People don’t often want to invest themselves into something that is not worth it. This month, I’ve been writing about what the Christian faith actually is. Together, we’ve discovered that it is faith specifically in the person of Christ and that it is a faith of acceptance, honesty, truth, forgiveness, rock you to the core love, choice and freedom.
As we look at the final chapter in 1 John, I want to ask the question, “Is the Christian faith actually worth it?”
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Jesus Christ — He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood — and these three are in agreement. If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son. (The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.) And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Throughout the book of 1 John, we’ve been discovering that love for God and faith in Christ brings about obedience to Christ in our lives. Obedience is not a requirement for faith in Christ. It comes about as a result of our faith in Christ. Consequently, true Christians can be known by their joyful striving to obey Christ. If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage you to go back and look at my previous two articles; we examined this idea in a little more depth.
As John continues to work this idea out for us, he states that Christ’s commands are not a burden because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. So far, John has described one life choice that all people must make. We will either have faith in Christ, and in so doing accept God’s forgiveness, or we will choose not to have faith in Christ and in so doing deny God’s forgiveness. If we place our faith in Christ, then we are born of God. If we do not place our faith in Christ, then we are of the world. There are simply no other options; there cannot be. Here we are given the freedom to choose between having faith in Christ or having faith in the world. We cannot do both. There seem to be many religions, even some groups who claim to be Christian, that would force the entire world to believe the way that they do. This does not describe true Christian faith. True Christian faith gives people a legitimate choice to either accept or deny faith in Christ. This gives the Christian freedom not to conform and not to force others to conform. In fact, this idea of free choice allows the Christian to have unconditional love for all people.
We also understand that whatever choice we make comes with its own consequences. The consequence of faith in Christ is the reception of forgiveness. The consequence of denying faith in Christ is the rejection of forgiveness. The promise, here, is that whatever is born of God will overcome or have victory over the world that denies God. Here we learn that the Christian faith is a faith of victory and that we can joyfully obey Christ because His commands are for the purpose of our victory over this world and in our lives. So the commands that we receive in Scripture are not meant to be a burden or to enslave us, but rather they are an instrument that brings about victory and freedom in our lives.
After reiterating the importance of truth, John states that the victory we receive is eternal life and is given by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Here is what we understand about victory in the Christian faith: it is not earned. It is a gift from God. In the beginning of John’s letter, he describes the acceptance that God has for people. He then goes on to describe God’s forgiveness. He does not leave it there. He goes on to say that those who, by placing their faith in Christ, accept God’s gift of forgiveness will also receive victory. This victory, eternal life, is found only in Jesus Christ. What does this victory mean for us here and now? First of all, John talks about eternal life in the present tense. We do not have to wait to have eternal life. Eternal life is knowing Christ. In John 17:3, John defines eternal life as knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. The victory of the Christian faith is victory that is found specifically in a relationship with the God of the universe. In having this relationship with the creator and master of the universe, we can quite literally overcome the world because God is the world’s creator and master.
Trying to find victory in anything or anyone else cannot be worthwhile because everything and everyone else is subject to God. We cannot find victory in what we do, the rules we follow, the people we worship, the pleasure we seek, the stuff we get or the power we think we have. God is the only source of victory, in this life and the next.
We’ve learned that the Christian faith is a faith of victory. Victory over struggles, victory over this world and victory over ourselves. We conclude 1 John by saying that the one who has the Son, Jesus Christ, has life and the one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. Victory is life and life can be ours. The Christian faith is then about finding victory and the only way we can find true, lasting and worthwhile victory is by placing our faith wholly in Jesus Christ. Having faith in Christ is worth it, while placing our faith in anything else is not, and cannot be, worth it.
The choice is ours: we can place our faith in Christ and have victory, or we can choose not to place our faith in Christ and not have victory. Here, I also have to clarify that victory doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have power over people. It means we have an eternal place with the God of the universe and get to experience that eternal life here and now.
No matter what difficulties we have, we know that we ultimately have the victory. Even while we are going through struggles, we know that we ultimately have the victory, because we have place our faith in the Creator and Master of all creation!
 1 John 5:1-12 (HCSB)