What must we do so that the power of God will be revealed in our lives, enabling us to be overcomers? There are a number of points I wish to give you. I will give you the texts, and you can study them on your own.
Walk in the Spirit
We must learn how to walk in the Spirit, not after the flesh. Study Romans 6, 7, and 8. We should study these three chapters together. We will never understand this subject unless we study all three of them together. Study also Galatians 5.
Ellen White wrote that, “The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.” The Desire of Ages, 671.
Since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the power of sin has been developing and working in the human race for centuries. Sin can be overcome only in the power of the Third Person of the Godhead. Who is the Third Person of the Godhead? It is the Holy Spirit. So we must learn how to walk in the Spirit.
Learn to Fight
We must fight! Now, this is unpopular today. A lot of people want an easy religion, where they just call on the name of the Lord then relax, and He does everything. This is not Bible religion. Study the first several verses of Hebrews 12. Study 1 Corinthians 9:24–27.
Unfortunately, the Bible translators use what is known as euphemisms to soften the message sometimes, because the biblical language is so strong. Most Bible translations have softened 1 Corinthians 9:24–27.
In this passage, Paul is talking about fighting with his own sinful nature. He says, “I fight, not like somebody that is beating the air,” and then he uses a very strong word. It is a word that is used when you beat somebody up and make him all black and blue with bruises. That is, literally, how this word is used in the Greek; somebody is taken and, in street language, is beaten to a pulp. Paul uses this word, and says, “This is what I do to my body, to my flesh, to my sinful nature; I am strict with it.”
Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted unto blood, fighting, striving, struggling against sin.”
Do not think that you will overcome and be saved if you are not making any effort. You have to be like Jacob and say, “Lord, only You can save me, but I am never going to quit trying.” (See Genesis 32:25, 26.)
Lay Aside Sin
In the first verses also of Hebrews 12, Paul says that we are to “lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets or entangles us.” Every person has one or more easily besetting or entangling sins.
We are not all the same. Everybody does not have exactly the same besetting sin, but everybody has at least one besetting sin with which to struggle and overcome. “If you cling to any besetting sin, you will find the gateway too narrow for you to enter. Your own ways, your own will, your wrong habits and unchristlike practises [sic], must be given up if you would keep the way of the Lord.” The Signs of the Times, June 22, 1904.
Paul says, “Lay aside every weight.” He is using a figure of speech from the runners’ world. The idea is that a runner straps the weights onto his legs and runs with them every day. But when it is actually time for a race, the weights are left off, and the runner feels like he is running on air.
Paul says, “Lay aside the weight. It is not practice time; you are in the race now; lay aside every easily entangling sin.” Oh, friend, for the sake of your own soul and salvation, please spend some time studying that phrase and praying about it. What is the easily entangling sin that you need to lay aside? If you are going to lay aside an easily entangling sin, allow me to give you a crude illustration so you will have something to start thinking through.
I have dealt with a number of people whose easily entangling sin is alcoholic beverages. Now, if that is a person’s easily entangling sin and if he wants to lay that aside, it would be very unwise for him to decide to go to witness to people in the bars and taverns. In fact, that person should try to stay away from any place where alcoholic beverages are being used.
My wife and I have attended many parties where alcoholic beverages were used. It did not bother me, because I have never drunk, and I am not tempted by alcohol. I can witness to people in a situation like that, and it is not troublesome for me. But if using alcohol is your besetting sin, you better not go to a party like that. You better do your witnessing somewhere else.
You see, whatever is your besetting sin, you need to do everything humanly possible to not put yourself in the way of temptation. If you put yourself in the way of temptation, that is presumption. Should you deliberately place yourself in such a position, the Lord will have to work a miracle to get you out of there undefiled.
Pray Without Ceasing
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.” Do you remember the time when the disciples were trying to cast a demon out of a boy, but they could not do it? Jesus said to them, “Oh, faithless generation. How long am I going to endure you? Bring him to me.” Mark 9:19. Then Jesus cast out the devil, and, afterwards, the disciples came to Him, asking: “Lord, why could we not cast him out?” Verse 28. Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief. Truly, truly I say to you, this kind does not go out except by prayer.” Verse 29.
If you have a besetting sin that you cannot overcome, you need to go to your closet, fast, and pray, “Lord, I am not going to quit struggling. I am not going to quit praying, until You give to me the victory over this.”
Memorize your Bible, especially the promises. Read Psalm 119:9, 11: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!”
Music as a Weapon
Use Christian song—not “Christian” rock and roll or rap or hip hop—as a weapon when you are tempted. Paul says we should do this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16. Use the words from Christian songs as a weapon against temptation.
Did you know that Jesus did this? Ellen White wrote:
“With a song, Jesus in His earthly life met temptation. Often when sharp, stinging words were spoken, often when the atmosphere about Him was heavy with gloom, with dissatisfaction, distrust, or oppressive fear, was heard His song of faith and holy cheer.” Education, 166.
Then, “Let praise and thanksgiving be expressed in song. When tempted, instead of giving utterance to our feelings, let us by faith lift up a song of thanksgiving to God. . . . Song is a weapon that we can always use against discouragement.” The Ministry of Healing, 254.
“If you sit in heavenly places with Christ, you cannot refrain from praising God. Begin to educate your tongues to praise him, and train your hearts to make melody to God; and when the evil one begins to settle his gloom about you, sing praise to God. When things go crossways at your homes, strike up a song about the matchless charms of the Son of God, and I tell you, when you touch this strain, Satan will leave you.” Review and Herald, August 5, 1890.
Follow Health Message
If you want to overcome, you must follow the health message that God has revealed in inspired writings. This is so important that I could write a whole article just on this point to show why, if you do not follow health reform, you will not be an overcomer. But, for now, consider the following:
“Let the young men and young women determine to love God supremely and to do His commandments. Under circumstances the most trying, let them remain faithful to duty—especially in their attitude toward the principles of health reform. Instead of being half-hearted reformers, let them make a whole hearted reformation, in all things practicing chastity and temperance. Let none begin to reform, and then stop. Resolve to overcome the wicked one.” Messages to Young People, 9, 10.
I wish I could find an English translation that translates 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 correctly. The reason these translations do not translate it correctly is because of one word that can mean two things. This word can mean either “to defile something” or it can mean “to destroy something.” This passage gives a parallel statement, and since it is a parallel statement, whichever way it is translated should be the same both times. Translators almost never do this.
One translation can be: “. . . that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and whoever defiles it, God will defile him.” Most people do not like the idea of God defiling somebody, so they do not translate it that way. The only other way to translate it yet keep it parallel, as it is written, is this: “Anyone who destroys his body, God will destroy him.” This, I believe, is the correct translation.
If you are not following the health message and you are deliberately doing something that is destroying your body, what does the text say that God is going to do to you? He is going to destroy you! If you want to be an overcomer, you must follow the health message.
Mrs. White also counsels that James 1:16–27 provides for us “God’s great remedy for the diseases of the body and soul. It is God’s health reform prescription. The whole chapter is a practical one. I advise all to follow the instruction; for if they take heed to it day by day, they will triumph at last with the overcomers.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 1.
In Nehemiah 8:9, Ezra told the people of Israel not to weep. In the book carrying his name, it is recorded that, “Many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes.” Ezra 3:12. They were weeping because of their problems and because the second temple was not nearly as beautiful as the first. They were told, “Do not weep. Do not allow yourself to be sad, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10.
This is something it would be good to individually study further. If you want to be an overcomer, you need to study about being thankful and having the joy of the Lord.
Ellen White says, “A praise meeting should be held, a simple service of thanksgiving to God. There would be much more power in our camp meetings if we had a true sense of the goodness, mercy, and long-suffering of God, and if more praise flowed forth from our lips to the honor and glory of His name. We need to cultivate more fervor of soul. The Lord says: ‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me.’ Psalm 50:23.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 62.
“Well now, commence to praise God. And praise Him with heart and soul and voice. The devil does not want you [to], because you would be a living witness to them that you had drunk of the living waters, and he does not want you to praise God.” Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, 213. The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Do not deliberately walk into temptation, or, if I could state it in even more simple language, do not look at or listen to sin.
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure.” Isaiah 33:14–16. This passage is talking about the time when the sinners in Zion will be terrified because Jesus is coming. Verse 17 continues, “You are going to see the King in His beauty, and you are going to see the land that is very far off.”
Do you know what “the land that is very far off” is? It is that land that is over 600 light years away. Who are the people who will see this? Some of their characteristics are mentioned, and one of the characteristics given is that these people stop their ears; they do not allow their ears to hear evil. Neither do they allow their eyes to watch bloodshed. They will not look at it; they will not listen to it.
Our people are being destroyed spiritually because of what they are looking at on television and on videos, reading in magazines, and listening to musically. They are listening to sin. They are looking at sin. And then they wonder why they cannot overcome sin!
The Lord has plenty of power so that the weakest and the most sinful can overcome. The question is, are you and I going to cooperate? Pray and ask the Lord to help you to cooperate, for if you are going to be inside the city, your name must be written in that book. For that to happen, you must confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. If your name is not going to be blotted out of that book in the Day of Judgment, you must overcome, so you may be clothed with the change of garment.
You must realize your absolute dependence upon God, that you have no power of your own. You have no ability or strength to overcome the world, the devil, or the flesh except you look to Him and choose to cooperate with Him.
Pray that the power of the Third Person of the Godhead may be exercised in your life, that you might not only be born of the Spirit, but that you might walk in the Spirit, not fulfilling the lust of the flesh, not loving the world, and not falling for the temptations of the evil one that seem so enticing to the sinful human nature.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or my telephone at: 316-788-5559.