14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. [1Jo 2:14 ESV]
As I read this, a great hope wells up within me. Like these believers, I too know the Father. I too am strong. I too have overcome the evil one. I recognize that this may seem like a presumptuous claim to some who read it, but it is not. It is a promise straight from GOD’s lips and it would be both foolish and perilous not to claim it.
GOD Has Set Me Free
It’s not that I don’t sin. I do not claim that, nor could I in this lifetime (1 John 1:8). I claim that which has been promised by GOD– victory. By faith, I am in Christ Jesus, and it is he who has defeated the devil. Galatians 2:20 says
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [Gal 2:20 ESV]
The old me is no more. It is dead. I have died with Christ and have been raised to walk in newness of life. That newness is a call to holy living. I can do this because Christ lives in me and is at work destroying the works of the devil. So it is not my strength that brings victory, or self-derived faith, or my own effort, but the power of GOD that works in me, giving me victory over sin. My faith in him causes me to overcome the world. I do not boast in my own strength but in his. This is because my faith is a gift from him that brings life, forgiveness, and victory over sin and death.
Called to Live Righteously
So then, do I sit back and simply let GOD do all the work, or am I called to participate? The answer is two-fold: Yes, GOD will do the work in me by his grace, but I am called to participate. I am called to live for him. John says that because we hope in Christ, we should therefore live for Christ:
3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. [1Jo 3:3 ESV]
My faith brings victory over sin, but does not make me void of it. Having victory over sin means having a way of escape, which is something I did not have when I lived in the flesh. I was dead but have found forgiveness and life in him (Col 2:13). Since I have been given life in him, I am also called to live life for him (Col 3:1-5).
In his article called Live Life to the Full, Dallas Willard explains this GOD-powered call to righteousness:
“The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God. Paul, who perhaps understood grace better than any other mere human being, looked back at what had happened to him and said: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (I Cor. 15:10)” [emphasis mine]
Living out our faith
If you are a Christian then all of this pertains to you too. This is not for me only, but for the whole body of Christ. How then are we to go about this process of progressive sanctification? How do we make an effort without boasting? How do we participate without taking over? Volumes can and have been written about this but I want to make two points:
1) Believe GOD’s promises
2) Have the mind of Christ
Believe GOD’s promises
This is just what it sounds like. If GOD says it we need to believe it and live like we do. Are you a Christian? Then you are strong and have overcome the world! Don’t believe the lie that you need to live a certain way and then you will have victory, then will be loved by GOD. Believe that he meant it when he said that he loves us and gave himself for us despite our sinfulness. Believe that you have been set free from sin. Believe that when you do sin you have an advocate in Christ Jesus, not a judge.
If any of this is new to you, you need to open the word of GOD and find out what GOD promises us. His promises are many, and they are good. When you add them all up they come together to mold us into the image of Christ, and one day we will be like him.
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. [1Jo 3:2 ESV]
Have the Mind of Christ
Read Philippians 2:5-8. In that passage we see the mindset of Christ, and we also receive a promise. GOD promises that, because we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ! Live like it. What is Christ’s mindset? Looking at the passage we see that he:
- Honored GOD: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”
- Humbly put the Lord before himself and others: “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant”
- Was obedient, even unto death: “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”
We have been reconciled to GOD through Jesus Christ. We have been given victory over sin and death. We have been called to purify ourselves as he is pure, and he has given us all that we need to do this. Let us begin (or continue) to live a life of victory in Christ by believing his promises, and having the mind of Christ. Let us also give praise to him who has given us victory over sin and death.
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [Gal 6:14 ESV]