Will You Gain the Victory?
Good News Magazine
September 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 9
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Will You Gain the Victory?
Brian Knowles  

"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 Greek-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).
   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 protιgι: "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 Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing" (II 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, mores (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 II 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). (Read 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 at the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14) instead of the spirit of this world. Our lifestyle 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..." (I 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?" (II 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 33% 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 God! 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. 4:5-6).
   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 — "righty 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. God's 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. 4:8-9).
   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 " (II Cor. 4:4). It's his world for now.
The Ultimate Weapon. Once again Jesus wielded the two-edged sword of God's Word: "Then Jesus said to him, 'Begone, Satan! for it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve"'" (Matt. 4:10).
   In this brief account of an incredible battle in which Jesus disqualified Satan to rule over the kingdoms of this world, we learn several important lessons. First of all, we learn something of the nature and attitude of the devil. Satan capitalizes on our physical appetites (in this case hunger). He attempts to take advantage of human weaknesses such as vanity and ego. He tries to make us "show off." He also quotes scripture! And he desperately wants to be worshiped! That is why Satan has his ministers (II Cor. 11:13-15). That is why the worship of idols is, in reality, the worship of demons (I Cor. 10:20-22). These are Satan's weapons. He stalks the earth like a roaring lion "seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8-9, KJV). He preys upon human weaknesses.
   We also learn that the greatest weapon we have against Satan and his worldly system is the Word of God! The Bible (notice that Christ quoted from the Torah — the five books of Moses), in its entirety, reflects the mind and will of God. It is inspired by the Spirit of God. It is called the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). Is it any wonder that men have tried throughout the ages, led by the devil, to suppress the reading of the Bible — in fact, to even stamp it out.
   One of the most effective ways you can gain the victory over Satan the devil is to be thoroughly familiar with the Word of God. In other words, Read the Book! (If you don't already have it, be sure to request our free booklet by that title.) True Christians should devote a substantial amount of time to the study of the Scriptures. Paul instructed Timothy to "attend to the public reading of scripture" (I Tim. 4:13).
   He knew that the Christian congregations had to be armed with a knowledge of the Word of God. Otherwise they would be defenseless and would "err, not knowing the scriptures." The way to "discern the spirit" is to be armed with the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews said: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
The Apostle of Overcoming. The apostle John had much to say about overcoming. He confirmed the fact that the Word of God is the ultimate weapon in defeating evil — and the evil one: "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (I John 2:14).
   Though young in the faith, these men had successfully been able to defeat the attacks of Satan and the influence of his world by their strength in the Word of God! Like the powerful preacher Apollos, they were "mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24, KJV).
   Christians are to possess a "healthy suspicion." We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16, KJV). We are not to be gullible. We should not allow ourselves to be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). Nor should we "heap to [ourselves] teachers, having itching ears" (II Tim. 4:3, KJV). Any teacher who professes to represent God should be put to the test. God's people should develop what might be termed a "healthy suspicion" of those who claim esoteric insight and special knowledge. The apostle John warned: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).
   In those early days of the apostolic churches, there were prophets — true and false alike — who claimed to bear messages directly from God. The true prophets fellowshipped with the churches and could be trusted. Such prophets existed at Jerusalem and Antioch, for example (Acts 13:1; 15:32). The daughters of Phillip were also prophetesses (Acts 21:8-9). God also sent reliable messages of impending disasters through the two prophets Simeon and Agabus (Luke 2:34, 35; Acts 11:28).
   But there were others who were false to the truth. They bore no message from God but sought only to deceive and draw away followers after themselves. They even denied that Jesus was the Messiah and that God had actually come in the flesh: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God" (I John 4:2-3).
   No one can truly represent God and claim that Jesus was not the Son of God, the Messiah, incarnate! Those who deny that God became flesh and dwelt with men represent "the spirit of antichrist" (I John 4:3).
   There is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). It is through faith in Christ that men can be justified (Rom. 3:26; 5:1). Those who preach, and yet deny Christ, cut themselves off from God and qualify for the title "false prophet." Those who are of God acknowledge Christ as their living Lord and Master (I Cor. 12:3).
   Yet, false prophets and dishonest teachers will continue to plague the religious world as long as there is a devil to inspire them. And true Christians must be constantly on guard against those who would undermine their faith.
Jesus Christ — The Key to Overcoming. "Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them [the false prophets]; for he who is in you [Christ] is greater than he who is in the world [Satan]" (I John 4:4).
   Christ, who once defeated Satan and qualified to become King of kings and Lord of lords, will again and again defeat him in you! So long as Christ is in you, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (I John 3:24; Gal. 2:20), you can defeat Satan! You can gain the victory over him. You can prevail and conquer him. You, can overcome him and his world.
   Through faith in Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, you can readily discern between "the spirit of truth" and "the spirit of error" (I John 4:6).
   "... This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:4-5.) It is only those who have "faith in Jesus" who will be justified (Rom. 3:26). It is through Christ, and through His Word, that Christians can conquer or "overcome." Paul wrote: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
   As Christians we must not allow ourselves to be swamped by the evil influence of Satan's world. We must walk worthy of our high calling. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21).
False Freedom. Those who would "liberate" true Christians from the "bondage" of obedience to Christ will promise "freedom." Don't be deceived! "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn. back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire" (II Peter 2:19-22).
   Those are powerful words of warning! Satan can use the enticing thought of "freedom" to induce you to forsake Christ and the truth of God and adopt a life of effortless "do-nothing" religion which is both hollow and meaningless. The "way of righteousness" involves effort! It is the opposite of the path of least resistance. It is the "straight-and-narrow" road that leads to life — not the broad, easy way. God does not want dead fish in His Kingdom — He wants "live wires"! God seeks those who place enough value on the Kingdom to be willing to, fight for it — arid if necessary to die for it. The "pearl of great price" is not easily won, and God does not cast his pearls before "swine" (i.e., those who couldn't care less),
A Promise and a Warning. If you really want to be in the Kingdom, you had better start making an effort. Begin by making a meaningful attempt to overcome some of your personal sins and weaknesses. God is not interested in "dabblers." He seeks those who are willing to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). He wants people who are serious about being in the Kingdom! To what are you enslaved? What habits? What sins? Are you really in control of your life through the power of the Holy Spirit? Or are you succumbing to ungodly, unchristian patterns that will ultimately destroy you?
   John, "the apostle of overcoming," has left us with a promise and a warning. His words, God's words, come ringing down to us across the centuries: "He who conquers [overcomes] shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their, lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:7-8).
   Which will describe your destiny — the promise, or the warning?

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Good News MagazineSeptember 1976Vol XXV, No. 9