Stan Gale

Overcoming the World

We overcome the world with its bondage to sin and destiny for destruction by faith in the saving, victorious work of Jesus Christ. The commandments of which John has just spoken (5:2-4) have to do with love for Jesus and allegiance to Him. The world seeks autonomy; the Christian seeks allegiance. John is once again asking us to take stock of ourselves. Where is our faith placed?

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:4, NKJV).
Who doesn’t like to be on the winning side? That is one of the themes of the book of Revelation. Though they suffer in this age, those who overcome by the blood of the Lamb will be relieved of all suffering in the age to come.
The kingdom of this world, under the scourge of sin and schemes of the devil, will perish along with its ruler and his demonic minions and his subjects who are part of this world. They will be cast into the lake of fire. Conversely, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus will be everlasting and those who have bowed the knee before Him will rule with Him for all eternity.
Who does belong to the kingdom of God? The answer is all those bought by Christ’s blood and sealed by His Spirit. These are ones who have been born again and, by the resurrection life of Jesus, become part of the new creation.
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What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Against Satan’s deceptions, we must stand firm in the revealed truth of God’s Word, the Bible (2 Cor. 10:1–5; Eph. 6:17; Col. 2:6–8. Against Satan’s temptations, we must stand firm in the power of the risen Christ, through whom we can resist the devil and walk worthy of the Lord (Eph. 6:10; Col. 1:9–12). Whatever we learn of our enemy’s efforts in the pages of God’s Word, we must look to Christ to counter them. Knowing we have a spiritual enemy who opposes us should enrich our prayer lives, causing us to seek the sufficiency of our Lord that we desperately need.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:3–5, NKJV)
With these words, the Apostle Paul celebrates God’s deliverance of His people through the work of His Son on our behalf (Col. 1:13–14). He also reminds us that we live out our days in a fallen world, in which we contend with spiritual opposition in our walk with Christ and work for Him (Eph. 2:1–10).
The Context of Spiritual Warfare
In His High Priestly Prayer, our Lord Jesus prays for us as ones who are in the world (John 17:11) but not of the world (John 17:14). As such, He asks not that the Father would take us out of the world, but that He would keep us from the Evil One (John 17:15). The prayer He taught us to pray as His disciples mobilizes us to seek the kingdom of God into which we have been established and to serve His will, taking into account the opposition of a spiritual enemy (Matt. 6:10, 13).
The redemption God promised in Eden is framed in terms of conflict (Gen. 3:15). That Promised One would come in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4–5) to do battle with him who is identified as “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on true and full humanity so that He might wage war for our deliverance and destroy the works of the devil (Heb. 2:14–18; 1 John 3:8).
Key to our engaging in spiritual warfare is recognition that the victory is Christ’s and is ours in Christ. We do not fight for victory but in victory. The prelude to Jesus sending us out to make disciples is the declaration of His accomplished mission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18; see Eph. 1:20–23).
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Chicken or the Egg

The starting point, the fountain for loving others is a love for God, initiated by His love for us and poured into our hearts by His Spirit. We cannot conclude that we love God, if we do not love those made in His image and, particularly here, those called God’s beloved, our fellow believers. 

We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19, NKJV).
In our natural state we are dead in sin and in rebellion against our Creator. In quoting from the Psalms, Paul describes everyone dead in sin as not seeking God, not doing good, and not fearing God. In other words, we are not only alienated from God; we are antagonistic to Him. Paul goes so far as to say that in our fallen condition we are “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30). In his writings, John depicts it as a clash between light and darkness.
That might surprise us. Isn’t our land filled with religious expression and Christian denominations? Sure, there are those who militantly deny God or revile Him. But they are just a noisy fringe. How can churchgoers be God haters?
It has to do with our inclination to idolatry. We make God in our image, fashioning Him as we want Him to be. We bring Him to serve us, rather than the reverse. We become a law unto ourselves. As haters of God, we are easily disposed to hate others in our chauvinistic self-righteousness, self-service, and self-glory.
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Confidence on the Day of Judgment

How can we have already been judged and already passed from death to life? The answer is love. Think of John 3:16. God’s love in Christ is manifested against the backdrop of our perishing in judgment for our sins. Our confidence on the day of judgment is found in the love of God that gave His Son for us, a love that satisfied God’s justice, a love that will not let us go (cf. Rom. 8:37-39). 

that we may have boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 4:17, NKJV)
John again highlights the love God has for us. “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Hearing these words, we cannot help but rejoice in so great a salvation. We borrow from John’s own earlier astonishment and exclamation of how great is the Father’s love for us (see 3:1).
Throughout John’s epistle he has gone on to describe that love that is beyond our comprehension. God is love and somehow through the Spirit in our union with Christ we find ourselves immersed in this love, in eternal communion with the triune God. Though we give ourselves over to a lifetime of study, meditation, and pursuit we will never fully grasp the love of God for us in Jesus.
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Perfected Love

John goes so far as to say that if we love one another God abides in us. Love is a telltale sign that our faith is functioning according to new life in Christ. By it we gain assurance of our salvation. More than that, John tells us that His love has been perfected in us. John does not say “being perfected,” but “stands perfected.” In other words, the love of God bound up in Christ has found its mark. 

His love has been perfected in us. (1 John 4:12, NKJV)
Love cannot be reclusive. It cannot stay indoors, barricaded in our hearts. It cannot remain a hermit isolated and insulated from the humanity around us or even simply in cloistered communion with God.
John particularly stresses that we are to love one another. He reasons this way: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Love is other-oriented and outward-facing.
God is the model for our love. How did God love us? By sending His Son to live and die for us. The eternal Son of God veiled His divine glory in true and full humanity so that He might identify with us, stand in our place as a substitute, and give His life in ransom for us. The love God describes for us and desires of us cannot work remotely. It must be exercised on-site, not only in word but in deed, not in mere sentiment but in sacrifice. There is a cost to love.
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Love on Display

In this the love of God was manifested toward us… (1 John 4:9, NKJV)
Think of the most impressive Christmas display you’ve ever seen. What struck you about it? Was it the huge number of lights? Perhaps those lights were programmed to keep time with the grand plan of a majestic musical score. Those lights would have been even more spectacular at night, their beauty and radiance standing out from the darkness.
Keep that picture in mind as you read these words: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Imagine the pitch black darkness of a world spiritually dead in sin. Death reigned everywhere you looked. But, according to plan and right on schedule, the glory of God Himself appeared. The Light of life entered the world, something history had been waiting for since the exit from Eden. John describes that in his Gospel account. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Test the Spirits

He lays out a litmus test for our discernment: “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (4:2-3). The key phrase here is “come in the flesh.” In other words, did the eternal Son of God take on real flesh and blood humanity, as John asserted to begin his epistle (1:1)? 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit (1 John 4:1, NKJV)
One of the jobs of parents is to protect their kids, whatever the stage of life, whether as a baby rolling off the changing table, or a toddler running out in street, or the poor decision-making of the teenage years. The nature of that protection will change over the years as their children become more independent.
In his letter, John has taken on the role of spiritual father. He has often addressed his readers as “children” or “little children.” Here at the start of chapter four he addresses us with a term of endearment he has used previously, “beloved.” As believers, we are loved ones. John is expressing his affection as a spiritual father but more pointedly, he is recognizing us as loved by God.
The protective concern for our safety comes ultimately from our Father in heaven who has led His servant, John, to write these words and by His providence has included them in the canon of Scripture for our spiritual wellbeing. John urges us to discernment: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
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Commanded to Believe

Abiding in Christ involves keeping His commandments, a testimony to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (v. 24). The gospel is the gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23). It is more than a ticket to heaven; it is a transfer of alignment from one kingdom to another, involving expression of allegiance to Him who holds all authority. 

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23, NKJV).
Often we hear the call to “accept Jesus as Savior” or “make Him Lord of our lives.” These calls reflect a response to the gift of God in Christ and a hallmark of saving faith. Saving faith is more than merely knowing the facts or even admitting the facts are true. It requires a transfer of trust and allegiance to Jesus as the Savior and Lord that He is. It proclaims not only that Jesus is the Savior; He is my Savior. He is not only the Lord; He is my Lord.
Embrace of Christ through faith reflects God’s work of grace in our lives to bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life, what John has called being “born of God” (1 John 3:9; John 3:3). Through a new heart and open eyes, we repent of our rebellion against God, reject our ability to save ourselves, and renounce self-rule over our own lives. Faith rests fully on Jesus to save us through His sacrificial death as a sinless substitute, and submits to Him as ruler over us.
The gospel requires a response.
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Love Letter

As long as we have been acquainted with Satan, we have seen sin and destruction. As long as we have been familiar with God, we have seen love and benevolence. That’s why John will go on later to assert, “God is love” (4:16). There can be no richer way to say that love is from the beginning because there is God, the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11, NKJV)
John’s first epistle is indeed a love letter, not only because it communicates the love of God to us but also because love is a dominant theme. He uses the term “love” over 40 times. He comes at the topic from just about every angle imaginable.
He began the chapter by speaking of the love of God the Father to us. He has just told us that a distinguishing trait of being born of God is a love for the brethren. Now John tells us just how old is this message of love: “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
Love is not just a New Testament message. There are those who will try to set the Old Testament against the New by saying the Old had to do with justice, judgment, and wrath, while the New has to do with mercy, grace, and love.
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Counsel to My Son

We want to give our kids the safety of boundaries, with an eye to discipline. Discipline is not simply punishment but structure, including instruction, assistance, grace, and consequences. Allow them freedom within boundaries as you walk by their side. The word “training” is often translated “nurture” and involves direction and instruction. It is parental malpractice to allow our children to go their own way.

For my birthday my son gave me a subscription to Storyworth, which I surmise to be a way to get old people to tell their stories while they are still around. Perhaps it’s a subtle way for my son to find out where the treasure is buried.
Each week I receive a writing prompt that’s been generated either by the service or by my son. The latest prompt came from one chosen by my son: “What is your best advice for raising children?”
As background, my son has been married for over five years but just last year became a father. I’m not sure whether his writer’s prompt simply reflects a newfound interest or a genuine desire for guidance. Either way, I took it seriously and spent some time putting it together.
I should mention that my son and his wife are believers who have committed before Christ and His church to raise their little girl in the ways of the Christian faith, looking to Christ for her salvation as they have their own. This lends a degree of sobriety to my counsel, particularly in that it models my advice to him. In a real sense, it does point him to where the Treasurer is buried.
Here is my response to the prompt, “What is your best advice for raising children?”
I think the most important thing in parenting is to be present with your children. That involves not only time but attention. God has given them to you as a blessing and a responsibility. So be present with your children, and not merely present but present with purpose.
In Christ you are to them prophet, priest, and king. As prophet, you bring the word of God to fashion their worldview and direct their steps. As priest, you pray with and for them. As king, you direct, protect, and provide for them.
In these roles you keep Jesus as their foundation and their focus.
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