Church Matters (Part 6)

Listen to the message

Series : A Journey Through 1 John

Sunday 24 July 2016 – Justus Swart

(Eph. 5:27); 1 John 5:1-5, 14; (Ex. 3:5); Matt. 7:21-23; (Phil. 2:8); John 16:33; Matt. 10:5-22

Church Matters…To the Overcomer

God is set on using the Church to fulfil His plan in the world. God’s plan starts with the birthing of the Church in Acts 2 and ends with Christ presenting to Himself a Bride without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27). Our mission is to seek after Jesus. Our life is not just about choosing between right and wrong but it is about seeking after Him who created us. Christians are not only called out of the world, but are also called to overcome the world.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:1-5). Scripture commands us to love; it is not conjured up when the mood is right. We have a command that has been grossly misinterpreted especially by those who are pushing the ‘grace gospel’. When we speak against the overemphasis of grace, we are not anti-grace; we are balancing what has become an overworked, overused principle. Grace is fundamental to our understanding of salvation. This ‘grace gospel’ puts the commands of God and grace in opposition to one another. When we divorce grace from obedience, we end up in a place that sounds Christian, but it is not. We can easily fool ourselves by thinking we can live our lives as we please because we are now under grace. An identifier of cheap grace is false confidence. We often find that in those circles humility and humbleness is generally considered as a waste of time or a weakness. Humility is regarded as being on a lower more basic level. That philosophy suggests that if you are humble you are not mature.

Remember Moses at the burning bush? As he drew closer he heard a voice telling him to remove his sandals for the ground on which he stood was holy (Ex. 3:5). There was nothing special about the piece of ground. It was simply because God’s presence was there. Humility was commanded! We never graduate from needing to be humble in the presence of God. IF we miss this, we tend to build an inaccurate Christology (which is an understanding of Jesus). Without humility we resort to building a Christology that revolves around the idea that Jesus was some kind super human and He overcame the world in a super human way. As a result the meaning of being an overcomer becomes confused with the idea of having strength and influence. As a result, we read the stories of Jesus and take from them that Jesus was a socially empowering being who had strength and influence over those around Him. Contrary to that, humility was the chief characteristic of Jesus’ ministry (Phil. 2:8). When we see that, and build our Christology around that we learn to live by the commandments of God and pray daily saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done”. Jesus humbled Himself even to death, living in full obedience to God, even though the thought of what He had to do made Him sweat blood. Take that as a picture of an overcomer. Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

This is love for God; how we show our love for Him is by obeying His commands (1 John 5:3). The way we demonstrate our love for God is by living in total obedience to what He asks, just as Jesus did. This refers to personal obedience, regarding your specific calling and also the more general understanding of obedience concerning the fruit of the Spirit. If you live your life according to your own ideas, do not be surprized if you end up in a situation where you are frustrated, worn out and burned out. If you constantly choose your own will above God’s, you cannot expect to walk as an overcomer. If we ignore the commandments of God and what He has already spoken to us about, we set ourselves on a path that leads to dissatisfaction and frustration. You cannot achieve the purposes of God by ignoring the commandments of God. It is common to come across people who say they are waiting on God meanwhile God has already spoken to them.

When we get to places of difficulty or we feel like we have reached a cul-de-sac, we can retrace our steps to find the commandments God had given us. Too many expect to become overcomers simply because they recite the name of Jesus, yet they do not follow the commands of God. The name of Jesus is all powerful, but cannot be waved around like a magic wand. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt. 7:21-23). They did not humble themselves before Him and they did not live according to the commands of their Lord.

What is an overcomer? Someone who is rich? Or has a stable life? If you have good health right now it does not mean that you are an overcomer. The qualifications for being an overcomer are not just one dimensional. Being an overcomer is not directly related to how your surroundings are treating you. This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:3-4). Here is the key! To be an overcomer is to be born of God, and to live in the purpose of God regardless of circumstances. If you find God’s commands burdensome in your life, you are not aligned to His purposes. An overcomer rests easily because nothing else matters to him other than seeing the commandments of God fulfilled. Even though you may be going through a tough time financially; even though you go through periods of bad health or your marriage is going through a rocky patch, or your business is struggling, you can still be an overcomer. In the place where you are finding things so difficult, if you can arrive at a place where God’s commands are no burdensome, then it does not matter what you are going through because you are still an overcomer. If your health is bad but you seek His will every day, you are an overcomer. If your finances are terrible but you give generously, you are still an overcomer because the commandments are all that matter. There are people in the Bible who God intentionally led into poverty. People in the Bible struggled with physical health issues. Examples are Paul and Martin Luther. They did not live perfect lives. God is a God of the infinite and eternal, so why should it surprize us that it is in the infinite and eternal that God places all of His stock? Some equate being an overcomer with rulership over their respective domains. There is a ‘dominion theology’ that says that being an overcoming means having strength and influence. That is absolutely not what the Bible tells us. When Stephen preached the gospel, he was killed by stoning. Many of the apostles were used as torches to light up the arenas; some were put into arenas to fight wild animals. These people were called yet they were beaten, tortured and killed.

Read Matt. 10:5-22. …but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (vs. 22). Circumstances are terrible, parents and children are fighting against each other; brothers are fighting against each other; but what matters is that we stand on the side of truth. We are to give up every comfort that we have simply to live in the will of God. Being an overcomer is not about exerting control or dominance over all the facets of your life. It is about freely living out God’s commandments no matter what the consequences may be. Whatever the return or response, you will do the right thing. What matters is how you remain in the will of God in spite of the circumstances. What are you doing to stay in the purpose of God? This is talking about costly grace; this is the pearl of great price for which a man must sell all he has. This is what it means to be in the kingdom of God; to love God is to obey His commandments.

God is not sick, poor nor weak. He is not insecure and He is in you. If He is in you, you have everything you need. Live for Him and Him alone. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1 John 5:14). So when we are living in that place, He hears us. The only thing that matters to an overcomer is the will of God. Whether you are losing control over every part of your life, if you are standing firm within the will of God, you are an overcomer. You can overcome the world because the world does not determine your level of faith or how you respond. It is God and Christ within that does that. We all have the ability to overcome despite our circumstances.