Are you really #winning?

by Apr 20, 2016

Are you really #winning?

by Apr 20, 2016

You’ve seen the hashtag in your feed, right?

I totally worked out and did not eat Taco Bell today.  #winning

I got a prom date today. … And a cheese quesadilla for lunch.  #winning

I checked my bank account balance online, and I had more than $10.  #winning

I think we’ve lowered the bar for winning just a little bit. Maybe it’s because so many of us feel like we’re losing in life. I saw an article recently that gave statistics for what most people on our island already know: there are a lot of people in Hawaii who are really struggling. It said that more than half of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Which means when we don’t get a paycheck — just one paycheck — it can seriously mess us up. And so 25% of us had trouble paying the rent sometime in the last year. 25% of us didn’t have enough money to fix our car sometime in the last year. 20% of us had a health crisis for a family member that we couldn’t pay for, just in the last year.

That’s one reason why so many of us don’t feel like we’re winning. That’s why John’s words are such good news:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)

What does John really mean when he talks about overcoming? Having victory? Well, there’s a hint in how he ties it to being “born of God.” That phrase bookends this whole section, and in the middle John describes three new abilities we have when we are born again and given new life through the grace of Jesus. When you have these abilities, you can win no matter what happens.

1. You have a new ability to believe.

Most people think that as long as you keep believing, God will keep blessing. As long as you keep believing, God will keep saving. As long as you keep believing, God will keep giving you life. But John says it’s the other way around: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has (already) been born of God.” (5:1) Since God already blessed you — since he already gave you life — now you have the ability to believe. To believe that Jesus is the Christ and to believe that Jesus is the Son of God (5:5).

Now, that doesn’t just mean believing cold hard academic facts about Jesus being fully God and Jesus being fully man. It doesn’t just mean knowing theological facts about how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Believing that Jesus is the Christ ultimately means believing that God keeps his promises. It means believing that God came from heaven to earth not to condemn us but to save us and bless us. As Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Faith is the ability to believe that because of Jesus, God is for you, no matter what happens to you. No matter what life throws at me, I’m going to believe that God exists, that he’s loving, and that he’s working all things for my good.

When you can have that kind of confidence and contentment? You’re winning.

2. You have a new ability to love.

Everyone on planet earth knows we’re supposed to be loving. The problem John sees is that we often love in selfish ways: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God” (5:2). In other words, it’s possible to love people in a way that doesn’t love God. In a way that doesn’t reflect God’s sacrificial and selfless love.

Know why that happens? Because we’re needy. We only love other people in order to meet our own needs. Our own need to feel loved. Our own need to feel accepted and appreciated. And so we feel these feelings that feel like love, but it isn’t really love at all. It’s neediness that’s camouflaged as love.

John says we love other people when we love God. And do you know what it means to love God? It just means to appreciate the love he’s given to you through Christ: “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). When you understand how much God loved you — so much that he sent his son to die for your sins — then you don’t need to love other people for how much love they’ll give you. You’re free!  Free from your neediness, selfishness, and anxiousness.

When can love without being dependent on what you get in return? You’re winning.

3. You have a new ability to obey.

As John says, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (5:3). That’s something brand new – for any kind of commands to not be burdensome.

We hate commands. We hate laws and regulations. Know why? Because they take things away from us. That’s why it’s a burden for us to follow them. It’s a burden to follow the tax laws, because they’re taking money away from me. It’s a burden to follow the texting-while-driving laws because they’re taking communication and efficiency away from me.

And for most people, God’s laws seem like they’re exactly the same. It seems like his laws about sex are taking pleasure away from us, so we say, “I’m not hurting anyone. Why does God want to ruin my fun?” It seems like his laws about honesty could take our reputations away, so we think, “I can’t be honest about that. This person will think I ‘m an idiot!”

But when you’re born again, you realize that God’s laws aren’t taking things away from you as much as they’re giving life to you. Because the laws of God reflect the heart of God. God’s commands reflect the things God loves. And so the more you obey God’s laws, then the closer you get to God, and the more life you receive.

When you can do what’s right without being bitter about it? You’re winning.