Monday, November 24, 2014

GREATER THAN (1 John Chapter 4)

1 John 4:4, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

In math the greater than symbol, “>”, is used to show that one or more numbers is larger or greater than a given value.  In this verse we have a spiritual “greater than” situation.  Two separate persons are referred to: 1) “He who is in you;” and 2) “he who is in the world.”  The One who is in the believer is greater than the one who is in the world.

“He who is in the world” is powerful and evil.  He exercises dominion through “rulers,” “authorities,” and “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).  He “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  He deceives (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3), tempts (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and accuses (Cf. Revelation 12:10).  He has schemes (Cf. Ephesians 6:11) and designs (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11) through which he exercises his evil plans.  “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe—his craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”; Martin Luther).

Though he represents a great evil in this world—one that should not be underestimated--the One indwelling the believer is far greater.  The devil is powerful, but God is omnipotent.  The devil goes “to and fro on the earth,” but God is omnipresent.  The “father of lies” schemes against us according to his limited knowledge, but God is omniscient.  God is sovereign over all, but the devil must first ask permission before he can do anything in the life of the child of God (Cf. Job 2:4-6).

Jesus cast out demons.  Blasphemously, the Pharisees claimed that He did so “by Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:25).  In His response Jesus asked, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? (Matthew 12:29).  Jesus was able to cast out demons because He is greater than the “strong man”!  Indeed, through His death and resurrection He has worked “to destroy the one who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).  Through the One “who loved us” we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).  No lesser entity or power can work “to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).  “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).

“One night, John Paton and his wife—a missionary couple in the New Hebrides Islands—were awakened by chants outside their mission station.  Looking out, they saw that scores of hostile islanders had surrounded the station with torches, intent on burning the place down and killing the missionary couple.  The Patons got down on their knees and prayed throughout the night, asking God to deliver them.  The tense, dark hours passed, yet the islanders kept their distance.  Finally, around daybreak, the Patons looked out the window—and the hostile tribesmen were gone.  John Paton was baffled.  There seemed to be nothing preventing the islanders from attacking, yet no attack came.  Paton didn’t find out why the islanders left so mysteriously until a year later, when the chief of the tribe was won to Christ.  Remember the night-long siege of a year before, John Paton asked the newly converted chief why the tribesmen had departed instead of burning the mission station to the ground.  “We were afraid of the men who were with you,” the chief replied.  ‘What men?’ asked Paton.  ‘There were a hundred tall men around the mission house that night,’ said the chief.  ‘Their clothing shone with light, and they had swords in their hands.  We knew that they would never let us harm you, so we went back to our village.’” (Stedman, Ray; “Spiritual Warfare”; Discovery House Publishers; c1975).  John Paton’s devil-led foes represented a seemingly insurmountable force, but He is who is greater protected John and his wife from harm.

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.  Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.  Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is He—Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.  (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God;” Martin Luther).

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