Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: John 16:31-33
Summary: Easter Sunday reminds us that Jesus overcame the world. And with His help, you, too, must overcome the world.
Father, thank you so much for sending Your Son. And Jesus, You are such an obedient Son.
You only spoke what the Father spoke to You. You only did what You saw the Father doing.
And you obeyed the Father’s will all the way to the end, taking upon Yourself the sins of the world, conquering sin and death, being raised to life to prove that You are the Son of God. That’s why we follow You. You’re not a mere man. Not just a teacher who founded a religion. You are the Son of God and You proved it and we want to follow this resurrected. Speak to us today, Lord, about overcoming. We need to overcome the same way that You overcame. Teach us, Lord Jesus. In Jesus Name, Amen
Please turn with me to John 16:31. This is not a typical Easter passage.
31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 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.”
I want to repeat that last sentence — In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. Easter Sunday reminds us that Jesus overcame the world. Jesus overcame the world, and with His help, we, too, must overcome the world. We must become overcomers — that is another term for the Christian. We are overcomers. And what are we overcoming? The same world that Jesus overcame.
In John 16, Jesus is very concerned about the spiritual state of His disciples. He sees that they’re troubled in heart and He begins this chapter, verse 1.
1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
So Jesus is very concerned that His disciples are going to fall away, that they’re not going to take up their cross. He’s concerned that they’re going to take the exit ramp. They are going to get so discouraged, so fearful that they will scatter and never return to Jesus. And Jesus is saying all of these things from chapter 13-17 because He does not want His disciples to fall away. He wants them to overcome.
It says, in the world you will have tribulation. And “tribulation” means persecution, it means affliction, it means distress, it means feeling constricted, feeling like you’re hemmed in, that you’re running out of options, you’re confined. And that is the experience of the Christian in this world. Jesus says you will have tribulation.
So it’s completely false when people tell you Jesus is in your life and your life is great. And this world is great and you’re going to flourish and everybody’s going to love you and you’re going to accomplish great things. And there’s never one mention of tribulation when Jesus says in this world you will have tribulation.
What did Jesus mean by this? And I’m only going to use Jesus’ own words to make my case about its meaning. I’m only going to use Jesus’ words to explain and to unpack what He means by that statement.
20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
And so Jesus is saying that many of us are untested. We just haven’t gone through a severe enough tribulation. But when the tribulation comes, and it will for every Christian, immediately the one who does not have any roots is going to fall away. Immediately, it’s going to be revealed that he or she is not in it for the long haul. He does not want to take up a cross. She will take the exit ramp.
In Matthew 24, speaking about the end times…
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
At the end, it will be truly revealed what the spiritual purpose of this world is and it’s full hatred will be unveiled. And at that point, many will fall away and there will be only a few standing. Jesus says, everybody in this world will have tribulation. Every Christian throughout history, in every generation, at all times. If you understand the spiritual reality of how things are in this world, you know this to be the case.
And then verse 21 of the same chapter.
21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Things are going to get so bad that God in his mercy shortens the days of the great tribulation because none of us are strong enough to persevere for a prolonged period during the great tribulation. Jesus says, in the world you will have tribulation.
But the next thing He says is but take heart. And “take heart” means to be of good courage and also some translations might say good cheer because there’s something that emboldens you from within and it actually warms your heart. This is not just an empty bravado of I’m going to be brave while internally you’re cold hearted. It’s a weird word. It’s a mixture of courage and warm-heartedness and that’s why it could be translated either be of good courage or be of good cheer. It’s a joyful courage. It exudes boldness.
Why does Jesus say, in the world you will have tribulation, but take heart?
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Why do we take heart as we see the tribulation getting more and more severe until there is a great tribulation? For the Christian, why are we expected to be courageous and warm-hearted at the same time? It’s because as we see the tribulation increasing in severity and it will and we may see things worsen in our lifetime or in our kids’ lifetime. This tribulation that is coming upon us, this hatred of all the nations that is going to be focused on the Christian is a sign that Jesus is right around the corner.
And Jesus makes it very clear why we are to be warm-hearted, confident, cheerful while being courageous under a great tribulation. He says it in John 16:20.
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish (tribulation), for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Jesus is warning the disciples that just around the corner, Jesus is going to be crucified. They can’t follow Him anymore and they’re going to be in such turmoil. And you have to notice what the world is doing at that same time while the disciples of Christ are lamenting and in such anguish. While they’re undergoing this tribulation, what is the world doing? It is rejoicing. That is such a clear statement of the world. They killed Jesus and they’re having a party. The world rejoices. This is a spiritual truth — the world rejoiced when the Son of God was killed.
The disciples are soon going to experience tribulation. And Jesus gives an analogy of childbirth.
I’m not a woman. I have no idea what this is like. Jackie was giving birth and I was enjoying coffee at Starbucks and she gave me a call and told me that the baby’s on the way and I’m running with my Starbucks and the hot coffee is spilling all over my hand. That’s the extent of my suffering. I got a slight burn on my hand. That’s about it.
But Jackie, she and all women who have given birth, they can tell you it is the most pain you can imagine. That’s why women are tough. That’s why at the crucifixion you have a bunch of women and John. Women are fearless. Women are loving. They are there at the cross. They will persevere to the end because they know how to love someone.
And you go through the anguish of childbirth. The word for anguish is the same word “tribulation.” You go through that tribulation because of the joy of seeing baby Micah. You do it all for that face. And if you have the privilege of seeing a child coming out for the first time, it is a joy I can’t even describe. Tears fill your eye. You just can’t describe the joy of the new birth. It’s such a miracle.
While the world rejoices at abortion and killing babies, millions over decades, for the Christian, that new birth, you have to experience it for yourself. I can’t even explain. I can’t put it into words. The joy of seeing your child for the first time. And all of the tribulation, all of the childbearing pain for the mother, it all goes away when you see that baby.
And this is a microcosm of the Christian life, that in this world, we will have tribulation. Think about it. The very period of a few days when the disciples, their whole world is falling apart while Jesus is in the tomb, while they are at their lowest point, the world is having a party.
If only we could see things for how things are, we would relate to the world very differently. Jesus is giving this analogy and it is a picture of the Christian life, that we will go through such pain in the world. Tribulation. The best description is childbirth for the mother without epidural. I don’t know how they did it back in the day. Imagine without any numbing and you experience the full degree of pain. And it goes on for hours and even days.
According to Jesus, the pain of childbirth is the best description He can come up for the tribulation that all believers will have to go through. But take heart, hold on, be courageous. You must overcome. Take courage because I’m coming back.
Jesus says in this world, you will have tribulation but take heart I have overcome the world. And “I have overcome” is an odd phrase. You can’t really capture its meaning in the English. The Greek has so many nuances of meaning. This verb is written in the perfect tense. When we say, in the English, I have overcome, this is a past tense action. This is something that’s been completed and it’s done.
And Jesus is saying, I have overcome. He says this before the cross. This is before He conquered sin and death, before He declared to all the demons that the war is over and that their time is running out. Jesus said, before any of this unfolded, He says, I have overcome.
And in the Greek, the perfect tense means that it is a past tense completed action, but its effect is continuing into the present.
Jesus, from day one, He has been overcoming the world. Every day of His life, He has been overcoming the world. And now He can say in victory, because He sees the cross, it’s right on the horizon, He says, I have overcome. And you all will see how fully I will overcome a few days from now.
“Overcome” means to conquer, to prevail, to be victorious, to subdue. It implies a battle. Why is it so important for the Christian to overcome so that your nickname can be Overcomer? Like I want to have a shirt that says “Overcomer,” like I want that to be the description of my life, that I am an overcomer.
Why do all Christians have to have this characteristic of overcoming? Did you know that in the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus Himself says to all seven churches, you must overcome.
Revelation 2 (Church in Ephesus)
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers (overcomes) I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
Revelation 2 (Church in Smyrna)
11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers (overcomes) will not be hurt by the second death.
Revelation 2 (Church in Pergamum)
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers (overcomes) I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Revelation 2 (Church in Thyatira)
26 The one who conquers (overcomes) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3 (Church in Sardis)
5 The one who conquers (overcomes) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3 (Church in Philadelphia)
12 The one who conquers (overcomes), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3 (Church in Laodicea)
21 The one who conquers (overcomes), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquers (overcomes) and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Jesus says, you will have tribulation in this world, but take heart, I have overcome the world. And the fact that Jesus says this same phrase to all seven churches means He is speaking to all of us. Every one of us needs to overcome the tribulation that is present in this world, which will only worsen.
And then the last part says, I have overcome the world. And this word for “world” is interesting. It is kosmos. And there’s a there’s a nuance of this meaning, which means something ordered. It connotes a system, that the world has a system. And this worldly system must be overcome.
I don’t know what your relationship with the world is, or your attitude toward the world, or your perspective of the world, or your worldview concerning reality in the world, I’m not sure what it is. I think there’s one of two options.
One, you think the world is not that bad. The world is not that bad. And so this message is just over your head. Overcome the world? Why do I have to overcome the world? Why is Jesus making such a big deal and saying to all seven churches that we have to overcome the world? if your attitude toward the world is it’s not that bad, you have no need to overcome it because you’re in it, you’re of it. You’re like it.
The other attitude or perspective of the world is that the whole world system is built in a way to deceive me and to cause me to fall away. Deceive, intimidate, maybe even kill you. The world’s system, the goal of this system is to cause you to fall away. The tribulation is so intense and you say, I can’t handle this and you back away from Jesus.
There’s only one of those two choices — either the world is not that bad and that’s why I don’t feel a need to overcome it. The worldliness in me is not a big deal. The fact that you’re chasing things that worldly people chase after, it’s not idolatry. I just got to live in this world. Just got to make money, just got to pursue things and that’s your attitude to the world. And and you hear messages like you can have your best life now. And God is going to cause you to flourish and thrive and you’re going to do well in this life and people are going to love you and you’re going to be hailed as a hero, or innovator, or someone to admire. And we respect you, and you’re on the cover of magazines and that’s how you view the world. It’s not that bad.
Or, you see the world as a system, an ordered system whose ruler is Satan. And from day one the purpose of this system is to deceive you, to intimidate you, possibly to kill you. And its goal, its mission is for you to fall away.
It’s no accident that so many people who grew up in the church, they go to college and they fall away. If you agree with me that Satan is the ruler of this world, that means he controls academia. That means he controls the financial system. That means he controls everything. I’m not saying everything is false. I’m saying there’s enough true things mixed in there so we end up believing the system and we put our trust in it.
I pray that you can agree with me and with Jesus, that we must overcome this world because its mission is to deceive us and to cause us to fall away. And that’s why people go off to college and they fall away because they’re in the system. They don’t have the protection of mom and dad. No one’s forcing them to go to church and they fall away and we are losing this next generation. I heard the stats in Korea for young people. The percentage of people who go to church is less than 5%. We are losing the next generation because the world system has gotten more clever, it has gotten more enticing, it looks more impressive. And people are being deceived and falling away.
17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
I’ve always had a hard time understanding this text. Through this text, I think that Jesus is giving us a picture of the world. And if I were to give this section a modern day sub-heading, I would label it, “The Matrix.” You know that scene in The Matrix where you have those bodies and they’re attached to whatever that thing is? And who is Neo? Neo is the prototypical Jesus character. And he’s bringing people out of the system. And how does Jesus do it? From birth whether you knew it or not, Satan had you. From birth, Satan had you. And how did he have you and keep you? He lied to you.
And you looked at the world and it looked great to you and you pursued it. And the more you pursued it, it’s like another wire was being connected or fused to your head. And by the time you are in your 20s or 30s, it’s like dozens of these wires and cables were coming out of your head because you are so entrenched in the system.
But what did Jesus do? He came into this world and because Jesus is stronger than Satan, Jesus bound up Satan. And He took away all of his possessions. And who was he possessing? He was possessing all of us through deception. And one by one, Jesus is rescuing us. And when He rescues us out of this world, He is rescuing us out of a system, a godless system, a system whose agenda is to deceive.
And the Lord has been just accelerating my understanding of how much we’ve been deceived.
I don’t know why. It must be because the end is coming. And He wants me to warn people to come out of the deception of this worldly system. You must come out. You must overcome.
Those cables, you must sever them in Jesus Name. Come out of the system.
Because that system, the this world, what is it doing while Jesus is being crucified and dying? It’s having a party. That is the world system controlled and ruled by Satan. We’ve been deceived from day one about how things are. About reality, we’ve been deceived.
In the 60s, just as an example, in the 60s, scientists did research that talked about what a healthy diet should be. And there are researchers in the US and researchers abroad, I think in Europe, and they came up with two opposite conclusions. Already, you know somebody’s lying because they’re talking about the human body. There should be only one recommended diet for all humans regardless of what continent you live on. But there are two independent studies and they reach two different conclusions.
One conclusion was the thing we need to avoid in this country is fat. Low fat diet. That’s what we should do. And to replace not having these fats, we took on a lot of sugars. In other countries, they say, no, sugar is bad, fats are fine. And this low-fat diet was published in prestigious journals of medicine. And it’s coming from these fancy sounding, smart people and we just believe it because we’re not scientists. We trust the the journals. Then in 2015, this is on NPR, they uncovered some emails between Coca-Cola and these researchers doing these studies. And clearly, what they said in this 1967 publication was a complete lie because it was funded by a sugar manufacturing company. That’s just a small, small example of how much we’ve been lied to.
And people might say, well, Ray, you’re a conspiracy theorist. No, I’m just a Christian and a Christian understands who’s running this world. Satan is the ruler. He rules Hollywood. He rules the news outlets. He rules academia, the universities, our whole educational system. And the whole system’s purpose from day one is to deceive you, to intimidate you and during this great tribulation even to kill you. And they’re trying to get the Christian to fall away.
Jesus overcame the world, but he tells us take heart. You, too, must overcome this world, even though there’s going to be tribulation, even great tribulation.
The final passage is Revelation 12.
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquers (overcomes) him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
We will have tribulation. Jesus says to all believers — you will have tribulation. And perhaps, you’re not seeing it that way because you think the world is not that bad. But if you see the world for what it is and you have eyes to see reality, you will feel like you are under tribulation. It might not be outright persecution, but you will feel the restriction. You will feel that your options are limited in this life. You’ll not be so excited to pursue the world. You’d be very careful, very wary because you know the agenda of this system.
Jesus says, you will have tribulation. And if you have eyes to see, you will feel it immediately. The tribulation doesn’t have to be outright persecution. If you just see the world for what it is, you will feel it in your heart. Jesus says, take heart; I have overcome the world. And Jesus invites all of us to join Him. We also must overcome this world system.
How do we do it? We do it by the blood of the Lamb. You have to plead the blood over your life, over the lives of your loved ones. This blood that cleanses. This blood that covers. This blood that defeats and conquerors. This blood has power. You plead the blood of Jesus.
And just as important — you speak the word of your own testimony. It’s not enough just to agree with what I am saying. You have to live it out, meaning, you yourself have to overcome. And you will never overcome if you think the world is not that bad.
If you see the world for what it is, you will realize you’re in a fight. That Satan every second, he’s accusing you. He’s trying to condemn you and pour all this guilt on you. He’s enticing you with, oh, once you go for this, why don’t you go for this? You can have more of the world. There’s no cost. People will love you. You’ll have a comfortable life.
If you see the world for what it is, then you will realize I have to overcome. And this is very practical. You will have to overcome very practical things. And you’ll be able to share how you overcame your love for money, how you overcame your desire to be praised in your career.
Parents will need to overcome the pressure to send their kids to the best school because getting into a top school, why is that such a big deal for a Christian parent?
We’ve given up all these things. We’ve overcome. We can prove it over time. We have a testimony that we’re no longer blinded by these things. We are not deceived by these things. These things in the world have no hold over me. And you have your own testimony. That means you’ve overcome.
Because Jesus overcame the world, He invites us to do the same. We have to be Overcomers.
And specifically, you’re overcoming a system of thought, a deceptive system ruled by the deceiver.
Don’t trust the world system just because you can locate true things in it. The same way that a false teacher will false things a hundred percent of the time. He’s going to mix in enough true things so that you end up trusting him. You give him your ear. The same thing with this world system. There are enough true things being said and taught, and you think, it’s not that bad. I can pursue it. I can learn gain a lot of good wisdom from this. No, there’s no wisdom to be gained spiritually speaking from this world system. No actual wisdom that counts in life. There’s nothing to be gained. The more you pursue, the more you’re at risk of being deceived.
If only you could agree with Jesus that this system, you and I have to overcome. Then, you will not be drawn to it. You won’t be enticed by it. You won’t be tempted by it. Satan, all the doors that he typically uses to tempt people, the doors are closed by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony. There are no openings. There’s no vulnerabilities. And for sure, you will make it to the end.
Even if we are the final generation under this final great tribulation, we will make it to the end because we’ve proven over our lifetime now that we’ve overcome the world the same way that Jesus over his lifetime overcame the world.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, we come before You as children who are still in this world system. But we take great courage seeing how you, Lord Jesus, overcame the world. Even before You overcame sin and death on the cross, You were declaring Your victory, that from day one, you have been overcoming the world.
And now, You invite us to overcome this worldly system, this system of deceit. People tell us things and we believe them just because they have credentials. We don’t realize that somebody is getting rich off of this deception. That they’ve been bribed. There’s been people paid off.
Father, this is how the world is. We should not be shocked when people lie to us. They’ve been lying from the beginning because this world is controlled by the father of lies. Give us eyes to see this world for what it is. It is so paltry, so pitiful, it is so shameful. There’s nothing here that we should desire.
The only thing we can expect in this world as a believer and a follower of Jesus is tribulation, persecution, distress, confinement, restriction, a reduction of options until we have nothing but You, Lord. That’s the way things are going.
And in this great tribulation that is to come, we will see the world for what it is. It is exactly the same today as it will be in the end times in that final day. It’s exactly the same world. It’s just now things are more hidden.
Lord, You’re starting to pull back the veil, at least You’ve done that for me. Lord, so many Christians are blinded and enticed by this world because they’re deceived. They don’t see the clear picture of this world. Show it to us, Lord. Show it to us so that we won’t be deceived anymore. So that we would gladly ask You to give us strength and endurance and perseverance to overcome this world system the same way that You did from day one.
And toward the end of Your life, Jesus, You declared Your victory over this world, that it did not overcome You, but You overcame it. Jesus, You are binding Satan even now. I pray that You bind Satan, all the demons that are harassing us and tormenting us. We ask, O Lord Jesus, that You would bind all demonic voices, all deceptive thoughts and patterns of thought. So that we would no longer chase after the world.
The world only has one mission — to deceive us so that we eventually fall away. We don’t see clearly, as some living in the end times will see so clearly. We don’t see what the world is like and what it has been like. The world never has changed. It’s always been this way. A world that rejoices when the Son of God is crucified. How wicked is this world? It’s never changed. It’s only getting worse.
Satan has hidden things. We don’t even understand how much he has hidden things from our sight. I pray You would open up our eyes. Pull back the curtain. Show us this world spiritually for what it is. So that we would overcome and we would want to overcome the world.
Who would want to be worldly when this world is controlled and ruled by Satan? That is not our destiny. We don’t want to be overcome by this world system. We want to overcome it with your help, Lord Jesus. We ask for the blood. We plead the blood over our lives, over the lives of our loved ones. May You start breaking ties with this world in us in Jesus Name. We cast out every demonic voice in Jesus Name.
I pray that You’d set us free as you bind the strong man and cast them out of our presence so that we can be truly free. And Lord, we pray that as we follow you on this cross bearing journey, we will have countless testimonies of how we used to be worldly in this way or in that regard, but one by one we’ve overcome because we see clearly the world for what it is. We’re no longer deceived. Satan no longer has a hold on us in these areas. We have a testimony and we are victorious. we’ve prevailed over the one who’s trying to conquer and subdue us.
We ask for help, Lord Jesus. As we come before You and Your table, I pray that Your blood cover all of us, body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotion. Every person in this room. And give us testimonies, Lord, to encourage the brethren in order to edify the body of Christ. Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen