July 2003 (this year) was a landmark month for one of Australia's largest Christian denominations.
The Uniting Church became the first to formally accept as ministers people who were living in open homosexual relationships.
For those of us who have been observing the Uniting Church for many years, the decision was inevitable
- after all, the organisational hierarchy of the church and the various theological colleges around Australia have been quite openly progressive in their beliefs and in their actions since union in 1977.
Since many in the Uniting Church leadership had dispensed with the objective authority of the Bible,
it was only a matter of time before church policy and belief dispensed with Christian morality.
As someone who has kept tabs on the Uniting Church for the past ten years,
I can tell you that this recent decision did not come as a surprise to me since I knew that it would eventually come.
What was surprising, however, was the strength of the resistance towards this decision from within the Uniting Church.
There is, within the church, a group called EMU
- Evangelical Ministers in the Uniting Church.
The chairman of EMU is a woman named Mary Hawkes.
After the Uniting national Assembly had passed the motion to allow homosexual ministers,
she wrote about her thoughts and feelings on the EMU website,
where she made the following comment:
There was never a chance that the Assembly was going to refuse this motion and I can only see that as being the hand of God in the beginnings of judgement. I fear for the future of the UCA as we know it. We cannot go on mocking God and belittling his word with no consequences. If this does not bring us to our knees before the Lord then I don't know what will. We must cry out to God in repentance and ask for mercy, as well as seeking His way forward.
Since Mary Hawkes wrote that initial response, she has met with Uniting Church believers all over the country,
with many of the meetings hosting upwards of 1000 people,
all of whom were angry and confused and wanting direction.
What is obvious from this backlash by Uniting Church Christians who hold the Bible as the objective word of God
is that the church,
at the very least, is heading towards a time of great turmoil or,
at the very worst, a formal split.
I am not here today to discuss the issue of homosexuality and Christian belief.
What I am merely pointing out is that when the leaders of Christian churches ignore the plain teaching of scripture they will inevitably be guided not by God,
but by the values and beliefs of the world around us.
A world that is cut off from God and his word, and a world that lives in defiance of him.
It is, in the end, a world that is governed by the Devil.
When a church ignores what God is saying it can only then begin to listen to what the Devil is saying.
The acceptance of Homosexuality as a legitimate form of relationship is merely one of a multitude of satanic teachings and beliefs held by churches worldwide who have abandoned God's word.
And when a church abandons God's word,
they abandon God,
and God abandons them.
But all this begs the question from us
- why is the world seemingly beating God?
Since the church is being taught not by God but by the world,
does this mean that God is defeated?
Is God losing the war against unbelief?
The answer to that question is obvious - no.
God is not losing,
and he is not going to be defeated.
While the influence on the Devil in the church is undeniable,
what is also true is that God is working to defeat the world
and defeat the power of Satan.
Let me read to you 1 John 5.1-5 again:
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.
God will be victorious over the world, and we are an essential part of that victory.
What is interesting is that God as Trinity is involved in this victory.
God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all mentioned in these 5 verses
and together work to defeat the world.
So let's move on to my first point:
The Father's victory over the world.
1. The Father's victory over the world.
When John uses the word "world" here, he is referring to the world of opposition to God
- he's not referring to the creation we see around us.
But since God created everything,
he is therefore the creator of all those who oppose him.
It is therefore in God's interest to destroy all opposition to his rightful rule.
And God does this by two means
- the first is that he calls those who oppose him to repent and beg him for mercy,
the second is by eventually using his power to punish all who have rebelled against him.
To the first group of people he grants forgiveness and eternal life.
To the second group of people he brings judgement and eternal damnation.
Now while the hellfire and brimstone segment of God's rule is not to be ignored,
these verses do not refer to God's judgment.
Instead, these verses are directed towards those who have repented and been forgiven
- the church.
The church is therefore God's way of defeating the world.
By "church" here I am not referring to denominational structures or buildings,
but all people throughout all time
who have turned to the Father in repentance
and have been forgiven.
The first thing we see the Father doing to defeat the world is by sending his Son, Jesus, as the Messiah.
What we see here is the relationship between the mission of the Father and the mission of the Son.
Both are striving for the same goal,
but both have different roles to play.
When it says in verse one that Jesus is the "Christ",
we have to remember that the title "Christ" can also be translated as "Messiah."
A fuller explanation of what this means will occur presently.
All we need to know at the moment, however,
is that the Messiah,
is the one whom God has sent to earth to create the church.
The second thing we see the Father doing to defeat the world is that he adopts us as his children.
Look at the end of verse one.
"Everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well."
We might like to think that "his child" refers to Jesus,
but this is not what it means.
"His child" is anyone who is part of God's church.
What this verse teaches us is that when we become members of God's church,
we enter into a relationship with God
- we can call him Father.
And if we can call him Father,
then we must be his children.
We are not simply people who live under the King's rule,
we have actually been adopted into the royal family by the decree of the King.
God is our king and ruler,
but he is also our Father and protector.
The third thing that the Father does to defeat the world is by being the focus of our worship and love.
In verses 2 and 3, John says
"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and keeping his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands."
God is the one whom we love,
he is the one whom we serve.
The world does not love God
- it hates God.
So if God is going to defeat the world by creating the church,
then the church must have God as the centre of their love and adoration and worship.
You can't be a member of God's church if you don't love God.
Why? Because God called us into his church for us to treat him properly.
And the only proper way to treat the God of all creation is to love and serve him.
The last thing that the Father does to defeat the world is by giving his people, the church, commands to follow.
Our love for God is not blind, it is not simply based on emotion.
God has given us commands for us to follow
- commands that, according to verse 3, are not burdensome.
What are God's commands?
If we are God's people then our lives will reflect the truth about God
and we will treat God and other people the way God wants us to treat them.
How do we know this information?
God has given it to us in scripture - the Bible.
In this book is God's living word, speaking to us and guiding us to live lives for God's glory.
This side of heaven we will all fail in our duty to obey these commands,
but the reason why they are not burdensome
is that our obedience to them is not what saves us.
God saves us, and gives us these commands to follow
- but praise God that we don't have to rely on ourselves to obey them
or remain in relationship with God.
So those are the four ways the Father has victory over the world
- by sending his Son, Jesus, as the Messiah;
by adopting us as his children;
by being the focus of our worship and love;
and by giving us commands to follow.
The Father has done these things so that we, the church,
can be brought out of the world that opposes God's rule,
and be brought under his rule and serve him properly.
I have it on good authority that the people of Japan are, by and large, a law abiding culture.
Like any culture or nationality they have their faults,
but one thing they do show is a respect for the community.
When you get on a bus in Japan, you pay your money into a machine inside the bus.
You have already figured out how far you are going to travel and you buy a ticket accordingly.
The bus driver doesn't even check your ticket.
But you can see how this can be abused can't you?
It is easy to simply buy the cheapest ticket all the time and travel as far as you want because no one is going to check your ticket.
Does this happen in Japan?
Yes, but only very rarely.
The people, by and large, accept this rule and obey it without question.
If we are part of the church then we have been called by God through the person and work of his Son and Messiah, Jesus.
If we are part of the church then have been adopted by God into his family and are his beloved children.
If we are part of the church then loving God will be our prime focus,
and we will obey his commands because they are not a burden to us.
When a church loses sight of all these things then we can conclude that God is not in their midst and they are not, in fact, the church
- after all, they are being controlled by the world, not be God.
So that is how the Father has victory over the world.
What about the Son?
What about the work of Jesus?
2. The Son's victory over the world.
I mentioned earlier that Jesus is the one sent by God to create the church.
The word "Christ" is a Greek word that means "Messiah",
a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament.
Christ is not Jesus' surname
and the Messiah is not music written by Handel.
Christ and Messiah mean the same thing.
In Psalm 2 verse 2 are the words
"The Kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the LORD and against his Anointed One."
The words "Anointed One" refer to Israel's king
- the person God has put on the throne to lead his people Israel.
When Samuel meets David for the first time in 1 Samuel 16,
he anoints him with oil
- a ceremony that indicates God's special blessing upon him for him to become king,
which David eventually becomes.
The Hebrew for "anointed one" is the word "Messiah".
Later in the Old Testament, prophets predict a return of a special king sent by God.
This king is similar to King David,
except that his power and rule will be far more spectacular than anything David could produce.
this special king sent by God,
will defeat all of God's enemies
and bring peace and justice to the world.
This Messiah will also bring to himself God's people,
who will live in paradise for ever more.
There are also indications in the Old Testament prophets that this Messiah is in some way God himself in human flesh.
So who is the Messiah?
He is a king sent by God to destroy God's enemies, to bring to himself God's special people and is in some way God himself.
Well guess who we're talking about here?
Jesus of course.
Jesus is the Christ, he is the Messiah.
He destroys God's enemies
and has created the Church as God's people,
and he is God himself in human flesh.
Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.
The first way that the Son has victory over the world is the fact that he as Messiah was sent by God.
Although it is impossible for us to understand the nature of the divine Trinity,
we need to accept the fact that there is some level of hierarchy.
The Son does not act on his own,
he acts because he obeys the Father.
Jesus did not take it upon himself to come down as Messiah.
He was sent by the Father to do this.
We need to understand that Jesus' mission on earth was determined by the Father.
God did not choose to act in many different ways
- he chose to act in one way,
through the mission of his Son, Jesus.
The second way that the Son has victory over the world is that he as Messiah died for God's church.
With all the Old Testament prophecies speaking of a glorious, powerful ruler,
we need to also remember that the Messiah was also prophesied to be the suffering servant.
In Isaiah 53 verse 5 we read of this suffering servant that
"He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
The Messiah came as king,
but he also came to suffer and die.
Remember that the world is opposed to God's rule,
and God will deal with the world by either forgiving those who repent or by punishing the unrepentant with eternal damnation.
But if God is a God of justice,
how can he merely forgive people their sins?
That verse I read from Isaiah 53 shows that the Messiah's death will atone for the sins of God's people, the church.
God has forgiven us,
but he still deals with our sins justly through the death of Jesus.
If God is to take for himself a people from this sinful world,
then he must still deal justly with their sins while at the same time being gracious and loving.
Jesus, the Messiah, the King God sent to rule over us as his people, willingly sacrified himself on the cross
so that the sins of the church may be atoned for.
The third way that the Son has victory over the world is through his resurrection.
When Jesus was crucified, Pilate placed a sign above him saying "King of the Jews".
The death of a king is a momentus thing in the life of a nation.
For us as God's people, the death of our Messiah, our King sent by God, could be seen as a defeat.
But Jesus didn't stay dead.
The Gospels record for us that he rose again and was seen by his followers and many others for months following his death on the cross.
If Jesus is the Messiah, the King sent by God to create the church, then he could not stay dead for long.
His resurrection defeated death, and shows that all who belong to God's church will one day too be raised from the dead.
We are all going to die one day,
but because we are members of Christ's church,
our death will not be permanent
- we will live again.
The final way that the Son has victory over the world is when he as Messiah returns again.
We live in a world where the majority of people still reject God and his rule.
We are the Church that Christ has created,
but the world is still opposed to God.
It appears we are in a stalemate.
But we're not.
Jesus, after his resurrection, went to be with his Father in heaven.
But he will return one day,
and when he does the world as we know it will cease to exist.
We who are his people will go to be with him in paradise forever,
while those who are not will suffer eternal death and suffering.
Jesus has yet to return to allow time for people to turn to him in repentance.
The world that opposes God will one day be destroyed when Jesus returns to judge them.
So the Father has victory over the world,
and the Son has victory over the world.
What about the Spirit?
How does he have victory over the world?
3. The Spirit's victory over the world.
One of the most obvious questions about these 5 verses in 1 John is "why talk about the Holy Spirit when he isn't even mentioned?"
In these verses we see Jesus mentioned,
and God mentioned,
but where is the Spirit mentioned?
Well, it's quite easy
- In verse one and verse four we see the phrase "born of God".
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" it says in verse one.
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world" it says in verse four.
This phrase "born of God" refers to the idea of Spiritual birth.
When Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about the necessity to be "born again" or "born from above",
he is referring to Spiritual birth.
Being "born of God" means that God's Holy Spirit is at work in the church.
It therefore means that the Holy Spirit is part of God's victory over the world.
In the Nicene creed we read the words
"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son."
Remember that the Trinity has some level of hierarchy to it.
We've already seen that the Son can only act in accordance with the will of the Father.
Well it's the same with the Spirit
- the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" says the Nicene Creed.
What this recognises is all the Biblical evidence to show that the Holy Spirit acts and works only in accordance with the will of the both the Father and the Son.
And if it is the will of the Father to create the church through the work of the Son,
then it must therefore be logical to see the person and work of the Holy Spirit through this process.
Now if you like sermons that have nice structures then surely you'll have liked today's.
I have three main points about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Each of these main points has four sub points about how they have victory over the world.
Let me just say that I didn't really try to make it this way,
it sort of happened.
The first way the Spirit has victory over the world is through the power of rebirth.
If the world is opposed to God
and God is determined to call the world to repentance
and to create for himself a people out of this sinful world,
then the people who make up the church have to be born again
- they have to be born of God's Holy Spirit.
Sin is so awful and is so powerful that we as sinners cannot control it
- sin controls us.
And because sin controls us,
we cannot of our own free choice choose to repent and have faith in God.
The reason is because sin makes people spiritually dead.
And when a person is dead,
they have no free choice to act in the world that they are dead in.
When a person is physically dead,
they cannot freely act in the physical world.
Go for a walk in a cemetry and ask one of the dead people a question.
Will they answer? No.
Not because they choose not to, but because they can't
- they're dead!
When a person is spiritually dead,
they cannot freely act in the spiritual world.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring people back to life spiritually,
and when that has been done, they will automatically choose to repent of their sins and turn to God in faith.
We need to remember that our Spiritual rebirth is something that God initiates through the Work of the Holy Spirit.
The second way the Spirit has victory over the world is through the power of knowledge.
What sort of knowledge?
The knowledge of the Gospel of Christ.
In verse one we read "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."
In other words, those who have been spiritually reborn,
those who have been born again,
are those people who know and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ
- that Jesus is the Messiah.
Remember that the Holy Spirit does not work apart from the work of the Father and the Son.
I've already spoken to you about the work of the Son as Messiah
- how he came to earth to die and rise again
so that we might be forgiven,
that God might create for himself the church.
It is that message, that knowledge, that the Spirit uses.
If a person is truly born again of the Holy Spirit then they will know and accept the message of Christ crucified and risen again.
The reverse is equally true
- if a person is not truly born again of the Holy Spirit then they will be ignorant of or hostile towards the message of Christ crucified and risen again.
The third way the Spirit has victory over the world is through the work of Christian love.
In verse one we read that "everyone who loves the father loves his child as well."
If we truly have the Spirit of God,
if we have truly been born again,
then the natural outworking of this fact will be a genuine love for other members of the church.
I've spoken at length about love in previous sermons on 1 John,
but what we see here again is the simple fact that love is one important indicator of true faith.
If we have God's Holy Spirit, then we will love one another.
The final way the Spirit has victory is through an ongoing resistance to the world in the lives of all true believers.
Verse four says "everyone born of God overcomes the world".
We need to understand that when John says "overcoming" here in these verses, he is talking about both a single event and as an ongoing process.
In other words, when we overcome the world,
we overcome it through our conversion to Christianity
- the single event
- and we overcome it through our persevence as believers
- the ongoing process.
If we are to be faithful Christians
and if we are to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to avoid the sins and pitfalls of this evil world,
then we must turn to the Spirit-inspired word of God.
God's Holy Spirit created the Bible,
and through reading it, studying it and speaking it to others,
the Holy Spirit works powerfully.
And when this is done, the world is being defeated.
This is more than just head knowledge, it is applying the Bible's teaching to our daily lives.
Without the work of the Spirit within us as he speaks to us in the Word of God,
we would never be saved,
we would never be part of God's church,
and we would never be able to resist the world's evil.
We need to be thankful that God is still working in the Uniting Church of Australia.
Despite the massive influence of the world in the church, there are still many believers who have remained faithful to God and his word,
and who have been spurred to action by recent events.
We need to be thankful to God for our own denomination,
the Presbyterian Church of Australia,
that despite decades of unbelief and heretical teaching,
the true believers in the church remained faithful and have been used by God to turn the church away from the world,
and instead submit to the Father.
God is creating for himself his own people, taken from this world of unbelief
- the church,
the true church, not some business organisation.
And by doing so he has defeated the world.
God the Father has defeated the world by sending his Son, Jesus, as the Messiah to create his church.
He has defeated the world by adopting us, the church, as his children.
He has defeated the world by being the focus of the church's love and worship,
and by giving his people commands to follow.
God the Son has defeated the world because he was sent by God to rule over the church as its King and Messiah.
He has defeated the world because by his death on the cross he atoned for the sins of the church.
He has defeated the world through his defeat of death through his resurrection, bringing new life to all who turn to him.
And he will finally defeat the world when he returns in glory to bring his church into paradise and bring those who oppose him to death and judgement.
God the Holy Spirit has defeated the world by acting to bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life
because of our inability to do so ourselves.
He has defeated the world by working in and through the message of the Gospel that the church believes and trusts in.
He has defeated the world by causing the church to turn to one another in love and concern, rather than being selfish and uncaring.
And he has defeated the world by giving us the strength to persevere as we trust in God's word
and resist the evil and temptations of the devil.
We believe in a mighty God.
Heavenly Father, we come before you powerless and humble. It was you who created us and saved us from death and judgement. Thank you for sending Jesus to die and rise again, and thank you for sending us your Spirit to make us alive and to strengthen us as we await your final victory. Amen.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.