[1 John 4:4-6]
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
This is the 39th session on the Lectures on 1 John.
1 John 4:4 says, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
Here, the ‘little children’ refers to the children of God, who have received the Holy Spirit.
It is those who have become God’s children by believing that Jesus was crucified to save us.
After one accepts the Lord and has received the Holy Spirit, he has to follow the truth by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Those who live according to the truth, namely the word of God, are the ones who are of God.
Even though they are not yet completely sanctified, we can say they still are of God as long as they try to live by the word of God and walk in the truth.
To practice the truth with faith, we have to overcome the world.
To overcome the world has multiple meanings.
Overcoming the world includes the following: To keep one’s heart not to follow the lust of the world; to keep the faith even in persecutions; and not to be deceived by the heretical theories.
To overcome the world is to live in the truth standing against the enemy devil and Satan that rule this world.
When one has little faith, he might find it hard to partake in the spiritual warfare of faith.
In the case of new believers, namely believers who are in the 1st level of faith, many of them lose against the worldly forces.
For example, when such sinful natures as envy, jealousy, hatred, anger, greed, and adulterous minds are agitated in them, they try not to commit sins for they have heard the truth.
While they struggle in their minds, sometimes they overcome and at other times they submit to the temptations and commit sins.
When they are having a hard time due to financial difficulty or diseases, they lose joy and thankful hearts and begin to complain and hold resentments.
When there are persecutions for their life in Christ, they might compromise being unable to overcome them.
But as they reach the middle stage of the second level of faith, they gain the strength to win the battles.
Comparing it with boxing, in the 1st level of faith, one gets constantly punched because no skills have been acquired; and in the 2nd level of faith, one is able to defend better and punch back blow-for-blow received.
The fight is the fiercest when the skills of the two fighters are almost the same.
The spiritual battle is also the fiercest at this stage.
Romans 7:24 says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” And as written, one might find it difficult to go on in the march of faith.
But as a person goes over into the third level of faith, he can fight with skills somewhat better than the opponent.
If one ‘stands on the rock of faith’ in the third level of faith, he will win most of the time.
But it doesn’t mean one will only feel hardships at the 1st or the 2nd level of faith!
It is difficult to fight alone, but if there is a helper who is much stronger than the fighter, the fighter can win even if his individual skills are not good enough.
The hymnal ‘Mighty Fortress’ has the following lyrics.
“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name…”
Even though we cannot do something with only men’s power, we can still do it with the power of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, we can overcome any time with the help of the Holy Spirit sent from God.
In other words, as long as we are full of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome the world all the time even if our measure of faith is little.
As written in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” we can overcome all kinds of hardships and walk in the truth.
Even those who had short-temper before will not get angry if they accept the Lord and are full of the Spirit.
Even in hardships, they overcome with prayers and praising, and they still give thanks and rejoice even if they suffer persecutions or trials while preaching the gospel.
They do not fight back or have ill-feelings, but they understand others and respond with good words.
Namely, they overcome the evil with goodness.
Even though they are physically tired working in the world, they do not cease to pray and attend all the worship services.
Even though they are new believers who are at the 1st or the 2nd level of faith, as long as they keep on trying to become sanctified and pray ardently, they can keep the fullness of the Spirit.
But even though one is at the 3rd level of faith, if the amount of prayer is not enough or if he is lazy in circumcising his heart, his spiritual growth will come to a halt.
As one’s faith experiences a stoppage, the fullness of Spirit gradually goes away, and the person begins to feel it is hard to lead a life in faith.
When full of the Spirit, he was just happy even if he had worship services and did voluntary works all day.
But when the fullness is gone, he might begin to think that it’s a holiday and he wants to go home early and enjoy himself.
In the past, a couple of hours of nightly prayer meeting passed very quickly, but now he feels praying has become burdensome.
He used to attend all the group or cell meetings, but as the grace of God diminishes, he starts not attending those meetings.
In these occasions, some people give excuse quoting Matthew 26:41 which says, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
But this verse applies only to those who have not received the Holy Spirit yet.
At the night He was arrested, Jesus wanted His disciples to be awake and pray together with Him, but they couldn’t do it.
Even Peter fell asleep while praying because his body was tired.
He dozed off when he was tired because he had not received the Holy Spirit yet, and when his life was threatened, he even denied Jesus.
But after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Peter received the Holy Spirit and he was a completely different person.
The saying “the spirit was willing but the body is weak,” did not apply to him anymore. He overcame his body and fulfilled whatever he wished in his heart.
He performed with God’s power and preached the gospel even when people were trying to kill him.
Even while the persecution of the Emperor Nero was at its peak, he went to Rome to spread the gospel, and eventually he was crucified upside down.
As today’s reading passage says, “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” the power given by the Holy Spirit is much greater than the power of the darkness that the enemy devil and Satan have.
Hebrews 11:38 says, “…men of whom the world was not worthy,”
Even though the world persecutes or tempts the believers, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit can overcome the world with joy, thanks, wisdom, and power.
I hope you beloved believers will always be full of the Holy Spirit and overcome the world.
In doing so, I pray in the name of the Lord that, you will finally pass through the Pearl Gates of New Jerusalem singing the song of victory.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the following verses 5 and 6 say, “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The previous verses, 4:1-3 also talks about discerning the spirits.
It explains that the most important criterion in discerning between the spirit that is of God and that is of darkness, is whether it confesses Jesus Christ.
Another criterion is whether one dwells in the truth that is the word of God.
Today’s reading passage elaborates on this.
Namely, it says we can check what one speaks and what he hears to see where he belongs.
It’s because people speak and hear the words that are from the spiritual side they are on.
Let me give you an allegory.
Suppose you went on a business trip to another country, and you do not speak their language at all.
You are eating alone at a restaurant, and many people around you are talking.
No matter how much fun they are having in their conversation, you cannot listen to their conversation since you do not understand their words.
But from a short distance, you hear somebody talking on the phone in your own language saying, “Hello, I am at the restaurant now.”
Then, your ears will open wide.
You probably feel comfortable hearing your own language, and you will almost automatically pay attention to the contents of the telephone conversation.
That is because it is your own language, which you understand.
It is the same in a spiritual sense.
If you are of the truth, your heart will be moved when others speak words of truth to you.
You pay attention to the words of goodness and peace, and you find joy in them.
You also speak words of goodness.
On the contrary, those who are of the world speak words that are of untruth, which are of the world.
Also, to the extent that they have untruths in them, they will not pay attention to the words of goodness but only words of evil and keep them in mind.
For example, a department head received a rebuke from the CEO, and he feels bad.
At that time, the employees in his department made a small mistake, and he directed a temper tantrum at them.
Later, those employees gathered among themselves, and one of them said:
“Why does our dept. head lose his temper and direct it at us just because he cannot say a word to the CEO? I can’t put up with this anymore. He does it every time.”
Then, those employees who have hard feelings against their boss agree with him and begin to talk about all the uncomfortable events in the past, too.
Now, another employee cautiously begins to say:
“The boss got angry because he was under such great stress today, but he will feel sorry by tomorrow. Why don’t we just understand him and support him? We all know how it is to work here in this company, and who will understand him if we don’t?”
Hearing the words of those two, you can already discern who has goodness in his heart.
If you agree with the words of the former and together you complain against your boss, it means you do not have goodness in your heart.
Also, those people would not want to listen to the good words of the latter, and they might even dislike him for saying the good words.
They would criticize him saying, “He just wants to flatter the boss,” or “He acts like he is the only good guy here.”
On the contrary, if you have goodness, you cannot agree with the words of the former employee.
You’d rather feel embarrassed to be hearing such words.
But when you hear the word of the latter, you feel his good heart, and you feel comfortable listening to him.
One’s goodness or evil in his heart will be revealed by checking what kinds of words he speaks and listens to.
People cheat others or get cheated by others because they have greed and falsehood in their hearts.
Those who have arrogance and boasting in their minds will easily be intrigued by the praising words of others and might be used for bad things.
Also, because they have lust in their mind, they like to talk about lustful and filthy things, and they pay attention when others are speaking such words.
It is not only about hearing but also spreading such words.
Let me give you an example.
Sometimes, some people spread the words of others in the following way.
They say something like, “A couple of days ago Deacon Kim was saying that Deacon Lee is arrogant, he looks down on others and he just boasts of himself all the time. I don’t think Deacon Lee is actually like that, but maybe something happened between them and Deacon Kim doesn’t like Deacon Lee.”
He is saying that he does not have anything against Deacon Lee, and he is just delivering the words of Deacon Kim.
If, however, Deacon Lee is one of his family members or a very close friend, he wouldn’t deliver such words to other people.
In fact, he has shown the intention to reveal the shortcomings of Deacon Lee, and that is why he is gossiping about Deacon Lee, pretending it is somebody else’s words.
Even though he is saying they are not his own words, those words themselves are revealing his hard feelings and evil in his mind.
Brothers and sisters, those who are of the world, and of the untruth, cannot help but speak words that are outside of the truth.
Luke 6:45 says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Proverbs 15:2 also says, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.”
Even if an evil person pretends to be speaking words of goodness, his evil will eventually be revealed.
Also, those who are of the world listen to and agree to the words that are of the world.
On the contrary, those who are of God and who seek the truth desire to speak and hear the words of truth.
Also, when a person is receiving some works of spirit, we can apply the same criterion to discern as to what kind of spirit it is.
Namely, we can just check what he is speaking and hearing.
The latter part 1 John 4:6 also says, “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The words of the anti-Christ, which are the words of temptation, are the opposite of the works of the Holy Spirit.
Those whose hearts are filled with the truth and who receive the clear works of the Holy Spirit will not accept the tempting words of the anti-Christ.
For example, it is the unchanging will of God both in the past and today that His children must live a holy and pure life without committing sins.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification;”
Philippians 2:15 says, “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,”
A minister who has received the spirit of truth, which is of God, will teach the flock to cast away sins and to live a holy life.
He will always preach such words as, “God’s children must not be stained by the lust of the world. You must never bow down before idols. You have to cast away the adulterous mind, anger, greed, and hatred. You have to be holy and pure.”
Also, those believers who receive the works of the Holy Spirit will feel the rejoicing of the Holy Spirit in them when they hear such words and practice them.
But some people argue for what is completely the opposite to the will of God.
“How can men become holy? God told people to keep the commandments only for the Old Testament. In the New Testament era, we can just have the faith to believe in Jesus Christ.”
Also, if they see a believer who is in a struggle or under persecution trying to keep his faith, they tell him to just compromise to some extent.
“Do you have to keep the Lord’s Day to that extreme? You can open your shop after attending the church service. You already attended the worship service, and you can enjoy yourself the rest of the day.”
Or, they justify themselves for their comprising saying, “You can just believe in God in your heart. Why do you have to cause a conflict in the family by not bowing down in the ancestral worship? You can preach to them only when you have peace with them by doing what they want you to do.”