To him that takes the path of least resistance and floats downstream like a dead fish, giving in to every whim and desire, will I grant to sit with me on my throne.
Now that is not a quote from the Bible or a quote from anything else, but it’s what some professing Christians seem to think is the way into the Kingdom of God.
One thing for sure, God did not call you and me to be losers! God did not intend that we should miss out on the joys of eternity in His Family Kingdom just because we were too lazy to put forth the effort to overcome.
Our Creator holds out a magnificent reward for those who are willing to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
In Revelation 3:21-22 Jesus Christ inspired the Apostle John to write “To him that overcomes 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 has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
That statement is as relevant today as it was in the first century. God still expects Christians to overcome; if we wish to be in His Kingdom
Remember that Jesus Christ set the example for us, His followers, are expected to follow that pattern of overcoming.
But what, or whom, did Christ overcome? And just what does “overcome” mean in this context? The Greek word translated “overcome” in the verses you just read is nikaoo, it means “to become the victor – to prevail – to conquer.”
Jesus Christ used this word to make a point: Luke 11:21-22 – “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are at 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.”
To overcome, then, is to struggle and to emerge victorious, to prevail, and to conquer. It involves effort – God expects us to exert ourselves in this struggle to emerge victorious at the end of life’s course. God’s Kingdom is a prize for which we must fight for.
Paul wrote of his own struggle in Phil. 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
When we read the New Testament; we see that Paul’s life was a chronicle of struggle. Paul went from trial to trial and each time emerged victorious through Jesus Christ.
Paul, at the end of his life wrote to his friend, Timothy: II Tim. 4:6-8 “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 love his appearing.”
Jesus Christ overcame, Paul fought, struggled and overcame. And we 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 prematurely will not be in the Kingdom of God.
What is it that we must gain the victory over? Against whom do we struggle, and exactly how do we fight, with what weaponry?
Now, remember, we are to overcome as Christ overcame. And what was it that He prevailed over?
“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). In other words, the world is our enemy, but in what ways are Christians to enter into a struggle with the world?
The world means the system or society in general with its outlooks, values, or lack of them.
Christ’s prayer for the Church is revealing on this matter of the Christian’s relationship to the world: “I do not pray that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should 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).
We (that is Christians) are in this world, but we are not of it. The evil one is Satan the Devil, the god of this world “who has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” This world, and its system is not God’s world, and it is not of Christ’s making, it is Satan’s world. Satan is the one who is behind the general misery of much of the human race.
Satan is the philosophical father figure of ungodly religions and ideologies. He is the one who has been deceiving man ever since that day in the Garden of Eden. Satan is a liar and the father of liars. Satan, and the system that he has produced are the enemy.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armory 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 host of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:10-12).
We must understand this: the spiritual forces that hold sway in this present evil world are the avowed enemies of you and me.
There is a spiritual kingdom influencing the affairs of this world. You can read about that in Daniel 10:1-14 and Job 1:6-7. If you will notice, society in general, follows the course set by the god of this world.
Just think, before our conversion, what were we like, what course did we follow? Did we not go along with this world and its functions? Did we not follow the “prince of the power of the air; the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”?
Did we not live in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind; were we not children of wrath just like the rest of mankind? In other words, we took the path of least resistance and did what came naturally.
The Apostle Paul says so in Eph. 2:2-3. Satan and his minions exert a spiritual influence upon the people of this earth. But 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 lifestyle changes, we walk as Christians in newness of life. Our values and standards change.
God tells us that we are obliged to “walk worthy of our high calling.” In I Peter 4:3-4 we are told: “Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revelings, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in the same wild recklessness.”
Simply put – upon conversion, stop following the ways of this world and follow the ways of God that leads to eternal life. We have come out from under the spiritual influence of Satan and become led by the Holy Spirit of God. No longer children of wrath, but children of light.
Our principal fellowship is with the Church of God, which is the Body of Christ. “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have the righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ (who is in us) with Satan? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever” (II Cor. 6:14-15).
Now of course, we are still in the world in the sense that we are a part of humanity. We still earn our living among the unbelievers. But we (Christians) are called to be a light to the world, not to be apart from it. We are not to become hermits from society.
But Jesus Christ did expect us to keep from this world’s evil ways and avoid the influence of Satan the Devil. We tend to forget that Christ existed within Satan’s world, and yet was apart from its evil.
Jesus Christ lived for 33 ½ years under the worse government that has ever existed. The Roman Empire. And He never once gave in to the lust of the flesh and of the mind. He was in the world, yet He was above and apart from its ways.
Jesus Christ personally defeated the god of this world in the greatest battle of will that ever took place. This account is found in Luke 4 and Matthew 4, it is written for us to understand just how Christ defeated Satan the Devil.
Satan hoped to capitalize on two things: Christ’s vanity and his hunger after fasting for 40 days. But Christ had no vanity: “If you be the Son of God” – meant nothing to Him. Christ knew who he was and what powers were at his disposal. And Christ was not about to show off His powers for the benefit of Satan.
Christ did not take the bait. He replied by quoting scripture: “It is written man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
So in His first test, what was Christ’s weapon in defeating Satan? The Word of God. Christ has a thorough working knowledge of the Scriptures.
Having failed once, Satan 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, least you strike your foot against a stone” (Matt. 4:5-6).
Satan’s new attack was to quote scriptures to Christ. Satan knowns how to use, and to twist the scriptures to suit his own ends.
But Christ knew that no one scripture is of any private interpretation. All of the scriptures must be put together, rightly dividing the word of truth. Jesus said to him: “It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:7).
But Satan was not finished, he decided to try one last attempt. This time Satan took Christ to a very high mountain and told him: “And showed Him all the kingdoms of this 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. 4:9).
Once again Christ used the two-edged sword of God’s Word “Be gone Satan for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10).
So what are some important lessons from this battle between Satan and Jesus Christ?
We learn something of the nature and attitude of Satan that he tries to capitalize on our physical appetites, he attempts to take advantage of human weakness. He wants us to show off. He can quote scripture and he wants so badly to be worshipped. That is why Satan has his ministers. That is why the worship of idols, in reality, is the worship of demons.
We learn that the greatest weapon against Satan and his worldly system is the Word of God. The Bible 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.
No wonder, down through the ages, Satan and his followers have attempted to stamp it out. So, for us, we must read the book to gain the victory over Satan. And, then do what it says!
The Apostle Paul knew that Christian congregations had to be armed with a knowledge of the Word of God. Otherwise we would be defenseless and would err not knowing the scriptures (Heb. 4:12).
John also confirmed the fact that the Word of God is the weapon in defeating Satan. “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).
Christians are to possess a healthy suspicion, we are to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
We are not to be gullible, not allow ourselves to be tossed to and from and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
Jesus Christ who once defeated Satan and qualified to become King of kings and Lord of lords, will again and again defeat him in us. So long as Christ lives in us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can defeat Satan.
If we want to be in God’s Kingdom we must begin to make a meaningful attempt to overcome some of our personal weakness. God wants people who are serious about being in His Kingdom.
To what are you enslaved? What habits? What sins? Are we really in control of our life through the power of the Holy Spirit? Or are we succumbing to ungodly unchristian patterns that will ultimately destroy us?
The Apostle John leaves us with a promise and a warning: “He who 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, the lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and Sulphur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:7-8).
So which will describe your destiny, the promise, or the warning?