Overcoming the World

Nineveh was a worldly city characterized by the godless nature of its people. Nahum communicated to its inhabitants that God was “slow to anger” (Nahum 1:3) and a refuge “for those who trust in him” (verse 7), but He would not leave the guilty unpunished (see verse 3). The Ninevites never overcame their worldliness and were doomed.

We also can let our affections be drawn to the world. For this reason we are warned, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not them” (1 John 2:15). As Christians we are betrothed to Christ, but we are tempted to commit adultery with the world. “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The world seeks to weaken our love for Christ by appealing to our old nature, which desires to live according to the world’s values. The temptation of the world is to satisfy our pleasures and not seek that which pleases God. The world system promotes self-sufficiency, but we have all the resources we need to withstand these threats. “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

In the first sentence of this verse, “overcomes” is in the present tense. This does not mean that believers never succumb to the temptation of the world but that victory (rather than defeat) generally characterizes their lives. In the second sentence, “has overcome” is in the past tense, indicating that the action is finished. This is consistent with the truth that when we came to Christ, we were joined to the One who could say, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ’s triumph over the powers of sin belongs to every believer who is alive in Him.

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). John switches back to the present tense, indicating an ongoing sense of overcoming—that is, the daily experience of our victory over the world because we are alive in Christ. When we placed our faith in Christ, we became overcomers, and we continue to live like overcomers when we continue to believe all that God says is true. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [false prophets], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. . . . We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us” (1 John 4:4,6).

Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:26-27). You can store up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven. You know you have overcome the world when you look forward to a greater reward than the passing pleasures of this world.

Dr. Neil

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