The greatest battle we face as believers is to overcome sin in our lives. Does the world control much of the things you value and love and esteem? If so, this article is for you. This article will equip you to be an effective Christian. We are looking at what the theologians call sanctification. Sanctification is the process that God uses to set us apart for his purposes. Separating us from the world and to Himself.
In this series (The Three Battle Fronts) we have identified the fact that in order for a believer to live a life of holiness before God, he must fight a battle on three fronts. It is a multidimensional battle against sin. There are three battle fronts. Three areas in your life that influence you toward sin. Those fronts are the flesh, the world, and the devil. I have good news, we overcome the world by faith.
- The flesh is your inner propensity to sin
- The devil is your supernatural enemy – a created being who fell from heaven.
- The world is an evil system we live in that is under the control of wickedness
I don’t know if you are aware of it, but you live daily in a system that is controlled by the enemy and its purpose is to get you to believe lies and to entice you to sin. I will give you biblical strategies to overcome the world in this article.
This series has an underlying basic premise: It is that Jesus death, burial and resurrection provides more for us than just forgiveness of sin. I believe that we can have freedom from sin. To preach or to believe anything else is to deny the authority of scripture. I believe that many believers live underneath their privilege because they haven’t been taught how to confront each of these battle fronts and live their lives out in obedience to Him.
However, what I have discovered in my own life, is that winning on these three fronts is not something that will occur automatically in your life. I wish I could say that if you just accept Jesus, you will never be tempted to sin again. That would be the biggest lie you ever heard.
Even Jesus was tempted. You will be tempted by sin until you breathe your last breath. In fact, before salvation you were actually just going with the flow. Now that you have been saved and given your life to Christ, you are going against the current.
But I have good news! God is with you in the battle. But it is not entirely up to God. You will not obtain a life that pleases God without effort on your part. It requires effort on our part. You must be diligent, vigilant, and have a desire to live a holy life. God will also be faithful to do his part, but we must be active as well.
Let me further define what the Bible describes as the world. John describes the values of the world system in 2 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It is evident that in our culture that the system of the world is promoting sinful values and behaviors.
Rick Warren has identified three of those values of the world in some of his sermons.
The first value of the world is what we call hedonism, which is the desire for pleasure. Pleasure is all important. That is what the Bible calls the “lust of the flesh”. You and I live in a world system that is constantly promoting sensuality and pleasure. Hedonism is simply the worlds value that pleasure is everything and must be pursued at all cost, even in sinful ways. The bible is true when it says that there is pleasure in sin for a season. I could make a list of sins that are rampant in our society that show that the world system just wants you to pursue sinful pleasures.
Materialism is the belief that possessions are the important thing in life. This is one way of looking at the “lust of the eyes.” Do you realize that if you are a typical Houstonian and you drive to work listening to the radio, spend a couple of hours on the internet or watching TV. Do you realize that you are bombarded with up to 5000 messages a day, telling you to buy something?
Narcissism is all about pride, and status. The world will try to get you to think, “I’m all that’s important.” This is seen in how people are constantly trying to impress others. These are the worlds values. In fact, these are the three basic temptations that Satan has been using since the history of mankind started. He used these same three concepts back with Adam. Jesus was tempted in the same three ways.
The key word in hedonism is “to indulge” — if it feels good do it. The lust of the flesh.
The key word in materialism is “increase” — get all you can, can all you get. The lust of the eyes.
The key phrase in narcissism is “to impress” — I’m all that matters. The pride of life.
That is what you will be up against on a daily basis in your pursuit of a life that pleases God. I wish today, I could tell you that our society is going to have more morals as time goes on. I wish I could tell you that things are going to get better. I cannot. In fact, Gods word tells us the opposite is true. Seducers will grow worse and worse. Things will become increasingly evil. 2 Timothy 3:13 “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
We overcome the world by faith!
We must equip ourselves with Gods word! Before we jump into specific strategies, let me give you an encouraging verse. I want you to be encouraged! You are destined to overcome the world. If you are born again, that is your destiny! John 5:4 “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
You can overcome the world. It will take faith. God’s word says that we overcome the world by faith. A lot of people give up the fight and say, “I guess I will just have to kind of go with the flow! I can’t change. I can’t resist temptation. I guess I will just life a mediocre life. I will not even slightly resist being influenced by the world’s values.”
God says, “You are destined to overcome to world!” Everyone born of God overcomes the world. By faith determine to overcome. You can do it!
Let me give you four facts and four strategies today that will help you.
- OUR WORLD IS UNDER THE SWAY OF SATAN
There is an evil person that is behind the world system. You can see this by the injustice, the anger, the violence, and the things people do to each other. Think of the things governments do. So much evil in the world. It cannot be any other way. Satan’s ways are behind what is going on in our culture and society. 1 John 5:19 “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
I don’t want to give Satan more credit than he deserves today. But I will say this about him, that he has had thousands of years to influence the way the world thinks and acts. He is a liar and has been since the beginning. He has spread his lies everywhere. That is why evil is rampant in the world, and there is so much sin out there. Satan is influencing the way people think.
Satan is behind the sensuality displayed in our culture on television and the movies. Satan is behind pornography. Satan’s lies have said, “Its okay to abort your children or to have an extra marital affair. Two consenting adults can do whatever they feel they want to do.” My friend, you don’t need much intelligence to recognize that the world is under the control of the evil one.
Don’t misunderstand me. We know that there is a Sovereign God who is above all and over all and thank God he is active in redeeming this world. We know that one day he will return. He is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He will break the evil ones’ power. He will defeat him and Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit for 1000 years.
In that day, the culture of the world will. not be under the influence of the evil one. Jesus will rule with a rod of Iron. But until that day, Satan, the prince of the power of the air is in control of much of this worlds system.
How should I respond to that? We overcome the world by faith when we adopt powerful biblical strategies
Strategy Number One: EVALUATE EVERYTHING
You need to use the mind God gave you. Don’t automatically buy into everything you see, everything you hear, every idea that’s promoted on television or radio or whatever. Question, challenge, think critically, and properly assess popular opinion. We should ask ourselves:
Does this line up with biblical values? Whenever you watch a TV show ask yourself: What are the suppositions behind this show? What values are being promoted here? 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid all evil.”
I want you to note that it says Test “everything”.
- The music I listen to?
- TV programs?
- Magazines? Yes
- Fashion? Yes.
- Political Commentary? Yes
- Talk show hosts?
- Radio psychologists?
- Teachers? Yes
There are a lot of false teachers out there. There is a lot of junk being promoted over the airways and media that is absolutely off base. The Bible says you need to evaluate everything. The standard of evaluation is the Bible. The Bible has outlasted every culture throughout history. It does have a track record. We use this as a standard to evaluate everything that goes on.
- Is it right?
- Is it true?
- Is it what God says?
- Is it sin?
- Is this going to be pleasure for a season and then regret?
The fact is there are really only two sources for life. You will base your life either on the word or you will base your life on the world. Those are the two options. You’ll base your life on what the word of God says or what the world says. The Bible teaches very clearly that we are in a battle between the word and the world. “The truth is, although we live normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level… Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (Ph) God is your creator. He knows the best way for you to life.
I want to tell you what I believe is the way the enemy controls the world more than any other way. That is through screens. TV screens, movie screens, and now the little screens we carry in our pocket. In the average American home the television is on 7 hours and 2 minutes a day. We spend more time watching TV than anything else except sleeping and working. The average child age 2-11 watches 25.5 hours a week. That means that by the time a preschooler begins kindergarten, he has already spent more time in front of the TV than he will in earning a college degree. Before he even starts school, he’s spent more time in front of the TV than he will in going to college. By the time a child finishes high school, he has spent a total of 12,000 hours in the class room. In the same time, that child has spent over 20,000 hours in front of the television. You tell me where they’re getting their values? From the system of the world! The average teenager watches 22.5 hours a week. The average adult man watches 24.5 hours a week. The average adult woman averages 30 hours a week. You will amass 9.5 solid years of television viewing. Is that the way you want to spend 9.5 years of your life? Nine and a half solid years an average American will spend in front of the television.
Here is an interesting comparison: If you attended church every Sunday of your life to age 65, from cradle roll to senior citizen that would amount to only 4.5 months of Bible teaching.
That includes Sunday School and midweek service. We wonder why Children don’t have an interest in spiritual things? Evaluate Everything.
Let me give you another fact and another strategy.
- OUR WORLD REJECTS THOSE WHO REALLY LIVE FOR GOD
If you are going to live, act, as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The world is going to think you a strange duck. 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
It has been a while since I worked in a secular job. But when I was in Bible College I did. I remember the day when the Holy Spirit told me to start carrying my bible to work. I was a College Student. I worked around all kinds of other College Students. I remember the day. I left my backpack at home. Took my bible out, put it on the top of my stack of books. I started reading it on my break. I became a Bible fanatic. It became known that Bob was not only a Christian, but he was in love with Gods word.
Most of the people reacted to me in a good way. One particular young woman by the name of Deb – really started to hate me. I didn’t understand it. Deb was a dancer. She was into modern dance. Deb prided herself in her liberal moral attitudes. It is not that I associated with her very much. I never debated with her. I never argued with her. But to honest…she hated me. To be honest with you. I was kind of unprepared for her hatred of me.
One day in particular she really screamed at me and told me how I tried to shove Christianity down everyone’s throat. I listened with astonishment, since I had never even had a conversation with her about Christianity. I had never tried to convert her. A few days later I came upon this verse: 1 John 3:12-13 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”
Deb hated me. I had done nothing to her. She hated me because I was a Christian. My actions were righteous. She hated me because I walked away when she told a dirty joke. She hated me because I stood up for Jesus. She hated me because I dared to carry my Bible to work, to read it on my break. Don’t be surprised if the world hates you.
In a world like this, it is time that we put our faith to work. We overcome the world by our faith. We activate that faith when we follow this strategy.
Strategy Number 2: BECOME A CHANGE AGENT
Rather than being influenced by the world, our goal should be to influence others. Everybody is either a thermostat or a thermometer. You know the difference. A thermometer simply reflects the environment. A thermostat sets the environment. A thermometer says, “This is what’s going on in the world. Here’s the temperature.” A thermostat controls the environment. It sets the agenda. God says that’s what I want you to do. I want you to go out and penetrate society and set the agenda. Influence others for good rather than being influenced by others.
Philippians 2:15-16 (Living Bible) “You are to live clean innocent lives as children of God in a dark world. Shine out among them as beacon lights, holding out to them the word of life.” Like stars stand out on a dark night, that’s how my lifestyle is to be as a Christian. We are to be distinctively different than the culture. My lifestyle is to be such a bright contrast to the culture that I shine out like a star.
If you’ve ever studied the parables of Jesus, the stories of Jesus, many of them have to do with this concept of penetration. He says, “You are the salt of the earth” Salt penetrates meat. Have you ever tried to get salt out of meat once it’s in? Difficult. “You are the light of the world.” Light penetrates the darkness. The point is this: God wants you to make an impact with your life for good. One way we can do that is by sharing the Good News with others. It is not our goal to try and make non-Christians act like Christians, but by sharing the Good News with others we penetrate the darkness.
Jesus even prayed for us in John 17:15-18 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” God wants you to be a change agent.
Once in a while I have somebody come into my office and say, “I’m so tired of working with unbelievers. I want to get a job where I only work with believers. Where I can be with Christians and fellowship at work.” I can imagine God in heaven saying, “No! You missed the point! I don’t want you to get off in some little Christian haven, isolating yourself in some commune. I want you in the world. You are an influence for good. You should know unbelievers, having some of them as your friends so you can help them. You can love them and you can show that God cares for them. You can reach them with the Good News.”
In many ways, Christians today have created an alternative parallel culture. The world has rock music so we have Christian rock music. The world has novels, so we’ve got Christian novels. The world has soap operas, so we have Christian soap operas on Christian TV. We’ve got a parallel culture that’s identical, it’s just done by Christians. God wants you to be a change agent!
Some of you remember this story. A number of years ago there was the story about the boy who had to live his life in the plastic bubble. He was caged in plastic all his life. Doctors said, that if he left his bubble, he would die. He had an immune deficiency disease long before AIDS came along. He lived in this bubble. Then an article came out in Newsweek called “David’s Second Birth”.
“Last week a boy named David emerged for the first time from the germ free isolation of the plastic bubble where he had lived since the day he was born. It took twelve years but it was worth the wait. Whatever happens he’s out of his bubble for good. The doctors said it would be senseless to return him to isolation.”
I just imagine God wanting to say to many Christians, “It’s time for you to get out of the bubble. It’s time for you to come out of isolation and quit trying to get away from it all. Instead, you be an influence on them by sharing the Good News. Be different.”
Let me give you a third fact today
- THIS WORLD WILL PASS AWAY
One day the world as you know it will not exist. It will be burned up. It will be destroyed by fire. 2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” I have teased some people that are really into recycling. I tell them, what does it matter it is going to burn anyway. By the way, I do recycle. 1 John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
One day every establishment that promotes sin will be destroyed. Even the earth, that has had sinful men walk upon it, will be destroyed with fire. The world and its desires will pass away. Hugh Hefner who has lived his life as a playboy on the earth will one day stand before the God of heaven. His mansion will be gone. His empire will be gone. The illicit pleasures that he has experienced will be over and done. They will be passed away. He will have to stand in front of the Holy God of heaven and give an account for his life.
Those who live by the values of this world will pass away and be gone. So how do we overcome? Once again, I remind you that it takes faith! We overcome the world by faith.
Strategy number 3: KEEP FOCUSED ON ETERNAL VALUES
Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”I know that in a sensual age it is hard to keep your eyes focused on heaven. We seem to be hard wired to want our gratification now. But I am telling you that there is coming a day when we stand before the king and hear him say, “Well done Good and faithful servant.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Live your life in the light of eternity. I will never forget a man by the name of William Bozeman. He was a man who lived his life for others. He was in his 80’s when I was his pastor. He had pastored little old churches out in West Texas. He never got paid much. He lived in a small trailer house that had just two bedrooms. What he did have he shared. His social security barely kept he and his wife alive. But every month the church got a tithe check. This was a man who lived with eternal values. He is in heaven today. Somehow he managed to keep his eyes on what was important, serving God!
Let me give you another fact.
4. FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD IS BEING AN ENEMY OF GOD
Let me give you some verses that show that this is true. James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
What is he saying when he says, “don’t love the world”? He’s not saying “Don’t love the people of the world”. He’s not saying “Don’t be friendly to unbelievers”. In fact John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world…” God loves the world. He loves people. And we are to love people in the world like God loves the world.
And he is not talking about creation saying that we can’t love the outdoors or flowers or the oceans or the mountains. Those things declare the glory of God.
What does “the world” mean here? He’s talking about the world’s value system. He’s talking about the value that says pleasure is everything, power is everything, position is everything, possessions are everything.
The word “world” here in Greek is the word kosmos. We get the word “cosmetics” from it. Cosmetics means “the arrangement of things”. He’s talking about the value system, the organization. He says don’t love the values of the world. He’s very clear here. He says you can’t have divided loyalties. You can’t love God and love what the world loves at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.
The point is this: God wants my full allegiance. He wants your full allegiance. He wants me to love Him with all my heart.
Strategy Number 4: LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART
In Matthew 22:26 that’s the great commandment. Jesus said, I can summarize the whole Old Testament in this “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” The problem is, even many believers want to love God half-heartedly, not with all their heart. They want to love God but not with their whole heart. They want to love other things. Yes, I want to have a relationship to God but I want to spend my time and my money and my energy in acquiring the good life too. So I’m not going to love God with my whole heart.
I’m just going to love Him with part of my heart. I want a relationship, but I don’t want Him at the center of my life.
Can you imagine that? That’s not the way real love works. How about if I’d married Jureen and at our wedding I stood up to take vows and I told her, “I love you and I want to marry you. I’ll make you a deal. I’m going to be faithful to you half the time. Aren’t you lucky? I’m going to be faithful to you half the time. But don’t get the idea that this marriage is an exclusive relationship because I have every intention of having relationships with dozens of other women.”
She probably would have decked me. No doubt about it! I’d be dead. And she ought to. Any good woman will not allow a rival. How about if I’d said to my wife, “I will be faithful to you every Sunday morning. But you give me the rest of the week.” Partial faithfulness is not faithfulness at all. Unless you’re faithful all the time, you’re not being faithful. That’s what he’s saying here. He’s saying God wants my whole heart. The fact is God has promised over and over in the Bible He loves us unconditionally. He loves us completely. He says, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” He says, I want the same commitment from you. I think that’s fair. He says, “I love you unconditionally, and I love you completely, and I will never leave you or forsake you. I want the same thing from you.” That’s pretty fair.
James 4:4 (Phillips translation) “You are like an unfaithful spouse, never realizing that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God.” He says, even a believer can become an enemy of God. How? By loving the world. We overcome the world by faith and we show that faith in God by loving him with a whole heart. God has a term for believers who have allowed other things to become more important than their relationship to God. He calls it spiritual adultery. Strong words for a strong problem. Spiritual adultery. Millions of so-called believers commit it all the time. They’re more interested in pleasure, possessions, and position. They’re saying, “Yes, I want a relationship with God but my time and my energy and my money are going to pursue the good life.” God calls that spiritual adultery.
Have you seen lovers turn into enemies because of adultery? I have. I’ve seen the pain that causes as I’ve talked to many people and the pain is almost unbearable. It turns people who were once in love into absolute enemies many times. The point is this, spiritual adultery makes me an enemy of God. The kind of pain that adultery can cause in a relationship is the same kind of pain that a believer can inflict on God when we’re not faithful to Him all the time. It breaks His heart.
It’s serious business. I need to love God with all my heart.
You can overcome the world!
1 John 2:16 (KJV) “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
The World’s Value System
Example Type 1 Type 2 Type 3
The three basic “lust of the flesh” “lust of the eyes” “pride of life”
temptations: (pleasures) (possessions) (power/position)
World’s Value “Hedonism” “Materialism” “Narcissism”
Key word: “Indulge” “Increase” “Impress”
Adam: Gen. 3:6 “good for food” “pleasing to the eye” “become gods”
Jesus: Matt. 4 “turn stone to bread…” “all these things will “jump off the t I give you…” peak…”
1 John 5:4 “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
FOUR FACTS AND FOUR STRATEGIES:
FACT NUMBER ONE: THE WORLD IS UNDER THE SWAY OF THE EVIL ONE
1 John 5:19 “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid all evil.”
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (Ph) “The truth is, although we live normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level… Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God.”
FACT NUMBER TWO: THE WORLD WILL REJECT YOU
2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
1 John 3:12-13 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”
Philippians 2:15-16 (Living Bible) “You are to live clean innocent lives as children of God in a dark world. Shine out among them as beacon lights, holding out to them the word of life.”
John 17:15-18 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
FACT NUMBER THREE: THIS WORLD WILL PASS AWAY
2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
1 John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
FACT NUMBER FOUR: FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD IS BEING AN ENEMY OF GOD
James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Matthew 22:37 “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.”
James 4:4 (Ph.) “You are like an unfaithful spouse, never realizing that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God.”