This edition of “Windows” illustrates the power and function of the overcoming nature of the Christian Life found in the Greek words nike, nikos, and nikao.
The Presupposition of Scripture —Built in Victory
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
The Inheritance of Victorious Power at Salvation
When you received Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior, you inherited a lot more than you may have realized at the time. The Bible teaches that (1) He has saved you from the penalty of sin, which is eternity in the Lake of Fire, that (2) He currently is saving you from the power of sin which until now has kept you from being able break away from sinful living or even wanting to, and that (3) He will save us from the very presence of sin by giving us an eternal home in Heaven.
The first and the last of these gifts are automatic and were settled once and for all the moment you made your great transaction with God by trusting Jesus to save you. The gift of victory over the power of sin was also bequeathed to you at that same moment, but you have to access it now by faith. You might say that it is in your spiritual “bank account,” but that you have to continue deciding to “write the checks” from your account in order to have its benefit.
The Plan for the Overcoming Life
Jesus Is the Plan
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
The Characteristics of Cold Iron and the Counteraction of Fire
Victory is described in Scripture as a gift and not something that we get, by working toward it. In Galatians 3:1–3 Paul chides the Christians in Galatia for receiving grace for salvation as a gift and then struggling to gain the ability to live for Christ in the flesh. Christ is the ONLY ONE who has ever lived the victorious Christian life. He wants to give you the power of His life, but we must choose to depend on Him. Paul taught “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” It is Christ’s life lived out in the believer who is choosing to depend on Him. Paul makes it clear that he, Paul, is the one who is living, yet it is Christ who is living in him. A good illustration of this may be a piece of iron. It is cold, dull black, and unbending. If that same piece of iron is put into the blacksmith’s fire, it becomes hot, glowing red, and malleable. We could say that the fire is in the iron and has changed its characteristics, though its tendencies would return it to its former state as soon as it is removed from the influence of the fire. Christ is the fire and we are the cold, dull, unbending iron. What is seen in the iron is not the iron-life, but the fire-life. What is seen in the Spirit-filled Christian is not the selflife, but the Christ-life.
The Tendency of a Dark Room and the Counteraction of a Bright Light
The word “manifest” is an interesting word that appears often in the Bible. It does not mean merely being Christ-like. It means showing Christ’s life through yours. A good illustration of this is a room that has an inherent tendency to be dark. Imagine a room without any windows or doors. It has no ability in its own nature to be light. The characteristic of the room is darkness. Now place a bright light in the center of the room. Immediately the characteristics of the room are changed from darkness to light. The room itself did not change. If the light were to be turned out (stopped being depended upon), the characteristics of the room would once again plunge into darkness. Our life has the awful characteristics of darkness with no ability to have light, but Jesus is light. When we place Him at the center of our life through yielding to Him and depending upon Him, He changes the characteristics of our life from those of darkness to those of light. It is not that we have simply become Christlike, but that we have allowed the Christ-life to shine through us. This is having the life of Jesus being made manifest in our body.
Faith Is the Access
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4,5).
The Story of a Man Accessing God’s Sufficient Grace
In the late 1800s a preacher, Webb Peploe, struggled with the answer to this question. He had been on a holiday on the seashore. He tells the story, “My little daughter was taken sick and died. I had to carry the little coffin in my arms all the way home where I buried my little one with my own hands.” He was to preach the next morning and settled on the text, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
“I sat down to prepare my notes,” he continues, “but soon found myself ‘murmuring in my tent’ against God for all He called upon me to bear. I flung down my pen, threw myself on my knees and said to God, ‘It is not sufficient, it is not sufficient! Lord, let thy grace be sufficient. O Lord, do!’”
He had recently had a beautifully illustrated text hung on the wall above his table. “As I opened my eyes I was saying, ‘O God let thy grace be sufficient for me,’ and there on the wall I saw, ‘MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE.’ The word ‘is’ was in bright green; ‘my’ was in black, and ‘thee’ in black. ‘MY grace IS sufficient for THEE.’ I heard a voice that seemed to say to me, ‘You fool, how dare you ask God to make what is! Get up and take, and you will find it true. When God says “is” it is for you to believe Him and you will find it true at every moment.’ That ‘IS’ turned my life; from that moment I could say, ‘O God, whatever thou didst say in Thy Word I believe, and, please God, I will step out on it.’”
The Story of Mr. Fact, Mr. Feeling, and Mr. Faith
Imagine three men walking in a line. Mr. Fact knows which way to go, but Mr. Feeling doesn’t feel right about that direction and wants to go another way. Mr. Faith is the one who must decide which direction to take. If he follows Mr. Feeling, they will leave Mr. Fact behind, because he never changes. If Mr. Faith follows Mr. Fact, Mr. Feeling will come along behind. He never goes away. In fact, he will be complaining all along the way, but if Mr. Faith will hold firm, and keep following Mr. Fact, eventually Mr. Feeling will change his mind, and they will all go along together happily— until Mr. Fact and Mr. Feeling disagree again.
The Analogy of the “Infirmity” of Our Flesh
Paul uses an analogy that we all understand because we all have to live with the weakness of our own flesh. Have you ever been in a conversation in which you only meant to tell a small tidbit of gossip, and you ended up saying a whole lot more than you intended to say? What about the teen boy who decided to take a peek at something that he knew he shouldn’t look at and ended up watching the whole thing, or looking at the whole magazine, etc.? Paul is telling us that just like sin carries us along in an ebb tide of seemingly irresistible current once we choose to yield to its influence, even so grace carries the Christian along who chooses to yield to the Holy Spirit’s influence in dependent obedience. Grace is the energy that enables the “instrument” to function in power.
Defeat Is Possible
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).
The Condition of Myopia and the Counteraction of Corrective Lenses
All the promises of victory over sin and power for ministry do not remove from the Christian the tendency to do wrong. Romans 7:15–19 clearly teaches that the law of sin still resides in the believer and has a tendency to keep us from doing what is right even when we desire to do it. What Jesus has promised us is not a removal of the principle of sin, but a counteraction of it. For example, a person with myopia will have trouble seeing things at a distance for as long as he lives, but corrective lenses will counteract the problem. The problem is not removed, but as long as the lenses are in place he can see as well as if he didn’t have the problem. He has to choose to depend on the glasses before they will help him, and as soon as he takes his glasses off he will revert to his former way of seeing. In a similar manner Romans 13:14 teaches us to “put . . . on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” As long as we are depending on Him, He gives us the ability to not fulfill the desires of our old man, though we may still feel them.
The Pull of Gravity and the Counteraction of a Hot Air Balloon
The law of indwelling sin (Romans 7:23–25) is like the law of gravity. Gravity is the constant pull toward the center of the earth. It is a law that can never be broken, though it can be overcome through a stronger force. The law of indwelling sin is the constant pull within each man toward sin. The principle dwells in every man and cannot be broken. No wonder Paul cries out in such anguish! Verse 25 does, however, let us know that there is hope. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Just like gravity can be overcome with the law of hot air rising in a hot air balloon, the law of indwelling sin can be overcome with the law of righteousness found in Jesus Christ.
Jeff Musgrave served for many years in the pastoral ministry and is now the director of The Exchange, a ministry training Christians in soul-winning.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)