- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Tony Chung at the Korean Baptist Church of Washington in Silver Spring.
The Christian life is about being victorious, the Scripture tells us. Our passage from 1 John 5:1-5 says: "Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory."
You may feel like you're living in defeat. Where is the victory? Well, John tells us what the victory looks like we are "loving God and carrying out His commandments." You might say, "What? Obey His commandments? That sounds like the military. That doesn't sound like love."
But in fact, even love has rules. Think of how you love your spouse or your boyfriend of girlfriend. What are the rules? You commit to each other. You don't cheat. You spend time together. Those are all rules. You may also have to sacrifice money, time and energy but in love they don't feel like rules. We love to do them. To "obey God's commands" can sound burdensome, but it does not have to be that way if we "overcome the world."
The better translation for "overcome" is conquer. It comes from the same Greek word as the name of Nike, the winged goddess of victory. Everyone who wears Nike shoes wears a banner of victory. The word can conjure an image of wrestling. You take your opponent to the ground. And God says we can conquer like this, by faith through Jesus.
So what does "loving God" have to do with conquering the world? When Scripture says "the world," or "the principalities and powers," it speaks of the forces that pull us away from loving God and loving each other. Often that world is love of sex, money, power and prestige. Sinful man craves for things to go our way, not God's. We lust after what we see, and we want to appear important. All of these things, while not bad in themselves, easily end up opposing the loving of God and others, and that is the essence of being spiritual.
Loving God and others is also living the victorious Christian life. By our faith, we have not done the conquering. Christ has promised to do that for us in the spiritual realm. But through Jesus Christ, the world loses its power over us. The Christian life is about what God is doing through you. That's the beauty of it. The world is so full of temptations and obstacles, we want to say, "I can't overcome." You don't have to. Christ and the Spirit does it for you.
We participate in God's victory in the world by loving Him through obedience. Now, some of you will say, "Tony, I don't feel like a conqueror at all. There are all these things that Bible says I shouldn't do. I feel powerless. And now your saying, 'If you don't obey God, you don't love Him.'"
The key to this internal conflict is in taking small steps. We are all in the process of becoming spiritually whole. If we just try to tackle the big things, we may never see victory. Learn to obey the small things first. Some people, for example, may have a huge problem with lust or gossip. These may be too huge to overcome suddenly. And if you concentrate only on avoiding sin, you may not do anything positive. You may have a boring life. Sin is fun, at least in the short run. It is better to conquer by small steps. Conquer first by little acts of love. Learn to obey God that way first. Volunteer to do something once a week. Help a friend with homework. Give someone a ride. Care for someone who is distressed. These are positive steps.
In the movie "Schindler's List," the German businessman Oscar Schindler loved the world: He drank, gambled, womanized and was greedy. But when he became aware of the suffering of the Jews in the death camp, he took a little step to help. He gave them jobs. Then he gave away everything to save their lives. Suddenly, he is no longer a drinker, gambler and womanizer. The focus on sin was displaced by doing good. If we focus on doing good, the sins begin to fade from our lives.
Next week: a sermon given by Bishop Peter James Lee of the Diocese of Virginia.


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