1 John 5:4-5
Overcoming the World
“You must be born again,” Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:7). It is this regenerating experience through the Holy Spirit that is the true beginning of the Christian life. I do not agree with those who say one must be able to point to a specific time and place when this happened to them, for there are too many godly people who cannot point to such a moment in their lives, and even more who later say that what they thought was their “born again” moment in the past was not. What matters is that one is “born of God” right now—period, the proof of which being right (orthodox) beliefs about Jesus and faith in him, righteous living, and love of the brethren.
But this life is hard to live. We are surrounded by a host of demonic forces who are very adept at using the world and our own sinful desires against us. It can take years to subdue some temptations, and trials constantly wear us down. There are circumstances beyond our control, and we can feel hurt very deeply. But John encourages us in this place with a wonderful promise—that the one born of God overcomes the world through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
But what does “overcomes the world” mean? One might suggest that it means that we will one day die and go to heaven. Well, of course, and surely that is the greatest promise of all. But Christians are not to be people waiting around to die so that they may overcome. I believe that “overcoming the world” has some this world implications as well, such as overcoming temptation and growing in grace such that even personality changes occur as well (e.g., the grumpy become gracious, the angry become mild, the envious become content). And the knowledge that we are aliens in this world and citizens of another far more glorious kingdom, and that our passage through this world is but a breath compared to the weight of eternal glory there—all of this made possible through the Spirit’s empowerment through faith in Jesus Christ—make us “overcomers” even now.
No, Christians are not people waiting to die so that they may finally overcome; Christians are people who are overcoming in the here and now—defeating temptation, enduring trial with grace and fortitude, laughing at the world’s terrors when others hide in caves, and if it ever comes, smile at momentary earthly flames while looking beyond to heavenly rewards. Faith is indeed the victory that overcomes the world, and heaven is the future reward that makes life worth living on earth in the here and now.