February 19, 2020
"I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14). Throughout the entire New Testament, God's people are portrayed in the middle of a spiritual battle. Just as Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness and encountered people oppressed by evil spirits, so also those who follow Jesus struggle "not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against . . . the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Some of these Scripture passages show our enemy as aggressive and actively malevolent, a dragon who "makes war" on the those who are in Christ (Revelation 12:17) and a lion who "prowls around, looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Sounds scary, right?
What I find striking in today's Scripture reading from 1 John 2 is that it implies this battle is already over, and not only that, but we've been found on the winning side. How can this victory be so sure when temptation, suffering, and evil still assault us everyday? The reason given in verse 14 points to the presence of Christ within us: "Because you are strong and the word of God abides in you." The first Greek manuscripts of New Testament books didn't distinguish between capital and small letters. So, this verse could equally be rendered "the Word of God abides in you", evoking the title "Word" as it's used in the beginning of John's Gospel. This seems all the more likely given the use of the verb "abide," which echoes Jesus' words in John 15:4: "Abide in me as I abide in you." Our strength comes from Christ abiding in us, from the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33) dwelling within our hearts. With Christ inside us, we are guaranteed a share in his victory. If you want strength and confidence to face the battle around you, ask Jesus to take up residence in your heart. If you've already invited him to do so, may you be encouraged by remembering that "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Grace and Peace,