He Has Overcome the World

(Spectrumbot) #1

In the 16th chapter of John, the apostle quotes our Lord as follows: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” There is a special blessing in this Dominican saying for every one of the Master’s disciples. It is an offer of peace in him and good cheer. His offer is as surely available today as it was when he first spoke it to those original disciples. The peace and good cheer that he offers is grounded in his victory – over the world.

Jesus’ promise is in the context of what he had said to his disciples. “These things I have spoken to you,” he said. Intriguingly the thing he told them was that he was going away and where he was going they could not follow. John places this announcement, that Jesus is departing, at the close of chapter 13 of his Gospel where it forms the conclusion to his narration of the last supper. Immediately having announced his departure and the impossibility of his disciples accompanying him, Jesus speaks this indispensable assurance. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so would I have told you I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.”

The assurance opening John 14 is indispensable because if the peace Jesus offers is complete now, then it is peace that is indifferent to the tribulation of the world. But that is precisely what his peace is not. The peace Jesus offers is the peace of expectation, not the peace of resignation. In the world, we have tribulation – as we are all very well aware. And yet Jesus offers peace even as he is leaving his disciples in the world. He offers us peace even as we live in the world. I have overcome the world he says.

His victory over the world is both a gift and a demand. It is a gift in that we know that whatever the losses we suffer from the world they are but temporary defeats in a struggle that has already been decided in Christ’s favor. It is a demand in that we must not exhibit the ways of the world. Paul put this well. Do not be conformed to this world. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Do not take the side that has been vanquished by Jesus.

The forces that would squeeze us into the world’s mold are formidable. Their weight presses down on us daily.

And what is this mold? An appetite for power, especially the power to dominate. It was the world in the mother of James and John that sent her to Jesus asking for privilege for her sons. Jesus responded, “You know that the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you.” Unfortunately, far too often, it is so among us. You regularly find people who want to control your activities, who want to dictate your choices, in the worst case simply for the sake of control and for no other purpose. We have a lord who has conquered the world and therefore we are free not to lord it over others.

Besides its appetite for power, the world is contemptuous of the truth. The world actually loves a lie. It loves a lie because lies are powerful. An appetite for power readily joins with contempt for the truth. Neil Sheehan’s history of the Vietnam War carries the title, A Bright Shining Lie. Sheehan tells the story of the war through the experiences of John Paul Vann. By all accounts Vann was a superb military tactician and eluded apparently certain death an astonishing number of times giving him an aura of invincibility to his troops. He was also a consummate liar. Sheehan’s title comes from a phrase Vann’s wildly promiscuous mother bequeathed to him. She thought few things as precious as a bright shining lie.

Our Adventist commitment to education is especially daunting at this moment in our culture because the very institutions we expect to serve as guardians of the truth are profoundly despairing of our ability to discover and preserve it. Richard Rorty, author of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, has famously said that science is anything your colleagues will let you get away with and he is not talking about the humanities. He is talking about physics and every other intellectual pursuit. His pragmatist relativism can count few believers in the “hard sciences” but his number is legion when considering psychology or history or law or art or worst of all ethics. To lose the truth is to lose the ability to lie. To lose the truth is to lose the one power the weak have that is capable of resisting worldly (i.e. unrighteous) power. Surely it is the appetite for power that must ultimately be charged with the enmity to the truth that permeates so much of the world of learning.

Whenever I hear the mantras of “post-modernism” parroted by way of demanding obeisance to the contemporary western mind, I want to point out that Socrates already firmly grasped the fallibility of our moral intuitions and Thrasymachus had propounded the notion that might makes right more than two millennia before the patron saint of post-modernism, Nietzsche, drew his first breath. Struggle as we must against this culture of despair and deceit we may nevertheless be at peace because our Lord has overcome the world. In him we know the truth and it does indeed set us free.

Finally the world is the system of self-preservation. When self-preservation is the end we pursue, we have been squeezed into the world’s mold. Self-defense exculpates killing our fellow human beings – we believe. The selfie is the icon of our day. In an article titled “Christ and Nothing,” David Hart writes of the Church’s war with the world, “It seems to me much easier to convince a man that he is in thrall to demons and offer him manumission than to convince him that he is a slave to himself and prisoner to his own will. Here is a god more elusive, protean and indomitable than either Apollo or Dionysus;…And it is this god, I think, against whom the First Commandment calls us now to struggle.” We must recognize that “the world” in this sense is inescapable because we as selves are the world, the world that seeks to preserve itself at all costs. Fully grasped, it is a horrifying thought. Our Lord taught us to lose our lives in order to find them and then he practiced what he taught. This is his ultimate triumph over the world.

Let us remember Jesus’ promise then, most especially when the church apes the world as, sadly, it all too often does. We do not need power, because he is omnipotent. We do not need to cling to error, because he is the truth. We do not need to defend ourselves because in losing ourselves we are set free.

My prayer is that the Lord will envelop us in his peace that we may cheerfully advance his victory over the world, renouncing power, error and self, in service to his love and beauty.

Daryll Ward attended Andrews University, Tübingen University, and the University of Chicago (where he earned his PhD), and spent many years working in the field of addiction treatment, business ethics, and pastoring. For the last 12 years he has taught theology and ethics at Kettering College. This article is adapted from a speech given to the executive teams of North American Adventist institutions of higher learning who gathered at Kettering College in March 2015.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6743

(Kevin Paulson) #2

Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie is one of my favorite history books. Insightful and profound in its portrait of both a man and the saga in which he participated.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

but the Church is attempting to prevail over Him. The church is demanding its version of both history and the future. The has been no theological advance since the Apostles Creed. everythink else is either to serve a CV or to seek and gain power. Tom Z

(James J Londis) #4

So insightful at so many levels. Thank you Daryll.

(Bill Garber) #5

These are uniquely expressed truths and truly inspiring.


" It is a demand in that we must not exhibit the ways of the world. Paul put this well. Do not be conformed to this world. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Do not take the side that has been vanquished by Jesus."

Paul said something after this…
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

How is the renewed mind different than the worldly mind? How does the mind change?

David Hart writes of the Church’s war with the world, “It seems to me much easier to convince a man that he is in thrall to demons and offer him manumission than to convince him that he is a slave to himself and prisoner to his own will. Here is a god more elusive, protean and indomitable than either Apollo or Dionysus;…And it is this god, I think, against whom the First Commandment calls us now to struggle.”

What does this mean in contemporary language or …how can this be “unpacked”?

(Steve Mga) #7

Perhaps the Book of James has the answer to Brain Renewal. The vital spiritual experience that we call “salvation”. A Spiritual Awakening.

As we become familiar with the Scriptures there seems to really be only One Sin – Idolatry. Making something a god that is not God.

I like this thought by Joan Chittister. Sin is a sign that something is missing in our lives. All sins are attempts to fill voids. Admonishment will only work, then, when we know what we are looking for – and pursue it instead. – God’s Tender Mercy, pg 31.
Perhaps the voids in life, intimacy with self, God, life, the moment leave us bereft of Love, Esteem, Joy, Communion.
And so we go searching for these in all the wrong places
Perhaps “renewing of the mind” is the pursuit of the “something” missing in our lives, and the discovering of what that is, and finding it.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #8

now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, and the greatest of these is love. those are the verities we should cherish. But what do we see but the evil passions of religion Truth is defended as power to destroy error with grave consequence, even in some regions with a sword. The shedding of blood is rewarded by the promise of endless lust. Or stars in ones crown. We are now in a renewed cycle of the Crusades with weapons far more lethal.

closer to home, what merit can there be in attempting to preserve an error of emotion that clings to a doctrine with no visible Scriptural support? Safe in the arms of Jesus, I want God to be my Judge. He will be my judge regardless. Tom Z

(Sirje) #9

On a superficial level we define this in terms of behavior that includes all the prohibitions an institution sets in our path to keep us focused. Like C.S.Lewis says, if “they” can keep your focus on the superficial, the really important stuff gets ignored" (paraphrase). It’s like the magician who diverts your attention in order to perform his slight of hand. We do it to ourselves so as not to have to deal with the pain of meeting yourself - squarely.

Our culture molds us. To break free of the constrains, we need humility and honesty. Those are not qualities the world holds before us, either by precept or example.

“We have met the enemy, and it is us”. - Admiral Perry.


There is a lot of truth here. Indeed, we are NOT at war with the world because Jesus Christ has already conquered the “ruler” of this world. Ephesians 6:12 reinforces this by stating that our struggle is not against “flesh and blood”, i.e. “the world”, but against a much more sinister foe. But many in the Christian community, especially those who wish to use the political arena to further “our cause”, do more harm than good by alienating the very ones, i.e. the world, we are to be reaching out to. As Adventists, we too fall victim to this mentality when we remain solely focused on attempting to convince others of our “rightness”. Our role and mission on this broken planet is to simply serve all humanity, while following the example set forth by Jesus. We’re not at war with the world, we’re here to serve it.

(Sirje) #11

Some would maintain that filling the pews of a church is the cause that “serves humanity”.

So the question is - “What is the cause?” Those who “serve” the institution see the church as the cause. While Jesus promised to build his “church” upon Peter’s declaration, he did not mean mortar and bricks, and all that they embody. The “cause” was much simpler, yet more difficult. To promote a church, in its temporal concept, only requires organization and a bit of muscle; while the “church” Jesus spoke about requires an experience, as taught to Nicodemus - a changed heart, something no board meeting or general conference session can accomplish, any more than a “leopard can change its spots”.


“The cause was much simpler, yet more difficult.”

Very true. The culture Jesus inhabited was ruled by a nation that made ISIS look like Mr. Rogers neighbors. And yet He offered nor promoted any resistance to them, unless you consider a mind blowing message of unconditional love, a form of resistance. And He paid a heavy price for that. Love your enemies. Are we willing to do the same? God’s unconditional love, as demonstrated by Jesus, covers everyone. Not just the “special” ones.

(Steve Mga) #13

Admiral Perry AND

(Sirje) #14

I wouldn’t go that far. Christ’s opposition (the Anti-Christ) takes many forms throughout history. I don’t think we’ve seen evil played out to it’s ultimate quite yet. For the Christians in the Middle East, it’s not Mr. Rodger’s neighborhood.

So, we’re back to the discussion on how to confront evil. As Christian’s, I do believe we need to confront it with as much love as we can muster when our own lives are on the line; but, when it comes to watching innocence mutilated and tortured, I think our responsibility goes beyond offering other people’s cheeks.


“So we’re back to the discussion on how to confront evil.”

As a follower of Jesus, I think the answer is self evident. We confront it like he did.

As for “offering other people’s cheeks”, look at the story of John the Baptist. Jesus was in a far better position to render aid to John than you are to those in the Middle East. And yet He did nothing. As I mentioned earlier, scripture tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Because that “flesh and blood”, are also sons and daughters of God. I think the way God dealt with Cain after the brutal act of murder against his brother, speaks to that. When we decide to confront evil in any manner outside of the example Jesus set for us, we are taking on a burden we can’t possibly carry. And it detracts from our real purpose in life. To serve and to foster relationships that reflect the love of Jesus with our fellow human beings. Even our enemies.

(Sirje) #16

I agree, that is the ideal as we ponder the question in the comfort of our computer chairs. But when you see your daughters abducted by pure evil; and your children beheaded and hung , I’m sure my response would be something other than the ideal. Are we going to be real, or are we going to set ourselves up for failure? I’m sure God loved the Philistines as much as the ISIS crowd.

Jesus did a lot of things that are beyond me. I would like to think that I would have a clear head above emotional pain in those kind of situations, but I have my doubts. Even Peter followed Jesus, sward in hand, apparently.


“Are we going to be real, or set ourselves up for failure?”

I guess that depends on your perspective in defining success or failure. Because when viewed from an earthly perspective vs. a heavenly one, you are going to come up with two radically different outcomes. In Matt. 10:39 Jesus states, “…whoever loses his life for my sake, gains it.” From an earthly perspective, that’s a major fail.

But like you, I have no idea how I would actually respond to acts of violence against loved ones. I can only hope and pray, that through rabidly pursuing a relationship with Jesus, that I would be grounded enough in Him to respond in the same manner as He did. That’s really the goal, isn’t it?


Very good points.

This is where as Christians we are very weak. It is natural to be outraged when we see evil. Unfortunately, many of us are not willing to use Christ’s methods to face it and I think that it is because it requires to put our own lives at risk like Jesus did.

In other words, we act like Peter who had great principles but was at times weak in putting them into actions.

(k_Lutz) #19

I believe the author (Daryll) has come to a legalistic conclusion in declaring it “a demand in that we must not exhibit the ways of the world,” that it is by our concerted efforts that we “do not let the world squeeze [us] into its mold.” This clearly takes it out of God’s hands and makes us responsible for an heavenly attitude which cannot be gained from our worldly experience, for we know not how pervasive this world. All of our human experience and our understanding of it is yet based upon human experience and what other humans have come to weakly understand from that, and most often for the justification of their own beliefs which cannot truly be extrapolated to our experience. Compounding un-knowing with unknowing does not give us knowledge, but assurance that our ignorance is well-disguised.

What Paul declares is a whole new paradigm: *“transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is not a human endeavor but one divine. In Galatians 3 he states: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Whenever Paul refers to baptism he is referring to the immersion of the person into the Spirit of God. With this Baptism we renounce our worldly ignorance and are renewed to full companionship with God in which His will becomes our will, His eternal life becomes our eternal life. In this is great joy, and emancipation from the constraints of mortal thought. Note well the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:

It is in His putting His Spirit within us, in putting on Christ, that our minds are changed. And our lives become proof of “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We reveal that one can, and does, …

Trust God.