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Faithlife

Staring At A Defeated Foe (1 John 5:1-5)

1 John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Learn how to persevere in the ways of Christ even when you feel like giving up. God's commands are not burdensome when we understand the ways of the world. You can overcome because you're staring at a defeated foe!

Notes & Transcripts

INTRO

Have you ever been told to do something and wondered how you would ever be able to do it? The task seemed impossible.
In his book The Daniel Plan, Rick Warren told this story:

Prior to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania was just another marathon runner. An Olympic caliber runner, yes. He had won marathons in Africa, running with times under 2 ½ hours.
He easily qualified for the Olympics. But in Mexico City, Akhwari encountered an obstacle he had never faced before: the altitude, which caused his legs to cramp severely. Still, he kept running. Then, about halfway through the race, he tangled with some other runners and fell. He dislocated his knee, scraped up his leg, and hurt his shoulder as he fell. But he didn’t stop. With terrible injuries and cramped muscles slowing him, he labored on and finished the race. He was one of seventy-five people who started the race, and the last of fifty-seven to finish it.
When he finally entered the arena for the final lap, only a couple thousand people were there to see him complete the race. He finished dead last, more than an hour behind the winner. A cheer went up for this brave runner as he circled the now darkened track. Although it seemed that Akhwari had lost the race, everyone who saw him finish knew he was a winner.
In an interview later on, a reporter asked, “Why didn’t you quit when you were hurt and bruised, bloody, discouraged? Why didn’t you quit?” His answer: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
We are saved in order to finish the race in this life; our faith is not just a nice feeling to get us started and then is void of the power to help us finish. We serve a God who promised that he who began a good work in your will be faithful to complete it ().
When
Yet, you might feel that certain situations are just too much for you to handle. It just seems impossible. Many think this about God’s commands. I don’t think I can give up the alcohol. I don’t think I can stop having this affair. I don’t think I can go to that city and tell people about Jesus.
In other words, some people might think that the commands of God are too burdensome. Some think that Christianity is all about rules. And if they think they can’t handle the rules, then they just stay away from Jesus.
Yet, we are clearly told in this passage that God’s commands are not burdensome. You can do this! You can obey Christ all the way to the end. I want to encourage you with this simple truth: you can go because you’re staring at a defeated foe.
So let’s look at 3 marks a Christian and how God enables us to obey his commands and fulfill his purposes for our lives.

We Are Born Again

I imagine John was thinking back to the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus that John recorded in chapter 3 of his gospel record when he wrote this passage. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, a group that was the judicial authority for the Jewish people.
As wise as Nicodemus was as a teacher of the law, there was at least one concept that stumped him. He approached Jesus by night makes a statement to him. Jesus replied “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This is a critical statement! It’s critical for your faith. For you life. For understanding what we are told in v.3 of our passage.
You must be born again. That means that there is something more to this life. We must be born again, or “from above” is a literal meaning. We are born physically but we must be born spiritually. We must become a new person. We do this by believing that Jesus is the Christ.

We Believe in Jesus, the Messiah

Not a faith in a particular doctrine; not a faith in a particular church activity; not a faith in a particular person; we have a faith in a personal Savior.
If faith is really about a particular doctrine, you’ll be so dogmatic to only focus on that doctrine and not be as concerned about Jesus and his leadership of the church.
Some might have a crisis of belief when a particular church activity no longer happens. If your faith is centered around the Spring Missions Bake Sale, and it doesn’t happen one year, it might leave you in a quandry.
If your faith is all about a particular person, when that person lets you down, then you’ll question your faith. Yet, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is true to his promises and won’t let you down like others will.
Remember that we have faith in a personal Savior.

We Love God and Others

V.1- If we love the Father, then we’ll love whoever has been born of him. Notice John’s teaching is in line with the Great Commandment ():
(ESV)
36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38This is the great and first commandment.
39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
We’ll know we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. Because he commands us to love one another.
Here’s the reality: whether or not you like it, in Christ you’re part of a family—and you are supposed to love this family.
10,000 Sermon Illustrations Winston Churchill

Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation. - Robert Orben

It’s not easy to love others sometimes. But notice what John says: we’ll love others when we love God and keep his commandments. Do you see how your love for others is dependent upon your love for and obedience to God? It’s not dependent on what you think they deserve.
So John has told us 3 marks of a believer: we are born again; we believe in Jesus, the Messiah; and we love God and others.
With all of that, let’s look now to how we can fight the good fight of faith all the way to the end:

You Can Go Because You’re Staring At A Defeated Foe

You can go all the way to the end with Christ. All the times you’ve felt like a failure and that you need to give up, don’t forget what John says in v.3-5. I want to read it out of the CSB because it will make it even easier to understand.
(CSB) 3For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, 4because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.
(CSB)
God’s commandments are not burdensome. Let’s pause here and recognize that some people will wonder how this could possibly be. But would you circle the first word of v.4— because or maybe for.
3For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden,
There is a connection between God’s commands not being burdensome and the fact that those who have been born again have overcome the world. So we want to press in to this to say what does overcoming the world have to do with God’s commands not being burdensome?
4because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.
So let’s think about how the world impacts us. When the bible talks about the world in the figurative sense, it is talking about the ways associated with a sinful fallen world. It’s talking about unrighteousness and our sin.
Look at how Timothy describes it:
(CSB)
24The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.
25instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.
26Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
26Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Do you realize that we are born into sin, and therefore, are slaves to the will of Satan? We are in bondage to sin.
If you think God’s commands are burdensome, then you don’t understand the futility of the world’s ways.
It’s burdensome to pursue greed; lust; anger; wealth to find satisfaction because they will never bring lasting fulfillment. They will not bring eternal fulfillment.
Yet, while being in bondage to sin and burdened by the world’s ways, some look at the way of freedom that Christ offers as being burdensome!
Here’s what John says: His commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world.
The burden has been released by Christ! His ways free us from the world’s futile ways and lead us into the way of righteousness. We have overcome the world, so the way of freedom is not a burden!
our slavery has been flipped around in a sense:
17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, 18 and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.
18and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
19I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.
When we face the ways of the world and are pressured to follow, we are staring at a defeated foe! We can go in the ways of Christ, because we’re staring at a defeated foe.
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