Faith: Our Source for Overcoming Sin and Temptation
Let’s start this morning by turning with me in your Bibles to Hebrews Chapter 12.
Remember, we said that there were two basic motives for John to write this epistle. The first was to warn against and expose false teaching and the second was to give assurance to believers.
In this section of the epistle; John is giving us assurance, assurance of something we desperately need. Assurance that our struggle with sin is not futile and assurance that this struggle has a predetermined outcome that was decided long before any of us were ever even born.
Christians go by many names in the Bible. What are some of the names for Christians?
Christians – Acts 11:26
Saints – Romans 1:7
Brethren – Matthew 28:10
Sheep – John 10:1
Children of God – Philippians 2:15
Children of Light – Ephesians 5:8
Witnesses – Hebrews 12:1
Stewards – 1 Peter 4:10
Ambassadors of Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Heirs – Galatians 3:29
Well one of the most revealing names we have appears in 1 John 5:4; we are called “overcomers”. I say this is revealing because it identifies us with our Lord and Savior. It reveals who we are in Him. We are all those other names, but “overcomer” has a special connotation because it applies to us right now and to our relationship to sin and this world system we live in.
This morning we are going to look at what John means by “overcomer”, and how it applies to believers.
Sometimes we fall short, sometimes we do not live up to who we are in Christ.
Has anyone here ever struggled with sin and temptation? Of course you have; we all have.
Has anyone here ever fallen short of God’s perfection? Of course you have; we all have.
Let’s face it, if we see failure and defeat on a regular basis, it’s easy to lose sight of who we are and give-in easier and more readily to the enemy. But if we have a firm understanding; an unshakable belief in the final outcome, we can finish the race despite apparent losses because of the assurance of who we really are.
The writer of Hebrews says:
The context here, is the writer of Hebrews had just finished chapter 11, the Hall of Faith, and gave us all those wonderful examples of those saints that suffered and died for their faith and all the miraculous things that were accomplished because of their faith. Now in chapter 12 he is encouraging the Jews who were waffling between committing to Christ and returning to Judaism, to move on to Christ. The message here for modern believers, is one of persevering in faith despite the obstacles.
The word picture the writer uses is that of an athlete running in a race. We are exhorted to lay aside every sin “which so easily ensnares us”. The idea here is that the runner not only laying aside the encumbrances that would be an obstacle; but even stripping off his very clothes, which would cling around him and slow him down. The idea is removing anything and everything that could possibly hinder us in our race; committing fully to running our absolute fastest.
Everyone here is familiar with the athletic shoes called “Nike”. This company makes sports wear and endorses some of the world’s biggest athletes. Their slogan is “Just Do It”. Meaning: forget the obstacles, forget the excuses, just perform. Just do it.
I think we can take that same attitude in our Christian walk, we can forget the excuses and forget the obstacles and be like Christ.
The word “Nike” is the name for the Greek goddess of victory. The word itself means to subdue, to gain victory, to prevail. And it is the same word that John uses in 1 John 5:4 to describe Christians; there it is translated “overcomer”.
But how do we do that? How do come up with the strength to lay aside every sin.
Our flesh is in a constant war with our spirit. Paul described the same struggle in Romans 7, when he said:
He then goes on to resolve the conflict theologically, but 1 John 5:1-5 is going to give us a tool to resolve the conflict practically.
That tool is knowledge. It is said; “knowledge is power”.
Our goal this morning is to see what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through 1 John 5:1-5, and how that applies to our struggle with sin and temptation.
What we are going to discover is:
Overcoming the world and sin isn’t something we do, it’s something we realize.
Let me explain what I mean: we have to understand, there is no need for us to overcome anything… because Jesus Christ already overcame it and when we accept Christ as our Savior and are placed IN Christ, we are ‘overcomers-after-the-fact’. Sin has already been overcome. We just have to realize it and live in the truth of it.
It’s like a dog that is trained with one of those invisible fences. Do you know what that is? A cable is buried underground around the perimeter of a yard and the dog wears a shock collar. And every time he gets close to where the cable is buried he receives a shock. So the dog learns to stay away from the yard perimeter and stays within his own yard. After a while you can remove the collar and the dog will still stay in the yard because he doesn’t realize the collar caused the shock and it is no longer on him. We are like that dog and the invisible fence is sin and temptation. We have gone to the edge and tried to walk past it so many times and fallen or gotten shocked so we back off. And now we no longer test to see if we can be as holy as God demands. What we don’t realize is that Christ removed that collar, that fence cannot hurt us any more we CAN walk past the fence and live holy, because Jesus overcame that fence and in Him we have overcome it also.
Once we truly realize the fact that Jesus has defeated sin and in Him we have also, we can win the daily battles with temptation and our old sinful habits much easier. We don’t have to give in or surrender, we are free to be like Christ.
In the flesh the battles are massacres. Not only are we fighting on the enemy’s territory, against overwhelming forces but our own bodies are fighting against us also! How can we possibly win? In the flesh we can’t. But IN Christ we can, in fact, the Bible is says we have already won. This is because, IN Christ we are overcomers.
So out quest this morning is to see what an overcomer is.
In our text this morning; John gives us three attributes of an overcomer:
The three attributes are:
Faith in the Christ
Love for the Father, and
Obedience to the Word
These three, John assures us, marks us as overcomers.
So let’s look at the text and examine these three attributes one at a time and see how they help us overcome sin in our lives.
(1) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
(2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
(3) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
(4) For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.
(5) Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The first point is:
1. FAITH IN THE CHRIST
Look down at verse 1:
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, …”
A. What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ?
The question that pops into my mind is; “does that mean that Mormons and anyone who claims Jesus is Christ has been born again?”.
And the answer is no. Because of the little definite article “the”. Look again at the verse: Whoever believes that Jesus is THE Christ is born of God. If you underline or mark in your bibles, circle or underline or highlight that word “the”. The “the” before Christ makes all the difference in the world. It distinguishes Jesus between “a” Christ, a savior, a Messiah, and the ONE and ONLY Christ, the ONE and ONLY Savior, the ONE and ONLY Messiah. He is THE Christ. That little THE identifies Jesus as the tender plant and the man of sorrows of Isaiah 53, it identifies Him as the BRANCH of Jeremiah 33, Jesus is the Lord of Lords, the alpha and the Omega of Revelation, the first and the last of Isaiah 44. It identifies Him as the Seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 and the Star out of Jacob in Numbers 24, and as God in John 1:1.
Every prophecy and every description of the Messiah is true in Jesus, He is THE Christ.
Belief that Jesus is THE Christ means believing everything that is true about what the Bible says about the Christ. It means believing Acts 4:12
If someone does not believe that, if they believe you can get to heaven some other way then they do not believe Jesus is THE Christ. They believe Jesus is “A” Christ. And Jesus as “A” Christ is not good enough.
Believing that Jesus is THE Christ means accepting 100% His sacrificial death on the cross as complete payment for our sins without adding one iota of our works to it. It means coming to Him as our Great High Priest and worshipping Him and Him alone.
It also means He is all sufficient for us. Turn in your bible to Colossians 2:1-4 I’m going to read down to verse 4.
Did you see that? In Christ is ALL wisdom and knowledge.
This is an authoritative statement from God.
What does that mean?
As one commentator put it:
“It is in Christ that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found. Everything that has value is summed up in Him, everything that has to do with meaning in this life and the life to come, everything related to life and death and eternity. Everything related to joy and peace and fulfillment and putting your soul at rest, everything is found in Him.”
Keep your finger or your handout here in Colossians and turn back in your bibles to Proverbs. Proverbs chapter 30.
You cannot gain knowledge of God through human understanding. In whom is all wisdom and knowledge? – Christ.
All spiritual wisdom and understanding is revealed from God alone.
(4) Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth?
Sounds like God’s response to Job doesn’t it?
What is His name, and what is His Son's name, If you know?
Do you know His Son’s name? – Sure – Jesus.
He descended from Heaven and ascended. He created the universe and established it.
Now flip back to Colossians and let’s continue at verse 8:
Everything we need is made full in Christ. One version translates verse 10 as:
“and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;”
You see, we have been made, past tense, complete already.
We already have the ability to resist sin and temptation because we have been made complete in Him.
To believe that Jesus is THE Christ means you believe and accept all this about Him. It means Jesus is the ONE and ONLY Savior, He is EVERYTHING to us. It is all about Jesus. And for the Christian, He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus is the word incarnate; He is the word of God. The Bible is the written manifestation of that, and since Jesus is THE Christ and in Christ is all wisdom and knowledge, therefore; we get all wisdom and knowledge from the bible. In other words, the one who believes that Jesus is THE Christ will use the Bible as their only source for wisdom and knowledge. Everything we believe and the principles by which we live have to align to this book.
Believing Jesus is THE Christ isn’t a mere intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus is Christ. It is a living belief in everything that the Bibles says about the Christ, from Genesis to Revelation, is true in only ONE person; Jesus of Nazareth. It means believing and accepting Him, personally, alone, with no additions or caveats. It means trusting and resting fully in Him for everything; from our initial salvation to our daily sustenance to our future glorification with Him. That’s believing that Jesus is THE Christ.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.
The fact He is the “author” of our faith means that He is the originator of it and the term for “finisher” carries the meaning that He will carry it through to perfect completion.
What a powerful thought to know that Jesus THE Christ originated our faith and will see it through. So when we are tempted to sin, we don’t have to, through Him we can live holy.
Paul said, in Philippians 4:13;
(13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
That includes turning from sin and resisting temptation.
Turn back to 1 John 5:1 and notice also says that whoever believes that Jesus is THE Christ is “born of God”.
B. Born of God
Let’s turn to the gospel of John and read the account of Jesus and Nicodemus.
[read John 3:1-21]
Jesus gave Nicodemus the discourse on what it means to be born again.
There are two family groups. Either you are part of God’s family or you are part of Satan’s family.
When Jesus was speaking with the Pharisees he told them that although they believed they were God’s children, they were wrong, they were actually the children of the devil:
[read John 8:31-44]
Jesus made it clear, if you believe on Him you are a child of God, if you do not believe only on Him, no matter what you think, you are a child of the devil.
We are all born into the family of the devil by default, but how do you go from one family group to the other?
We have to be born again into God’s family, born of faith. By placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ we are born again, instantly into God’s family.
This has to be by faith. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God.
It is our faith in Christ that results in our re-birth into God’s family.
Once you are in that new family you now have a new heritage.
Just the other day I read an article about a man who was adopted as a child and never knew his birth parents. Then after many years of searching and help the adoption agency they found his mother and now he found out that his biological father is Charles Manson. What a family line to be born into.
But when anyone is “born-again” he or she has a new family heritage and new family characteristics. And as a member of the family of God, one of the new characteristics is one of holiness.
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Peter 1:1-4 says
(1) Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
(2) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
(3) as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
(4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
We do not become little gods, but we become new creations with a new family heritage.
Part of this new heritage is the overcoming power that we have in Christ.
That means we are partakers, sharers in the victory over sin that Jesus Christ accomplished for us.
Because we believe that Jesus is THE Christ, we believe everything that the Bible says about Him, about who He is and what He has done and will do
we are partakers, sharers in the victory over sin that Jesus Christ accomplished
Jesus has overcome the world and through Him we already have victory over death and sin, and today you can overcome sin and temptation by living in the knowledge of who you are in Christ and exactly who Jesus THE Christ is and what He did.
2. LOVE FOR THE FATHER
Look at the second part of verse 1 of 1 John 5.
“…and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
There is a two fold love that will flow from believers. One is a love for the Father and the other is a love of those begotten of the Father.
A. Love for the Father
We naturally love our parents as children. No matter how good a parent is, their baby will love them. This may change over time with our human parents, but it will not change with our heavenly Father, we will always love Him. We should always love Him.
According to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we are commanded to love God.
The love John is talking about here is not an emotional or sentimental love; it is a desire to honor, please and obey God.
Turn to Psalm 119:41-48.
Loving God brings joy to the believer, and that joy and love will give us pause before sinning against the one who we love:
B. Love of Those Begotten of the Father
We have seen this mentioned in three other previous lessons, including the last one, where we are encouraged and even commanded to love the brethren.
We have seen before that “to love God is to love those begotten of God”
In our last lesson we saw chapter 4 verse 21:
“and this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
Notice how John ties the love of God together with the love for the brethren. To know God is to love the brethren, to love God’s children.
It’s a commandment, not a suggestion and not an option.
There are two ways of looking at this commandment. One as a directive: If we love God then we are to love the brethren, to make ourselves love the brethren.
The other way of looking at this is; cause and effect. If we love God, then we will love the brethren.
Another way of saying it would be….’if you work all day on a car engine you shall cut your fingers, bruise your arms and get grease all over you’. That’s not saying that at some point you have to cut your fingers, bruise your arms and get covered in grease in order to work on a car engine, but it is a certainty that it will happen as a natural course of working on a car engine all day. If you dropped your car off at the mechanics for some work and came back later to pick it up and while paying for it you noticed the mechanic’s coveralls were spotless clean and he had on an ironed shirt and had smooth clean hands you’d be suspicious if he ever really worked on your car. You’d expect him to be covered in grease and have dirty hands wouldn’t you?
This is what the verse says: If you truly love God, you’re going get your hands dirty, you are going to love the brethren, it’s a certainty that it will happen as a natural course of loving God. If someone claims to love God and then has no love of fellow believers, you’d be suspicious that they ever really loved God.
Another thing to consider is that those begotten of God are made in His likeness. In James epistle, speaking about taming the tongue he says this:
It is out of our love for our fellow Christians that will act as a restraining force helping keep us from sin.
James 5:19-20 says;
Again, Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
In our Christian walk we need each other. Being accountable to each other and being there for each other will help keep us from falling in sin. Alone we are susceptible to sin but if we know others are there for us we have the motivation not to sin.
3. OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD
Look at 1 John 5:2-3
We saw in verse 1 that whoever loves God also loves those that are begotten or born of God. Now in this verse we see that they way we know that we love God’s children is by loving God and keeping His commands, in other words being obedient to Him. That is how we show our love for God and other Christians.
The hall marks of genuine faith are love and obedience. Notice that His commandments will not be burdensome to us, that is; we will want to obey Him, we will want to do His will.
Our humble, loving obedience to the Father is what pleases Him most.
1 Samuel 15:22
The Preacher summed it up inEcclesiastes 12:13:
Since we are in Christ and have are sharers with Him of the divine nature we should be obedient as He was obedient to the Father:
A. The Obedience of Christ
Jesus was totally obedient to the Father:
Christ’s earthly mission was to do the will of the Father in heaven.
Agonizing in the garden the night before his execution Jesus said:
The author of Hebrews explains that Jesus learned obedience. Look at Hebrews 5:8-9
The Holy Spirit links the obedience of believers to Christ and the obedience of Christ to the Father.
Jesus Himself links our obedience to Him with our love to Him.
Jesus even questions those who claim Him but do not obey Him;
1 Corinthians 10:13
Our obedience to the Word of God, to God’s commandments will keep from sin.
I want you to look back up at 2, A in your notes and look again at Psalms 119:35-37
Our obedience to the Word of God, to God’s commandments will keep from even wanting to sin.
First we have seen that Jesus has overcome the world and through Him we already have victory over death and sin, and today we can overcome sin and temptation by living in the knowledge of who we are in Christ and exactly who Jesus THE Christ is and what He did, and by being born of God we become new creations with a new family heritage and part of this new heritage is the overcoming power that we have in Christ.
Second we saw that loving God brings joy to the believer, and that joy and love will give us pause before sinning against the one who we love, and that being accountable to each other and being there for each other will help keep us from falling in sin.
Then lastly we saw that our obedience to the Word of God, to God’s commandments will keep from even wanting to sin.
Now in 1 John 5:4-5
(4) For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.
(5) Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
We are back to where we started; belief that Jesus is THE Son of God. And here is where John gets to his main point; that genuine believers are “overcomers” and our faith in Him is what makes us overcomers. We have overcome sin and temptation because Jesus overcame it already. Now we are free to “Just Do It”, as the Nike slogan says.
“Therefore …, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, …”
We can turn from sin, flee from it. Let’s forget the obstacles, forget the excuses, let’s just do it.