6th Sunday of Easter – B LSB #660
Text – 1 John 5:4
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
The Apostle John is the only one of The Twelve who is left alive, & even he is down to the last few years of life. He sees the Christian Church falling under the sway of false teachers, people whom John referred to three times in this letter as the antichrist. Instead of following the Spirit of truth, these false teachers follow the spirit of deception.
They denied that Jesus is fully human because, in their mind, all physical matter is evil. Consequently, they denied that human flesh could be of God & therefore, what we do with our body is irrelevant. This led to, in most cases, deplorable conduct, the throwing off of all moral restraints, & a complete disregard of ethical or Christ-like living.
We see that more & more today as people excuse their conduct with phrases like, “Jesus loves everybody.” In a technical sense that’s true, yet Christ did not die on the cross so that we could intentionally commit every sort of sin & be forgiven with no change of heart or lifestyle. St. Paul just happened to address that very issue in Romans 6:
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more & more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NLT) That God’s children have been set free of condemnation, over our failure to keep the law, does not mean that we’ve been set free of our obligation to live according to it.
St. Paul doesn’t leave us hanging, however, with that impossible situation & no power to do it. He continues in chapter six: “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death? For we died & were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Romans 6:3-4) We continue to live according to the obligations of the law by the glorious power of our heavenly Father. Faith in Jesus as Savior, from all the lies & temptations of the world, is how we overcome the sinful world.
The world, at its unbelieving core, is merely a tool for the devil. Much of that world has no clue it’s even working for him. He’s that clever at deception. Many false teachers began their “career” in the church, but weren’t satisfied with simply following Jesus. Judas is a good example of one who decided to take matters into his own hands & strike out on his own.
Fortunately, his false teaching ended shortly thereafter. Yet, the world & the devil still try to interfere with our Christ-like living. They say that abortion is not killing. They say that sexual activity outside the marriage of one man & one woman is not a violation of the 6th commandment. They say that skipping church on Sunday morning is not a problem for the 3rd.
Now, we don’t keep the commandments on our own, but we do keep them by faith in the fact that Jesus did keep them on our behalf. Jesus did overcome the world by dying, & then by rising from the dead. God is victorious over the grave. When Jesus calls us to believe that we have overcome the world, in spite of our sins, He is calling us to victory.
Yet, in the eyes of the world, that victory appears to be defeat, just as Jesus’ death on the cross appeared to be defeat. Easter morning is so awesome because then & there God revealed Jesus’ death to be the ultimate victory. Death was now powerless & itself defeated. Still, the world hates the truth. It shivers & convulses against the truth.
The following story illustrates the power, of faith in Christ as Savior, to overcome the world. “We felt called to go to Afghanistan in 2002 to be God’s hands & feet, show these people the love & support they deserve. Life was difficult, but was also a blessing because in it, we grew much stronger; & God could be gloried in & through our lives. [My husband] Werner changed so many Afghan’s lives through his example of living & through his teachings. He coached many to improve their living circumstances. And he had a great sense of humor.
Surely, we had to count the cost for Christ. Anything could happen to us, anytime. We knew we were living in a dangerous country. Were we prepared if anything would happen to us, especially the children? It was such a difficult question. We decided to just give it to the Lord.
When the moment would come to maybe deal with something like an attack, we believed God would give us the grace to handle it through His glasses. I can surely testify of that. I was not prepared to lose my husband & children in one single attack. Can anyone be?
I knew something could happen, but only after it happened did I realize that God gave me His grace to overcome this. We attended a conference in October, 2014. Werner was asked to speak on the subject of “Counting the Cost for Christ.” Looking back, I realize God wanted me to hear that sermon again, because exactly one month after that, I had to count the cost.
It was huge. Werner ended [his sermon] by saying, “We die only once, it might as well be for Christ.” I am so glad that he, my son & daughter were chosen to die as martyrs for Christ. What a wonderful honor. As a family we lived for Christ. They died for Christ. From a human perspective it doesn’t make sense.
From an eternal perspective, it was gain, & God will be gloried in this. Satan tried to steal their lives & my joy; he murdered my family. His name is Murderer & Thief. But he forgot that God always has the last move.
Werner’s vision for his work was 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (NIV) He didn’t believe he should be involved in one-on-one relationship building; Afghans could do that so much better, & there were huge language barriers. He wanted to equip leaders that would be able to train more leaders. He sent out a newsletter in September 2014 in which he asked for prayer that God would reveal the next step to him. He felt his work in Afghanistan was in many ways self-sustaining & was looking for his next step.
None of us expected the attack on November 29th. There were several bomb attacks that shook our house to the core in the days & weeks preceding it. We knew that security was deteriorating as the Taliban gained more ground & after the inauguration of the new president. On my way to the clinic, twice I was almost in the middle of bomb explosions in the city. God protected me from being injured.
What happened to me is one of the most traumatic events that can take place in someone’s life – to lose your husband & two teenage children in a single terrorist attack, & know that I was supposed to be there too. I wasn’t supposed to go to the clinic that day, but I did. As a wife & mom, my heart aches to have been there, to have been able to hold them & protect them against the merciless bullets that tore their bodies apart.
Obviously, God has another plan with me. It is an extremely great challenge & life test which I don’t want to fail. I want to make sense out of this, to process this, to find my new life & purpose & build on that. My whole life as I’ve known it was changed in five minutes. My role changed instantly from being a wife & mom to being a single person.
I didn’t just lose my family, but everything that was dear to me in Afghanistan. I lost the Afghan community, our dog, our earthly possessions & the familiar environment that I’d grown to love over 12 years. For me, it is an indescribable loss. For them & the kingdom, a great gain. I know I have to focus on the gain & not the loss. We lived for Jesus; they died for Jesus.
In all this grief & pain, God is there, right beside me. He is carrying me through this.
There is no way to go through something like this on your own. God is faithful. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV) And that is totally my experience.
There is a peace that surpasses all understanding. And when the ebb comes, He is there to comfort me. My future from here is to carry on with Werner’s work. How & where, God will have to reveal. Pray for the persecuted church in Afghanistan. Pray for those staying behind in Afghanistan.
That story is from the May issue of the newsletter, The Voice of the Martyrs. It paints a very detailed picture of how our Lord typically overcomes the world. It can be seen only through faith in Jesus. The victory is very real, but it transcends our earthly ability to grasp it.
In God’s plan of redemption for this broken life, overcoming the world is not even close to the same thing as conquering it. Yet, overcoming the world is ALSO not “checking out” of the world. We are to participate in, & live in, the world with zest & power, while completely trusting in our heavenly Father’s will & ability to care for us.
That is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith, but faith is not easy & faith is not blind. It trusts completely, yet it full well knows the reality. The woman who lost her family in Afghanistan was not wearing rose-colored glasses regarding the death of her husband & two children. Yet, even in that tragedy, she realizes that God’s children have overcome the world.
Is that what we pray for, when we ask God to strengthen our faith? Against all odds, despite every possible suggestion of an alternative reality – whether life brings apparent success or failure, prosperity or want, security or peril – St. John affirms that his is the side that is even now triumphant in its seemingly unending & even failing struggle with the world.
Thus, the Apostle John presses us, in whom Jesus dwells, to be ‘in’ the world, showing Christ’s love to the world, yet not being ‘of’ the world. You & I have been called to a holy life, to an impossible life, as we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism. Yet, as surely as it appears that we have failed in this calling, we have overcome the world because God caused us to be born again through the waters of Holy Baptism.
In the Gospel reading for this morning, Jesus states: “You did not choose me, but I chose you & appointed you that you should go & bear fruit & that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:16 ESV) When a person is chosen by God, faith is created in their heart, unless they reject that gift.
Having a good attitude toward Holy Scripture is an indication of faith. Those who reject the gift typically use God’s Word to achieve their goals. Believers allow the Word of God to use them to achieve our Savior’s goals. Christians don’t see that as a burden because their saintly nature loves to walk in the way of God. Unbelievers see the Bible as a burden to be rid of.
Easter means victory, not just over death, but over the brokenness of this life. As children of God we can live that victory, not to boast over others, but to draw them to Christ as well. “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV) Jesus has defeated the spirit of deception & granted us victory by faith in what He promises to be true.
No matter how things appear to be in your life, you are living in the victory of Christ & your faith in Him has overcome the world. Let the world see that life. Amen.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus; Stand in His strength alone. The arm of flesh will fail you, Ye dare not trust your own. Put on the Gospel armor; each piece put on with prayer. Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there. Stand up, stand up for Jesus; the strife will not be long; this day the noise of battle, the next, the victor’s song. The soldiers, overcoming, their crown of life shall see & with the King of Glory shall reign eternally. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet