Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. ~ 1 John 5:5 (NIV)
If the apostle John were to visit our world of the 21st Century, how would he react? After all, about 2,000 years have passed since he walked this earth. No doubt the massive changes in technology alone would make a profound impression on him. Nevertheless, there’s also a good chance that, in a larger sense, the world of the 21st Century would not surprise him at all.
Historians have noted that, in many ways, the culture of the 21st Century has come full-circle to resemble that of the 1st Century. In John’s day, as now, it was popular to presume that there was no absolute, objective truth. In John’s day, as now, there was a chaotic variety of beliefs and non-beliefs. In John’s day, as now, the message of a crucified Nazarene seemed out-of-step with what people thought they needed.
It’s quite possible that, if given the chance, John would look at our present culture and say, “I’ve seen this all before.”
By the time the Holy Spirit moved John to write his first letter, John was an old man. He had seen humanity’s brokenness up close, and he had seen it many times over. He had seen the fickleness and restlessness of people’s souls. He had seen their attempts to find meaning in pleasures, causes, philosophies, and belief systems that held no permanent meaning.
For John, only one thing rang true. For John, only one thing mattered. “Who is it that overcomes the world?” John asked. “Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Down through the ages this message has continued to ring. It has continued to show our desperate need for forgiveness of sins and announce the full forgiveness we receive in the One named Jesus. Over the centuries, the message of the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter has been proclaimed. And through this proclamation, generation after generation of souls have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through faith in him we have life in his name. Praise God!
Lord Jesus, the challenges of our culture are nothing new. Refresh us with your gospel. Renew us by your Spirit. Empower us to see with new eyes what we have in you. Amen.