By: Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Shabbat, Sept. 17, 2011)
An Unconventional Victory
The Christian victory is not a victory won with physical might nor with weapons of war, but it’s still the greatest victory ever!
The early church, our role models in the faith, were acclaimed victors and overcomers. Their strategy of victory is as unconventional as the means by which the victory was secured. Rev. 12:11 says, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death".
The plain meaning of the text is that they never allowed the devil to deter them from the faith, nor did they ever renounce their faith in spite all the machinations of the devil including trying to entice them by the flesh and threats on their life. Together with the Blood, the personal testimony they had about what Christ had accomplished for them was so deep-rooted and strong (1 John 1:1-2, 5:10) that nothing would shake their faith.
What is more, they didn’t coddle the flesh. They put to death the evil deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5) and prayed and fasted often (Acts 2:42, 13:1-3; cp 2 Cor. 11:27). The early believers denied the self so that they might “be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:1).
The only time the devil has real victory over the believer is when he succeeds in making the believer give up his faith. At the Last Supper, the Lord said to Simon Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32).
It was this heady disciple who, having matured into the fine Apostle Peter, shared his personal testimony about the Lord Jesus Christ:
"… we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
"For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
"And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount" (2 Pet. 1:16-18).
True to Christ’s prediction about him, the same Apostle Peter again sought to build up his brethren with the following exhortation: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
What makes the difference for us as believers is that the resources for overcoming the devil have been made available to us: the Blood of Jesus and our word of testimony concerning His place in our life!
Unprecedented Love Demands Unprecedented Devotion
The Blood of Jesus is the saving agency without which we could have no hope of salvation from sin and its penalty of death (Rom. 3:24-25; Col. 1:14). Like the blood of the Passover lambs of old, it’s the very instrument and emblem of all that we have become in God through Christ (see 1 Cor. 5:7-8). It’s the foundation of our new life in Christ (Matt. 1:21; Tit. 2:14; 2 Cor. 5:17). Paul testified in Gal 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (ESV).
No wonder, the Blood or cross means that we have become immune to the world and the world has become immune to us:
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
"And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal. 6:14-17).
The world has no influence on our lives; neither do we side with the world in its evil deeds. We are a new creation in Christ, and we are proud to demonstrate that He openly and absolutely owns us. "The marks of Jesus" mentioned by Paul as being on his body is rendered in the original Greek as "ta stigmata tou Iēsou" and refers in ancient usage to the marks branded on slaves and soldiers to indicate their owners or generals.
So always look to the Blood; it’s the means and token of the purchase Christ has made of you (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 7:23). It’s the reason why you are redeemed and set apart for Christ. You bear His marks of ownership as His bondservant; you are branded with His life of holiness and self-sacrifice. He completely owns you because He has redeemed you with His priceless blood (1 Pet. 1:18-20); never allow the devil to rob you of this privileged status. Don’t hide it or feel shy about it (Matt. 10:32-33; 2 Tim. 2:12). Instead, give up everything for Him in appreciation of His selfless love for you. Give Him your heart; give Him your time; give Him your talents and material wealth. He owns you and everything you own.
No one but He Himself qualifies to define the depth of the commitment He expects of you, His "purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14): "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Here, the Master is not saying you should dislike, reject or persecute your relations for His sake, but that you should love them less in comparison to Him, as He clarifies in the parallel scripture in Matt. 10:37: " He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me".
After all, who has loved you best? Who sacrificed His all–His Divine glory, His honour, His dignity, and His great authority (Phil. 2:5-8)–for your sake? Who died in your place so you might live eternally? Who endured severe beatings and scourging so you might be healed? Who bore the curse so you might receive the blessing? Who could ever love you as Christ has loved you? As He Himself puts it, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for His friends" (John 15:13). He truly deserves our total love and devotion.
Stand in the Victory!
Our Saviour has already won the victory for us, and it behooves us to stand firm in the victory. The Lamb by whose blood we overcome is the same Michael who defeated the dragon/Satan in the "war in heaven"; He is the ‘Man Child’ persecuted by the dragon right from birth but caught up to God and to His throne (Rev. 12:4-5), leaving the church to continue the struggle in His victory (vv. 6, 11-17)! He bequeaths a legacy of victory by His blood:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
"And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15).
Apart from His blood, the believer can have no victory. Stand in the power and victory of His cross, therefore, and fight the devil and overcome him. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
To survive all the onslaughts of Satan, your faith must be anchored to a power beyond you; a power that makes you say with all boldness, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me" (Heb. 13:6). This is the assured power that will enable you to "walk through the valley of the shadow of death" and never fear any evil (Ps. 23:4).
When Jesus resurrected from the dead, Thomas, finally convinced of the invincible power of Christ, exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Likewise you should have a personal conviction of the One whom you have believed (2 Tim. 1:12). You should know Christ so intimately that you wouldn’t be easily torn away from Him. You are united with Him in an inseparable bond. Much as He won’t allow anybody to pluck you out of His hand and out of His Father’s hand (John 10:28-30), you must show equal zeal and commitment to cling to Him at all costs. The Apostle Paul, who came to know Christ intimately and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10), wrote:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
"As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
"nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39 ESV).
This is the anthem of the believer who has overcome by the blood and the word of His personal testimony in the Lord. Let it never depart from your heart nor from your lips. Do not let anything ever separate you from Christ. Nothing is worth what Christ has done for you.
But above all, deny yourself! Pray and fast determinedly. Fasting and prayer is not for a lover of the flesh. As the Lord Jesus noted in reference to His disciples in the Garden of Gethesemane, “the flesh is weak” when it comes to the spiritual exercises of prayer and fasting, but the inner man (the spirit) is willing (Matt. 26:40-41). Hence Prov. 6:4-5 exhorts us: “Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler”. The answer is to have the mindset of a hardy soldier engaged in a fierce spiritual battle with demonic forces: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:4).
The result is a foregone conclusion: the victory of the early Christians will be yours to grasp! Amen!