When a person discovers the truth about Jesus and surrenders to Him, the first few days and weeks of new life is filled with wonder — and also doubt. Is it really true my sins are forgiven? Is God really accessible to me as my Father? In John’s first letter he “sings a song” to those who experience those doubts. He calls them “dear children” and reassures them of the truth of those promises. (See: No Doubt)
But following Jesus isn’t just about coming to faith in Jesus, it’s a lifelong process of learning to consistently live according to Jesus’ “upside-down” understanding of reality. Jesus’ teachings tend to contradict the knee-jerk reactions we learn from the world. His command to love with self-sacrifice is perhaps the most stark example of that (See: John vs. John Lennon). Living by Jesus’ teachings is only possible by the power of His Holy Spirit within us.
Most of us are like spiritual teenagers. We have passed the excitement and wonder of new life in Christ and are now experimenting and learning how to live this new life. Frequently we stumble with painful awkwardness. John “sings his song” to us, too. He says:
Addressing us as “young men,” John repeats his most urgent reminder: “you have overcome the evil one.” Peter, from first hand experience, knew that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a restless lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lions look for the weak and the frightened. They don’t waste their energy on those who know they are strong. That’s why John wants us to know, in the adolescence of this new life in Christ, that we have overcome the evil one.
How did we do that? Jesus did it, on our behalf, on the cross. Without meaning to diminish the sacred significance of the crucifixion in any way, it was the ultimate “rope a dope.” Jesus allowed Satan to take his best shot. And then He got back up. In Him we have overcome Satan.
It doesn’t feel that way, though, does it? In a fight, or in most athletic contests, there are many things that happen that cause us to feel as though we have lost. But the person that knows he will win, the one who can feel it in his bones, generally does win. In our case, John says, we have already won!
John also reminds us “adolescents in Jesus” that we are strong. How so? It’s not in our own strength, but “…because the Word of God lives in you.” He doesn’t mean we have memorized a bunch of Scripture, although that is a good thing to do. It is the “logos” of God, the mind and mindset of God that lives in us by His Holy Spirit.
If you have not yet surrendered to Jesus, keep looking and investigating until you become convinced of Who He really is. None of this will fully make sense to you until you experience it in Jesus. If you have surrendered by faith, if you have received the new life of the Holy Spirit, then John wants you to understand that the struggle you experience is a normal part of the deal. It’s as normal as a teenager’s voice cracking when he tries to ask a girl to go to the prom. But, as you struggle with these various, normal temptations, remember these truths: you have already won the fight against Satan, and it is the Spirit of God, the Living Word of God in you in Whom you are strong.