Living a Victorious Life
D. P. Silva
The human race was created to reflect God’s character and to glorify the Creator. Our life should be in full harmony with God’s will. Adam and Eve possessed all the conditions to fulfill the Lord’s purpose in their existence. And while they maintained their submission and obedience to the divine word, they lived a very happy life in Eden.
In Genesis chapter 3, we find the beginning of the whole drama of humanity. Eve separated from her husband and entered into a dangerous dialogue with the enemy of souls. Satan used all his craftiness to flatter Eve, promising her the possibility of being “like God”—the same idea that the archenemy had developed in heaven. This is a well-known history.
Eve followed the suggestion of the devil and was deceived into bypassing God’s specific instructions. She ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to Adam. “Adam was not deceived by the serpent, as was Eve, and it was inexcusable in Adam to rashly transgress God’s positive command. Adam was presumptuous because his wife had sinned. He could not see what would become of Eve. He was sad, troubled, and tempted. He listened to Eve’s recital of the words of the serpent, and his constancy and integrity began to waver. Doubts arose in his mind in regard to whether God did mean just as He said. He rashly ate the tempting fruit.”1Both were then expelled from the Garden of Eden to live a very different life.
When the couple accepted the words of Satan, they became friends of the devil and enemies of their Creator. Now their nature had become corrupted, and they no longer had power to do God’s will. They asked the Lord to allow them to remain in their paradise of bliss and promised that they would be obedient to His word, but the Lord informed them that—as sinful beings separated from Him—they could no longer be privileged to be in Eden, where they would have access to the tree of life.
However, in His great mercy, God gave them hope to be restored through His grace. Inthe Lord said to Satan, who had used the serpent as a medium to deceive the couple: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.”
In this divine declaration, God made it clear that humanity had become subject to Satan, and the human race needed the Lord’s intervention to change this sad reality. God would “put enmity” between Satan and those who would submit themselves to the Lord. Moreover, He also promised to send a Redeemer, “the seed of the woman”—Jesus Christ, who would come free from sin, free from sinful human tendencies to overcome Satan, restore the lost dominion, and bring back repentant sinners to live again in harmony with God.
In due time, Christ took human nature, lived a perfect life in full harmony with God, and died on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty that was due to every human being. He then resurrected and ascended to heaven and is now interceding in our behalf. Through His perfect and righteous character which is imputed to repentant sinners, Christ gave to humanity all the grace needed in order to live a victorious life in harmony with God. The human race was placed on a level where, in communion with the Lord, it is now possible to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In this process, we have at our reach the grace of Christ, which is revealed in His Word. In addition we have the power of the Holy Spirit, which is imparted to us with the timely help of the heavenly angels and the cooperation of the believers within God’s church.
The main condition necessary in order for us to become overcomers is found by a connection with the Lord through faith in the merits of Christ.
“Sinful man can find hope and righteousness only in God, and no human being is righteous any longer than he has faith in God and maintains a vital connection with Him.”2
Christ invites all sinners to be His faithful followers. Inwe find His invitation and the conditions upon which we can be overcomers: Jesus says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Summarizing, we have an invitation, a promise, and the conditions needed in order to be overcomers:
“Come unto Me, all.”
“I will give you rest.”
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.”
“You will find rest for your souls.”
All humanity is invited to accept Christ. No one is excluded from His invitation, “For God so lovedthe world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (emphasis added).
InChrist repeats the invitation and gives the conditions:
“If any manwillcome afterme, let himdeny himself, andtake up his cross, andfollow me” (emphasis added).
In this short Bible verse, we find four basic steps in the way of salvation:
“If any man will.” We need to decide to follow Christ by our own choice. No one is forced to do that. Christ only accepts a willing heart. However, as slaves of sin, humans have no power or willingness to follow Christ. Then, by His wonderful grace, God gives willingness and power for us to go to Him and follow Him, if we are willing to be made willing. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” ().
“Let him deny himself.” We cannot follow Christ and at the same time follow the dictates of a selfish heart. Again, by God’s grace, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, we receive power to deny our own perverse will and accept His will.
“Take up his cross.” Christ is not talking about “His” cross. Only He could take up His cross. We need to accept what He has done for us through His cross, and take our cross, to crucify our own sinful desires and inclinations. The apostle Paul explained: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (; ). “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” ( ; ).
“Follow Me.” Through studying God’s word, we know Christ—and by His saving grace, we can follow His example of continuous communion with God, total submission, and obedience to His will, as well as victory over Satan and sin.
Overcoming the world
In His intercessory prayer, Christ asked from His Father in behalf of His followers: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” ().
In God’s wisdom and purpose, we need to live in this world until the second coming of Christ. But we must not be contaminated by the sins, customs, and practices of the world. Through Paul, God calls us to be separated from those who are under the control of the prince of this world.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” ().
We see this victory over the world in the life of John the Baptist, for example. His life “was so unselfish, marked with humility and self-denial. His teachings, exhortations, and reproofs, were fervent, sincere, and courageous. In his mission, he turned not to the right or to the left to court the favors or applause of any. He did not aspire to worldly honor or worldly dignity, but was humble in heart and life, and did not assume honors that did not belong to him.”3
John, the apostle of love, declares: “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 Christ is the Son of God?” ().
Overcoming the flesh
In Galatians chapter 5, there are two opposing conditions, explaining that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (verse 17).
Then Paul describes the work of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19–21).
The New International Version expresses the warning against these practices in more contemporary terms as “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
But then Paul goes on to describe the blessed opposite: The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (verses 22, 23).
After describing the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle also gives the key of victory in Christian life: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (verses 24, 25).
“Those who enter into a contest of physical strength for a corruptible prize realize the necessity of rigid abstinence from every indulgence that would weaken the physical powers. . . .
“How much more should those who enter for the gospel race, restrain themselves from the unlawful indulgence of appetite and ‘abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul’ (4). They must be temperate at all times. The same restraint that gives them the power to obtain the victory at one time will, if practiced constantly, give them a great advantage in the race for the crown of life.”
Our victory, then, depends on surrendering our life to Christ and being guided by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” ().
Satan is the great adversary of Christ. He started the war against our Saviour in heaven and continues it on earth.
“There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” ().
“Our chief adversary is the devil. He is represented as going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. When he finds men and women who have become self-exalted, as he himself became in heaven, and full of jealousy, and ambitious for power and prominence, he knows just how to lead them by his temptations so that they will prostitute their powers to his use, and become his agents in ruining their fellow men. He is ready to work through his human agents in such a way as to conceal himself from view, in order that he may set in operation a train of circumstances that will lead men away from God, lead them away from the association and companionship of those who are connected with Christ, and influence them to do the work of annoying, distressing, and discouraging those who love Jesus. The spell of temptation holds these souls like a bewitching charm. ‘Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (5). Yielding to the voice of the tempter, the tempted one surrenders virtue and principle, and in place of turning at once to God with contrition and repentance, he severs the last link whereby God’s power can work for him, and hell triumphs because he has become the prey of the enemy. When the adversary thus bewitches the soul and entraps the unwary feet, he then represents God as inexorable and unforgiving, declaring that it will be of no use to make a confession of sin now, for God will not pardon. Let not the tempted soul listen to the voice of the accuser and destroyer, and take the way of the hopeless apostate, and plunge into midnight darkness. Remember the promise of God. He says, ‘Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously’ ( ). The Lord answers, ‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him’ (verse 4). Break with the enemy, and seek the presence of Jesus; with tears of confession and with penitential grief urge once more your suit at the throne of grace. The Lord will hear, the Lord will answer; return ere it be too late.”
John the Revelator confirms how this victory is possible. He describes: “I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (emphasis added).
We see above how John describes the battle and the victory of God’s people: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
“These [political and religious powers] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is the Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” ().
Do you see? Victory has already been won by Christ in our behalf, and those who are with Him also become overcomers through their union with their Redeemer. They are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Can we be overcomers? Of course! As long as we keep our faith in Christ and maintain a vital connection with Him.
The song of victory written by Paul in Romans 8 is very appropriate to finish this message:
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verses 31–39).