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Will you gain the Victory?

   By Brian Knowles Page 1 2 Reprint Article 1976

"To him that taketh the path of least resistance and floateth downstream like a dead fish,
giving in to every whim and desire, will I grant to sit with me on my throne."
That's not a quote from the Bible!
It's not a quote from anything, but it's what some "Christians" seem to think is the way into the Kingdom!
If you have been bitten by the above attitude,
you need to wake up and take action — or you could lose out!


God did not call you to be a loser! He did not intend that you should miss out on the joys of eternity in His family Kingdom simply because you were too lazy to put forth the effort to overcome anything. Your Creator and mine holds out a magnificent reward to those who are willing to "work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Not that you can earn your salvation. The Church of God does not teach "salvation by works." Eternal life is a gift of God (Rom. 6:23). But God is not going to grant that precious gift to just anybody. There is a "string" attached.


To Him That Overcomes

Speaking to one of the local congregations in Asia Minor in the last decade of the first century, Christ said through John: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 3:21-22, KJV).

That message is as relevant today as it was in the first century — God still expects Christians to overcome if they wish to be in the Kingdom! The same thought is repeated many times in the course of these messages to the churches (see Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

It is important to note that Christians are instructed to overcome "even as I also overcame" (Rev. 3:21. KJV). Christ Himself set the example. His followers are to imitate the pattern of overcoming set by Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

But what, or whom, did He overcome? And just what does "overcome" mean in this context?

The Greek word translated "overcome" in these verses is nikaoo. It means, "to become the Victor "to prevail," "to conquer" (see Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, A Creek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 541).

Jesus used the word in making a point: "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes [nikaoo] him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil" (Luke 11:21-22, RSV).

To overcome, then, is to struggle and to emerge victorious, to prevail, to conquer! It involves effort. God expects His people to exert themselves in the struggle to emerge victorious at the end of life's course. The Kingdom of God is a prize for which we must fight. Paul wrote of his own struggle: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).

Paul's life is a chronicle of struggle. He went from trial to trial and each time emerged victorious through Christ. He never fully gave in to the baser aspects of his nature, though he did occasionally slip into sin (Rom. 7:13-20). Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy, his friend and protégé: "For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Days and not online to me but also to all who have loved his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Christ overcame. Paul fought, struggled and overcame. And you and I must also overcome in order to receive that crown of righteousness! When our life's race is completed, we must emerge victorious — we must finish the course. Those who drop out of the race prematurely will not be in the Kingdom!


What we Must Overcome

But over what must we gain the victory? Against whom do we struggle? And exactly how do we fight? With what weaponry?

Remember, we are to overcome as Jesus overcame. And what was it that He prevailed over? Quoting Christ, John's Gospel account explains: "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

"The world" is our enemy! But in what way are Christians to enter into a struggle with "the world"? "The world" means the "system" or "society" in general with its outlook, values, morals (or lack of them). It does not mean the physical globe upon which we live.

Jesus' prayer for the Church is revealing on this matter of the Christian's relationship to "the world": "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" (John 17:15-18). Christians are in the world, but they are not of it.

Who is the "evil one"? Revelation 12:9 informs us that it is Satan who has "deceived the whole world." In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he is called "the god of this world" who has "blinded the minds of the unbelievers." This world — this system — is not God's world; it is not of Christ's making; it is the devil's world! He is the one who is behind the general misery of much of the human race. He is the philosophical father figure of ungodly religions and ideologies. It is he who has been deceiving man ever since that initial deception in the Garden of Eden. He is a liar and the father of liars (John 8:44). He, and the system that he has produced, are the enemy!

Paul put it this way: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:10-12).

The spiritual forces that hold sway in this "present evil world," marshaled by no less a personage than the devil himself, are the avowed enemies of the Church of God. Of course, to the modern mind, much of this may sound like ignorant, religious superstition. But there really is a devil. And there is a spiritual kingdom influencing the affairs of this world (see Dan. 10:10-14; Job 1:6,7). (Write for our free booklet Did God Create a Devil?)

Society in general follows the course set by the god of this world. Prior to conversion we are all very much an intrinsic part of society, which functions in a spiritually blinded condition. Satan and his minions exert a spiritual influence upon the citizens of mother earth. All of us were 'following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Eph. 2:2-3).

That is, we took the path of least resistance and did what came naturally.


Newness of Life

Now. as Christians, we are called to be led of the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14) instead of the spirit of this world. Our life style changes. We walk, as Christians, in newness of life. Our values and standards change. We are obliged to "walk worthy of our high calling." The apostle Peter wrote: "Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy . . ." (1 Peter 4:3-4).

It's quite simple really: Christians cease following the way of the world upon conversion and commence to follow the way of God that leads to eternal life. They come out from under the spiritual influence of Satan the devil and become led by the Holy Spirit of God. They are no longer the "children of wrath," but now are the "children of light."

Our principal fellowship is with the Church of God, which is the body of Christ — not with the world. Upon conversion we seek the fellowship of those of like mind: "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ [who is in us] with Belial [Satan]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:14-15)

Of course, we are still in the world in the sense that we are a part of humanity. We must still earn our living among the "unbelievers." We are called to be a light to the world — not to be apart from it. Jesus did not intend His followers to become "spiritual isolationists" and separate themselves physically as hermits from society.

But He did expect us to keep from this world's evil ways and avoid the influence of its spiritual leader — Satan the devil!

Jesus existed within Satan's world and yet was apart from its evil. He lived 33½ years as a human being in Roman occupied Palestine. never once giving in to the lusts of the flesh and of the mind! He was in the world, yet He was above and apart from its ways.

Jesus Overcomes Satan

Jesus personally defeated the world's spiritual leader and god in the most titanic battle of wills that ever took place! The account is found in two chapters in the Gospels — Matthew 4 and Luke 4. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God. Command these stones to become loaves of bread' " (Matt. 4:1-3).

This account is important because it shows us specifically how Jesus overcame Satan the devil. In this first round of the battle, Satan hoped to capitalize on two things: Christ's vanity and his ravenous hunger after a forty day fast.

But Jesus had no vanity! The taunt "if you be the Son of God" meant nothing to Him. He knew who He was and what powers were at His disposal. And He was not about to "show off" His powers for the benefit of the devil. He did not take the bait! Instead, He replied by quoting scripture: "But he answered, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" ' " (Matt. 4:4; quoted from Deut. 8:3).

What was Christ's weapon in defeating the devil in this first test? The Word of Cod! Jesus had a thorough working knowledge of the Scriptures. On another occasion, when the religious leaders of the day had made some false assumptions, Jesus' reply was: "You do err, not knowing the scriptures. . ." (Matt. 22:29, KJV). Having failed once! The devil now made a second attempt: "Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, "He will give his angels charge of you," and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone"' (Matt. 4:56).

Now the devil tried a new tack. He quoted scripture (Psalm 91) to Christ! Yes, the devil knows how to use — and to twist — scripture to suit his own ends!

But Jesus knew that no one scripture is of any "private interpretation." All of the scriptures must be put together — "rightly dividing the word of truth" — before the right conclusions can be drawn. Therefore, He quoted another scripture, which qualified those quoted by the devil: "Jesus said to him 'Again it is written, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" ' " (Matt. 4:7; quoted from Deut. 6:16).

To deliberately place oneself in danger is to tempt God. Goads promise in Psalm 91 assumes an accidental mishap — not deliberately placing oneself in jeopardy. Once again Christ used the Bible as a weapon to defeat the devil!

But Satan was not finished. He decided upon one last attempt. This was to be the ultimate test: "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me'" (Matt. 4:89)

You will notice that Jesus did not challenge Satan's right to offer Him the world's kingdoms! He was, and is, the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). It's his world for now.