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We have taken a break from our study of the gospel of Luke for the last five weeks, and now this is the sixth week in which I have spoken to you on the subject of deliverance, the neglected doctrine. I have done this because I feel obligated before the Lord to give you an understanding of the current state of the evangelical church. I do it with some reluctance. It doesn’t make me happy to do this, it makes me sad. I don’t like to have to point out many of the things that I’ve pointed out, but they are the truth, and that is my responsibility before God. What I have been saying to you is that evangelicalism is in a desperate situation. And that desperation is made manifest by its inability to distinguish who is a true Christian. We have abandoned any clear understanding of what it means to really be saved – we, in the sense of broad evangelicalism. Those of us who teach the Bible, those of us who uphold sound doctrine, have to rise up and speak the truth. I’ve tried to show you the breadth of this problem, and I want to conclude comments on people and issues with a particular focus this morning.
Through the years we have all become influenced by Billy Graham. One way or another, he has, for us, been the spokesman for evangelical Christianity. He has become the symbol of gospel preachers to the world, and even to the church. He, more than anyone else, has influenced evangelicalism through his preaching, through his cooperative evangelism, through his influence on Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary, Christianity Today and many other agencies. There is an article in a journal that comments and reviews his autobiography, Just As I Am. And I think it’s worth giving you some insight into that, because I think it points out the breadth of this problem. The editor of the journal says, “While Graham has become the very symbol of gentle, compassionate, and loving evangelicalism, he has also become the symbol for an evangelicalism that speaks cautiously, politically, and non-theologically. He was never able to escape the fuzzy a-theological pragmatism of modern evangelicalism. It is Billy Graham, more than any other figure in this century, who helped to create, by his overwhelming persona, the present evangelical crisis, which threatens to destroy the very institutions and causes in which Graham invested his life and energy for over 55 years,” end quote.
That is a sad statement, but it is an appropriate one in view of the facts. A recent public interview with Billy Graham and Robert Schuller underscores this. Graham has uncritically praised Schuller’s ministry, which is a ministry of what is called neo-orthodoxy combined with psychology, not a true historic Christianity. But in the discussion, and here it is verbatim, I’ll just share some things that will open to you the understanding. Dr. Schuller speaks, speaking to Billy Graham. “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?” Dr. Graham: “Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ, which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great, sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time.”
Now, let me stop there. He said that non-Christian groups are members of the body of Christ, that people can love Christ and know Christ whether they’re conscious of it or not and be members of the body of Christ. And therefore, we’re not going to see a sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time, ostensibly because it isn’t necessary. He goes on to say. “What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God. They may not,” he says, “even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”
Dr. Schuller: “What I hear you saying is that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?” Dr. Graham: “Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, have never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there is a God, and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.” Dr. Schuller: “This is fantastic. I’m so thrilled to hear you say that. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.” Dr. Graham: “There is – there definitely is.”
In response to that interview, the editor of this journal wrote the Billy Graham Organization and received a reply that said, “Dr. Graham’s views were the same as they have always been.” Apparently his views have always been that Muslims are part of the body of Christ, Buddhists are part of the body of Christ, non-believers are part of the body of Christ, people who have never heard of a Bible are part of the body of Christ if they’re trying to be better than the people around them. People who never heard of Jesus are part of the body of Christ. It’s an almost inconceivable contradiction that a man who believes that could raise millions and millions and millions of dollars as an evangelist, to gather people all over the world into large stadiums and tell them they need to believe in Jesus Christ, to passionately preach to them the gospel, to speak to them of the judgment of God, to call them to faith in the Savior who died and rose again, and warn them of judgment if they failed to believe, what kind of schizophrenia is that? It’s little wonder that they can embrace Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox and theological liberals who deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Any wonder that he can say on Larry King he has no problem with Mormons, he has no problem with the Jews that reject Jesus?
What is going on here? And I’m not talking about somebody without influence; I’m talking about a pervasively influential person. That’s why you can go on to a Christian college campus today and you will find some professors who believe the Word of God, and some who don’t. You go to a seminary, and find some who believe in the truth of God and the gospel, and some who want to include everybody. This kind of evangelicalism pervades today, and it’s being systematically developed and spread. And people are reluctant to call it what it is, because you’re viewed as unloving. And it’s really hard to get a platform to do this, because if you say this – I can say this inside here – if I go outside of here and say it, nobody will ask me to come. This is one of the things we face in our radio ministry is if we keep preaching the truth, keep preaching the truth, keep preaching the truth, the evangelical climate is so resistant to that truth that they potentially will remove us.
Now, I have to ask the question, is the gospel that unclear? Is it that fuzzy? Is it that hard to understand the gospel? Is the New Testament not clear on the subject? Does it not give us enough light to know who is a Christian, and what it means to be in the body of Christ, and what is necessary to go to heaven? I mean doesn’t the Bible say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?” Doesn’t the Bible say that if anybody doesn’t love the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s cursed? Doesn’t the Bible say that salvation is by faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and hearing the Word about Christ? And how are they going to hear without a preacher? And how they going to have a preacher unless somebody goes? Are we really supposed to call all the missionaries home? Are we really supposed to stop evangelizing, because anybody, anywhere, who thinks good thoughts about God and tries to be a little different than his society is going to be in heaven?
You’re cutting the heart out of the church here, and out of our ministry. If the New Testament, on the other hand, does settle the issue, then we have no right to ignore the New Testament. We have no right to redefine it on our own terms in order to be popular, in order to be accepted. True and historic Christianity has never been confused about what it means to be a Christian, never. True and historic Christianity has always known that the New Testament is crystal clear on this issue. The New Testament tells us everything we need to know so as to be unmistakably certain as to what it is that a person must believe to be saved. There is no lack of information in order to discern. There is no lack of information and truth in order to distinguish between true and false, nominal and real Christians.
And we have said that one very good way to understand who is a true Christian is to understand this great truth of deliverance. If you understand deliverance, you will understand this issue. You can know who a true Christian is, because they’ve been delivered – they’ve been delivered. And, first of all, they’ve been delivered from error to what? To truth – nobody is a Christian who doesn’t believe the truth about Christ. Muslims don’t believe the truth about Christ, Buddhists don’t, non-believers don’t, Mormons don’t, Jewish people don’t, pagans in tribes don’t. If they have a heart that seeks God, if the Spirit is prompting their heart, believe me, God will deliver that truth about Christ to them so they can believe, but apart from that, there’s no salvation. There isn’t salvation in any other name, is there? Anybody who is a believer has come to know the truth, understand the truth, believe the truth, embrace the truth, and love that truth, and reject everything else as a means of salvation. One thing can be said about a Christian. He knows the truth, he loves the truth, he worships the God of truth, exalts the Christ of truth, is indwelt by the Spirit of truth, and obeys the Word of truth. Truth is the heart and soul of the gospel that saves. Transformation begins with a transformation out of darkness into light. Darkness is a metaphor in Colossians 1:12 and 13 for error, and light is the metaphor for truth.
We have to go to the corners of the world, folks, and we have to tell people the truth, the only truth that saves. If all these people are already in the body of Christ and already going to heaven, why are we sending all these people millions and millions and millions of dollars to go do this unnecessary thing? And you ask – what’s gone wrong? What’s gone wrong? What’s gone wrong in evangelicalism? I’ll tell you what’s gone wrong. Somebody might say, “Well, it’s sociological pressure. It’s pressure from the world.” No. It’s not pressure from the world. It’s not sociological pressure. It’s not the culture that’s doing this. It’s not the unbelievers that are doing this to us; it’s not the outside that’s doing this to us. The problem is there is within the confines of Christianity false teaching. Iain Murray is right when he wrote in his book Evangelicalism Divided, and I quote, “Spiritual decline is not a mystery which Scripture leaves unexplained. It is the result of the presence of falsehood where there should be truth,” end quote. That’s it. The problem is we are imbibing lies; that’s the problem.
One thing you learn very rapidly when you study the Bible is God is a God of truth, and Satan is a liar. And from the very beginning, from the first encounter in the Garden with Eve, Satan led the whole human race into sin by lies. And the Bible warns about false teachers from the front to the back, from the beginning to the end, from the top to the bottom. Over, and over, and over, the Bible talks about deception, deception, deception, dumb dogs that can’t bark, clouds without water. “Dumb dogs that can’t bark” was Isaiah’s phrase, Isaiah 56:10.
These people come along, Jeremiah 8:11, and they say, “Peace, peace.” They have the way of peace, the way of peace, “but there is no peace.” They offer you a way of peace with God, a way of reconciliation, but it’s a lie, it’s a deception. They are the prophets, Jeremiah 23 says, that God didn’t send. They go, but God didn’t send them. They speak, but not the Word of God.
False teaching brings the church in to impotence, into confusion, into heresy. The great Scottish preacher, Horatius Bonar, wrote of Satan and the gospel these words: “He comes as an angel of light, to mislead yet pretending to lead, to blind, yet professing to open the eye, to obscure and bewilder, yet professing to illuminate and guide. He approaches us with fair words upon his lips; liberality, progress, culture, freedom, expansion, elevation, benevolence. He seeks to make his own out of all of these, to give the world as much of these as suits his purpose, as much as will make them content without God, and without Christ, and without the Holy Ghost. He sets himself against God and the things of God in every way. He can deny the gospel, or he can dilute the gospel, or he can obscure the gospel, or he can neutralize the gospel. He rages against the true God, sometimes openly and coarsely, and sometimes calmly and politely, making men believe he is the friend of the truth.”
You can tell a true Christian; a true Christian knows the truth, understands the truth, loves the truth, lives for the truth. Nobody is saved who doesn’t. That’s the truth about who God is – the trinity, holy, the eternal sovereign of the universe, who Christ is, God incarnate in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, though He was innocent of any sin, rose the third day in a physical resurrection; having conquered death, ascended into heaven, from where He sent the Holy Spirit, now interceding for us, some day to return and establish His eternal glory and Kingdom, and to believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from any works. It doesn’t matter that you’re trying to be a little better than the people around you. That’s the truth. And apart from that truth, nobody is saved. And if somebody is a Christian, they know that truth, they understand that truth, they believe that truth, they embrace that truth.
Secondly, Christians have not only been delivered from error to truth, but from sin to righteousness. Remember in Romans 6 – go back there for a moment. Romans 6:17 and 18 is a very critical verse, because it captures the essence of this deliverance doctrine. Romans 6:17, the middle of the verse, “You became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered,” is what the Greek says. “You became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching, that body of doctrine, that body of truth to which you were delivered.” That was your salvation. You went out of the darkness into the light, out of error into truth. You, from the depth of your heart, obeyed that doctrine, that body of teaching regarding Jesus Christ and the gospel. You believed that. You were delivered into that.
Now, go back to the beginning of the verse. “So thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin” – drop down to verse 18 – “you have been freed from sin, become slaves of righteousness.” The second thing from which you were delivered: not just from error to truth, but from sin to righteousness. You can tell a Christian. They practice righteousness. They’ve been delivered from sin to righteousness. Last week we looked at 1 John, chapter 3, tremendous portion of Scripture, starting in verse 4 going all the way down to verse 10 of 1 John 3. We saw how that the one who is born of God does not practice sin. The one who abides in God does not continue in a pattern of sin. If you are a true Christian, you obey God’s Word. As a pattern of life you practice righteousness. Verse 7 of 1 John 3, “Little children, don’t let anybody deceive you.” That’s what people do, they deceive you, they lie to you. It’s this clear. “The one who practices righteousness is righteous.”
Now, how clear is that? And what is righteousness? Righteousness is defined as God’s holy standard. If you practice righteousness, you’re righteous; that is, you have been delivered from sin to righteousness. You’re a Christian. Verse 8, “The one who practices sin is of the devil” - it’s that simple. It doesn’t mean that Christians never sin. It means that that’s not the pattern of their life. That’s not their practice. And when we say a medical doctor has a practice, what we mean is he has a pattern, professional fulfillment. You have a practice, too, as a Christian, and it’s a practice of righteousness. And if it isn’t that, then you’re not a Christian. There are the children of God and there are the children of the devil. Verse 10 says, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious.” Who is a Christian? Somebody who practices righteousness.
I’ll never forget getting into this debate when I wrote the book on The Gospel According to Jesus and I said that people who are true Christians live a righteous life. And literally all heaven broke loose, I suppose we could say, and people started criticizing me, and writing books against me, and saying, “Wait a minute – a person can be a Christian and have no righteousness. They can even be an unbelieving believer, they can even reject God, curse God, and live a life of sin, and still be a Christian.” What? That’s what they – that’s part of this evangelicalism of today. It’s an event, it’s some walking forward, raising a hand, signing a card, praying a prayer, having an emotional event; that’s the salvation, and it has nothing to do with what you are the rest of your life. Not so. The children of God and the children of the devil are obvious by their practice. James says in James 2:14 to 26, “You can say you have faith, but faith without” – what – “works” – is what – “is dead.” It doesn’t exist. It’s a non-existing thing if there’s not a pattern of evidence that you have a new life.
You were – literally, the old life died, new life came, you died with Christ, you rose to walk in newness of life, you are a new creation, and that new creation manifests itself in a practice of righteousness. And if the practice of righteousness isn’t there, you’re the devil’s child, not God’s. And a practice of righteousness simply means you are, from the heart, not only obedient to the form of doctrine, but from the heart, you are obedient to its righteous standards, so that true Christians believe the right thing, and behave the right way. And when we do sin, it is a grief to us, because we love righteousness.
There’s another element of deliverance. The Christian has been delivered from the temporal world to the eternal Kingdom. The Christian has been delivered from the temporal world to the eternal Kingdom. You know, I’m watching all these politicians, and I just smile as I watch this. And I watch some politician, it’s just like, you know, “two cars in every garage, and a chicken in every pot” stuff, shaped in the common vernacular of today. And they promise this, and they promise that, and promise this, and promise that, and people get in these big crowds, and scream, and yell, and throw signs – and you know, none of it matters. It’s all passing, temporal stuff. You know I sent that letter out to just tell you to vote for the person whose convictions are closest to those that are biblical, ’cause you’re not going to find anybody who’s really right dead-on biblical, right down the line. They couldn’t get that far. It would be impossible, because the world wouldn’t let them. But you do the best you can. But, you know, you listen to the fury and the passion with which these people speak about all this stuff, and it’s just the world – it’s just the world.
Look at Galatians 1. It’s just all going to burn up; it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Listen to Galatians 1, verse 3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” By the way, I stole the name of our radio program from Paul – “Grace To You.” Verse 4, “Who gave Himself for our sins” – here it comes – “that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever more, amen.” That’s a great – that’s a great doxology, isn’t it? We have been delivered out of this present evil age into the eternal Kingdom. By the way, this is what we call a Greek subjunctive, which indicates purpose – the purpose for which Jesus died was to deliver us out of this present, evil aiōn. That’s what is inherent in his salvation. The very purpose of our salvation was to deliver us out of this present evil age. What’s he saying? What he’s saying is if you’ve been saved, you have been rescued from this evil world system. Just doesn’t hold any charm for you. It just doesn’t hold any attraction for you. I’m telling you, you need to go out and vote for those that most approximate a righteous standard, because God would be honored when you do that. But for us, sometimes it’s hard to do that, because there’s really nothing in the system, ultimately, that compels us. Jesus’ death was for all who believe a rescue effort. And you can tell a Christian, a real Christian by their disinterest in the present world system.
The word “deliver” here – just a note about that – is exaireō. It means to rescue. It is used just a few times in the New Testament. It’s used in the seventh chapter of Acts where Stephen is preaching his sermon before the Sanhedrin, for which he was stoned, you remember, to death. And he was describing how God delivered Joseph and his children, the children of Israel, from Egyptian affliction, about the tenth verse of Acts 7, and again I think it’s repeated in the thirty-fourth verse. And it’s the word rescue, to deliver, to rescue the children of Israel and Joseph from Egyptian affliction. Peter used the word to describe God’s deliverance of him from prison in Acts, chapter 12, verse 11. And the Roman commander, Claudius Lysias, used it of the rescue of Paul from that angry mob in Jerusalem in Acts 23, verse 27. So it’s a word that talks about rescuing someone out of a very dangerous situation.
So those four times that it’s used, it’s used in a physical sense. Only once is it used in a metaphorical sense, and that’s here, and it’s used here to refer to the cross, the death of Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might rescue us out of this deadly and dangerous present evil age. It’s evil in that it’s characterized by evil. It’s dominated by evil. The word “age” is aiōn. It doesn’t refer to time, but it refers to a system, an era; and the present evil age started at the Fall, and it will go on till Jesus comes back and establishes His Kingdom of righteousness. In between the Fall and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ is this present evil age. It is characterized by lies. It is characterized by deception. It is characterized by Satan’s agenda. It is characterized by what is temporal, what is for time only, what is physical, what is passing, what ultimately will be destroyed. And the Lord rescued us from that.
Another way to say it is over in the sixth chapter of Galatians. Look at that, 6, verse 14; he’s sort of talking here about how the Pharisees boasted in their works, were proud about their self-righteousness, and Paul is not like the circumcised who boast about their fastidious attention to the Law. Verse 14, he says, “May it never be that I should boast.” I’m not going to boast about anything in me, I don’t have anything worthy in me. “But if I do boast, I will boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And what did that cross accomplish? “Through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” What does it mean to be crucified? To be dead. It’s just a dramatic way to express the thought of death. Paul says Jesus Christ went to the cross and through His work on the cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world.
What does it mean? It simply means that the world has no relation to the believer, and the believer has no real relation to the world. And what we mean by “world” here is not food, and sunshine, and just the normal matters of life which God has given us, but he’s talking here about ideas, and ideologies, and thought patterns, and values, and honors, and achievements, and accomplishments, and all the stuff that everybody is into – the pleasures, the treasures, the honors, the values, the ideas. If you go back to 2 Corinthians 10:5 – a very important passage – he talks about the ideologies, the logismos. Paul says, “We are destroying ideologies,” and then he further describes them as “every lofty thing lifted up, or exalted, against the knowledge of God.” Any anti-God idea – any anti-God idea. I want to do my duty to take care of my yard so that it reflects the beauty of God’s creation. But I can’t get into this environmental thing of “save the planet – save the planet – save the planet.” This is a disposable planet. It’s the way it was designed. Sin is catapulting this planet toward destruction.
And as I have said before, if you think we’re messing up the planet, wait till you see what Jesus does to it. This is a passing world. All this action, all this fury, all this media attention for all of this stuff has nothing to do with anybody’s eternal soul. People go to colleges and universities and get PhDs to rearrange these deck chairs. It’s all stuff that’s raised up against the knowledge of God, and Paul says, “When I came to Christ, I died to it and it to me. It has no part with me, I have no part with it.” Look at Colossians 2, just a thought in verse 20. “Since you have died with Christ,” would be a better way to translate it. “Since you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world” – stop right there. Hey, when you died with Christ, you died to the elementary – I love that because what he’s saying is anything the world comes up with, compared to the truth of God, is elementary. It’s baby talk. We are the truly profound people. We have transcendent truth. The most literate PhDs, the most brilliant philosophers and thinkers of our time: elementary school compared to what we know. We know the origin of the universe. We know how it came into existence. We know who made it, and why He made it. We know how it’s all going to end. We know what true understanding is. We died to that baby talk, that elementary stuff.
One other passage and I’ll close. First John 2 – this will be the last text we’ll look at, 1 John 2, and it’s brief. Well, one more brief one added to that, but it will only take a comment or two. First John 2, verse 15, world is the word kosmos, it’s the opposite of the word “chaos.” Chaos means disorder in the Greek, as it does in English. Kosmos means order. That’s why we call them cosmetics; they sort of take the chaos and put it into order. I didn’t invent the word, that’s the word. But kosmos is the order, it’s the present evil age system; it’s a system, an exalted system of ideas, and theories, and viewpoints, and values, and honors, and treasures, and pleasures, that have been designed by Satan, and appeal to the sinful. In verse 15, he says, “Do not love the world” – this kosmos, this present evil aiōn – “nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is” – what – if you love it, you’re not a Christian. You can’t – you can’t love the world and love God.
I enjoy God’s creation. I see it as His handiwork, don’t you? I don’t look at the mountains and say, “Isn’t evolution amazing?” I don’t look at a baby and say, “Thank God for that amoeba one day in a pool of something or other that decided to split. Thank God for natural selection.” I heard a person say that – “thank God for natural selection.” But when I see a person, I see a creation of God. I see a person made in the image of God. When I see a mountain, I see the handiwork of God, and the heavens declare His glory, don’t they? The firmament shows His handiwork, and I enjoy the world, and I enjoy what He has made, and I enjoy the wonderful, rich pleasures that He’s placed in the world. But it’s all Him, to me. It’s all Him. He’s in every flower, He’s in every hill, He’s in every pleasure. He’s in every everything. His hand is there. I love Him, and I love His world, because as the hymn writer said, “This is my Father’s world.”
But if you love the world, the love of the Father’s not in you. If your love is this passing world, you’re not a Christian, “for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world; and the world is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” You have two different people here. You have the people who love God and live forever, and you have the people that love the world, which is going to burn. We don’t love the world. We’ve been delivered from it. My life is not consumed with what happens in this world. Frankly, my life is consumed with what happens in the next world. Colossians 3, “I’ve set my affection on things” – where – “above, and not the things on the earth.” The things on the earth are simply things which for this time and place give glory to God, and I can enjoy them, and thank Him for them, but they have no lasting value. They are temporal expressions of His common grace and His love.
We don’t love the world, first of all, because of what it is. It is the world. It is Satan’s system. We don’t love it because of what it does. It incites to sin. Satan uses the world to pander to our flesh, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. It passes its material pleasures, its sexual pleasures, its educational achievements, its honors, its accolades, its power, its philosophies in front of us; it enamors us and it draws out our sensuality, our covetousness and our pride. Those are ascending categories of temptation. Sensuality is the corruption of the lower being, abuse of the body. Covetousness is a corruption of the higher being, abuse of beauty that turns to covetousness. Pride is the corruption of the highest being, and that is self-exaltation, where we become God. The world panders to that. We don’t love it because it is the world, and we don’t love it because of what it is, and we don’t love it because of what it does. It just panders to our fallenness. We don’t love it, also, because of where it’s going. Verse 17, it’s passing away, it’s in the process of paragetai, disintegration. The system is in the process of dissolution. It will self-destruct. It is self-destructing.
Now, the death principle is already operative in it. It is smitten by the fatal disease of sin that is killing it. And people always say, “It seems like things are getting worse and worse; we’ve got to reclaim America.” Look, folks, things are getting worse and worse, and they will continue to get worse and worse. That’s the accumulated impact of sin. It is smitten by a fatal disease that is killing it. That’s why, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Paul writes that “the form of this world is passing away, but we’re part of a Kingdom” – end of verse 17 – “that abides” – how long – “forever. Our affections are set on things above.” That’s how you can tell a Christian.
One last look at 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:4, “For whatever, or whoever, is born of God” – I love this – “overcomes” – what – “the world.” The world no longer has that attraction. And what is “the victory that’s overcome the world? Our faith.” You put your faith in Jesus Christ, and He delivered you from this present evil age, this world. Delivered you from this temporal world into the eternal Kingdom; you have overcome the world. “And who is the one” – verse 5 – “that overcomes the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Look, folks, you can’t overcome the world – which is the mark of a Christian – unless you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. You can’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God unless somebody tells you about Jesus. Nobody is a Christian who doesn’t know the truth, because the only way that you can ever be delivered from this world into the eternal Kingdom is to believe the truth about Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe the truth about Jesus Christ, you can’t be delivered. And we’re right back to where we started. That’s why we have to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, because it is the only way of salvation. We are the overcomers. We are – the word is nikē, from which the word “Nike” comes; it’s the Greek word for overcomer, victor, conqueror. Romans 8:37, “we are super-conquerors.” And one of the things that our faith conquers is the system of evil dominated by lust and pride, sensuality, covetousness, and egotism. We are not sensual in practice. We are not covetous in practice. You know, greed is good in the world, and sensuality is good in the world, and egotism is really good. But to us, those are sins, aren’t they? This society, running in a mad dash for every sexual fulfillment with materialistic passion, coveting and clinging to everything they can see, turning beauty into self-indulgence, and in the midst of it all, doing everything they can to elevate their self-esteem. That’s the world, and that’s sin. But we have overcome the world, so that we see that for what it is. And our passion is that which honors God, and our self-assessment is that of humility. And when we see something beautiful, we give Him praise for it. We are the overcomers. In fact, in Revelation 2 and 3, the letters to the churches, seven times believers are referred to as overcomers.
Well, how can there be so much confusion about who’s a Christian? Christians have been delivered from error to truth. They’ve come to the full understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, from sin to righteousness. They live in obedience to the Word of God as a practice. And they have been delivered from this present evil age, this system of Satan, into the eternal Kingdom. Their affections are heavenly. Their desire is for that which is eternal, and not for the passing things of this world. This is God’s truth, and this must be proclaimed, that He may be glorified and people may come to true salvation, and to the praise of God for that gift. Let’s pray.
We close these thoughts this morning with a plea, Father. First, that You would extend the truth and that it would conquer the lies, that You would extend the truth and it would conquer the error, that it would unmask the deception that is leaving so many souls confused, and hindering the true work of evangelism. And, Father, that You would raise up many faithful proclaimers of the truth, and that You would call away from error all those who have fallen victim to it. May people have the truth, and may they have the courage to speak the truth because it honors You, the God of truth, and our Savior, the Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life, and the blessed Spirit of truth, who inspired for us the Word of truth. May Your truth be exalted; Your Word, may it be exalted, even to Your own name. And may deception be exposed, that people might indeed be delivered from error, from sin, and from this passing world, and we will thank You and praise You for Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.