The call to a Christian life is to be an overcomer, in the same sense that Jesus said, "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Every Christian is taught to "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Yet Christians backslide into sin, even after genuine conversion. What is the Bible answer to overcoming tenacious sins, putting off troubling transgressions, and casting aside nagging iniquities? How can we "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Hebr. 12:1)? By what specific process do Christians "overcome the world," as Jesus commanded. How can we fulfill the command: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48)?
by Jerry Gentry
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebr. 4:12).
"And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).
Every genuine Christian knows he is saved, sins forgiven, through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Period. No sin, no iniquity, no depravity, no transgression is greater than that shed blood of Jesus Christ, hallelujah! For this reason, we must confront rather than point a finger at the backslidden brother or sister. Concerning those "overtaken in a fault," every spiritual Christian is called to "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
The Christian call to overcoming is a plain teaching of the Bible. It is the call of faith set to work. It is the call every genuine Christian aspires to and strives for. Yet, so many times, Christians, in their weakness, yield to the world, the flesh and Satan the devil. How can Christians who have lost their spiritual virginity of conversion and first love, regain their chastity? How can iniquitous gossips put a bridle on their tongues and find a pure language? How can backslidden thieves and liars and adulterers regain the purity of life ordered by Holy Scripture? It all begins with the words we speak.
Yes, it is by "the word of their testimony."
In a word, how can genuine Christians be overcomers in the Biblical sense of that word? What does it mean to be an overcomer?
Consider for a moment the depth of depravity of the human soul. Yes, depraved it is. The great Psalmist describes this condition upon himself. He says: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). Pure words. Brother and sister, can you say those words of yourself? David is not speaking of the act that engendered his conception, as some churches teach. No, "marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Hebr. 13:4), according to the Bible.
Being "shapen in iniquity" for David and for every soul of Adam kind including you and me took place long before conception. It took place in the form of original sin, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1Cor. 15:22). Every man and woman of Adam's race is born in sin, worthy of death. But, hallelujah, the blood of Christ covers all who believe that "we shall be saved by his [Christ's] life" (Rom. 5:10).
Some churches teach that the process of overcoming is through acts of the will and deprivation of the flesh, even flagellation of the body. Those churches, sincere as their founders may have been, have led multitudes down the path of pseudo-salvation, justification by various works of the flesh. These founders and religious leaders, for whatever their Biblical scholarship, have since the very first century of Christianity carried the doctrine of the Pharisees forward in the church of God. Yet what doctrine could be more filled with self righteousness, pride and falsehood than to believe that through acts of the human will, when confronted with temptation, humans would choose righteousness and eschew evil, and therefore secure their salvation? What pompous self delusion! What utter nonsense! "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
Truth is, we are the most forgiving and forgetting people on the face of the earth of our own nagging personal sins. We quickly put them under the blood, forget them, and know that "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he [God] removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12). We should remember that what God has done for us personally, He is also doing for others. What right do Christians have to categorize one sin above another, and thus feel more righteous by comparison? Truth is, failure to forgive secures our individual place in hell!
"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebr. 10:14). Do you think you are more sanctified than your backslidden brother? Think again!
Are you sanctified? How do you know? Is it because you think you now sin less than someone else? Think again! You are no less a sinner in the flesh now than you were when you lived without Christ. You have a new nature, true, but your old nature continues to rise up from time to time, usually when you least expect it. Don't think for one minute that the notorious sin of a brother or sister is of more consequence to God than your own private sin, that the difference is one of degree. The Pharisee in you may rise up in self righteous indignation at a another person's notorious sin, but the publican in you must quickly smite your breast, and say: "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Your words are so important, for they reveal what is in your heart. When you point a finger of accusation toward another, your words will come back and destroy you, unless you are without sin. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. 12:37). And what man can say he is without sin?
Keeping God's words in our lips is the ultimate expression and evidence of faith: "But whoso keepeth his [God's] word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1John 2:5). And as our father Abraham, it is only by such faith&emdash;not by our performance of the law&emdash;that we can have genuine righteousness attributed to us. "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith" (Rom. 4:13). Many so called Christians are mere babes, because they have not grown up to understand faith, which is not an ethereal feeling in the heart. Faith is not an emotion or sentiment. Faith is the daily application of Scripture in life, which begins with the words we speak. In that sense, our words are our faith, and our faith is expressed in our words. Unless we get our words right, our actions are worthless and good for nothing. Without getting "the word of their testimony" in line with Scripture, Christians bring no glory to God, no witness for the kingdom, and no good fruits.
What many Christians think they must do in themselves is already a completed work of Christ. "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Rev. 2:26). How does the Christian "keep. . . my works?" The answer, again, is through the faith of Christ working inside the Christian. No amount of human willing or mind power will bring success. Keeping Christ's works (not our own works) is accomplished first by "the word of their testimony" which we speak. "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them [past tense]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1John 4:4). Once our words are right, our actions will follow. Scripture leaves no room for the spirit of lawlessness. Yet faithless Christians who attempt to keep the works of the law, or some other code of salvation, are by definition Pharisees, whom Christ condemned with the strongest possible rebukes.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23). No amount of the works of the law can save. No amount of deeds of the flesh can justify. No amount of filthy lucre can redeem a human soul. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). Money can never buy the gift of faith, from whence naturally flows "the word of their testimony."
"I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (1John 2:13-14).
Lest we forget, the strength of the Christian life is not found in the works we perform. Strong Christians are found only where "the word of God abideth in you." How does the word of God abide in us? The word of God cannot abide only as thoughts in the heart. The word of God abides only in the mouths of those who speak it. The only sure proof that the word of God abides in anyone is through the evidence of that word being spoken from the lips, through a good confession of faith. Further, "the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebr. 4:12).
Nowhere does the Bible teach that the thoughts of God are quick and powerful. Nowhere does the Bible teach that thinking good thoughts is evidence of salvation. Nowhere does the Bible teach that pure thoughts are the end result of a Christian life. Contemplation or meditation on the words of God is always set out in words. And without words, there can be no genuine faith in the heart. Without the spoken word of God, the fruit of the lips, no man is saved. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32). The publican was accepted of God, not merely by the thoughts of his heart, but when he "smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
It was not mere thoughts that saved Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego from the burning fiery furnace. It was the spoken word of God that saved them from the flames.
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
"But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Dan 3:17-18).
Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, in making this good confession of their faith, were stating and risking their personal lives by upholding the law/word of God, recorded by Moses: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exo 20:3). These three were true to the spoken word of God. These three were delivered by "the word of their testimony."
David and Daniel and Gideon and Joshua and Sarah and Deborah and Abigail&emdash;all men and women of faith&emdash;made a good confession by "the word of their testimony." These faithful overcomers spoke the word of God.
We live in the day of multiplied words. Television and radio and most other forms of mass media rely on the spoken word. Think about it. How many channels to you have on your TV? How many choices of words can you tune in at any given time? How many stations are there on your radio dial? How many words are spoken daily over telephones? Words are multiplied in our modern world. "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise" (Prov. 10:19). "For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God" (Eccl. 5:7).
And of all the millions, yea billions of words spoken and broadcast each day, how many of these words are from God? Less than 1%? Maybe even less than one one- hundredth of one percent?
You see, God is calling a remnant to unplug from speaking and hearing worldly words, mass communications. He is calling a remnant to bring those communications down into a lesser perspective than we spend speaking and listening to the words of God. Take a self test, and be honest. Think about tape recording every word you speak for 24 hours. Then think about replaying the tape and transcribing all your spoken words to paper. What percentage of your words would reflect Holy Scripture, the word of God? 1%? 2%? 5%, perhaps, if you are really into the Bible every day. God wants His people to learn to express their thoughts into words that are framed from the Holy Bible. Such is impossible, unless we spend time daily in the word of God. Without daily Biblical input, our tongue goes wild, and then what do we have?
"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (James 3:6).
Yes, our words are ultimately important. "But speaking the truth in love, [that you] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15).
"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). How?
The Psalmist teaches: "I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me" (Ps. 39:1).
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26).
Words are powerful, either for good or for evil. The power of the spoken word of God, the only pure language, is miraculous. Every genuine Christian knows the power of the word of God. He will join all other genuine Christians who are learning to frame their lives "by the word of their testimony."