[b]I'm Not Sure I Am Saved - How can I know for
sure? - Overcoming the World[/b]
[i]by Paris Reidhead[/i]
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one
that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this
we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep
his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his
commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever
is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that
overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the
world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Interestingly that throughout this little epistle John speaks about the very great
importance of loving those that are born of God and loving our brethren that share a
common humanity with us as well. And he also has emphasized over and over again the
We need to understandand can from this portion a little moreas to what the world is.
Here we are told that we can identify the world because the world considers the
commandments of God to be grievous. Make a weight, a heavy, a weight to heavy to
bear, to hard to carry. Any thing in that system of the world, any thought or any way of
life or any company of people who make you feel that Gods commandments all together
or any one of them are grievous or too heavy to carry to you that is the world.
How are you going to identify the world? I am going to repeat it now because it is so
important. Any idea, any company, any writings or any conversation, any entertainment,
any thing that has the effect of making you feel that the commandments of God are
grievous is to you the world. You have to put it on that personal basis because to
someone else it might not have that effect and, therefore, it is important that you should
have this special working definition of the world.
Now you think it through for just a moment. This is not some dim shadowy enemy we are
talking about, but this is an intelligible precise and practical definition of your enemy.
This is something that you can understand, you can recognize and against which you can
Hear it again. Anything that has the effect of making the commandments to be irksome
and galling and heavyand the word here is grievousis the world.
Now too long we have thought of the world as a list, long perhaps, but a list of activities
or things or ideas that are generally accepted as world or worldliness. And however long
we make such a list we are going to have failed to include something. And so in order to
eliminate the list the necessity of memorizing it or trying to imitate Israel, the Jews of
today as well as other days, who wanted to get everything that God commanded before
them. They have made a list of 613 acts of righteousness, part of them that you should
not and part that you should do.
Well, I think their memories are about as good as mine. I have got a marvelous memory,
but it is awfully short. I can remember a lot for a few minutes, but three or four minutes
after I got well in hand, it starts to fritter away and disappear.
I dont want you to have such a list. This is worldliness and that is worldliness and on
and on and on. No. Any thing that makes the will of God and the Word of God and the
commandment of God and the commandment of the Holy Ghost to be grievous to you,
why dont you just call that the world? It is, so you better do that. It is practical and it is
So in this sense, then, this isnt something you can shun. You know, if worldliness is not
going there or not drinking that or not doing the other, you can pretty well isolate
yourself from it, the works. But if the world is any idea or any conversation or any thing
that should in any wise impinge upon your consciousness, that makes Gods Word
grievous. If that is the world, then you cant shun that. You had just better be prepared to
recognize it when it occurs and to deal with it the way God has prescribed.
And God has been very precise. He said the only way to deal with the world is to
overcome it. That is his Word.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.
And the way that this is effective is that any thing that overcomes the world must be able
to meet it and deal with it so that when something within you is stirred and you begin to
sense that Gods commandment are a bit galling and a bit irksome, you are going to know
precisely what to do about it.
Now, since we have freedom of choice, we must choose. We have got to make a choice
to shun all occupations and all companionships and any kind of entertainment and any
kind of activity that we know will stir this response in us.
We read this morning that we are to purify yourselves as he is pure. He that hath this
hope in him, purifies himself.
Well, he that has been born of God overcomes the world and he does it by recognizing
that anything that causes Gods commandments to be grievous has no place in his life.
Now, we are told precisely how the world is to be overcome.
Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.4
It is right here that the seed and the source of our victory begins. We should recognize
that. We have been so prone to think of those that are born of God being moral babes.
We know that many times they are intellectual babes and as far as Scriptural knowledge
they are babes, but morally the one that is born of God, old enough to know and
understand and choose and receive Christ is old enough to recognize that something does
cause Gods commandments to be grievous to him and to realize how he should deal with
This statement, Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, implies that there is
really no other way of overcoming the world but by being born of God. Even God
himself couldnt enable us to do this any other way.
There is in the new birth that which secures and which alone can secure our overcoming
You see, God begets us by his Spirit when he adopts us into his family as sons. And we
saw this morning that process. We are awakened by the Spirit of God and convicted by
the Spirit of God and brought to repentance.
Now there you are. That is that point in our choice, the supreme, sovereign choice of the
light when we choose to please God in everything. And so having made that choice,
having made that the governmental principle that is going to control our being as long as
we live, we approach everything that would come to us in that light. We are going to
You see, here is where he begins that victory of overcoming the world because he insists
that there be a change of purpose from pleasing ourself to pleasing God. And that has to
be carte blanche, that has to be everything, not just a few things.
I think it was Charles Spurgeon that brought a sermon on repentance and one that we
would do well to have before us, at least the points he made. He said, of talking about
repentance that if it is real it has to be entire. Said he, Suppose that a person has 1000
sins and he purposes to abandon and flee from 999 of them, but he cherishes one that he
hides in some closet of his mind and makes provision to indulge that one sin. Said
Spurgeon, Such a man who thinks himself to have repented is either criminal or crazy
because repentance to be real has to be entire and not partial. The holding to that one
shows that he was trying to make an arithmetical or a statistical deal with God and
actually hadn't had a change of purpose from pleasing himself to pleasing God.
And then he proceeded to say that, Repentance, in order to be real, has to be hearty and
not reluctant. And anyone who grudgingly says, Well, all right, if that is what he insists
on. I would rather do that than burn in hell, that such a person hasnt repented. He has
only, again, tried to strike a bargain with God and has made mental reservation to return
at some time after he has assured himself that he has protected against the loss that he
He then said that repentance, to be real, has to be permanent and not temporary, that if it
is just for a period of timea few days or weeks or months or yearsit is clear evidence
at the point that that has changed back to what it was before, that the repentance was
spurious, not real. It was a mockery and had no religious significance to it. It has to be
entire and not partial. It has to be hearty and not reluctant. It has to be permanent and not
Well, you can understand that possibly much of this moral change in the life of people is
going to begin with this work of the Spirit of God in repentance and it is that reason why
it is such a terrible crime against God when certain teachers felt that they had the liberty
of wresting the Scripture to their destruction and that of others and said that repentance
was not to be preached today. Because it is there that the direction of the life is changed,
180 degree change from I am going to do what I want to do and please me to I am going
to do what God wants me to do and please him.
Now you have repented. If you are born of God you have repented. Then it is has had to
be hearty and it has had to be entire and it has had to be permanent or you couldnt have
been born of God if the statements that Spurgeon made are actually germane to the issue.
And I believe they are.
Our Lord said, Except you will repent, you will perish.
I find nothing in the three statements I have given to you from Spurgeon that would
indicate that they were unreasonable and unfair and unscriptural. No, to the contrary I
think they are basic minimum.
And so it is that in the new birth they are preceded by this work of repentance there is the
groundwork laid in the direction of the life to please God, to glorify him, to serve him, to
satisfy him, to make him happy.
So upon the basis of repentance and that heart faith that, say, results in savingly receiving
the Son of God, you can understand that when the Spirit of God joins himself in this life
giving work to the human spirit that John should be supported in this statement that
whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.
If, on the other hand, you could do as others have done and for years I did and that is to
present Christ as a hell insurance scheme and that tipping the hat to Jesus requiring none
of the actiosn that I have identified for youawakening and conviction and repentance
and saving faith, merely an acknowledgementif that is where you stand then you can
say, Well, how could anyone who simply had the righteousness of Christ imputed to him
with no requirement of the change of purpose... Well, obviously such a one couldnt be
expected to overcome the world.
But, by the same token, such a one does not meet the definition of having been born of
Now, you say, Well, then certainly you are implying a long time, arent you, from being
awakened to being born of God?
No, I am not implying a long time at all. Locked into it in one minute of five. You can do
it in one week or five. You can do it in one month or five. He is perfectly capable of
putting time into whatever frame he wishes. And he is able in relation to the individual.
The early last week was last Lords day Del Thompson was here. Some years ago we
had the privilege, I had the privilege of being here at Bethany when Cam Thompson was
here and Cam Thompsons testimony was there dying in the hospital in Jacksonville of
Tuberculosis, a life of gross and vile sin. God in his sweet sovereign mysterious and
powerful grace awakened Cam, convicted him, brought him to repentance, wonderfully
saved him, immediately healed him of tuberculosis, gloriously filled him with the Holy
Spirit and called him into his service all in one time.
Now that doesnt fit the average pattern. It certainly didnt fit mine, but just about the
time I get it all worked out neatly and figured this is the way God is going to have to do
it, he loves to show me that all of our neat little outlines can give way to his sovereign
and supernatural grace when he works in lives.
And I accept that and I rejoice in that. It doesnt cause me any problems.
The only thing I am going to say, whosoever is born of God has been awakened by the
Spirit, convicted by the Spirit, brought to repentance, has savingly received Christ and
has a witness to the Spirit and is a new creation. Whether it takes one minute or one week
or one month. That is not the issue, the time. Time isnt the fact, the reality is the factor.
And so whatsoever is born of God, we are told, overcomes the world. We are begotten by
the agency of his Spirit, confirming that the change of our purpose from pleasing ourself
to pleasing God.
Go back in your thinking to the garden and there the serpent insinuated to mother Eve
and to father Adam.
I used to think that the serpent didnt contact mother Eve until Adam was gone
somewhere else in the garden. But I had to conclude that that was incorrect because it
says, And she turned and gave the fruit to him.
It wasnt a great lapse of time. They were both involved in it. And I dont think it was
addressed to her, but they were both involved in it.
And he insinuated, did this serpent, that God was unfair. That is what he said. He lied. He
said, You say that God told you not to eat this fruit? Look how beautiful it is. Isnt it
good to look at and to taste it? Oh, it is delicious. And more than that, when you eat it
your eyes will be opened and you will know good and evil and you will be like God.
Now they were like God. They were made in his image and in his likeness. And so it
was, the whole thing was a fallacy if not an outright lie. But it had the effect of causing
that pair to feel that Gods commandment not to eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of
the garden was grievous, a commandment to heavy to be borne by them.
And so they succeeded and every child of God that has been led aside by his appetites
and fallen into sin, every truly born again child of God has first been tempted and he has
been tempted because the commandment seemed grievous.
It is something like this. Even God in my situation... oh, I know it is wrong for everybody
else, but my situation is so different than everybody elses and my problems are so acute
and the difficulties are so great that whereas it would be wrong for Tom, Dick or Harry,
then exception is going to be made for me.
Commandment seems grievous.
Now when we were born of God we had the whole of our inner man renewed into
harmony with a new purpose. And, like the Lord Jesus we cry, I delight to do thy will,
oh God. Thy law is written upon my heart and I love thy law.
But still we, as children of God, must realize that any thing that causes the commandment
of God and the will of God and the rule of Gods law and love in our life to seem
grievous, that is the world. And we have got to face it as such and those that are born of
God are going to overcome the world.
Now, how? How are we going to overcome the world? We are told here very
And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
This is not an achievement that is completed at once. This is a life long business.
I think it was Theodore Beza, the successor to John CalvinI disagree with a great many
elements of his theology, but I have great sympathy for his great heart of love and
tenderness toward God at the age of nearly 70 he said, Oh God, save me from making
shipwreck of my life when I am just in sight of the harbor.
A long life of serving God and now he is saying, I am so close to finishing. Dont let me
do some stupid, foolish thing in my old age that I shunned in my youth.
It was Rutherford who was one of the great holy men, writers that so drew our hearts to
God in love who said at the age of 83, The longer I live and the closer I walk to the
Lord, the more I realize the abysmal depths of capacity for sin in the human heart.
Dont ever forget, dear child of God, that there isnt any sin that anyone ever committed
of which you are not capable given the opportunity and given the incentive. There is
victory, but it is victory that must be exercised.
Oh, everyone I know is looking for an experience with God that will wind their little
clock and set it so completely that it never needs to be wound and set again. And I have
had known people that have been seeking sanctification in terms of an experience so that
they would never be tempted again.
Oh, I wish the Word of God taught such a state or I am sure all of us would diligently
seek that. But I find it not in the Word. Rather, I find him saying, Let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall.7
Long as we live we are going to have the capacity to be tempted.
Come to think of it, did you ever achieve an experience that immunized you to
temptation? You know, dont you, that it would mean that you are holier than your
wonderful Lord of whom it was said, But [he] was in all points tempted like as we are,
yet without sin.
Temptation isnt sin. As long as you live you are going to be subject to it. And there will
be that within you, those appetites and urges and drives and when God made man he said
it is good and there is going to be a world outside that is still appealing saying, Choose
yourself how to gratify your appetites and satisfy and please yourself. And temptation
I say it is a life long business is this.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that
overcometh the world, even our faith.9
This is a prolonged and a continued triumph as well as a prolonged and a continuous
strife. Both of them are there. Our being born of God, indeed, gives us the victory. It puts
us in the right position and it endows us with a needful power for victory. But we still
have to work day to day, day by day in overcoming the world. And we overcome it
through the exercise of our faith.
I think I told you earlier, but I still think it will illustrate the point. I was called to speak to
a group of university student out of several of the colleges in the Boston and
Massachusetts area at a retreat center in New Hampshire. I had been there the year
before and I arrived on a Friday afternoon a bit earlier than we had anticipated. And when
I got there there was a young man banging at the piano trying to learn how to play. He
wasnt doing very well, a lot better than I could have done, so I am not critical of that.
But when he saw me he immediately stopped, turned around on the stool and I was over
near him shaking hands with him and speaking to him. I recognized him from the year
before. And I sat down. He asked me if he would. He told me he wanted to talk to me.
And he said, Mr. Reidhead, I am here. I came a little early in case... just to get you,
because I wanted to tell you something. I just wanted to help a little if I could I want to
put it this way. I just hope that you are not going to give us any of that victory stuff that
you gave us last year.
Well, is said, You know, maybe it is a good thing I got here early, too, if you are
going to help me. What... why dont you think I should give you any of that what you
call victory stuff?
Well, he said, It is easy. It doesnt work, thats why. And I thought you would like to
know it doesnt work so that you wouldnt embarrass yourself by telling the students
And I said, Well, I am awful glad. If it doesnt work I sure dont want to give it, but fill
me in. Help me a little. Why... what makes you think it doesnt work?
Well, he said, Last year at this same retreat, you talked to us about it and I listened
and, oh, my, I was so excited because I had a problem and I just knew that when I got
back to school that I was going to be able to lick that problem. And he said, I got along
fine for a couple of days and then after a while that problem came back, a real temptation.
And I did what you told us to do.
Oh, I said, What did you reacall I told you to do?
Well, I understood what you told us was to use that Scripture verse you gave us.
Oh, I said, Which verse did you have reference to?
Well, you know the one. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to
man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but
will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.10
And he said, I quoted that verse and quoted it and quoted it and I still went right ahead
and did it. It didnt work.
Well, I said, I am awful glad you told me. Maybe I can correct this for some of the
rest of them. If they did the same thing, I really did fail you and so it has been helpful.
But I did want to ask you one question.
And at this time we had opened our Bibles to the verse. I said, Read it again for me,
And he said, But [God] will with the temptation also make a way to escape.11
Now I said, Tell me, what is the way of escape?
Well, he said, The verse.
No, I said. The verse doesnt tell you the way of escape. It tells you that there is a way
of escape. It is not this verse. All this verse says is there is a way of escape. But this
isnt the way of escape. This verse merely says God has made a way of escape. And I
guess you didnt get that part, did you?
No, he said, I didnt. I thought it was the verse.
I said, Oh, no there is no victory in this verse. All this verse does is tell you that God
knows that you wouldnt be tempted beyond anybody else and he was faithful and he so
he made a way of escape that you wouldnt have to yield to temptation.
Well, he said, What is it?
And then I took him back to the fact that the day Jesus Christ died for him since the Lord
Jesus was there representing him, dying that death that was required if God was to be just
and forgive sinners that in Gods eyes looking down on Calvary that the Lord Jesus
Christ was so completely identified with him that from Gods point of view, there were
two people on the cross, Christ and him.
And then I took him to the verses, Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with
[Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed,12 and Pauls testimony, I am crucified
with Christ: nevertheless I live.
And I explained to him that victory comes when he realizes that the day Jesus Christ died
for him in his place and in his stead that he, from the Fathers eyes and now with his, died
with Christ. And that when he reckoned himself to be crucified with Christ, that
reckoning released the resurrection life of Christ into his heart that broke the power of
temptation and insulated him against temptation, gave him victory.
He said, Oh, thats how it works. He said, Boy, Im glad you came back this year,
because I supposed there is a lot of folks that were here last year that missed it the way I
Well, I dont know whether that is the case or not there or here, but I want you to know
that the victory that overcomes the world is our faith, but it is not faith in our faith. That
is a big point. It is not faith in our faith that gives us victory. It is faith in the Word of
God and in the reality of what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us. It is faith in the
fact that the day he died for us we died with him, that we were united with him in his
death, crucified with him and that I am by nature died the day the Lord Jesus Christ died.
That is history. That is history and I reckon myself to be dead and that reckoning based
on my history enables me to walk through this moment in victory.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that
overcometh the world, even our faith.14
Our faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, our faith in our union with Christ
in his death and in his burial and in his resurrection.
You see, we were crucified with him to have victory over ourselves and buried with him
to have victory over the world and quickened and raised and seated in him in the
heavenlies to have victory over principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of
And so the Word declares that, This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our
Now John had dealt with this in the 15th chapter and the fourth verse when he declared,
Abide in me,16 quoting our Lord, And I in you.
You live in me crucified with me to have victory over yourself and buried with me to
have victory over the world and quickened and raised and seated in me and with me, thus,
in the heavenlies to have victory over principalities and powers and you live in me and
you present your body to me as a living sacrifice and then I can live in you.
He that abideth in me,18 saith our Lord, And I in him, the same bringeth forth much
fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.19
Now John wrote that and he isnt putting into this little general epistle everything that had
been given to him in the gospel, just what we need. And so he is reminding us that being
born of God has brought us into union with Christ and in union with Christ, therefore, as
we exercise our faith on that moment by moment, day by day basis, we continue to have
victory over the world. It is in our union with Christ that this victory is made effective in
Are you living there? Have you ever had one instance of victory because you reckoned
yourself to be crucified with Christ?
Well, if you have had one instance of victory through your reckoning then you know
where the switch is that releases the resurrection power of Christ into your life. And so
any time you are tempted you can go back to that switch and put it on.
Father, part of me that would think this way and feel this way and do this, that is the part
that died the day Christ died.
You know, friend, dont think the time gets any easier. I know that there was a period in
my life as a... when I didnt know how to have victory. And, oh the day that that victory
became real was such a... like an emancipation. But then there comes times when
situations develop that we know how to have victory, but we maybe think the person that
we should give them a good telling off instead of exercising victory. So then the issue
isnt can I have victory, but the issue is do I want to have victory or do I want to vent my
steam and relieve my spleen by telling them what they may think they didnt deserve.
Well, the case is clear. The case is clear. If you know how to act victory and you dont
do it and I dont have victory and dont do it, we come under another Scripture that says,
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Perhaps there is even a little more excuse for the fellow that doesnt know how to have
victory than the one who does and doesnt exercise it. And so we come back to the text
that we have.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that
overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Oh, cant you see what God has done in giving us these evidences of the new birth? He
has given to us a beautiful means of our being certain of our relationship to God and our
being able to help those who come to us who arent certain of their relationship to God.
Now go back to the person who came to you and said, I am not sure that I have been
What do you do? You just bring them to the Word. Open it. Let them read it. Talk about
it. Trust the Spirit of God to work and as you go through these eight evidences of the
new birth, getting to this last one, do you have victory over the world? Do you overcome
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.
And you see what is happening. The Spirit of God is doing the work. You are not having
to presume to know what goes on in the human Spirit. You are standing outside where
you should be and you re bringing the person to the Word.
And now the Spirit of God is working. Either one of two things are going to happen.
They are either going to say, Praise God, I know I have passed from death to life. Or
they are going to say, On the basis of this I havent passed from death to life, and that
is not an insolvable problem, is it? We know how to point them to him and tell them how
holy God is and what he did and how sinful they are and what they must do. And when
they do what they must do, God will do what he has promised and this time, friend, dont
play God. Dont tell them what has happened. You just simply say, No, you go and do
what Gods Word says. And when you do you are going to know and when you know,
you can come and tell me, then I will know that everything is right.
Someone asked me this morning. They said, Well, what do you do differently now than
you used to do?
And the answer is now I just wait until the person comes and tells me and I try to show
them how they can find out from the Lord. And I believe that is what God want us to do.
These are the evidences of eternal life. May God bless them to your heart and through
you make them a blessing to many, many others.
Shall we pray?
Father of Jesus, we love thee. Our purpose is to please thee in everything as long as we
live and, Father, thy commandment are not grievous. But when we sense and feel that
anything causes them to be irksome and galling and heavy to carry, right then we are
going to recognize that that is the world.
If those that are born of God have overcome the world and this is the victory that
overcomes the world, our faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the
revelation thou has given to us in thy Word of our relationship with him, our union with
him, our identification with him. And so grant, Father, that we may live in such a way
that in that hour when we see him face to face we may hear him say, Well done, good
and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord. This was ask in his name and for his
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon