This Is the Victory

1 John 5:1-12

Intro - A few years ago, on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” one of the fictional advertisers was a fellow named Bob. Bob announced that he had founded a new religion and named it after himself – “Bobism” – and invited listeners to visit his world headquarters, the Central Bobist Temple in Rapid City, SD. He and his wife Judy, the group’s co-founder, had considered naming their new faith after her, but as Bob explained, that name was already taken.

It’s about that easy to start your own religion, and a lot of people do these days – they pick and choose from everything around them and construct their own view of God and declare themselves spiritual. We haven’t changed much from the people to whom John wrote.

I always hate it when someone gives away the surprise ending of a book or a movie or gives away the score to a game you’ve recorded to watch later. So, I hate to give away the ending of this book, but if you’re wondering who comes out on top… it’s God.

Our question isn’t really, where does God come out, but “where do I come out?” And John has an easy answer for that one – on top – if you are with God.
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. This is love for God: to obey 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 he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 Jn 5:1-5.

Here’s what really counts: Are you born of God? Are you a child of God? John gives us a three-fold test.

Part 1: Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?
If you think doctrine doesn’t matter, think again. What we believe, and especially what we believe about Jesus matters profoundly. John doesn’t just throw it up for grabs. Jesus is not just a good man, he is not just a great teacher, he was not just an admirable, heroic figure. He is the Son of God. He is the Messiah, the Christ, God who became flesh, lived among us, suffered and died on the cross, and who took the sins of the world upon himself -- the sinless for the sinful, and who was raised from the grave on the third day. If you believe something else about Jesus – if you think it’s absurd to claim he was God, if you can’t accept his being human, if you think only a fool would die on a cross, you can’t be a child of God.

Part 2: Do you obey God?
Regardless of how loudly you proclaim your love for God, without some pretty solid evidence, your claims are going to sound awfully hollow. John says, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” Are you walking in the will of God? Is Jesus really the Lord of your life? John isn’t being legalistic. He’s not saying God isn’t going to love you if you don’t perfectly toe the line. What he is saying is that obedience is the evidence of love. If you are still walking in sin – still living in darkness – there is something wrong with your love – it is defective. True love for God will display itself in a life that is lived in obedience to God’s commands.

Part 3: Do you love God’s children?
Please forgive me for being redundant, but John can’t seem to move beyond this obsession with loving one another. In John’s mind, nothing negates our claim to belong to God faster than our unwillingness to love others. Listen to verse 1: “Everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.”

Your claim to love God is either confirmed or negated by how you treat people. If you really love God, you’re going to love the people he loves, and you don’t have to read very far in the Gospels to realize that Jesus didn’t just love the people who loved him and agreed with him. He loved the people who were unlovable. He loved the people who were hard and difficult. He loved the people who opposed him and who nailed him to the tree. So, I don’t know who it is or what they’ve done that you can’t love them, but God loves us in spite of ourselves – and so should you.

So here is John’s three-fold test: Do you believe in Jesus? Do you obey God? Do you love each other?
And while you were listening to me read those first five verses, did it sound like John was having a hard time keeping them separate and distinct? Because he does. They all blend together, they are all dependant on each other, none stand on their own isolated from the others. Believing and obeying and loving are so entwined in one another that you can’t separate out the threads without doing damage to the fabric. You can’t isolate one and say, “that’s what I’m going to major in” and neglect the others.

Did you pass John’s test? Are you born of God? Then verses 4 and 5 are for you: “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 he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Illustration - Diana and Justin (6 yrs old) – conversation about God and the devil – “we want to be on God’s side don’t we?”

God makes us a promise: Stick with him and you will overcome the world. Now, lest you get the idea that overcoming means you become a success in the world and everything goes your way, and you never have to suffer, and you get everything you want, the way you want it – John isn’t finished.

Overcoming isn’t about being a success in this world and getting everything you want. Overcoming is about being a success in God’s eyes and getting everything he wants you to have. And sometimes, overcoming involves suffering and ridicule and poverty and even death. But overcoming also brings with it something the world can never touch – an intimate, eternal relationship with God.

God promises us blessings that you can’t put a price tag on.
Overcoming means never having to take a step without knowing that God is right beside you.
It is experiencing a peace and a confidence that doesn’t worry about upturns and downswings in the stock market, that isn’t upset by the threat of murder and war and violence.

Paul used this same word John uses when he wrote in Romans 8. Listen for the word “conqueror” – that’s the same word as “overcomer” – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39.

And so John writes: Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. John wants our faith to be secured in something immovable, someone who has always been and will always be. And he wants our faith to be in the Christ of the scriptures, not some imposter custom designed by the false teachers, the antichrists he has already dealt with in chs. 2 and 3 and 4.

In the next 7 verses John lays out his evidence that Jesus is worthy of putting our faith in: 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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:6-12)

Now, I imagine you listened to that and wondered what is he talking about – water and blood and spirit? What kind of evidence is that? But remember who John’s audience is and some of the influences that are waging war in this battle for their souls. Let me explain:
• Verse 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.”
• This is John’s reference to two decisive events in the life of Jesus – his baptism and his crucifixion – the water and the blood. You will remember those false teachers distinguished between the human Jesus and the divine being, Christ whom they said came on Jesus at his baptism and departed before the crucifixion – because, they said, a divine being could not suffer and die. But John says, NO! He came, not just in the water – his baptism, but in the blood – his crucifixion – his side was pierced, his blood was shed. Jesus, the Christ – one, inseparable – fully God, fully man.

It is the water and blood that testify to the solidarity of our faith. And there is one other who testifies – it is the Spirit -- the Spirit of God, who by very definition is the truth.
• John says it’s one thing to listen to a lineup of human witnesses, all giving their testimony about what they have experienced – it’s another thing to have God himself testify about his Son. And when God says it’s so, it’s so. And anyone who denies it is calling God a liar.
• You can dig up dirt and impugn the integrity of men, but God is unimpeachable. God is a witness who not only will not, but cannot lie. His word is truth.

But John goes on to tell us, this isn’t just an external witness – one whose word is outside of us and dismissible, but it is a witness whose testimony takes root in our heart – Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (5:10).
• It’s one thing to read the transcript of a witness’ testimony and say, “he was coached, he is biased, he wasn’t there.” But John says this testimony is in your heart. It’s irrefutable. Not only does God say it, but you have experienced it. You know it to be true.
• Some of us tend to intellectualize our faith – we make it about facts and evidence and we analyze it and keep it out here where it is objective. But John says one of the ways you know that Jesus is who he says he is is by what he does inside of you – the changes he makes and the confirmation of his words in your own life. Let’s not minimize or dismiss that.
• And here’s the testimony: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

What makes you an overcomer? What makes you victorious over the world? It is the gift of eternal life.
• Life that cannot be touched by the trials & attacks of this world.
• Life that is not affected by a diseased or an aging body.
• Life that is spent in the constant presence of God himself.
• Eternal life is not just a future “pie in the sky, by and by” but a present day in, day out reality. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are living eternal life. You don’t have to wait until you die to experience eternal life – you have it already.
• Death no longer looms as this future, terrifying terminus of life. We know that our lives stretch out beyond that for all eternity.
• Jesus defined it in John’s Gospel – “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
• And if you have life like that, if you know God and walk with him daily, there is nothing that can overcome you, nothing that is powerful enough to threaten your peace.

That is God’s promise. It is a promise so secure you can bank on it, and you know there is precious little in this world you can bank on. Paul asked the question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is, “no one.” There is no one, no thing, no circumstance that you need fear, if God is on your side – and if you are born of God, if you are his child – he is.

Let me close with verse 12. It is a pretty sobering statement. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Do you have the Son? Are you born of God?
For all the modern rhetoric about tolerance and acceptance these days – and Christians ought to be on the forefront of bringing peace and reconciliation to a fractured society – the Bible has a very narrow, focused definition of salvation. As out of touch as this is with our modern spiritual climate where everyone’s right and nobody’s wrong, John says, either you do or you don’t, either you are or you aren’t. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6).

There was never a person Jesus could not, would not save. He came to save all people everywhere. He pours out his grace and mercy freely. But…. He does it on his terms. Salvation is a free gift, but it can be received only through believing in Jesus Christ, being united with him in baptism and committing your life to living for him.