Nearly every single day, I invariably have at least one encounter with someone struggling in their behavior to some degree. I am not speaking about people of the world here, but about believers. People who genuinely want to “do the right thing.” but find themselves incapable of accomplishing their goal. This should not be surprising, because as we have been studying in the scriptures, it is very clear that we have no ability to perform within ourselves. Our victory does not come from our own self-effort, striving or willpower.
This does not mean that we have to live in defeat. There is a source of strength, there is an avenue of victory over the world – though it may not come the way that you expect. Many believers actually think that victory only comes by buckling down, gritting your teeth and clenching your fist tighter – in other words through “trying harder”, but this is not what the Bible teaches. What we will be studying today is how to have true victory, through Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin today by reading 1st John 5:4-5:
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Now right away, we have an element of detail here at the beginning of verse 4. It says whatever is born of God… This includes you yourself. That’s the first point. You must start by accepting the fact that you are born of God. I know that we all as believers often automatically agree to this without thinking, like “oh yeah, sure I am born of God!” but stop and settle this fact in the depths of your spirit. You are born of God – take that fact in and receive it for all that it is worth.
Think of the king of a nation. If you were born into that family, you would have prestige, you would have privileges that commoners would not enjoy. How much more then should you have such things being born of God Himself! I want you to stop the low-minded mentality of worthlessness and start seeing how the Bible is describing you as a beloved child of almighty God; because this is actually your reality in Christ Jesus today.
So what are some of the privileges that we enjoy when we are born of God? Well, there is one right in verse 4 here: overcoming the world. That word “overcome” used here means to subdue, conquer and be victorious over. And this victory is an assurance; it is not a maybe victory. It’s not as if you have 50/50 chance of being victorious over the world… No, it’s an absolute certainty.
Also, I want you to take notice that this assurance does not stop with just you, because the text says whatever is born of God… It doesn’t say “whoever” but “whatever”; this is an important detail, because this means that anything that is born of God carries with it the assurance of overcoming the world. This includes, your God-inspired undertakings, if they are truly born of God, they have an assurance of overcoming the world. This includes your God-given destiny, it will overcome the world. This includes your relationship – if it is born of God, it will overcome the world. This is an absolute fact from verse 4 here.
Now, how exactly does this victory come about? What is the vehicle by which this victory travels? This is where the rest of verse 4 and verse 5 comes in. It says …and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Now faith in what exactly? Because there’s a great amount of information out there today, all pointing to this solution or that solution, meditation techniques, new philosophies, medications, and all manner of different things to learn or try… and that’s precisely why verse 5 exists in the scriptures: Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? It is the faith and belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God, that brings the victory over the world. And it does not come through any other thing or any other person.
I have encountered many different people who had faith and belief that this thing or that person would supply their needs and save them from the pain or turmoil that they were in; and I have also been there to pick up the pieces when that other thing fell through and they hit rock bottom. Make no mistake about it, verse 5 is not there by accident or coincidence. If you are trusting in something or someone other than Jesus Christ, the world will eat you alive. (And that includes trusting in yourself as well). However the good news is that as you trust in Christ, the world will not even be able to touch you.
So let’s examine so ways that this can be applied to our life. Turn to Romans 7:18-21:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
Verse 18 is especially important, and most people miss it or don’t pay any attention to it, because verse 19 is so popular that we tend to skip over 18. But look at what verse 18 is saying here For I know that in me (that is in my flesh), dwells no good thing. It’s interesting that Paul starts off by saying that he knows this, because there are many believers today who do not know this at all. Many people are still looking to find some good in their flesh and they are trying to serve God by their own self and performance, and coming up short… yet still thinking that just because they are trying their best that God will somehow accept their efforts. Not realizing that the perfect law of God demands perfect performance (James 2:10). Your performance and behavior is not the answer. The second-half of verse 18 says: for to will is present with me; we all have the desire to do good – but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Paul, the very same Pail who in Philippians 3:5 was circumcised on the eighth day, was from the stock of Israel and from the tribe of Benjamin, was a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee of the Law… this same Paul says that he has found no way to perform that which is good. Again, the answer is not in your performance.
Following this comes the very famous verse 19: The good that I want to do, I don’t do it, but the evil that I don’t want to do, that I end up doing. I think we all have been there and can fully agree to that.
Then we see something very enlightening in verses 20 and 21: That when we do the things that we don’t want to do, it is no longer us that is doing them, but the sin nature that dwells in us. The majority of believers still have not recognized this distinction.
Do you still feel like you have failed when you do something that you really didn’t want to do in your spirit? Do you believe that you are still “a sinner”? We need to start making the distinction that Paul is making here… that though we still have this sinful flesh, that is not really who we are anymore. It is no longer us that sins, but the sin nature inside of us. However this sin nature is not us anymore. We should not identify with this old nature anymore, but with the reality of who we are in Christ Jesus.
You see, it’s the enemy who comes at us when we do something wrong, and says “See! You really haven’t changed! It’s all a farce and doesn’t really work! You’re still a dirty, rotten sinner!”.
That is the enemy trying to remind you of who you were! However, our response should be to remain in the faith of who we really are in Christ Jesus! Just as Paul is saying here, it is no longer I who sin, but the sinful flesh nature that dwells in me. It is “present with me” (verse 21), but it is not who I am any more.
Paul then goes on to say in verse 24:
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Again it is interesting that he says who shall deliver me?
The answer is not an “it”, it’s not a “thing”. It’s not how hard you try or how well you perform. The answer is not found in what Bible reading plan you use, or what fasting regiment you follow. The answer only comes from the person of Jesus Christ, as is made clear in the next verse of 25:
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
There’s even more detail here. And I love the way that this verse begins… I thank my God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul immediately shifts from utter despair, to thankfulness! He changes right from “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me…” to “I found the deliverer! Jesus!”.
And notice what he says here: I thank my God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is important because a lot of people think that they are thanking God through their performance and behavior. As we mentioned earlier, they think that God is somehow pleased by their imperfect efforts to try and keep the law, that demands perfect obedience. But no my friends. God is not pleased when you try to stay on Mount Sinai, when He Himself has paid such a high price to move you to Mount Zion.
The real way to thank God today, is through Jesus Christ our Lord. By remaining in thankfulness about what Jesus has done. By holding on to the faith of who you are in Him. Notice that the verse goes on to say: So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; How is it that we serve the law of God today? With our mind! The battle that we fight now is not with carnal weapons, but in our mind! (2nd Corinthians 10:4) Every time the enemy tries to attack your status in Christ, and you remain steadfast in the faith and belief of what He has done for you, you are serving the law of God. It is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. This is exactly what Paul goes on to say in Romans 8:1-3.
This is real obedience – it’s what the Bible calls being “obedient to the truth” in 1st Peter 1:22. And this is how you overcome the world.
When a message presents itself to you, whether it comes from a man, or a thought, or the television or whatever media by which it comes. If it attacks your position in Christ, reject it! If something comes to you and tells you that you are weak, unloved, powerless, worthless, sick, broken or poor… recognize that it is not the truth. Reject it in favor of the truth! If someone tells you that you must perform to please God, remind them that God is already well pleased in Jesus (Matthew 17:5) and you are in Him (1st Corinthians 1:30).
In this way, you are more than an overcome, in Christ. And you will be totally victorious in all things – not by yourself, but in Christ. He is your absolute victory, over the world, and all of its forces. The enemy cannot touch you, because he cannot penetrate Christ.
So I encourage you today. Remain steadfast in the faith of Christ, and be victorious over the world.