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I JOHN 5:1-5|FAITH CONQUERS THE WORLD

May 7, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

FAITH CONQUERS THE WORLD

I JOHN 5:1-5

MAY 6, 2018

 

AT FIRST GLANCE, AND EVEN UPON FURTHER EXAMINATION, YOU MAY LOOK AT THIS MORNING’S SERMON TITLE: “FAITH CONQUERS THE WORLD” AND THINK:  HOW ABSURD!

 

I DIDN’T COME UP WITH THIS TITLE ON MY OWN, IT’S RIGHT THERE IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING FROM I JOHN.

 

“WHATEVER IS BORN OF GOD CONQUERS THE WORLD… AND THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT CONQUERS THE WORLD, OUR FAITH.”

 

THERE’S PLENTY OF EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, OF COURSE;

 

AND WE NEED NOT LOOK VERY FAR INTO THE WORLD AROUND US, AND SEE THE CALAMITY IN BELIEVING THAT OUR FAITH, AND THINGS BORN OF GOD, STAND A CHANCE AGAINST THE WAYS OF THE WORLD.

 

EVERY DAY, THERE ARE REMINDERS OF JUST HOW MUCH WE ARE UP AGAINST.

 

THERE ARE PLENTY OF SWORDS AND SPEARS THAT HAVE YET TO BE CONVERTED INTO PLOWSHARES AND PRUNING HOOKS.

 

THE MEEK AND MILD CERTAINLY HAVE NOT INHERITED THE EARTH.

 

THE GOLDEN RULE HAS YET TO TURN UP ON WALL STREET, OR ON MAIN STREET, FOR THAT MATTER.

 

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS TAKE A DAILY BEATING IN WAYS THAT ARE INCREASINGLY UNIMAGINABLE.

 

GENESIS 6:5 IS STILL CORRECT – “AND GOD SAW THAT THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN WAS GREAT IN THE EARTH, AND THAT EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART WAS ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY.”

 

JESUS’ COMMAND TO “LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS I HAVE LOVED YOU…” APPEARS TO BE A PIPE DREAM;

 

AND THE “PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING” THAT HE IS SAID TO HAVE GIVEN US, COULDN’T SEEM FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

 

SO, WHAT DO I MEAN… WHAT DID THE AUTHOR OF I JOHN 5 MEAN WHEN HE FOOLISHLY(?!) SUGGESTED THAT FAITH CONQUERS THE WORLD?!

 

TO TRY TO ANSWER THAT, AND TO KEEP ALL OF US FROM DESCENDING FURTHER INTO A KIND OF GROUP FEAR AND DEPRESSION, AND WANTING TO DRIVE OFF A CLIFF TOGETHER SOMEWHERE…

 

(FORTUNATELY, THERE AREN’T TOO MANY CLIFFS HERE IN KEY WEST…)

 

LET ME TAKE US BACK INTO THE OLD TESTAMENT, INTO THE HEBREW BIBLE, AND HOW IT IS THAT OUR JUDEAO-CHRISTIAN FAITH IS DIFFERENT THAN OTHER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.

 

(BY THE WAY, WE’LL GET TO HOW OUR FAITH IS DIFFERENT THAN THE WAYS OF THE WORLD IN A MOMENT.)

 

TO TAKE US BACK INTO THE OLD TESTAMENT FOR A MOMENT, I WANT TO RELY UPON SOME WORDS FROM A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE OF MINE IN THIS PRESBYTERY – THE REVEREND DR. DOUG HOOD, PASTOR OF FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN DELRAY.

 

AS HE SO SHREWDLY DISCERNS:

 

“MOST ANCIENT RELIGIONS BELIEVED THAT OUR LIVES WERE DIRECTLY INFLUENCED BY THE ACTIONS OF THE GODS.  IF THE GODS WERE IN A PLEASANT MOOD, THINGS WENT WELL FOR US.

 

IF THEY WERE UNHAPPY, THEN THINGS TURNED OUT BADLY FOR US.  IT ALL DEPENDED UPON THE GODS, AND WHAT SIDE OF THE BED THEY WOKE UP ON.”

 

SO, IN THIS ANCIENT WAY OF THINKING, THE WEATHER, THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF YOUR CROPS, ONE’S DAILY EXPERIENCES IN LIFE, HOW RICH OR POOR YOU WERE, ALL DEPENDED UPON HOW THE GODS WERE LOOKING UPON YOU THAT DAY, OR FOR A LIFETIME.

 

BUT THEN ALONG COMES THE JUDEAO-CHRISTIAN FAITH, AND TURNS THAT SORT OF THEOLOGY, THAT SORT OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORLD, NOT TO MENTION, OF GOD, UPSIDE DOWN.

 

INSTEAD OF ALL OF THE POWER TO DO THINGS BEING IN THE HANDS OF RANDOM, FICKLE GODS, THE POWER TO DETERMINE MANY THINGS IN LIFE, IN OUR LIVES, AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS, HAS BEEN PLACED INTO OUR HANDS.

 

THE PROPHET JEREMIAH EVEN TELLS US WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO CHANGE GOD’S MIND.  WHENEVER SOMEONE PRAYS, GOD RESPONDS.

 

WHEN A SINNER REPENTS, HEAVEN REJOICES.  GOD IS MOVED TO ACTION BY OUR PRAYERS.

JESUS PROMISES US THE POWER OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT, AND IT’S NOT JUST SOME SORT OF METAPHOR OF WHICH HE’S SPEAKING.

 

HE REALLY MEANS IT – WE HAVE THE POWER TO DO GREAT THINGS, IN GOD’S NAME.  MAYBE, EVEN, TO CONQUER THE WORLD!

 

BECAUSE, IT JUST COULD BE THAT THE BROKENNESS IN OUR WORLD TODAY IS LESS GOD’S FAULT AND MORE OUR MISUSE, OR NONUSE, OF THE POWER WE HAVE TO BLESS “THE NATIONS.”

 

RATHER THAN SEEKING THE GOOD OF OTHERS, WE ARE OFTEN SELF-ABSORBED.

 

RATHER THAN PRAYING ON ANOTHER’S BEHALF, WE SELFISHLY SEEK AFTER THINGS FOR OURSELVES.

 

WE FEAR SCARCITY AND GRAB WHAT WE CAN WITH LITTLE THOUGHT OF OTHERS.  WE CREATE A WORLD WHERE ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE.

 

THIS MAY EXPLAIN WHY THERE IS SO MUCH HATE AND GREED, AND AGAIN, AS GENESIS SAYS IT: “THAT EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF OUR HEARTS IS EVIL CONTINUALLY.”

 

AND, IT’S GETTING WORSE.  EVIL BEGETS EVIL.  HATRED BEGETS HATRED.  FEAR BEGETS FEAR.  WHEN STRUCK, WE STRIKE BACK.

 

WE ARE BEING DRAGGED DOWN INTO A PIT OF DESPAIR, AND EVER SO CLEVERLY, OUR LEADERS ENCOURAGE US TO BLAME OTHERS FOR OUR PROBLEMS;

 

SO THAT WE WILL NOT ONLY JOIN THEM IN LASHING OUT AGAINST THEM, AND THOSE, AND WHOEVER IS DIFFERENT, AND WHOEVER IS TO BLAME, AND WHOEVER IS NOT LIKE US!

 

AND, IN SO DOING, FEEL OURSELVES SUPERIOR TO ALL OTHERS, AS WELL!

 

HOWEVER, LET’S BE HONEST, WE CANNOT SIMPLY LAY BLAME ON OUR LEADERS; FOR WE GO TOO READILY WHERE THEY LEAD;

 

WE ACCOMMODATE THEM TOO MUCH; WE ENABLE THEM IN THEIR BEHAVIOR; FAR TOO OFTEN, IT IS OUR BEHAVIOR AS WELL.

 

NOW CONSIDER THIS, OVER AND AGAINST, WHAT I JOHN IS ASKING US TO DO.

 

I JOHN IS ASKING US TO DISCOVER THAT, IN SUCH A WORLD OF HATE AND GREED, THE VICTORY THAT CONQUERS THE WORLD FOR GOOD…

 

IS OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST!

 

CHRIST IS THE ONLY AUTHENTIC HOPE FOR THE WORLD, AND FOR EACH OF US.

 

EACH OF US HAS THE POWER TO UNLEASH HOPE THROUGH OUR FAITHFUL PRAYERS.  EACH OF US HAS THE POWER TO UNLEASH HOPE IN ACTS OF CARING.

 

EACH OF US HAS THE POWER TO UNLEASH HOPE IN STRIVING FOR JUSTICE FOR ALL; IN HELPING THOSE IN NEED; IN LIVING OUT OUR PERSONAL BELIEFS;

 

AND IN ASSERTING OUR FAITH OVER THE FICTIONS OF THE WORLD: THAT GOD LOVES US AND HATES OTHERS; THAT GOD BLESSES US AND CURSES OTHERS;

 

THAT GOD IS FOR US AND AGAINST OTHERS; THAT GOD PREFERS US AND THE HELL WITH EVERYONE ELSE.

 

WE HAVE THE POWER, AS WE PRAY EVERY SUNDAY MORNING IN THE LORD’S PRAYER, TO BRING HEAVEN AND EARTH CLOSER TOGETHER!

 

“THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.”

 

THE POWER TO DO “WHATEVER IS BORN OF GOD (THAT) CONQUERS THE WORLD” DOES NOT REST IN US ALONE, BUT WE ARE PARTNERS IN IT WITH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.

 

IN THE WORDS OF THAT WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS HYMN, WHICH, BY THE WAY, SHOULD BE SUNG ONLY BY THOSE WITH TRAINED VOICES, O HOLY NIGHT:

 

O HOLY NIGHT! THE STARS ARE BRIGHTLY SHINING,

IT IS THE NIGHT OF OUR DEAR SAVIOR’S BIRTH;

LONG LAY THE WORLD IN SIN AND ERROR PINING,

TILL HE APPEARED, AND THE SOUL FELT ITS WORTH.

 

A THRILL OF HOPE THE WEARY WORLD REJOICES,

FOR YONDER BREAKS A NEW AND GLORIOUS MORN;

FALL ON YOUR KNEES, OH HEAR THE ANGEL VOICES!

O NIGHT DIVINE, O NIGHT WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN!

O NIGHT, O HOLY NIGHT, O NIGHT DIVINE.

 

THE WORLD STILL, LAYS IN SIN AND ERROR PINING; THE WORLD STILL, IS WEARY – PERHAPS, WEARIER THAN IT HAS BEEN IN A LONG TIME…

 

AND WHAT IS ITS SOURCE OF HOPE?  WHAT CAN SAVE THE WORLD?

 

THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOR IN PEOPLE’S HEARTS; THEIR SOULS BEING MADE TO FEEL WORTHY;

BELIEVERS ON THEIR KNEES IN PRAYER AND ADORATION OF GOD; AND IN PRAYER FOR THEIR FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS.

 

I JOHN ASKS: “WHO IS IT THAT CONQUERS THE WORLD BUT THE ONE WHO BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD?”

 

THIS IS OUR CALLING!  THIS IS OUR INSPIRATION!  THIS IS OUR ANSWER TO A WORLD GONE CRAZY!

 

THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR BELIEVERS TO BE “IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT.”

 

WE SIMPLY CANNOT GIVE INTO OUR BASER SELVES, OUR LESSER DEMONS, AND THE “THOUGHTS OF (OUR) HEART(S) (WHICH ARE) ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY.”

 

WE MUST, IN THE WORDS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, BE “TOUCHED BY THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE.”

 

IN THE NOVEL, CAT’S CRADLE BY KURT VONNEGUT, JR., AN IMPORTANT BOOK COMES TO LIGHT.

 

IT IS TITLED: “WHAT CAN A THOUGHTFUL MAN HOPE FOR MANKIND ON EARTH, GIVEN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PAST MILLION YEARS?”  

 

(THAT’S QUITE A TILE, HUH?!)

 

THE CHIEF CHARACTER IS ANXIOUS TO READ IT.

 

BUT WHEN HE DOES, HE FINDS THAT IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG.  THE WHOLE BOOK CONSISTS OF ONE WORD: “NOTHING.”

 

BUT, YOU SEE, HE’S READING THE WRONG BOOK.  WE HAVE ANOTHER BOOK.

 

ONE THAT CONTAINS I JOHN 5; AND THE GOSPELS; AND THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS; AND THE STORY OF GOD IN THE WORLD.

 

OUR BOOK READS DIFFERENTLY, FOR OURS IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF STORY; A DIFFERENT KIND OF HOPE.

 

DO I EXPECT US TO WALK OUT OF THESE DOORS THIS MORNING TO FIND THAT THE WORLD HAS BEEN MAGICALLY TRANSFORMED DURING THE HOUR WE HAVE SPENT HERE?

 

OF COURSE NOT!

 

DOES THE BATTLE FOR THE HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND SPIRIT OF THE WORLD CONTINUE?  YES, IT DOES.

AND IT BEGINS WITH OUR HEARTS, OUR MINDS, OUR SOULS, AND OUR SPIRITS.

 

WITH TIME RUNNING SHORT ON THIS SERMON, LET ME OFFER FOUR THINGS WE CAN DO AS CHRISTIAN BELIEVERS, THAT’LL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN US, AND, IN THE WORLD.  I’M OFFERING THESE BASED ON THE TEACHINGS OF PHILIPPIANS.

FIRST, IF WE WANT TO BE POSITIVE IN A NEGATIVE WORLD WE MUST RESPOND TO GOD’S LOVE.

LOOK AT HOW PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7 SUGGESTS WE DO THAT:

“DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING, BUT IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN TO GOD.  AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS.”

SECOND, IF WE WANT TO BE POSITIVE IN A NEGATIVE WORLD WE MUST REPROGRAM OUR WAY OF THINKING.

LOOK AT HOW PHILIPPIANS 4:8 SUGGESTS WE DO THAT:

“FINALLY, WHATEVER IS TRUE, WHATEVER IS HONORABLE, WHATEVER IS JUST, WHATEVER IS PURE, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, WHATEVER IS COMMENDABLE, IF THERE IS ANY EXCELLENCE, IF THERE IS ANYTHING WORTHY OF PRAISE, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.”

THIRD, IF WE WANT TO BE POSITIVE IN A NEGATIVE WORLD WE MUST RECOGNIZE THE BEST IN OTHERS.  THIS IS ALSO PART OF THE VERSE WE JUST READ.  WE ARE TO THINK THESE THINGS, THIS WAY, ABOUT OTHERS, AS WELL.

FINALLY, IN ORDER TO BE POSITIVE IN A NEGATIVE WORLD WE MUST REACH OUT TO LOST AND HURTING PEOPLE.

LOOK AT HOW PHILIPPIANS 4:9 SUGGESTS WE DO THAT:

THOSE THINGS, WHICH YOU HAVE BOTH LEARNED, AND RECEIVED, AND HEARD, AND SEEN IN ME, DO: AND THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL BE WITH YOU.

IN OTHER WORDS… IT TAKES MORE THAN WORDS!  IT TAKES DOING!  PRAYING, CARING, ACTING; DOING!

WE CHANGE THE WORLD BY CHANGING OURSELVES, FIRST; AND THEN BY GOING TO WORK ON OTHERS.

“WHATEVER IS BORN OF GOD CONQUERS THE WORLD… AND THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT CONQUERS THE WORLD, OUR FAITH.”

 

 

 

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