What do overcomers need to overcome in order to be an overcomer? Not sin according to many of today’s evangelicals…
First, let me raise a question. Is it even possible for a mortal to “overcome”? And a second question: If it isn’t possible, why does God speak about it? Is He presenting us with a tantalizing target that he knows we will never hit?
Think back to the Old Testament for a little. Peter told the crowds in Acts 15 that the church should not put a yoke on the neck of the gentiles that neither the Christian Jews or their forefathers had been able to bear. In other words, the Jews had never really accomplished what the Law required. It was always a step beyond human capability. But Peter went on to say that both the Christians and their forefathers would be saved through the grace of Christ.
So, God’s people never were overcomers in the truest sense of the word. But it’s different now. Or isn’t it? When you read the Sermon on the Mount, it appears that the target has moved. And it seems to be as far out of reach as it ever was.
But would God give us a target that was out of reach? Let’s consider a few more thoughts. In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” He seems to be taking the concept of overcoming literally. In fact, this passage is in the context of running a race and running it with the assumption that he could win.
So, is the target out of reach? Paul didn’t seem to think so, though he realized that he could miss it.
John also talked about overcoming. In 1 John 5:4 he wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
Does this mean that the idea of overcoming is just an abstract concept? Is he saying that if you are a Christian you will overcome— but you actually won’t? That your faith will bridge that gap between what you should be, according to the target, and what you really are, in the human flesh?
To add to the dilemma, let’s go back to Revelation. John used the word “overcomes” eight times in Revelation. Each case appears to be a caveat. Let me list them…
- Those who overcome will eat of the tree of life (2:7)
- Those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death (2:17)
- Those who overcome and keep God’s works will have power over the nations (2:26)
- Those who overcome will wear white garments. Jesus will not blot their names out of the book of life. He will confess their names before the Father and the angels. (3:5)
- Those who overcome will be a pillar in God’s temple, will receive the name of God and the New Jerusalem, and the new name of Jesus. (3:12
- Those who overcome will get to sit with Jesus on his throne (3:21)
- Those who overcome will inherit all things and be the sons of God.
- Those who don’t… ???
God hates sin because He is holy. He hates sin even if one of His children commits sin. Isaiah 59:2 states this:
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”
People have written entire books on this question. I haven’t found anyone that gives an answer that seems satisfactory to me. I’m not planning to write still another book about this, so let me summarize how I deal with this in my own life.
First, I know that God loves me so deeply that I can’t even comprehend it. He assures me in His word and by His Spirit that He absolutely wants me to be an overcomer and join Him in eternity. He proved this to me by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for me.
Second, I know that I can trust God. He knows my heart and I believe that He will do His part in this whole scenario. He tells me to overcome, so I believe that He will help me in the battle with sin and evil. He has also promised me that His strength will be made perfect through weakness and that His grace is sufficient to deal with my weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
Job put it this way: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Can I do any less?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Php 2:12, 13 (NKJV)
To summarize once again, to me this seems to be saying this. I do my part by obeying Christ and He does his part by showing me what that means. He also gives me the desire and the power to do so. I can safely trust Him to make these reach together even though I can’t quite understand how they can.
I can safely leave this in His hands.