In the previous post, we discovered that we are to not continue in sin primarily because we have been joined in union with our God. It is His life that is now to be lived in us and not our own life. Because of His life in us, we are to no longer sin.
If this is true, why is sin such a problem for us? Two reasons stand out. First, most believers in Christ today do not have a solid grasp of this new life of Christ lived in place of their own lives. Most are still believing that our “new life” is the upgraded human life. We continue to live our own lives by our own strength. We attempt to add Jesus to our living as an influence and a guide, and we try to learn principles for cleaner, more holy living.
Such living is nothing more than human religion and it has very limited power over sin in us. It is characterized by small victories and frequent failures. Doubts creep in, and we wonder if victory is even possible. This is not our calling in Christ. We are called to a life in dynamic union with our Savior who desires to live His life in place of ours. In that dynamic union is our victory.
The other reason sin is a problem for us is found in the next phrase of this verse: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” While we are the begotten of God, filled with His very life, we live a world that is diametrically opposed to God and hostile toward us. We live on a battlefield every day, and the warfare against us never ceases.
Here are some facts we need to remember about life on this battlefield. First, it is not our battlefield. The field of battle belongs to our enemy, Satan. “The whole world lies under the power of the evil one.” We spend our entire earthly existence in enemy territory, and the enemy is taking advantage of that fact every day.
Second, for the most part it is a clandestine warfare against us. Our enemy seeks to disguise his tactics against us so that we will walk willingly into the traps and attacks he sets for us daily. His message to us is, “I am not here, I am not at war with you in this.” Most of his traps are disguised to look like opportunities to our flesh.
What is meant here by the term, “the whole world?” This comes from the Greek work, “Kosmos.” Kosmos is used in four different ways in the NT. It is used to refer to the material universe, the creation of God, and also to describe the fallen race of people that have been corrupted by our enemy, Satan. And in this passage Kosmos is used to describe the sinister system, the orderly, intentional and evil arrangement of the world.
The arranger of the sinister system is Satan. He uses the kosmos to deceive the human race and to steal away their attention and affection from their Creator. John is not speaking only of the obviously evil parts of the world; the vices, the clearly wicked things, the obviously deadly things. John means the entire world system as we experience it.
The term, “the whole world” is surprisingly inclusive. Culture, education, industry, commerce, entertainment, medicine, and human services are all included. When we touch any of these areas of life, we are touching a part of a system which is designed to deceive us away from faith. We touch a system designed to connect with our fallen nature, our lusts and selfish drives.
What we touch is the spirit and work of the antichrist in the world. In 1 John we read, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” And again, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
The whole world, every part of it, lies under the power of the evil one. We should not be surprised to find out religiosity is a part of this system. Satan has consistently twisted true faith in God and turned it into religiosity. Religion is Satan’s way to deceive God’s people and many others as well. It is so effective that it was the religious who falsely accused their own Messiah and had Him murdered by the Romans. It was the religious who then persecuted His followers. It has been the religious who have continued to persecute true disciples all throughout the history of the church.
Religion is all the man-made practices and teachings we add to faith until faith is encrusted and obscured. Religiosity invariably denies the power of the Holy Spirit’s as the path of righteousness, replacing the Spirit with works we do in the flesh. Religiosity often appeals to God’s word while turning people’s hearts away from total commitment to Him. This was the complaint of Jesus against the religious leaders of His day, and this misuse of scripture has been repeated time and again ever since.
The whole world “lies under the power of the evil one.” Satan’s influence is pervasive, continuous, and ubiquitous. It is sometimes clearly visible, but more often it is a found in subtle manipulation. It is found in areas that we may see as neutral or even as good, including the religiosity that pervades all branches of what we call Christianity today.
More on the whole world being controlled by our enemy in the next post, “Angel of Light.”
Image via author