“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4
One of the fruits of the new birth, is a faith which not only enables its possessor to overcome the sensual and sinful customs, carnal maxims and policies by which the profane world is regulated—but also lying delusions and errors by which the professing world is fatally deceived.
The only thing which will or can “overcome the world” is a God-given, but self-exercised faith.
Faith overcomes the world firstly, by receiving into the heart God’s infallible testimony of the world. He declares that “the world” is a corrupt, evanescent, hostile thing—which shall soon be destroyed by Him. His Holy Word teaches that the world is “evil” (Galatians 1:4). “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). “The whole world lies in wickedness” (1 John 5:19) and shall yet be “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). As faith accepts God’s verdict of the world, the mind is spiritually enlightened. Its possessor views it as a worthless, dangerous, and detestable thing!
Faith overcomes the world secondly, by obeying the Divine commands concerning it. God has bidden us, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2); “Do not love the world, nor the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15); and warns us that “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world, becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). By heeding the Divine precepts, its magic spell over the heart is broken!
Faith overcomes the world thirdly, by occupying the soul with more glorious, soul-delighting and satisfying objects.
The more the substance of spiritual realities engages the heart—the less hold will the shadows of the world have upon it. “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Faith overcomes the world fourthly, by drawing out the heart unto Christ. As it was by fleeing to Him for refuge, that the soul was first delivered from the power and thraldom of this world. So it is throughout the Christian life. The more we cultivate real communion with Christ, the less attraction will the baubles of this world have for us! The strength of temptation lies entirely in the bent of our affections. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). While Christ is beheld as “the chief among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10) and as “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16)—the things which charm, will repel us.
The world gains the victory over the unregenerate by captivating their affections and capturing their wills. But the Christian overcomes the world, because his affections are set upon Christ and his will is yielded to Him.
Here then, we have a sure criterion by which we may determine our Christian progress or spiritual growth. If the things of this world have a decreasing power over me, then my faith is becoming stronger. Because holding more lightly the things most prized by the ungodly, I must be increasing in an experimental and soul-satisfying knowledge of Christ. If I am less cast down when some of the riches and comforts of this world are taken from me, then that is evidence they have less hold upon me.
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