1 Jn 5:4-10
Do you feel like a world beater this morning? Perhaps things are going really well in your life right now. However, I am guessing that most of us look at our life and see difficulties and struggles that we wish weren’t there. For many of us there are health issues that are constantly drawing our attention. These range from life threatening conditions, to those that are annoying and make life frustrating and less enjoyable.
There are concerns about family members who are having problems. We see them struggle with physical or mental illness, and often this impacts the whole family. We are worried about how school or their career are going. We are concerned about the spouse he or she will choose. We see family members drifting away from Christ and his Church. And we have concerns about our own schooling, career and the future to come.
As Christians it is impossible to look around at our culture and not be concerned. The number of people who identify themselves as Christians and attend church is declining. The culture is antagonist to Christianity as it seeks to force acceptance of sexual beliefs and practices that violate God’s Word. Our culture acts like faith in Christ doesn’t matter – Sunday morning is just another day for a sport’s tournament and Marion High School schedules a football game for the evening of Good Friday.
The epistle lesson for today, the Second Sunday of Easter, addresses this. On the one hand, there is no denying that the kinds of things I have just mentioned exist. But at the same time, the apostle John tell us that what God has done for us in Jesus Christ overcomes the world. Through faith in Christ, we have victory.
John begins our text this morning by writing, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” The starting point here is what God had done to you. You have been born of God. This is not the way you started. Instead, like everyone since the fall of Adam and Eve, you were conceived and born in sin. You were not born of God. You were born of the devil. He was your lord because you were fallen and sinful. No one had to teach you to be jealous, or selfish or angry. Instead, it was just there in you as a sinful person.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” Sinful, fallen nature gives birth to sinful, fallen nature. That’s why Paul told the Philippians, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
But God did not leave you there. Instead, he acted in his Son Jesus Christ to give you forgiveness and salvation. Jesus also told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To be born of God is to be born again. Jesus left no doubt how this happens when he went on to say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Through the water of Holy Baptism you have been born again by the Spirit. You have been born of God.
God’s Spirit has worked faith in Jesus Christ, and your baptism is the source of the Spirit’s continuing work in our life. How do you know that you have been born again – that you have been born of God? You have been baptized!
John has said that the one born of God overcomes the world. He then goes on to clarify this further as he says: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” John says that our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the victory that overcomes the world.
John states the reason for this as he goes on to say: “This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.” John the Baptist had come baptizing in water. Yet John tells us in his passion account: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth--that you also may believe.”
Jesus Christ died on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As the incarnate Son of God, he had become flesh to be nailed to a cross and die for us. In death, he poured forth water and blood. But that blood is the means by which he has given us life with God. John says in the first chapter of this letter that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Where sin once cut us of from the holy God, now because of Christ that is no longer the case. John tells us in this letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The water that flowed from Jesus’ side has become the water of Holy Baptism that washes away all our sins.
John says in our text, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Faith in Jesus Christ overcomes the world. “The world” refers to all of the ways that devil is at work through sin. Jesus referred to the devil as the “ruler of this world.” Here in this letter John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.”
The end result of the world is death. It cannot be otherwise, because Jesus tells us about the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning.” Jesus Christ had no sin, but John tells us in this letter, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus died as the atoning sacrifice in our place. Our sin brought death to him.
On Good Friday, as the sun was about to set, Joseph and Arimathea and Nicodemus hastily buried Jesus in a tomb. Yet Jesus had told his disciples that he would rise from the dead. On the morning of Easter there was confusion. The tomb was empty. The women reported seeing angels who said Jesus was alive, and some had even met the risen Lord. But for the disciples who had followed Jesus there was nothing certain and sure.
However, we learn in our Gospel lesson that on the evening of that day when the disciples were together in a locked room, the risen Lord Jesus appeared in their midst. He said, “Peace be with you,” and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples learned that Jesus lives! He has risen! And because he lives, we have life too.
Jesus had said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Note that our Lord said that those who believe in him have eternal life, and that then he goes on to mention the resurrection as well. Because you believe in Jesus who has risen from the dead, you already have eternal life. You already possess life with God that has no end. Nothing can change this fact, not even death itself. If you die, your life with God will continue.
And Jesus also promises that because he has risen from the dead, he will raise you as well. If we die before Christ’s return, on the Last Day he will raise us up with bodies transformed to be like Jesus’ resurrected body that can never die again. This morning our Lord provides you the guarantee and assurance that he will do so. In the Sacrament of the Altar the risen Lord gives his body and blood into your body, and so you know that your body will be raised and transformed too. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
In the incarnate Son of God, our Father has given us forgiveness and eternal life. This is what the apostles experienced in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. John began this letter by saying: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Because you believe in Jesus, you have this life. Because you believe in Jesus Christ, you have fellowship with the Father and his Son. That is why John can say in our text, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
This victory does not mean the absence of the kinds of troubles I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon. The Lord Jesus told the disciples on the night before he died, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Instead, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the living hope, peace, and life. In the midst of the challenges we always have hope because we know that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. This reality changes the way we look at everything. This is the source of encouragement that carries us through all the challenges.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have peace. The crucified Lord has risen and so we know that we have peace with God. We have the peace of knowing that God’s continuing love and care is present for us through the work of the Spirit. Through the Means of Grace, he will sustain us in the life of faith – because after all, he is the one who created faith in the first place.
And because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have life. We already have eternal life with God now – life that will not end no matter what happens. We will have resurrection life on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns and gives us resurrection bodies like his own. Yes indeed, as John says in our text today: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”