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Text: 1 John 5:1-5; Revelation 2:7; 11; 17; 26-29; 3:5-6; 12-13; 21-22
Date: 12/31/17 File name: Epiphany_Sunday.wpd
ID Number: 103
Theme: God’s people are ‘overcomers’.
Those of you who went through the 1960s remember that the most important social crusade of that era was the Civil Rights Movement.
"We Shall Overcome" was a song that became the anthem of that movement.
Around the nation, Black-Americans joined hands as they marched and sang that song.
They challenged our culture to live up to its basic creed: “That all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
The lyrics and tune of the song are derived from an early gospel hymn, "I'll Overcome Some Day", written in 1901 by African-American composer Rev. Charles Albert Tindley.
The first stanza reads simply:
This world is one great battlefield,
With forces all arrayed;
If in my heart I do not yield
I’ll overcome some day.
I’ll overcome some day,
I’ll overcome some day;
If in my heart I do not yield
I’ll overcome some day.
While an appropriate theme-song for the Civil Rights Movement, it was first-and-foremost a gospel hymn reminding Christians that, in Christ, we shall eventually overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.
This morning I want us to double-back to the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia.
Back in the fall I began preaching through Revelation, taking a break from it to preach on the great themes of Advent.
Thematically, resuming our journey through Revelation fits right into the celebration of Advent since Revelation is about the Second Advent of our Lord, Jesus.
At his 1st Advent he came unobtrusively and unpretentiously.
At his 2nd Advent he is coming majestically and gloriously.
The reason I want to double-back to the letters to the Seven Churches is to consider the promises that Christ makes to the believers in those congregations.
The promise is to he who overcomes — which is our Lord’s promise to all true believers.
Seven times, at the end of each letter, Jesus makes promises to he who overcomes.
There are rewards for the faithful at the coming of the King to establish his Kingdom.
This morning, I want you to see all the things that are yours in Christ.
1. Revelation is not the only place where the Apostle John refers to believers as Overcomers
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.
This is love for God: to obey his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:1–5, NIV84)
a. what does the Apostle mean when he says that we are overcomers?
1) it’s a wonderful word, but it needs some explaining
2) it’s a word that has important implications for our spiritual lives
1. the title Christian is the most frequent name applied to those who have chosen to follow Jesus, who is the Christ of God
a. the name means little Christs and was given to the early believers by their pagan neighbors as an epitaph of derision — it’s a name that is meant to mock
1) “Oh, so you’re one of those Christ followers, are you?
You, you ‘Christ-ian’— you ‘little Christ’, you.”
2) if you are a believer, ware the moniker proudly
2. but there are so many other great descriptors of who and what we are
a. in the Scriptures we are also called ...
1) Children, Children of God, Children of Light, Children of the Day, and Children of Obedience
b. we are called ...
1) Believers, and the Faithful, Friends of Jesus Christ, Brothers and Sisters, Sheep, Saints, and Holy Ones
c. we are called ...
1) Soldiers, Witnesses, Stewards, Fellow-citizens, Salt, and Light
d. we are called ...
1) the Elect of God, the Chosen of God, Ministers of God, Servants of God, Disciples of God, Heirs of God, and Joint-heirs with Christ
e. we are called ...
1) Branches in the Vine, Members of the Body of Christ, Living Stones, the Temple of God, Living Letters, the Beloved, and Followers of Christ
3. each of those terms gives us the definition of who we are
a. and when you take them all together they express the fullness of what it means to belong to God through faith in Christ
4. but there's one other title that isn't generally a part of the list of descriptors that most of us would refer to, and that is this term that is used a number of times in 1 John 5:1-5, and Revelation chapters 2 and 3
we are overcomers
1. the word that the Apostle John uses three times in 1 John 5:1-5 and seven times in Revelation is nikaō (nik - ah - o), and it means to conquer, it means to win, it means to defeat, it means to gain victory over
It comes from the Greek nikē (nik - ee) who was the Greek Goddess of Victory and Triumph.
The Greeks actually believed that only the gods were ultimately unconquerable.
True, ultimate, final, permanent and a lasting sort of eternal victory only belonged to the gods.
It was denied to mere mortals.
a. for men, there might be a triumph here and a triumph there, but there would be mostly defeat and failure
only the gods could reach the level of victory implied by the word nikē
2. playing against the background of that kind of thinking in the ancient world, it was a pretty stunning for the Apostle John to assure believers that they had the kind of unconquerability that belonged only to the gods of that culture
Bill Bowerman, a track and field coach who went into the athletic shoe business liked idea of winning so much that he renamed his company, originally Blue Ribbon Sports, to Nikē shoes which are advertized to lead you to triumph in whatever athletic endeavor you're engaged in.
3. the word is used by our Lord Jesus Himself in John 16:33, when He says, "In this world you shall have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
a. Jesus is telling His disciples, “I have won out in conflict with the world.
I have defeated the world.
I have conquered the world.
I am the victor over the world.”
4. the Apostle Paul uses a form of the word in one of my favorite passages of Scripture
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
(Romans 8:37, NIV84)
a. the Apostle refers to the unconquerable position of Christians in Christ
b. but the Apostle adds a twist — we're not just overcomers — we're not merely nikē
1) we are huper nikē, meaning, we're super-conquerors — we are the ultimate conquerors
5. through faith in Christ we unconquerable
a. the Apostle Paul goes on to describe this unconquerableness this way:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:38–39, NIV84)
b. there is nothing that can conquer us, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword
1) we are super-conquerors
2) we are the unconquerable
3) we are the overcomers
In 1798, when the English Admiral Lord Nelson came back and reported to the British Admiralty, his great victory over the French in the Battle of the Nile, he said this, (and it's a great quote), "Victory is not a large enough word to describe what took place."
c. this is certainly true of our salvation in Christ Jesus
1) victory is not a large enough word to describe what takes place when a sinner is justified by faith
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