When I was a boy, living in Omaha, Nebraska, I played with two brothers who lived up the street. After Craig LeMaster – my best friends were Mark and David Wormington. My mother enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Wormington, but she did not like her husband. The man owned a shady used-car dealership. He sold cars to poor people, taking as much down-payment as possible and financing the balance. Then when they missed a payment or two, he repossessed their cars and sold them again to others. He basically just re-circulated his stock, looking for new buyers all the time. But it wasn’t so much the man’s occupation which upset my Mom – she disliked a particular habit he had. The man like to argue. She said that whatever position she, or anyone else, held, he would take the opposite, just to irritate them. And he had a particular way with words – twisting and turning them in every direction. Plus, he loved to win – he would pull out all the stops to win every argument, even if it meant hurting and alienating people.
Perhaps you know, or have known like this – they are miserable unless they in a fight and winning. They are “always” right – whether they are or not – and they make sure that you know it. I hope you are not like that. Generally speaking, Christians should be “blameless… of good behaviour, given to hospitality…not given to wine, no STRIKER, not greedy of filthy lucre… not a BRAWLER, not covetous.” “No striker… not a brawler, not covetous” – not even covetous for wins in arguments.
We should NOT be fighters, BUT, if you are covetous, THERE is something to fight against. If you are given to wine, you need to constantly seek the Lord’s blessings to beat it – to conquer it. If you are quick to anger or quick to argue, these are sins which need to be overcome. As we heard this morning, “Go and sin no more.” In the battles against these besetting sins we should fight to win. “MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: But now ye also put off all these; ANGER, WRATH, MALICE, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” And it is on this “mortifying” and “overcoming” that I’d like to focus this evening.
Romans 8:37 presents us with a unique scriptural word – found only in this one verse. Paul says, “In all (the previously mentioned) things we are MORE than CONQUERORS through him that loved us.” “More than conquerors” is one Greek word “hupernikao” (hoop-er-nik-ah’-o). It is another one of those compound words, and this one begins with “huper” – or “hyper” if you like. Christians are “hyper-conquerors” through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us – Christ our Saviour.
While this compound word is unique, the word which is intensified with “huper” is a bit more common. “Nikao” is used 28 times in the Bible. Twice it is translated “conquer” and once each “prevail” and “get the victory.” The rest of the time – 24 times – it is rendered “overcome” in one fashion or other. In my book – in my dictionary – “prevail,” “get the victory,” “conquer” and “overcome” all mean the same thing. “In all these things we are more than victors and overcomers through him that loved us.”
When I laid all of the references which relate to Christian conquerors together they fell into a 3 part message. We ARE positional overcomers, and we SHOULD BE practical overcomers. Then ultimately, we SHALL BE praised overcomers.
Romans 8:37 reminds us that in Christ we are ALREADY victors – POSITIONALLY we are conquerors.
Paul gives us an interesting list of potential and actual enemies. “Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I wonder why the apostle chose to point to these seventeen things, when he could have mentioned others. For example, he doesn’t speak of Satan or heretics. He doesn’t mention the Roman Emperor or the Jewish Sanhedrin – Pharisees or Sadducees. In verse 35 he names a few specifics – trials, narrowness of life, persecution, starvation and poverty, danger and the threat of death. But then in verses 38 and 39 his list takes on a somewhat different character. Nothing in life, nothing in death, not angels or demons… Nothing today and nothing tomorrow; not a single kind of creature, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because, “in all these things we are MORE than conquerors through him that loved us.”
There is nothing that the world or the Devil can throw at us, which is capable of dragging us away from our Saviour or to drag away the love of our Redeemer from us. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” – 1 Corinthians 15:57. “Thanks be unto God, which ALWAYS causeth us to triumph in Christ” – 2 Corinthians 2:14. There is nothing that can be done against us which can extinguish the love of God toward us through Christ. And there is not anything you can DO to negate the grace which God has already bestowed upon you. Don’t, for a single moment, let anyone or anything cause you to doubt your eternal salvation. “Ye ARE dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then SHALL ye also appear with him in glory” – Colossians 3:3-4.
We are hyper-conquerors over these things, BECAUSE they may in fact become blessings to us. They are not only defeated in Christ, but they may add to our victorious condition. When mom takes her little son and daughter out for a walk and an angry dog comes running towards them what does she do but to pull her children even closer to her. So does our God. When a child becomes really sick, her parents draw on every resource to protect her and make her well. Whenever the saint of God suffers in any way, there is a new and special opportunity for the Lord to bless. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Furthermore when God’s people suffer unjustly, and for the name of Christ, reward is laid up in Heaven. Our Saviour said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…” “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” “In all these things we are more than victors and overcomers through him that loved us.” We cannot fail but to be conquerors, because that is the nature of our spiritual condition in Christ. Because of God’s omnipotent and sovereign grace, every child of God is a conqueror – more than a conqueror.
THAT is what Paul says in chapter 8. BUT – just four chapters later he suggests something entirely different. In referring to one of the afore mentioned enemies of the Christian he says, “Be NOT overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This takes us into the realm of PRACTICAL overcoming.
As I said, among all the things listed in Romans 8 there are several notable omissions. I mentioned Satan, for example. Another is SIN. Paul speaks of some of the EFFECTS of sin and Satan’s ATTACKS, but he doesn’t mention “sin” itself. Just because it is not mentioned that does not mean that when a Christian sins he separates himself from the love of Christ. There are some heretics who will try to say such a thing. Paul merely begins with an hypothetical question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The implied answer is – “absolutely nothing,” and then he mentions only a few of our many opponents. And “absolutely nothing” includes any sins which you commit. Your soul and its salvation are secure in the omnipotent grace of our Saviour.
BUT – don’t think for a moment that God’s grace opens a door for you to sneak out to commit those sins. “Go and sin no more.” We should hate those sinful acts which, in essence, nailed our Saviour to the cross. We should flee temptations lest they conclude in sin. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Or to put it another way, even though we are already “more than conquerors through him that loved us,” we still have the responsibility to see to it that we are not “overcome of evil, but (to) overcome evil with good.” Despite the fact we are “MORE than conquerors,” we can still be overcome by temptation and sin. And therefore we must see to it that we strive constantly to “overcome evil with good.”
To what sort of “evil” does Paul refer? Before actually answering that question, consider the context of Paul’s exhortation. Please turn to Romans 12:19-21. The apostle is taking one or two of the things in chapter 8 and turning them around. “Dearly beloved, AVENGE NOT yourselves, but rather give place unto WRATH: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” In being a blessing to our enemies we are in a different way – more than conquerors.
So there is a neighbor, a co-worker, or perhaps a family member, who seems to hate you for your Saviour. He persecutes you. He mistreats you. He belittles you. He ridicules your faith. He does mean things to you. At times it gets so bad that you are barely able to control your fleshly temper. You are tempted to retaliate. But remember what God says in Deuteronomy 32:35 – “To ME belongeth vengeance, and recompence.” Isaiah exhorts, “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” You are more than a conqueror through Christ our Saviour, but you still have a responsibility in a case like this. You must overcome that man’s evil with Christian good.
Again, from where does this evil come? In essence it comes from our “Ghidorah” – the three-headed monster in our lives. The world, our flesh and the Devil are relentless in their attempts to keep us from close fellowship with the Lord. They often combine their attacks, because they are, in essence, one creature with three heads. So what temptation will they throw at you tomorrow? As Paul suggests, it might be anger and a desire for vengeance. Or it might be pride over some accomplishment – maybe even pride in overcoming a temptation. Tomorrow it might be lust – a desire to possess something which shouldn’t be yours – covetousness. The next day it could be greed coupled to a lack of hospitality or generosity towards someone in need. Some besetting sins include contentiousness, quarreling and complaining. Are you prone to deceit and dishonesty? Do you ever rejoice in the sufferings of another person; do evil thoughts make you wish them harm? Do you love money – the root of all evil? Are you unmerciful and unforgiving? There are so many sins available to people here on this earth. Even to Christians.
Sometimes it is the world which draws these sins out of us. Sometimes it may be the Devil or one of his agents who incites such things. But it is usually through the flesh that they actually take shape and form. So I quote Bro. Austin from this morning – “MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth.” Paul says, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Even though, you are a hyper-conqueror, or perhaps because you are, you must continue to rise and conquer. But how? How can we overcome these besetting sins and the constant onslaught of temptation? Our gracious Saviour has given to us many tools, but I’ll mention just two because of their context.
I found it curious that of the 28 times the word “nikao” is used in the Bible, they are concentrated in just 3 books – Romans, Revelation and I John. Consider what the Apostle John says about “overcoming.” 1 John 2:13 – “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.” 1 John 2:14 – “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.” So John praises some of his readers for their victory over the devil and his temptations. Then in 1 John 4:4 he praises his friends for their victories over evil spirits and the spirit of wickedness. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
Then in chapter 5 John refers to one of the weapons of our warfare – one of our spiritual weapons. 1 John 5:4 – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, EVEN OUR FAITH. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Just as we are “more than conquerors THOUGH him who loved us” – we are hyper-conquerors through Christ – we are also practical conquerors – we are everyday overcomers – through that same victorious Christ. And it is by faith that we draw His strength into our daily battles. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our FAITH. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” When Goliath approaches, seek your strength and victory from the God whom he defies.
I can say from personal experience, if you desire to be a spiritual overcomer in your life, you must give up your personal strength and abilities. Because while they might give you some slight, temporary victory, you will then be overcome by other sins. So you have overcome your temptation for that second piece of pie, but now you are proud of that victory. No matter in what way one sin grows out of an earlier sin, succeeding victories will become more difficult. Genuine victory – stop dead in its tracts victory – David over Goliath type victory is dependent upon the Lord’s strength and grace. And our access to that strength and grace is through faith. Daniel’s victory over the lions of his life came not by physical or psychological means – it was by trusting God. Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah came out of the furnace unsinged because they put their faith in Jehovah. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
I will come back to Revelation in just a few minutes, but that book gives us another tool for victory. Chapter 12 doesn’t describe the Christian life as we know it today, but it supplies a general principle. Revelation 12:9 – “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 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 Satanically inspired anti-Christ, will have no intrinsic power over the believers of the Tribulation. This scripture gives us three points of emphasis in their victory. First – or perhaps last – they didn’t consider their earthly lives to be more important than what the Lord had prepared for them. “And they loved not their lives unto the death.” Without that attitude we will always be vulnerable. Second, they fought against their enemies with the testimony of their words and lives – not with sin in any fashion. They didn’t use sin in any fashion. The means of our victory is as important as the victory itself. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb” which is another way of describing the object of their faith. They didn’t use their oratory to defeat the heretics; they didn’t use their strength to fight the government. They didn’t beat down their opponents with logic, even scriptural logic, although the word of their testimony was a part of God’s battle plan. Their primary weapon was faith in the crucified Saviour – “the blood of the Lamb.”
Despite the fact we are hyper-overcomers positionally in Christ, we still have to daily struggle for small victories. And the primary weapons of our warfare must be spiritual. II Corinthians 10:3 – “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
I said earlier that most references to “overcoming” were found in Romans, Revelation and I John. The majority are in Revelation. And there they, for the most part, have a different intent and direction.
In Revelation we see the PRAISED overcomers – the rewarded victors.
I’m not going to explain these scriptures to any great detail. Just let them wash over your soul. Revelation 2:7 – “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:11 – “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Revelation 2:17 – “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Revelation 2:26 – “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” Revelation 3:5 – “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:12 – “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” Revelation 3:21 – “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Revelation 21:7 – “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
Do you wish to eat forever from the fruit of the tree of life? Do you want to eat of God’s hidden manna for eternity? Then, while trusting in the Lord for victory, be an overcomer – an overcomer over sin and temptation – self, the flesh – those enemies which are closest to you. Do you want to be a pillar in the Temple of God, and do you want to sit with the Saviour in the Lord’s throne room? Would you like to have your name mentioned in Heaven? Then strive to be an overcomer with the Lord’s strength and blessing.
In one sense we are undefeatable victors – through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But in another sense we are left with battles to fight here in this world. We can fight, and we can WIN, when we rely by faith on our crucified Lord and Saviour. With each victory there is reward. And with each victory there is the opportunity for greater and more victories.
In closing I’d like you to stand and to sing with me the words of hymn 495 – “Yield not to temptation.”
Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; Each vict’ry will help you some other to win; Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue; Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
Ask the Savior to help you, Comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.
Shun evil companions, bad language disdain, God’s name hold in rev’rence, nor take it in vain; Be thoughtful and earnest, kindhearted and true; Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown, Through faith we will conquer, though often cast down; He who is our Savior, our strength will renew; Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
Not only will Jesus carry you through – He will give you victory and even make you more than a conqueror.