The Young Men

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
We have already seen that the fathers are characterized by having “known Him that is from the beginning.” Here (1 John 2:13) we learn that the young men are characterized by having “overcome the wicked one.” In his second address to the young men he mentions the secret of their strength, and warns them against the world. Loving the world and loving the Father are incompatible. All the elements which make the world what it is, have their source in the world, not in the Father. And then the world passes away, and its lust, while he that does the will of God abides forever.
Let us notice these several points.
The young men have overcome the wicked one. The strength of divine life is in them and, in the conflicts they have sustained with the enemy, they have been crowned with victory. It is not that all conflict is ended, and all danger past, but they have realized in conflict a power which is superior to that of the enemy. If they have a powerful foe, they know and possess a power greater than his, which they have, and can use, and the enemy is put to flight They are characterized by this remarkable fact, that they “have overcome the wicked one.” Satan who rules the darkness of this world, and who is the great enemy of God’s people, cannot stand before these young men. This is a wondrous fact that may well fill us with holy boldness and courage in meeting this relentless and untiring foe.
The divine life, directed by the Word of God, is the secret of strength in the young men. “Ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” In Ephesians 6, where it is a question of conflict with spiritual powers of wickedness, the Apostle says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” This is the source of all strength for conflict. In ourselves we have no strength, but in Him we are strong. Christ is the believer’s life, and this is directed in the believer by the Word of God. Against this, Satan has no power. When Satan meets Christ in the believer, he meets One who has already vanquished him, and destroyed his power. In death (expression of utter weakness) Christ destroyed him who had the power of death; so that the weakness of Christ is stronger than the power of Satan. Satan did his worst against Christ at the cross, but Christ is risen from the dead in the power of a life that Satan could not touch. Resurrection proclaimed complete, eternal victory for Christ. Satan well knows that he is a vanquished foe and that, at the appointed time, Christ will cast him into the lake of fire. If we meet Satan, therefore, in the power of Christ, he immediately flees. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
It is not only that Christ has personally gained the victory over Satan, but He did this for our deliverance. He took part in flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). In the death of Christ, all that Satan could use to terrify the conscience, as well as all that could bring down the judgment of God, was swept away; and thus the believer is emancipated from the condition of bondage and fear into which he had been plunged by sin and the power of Satan.
But this is not all. The believer is made a partaker of divine life. He possesses the very life in which Christ’s victory over Satan was displayed — life in resurrection — life as Christ imparted it to His disciples when He breathed on them after His resurrection-life in the Spirit. Christ was made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18); the believer lives in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); and he has “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” as a delivering power (Rom. 8:2). It is life in Christ, of which the Holy Spirit is the spring and power in the believer. This life, Satan cannot touch. “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).
In this divine life lies the secret of the young men’s strength. They have the energy of Christ in them, and the Word of God abiding in them, directing the divine life according to all that He is as an object filling the heart, and governing its desires. The Word of God expresses what that life is in all its varied characteristics; and if the Word abides in us, it forms the heart by filling it with Christ as an object, reproducing in us, His life; as Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ.” And if this is what Satan finds in us, what can he do? He is in the presence of One who has already conquered him, and he can only flee.
How blessed then to “abide in Him,” as the Apostle exhorts in verse 28, and to have God’s Word abiding in us, as in verse 14, so that we may always be able to overcome the wicked one. The power of Satan has been broken in the cross, but he has many wiles, and these we need to withstand. “We are not ignorant of his devices,” as the Apostle said to the Corinthians, and we need to watch lest he “get an advantage” (2 Cor. 2:11). Our safety lies in having God’s Word abiding in us. It is this that forms the heart, according to Christ, and directs the movements of the divine life in the soul. It becomes also the sword of the Spirit to the Christian warrior, and enables him to repel every assault of the wicked one. The Word is the Word of God’s grace, which is able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:32); and it is also the sword of the Spirit. May we prize it, both for what it gives us, and for that against which it preserves us.
We now have a warning against the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). This is indeed a solemn word for any Christian whose heart is set upon anything in this world. Love of the world and love of the Father do not go together. They are opposed to each other in every way. The world has murdered God’s Son, and this has revealed its state of utter enmity against God. God has indeed raised Him up from the dead, and crowned Him with glory and honor at His own right hand; and the Holy Spirit has come down to witness to the fact of His resurrection, and of His exaltation to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins; but the world rejects Him still. Christ is not of the world. “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) are of the world; but Christ is of the Father, and the world has hated Him, and cast Him out.
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that our blessed Lord Jesus is rejected in this world. Go where you will — into the busy throng, society, fashionable circles, even among the mass of professing Christians — and talk of Christ or His things, and there is no relish for it, no response in people’s hearts. They turn away, or their mouths are closed. Many a professing Christian is dumb the moment Christ’s name is mentioned. And in many instances conversation on this topic will not be tolerated, while the most insignificant bit of neighborhood gossip will be borne or even relished. Anything and everything but Christ! The very name the thought of Him even — is distasteful.
And not only is there no heart to receive Christ, but there is positive enmity against Him. By the verdict of this world Jesus was delivered up to die, and was nailed as a malefactor to the cross. People may say now that the Jews and Pilate did that, and may thus seek to clear themselves of all responsibility. But Pilate was the representative of the world power at Jerusalem when he delivered Jesus up to die, and thus involved the world in the guilt of that terrible deed. Has the world ever repented of this awful sin? Let its own course answer. A message from heaven has been calling to repentance, but the world has not repented. For more than eighteen hundred years God has been, as it were, beseeching men to be reconciled, but the world remains still in enmity. Through grace individuals have repented, and have been reconciled to God; but the world, “like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely” (Psa. 58:5), has no ear to hear, and continues in its course, ruled by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
The world is guilty of the blood of Jesus, and yet goes on amusing itself as if nothing had happened. The hum of business, the cares of life, the sound of the harp and the organ, the theater, the concert, the ball, and the ten thousand varieties of amusement, worldly pleasures, and worldly follies, are used of Satan to ensnare his victims, and drown the cry of guilt in the conscience until death carries them away, or judgment closes over the scene.
Beloved brethren, are we practically outside of all this? Have we found God’s Christ in glory an object that so fills and satisfies the heart, that for us the world has lost all its charms? Where are our hearts? where are our affections? Are they with Christ in glory? or with the world that crucified Him?
But perhaps some reader of these lines is saying to himself, “It is impossible that this world which has rejected and slain my blessed Lord should draw away my heart from Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.” But this is the very danger to which the young men are exposed. It is this that they are warned against, and if there had been no danger there would have been no warning. There is that in us which answers to the world, and nothing but the Word of God abiding in us, and keeping us in communion with Christ, can preserve us from its allurements. The Apostle Paul had to record of one who had labored with him, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (2 Tim. 4:10). Sorrowful words! “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). An apostle’s presence was not enough to keep Demas. Our strength is only in Christ. If we abide in Him, and His Word abide in us, we shall be kept securely. Otherwise our hearts will be drawn away, and we shall find our affections entangled in a world that is far from God. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” is written upon all that is under the sun, and all is estranged from God. The fathers have learned this experimentally, but the young men have it yet to learn; and unless they abide in their stronghold, having the sword in readiness, they will surely be overcome by the wiles of the devil.
“The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17). The judgment of God is coming upon this world, both as a system that has fallen under the power of Satan, and as a physical world that has been ruined by the presence of sin. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Luke 17:26-30. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but these words of the Lord Jesus shall not pass away. The world may go on with its business, its pleasures, its follies and its sins, forgetting its guilt in murdering God’s Son; but God has not forgotten. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord with a heart like adamant, guilty of his brother’s blood which cried from the ground, and sought to make himself happy in a world far from God. Hundreds of years rolled on, and the descendants of Cain multiplied on the earth. A city was built, the sound of the hammer was heard on brass and iron, and the harp and the organ made mirth for those whose hearts knew not God. Thus the world moved on in its course, and perhaps Abel and his blood were quite forgotten; but the flood came and swept them all away.
The blood of Christ indeed speaks better things than the blood of Abel. It cries from the throne and speaks pardon and peace to every repentant sinner. The redeemed in glory, and the gathering of Israel, and the blessing of the nations in a future day, all witness that the blood of Christ speaks better things than the blood of Abel. But the rejection of that Savior, and the shedding of that blood, have crowned the world’s guilt; and He who once came in grace, will come again in judgment. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). This is terrible indeed to think of, but it will come as surely as the flood came in the days of Noah. It is the state of the world in its enmity against God that will bring down this judgment. O beloved brethren, have we learned the true character of this world? Have we seen it in the light of the cross as the scene of Satan’s power, and characterized by relentless enmity against the Son of God? Are our hearts far away from this scene of evil over which God’s judgment is about to sweep as a flame of fire? “Remember Lot’s wife.” She was outside of Sodom, but her heart was in the doomed scene, and she looked back, and became a monument of God’s judgment. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Peter goes further and tells us not only of the judgment of the wicked, but of the dissolution of the heavens and the earth as well. The old world perished by water in the days of Noah. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:7,10).
Thus, reader, we have God’s estimate of the world, and His judgment of it. It is morally corrupt and guilty of the blood of God’s well beloved Son, and it is doomed to judgment. However bright its allurements, however attractive its charms, and however great its promises of good, Satan is behind it all with his enchantments to charm and to seduce his victims, and make them slaves to his power. “The whole world lies in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 JND). May the Lord keep us from listening to the voice of the charmer. May we so cleave to Christ that Satan can have no power against us. This is our only safety. If the heart is full of Christ, and God’s Word abides in us, forming the heart and governing all its movements, Satan with all his allurements through the world will be driven back. Thus it was with Christ. Satan found nothing in Him but the Word of God. It was the sword of the Spirit. Three times over he was made to feel the edge of that trusty blade, “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written,” and his enchantments had no power. Alas! too often he finds something else in us — “lust of the flesh,” “lust of the eyes,” or “the pride of life,” and then we fall a prey to his seductions, and have to learn by bitter experience what the world is, and the folly of giving it a place in our hearts and affections.
May we be kept with the Word of God abiding in us — the Word by which we were born again, and by which we do the will of God. “He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
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