As we stand here today at the base camp of Mt. Everest, I want us to think about another group of people who gathered at their own base camp about 3,000 miles away in a very different part of the world. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and to the base of Mt. Sinai which is in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
In many ways, Mt. Sinai was to be the high moment of the trip for Moses and the people – no pun intended. When God called Moses at the burning bush to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt he told him that He would bring the people back to that mountain where they could worship Him, and it is believed that Mt Sinai, also known as Mt Horeb, was that location. So three months after the people had fled Egypt and escaped through the Red Sea by the hand and power of God, they came to the base of Mt. Sinai and this is where we pick up the story of Moses. Exodus 19:3-8.
It is in this exchange between God, Moses and the people that we find the key to overcoming this world – it is being faithful to the word of God. It was God who helped the people overcome the power of Egypt, it was God who brought them to victory and God is saying here that he will continue to bless them and help them overcome the world if they will be faithful to living with and for Him. But remember, the people gathered at the camp that day had spent their entire lives living as slaves in Egypt. For generations they had been separated from God and the teaching of God and so they had no idea what it meant to live for God or be faithful to God. All they knew was how the people of Egypt lived or how the people of other tribes and nations lived. They had nothing to teach them what living for God or being faithful to God was going to look like, so God started a process of giving instructions to His people.
Over the course of the next few days, Moses prepared the people to receive God’s word and then Moses went up to the top of Mt. Sinai and wrote down God’s word and came back down the mountain with the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were just the beginning of God’s word (or the law) that was given to the people to help them understand what it looked like to live for God. The 10 Commandments taught them that living for God meant worshipping God, honoring God and following God’s example in our lives through work and rest and by honoring our family and living in community in such a way that everyone was cared for and valued. The 10 Commandments however, was just the beginning because God gave more instructions about what worship should look like, what relationships in marriage and in families should look like and how to live in community with one another. Much of the rest of the book of Exodus and most of Leviticus lays out this word of God and the reason God shares all of this is because He wanted His people to look different than the rest of the world. God wanted His people to be a kingdom of priests or a holy nation that would show the rest of the world what it looked like to live in relationship with God.
When he gave his word to the people, God also said that if they followed His word then they would not only be a reflection of God here, but that they would overcome the power of this world. By following God’s word the people would continue to be victorious and not only experience God’s blessing but be a blessing to others. Jesus said the same thing. In John 16:33 Jesus said, In the world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. Now remember that Jesus was the word of God in the flesh. Jesus fully lived out the word of God perfectly in this world and so in Jesus we see that it is the word of God that overcomes this world.
So it is our living out of God’s word that helps us overcome the evil and destructive powers that we see and experience in this world, but being faithful to the word of God doesn’t mean that we overcome that evil for all time. Problems, trouble and evil will continue to be part of our world and unfortunately part of our lives until the very end of time, but we can find peace and power to overcome these problems by turning to God and following the word he has given us. We have witnessed a great example of this just recently.
When a gunman walks into a church bible study and kills 9 people with the hopes of inciting more racial unrest and violence, we clearly see the power of evil at work in this world and that incident could have set off more violence and division and destruction, but it didn’t and the reason it didn’t was because those who lost loved ones overcame the temptation to turn to the violence of this world as a response and instead turned to and lived out the word of God. By offering words of forgiveness to the shooter, the evil of Charleston and the potential for greater unrest and division was destroyed and in its place came peace and unity. This world and the powers and forces of evil in this world were overcome by people embracing, trusting in and living out the word of God. We overcome this world by following the word of God and examples of this can be found all around us.
Let’s just look at the 10 Commandments. When we remember the Sabbath and take time to rest we not only find physical, emotional and spiritual health and strength, but we overcome the evil of this world. Taking time to not work helps us overcome the messages of the world which tell us that we have to work 24/7 if we are going to be successful in life or the false idea that somehow our lives are defined by what we do instead of who we are. When we honor our parents and do not commit adultery we are strengthening the bonds of family and overcoming the forces of this world that are trying to tear about the relationships of family that are the most fundamental and formative in our lives. When we respect our neighbors so that we aren’t lusting after all they have and lying about who they are and even taking what is theirs we are overcoming the forces of this world that tell us that life is all about us and we can have it all.
Whether it is in forgiving others, honoring God or our family or our neighbors, believing in and living out God’s word really does help us overcome the forces and power of evil that we see around us, but let me be clear and say that I am suggesting that we go back to trying to follow every one of the 600+ laws we find in the Old Testament. While Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, he came to remind us that it is the spirit and intent of the law that we need to embrace and that is what Jesus tried to show us through his life and teaching. While the word of God in the OT is important for us learn from, what we need to follow is the teaching and example of Jesus because he was that word that helps us overcome this world.
Look at 1 John 5:1-5. We overcome this world by loving God and obeying His commands or by following God’s word. We overcome this world by believing in Jesus as the Christ and the only Son of God, but this faith in Jesus isn’t information that we agree to in our minds, it is a way of life we agree to live out in our lives. Believing in Jesus means following him, living the way Jesus lived and embrace his lifestyle of sacrifice and service.
It is hard with all that we see going on in the world today and the depth and power of evil that we see to remember that the power of God really is greater the world and that the love of God really is stronger than the forces of evil. It’s hard to see how faith in Jesus overcomes the world when Isis is beheading Christians or how love can overcome the deep divisions we see politically, economically, racially and spiritually in our own nation. It is difficult to see how God’s way wins in the end, but it does – every time – and the symbol of this is the cross.
The cross of Jesus was to be the final blow and the end of the story for Jesus and the way of God. Once Jesus was dead, that was going to be the ultimate victory of the world over God and when Jesus died, it looked as if the power of this world had overcome the goodness of God and if that was the end of the story, that would be true, but it was not the end of the story. The resurrection of Jesus makes clear that all the power and forces of this world will be defeated and that they will be defeated by the love of God and the power of God’s word – which is Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus who was the word of God in the flesh tells us that God’s word overcomes this world.
There is no power or force in this world that can stand against the power of God. We heard this last week as we talked about overcoming our failures, but listen again to what Paul says about overcoming this world in Romans 8:37-39. So we overcome all powers and forces of evil by the love of God that is seen in Jesus Christ – the word of God in the flesh.
If it is embracing and living out God’s word that helps us overcome the world, then it is important for us to read God’s word and to understand what it looks like to live out God’s word by looking at the life of Jesus. Once we understand what it looks like to live out God’s word – we then need to do it. Obedience to the word of God has always been part of our relationship with God and this obedience isn’t something we do once, it is a way of life. To help us learn how to do this I have included 5 different sections of God’s word for us to read and think about living out in the days and weeks to come.
The first passage is from the life of Moses and it is The 10 Commandments which are timeless but I would encourage us to read on in Exodus and look at some of the other laws and learn from them how God still wants us to live today. The second passage is The Wisdom of Solomon from the book of Proverbs which really can be used as rules for holy living. The more we embrace and find ways to live out the instructions found in this book, the more we find power and strength to live faithfully today. The third passage is the core of Jesus teaching in this world found in The Sermon on the Mount. It wasn’t Mt. Everest or even Mt. Sinai, in fact it was just a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee but the teaching of Jesus on that mountain does show us what our lives are to look like today.
The fourth passage is from the book of Ephesians and talks about Rules for Relationships today and what they need to look like and then the final passage comes from John’s first letter and it is a reminder that Living in Love needs to be part of all that we do. It also reminds us that the love of God in Jesus overcame sin and death in the resurrection and that it is the same love of God that helps us overcome the world.
Scripture references for all these teachings are included on the next steps and can be used over and over again as places to turn when we need to find power and strength in God’s word to help us overcome this world.
Overcoming the World
1. The high point on Moses journey with the people of Israel into the Promised Land was to be the worship of God at Mt. Sinai. Read Exodus 19 and 20.
• What was God promising his people?
• What were the people promising God?
2. In what ways did the word of God given in the 10 Commandments and the law help the people of Israel overcome the world and become a “holy nation”?
3. In what ways can the word of God today help us become a holy people that can overcome the world around us?
4. The word of God teaches us how to live in such a way that we find power and strength to overcome the forces of the world around us. Read the following passages and reflect on how to live out this word of God in our world today:
• Exodus 20-23 –10 Commandments and God’s law
• Proverbs 10-24 – Wisdom of Solomon
• Matthew 5-7 – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
• Ephesians 5:21-6:20 – Rules for Relationships
• 1 John 3-5 – Living in Love
5. Moses continued to overcome all things and lead God’s people to the very edge of the Promised Land. To finish the story of Moses’ remarkable life, read Deuteronomy 29-34