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JESUS PROMISED VICTORY
id you know Jesus promised victory? Most of you know God the Father sent Jesus so we would not perish. Jesus tells us in this familiar text, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The saved are those that don’t perish. So Jesus told us if we believe in Him we will be saved. So Jesus and God the Father guarantee or promise that if we believe in Jesus we will be saved. Since believing in Jesus is what guarantees or promises salvation, we need to be sure we know what it means to believe in Jesus.
For the Bible tells us, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:19-20 NLT). This text tells us there is a belief or faith that doesn’t save us; it’s useless, and this is the belief or faith that even the demons have and it terrifies them. The demons know Jesus is the Son of God, and it terrifies them and doesn’t make them victorious or Christlike. So let’s explore and learn what the Bible teaches about belief and victory.
The apostle John tells us the saved have victory over the world. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5, emphasis added). So those born of God, the saved, overcome the world or are victorious. Faith has the power to overcome the world. The faith or belief that overcomes the world is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. So rightly believing in the Son of God doesn’t terrify, but it gives victory over the world. Jesus guarantees or promises victory or salvation to those who believe in Him. This promise is only to those whose faith or belief overcomes the world. This text makes it plain that salvation is victory, and salvation without victory is a deception. This text also tells us that rightly believing Jesus is the Son of God is the key to victory.
Why would Jesus being the Son of God provide victory or salvation? What did Jesus tell us was the key to salvation or eternal life? Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is the reward of the saved or victorious. So knowing God is the key to victory. Then what does Jesus being the Son of God have to do with knowing God? Jesus answered this question while speaking to His disciples in the upper room the evening before His crucifixion. Also when reading this text, I hear disappointment in Jesus’ voice.
Jesus said to him [Philip], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No
one comes to the Father except through Me.
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also;
and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have
not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so
how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:6-9)
The character of God the Father is exactly like the character of Jesus. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” The only way to know God is to know Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We only come to know people by spending time with them. Jesus is the member of the Trinity who came and lived among us so we could come to know Him, and by knowing Jesus we come to know the Father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is by coming to know Jesus that we come to know God, which is life eternal, salvation, and victory.
The next three texts support the conclusion that knowing Jesus is knowing God and life eternal.
I and My Father are one. (John 10:30)
Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (John 17:11)
And that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:21)
These texts express the thought that Jesus and the Father are one, and that we are to be one with Jesus and the Father. To be one with someone is for our character and purpose to be the same as theirs. To be one with Jesus is being Christlike, or being a victorious Christian.
The word Christian means a follower of Christ or associated with Christ. Our next text comes from the Amplified Bible. The Amplified Bible uses a system of synonyms, punctuation, typographical features, and clarifying words or phrases to reveal shades of meaning for key words in the original manuscripts. This puts the various shades of meaning together and makes it easy to see the various thoughts, ideas, and understandings contained in the original manuscripts. The Amplified Bible translates John’s description of Christ’s followers in his first letter this way.
And this is how we know [daily, by experience] that we have come to
know Him [to understand Him and be more deeply acquainted with
Him]: if we habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His
commandments (teachings). Whoever says, “I have come to know
Him,” but does not habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey]
His commandments (teachings), is a liar, and the truth [of the divine
word] is not in him. But whoever habitually keeps His word and obeys
His precepts [and treasures His message in its entirety], in him the
love of God has truly been perfected [it is completed and has reached
maturity]. By this we know [for certain] that we are in Him: whoever
says he lives in Christ [that is, whoever says he has accepted Him as
God and Savior] ought [as a moral obligation] to walk and conduct
himself just as He walked and conducted Himself. (1 John 2:3-6 AMP)
From this description, a follower of Christ or a Christian isn’t just someone who knows about Christ; it is someone who is following Christ’s teachings or someone who is becoming like Christ. So the name we are called, Christian, claims we are like Jesus. As Polycarp, a companion of the apostle John and bishop of Smyrna, once said that a Christian loves what Jesus loves.1 What does Jesus love? He loves people. Jesus loves being considerate, kind, and merciful to us. Jesus spent His life doing for others. When we love what someone loves we naturally become like them, which in this case means being like God the Father and the Holy Spirit also. Here is the Bible record of Jesus expressing this thought: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This text says we are to be victorious, Jesus expects us to be victorious, and He believes it is within our grasp. We can read this verse either as a promise or a command. I prefer reading it as a promise.
Does Christ expect victory to be difficult? Let’s look at what Christ said about the path to victory and how difficult achieving it should be: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Christ says, “If you are discouraged, depressed, and burdened with the assorted problems and concerns of life, and you want relief, come to Me. I have the solution, and I can give you rest.” Are you tired? Do you have trouble sleeping? Is the stress of living in this world consuming you? This text says the solution is to come to Jesus, and He makes it easy. This text is also telling us Jesus didn’t place the heavy burden we carry around on us, for His burden is light. We will discuss the difference in burdens later; however, here is a clue: Believing Satan’s lies makes our burden heavy.
What have we discovered so far? Salvation without victory is a lie. Victory isn’t supposed to be difficult. Jesus expects us to be victorious, Jesus taught victory is easy, Jesus promises victory if we trust Him, and those who trust Jesus follow His counsel.
So why does a victorious life seem so elusive? Could it be our definition of victory is wrong? Usually we define Christian victory in one of two ways: either a perfect performance or perfect forgiveness. We think of a perfect performance as a life without sinful acts, and we think of perfect forgiveness as being perfectly forgiven for our sinful acts.
Both are wrong and not just wrong, but fundamentally wrong. As you will see, accepting either definition guarantees defeat because a perfect performance is impossible, and perfect forgiveness isn’t victory. Eventually we realize that victory as perfect forgiveness is a deception, for forgiveness is neither success nor victory. Neither success in business nor victory in sports requires a perfect performance.
Golf champions have bogeys during the tournament. A bogey is the result of mishitting the ball. The champion never intentionally mishits the ball, but the champion mishits the ball, usually more than once on the same hole, for each bogey. Perfect performances don’t include bogeys, but victorious golfers with bogeys on their cards still get the check or the green jacket. They didn’t have a perfect performance, but they were victorious. Their commitment and determination are beyond question. The total commitment required is only acceptable if they love the game.
In both sports and business, excellence requires a total or complete commitment, not a perfect performance. Now, let there be no misunderstanding: The committed do perform, but not perfectly. Without a special performance there’s no green jacket or trophy, and special performances do not occur without putting forth serious effort. When one loves to play the game, it is enjoyable to put forth the required effort.
Success in our spiritual life requires effort, just as success in all other endeavors requires effort. The Bible doesn’t teach that we find God when we casually look for Him. It teaches we will find Him when searching with all our heart. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). And “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29). These are both promises that when we turn from the world’s foolishness and seek God seriously, we will find Him. When we are ready to seriously seek God’s guidance, counsel, and instruction with a willingness to follow, He promises victory.
Also, let’s review the familiar text, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Here Jesus tells us God the Father sent Him to prevent our defeat/perishing, and He promises everlasting life for those who believe in Jesus. Everlasting life is the reward of the saved or victorious, for we have already discovered the saved are victorious. So this text tells us God the Father and Jesus promise victory to all who believe and follow the teachings and counsel given to us by Jesus. For if we don’t follow Jesus’ teachings and counsel, we don’t trust Him and we don’t believe in Him.
The messages from Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 make it clear that to receive the rewards of the saved, we must overcome or be victorious. The following Scriptures describe the rewards of the saved and who receive them:
From the letter to Ephesus:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7, emphases added).
From the letter to Smyrna:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11, emphases added).
From the letter to Pergamum:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev. 2:17, emphases added).
From the letter to Thyatira:
“And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26, emphases added).
From the letter to Sardis:
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5, emphases added).
From the letter to Philadelphia:
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, [not a marble pillar. A pillar like Joe, who was a pillar in the community. Joe was an exemplary citizen] and he shall go out no more. [Our allegiance to Jesus and his teachings will be complete and total, no wavering, or waffling.] I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Rev. 3:12, emphases and comments added).
From the letter to Laodicea:
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21, emphases added).
In each case, it isn’t the forgiven, but it’s those who overcome, the victorious, who receive the rewards of the saved. So to be saved we must overcome or be victorious.
Summarizing, the rewards of the saved or overcomers include:
- eating from the Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7)
- not experiencing the second death (Rev. 2:11)
- eating the hidden manna and receiving a new name (Rev. 2:17)
- given power (Rev. 2:26)
- their name being in the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5)
- being part of God’s temple (Rev. 3:12)
- sitting with Jesus on His throne (Rev. 3:21)
So we now know God the Father promises or guarantees victory to the saved—all who believe in Jesus. We know the saved are victorious. We know Jesus expects His followers to overcome or be victorious. We know God the Father sent Jesus to prevent our defeat, or God the Father sent Jesus for our victory. We also know Christian churches commonly teach that victory or perfection is impossible; therefore, achieving the victory Jesus promised requires a new approach.
How hard is gaining victory supposed to be? To find the answer we will examine the places where Jesus most clearly told individuals to live victoriously for the rest of their lives. In John 5:14 we find the record of Jesus telling the man who was healed near the pool of Bethesda to “sin no more,” or to be victorious over sin’s slavery for the rest of his life. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” In John 8:11 we find the record of Jesus telling the woman caught in adultery to “sin no more,” or to be victorious over sin’s slavery for the rest of her life. When He asked who condemned her, “she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” Jesus didn’t indicate He was asking them to do something difficult or impossible. Jesus didn’t indicate they would struggle, and He clearly told or directed them to be victorious.
What did Jesus say about the difficulty of following His instructions? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Here Jesus clearly tells us He doesn’t place heavy burdens on us. However, most of us believe what Jesus told these people to do is impossible or is a heavy burden we can’t carry. However, these texts show that Jesus not only expects us to be victorious, but He expects victory to be easy. Helping people understand the approach that makes victory or escaping sin’s slavery easy is the purpose of this book.
The world seeks love, joy, and peace, and the Scriptures tell us these are the fruit of the Spirit.2 The world seeks love, joy, and peace by following Satan’s lies or using his methods. We know Satan’s goal is to defeat us. The natural result of using Satan’s methods is pain, misery, sorrow, and defeat, for Satan’s methods come with guilt and fear. The basis of Satan’s methods is the principle of selfishness—me first at others’ expense. Me first at others’ expense naturally leaves a trail of destruction. The trail of destruction left by living life based on the principle of selfishness produces guilt and fear. Guilt and fear produce anxiety. The anxious, ridden by guilt and fear, have no peace and no joy. When we have no peace and no joy, love is hard to find. When we look for love, joy, and peace in all the wrong places, we can’t find it. However, when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we have love, joy, and peace, for it is the fruit of the Spirit. As we will see, the natural result of ignoring God’s counsel, laws, and instruction is pain, misery, sorrow, and defeat.
The intent of this book is to help us cooperate with the Holy Spirit and God’s natural laws. Victory is supposed to be easy, yet many of us find it elusive. When we cooperate with natural laws instead of fighting them, our spiritual journey becomes easy and pleasant instead of feeling like a heavy burden or a prolonged battle. Yes, long journeys require endurance and effort, but like a walk on the beach, a hike in the mountains, or a long bicycle ride, we enjoy the journey and don’t ever consider turning around. When we fight natural laws, life is difficult and we lose, because natural laws don’t get tired and wear down. They are simply statements about how life works. Fighting natural laws is like putting water in your lawn mower’s gas tank and working hard, tugging on the rope to start it. No matter how hard you or your team try to start the engine, it will not start, because it doesn’t work that way. It will wear you down, and you will come to believe your lawn mower can’t be started. You can even pray about it, but until you accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit, remove the water from the gas tank, and put gas in it, all your efforts will be useless. However, God the Father and His Son guarantee success or victory when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and the laws of nature.
Victory starts with a commitment to seek God. God promises all who seriously seek Him will find Him. Jesus told us the key to eternal life, or victory, is knowing God. Knowing all this, will you make seeking to know God a priority in your life?
The next chapter is about a natural law Satan uses to keep us trapped and defeated in his strongholds, making victory seem elusive.