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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Faith Overcomes, Part 3

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

The Apostle John writes “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.“ (1 John 1:1-3 NASU) John and the other apostles were persuaded and convinced by what they saw revealed through living with God incarnate. Faith that overcomes that world is the result of persuasion through a personal encounter with Jesus. Persons who want to be free from the effects of world exposure must saturate their minds with the revelations found in God's Word.

Within world culture, much controversy exists about what is right and what should be the consequences of doing wrong. For example, in Islam, it is a right, even responsible, to take revenge for perceive wrongs. Tribal strife in Africa and North Ireland illustrate the warning in Galatians 5:15: “... you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Much of this strife is revenge for violation of perceived wrongs. As America and the Middle East drift further from biblical influence, revenge as a pattern of “right “conduct becomes more apparent dependent on local circumstances. Prominent in poorer ethnic sections in large urban areas, it is exemplified in competitive gangs and in organized crime circles.

The Bible calls these revenge responses of our natural sinful nature “deeds of the flesh.” “Now are evident, which are enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions…” (Galatians 5:19-20 NASU) Although this world’s variety of cultural systems try to clarify these matters as a whole, the multiple and often contradictory responses or proclamations of what is “right” or “responsible” result in confusion, pain, suffering, and maladjustment.

The biblical view found in James 4:1-4 goes to the heart of this situation: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?”

Indeed, ignorance of God’s Word promotes strife by allowing an individual to feed his/her own sinful desires through cultural influences that justify them. Whereas the study and saturation of biblical revelation in an individual’s life transforms these desires to other centeredness, ignorance encourages the self-centered search for emotional satisfaction from sources outside of the persuasion of the Lord’s revelation.

I John 1:5-2:6 explains the process of a faith that overcomes as the process of transformation from self-centered living to other-centered living. John explains that there is no confusion or darkness when one pursues a relationship with God through faith in Christ. “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (5-7). John clarifies that faith is an ongoing relational process when he writes, “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. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us…But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1:8-2:2).

John goes on to explain the process of transformation through obedience of faith, through the saturation of God’s revelation. “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments…whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected; by this we may know that we are in him; whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (2:3-6). The faith that overcomes is the faith that moves from a self-centered life to a self-sacrificing love for others like that of Jesus.

Related reading: How Faith Overcomes, Part 1; How Faith Overcomes, Part 2; The Obedience of Faith

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