1 John 5:1-6
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey God’s commandments. And they are not a burden, for whatever is born of God conquers the cosmos. And this is the victory that conquers the cosmos: our faith. Who is it that conquers the cosmos but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood.
And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.”
The Greek word is translated “cosmos.” Whatever is born of God conquers the cosmos. Faith is the victory that conquers the cosmos. Who is this that conquers the cosmos but the one who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
Most translations of these verses use the word, “world.” Whatever is born of God conquers the world. It’s more grounded. The world is what we can see, and hear, and taste, and touch, and smell. Our worlds tend to be very small. By our faith we conquer the world, or we conquer worldy things. We are in the world but not of the world. We persevere over culture. Do we? We worship God, not family, not work, not school, not community, not culture, not nation, not the world. We belong to God, and everything belongs to God.
The Greek doesn’t say world. It says cosmos.
That’s different. Cosmos is expansive, the cosmos is always expanding. So breathtaking, we cannot wrap our minds around it. When we look up we can only see the drapes of the cosmos, and we cannot pull them back to see what lies behind, the absolute stunning universe that God created, is creating, will continue to create, an infinite expanding. Even space travelers cannot see it all. The cosmos includes “the cosmic dust” of our world.
John says that we conquer the cosmos by faith.
Do you think that you, personally, have conquered the cosmos? I cannot decide what to have for breakfast on any given morning, so this whole idea of being a conqueror of the cosmos mystifies me.
Annie Dillard writes: “It is madness to wear… straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; (they should lash us to our pews.) For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us to where we can never return.”
I go with the latter.
God may draw us to where we can never return. We conquer the cosmos by faith. Now, before we get too big for our britches, we remember that we can only conquer the cosmos because Jesus Christ came to us as one of us: water and blood.
After all this lofty talk, John uses the force of gravity to bring us squarely back to earth. Water and blood. God brings the Christ down to earth as God’s shocking and gracious gift to us. We should wear crash helmets to church.
God may draw us to where we can never return: We are cosmos conquerors today in this hour by water, blood, and Spirit.
Water is crucial to life. All you need do is walk into Publix a couple of days before Hurricane Irma to see it, or to not see it. We stockpile for fear of running out. Water is crucial to life.
We remember that Christ walked into the waters of the River Jordan for John’s baptism for the repentance of sin. Jesus didn’t have to do that. He had no sin. He walked into those waters so that we could know Him. He did not set Himself apart from us, but got wet with the rest of the people. And so we are baptized as a symbol of walking through death to life, we are children of the covenant.
A child of the covenant conquers the cosmos.
Blood: Jesus was God and He was human. At this table He shared the bread and cup as a symbol of His body and blood. When he was cut, He bled. He spilt His blood for us. It is said in Luke that in the Garden after supper He prayed so fervently that blood emerged as if sweat.
When we are cut, we bleed. Jesus shared the frailties and the strengths of our bodies. Blood is life, it purifies, and it looks the same on every person who bleeds no matter where on the globe they live. And so it has always been.
When He bled on the cross, Christ took on our suffering. He shared the hardest things in life with us. We don’t have a great high priest who doesn’t understand. We have the Christ who shares the hospital room with us, who goes to the doctor with us, who is already there ahead of us. And He showed us that trial will lead to new life. At His table He takes the time to nourish us in His Spirit, so that we will carry His body and blood within us.
Finally, Spirit: The Holy Spirit is alive, swirling, moving, comforting, strengthening, calling, instigating, calming, pulling from us what we cannot do ourselves. The Holy Spirit calls Frank and Hank to Haiti for such a time as this, that God’s purpose would be fulfilled in and through them, and for the people they encounter there. When you go to a place like Haiti, the words “God may draw you where you can never return” are tattooed onto your heart and spirit. Nothing’s the same after. This is why Hank goes so much and why Frank is going again. They are conquering the cosmos. And you are helping them.
Today, the Spirit called forth a new member, Robin, and we see God’s power in her life. We are not only privileged by this act, we have a responsibility to Christ as we minister together.
Yes, we are conquering the cosmos. It is Jesus Christ who makes all things possible. And it is He who conquers through us, and conquers all.
Simple things make up conquering. Love, truth, faith, trust, peace, hope, surrender, obedience, patience, joy, understanding, and your other 2018 words. The commands are not burdensome to us and its words are simple: Love God, love neighbor. No exceptions. We walk in another person’s shoes, into their pain, and we take on the compassion of Christ to try to understand. When we cannot understand we can be present and still, and know that God is God. We pray heartbreaking prayers, and put ourselves into the presence of God who knows what we have to say before the words are ever on our tongues. We conquer the cosmos by faith in Jesus Christ.
So go be a conqueror. Share in the extraordinary life of Jesus Christ.
(“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”
—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.”)