The Greatest of All Time – 1 John 4

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, ESV).

In a world with ever-changing vocabularies being generated on social media with every meme, rap song, or YouTube video, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest slang.

But, there’s a recent idiom that has relevance for 1 John 4, especially as it relates to describing God Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

G.O.A.T. is an acronym for the Greatest Of All Time. The acronym is usually used to describe an outstanding player in a particular sport.

So, G.O.A.T. is not a title that is easily bestowed. G.O.A.T. is not used to refer to those who are “kind of great” or “approaching greatness.” G.O.A.T. is a term reserved only for the truly GREATEST OF ALL TIME!

1 John 4:4 is one of the most well-known and often-quoted Bible verses among Christians .  We quote it to remind and encourage Christians that they can overcome any difficulty or hardship in their lives.

In fact, I use it on myself in exactly the same way–to remind myself that the God I serve is greater than the devil that creates many of the problems I face in this world.

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Careless Christianity – Romans 16:17-20

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:17-18, ESV).

In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul offered several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Pusillanimous Christianity), we learned that Christians don’t need to be afraid of the future. If your hope is in God and God is in control of your life, then you have nothing to fear because God is in charge of your future.

In Romans 16 Paul continues the lesson about becoming a mature, grown-up Christian. He said that when a Christian is immature and naive, he or she is susceptible to being deceived.

That’s because there are persons that claim to be Christians, who even teach other Christians, but think more about themselves and stroking their own egos than they do about serving Jesus and helping Christians grow spiritually.

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The Devil Amongst Us – Lessons From John 6

last_supper_restored_da_vinci“’Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’” (John 6:68-70, NASB).

This declaration by Jesus spoken at the end of a lengthy John Chapter 6 may, at first, seem ambiguous. But, given the events of this chapter, Jesus’ response to Peter’s question is quite revealing. So, let’s do a quick recap of John 6 to see why Jesus would tell Peter that He chose a devil to be one of His disciples.

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Power in the Blood – Revelation 12:10-11

BloodyJesusOnCross“For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10-11, ESV).

Some people try to turn the source of evil in the world, Satan, the devil, into a fairy tale. But, the Bible makes it clear that he exists and that he hates those who have been saved by the blood sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross. He hates Christians so much that he accuses them before God 24/7.

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The Defectors – 1 Chronicles 12:1-22

armyboots“At that time men came day after day to help David until there was a great army like an army of God.” ( 1 Chronicles 12:1-22, HCSB).

1 Chronicles 12 records the assembling of David’s army during the years that David was in hiding from King Saul.

What’s interesting about these warriors that joined up with David was that they were defectors! They changed loyalties! They transferred their allegiance!

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Enemy Occupied Territory – Exodus 6:5-6

“You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. Therefore, say to the people of Israel: I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:5-6, NLT).

Moses was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Before confronting Pharaoh, Moses and his brother Aaron met with the Israelite leaders and rallied them with the hope that God would rescue them from Egyptian slavery, as stated in these verses.

When Moses and Aaron demanded in God’s name that Pharaoh release the Israelites, Pharaoh considered their demands an affront to his own sovereignty and reacted by increasing the Israelites’ workloads to an overwhelming level.

The more Moses demanded the release of the Israelites, the tougher Pharaoh made their lives.

This defining moment in the history of Israel is a classic case of the adversity one may encounter individually and collectively when trying to live faithfully for God.

When we are trying to live for God and obey Him, we should not be surprised or dismayed when we are confronted by hardships and adversities.

Because we live in enemy-occupied territory!

There is a dark power in the universe, Satan the devil, who was created by God but rebelled against Him.

And, Satan enticed humanity to commit the same sin (rebellion) he did. When humanity joined Satan in his rebellion against God, we became natural born citizens of Satan’s domain.

Since this dark power was originally created by God, his insurrection does not even constitute a war between equal or independent powers. It is more like a civil war—an uprising of a subversive political faction trying to overthrow a legitimate government.

And the main issue in this conflict is not an individual’s personal sins, though one’s sins may be many or few.

The real issue in this cosmic conflict is where your allegiance is—you are either a part of the rebellion or a citizen of God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:12-13).

Satan and his cohorts continuously attempt to thwart the plans and purposes of God’s Kingdom that are being carried out by God’s people. And, Satan does not give up any ground without a fight!

But remember that God works best when all seems lost, when there’s no hope, when failure is inevitable, when it seems impossible to succeed!

So, we must stand firm in our faith when Satan causes adversity to attempt to deter us from obeying God.

We know that God will eventually rescue us and secure the final victory in our behalf.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, NLT

Growing Wheat in a Field of Weeds – Matthew 13:24-30

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, …. ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’… ‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn'” (Matthew 13:24-30, HCSB)

In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a man who sowed wheat in a field but is sabotaged by his enemy who sows weeds among the wheat.

Now, that’s not really the way we envision the Kingdom of God, is it? We sort of understand the wheat field, but the weeds don’t really fit into our understanding of the Kingdom of God.

So, the servants of the owner of the field want to pull up the weeds, but the owner commands the servants to let the weeds grow with the wheat and then he instructs the servants to separate the weeds when they harvest the wheat.

This parable demonstrates the sovereignty of God over His creation. “Evil” coexists with “good” for a period of time.

Then, Jesus interprets His own parable and explains that the sowing of the weeds in the wheat field is unquestionably the work of Satan, the Devil (vs. 38-39).

But God is Almighty and His Plan is Supreme, even to the extent that He can use the evil actions of people and even the Devil himself to work His good purposes.

God is able to grow and harvest wheat in a field full of weeds!

God remains undaunted by evil in the fulfillment of His good purposes. Although the evil one is working throughout history and even the circumstances of our lives to disrupt God’s plans and purposes, God is active in this present world but He is not necessarily reactive to evil.

So God works through the circumstances of our lives to declare Himself and His redeeming love to us.

God is resolute, intentional, and deliberate. He has a plan and purpose and is actively pursuing His plan of building His Kingdom in our lives.

Sometimes our lives may seem to us more like growing wheat in a field of weeds. But Jesus assures us in this parable that our life is really a field of wheat with some weeds growing in it!

We are God’s wheat field! And God is the master! He wants us busy growing wheat, not pulling weeds! 

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, HCSB).

Why Does God Allow Evil? – Revelation 12:7-11

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.'” This passage from John’s revelation of the future indicates there is a rebellion against God that is of epochal or universal proportions. And this world and humanity are the battleground for this war. This passage explains that the dragon to which it refers is Satan and that he deceives the world and has a following of other angelic beings. Some interpret this time of the dragon’s defeat and ejection from heaven as referring to the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, three principles arise from this passage that help explain the presence of evil in the created order:

  1. The events of this world are decreed and managed in heaven. God actively presides and rules over His created order. Thus, ultimate control and supreme authority over the universe emanate from God.
  2. The evil that exists in this world is of cosmic proportions. The evil of this world transcends earthly events and its fundamental nature is ultimate insubordination to God’s authority.
  3. Evil is fundamentally a spiritual issue and, therefore, must be addressed in the spiritual realm.

Our ancestors effectively joined Satan’s rebellion and so by being born human we are co-conspirators in this rebellion. God’s justice system requires supreme restitution for the crime of rebellion, but Christ received the punishment for this high crime on behalf of all human beings. In other words, Christ has come to defeat the rebellion of Satan and those of humanity who join Satan in this rebellion against God’s Kingdom: “But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8). While the mastermind of this rebellion, Satan, has enjoined humanity in his sedition, is it the result of a cosmic error in planning by God? An unintended consequence of free will? Collateral damage to the created order? Absolutely not! The redemption of human beings has always been God’s plan since the creation of the world: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). The redemption of humanity is not to fix any galactic mistake or oversight God made in creation. We know from the biblical record and from our own human experience that we often learn best by learning from our mistakes. The biblical narrative is replete with well-intentioned and some not-so-well-intentioned people not obeying God. Regrettably, people often better understand God’s will by not doing it! Mercy is better received by those in need of it! John’s revelation clearly discloses that God wins! God ultimately defeats the evil that has infiltrated this world though He may allow it to reside for a time to advance His redemptive plan. God is almighty and His plan is supreme, even to the extent that He can use the evil acts committed by persons and even the devil himself to work His good purposes. It seems that God is best able to redeem people in a world that is occupied by evil.