Overcoming the World

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

I John 5:4-5 "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God."

Introduction: I recently read where one believer was thanking another believer for teaching them how to be in the world but not of the world. The word used here for world is KOSMOS and it suggests the world system designed to lure us away from doing the will of God.

John said in another place "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." We are to love people but are to make a clear distinction between people and the values and principles adopted by the world to dilute the truth of God.

The word overcome is the Greek term NIKAO and it means to conquer, vanquish or overcome. The victory over the world has been achieved by our Savior, the Lord Himself. On the basis of that past victory, the apostle exhorts us to live like those who are conquerors - not the conquered!

1. When Did John Hear This First? (John 16:28-33)

In this passage the Lord highlighted three important concepts:

  1. Peace - He gives permanent peace, not merely passing peace. Compare with John 14:27 where He says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

  2. Tribulation - This is the "grace tribulation" not the "great tribulation." While believers remain on earth they are to expect tribulation. As the world system drifts farther away from biblical principles then the tribulation will increase.

  3. Overcome - Because He has overcome the world then we should daily avoid sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate. Christians need not be dominated by the tyranny of the urgent. There is no need for last-minute, desperate heroics - we know who wins. It dishonors the Lord when we live as if the ultimate outcome may still be in doubt.

2. What Does This Look Like? (Romans 12:19-21)

Here Paul says "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Sometimes we are tempted to fight evil as if the victory depended upon us. In desperation we may resort to the same tactics as the world in an effort to defeat them. We see this all over the world today where many are terrorized and killed "in the name of God."

Such people are trying to win the battle. Our Lord assures us that the outcome of the battle has been decided. Waging war against the world cannot honor God if we use the weapons from the world's arsenal and justify their use by labeling them as "Christian."

  1. Vengeance is God's business, not yours (12:19-20)

  2. Respond to evil with good (12:21)

    We cannot "get even" because we never know what even is. Let God determine that.

3. How Can This Be Achieved? (I John 5:4-5)

  1. You must be born of God (5:4a)

  2. You must believe in God (5:4b-5)

4. How Does This All End? (Revelation 3:21-22)

  1. There will be a division between people of faith and faithful people. Read Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:4-5, 3:12 and 3:21.

  2. There will be a division between religion and regeneration (17:13-14)

  3. There will be the ultimate separation between overcomers and those who were overcome (21:7-8)

Conclusion: In order to get the full impact of this message you will need to read the Scriptures very carefully. If your plan is to wait and see "who wins" then you are depnding on sight and not faith.

The whole emphasis on the "overcomer" in Scripture is that you need to live in the present as if what has happened in the past is true and assures you of the future outcome.

Am I a soldier of the cross? A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease?
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign - increase my courage Lord!
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.

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