I’m frequently discouraged with my sins. I have sins in my life that I thought would have been gone years ago. Many moments of “breakthrough” prove to be little peaks followed by precipitous declines. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one back. Sometimes it’s two forward, two back. Sometimes it’s just backwards. God’s message in Christ is that each step forward is total victory.
As I sat this morning reading John’s epistle, I realized that this is the message he sent to his hearers. He knows that they struggle with sin – he regularly commands them to stop sinning and repent if they do. However, he says, “I am writing to you … because you have overcome the evil one” (1 Jn. 2:13b). As I read these words and realized that they were written to people who were sinful (yet growing in grace) I thought to myself, “Man, that must have been so encouraging to hear from the Apostle John!” Imagine if John came up to you, knowing about your sins, and said, “You beat the devil!”
Well, friend, that’s what’s happening. In His constant grace, the Lord showed me that the mere fact that I was reading His word was evidence that I – a lowly sinner – have overcome the evil one. I am victorious. Here’s why:
John could tell his readers that they were victorious, even though they were sinners, because he knew that they were reading his letter with the desire to follow Christ. The fact that they were reading his letter meant that they were overcomers. They did not give in to societal pressure to abandon the faith. They pressed in to hear God’s word because God saved them. That, in a nutshell, is what it means to overcome the evil one. Victory is not based on our sanctification; it is based on Christ. If you are unified with Christ through faith in Him, your sin cannot invalidate your victory nor can it sever you from Christ.
So, if you spent yesterday sinning yourself within inches of death, yet today you sit to read the Word and pray, you’ve overcome the evil one. If you struggle with nagging sin that has been crushing you for years yet you pray, “Jesus help me!”, you’ve overcome the evil one. If you just can’t stop sinning, but you find yourself repenting, you’re the rightful recipient of John’s words.
John’s epistle isn’t just for 1st century Christians. If it applied to them, it applies to me. If it applies to me, it applies to you. God’s word does not return void and it does not have an expiration date. No matter your sins at night, if you rise with the light of the morning to read God’s word and pray, you are an overcomer. Keep calm and fight on.
This unquenchable love for us builds love for God in us. Since Christ forgives so freely, the forgiven heart feely says,
“O, if He would punish me for my sins, it would not wound my heart so deep to offend Him; But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me. At times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonor this glorious God?” – Valley of Vision