(Pastor Ian C. Kurylyk)
“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”
(I John 5:4b)
The Christian Life Is a Life of Conflict And Challenge
a. We need to begin by recognizing that the believer in Jesus Christ is eternally saved. Salvation itself is not something that can be lost by the spiritual battle a born-again Christian faces. “Who shall lay any thing 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?” (Romans 8:33-35).
b. Nevertheless, Christians still face many dangers, snares, and sorrows from the problem of sin. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). We need to carefully study the Bible to understand the nature of the conflict we are in and what is at stake.
Victory Is Both a Fact And a Challenge
a. There is a wonderful sense in which the moment we are saved through faith in Christ we have won the victory over sin. Sin has lost its ability to ruin us in an eternal condemnation. We are on the winning side. Coming to Christ assures an ultimate victory over sin and death and hell. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians chapter 15 where the subject is the promised day of resurrection. “...Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:54-57).
b. There is also a clear sense in which the saved person is in a spiritual battle in daily life and eternal rewards are at issue. “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (II John 8).
Satan Is The Enemy of The Christian
a. He was the first tempter in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and he works to entice men to his way today. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3).
b. Satan is a real and very powerful spirit being that is actively pursuing the ruin of the Christian. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
c. The devil works to oppose the Word of God in the heart and mind. His method works by substituting well-disguised lies for God's truth. “... He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). His suggestions and lies are compared to deadly darts. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil... Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 16).
d. The Christian must act according to faith in God's Word and never be intimidated into following Satan's false way. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 13). There is no protection for the back of the retreating believer. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
e. Satan's true character is absolute evil. His purpose is murder and ruin. But he can disguise himself by involvement even in religion as an angel of light. Counterfeit Christianity is perhaps his most effectual tool in deceiving this world. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13-14).
f. Satan has a great host of evil beings that are his helpers in his campaign to seduce and enslave mankind. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
g. Satanic influence is especially recognizable when he is drawing men into the same spiritual evil he has embraced himself, pride and self-glory. “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (I Timothy 3:6).
The Flesh Is Another Enemy of the Christian Identified in The Word of God
a. Though truly saved, yet while living in this present body there is still a remnant of our past in sin. Each Christian is a new creature but continues with a natural or unrenewed aspect called “flesh”. This not only includes physical flesh (the same body you had before you were saved), but a spiritual aspect of the old you, the sinful self-life. There is nothing inherently evil in our bodies themselves, of course, but the natural part of us that remains is the seat of a nature of sin. This principle of sin threatens to manifest itself in the believer by drawing the saved person into old sinful ways.
b. It is important to recognize there is a tempting power, a seducer, in our own hearts. We have within us an old nature that calls for satisfaction of its illicit desires. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
c. The believer must cooperate with God's purpose with him by staying away from situations which would inflame the old lusts of the natural heart. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:22).
d. Where lusts seek to arise despite a careful Christian walk we must depend upon the power of Jesus Christ and His cross to keep ourselves pure. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Our bodies need not be ruled by sin since we have come to Jesus Christ Who made provision not only for our forgiveness on the cross, but also our victory over sin. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:11-12).
e. The Holy Spirit Himself within us communicates this mighty power of God and enables us to say an absolute “no” to the stirring of sin and lust in our hearts. (See Romans 8.)
The Third Great Avenue of Temptation to Be Overcome by Christians Is the World
a. This does not refer primarily to the physical world (though this is where it is found), but to the spiritual environment. Because the human race is in a fallen sinful estate, this world embodies the ideals of the wicked one. “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5:19). The world calls us to join in with the lifestyle of the rest who seem to be having such fun. It offers many things to the onlooker which seem to promise satisfaction and happiness, despite their taint of sin.
b. In reality, the world system is at war with God and opposed to Jesus Christ. Jesus testified, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). And again the Lord in His prayer in chapter 17 shows what may be expected in this world by those who embrace His Word. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).
c. The order of this world is animated by the devil in accordance with his role described by the Bible. He is the prince of this world (John12:31, 14:30). He is also called the god of this world. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:3-4).
d. The power of Satan is brought to bear through this world. There is a strong tendency from its pervasive spiritual influence to conform people into its pattern and mold. Christians must resist this by setting before their minds the patterns set forth in God's Word. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
e. The world draws the human heart away from the things of Christ and faithfulness to God. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). The world's capture of the heart leads also to unfaithfulness to God's people and work. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (II Timothy 4:10).
f. The world system defiles the believer from true purity before God. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
g. The believer is taught by God's Word to recognize the evil that animates the Christ-rejecting world system round about us. “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5:19).
Failure by Christians to Overcome Temptation Results in Sin that Must Be Confessed and Forsaken
a. There is a definite sense in which the believer is forgiven at the moment of salvation, and there is also a sphere of forgiveness that is needed when we sin as God's children. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
b. The believer's union with Jesus Christ is not severed by an act of sin, but his communion with God is broken. We must confess our sins to be restored to a place of fellowship with the Lord. This means being honest about our failures before the Lord and judging them as sins according to the standard of God's Word. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
c. Persistence in a sin will bring the Lord's chastening in the life of a true believer. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).
d. The heavens rejoice when a soul repents (which involves a change of mind) of sin. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). While this applies in a special way to initial salvation, it is also true that spiritual revival among God's people is a time of great joy both on earth and in heaven.
Many Passages in The New Testament Warn The Christian to Beware of Apostasy
a. Apostasy is a movement of departure from the revealed Word of God.
b. The Bible teaches us that while a great work for God would take place in the present age of the church, Satan would animate a corresponding work of departing from God's Word. We learn from prophetic Scriptures that this departing from God and Truth will ripen to worldwide confusion as the present age draws to a close. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4).
c. Passages like II Timothy 3, II Peter, Jude and others are recommended reading for any who want to be properly aware of what is happening in the world now.
d. The new believer must pray diligently to God to escape the confusion and error entrenched in the religious landscape today. Not every organization that calls itself a church is truly a House of God in the Bible sense of the Word. It is critical that one have God's leading and help in finding a sound Bible-believing church.