4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:4-6, NASB).
We are from God!
This is an amazing statement! We are from God. I think so little of myself, and rightly so. I am a sinner, in real and specific ways. I don’t want anyone to think that I am from God. I know I’m no good. I don’t want God tainted by association with me. I’m glad He is holy, and I know that these could only be so because of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is an amazing statement to say that I am from God. In fact, for all the rest of the treasure in this chapter, it is easy to gloss over or skip this amazing little gem. We are from God? So the scripture says! We are from God. We are an incredibly powerful alien presence in this world. If we are in the “Jesus has come in the flesh” camp, we are from God, and we have overcome the lying spirits who speak through the mouths of false prophets. We are a shining lamp set on a hill.
I don’t for a minute think this is saying that we should go around telling people that we are from God and that they are not. Ha ha! We are sinners saved by the grace which comes through Christ crucified, which is offered to all (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2). We can in every circumstance know that as a believer in Christ, we have been given the gift of being called children of God, and that we are thus from God, and that non-believers are coming from a different spirit. However, God loves the entire world and He died for all whether some received and some did not (John 1:12).
I think that knowing that I am from God is a powerful motivation for holiness. I am from God. I don’t want to continue in things that He would be tainted by association with me. I want to live as a beloved child who is from God. As Kim Crandall has said,
Monday’s To Do List:
1)Consider my belovedness.
We are Overcomers
The scripture here says that we have overcome them. This is not saying that it is a “spiritual warfare” situation. We are not fighting to overcome them. Jesus won by dying, what kind of fight is that? We don’t need to fight, according to this we have already overcome just by believing. We are not laboring to overcome them. There is no question about whether or not we will be successful in overcoming them. There is not some future we are pointing to where we hope to have overcome them. We have overcome them, it is already done. We are already successful. In believing, in coming to a place where our confession is Christ and Him crucified, we have overcome. Belief is huge.
He is in us
I am also amazed by the idea that He is in us. The idea of belief carries with it the idea of indwelling. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:15,16), and clearly the idea is that His manifest presence is absent from the world but present in us. Not only do we take up our comfortable dwelling and abide in Him, but He finds His comfortable dwelling with us. We have a familiarity and ease with one another, us and God.
He who is in the world
Also, there is a singular entity, “he who is in the world.” Paul calls it “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience”. “He who is in the world,” whom I am going to guess is Satan, who directs these spirits who speak through the false prophets, is the one who is in the world. Now, in that he works through the sons of disobedience, we can ascertain that just as the Spirit of God works through believing people, Satan works through unbelieving people. The word “world” is the Greek word “kosmos”, but it really means “the society and affairs of people”, and not so much “the universe at large.” It is a battle of spirits wielding swords of words attempting to influence the beliefs of mankind. When someone comes into belief it is not just a change of opinions, it is a departure from one realm of spiritual influence into another realm of spiritual influence. By spiritual, I mean, the influence of a spirit who is not you.
Greater is He who is in us
We have this incredible assurance, that we have overcome them, that we are on the winning side. The fight is already over, we have won. It is finished. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. On reflection, we need to hear this, because it is easy to think that we are small or backwards, or that the things we think are true or important seem at odds with the really smart and influential people who are not believers. Our faith is constantly ridiculed and attacked as being stupid or backwards or irrational and ill-considered. None of these things are true, we are the ones who have the truth on our side and greater is He who is in us. We have overcome, and greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. Truth and power and eternity are on our side. The intelligent position really is the Christian position.
Listening and Speaking from spirits
Now we come to the whole idea of speaking and listening. I’ve really been stuck on this, pondering it, for more than a week now. People have their own autonomy, but really we are all “from” a spirit of one kind or another. The spirit we are “from” largely dictates what we speak and also what we hear. These differences of spiritual source are the real explanation for why there is such difficulty of communication between the two groups. If you are talking to a non-believer about things of the Spirit of God, and they seem not to understand or they even somewhat offended by your words, this is why. Evangelism really isn’t about convincing people that that your reasoning about God is correct, even though your reasoning needs to be correct. It is about a supernatural change from one spiritual source to a new spiritual source – the Spirit of God. This is why it often takes a catastrophic life change to jar someone’s dependence on a certain spiritual source to a new spiritual source – it is a fundamental life-change.
Those of the spirit which is in the world, speak from that spirit, and their words make sense to them. People of a similar spirit hear these words; they are empowered to listen to them. On the other hand the people of God speak from the spirit of God, and are empowered to listen to such words. The same spirit that speaks empowers the hearing. So if someone can’t seem to hear what we are saying from the Spirit of God, that is a test right there that they are not driven by the same spirit. In context we are talking about testing the spirits of the teachers, and taking care what you allow to influence you.
Speaking with Monsters
I am now speculating on this great truth. I think there are different kinds of spirits that people are “from” which are not the spirit of God. Some are quite subtle and have a religious or quasi-Christian religious flavor. You can see this when their ire rises when you talk about the centrality of Christ and Him crucified and press this as opposed to a centrality of personal transformation and sanctification. Intellectually they have this worked out so that it constantly trumps and negates the perfect grace which comes through Christ’s blood, so that whatever you say they agree in a way which negates the gospel. Or they bring up harsh verses out of context that press a graceless “sanctification” while ignoring the obvious and overarching Biblical message of forgiveness through Christ crucified.
Other spirits are more obvious. Many atheists are driven by a powerful spirit which resists any kind of irenic dialog and reasoning, particularly with Christians. We are tempted to think that the solution with such people is to reason with them, because they exalt rational thought. However, they do not really exalt rational thought any more than the next man, and they will resist rational thought that crosses their beliefs, because just like everyone, what they speak and what they are able to hear is driven by the spirit which they are “from”.
I think this very much points out that communication is often very much as Peter Rollins has pointed out, an enterprise in which we must have the courage to recognize that we are really monsters to one another. In my faith in Christ, in my strong emphasis on grace and Christ crucified and the weakness of our real sanctification, I am a monster to moralistic religious spirited people. They in a way are monsters to me. I am a monster to atheists or to non-Christian spiritual people. We are all at once both characters in Haruki Murakami’s story “the little green monster”. If there is going to be communication both camps have to have the courage to be a monster, and to listen to the other monster.
If we are going to be truly persuasive, we must realize the truth and the depth of this dynamic. If we want to see spirit-level influence in a person’s life, obviously there is going to have to be prayer to see a supernatural work occur. Communication is a miracle at all, and probably only really possible when Christ’s blood is at the center of the relationship. Communication between differing spiritual sources is doubly miraculous. Let us pray therefore to be people of influence for the sake of Christ! Amen!