A weekday devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Wednesday May 27, 2020
1 John 4:4-6
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
As a child, I loved when the circus came to town. While some people liked the clowns, and others the acrobats, I loved all of the animals. For a long time, my absolute favorite thing in the world was big cats (tigers, lions, jaguars, cheetahs, leopards, etc.), and before or after the show we would walk down to where they kept the animals to see them up close. Although I notoriously have a horrendous long term memory, I remember once walking past the elephants on the way to see the cat cages when my dad pointed out a small elephant struggling with a rope tied around its foot. He said that when an elephant is a baby and first learning about the world, the trainers use the rope attached to a long stake deep in the ground to keep it from wandering off. No matter how hard the elephant pulls or tries to escape, the rope stays secure. My dad also explained that as the elephant grows much bigger and stronger, going from 300 to over 8,000 pounds, they often use the very same rope to keep it contained. Even though by now it can easily break free, when the adult elephant feels the initial resistance of the line, it “knows” that no amount of struggle will be able to set them free, so they no longer even try. The problem for the elephant is one of identity; it has no idea who it really is.
Elephants aren’t the only ones to wrestle with issues of mistaken identity. When a person comes to faith in Jesus, they carry with them an extensive background of baggage, a lengthy history of futility and failure. Before they ever know Christ intimately, they knew sin just as intimately. In John 8, Jesus says that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. Not only are we slaves, but we don’t even know it. The sin which binds the unbeliever is not a light-duty rope that can be easily shaken, rather it is a steel cage strong enough to contain even the most ferocious big cat. In the beginning of John’s gospel, we see that although Jesus is the Creator and true Light of the World, those of us who walk in darkness hate the light. We enjoy our little world exactly as it is, content to be forever held in captivity.
Although the gospel of Jesus is given as a message of hope and deliverance for the entire world, it is not always received as such. The unbelieving world does not know God and can not understand the message of God. As a result, the world often mistakes the liberating message of freedom through Christ for oppression of a different kind. What the Christian sees as the path to true life, the unbeliever sees as death to all that they know and love. Sadly, rather than compassionately understanding their terrible predicament, Christians often become upset and angry at those they are attempting to minister to, failing to see that their unbelieving loved ones are responding in the only way that their sinful nature will allow.
John tells the church that for those who are now in Christ, “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” When we come to faith in Jesus, not only does He destroy the bonds of slavery, but He sends His very own Spirit to dwell within us. No longer are we helpless babes, struggling and failing on our own. Through the power of His Spirit, we have been transformed into 4 ton forces of nature not to be trifled with. Because of Jesus, we are not who we once were. He who is now in us is greater than anything we could encounter in the world. God has called us to be the ambassadors of His offer of hope and grace, and when we walk under His banner with His message of reconciliation and forgiveness of sin, we have nothing to fear and no need to hide. God is still at work in this world, setting free the captives and bringing the dead back to life. May He take delight in using even the likes of us for this most sacred work.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, so often we forget who You are and all that You have done for us. When we place our faith and trust in You, we are no longer held captive by our sin, no longer bound by our guilt or shame. Because of You, we are not who we once were. We ask that You would continue to move and work in the hearts of those we know and love who do not yet know You. Open their eyes to their true condition and set them free to experience true life in You. In Your liberating name we pray, Amen.