leave us with a narrow and weak faith, whereas trusting Jesus, and acting on the promises, leaves us with a broad and conquering faith, that gives us an overflow of love for some sinners who haven't heard the gospel.
This verse John7,38 could just have easily and more accurately said "the one faithing into me...." That is the one holds fast to me, runs to me, clings to me as Lord, throws his life by trust into mine, he will get full of me and my Spirit (Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of NT: n.4100. p.511 (Baker,1977).
We're more than believers, we are overcomers of the world, the devil and the flesh by our true faith. We act upon the promises, repent as necessary, get up one day after another, doing the will of God, living a life of faith, not a life with a dusty philosphical political catalogue of worldy philosophy, but a true and real faith that lives what we profess.
A Faith That Conquers The World Takes Us Places
This overcomers faith takes us places and will continue to take us places.
It takes us in the place of healing.
It takes us to heaven.
It takes us into the promised land, the millenial kingdom.
It takes us into the full truth of the word, and the truth of his and our testrimony.
It takes us into the Baptism of the Spirit which gives us an elevated and altered consciousness. The world is selling us all sorts of altered consciousness, to forget this and avoid that, and "have fun" and "live a little." But our Holy Ghost baptism mind has given me an altered state of mind, a mind whereby I can rise above the flesh, a mind that, occasionally anyway, has compassion on the lost and hurting, that realizes that there are folks who have never truly heard the gospel or experienced the forgiveness of man or God. "I love to tell the story..."
It takes us to a place of human respect that has overcome human respect, a place of human dignity, beyond human dignity.
This overcoming faith takes us into the compulsion of love, whereby our love capacity expands, and thereby we spread this gospel of His saving grace, praise his high and holy Name.
Sooner or later this overcoming faith will take us all face to face with Jesus, friend and Lord, and our just judge.
This Conquering Faith Adds Up To Our Life's "Work"
Our principal text today is 1John2,17: "That world with all its allurements is passing away, but those who do God's will remain forever."
We've talked about the liberation of acting on God's will, and surely our works are as filthy rags, but when our wills get matched to His will, those rags get washed in the blood of the lamb and become beautiful, and add up to something.
How's your life or my life going to add up in the end? The word of God at Revelation 22,12: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to each according to each as his work is." Does your life's work for the gospel, for Jesus, add up to something?
The REB renders it even more plainly: "I am coming soon, and bringing my recompense to repay everyone according to what he has done!"
Galatians6,4 says "But let each one prove [over time, over time, over time] his work..."
My friends to overcome the world we are faced with the choice to do God's will or contradict it, to live our faith, or make up our own as we go along. It's our choice. But our God is watching. Psalm11,4 has put the fear of God into me many times "His eyelids are looking down and testing the sons of men." It is him to whom we prove our faithfulness. And yet so many churches are gilled up with people trying to prove their own righteousness to the worldy men and women who run them. No it is Jesus who will judge our life's work. And with Him as judge we all should like our chances. I'll take the Lord's judgement over the world's judgement any day for the week.
It is our supernatural gift of faith, expressed over a lifetime of service, not just in a moment, whereby each of us overcomes the world. Without a living and true faith it is impossible to please God, and imposssible to overcome the world, impossible for our life's work to add up in the end.
Five Obedient Acts of Faith That Conquer The World.
1. Surrender Our Will To Jesus
2. 1Peter5,7: "Cast all You Cares On Him Because He Cares For You." (worry is a sin)
3. Matthew6,25: Worship Our Living God Not Money- One Or The Other
4. Right Ordered Family That Love And Worships Him Above All, not itself, or father or mother, or children, or love each other more than God.
5. Full And Final Stand On The Word Of Our Gospel Testimony
Surrendering To Jesus First Conquers Ourselves And Thereby Free To Faith
I'm going to preach on numbers 1 and 5 here, not because the other three aren't as important, but because these two form the book ends of an overcoming faith, the beging and end of an active and true faith. Our faith begins with the surrender to our Lord and savior and is completed, made perfect by persevering witness.
Our custom here to go into some depth. I realize that the trend in preaching and the blogosphere is lots of short lists, bullit points, action items, and keeping things compact, and I totally see the wisdom of this. I'm not fighting it. I agree with it, but I also think in depth preaching, that takes a larger overview once in awhile, is what takes us to a higher faith, and victory over the world, and brings us into that zone of Spiritual overcoming..
I started to get a real sense of this idea of a conquering faith when I listened to Gene Scott on short wave radio at night, through the overnight. I could go to sleep as he was preaching for an hour on one verse already, and then I'd roll over two or three hours later and he would still be on that same verse. So forgive me if I think 50 miniute sermons are not one minute too long.
But a good thing about Christianity in our day and age is that we faithers have this potential to be great and quick listeners, so as to actually help others, because most of us have been trained up in really listening. Christians, who love theword, know how to listen. Construction guys collect more and more equipment as they succeed in their line of work, and we Christians gather up more and more of an ability to listen. This is in such contrast to the the rest of the world, which really really has to make a great effort to listen to anybody.
1. By Faith Be Still And Surrender Our Will To Jesus
The Word says 'be still and know I am God.' Be still and hear his voice. Be still, that's a great act of faith nowadays. By faith, be still make your decision in faith for Jesus and overcome the world.
"What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?" Mark8,36.
We can't overcome the world unless we recognize and protect the health of our eternal soul. Sometimes we have to be still just to keep our souls about us. Being still, recognizing that we have a soul. Just recognizing we have a soul is an act of faith, and reminds us we want to stay alive forever, and for that to happen we have to be fed other worldy food.
The first way for our soul to stay alive in faith and overcome the world is to surrender to Jesus once and for all, and then again and again, if you know what I mean. Once and for all, that's exactly how it should be, but again and again works too.
There's a paradox in this sermon. We are talking about our faith's victory over the world, but now saying that this victory comes by way of surrender, by yielding up our lives to Jesus. "Not my will be done but yours."
To surrender my will once and again I have to remember again and again that my soul was bought at a great price, the price of the precious blood of My Lord on Calvary. He surrendered for me, and now I surrender in gratitude by faith to and for Him. And after this, I'm forever realizing I am not my own. I owe him a debt I couldn't pay, as the song says.
There's no way to overcome the world without surrendering our wills to the first overcomer, the risen Jesus: "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground, it remains just a grain of wheat." (John12,24) He surrendered for us. He was that grain of wheat. We now surrender to Him. We pick up our cross, fall to the ground and die too, and follow Him.
We die to ourselves, not literally perhaps, but our will dies to itself.
I'm very familiar with Psalm32,9 in regard to the surrender of my will. The Lord sends me here when I need to surrender my will once again: "Do not be like horse and mule which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you."
I'm helped here by a selection from Oswald Chambers' book 'My Utmost For His Highest." (Barbour 1963, 189) The selection is "After Surrender Then What." Chambers says this surrender of the will is a once and done thing. I wouldn't go that far. I think our faith practice requires surrender again and again, death to ourselves again and again, but I do think it gets easier after the first surrender, after our first death to ourselves.
His key point is that surrender is not really about our actions, our external life, going to the in laws house for vacation or helping a spouse clean house, but about the surrender of our personal will. Chambers explains "There are very few crises in life; the great crisis is the surrender of the will."
Surrender of our personal will is also clearly behind the gospel image of being yoked to Jesus. "Put on my yoke and learn from me." This is a submission between Jesus and each of us, and we are very unequal partners. Clearly Jesus is the stronger and guiding side of the yoke. His will and work capacity is great, while we can't do anything without him.
Imagine if your bicycle was yoked to a semi truck.
But Chambers notes God never acts like the semi truck: "God never crushes a man's will into surrender, He never beseeches him, He waits until the man yields up his will to Him. That battle never needs to be refought."
If we want to buck and bray and be self willed, God lets us have our bellyfull of that. He's not a beggar. He's not a nagger. He doesn't scream and shout and get abusive to show he cares. He just invites us in faith to yield our will in faith to him, and this faitrh choice is how we overcome the world.
Chambers lists three types of Surrender:
1. Surrender For Deliverance: "Come unto me and I will give you rest."
There are so many perplexing and half understood things about serving God, about our families, about our life's work, about our relationships. And thus our wills can become a jumble, but Chambers stays on point: "Whatever is perplexing heart or mind is a call to the will- "Come unto me." We surrender ourselves by say asking Him to tell what is going on in all these areas of our life. And once he informs our mind, we allow His Spirit to put our our wills and spirits at rest. To be at rest is to be surrendered to Jesus and delivered from perplexity.
But it's sure difficult to be delivered from our lack of peace, when we haven't surrendered our will to Jesus.
The way the Lord puts my will into the surrender-rest mode is I ask the Lord for chapter and verse, and he gives it to me, and then even better, he gives a concrete take away from the verse. Then I'm at rest. Then my will and I relax, because he just lined up my will with His word and his will. The we are well on our way to doing his word, and conquering the world. This is our faith.
2. Surrender For Devotion "If any man come after me, let Him deny himself." Once we get over oursleves, its time brag on Him. It's time for a whole new level of devotion. This may take a while. "I chose to follow Him therefore, sooner or later it's time to get over myself." There's a rest in that. We have given up some of the "I" and "I" and "I" all the time. Now we're his problem. That's a good thing. If we're His problem no one can ever count us out. If we're His problem, no one can ever kick us to the curb. If we're His problem, we always have someone to listen and give us good advice. If we're his problem by faith we will always overcome.
If we're His problem, and given him our will, we are left solely devoted to him.
Some of you good parents out there, the world tells you that you shouldn't deny your kids much of anything. It tells you they should have a lot of material things. Material things aren't bad perse, but teaching kids not to deny themselves material things once in a while is hinderance in this life. What if the economy goes down the tubes? What if they get sick, divorced, go bankrupt, and all they know is more and more consumption? So mad so sad.
And the world says to us adults that if kids don't get all they want they are going to be unhappy, and that's your problem. No, your kids are not your problem, they are God's gift to you. They were and are His children before they are your children. They were in his mind beftre they were a twinkle in your eye.
You have dedicated their lives to God as babies, now it's time for you to teach them devotoon to God, rather devotion to material things and mammon, the god of money. It's your turn to say in faith "Look at the birds of the air, they neither toil and spin, and and yet he feeds them." So, how much more our family!
It's strange that good Christian parents do all they can to provide materially for their children, but whoops these same kids might actually learn that Mammon is jealous god, and expects obedience too, obedience to debt and lack of peace.
Doing God's will in faith overcomes the world. God's will for raising children is "Train up a child in the way he should go [surrendering their own will to God]; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs22,6.
Surrender For Death
Jesus hinted to Peter that he was going to be martyred when he said at John21,18-19: "when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where yoo wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and some one else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. [crucifiction]"
We don't choose the day or the hour, or manner of, our death, but our Christian faith is at its best precisely in death. Death touched upon our core belief that we expect to live forever. That's our faith. Funeral days are the easiest sermons to understand because everbody at a funeral is experiencing a test run for his or her own death and asking "will I have faith when my own life is finally surrendered into Jesus' hands?"
As Chambers notes beware of a surrender of our will to Jesus in ecstasy, better one that involves some death to ourselves. A surrender in ecstasy- that's fun and often blessed- but we might take that back, thinking the ecstasy will come back when we make up with God again. Chambers is right, every true surrender always has a note of real death to ourselves in it. Think perhaps of a sickness that you or a loved one has sufferred. Getting healthy involves the real death of thinking oursleves invincible. Rehab has a bit of real deal in it. Surrender unto sugery- we might never wake up again, and another will clothe us, has a note of real death in it.
Surrender is an essential part of our personal faith in Jesus, a faith that overcomes the world. It's strange- the victory of our faith over the world begins in weakness, in surrender to Jesus Himself, and His will.
5. Full And Final Stand On Our Gospel Testimony
Our gospel testimony is the final bookend of our overcoming faith.
There's two types of gospel testimony.
Our personal testimony and the core beliefs of the written gospel itself.
Our personal testimony is made up of our firm life-faith stance, all we say and do and think and are. This faith testimony overcomes the world, the devil and the flesh. Our personal testimony is all the indivudual acts of conquering faith that add up to our life's work, according to Revelation22,12 and Galatians6,4 for which we will be rightly judged by Jesus.
Here's some more relevant scriptures:
Revelation12,10-11: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down [to earth]. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the lamb [atonement of Jesus- His blood makes our peace with God and washes our sins away] and the word of their testimony; and they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."
Romans12,21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome the evil with good."
1John4,4: "Youy dear children, are from God and have overcome them [antichrists], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."
1John5,4: "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 he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."
Revelation22,9: angel says "I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and all who keep the words of this book."
This preaching right here might have what you perceive as a distinctly Pentecostal flavor, but it's simply a distinctly biblical, first church flavor. We don't just gain salvation by a one time profession. We gain it by living out a life of faith, unto the end. So we have a testimony, that begins with God's graceful call to salvation and end with a final perseverance in the faith.
Our personal testimonies include all we have seen and experienced in our life of faith, all the blessings we have received from Jesus, all the challenges in faith we have overcome, all the spiritual and physical healings we have recived. All the jams and snares we have escaped by the Lord's favor and miracles.
Pentecostal churches rightly provide a lot of personal testimonies, because people get blessed hearing that what he's done for me, he'll do for you.
That's one side of our testimony, our personal testimony. The other side is the our objective testimony regarding who Jesus is, and what the gospel is: He is the Lord and messiah, the Christ, God in the flesh, the anointed One of Israel. He is the son of God. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to who every knew will bow. He is our one savior and redeemer. Obejective testimony is all the core bible doctrine that define our faith.
The Caesars from Rome wanted to be called "Lord." The Bishops of old and landowners in the middle ages all wanted to be called "Lord," but we have a testimony to "ONE Lord," One Faith, One baptism" and to a Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lord. This represents the objective mandate of of our testimony, that overcomes the world, the devil, and the flesh. One doesn't negotiate or compromise Jesus, or change who he is, so likewise, one doesn't negotiate, compromise or change the gospel.
It is what it is, and submitting to it's objective nature is part of our testimony. I'm going to preach a full hour this next time.
All this essential boiled down bible faith, both personal testimony, and objective gospel testimony adds up to our distinctive "testimony" as Christians, adds up to keeping the word, in all that we say and do and have and have done for the Lord.
Our testimony is what makes us distinct from the world, separate from the world, free from the world, and conquering over the world.
So the idea is to keep our testimony from the begining of our faith life to the end. Keeping our testimony is just like what Revelation22,9 refers to as keeping the words of the book of Revelation. Revelation22,9 equates all who keep the word of Revelation with the prophet who wrote it, and the fellow prophets throughout the whole history of the church. This is to say is what is great about prophets and all Christians is that we do the will of God, that is, keep the word, and this, according to 1John2,17, is how we overcome the world, how we remain in and with God.
So would that we were all prophets, the ones who keep the word, the ones who tell forth the priorities and principles of God.
Faith overcomers are rooted in Jesus. "Faith" and "Jesus" and "gospel salvation" and testimony are not just words in three ring binders- they are part and parcel of an overcomers life. They are living spiritual forces that counteract and overcome the evil pull of the world the devil and the flesh in our lives.
We overcome the world by speaking out and up for the gospel, words that come out of our own mouths. Not to name it and claim it, but to be true Christians and and live our saving faith. Speaking up for the gospel is part of who we are. We don't leave this up to others. An overcomer doesn't stay silent when it time to say "Jesus is Lord." Doesn't say silent when a fruend needs an advocate, doesn't stay silent when a lost soul has never heard the gospel.
They realize that our victory over this world is not based on our family name and the wealth, or what ethnic clan or tribe we come from, nor our race or any other wordly status marker. Oyur victory comes by our choice to speak up and spread the saving and merciful and life changing gospel word that was given to us, as a precious faith, a precious testimony to Jesus risen from the dead.
My favorite verse in all the NT scriptures perhaps is Mark10,29-30 "No one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age..." It's my favorite because there are times when I don't know where Jesus is at, when we don't feel his close by.
When Jesus feels far away, we lay down our lives for the gospel, for the gospel first and foremost, good weather bad weather, feeling good, feeling just OK?
It's my favorite because I may forget what Jesus would do. But I'll never forget the gospel. We all know it!
I don't know what Jesus is saying in certain situations, and I may not be listening in certain situations. But I always know what the gospel is. One Lord. One faith. One Baptism. One Savior. One King. One Healer. One mediator, between God and humankind. And "God so loved the world that he have you and me His only son that whomsover would believe would have eternal life with Him." And here's a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
We can all always testify to these things. We can always testify to the words and miracles of hope and faith that we have all experienced from Him!
Our biblical testimony, both personal and objective, is really important. It is our means to a full and final perseverance, to finishing the new life of faith the Lord gave us, an eternal life with Him, a faith and a life and a life's work that adds up to something.
Conclusion: Will We Waste The Blood Or Testify To The End And Overcome?
I'm going to end with a conclusuon that is perhaps even more plainspoken than usual. And then give a prophetic word.
If we call oursleves Christians, we best live our faith in such a way that it actually does the will of God, actually overcomes the world, and keeps us always close to God, so that we always remain with Him. To live our faith in any other way is pointless and unbiblical. An overcoming faith, a true, active, engaged and empowered faith is the only faith that saves us in the end.
Any plain reading of the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation, teaches that there are tares in the one "Christian" field and that not everybody presently in that field is going to be saved.
Or think of it this way, when I meet Jesus in judgement, one of the things I want to say is "I didn't waste your shed blood." I didn't waste your blood for you and it got me out of he false flow of the world and into your gospel flow."
Now my personal testimony of course is not your personal testimony, but the fact is His shed blood was meant to make us all overcomers, and how I pray we could all say together, in One Spirit and One Faith "We all shall overcome..." escape this fallen world that has gripped so many.
Sons of Esau Or Sons Of Jacob In The End
I'll end with a word that the Lord gave me:
"The sons and daughters of Esau are the sons and daughters of this world. They have traded their birthright for a plate of beans, for the world and all it offers. They have wasted my blood and profaned their temples,
whereas the Sons and daughters of Jacob have sought the promises, and put oil on the anointed stone of the house of God (cfGen.28,18)."
"There are sons and daughters of Jacob in this final age, even my followers, "Christians. They, like the Apostles of old (cf Revelation21,14), by their testimony, gird up with me the gates of the future Jersualem, wherein I will reign for a thousand years. These Christian witnesses by their faith today even provide hope for my people Israel, the 12 tribes, yet to fully know me, who will one day see me and my salvation and come through those same gates in my Name, and know me too as their one Lord, Savior and foundation (cf Revelation21,12)."
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...