What Does it Mean to Overcome the World?
Many times, it can be very easy to pull a Bible verse out of context, and use it as a platitude to encourage our own self-ambition.
1 John 5:4 is one of those verses:
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
So, if we believe, we can overcome the world. We can overcome our financial difficulties. We can overcome our health issues. We can overcome our relationship problems. We can overcome anything the world throws at us, right?
We could go on, but in the context of 1st John, this is entirely the opposite of what is meant by “world.” It doesn’t have anything to do with wealth, health or relationships.
Perhaps 1 John 2:15-16 can unlock the meaning for us…
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For 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.
So what in the “world” is it that we can overcome through faith in Christ?
- We overcome the lust of the flesh, the sinful desires of this world that threaten to destroy us… immorality, gluttony, drunkenness…
- We overcome the lust of the eyes, the part of our fallen nature that seeks and covets only selfish things, that only desires to accumulate material things just for the sake of having more.
- We overcome the pride of life, that boastful spirit that lures us into taking credit ourselves for the good things in our lives instead of giving the credit and glory of God.
These are the things that our faith in Christ enables us to overcome. Yes, not only these things, but the love of these things as well.
To take it even further, 1 John 2:15-16 is telling us that if we never experience consistent victory over the love of these things, then “the love of the Father” is not in us. We may not be children of God.
(If you are living in a way characterized by these things, you may want to “make your calling and election sure.” 2 Peter 1:10)
So be careful not to use the Bible as a slogan or affirmation for self-ambition.
On a final note, if you overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, it just may improve your wealth, health and relationships as a by-product, but again it may not. That is God’s choice, not ours.
Our faith in Christ must overcome either way. Are you overcoming today?