Excerpted from In the Cleft of the Rock: Insights into the Blood of Jesus, Resurrection Power, and Saving the Soul by Michael J. Webb
Overcoming the World
When we embrace the concept that we are free from the law of sin and death because Jesus died and was raised again, and when we incorporate that truth into our lives on a daily basis, we overcome the world. But what does it mean to “overcome the world?” In order to answer that question we must look to the One who sets the standard, the Author and Finisher of our salvation.
In John 16 Jesus talks at length with His disciples about the third person of the Trinity, Holy Spirit. He tells them that they will be persecuted, thrown out of synagogues, even murdered in the name of God, because they profess Him as Messiah, the One True Son of God. He also tells them not to be offended by these things, or to fear them, because when He leaves them another will come in His place, One who will teach and comfort them.
This dialogue is a mystery to the disciples.
Jesus endeavors to speak plainly to them in order to reassure them. He tells His faithful followers that Holy Spirit will “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on Me, Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see Me no more, Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:1-11)
The Greek word “reprove” can mean to “convict” or “expose.” The first portion of the passage tells us that Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin by exposing unbelief. Jesus came in the flesh to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and death that entered the world through the transgression of Adam and Eve, but the world rejected Him. Failure to believe this is sin. We are told by the Apostle John that “He that believes on [Jesus] is not condemned; but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
Thus, the first step in overcoming the world is to believe that Jesus was who He said He was.
The prophesied Messiah.
Our Savior and Lord.
Next, Jesus tells His disciples that Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness, because He will go to His Father in Heaven. The pure definition of righteousness is simply the character or quality of being right or just. It is sometimes associated with “equity,” the characteristic of being fair and impartial. More specifically, righteousness is always associated with the character and nature of God. However, the only righteousness we possess, or partake of, is that righteousness imparted to us because the Holy Spirit lives in us. (2Corinthians 5:17-18; Romans 5:1-11; Philippians 1:9-11) Once we truly grasp this important aspect of our faith, we can enter into the rest of God. This means we no longer strive to gain His approval through a works mentality. We’re totally dependent on God for everything of value to us. This is what the prophet Isaiah meant when he wrote, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags . . . But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:6,8 )
But why did Jesus say that Holy Spirit would convict or expose the world of righteousness? He was clearly alluding to the fact of His resurrection.
Jesus walked among men as a man and never sinned, was crucified, and rose from the dead, victorious. In Acts 17:31 we read: “Because [God] has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead. (Italics mine)
The reproof for righteousness sake is clearly linked to the first reproof, which occurs because of unbelief. We are told that if we deny Jesus to men, He will deny us to His Father, God. (Matthew 10:33) This takes place at the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. All whose names are not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Eternal Fire. Although this clearly seems to be a literal place of eternal torment, at the very least it means that the souls of men and women who deny that Jesus is the Son of God will spend an eternity separated from the One who created them in His image.
That, in itself, is a horrific thought.
Thus, the second aspect of overcoming the world is to believe in the resurrection. Many say that they believe in the resurrection, but few walk it out in their daily lives. Living a life from the perspective of embracing the resurrection in all that we do results in a transformed life, which in turn dramatically affects the world around us.
The third aspect of overcoming the world is found in the final portion of the above passage. The Holy Spirit will convict, or expose, the world of judgment by righteously judging the prince of the world–the devil himself. It’s interesting to note that the Greek word used here for “judged” has the sense of undergoing the process of a legal trial on an ongoing basis. If we take this statement of Jesus literally, what He is saying is that Holy Spirit will take up residence in those who confess Him as Lord and Savior. Then, Holy Spirit will, on an ongoing basis, through us, legally judge the prince of this world.
What this means is that we, the children of light, by being salt in the earth, actually judge the wickedness of the devil by our righteous behavior. The devil roams about, seeking whom he may devour, but the Lord always raises up a standard to combat him. Jesus is that standard. Because Jesus is alive in us, through the power of Holy Spirit, we can resist the devil, and he will flee.
Whenever we resist temptation, in any form, we judge the prince of this world.
This is the true victory of the Cross.
This is what it means to be set free from the law of sin and death. And this is why the Apostle John can boldly claim that, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1John 3:9)
John is not suggesting here that we are sinless in the same sense Jesus is sinless. The Greek word “commit” literally means “a continuous habit,” or “to practice on an ongoing basis.” What the Apostle whom Jesus loved is saying is that those who are born of God do not sin as a matter of habit on a continual basis. Rather, sin is something they fall into as one entrapped by a snare. (James 1:2; Psalm 90:3; Psalm 119:110; Lamentations 3:46-47; 2Timothy 2:26.) The victory of the Cross is that whenever we do fall into sin, whenever we are snared or entrapped, God is faithful to cleanse us by His shed blood.
Jesus boldly tells the disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This is the fulfillment of God’s word spoken to the serpent as a curse in Genesis 3:15 when the Lord pronounced His righteous judgment upon the one who had engineered the Fall of Man: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise its heel.”
Our real battle is not with flesh and blood but with spiritual forces under the control of the devil. When Jesus went to the Cross as an innocent man, as the Son of God, was crucified, and was resurrected, He ransomed back—for all eternity, and for all mankind—the keys of Hell and death. (Revelation 1:18) The greatest punishment the prince of the world can hold over anyone’s head is not physical death, as many suppose, but spiritual, eternal death. Once Jesus eliminated this threat, everything else the world, or the devil, threatens believers with pales to insignificance.
We should not be threatened by fame or by anonymity, by power or by weakness, by wealth or by poverty. This is why the prophet Isaiah said, “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise up against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17) When we are truly dead to the things of the world, we can say that we are dead in Christ and that we are raised with Him on a daily basis. This is what Paul meant when he told the Colossians that “you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
We overcome the world because Jesus overcame the world. And because He went to the Cross so that the Holy Spirit could come and dwell within us. We overcome the world because His love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. And because the shed blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We overcome the world because Christ in us is the hope of glory. And because He promised us “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” (John 16:23)
As we overcome the world, we are drawn into an ever-increasing intimacy with our Heavenly Father. As our intimacy grows deeper and deeper, we have a growing desire to abide with Him. In abiding, we are bathed in His Glory. And as we bathe in the Manifest Presence of God, His Glory, we can’t help but reveal it to a lost and hurting world.
This should be our desire.
Seek intimacy with God, abide with Him, rest in His Glory, and then share it abundantly with the lost.