1 John 5:1-5

How many times do we have to be told something before we get the message? Certainly, the apostle, John, has repeated his points over and over, but we must remember that his readers would have received John's message as a letter, which would probably have been read to them in one sitting. Few people in those days could read for themselves, so opportunities to go over it, time and again, would have been limited. By contrast, we are taking twenty-four weeks to study it in detail. As we have repeated some subjects (like "love" and "obedience") so we have been able to look at them from various angles, receiving a new depth of understanding of our wonderful, true and living God. By this time in our study of the whole letter, we should - hopefully - have begun to feel that we are now "able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ - and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God". (Ephesians 3:18-19) Let's pause for a moment now and ask the Holy Spirit specifically to make this our experience!

Thus, at the beginning of this last section, John starts with a quick re-cap of what he's been saying: If we believe, adhere to, trust and rely on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, we are born of God and so we are His children. If we love the Father, we must also love the rest of His family. By loving our brothers and sisters, we prove that we love God, even when we cannot see Him. The love that we have for God is the same love that He wants us to show to other members of our "God-family". We show our love for God simply by obeying His commands and they boil down to two basic principles: firstly, loving God Himself - above and beyond anyone or anything else (John 14:21) - and then loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37)

1 John 5:3

God’s commands are not burdensome

This can be true when all our obedience comes from the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:18) In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." This is vitally important because, otherwise, we can come to the point of feeling that our Christian walk has become a great effort and we lose the joy and excitement of our walk with Him. We can even feel challenged by Jesus’ warning to the church at Laodicea about being "lukewarm" and in danger of being "spit out of Christ’s mouth". (Revelation 3:16) Doing things entirely through our own resources inevitably leads to frustration and failure.

If we come to the point where we think we have lost our zeal (Romans 12:11), let's ask the Father for the things that are on His heart. Often, we can become so busy with the things that are considered the "duties" of living a Christian life, that we overlook the whole reason for our new life: Jesus Christ Himself. When we become conscious of this happening, let's re-focus and take some time out to re-think our priorities. We can forget the cleaning, have freezer meals for a couple of days and take the time to seek God - for however long it takes. Let's allow ourselves to be restored to a life of passion for the heart of God. As we concentrate on "doing business with God", first and foremost, showing Him that we really are willing to do whatever it takes to have our relationship with Him restored to full strength, we shall see that loving Him and being obedient to His leading really is very easy and straightforward.

So, let's ask: "Lord, how can I stir myself up again?" then listen to what He says and obey it. (James 1:5) Let's make up our minds to expect an answer from the Holy Spirit and not to ignore His direction when it comes. Sometime this may look like as though it is going to cost us dearly but, in truth, it always pays off richly in the end. For example, when He tells us to forgive someone, that may seem tough. But, with His grace, it leads to peace of mind, good health and being forgiven by Him for our own sin - a fair exchange indeed!

Getting serious with God

We need to make a commitment to God to obey His word, no matter what it costs us, because everything God tells us to do is for our own good. Although it may seem difficult at first, ultimately it will bring the greatest blessing. (Isaiah 55:8) The difficulty comes when we sit on the fence, not taking God’s direction seriously and wavering over our decisions: "shall we, shan’t we; shall we, shan’t we?" If we stop doing what the Lord tells us to do, our lives will become bogged down. Even if we keep on studying His word and praying, we will realise that we are not hearing from God as we used to. This is usually because God will not reveal something new when we haven’t done the last thing He told us to do. We can’t read His word and enjoy all the benefits of its promises without also being "doers of the word". We need to adopt a lifestyle of studying the word of God, to see what He is saying to us about every area of our lives, then being willing and obedient to change, if that's what He calls us to do.

When we model our lives on the teaching of His word, we shall begin to see the results, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of all those around us. We have to hold onto His instructions, keeping His word in our hearts and mouths and not letting the enemy talk us out of obeying God’s word. It may be difficult at times and it may seem like our obedience is going to cost too much, but that is where faith comes in. Obeying God does not cost; it pays! When we obey, we find that being obedient is the most fulfilling and satisfying way to live. Let's be determined to take firm hold of the instructions of God, trusting Him with our lives, choosing not to be "double-minded" but obedient to what He says, receiving His love and believing all that He says. Let's not be afraid to tell the enemy where to go or he will be the one telling us! The Bible says that we should: "submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you". (James 4:7-8) God will give us the strength to keep going, even when the enemy comes against us and circumstances seem to conspire to make it impossible to follow God's word. At such times, we have to choose to believe God’s truth above the prevailing beliefs and opinions of those in the world around us. Let's not resent God’s teachings or His ways as a burden, but rejoice over them and make them our first choice. By so doing, we shall be choosing victory.

1 John 5:4-5

Overcoming the world

How do we ordinary human beings, with no special abilities or resources of wealth and privilege, manage to prevail against the so-called "wisdom" of the world around us? Well, John sums it up in these two verses, saying that whoever is born of God conquers "the world" and believing that Jesus is the Son of God - adhering to, trusting in and relying on this fact - gives victory over "the world". (Look at study seven for a reminder of what God's word means by "the world" and how to avoid being in love with it. We considered there "a new way of living" in contrast to the things that characterise the way that non-believers live out their lives: "the lust of the flesh", "the lust of the eyes" and "the pride of life".) The non-spiritual world only has power and influence over us as long as we are enticed and dazzled by its shallow attractions. When we see that world for what it is - in the grip of the evil one from the day Adam handed it over - we realise that, what it has to offer is nothing in comparison with the riches that are ours in Christ. Once we realise this, there is no battle.

These two verses are saying that, if we are born again we have an absolute right to be a winner, a conqueror; victorious in every situation in this evil world. We need to think about this constantly, developing a winning attitude all the time. Lots of us have quite negative attitudes when we come to Christ and we need to work at renewing our minds to create a winning attitude. (Romans 12:2) We can look at any situation that the enemy throws at us and say with confidence: "I am going to be victorious and there is not a thing the devil can do to stop me". Jesus knows everything that is going on in our lives and He says: "I have told you these things so that, in Me, you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials, distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted] for I have overcome the world! [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]" (John 16:33 - Amplified version) "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

Jesus is the only one who knows what it takes to have victory in this world. Certainly the non-spiritual world cannot tell us how to live victoriously in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus made things work, even in the middle of the darkest situations. (Matthew 8:23-26) If we follow the instructions in His word and obey His commands, we can know similar results. When God gave us the command to love one another, He wanted us to obey because it is the key to our freedom. If we can walk in the love that has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), then we shall have joy every day. God made it this way because love works! Without love, there can be no joy, but "the joy of the Lord is our strength". (Nehemiah 8:10)

Promises for the "last days"

There are amazing promises given in the book of Revelation to all who overcome the work of the enemy in their lives. They include promises of new spiritual food, a new name, no experience of death, authority in the nations and a life in the temple of our God, sitting by His throne.

  • "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
  • "He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." (Revelation 2:11)
  • "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17)
  • "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations." (Revelation 2:26)
  • "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels." (Revelation 3:5)
  • "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Revelation 3:12)
  • "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:21)
  • "He who overcomes will inherit all this and I will be His God and he will be my son." (Revelation 21:7)

How do we overcome the world?

There are so many ways open to us. We can use "the weapons of our warfare which are mighty through God to the bringing down of strongholds". (2 Corinthians 10:5) We can put on the full armour of God every day. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We have the word of God on which we can rely in all situations. As that teaching becomes "second nature" to us, we start to believe it more than we believe what we can see, hear or feel with our senses.

Let's focus on two activities we have that give us guaranteed victory:

  1. We need to see that the power to be an overcomer is in our mouths. We became Christians by believing in our hearts and then confessing with our mouths. (Romans 10:8-10) The same principle works when it comes to all the gifts that Jesus paid for through His death. We find out what God says in His word, then give voice to His answer, rather than simply rehearsing the problem. In this way, we can have healing, deliverance from all the work of the enemy, safety, and wholeness in body, mind and spirit. For miracles to happen in our lives, we have to focus on God’s word being the final authority. It does not matter how long it takes for the word to take effect; it will, so long as we believe and hold on to it, (Proverbs 18:21) David was a hero of the Old Testament who had great victories over the world of his day but also had great defeats. "David said to the Philistine: 'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. The Lord will hand you over to me and I will strike you down.’" (1 Samuel 17:45) He spoke out his victory over Goliath before it happened and silenced not only the voices in his head, but the whole Philistine army. He gave God words to work with, thus creating a victory.
  2. Another activity that we can use in our lives to overcome the world is the power of praise. "From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." (Psalm 8:2) We see that, as we praise God - giving Him thanks for Who He is - the work of the devil is silenced. Praise is a means to focus our hearts on God Himself, away from our own problems and our small perspective and on to God’s enormous character. Praise allows us to appreciate Him. Praise leads us to thank God firstly for our salvation and then for His many gifts. As we are reminded in Psalm 103, we should constantly remember all that God has done for us. "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." What amazing promises there are of what happens if we just praise Him! Let's use psalms 145 to 150 to praise God. They show us where, why and how to praise God. Also, check out the powerful story in 2 Chronicles, chapter twenty, of the power of praise seen when the nations of Ammon and Moab came to attack Jehoshaphat (king of Israel). All the people prayed and the king put "praisers" in the front of the army. "As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and they were defeated." Whatever our problems, as we focus on Jesus and praise Him, He works out the situation for our good, often without us needing to do anything.

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