“ For whosoever 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 who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5:4-5
The apostle John warns against loving the “world”, succinctly described in his epistle as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The “world” can be defined as an outlook, a system of thought that is opposed to God: it strives to separate us from God, persecutes us for loving Him, and obstructs us from glorifying Him in our lives. It is an overwhelming force that engulfs us as we seek to live a life pleasing to the Father.
How do we overcome the world?
The monastic position advocates withdrawing from the world and emphasizes the use of discipline and willpower as well as observance of rules and regulations. But a mechanical and physical departure alone ultimately does not offer an escape from the “world” that operates within a person: the pride of self and natural lusts. And consider that Christ, the One who overcame the world, lived a public life; He did not withdraw from the world, but interacted with people from all walks of life, including sinners and winebibbers.
How then do we arrive at a position of overcoming the world? Let us consider the biblical view.
First, we overcome the world by being born of God. Whoever is born of God overcomes the world. The Christian has a new disposition, a new outlook, a perception of the world as the Lord Jesus Christ saw it. We become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), hence we look at things from God’s vantage point, not from the carnal and sinful point of view of natural man. There is a hope that anchors us within our inner selves, in spite of us being in the world, placing us in a position to overcome it.
Second, the new birth gives us this faculty which enables us to live a life of faith. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. The world is a formidable foe and we are powerless to fight it by our own strength. We need emancipation, to be lifted to another realm, to be given a strength and power beyond ourselves, and greater than the world. Being born again through Christ introduces us to a higher dimension, with a power available to us to enable us to have victory over the world.
Third, we overcome the world by our relationship to Jesus Christ, to Christ’s work, and what has already been accomplished at the cross. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Therefore, withdrawal from the world and following ascetic rules is entirely unnecessary and ineffectual because everything we need to be victorious is already found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the new birth, we are able to exercise our faith in Christ, to rest in Him, to receive and draw upon His fullness. And as Christ glorified the Father, so can we, as we live our lives victorious over the world.
** Reference: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ,Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 1982, pp. 585-603.
** Photograph: Body Surfer by Chuck Babbitt