Overcoming the World

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

What did Jesus mean when He said, “I have overcome the world”? The reminders we have in John makes it clear that not only did He create the world, but that the world was made by Him and for Him. In other words, the world was Jesus’ idea, so why does He need to overcome it?

Well, if these questions aren’t confusing enough, He pulls us into this narrative as well.

1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.”

So not only does Jesus overcome, His people do as well.

What is it about the world that needs to be overcome? When I think of what this might mean, I imagine a battle where an evil ruler and his hoard of dark forces are in a conflict with the forces of good, led by a noble King and his faithful warriors. After an epic battle, the good King overcomes the evil ruler and gains a mighty victory, then peace rules over the land. Now this may seem like an exaggerated vision of an adventure story, but the spiritual war that surrounds us is real and so is the enemy and this battle is being waged today.

To overcome is drawn from the greek word nikáō which means victory – properly, to conquer or to carry off to victory and become victorious.

Since Jesus refers to the world as one that needs to be overcome, the implication is that there is a battle being waged against the spiritual forces of darkness and the world is controlled by this darkness.

God’s people are called to victory and that victory has been accomplished through Jesus Christ.

The battle is still being waged for the souls of those who are in darkness and the enemy doesn’t want to lose those he controls.

Peter goes into a very detailed look at just one aspect of this battle.

False Teachers

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”

Peter’s warning goes on to include certain details of these deceivers.

Vs. 18-19 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

These false prophets are those who claim to be the voice of God and yet represent a lie. There have been many deceivers through the ages, some have been more effective than others. Some commonly known false prophets such as Charles Russell, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, Muhammad, Brian David Mitchell, David Koresh, Guru Nanak, and many others have been pawns of Satan to direct people away from Jesus. Many people have been enslaved by false doctrine and have been overcome because of the deception of these men.

The ability to recognize a false prophet or discern false teaching is to understand how they meet the criteria for falsity. If we look at their body of work the Word of God exposes their deception for what it is.

*Since their work doesn’t align with God’s Word, comparing their teaching can be done by the simplest of people.

*Their prophecies have been proven to be false by the demonstration of their lack of authenticity.

*They glorify man and teach salvation by works by the processes they expect people to follow.

Common Deceivers

Joesph Smith, founder of the LDS, predicted a temple to be built in Missouri that never was built: “God promised in the year 1832 that we should, before this generation then living had passed away, return and build up the City of Zion in Jackson County; that we should return and build up the temple of the Most High where we formerly laid the cornerstone.

For decades Smith’s followers held on to this prophecy which never came to pass. Finally, after 140 years, the Mormon Church itself admitted this was a false prophecy and hence he was proven to be a False prophet. Unfortunately, the LDS decided to overlook this and other mistakes he made.

Charles Russell, the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming to be a Christian and, in fact, a Christian who was restoring the faith of the New Testament, he denied many key Christian doctrines including eternal punishment, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the existence of the Holy Spirit. Besides falsely prophesying about the end of days on numerous occasions, his Watch tower society has continued the propaganda to this day.

Muhammed, The founder of Islam, made Jesus into only a common prophet. Instead of exalting Jesus as the Son of God, muslims demote him to the position of mere prophet, no greater than Moses or Noah or Abraham … or Muhammad himself. Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger in this false religion.

All false prophets deny Jesus as God, many relegate Him as a brother of Satan or a product of some incestuous relationship of God with Mary, a prophet, or a wise teacher, the ideas of who Jesus is and was remains a mere side note in their practice. Many of these false prophets have started movements that brandished themselves as anointed, as hearing from an angel or the lone voice of truth offering a new revelation, their followers have exalted them to the position they desired and at times even worshipped them.

What does God say regarding these false prophets?

2 Peter 2:9-13 the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they
revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed,
reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,”

This may sound like a scathing rebuke, but the short list of false prophets I mentioned contain a long list of abuse upon humanity. Pedophilia, polygamy, murder, sorcery, demonism, witchcraft, self-exaltation, extortion, and greed.

2 Peter 2:17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

The people who follow these kinds of false teachers are found enslaved by the teachings they profess.

The people who claimed to be the voice of God promise the water of life and yet when their followers partake, the people remain thirsty. They themselves are chained to the pitfalls of lust, greed and pride, while they lead others down the same path of bondage. Deception is the rule and yet the enticement to follow caters to the flesh.

*If you were discovered to be a false prophet in the days of old, it was a very dangerous proposition.

Good Prophets

If we were to examine the lives of those who proved to be true prophets of God, it would show a pattern of humility, suffering, love and always faithfulness to God’s leading. Their words never conflict with that of God’s Word and their prophecies always unfolded exactly as they presented them. Many of these great men died poor and heartbroken because the people to whom they were called would not listen.

Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Elijah, Elisha, David, and many more, including Moses showed themselves to be dedicated to exalting the Lord in their testimony.

Jesus, who gave many prophecies and fulfilled many more showed Himself to be exalted and He alone is worthy of such adoration and praise.

Deceivers among Us

False teachers, such as Confucius or Buddha are grouped into God’s condemnation of false prophets simply because they present the same destructive heresies as their counterparts—Lies!

These deceivers may not claim to be the voice of God but they lay claim to the truth, the same false truth their prophets have proclaimed. In some instances they promote a whole new doctrine or they take the Word of God and twist it to their own liking. Watch these false teachers long enough, and you’ll see the intent of their hearts come through. Invariably, some form of humanism becomes the predominant pattern. Exalting man, while diminishing God is the deceptive pattern in which false teachers redirect the hearts and minds of their faithful.

Today, deception takes another form.

Humanism at its core is a system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Many ideologies have risen from this core concept, such as Feminism, Socialism, Atheism and ultimately Communism. All of these concepts continue to flourish in our world. The less attractive byproducts of humanistic thinking is tyranny, oppression, and genocide.

When Jesus spoke of overcoming the world, He was speaking about these!

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Yes, all these false teachings have been around a long time, they just went under different monikers. People are people the world around and throughout history sin has ruled in the hearts of mankind from Adam until today. Until God breaks the curse of sin and casts out this evil, it will continue until the day of judgement.

Asleep in the Light

Today, we see a myriad of teachings that focus on topics such as wealth, prosperity, gifts, channeling anointing from the living and the dead, health and wellness, prophecy, and in many cases production.

Laser shows during worship is a growing trend, smoke effect, video boards, and even texting during service whether you want to be saved are things I’ve personally witnessed.

Necromancy isn’t only relegated to the Catholic Church, others are practicing this old belief system of connecting with the dead. Bethel Church in Redding, CA, has been known to attempt ‘Soul Sucking’ or ‘Soaking’ in which the faithful touch a headstone or lie on a grave and pray in hopes the anointing of the dead will enter them. The “tunnel of fire”, is based on this same concept yet with the living.

Discerning Truth

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

There is just so much we have to weave through in this day and age in an attempt to come to some semblance of the Truth. The question then arises, how do you know you have the truth?

Many humanists deny that any concrete truth exists, but only in what is visible or can be experienced by the senses.

How can we have an assurance of what we believe in?—We must establish our position in the Word of God, founded in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

If you read the entire Word, you begin to see why it is so perfect. From Genesis to Revelation it supports the same narrative and holds true to the same doctrine. If you want an overview of the authors of the Bible you can click on the link since the mastery of God’s inspiration and direction to these 40 or so authors is unlike any book in history.

If we hold fast and do not waver, we will see God’s plan come to fruition. This world and it’s philosophies will be exposed for the lies they have given, Jesus will be glorified and man’s idols will be cast down.

Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Watch and Pray

As Peter warned, we must stand guard against false teaching and hold firm to the Truth of God’s Word. To those who have received the call, we are to be ambassadors in this world of confusion.

Be well positioned in God’s Word, know the Truth so that when falsity approaches, you will be wise enough to overcome.

1 John 4:4 “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.”

I have known many sincere people who have been caught up in false doctrine. It takes patience, love and a commitment in sharing with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be very difficult for someone to come out of a cult or evil system, many express apathy because they have realized these don’t bring fulfillment. People might lose family, friends, and at times their lives may be at stake if they forsake their cultural identities of false religion. Answering their questions is the least we can do, sharing with them from the Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts enough to listen may be the best we can hope for.

There are lots of really good resources if you want to gain more knowledge of these various teachings; Kingdom of the Cults by Dr. Walter Martin, is one of the best I’ve read.

Finally, Pray for them. You may be the only one who is.

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