WE CAN OVERCOME!

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WE CAN OVERCOME!Copyright Š 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved

("The Coming of the Kingdom" is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson, found in the Kindle Library)

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEŽ, Copyright Š 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

The Firstfruits

The Raising of the Firstfruits

We Can Overcome!

He Who Overcomes

The Overcomes

The Firstfruits

The idea of a firstfruits occurs many times in the Bible. For example, The Lord Jesus Christ is the Firstfruits of the saints who will be raised from the dead.

Anyone who does farm work understands what "firstfruits" are. They are the first reaping from the vine, for example. They are the best of the fruit and vegetables. Subsequent reapings are good but not as tasty as the first. Also, as in the case of a grain offering, God expects to receive some of what is reaped before the remainder of the harvest is put to our use.

God always requires the firstfruits of that which we are to offer to him. Sometimes Christians give God what is left over of their time and money, after they have taken care of their own needs and pleasures.

In the case of the Christian Church, there is a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. They are the first reaping of the earth. They are the finest, most faithful, most obedient of the believers. God places them ahead of the remainder of those who are saved of earth's people.

I do not believe our democratic ideas welcome the idea of a part of the Christian Church who are closer to God and Christ than is true of other believers. Also, the current teaching of grace militates against the concept of people who have been called to a special place with God.

It is true nevertheless. There are those whom God regards as a firstfruits of the earth.

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1—NASB)

The hundred and forty-four thousand are not the entire Church, the entire Body of Christ. They have been chosen to stand with the Lamb on the holy mountain of God's Presence. The Father's name is written on their foreheads, meaning they always do God's will. The Lamb's name written on their foreheads signifies that they belong to the Lamb.

They are the special possession of God and the Lamb.

I don't know about you, but when I found out one could aspire to a special place with God and the Lamb, that became the goal of my life. The idea is not to be some great one, rather it is to be pleasing to God and Christ.

The idea of 144 thousand may be symbolic, since it is a multiple of twelve. Or, it may be a literal number of people. My guess would be that it is symbolic.

Mount Zion is the city of God.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24-—NASB)

The fact that the 144 thousand are standing with the Lamb tells me they are ready to move with Him wherever He leads. How many Christian believers are ready to move instantly with Christ without having to go through numerous complications first? That is, if they are willing to move at all!

It appears to me in the present hour that a good part of the churches in America are sitting on Mount Zion rather than standing with the Lamb. I hope I am not correct in this.

I believe difficult times are coming to America as well as the to rest of the world. If we have had trouble running with the footmen, how are we going to be able to compete with the horses?

And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. (Revelation 14:2,3—NASB)

Could you imagine a voice sounding like a grand symphony? This is the voice of the 144 thousand. Those on the Throne of God could hear them.

The four Cherubim of Glory could hear them. These cherubim are exalted beings who reveal in themselves the Personality of the Lord God of Heaven.

The 24 elders could hear them. These are God's rulers who always are casting down their crown, saying, "Not my will but Yours be done."

Those on the Throne, the four Cherubim of Glory, and the 24 elders, these all being the highest Personages of Heaven, could not learn the song sung by the 144 thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.

Why is this? It is because each member of the 144 thousand has overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb; has overcome Satan by his testimony of the faithfulness of God; and has overcome Satan by dying to his own will and embracing in its place the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They are the "only one" of their mother, the Church. While there have been multitudes of fine Christian people, the 144 thousand have been the "cream of the crop," one might say. The love God and Christ has for these goes far, far beyond any love we could imagine.

Why could no one else learn the great symphonic song? It is because the song comes straight from the Heart of God and of the Lamb. It is not a song that can be learned by listening. It can be learned only by the very sternest and complete obedience and devotion to God.

The whole earth is a field. God found a treasure in the field. The treasure is the 144 thousand who love God above all else. The Lord Jesus Christ purchased these with his blood. No other purchase price was adequate for this greatest of all transactions.

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (Revelation 14:4—NASB)

Since the Scripture tells us that marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled, we understand that the above verse is not referring to relations with a human woman. Rather the reference is to those relationships, circumstances, and things we idolize.

We cannot bring a loved one, a friend, a talent, money, or anything else when we come to the Lord. He wants our undistracted attention. Until He gets that, we cannot be of help to our loved ones and friends. We have to keep ourselves pure, in the sense that there is no relationship, circumstance, or thing that we would not give to Christ the moment He asks for it.

We are to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. This means we must be living in His Presence at all times so we always know his will for us. This is not as difficult as some might think who never have lived this way.

It appears that at times the churches take the attitude that they should go forth, and Christ should follow them and bless whatever they are doing. It does not work that way, no matter how worthy our intentions may be. We are to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. He is not bound to follow us wherever we decide to go.

They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:5—NASB)

The 144 thousand are the first and best of the crop. They have presented their bodies as a living sacrifice that they might prove God's will in every thought, every word, and every action.

"No lie was found in their mouths." This condition is of utmost importance. The Antichrist world spirit is one huge lie. The media keep presenting to us one lie after another. It requires a long, painful discipleship for most of us before all lies are burnt out of us.

God does not lie. The Lamb does not lie. We are not in God's image when we lie. The first act of Satan in the Garden of Eden was to lie. As Jesus stated, "Satan is a liar and the father of lies."

What a wonderful state we are in when we speak truth from our inner nature. If we find that we tend to exaggerate, or to continually be attempting to sell our point of view, or to gossip about others in order to make ourselves look good, or to cheat in business transactions, or to modify the truth, even a little, in order to get out of a difficult situation, just remember that the Lamb would not do this. His Father would not do this. We cannot lie and at the same time follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

The 144 thousand will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord, and work with Him at the task of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth. The remainder of the Church will not be raised until the conclusion of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. This is the first resurrection. It is worth every effort we can put into it, every denial of self, every painful struggle, just as was true of the Apostle Paul, to attain to the early resurrection from the dead.

Let us make attaining to the first resurrection our highest priority, our supreme goal, while America and the rest of the world descend into the moral filth and chaotic environment of the Antichrist world government.

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:4.5—NIV)

The Raising of the Firstfruits

The Lord Jesus will not appear until a firstfruits of his Body have been prepared. The goals of the preparation are as follows:

They maintain an unswerving faith in the blood of the cross for their forgiveness.

They maintain a continual grasp upon their faith that they have been crucified with Christ and resurrected with Christ.

They have overcome their dependence on the world system for survival, security, and pleasure.

They follow the Holy Spirit as He proceeds to point out the various elements of the body of sin that dwells in their flesh.

They have learned stern obedience to the written Word and to the Lord's personal Word to them.

Christ has been conceived and developed in them. They live by his body and blood.

They are in untroubled rest in God's Person and will.

There would be no purpose in Jesus raising from the dead people who do not meet the above seven criteria. They cannot work with Him in establishing his Kingdom on the earth. They still are part of the problem of rebellion. They are not as yet part of the solution.

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:4.5—NIV)

We Can Overcome!

I had the following dream in the early 1950s, when we were living in a trailer on the grounds of the tent in which Pastor J. O. Dowell was holding services. The tent was located on the border of National City, just before you come into San Diego.

I was on a ship. The ship was foundering in the waves. Many of the passengers were jumping over the side.

I also jumped over the side, and was paddling around, keeping my head above water. I had done a lot of swimming while I was growing up and am at home in the water.

I could see the shore in the distance, maybe a hundred yards away. I could make out the sailors standing on the beach. Perhaps they got there in the lifeboats. They had joined hands and appeared to be playing "Ring Around the Rosy," or some other childhood game such as that.

I looked back toward the sinking ship. I could see the passengers in the water. They were thrashing about and drowning in their terror.

I suddenly noticed that my feet kept touching the bottom. So I stopped thrashing and stood up. The water was only waist deep. The passengers were panicking and drowning in waist-deep water!

I looked again at the shore. The sailors still were playing their game.

I turned back toward the passengers to tell them to stop struggling and stand up straight.

Then I awakened.

I wondered what the dream meant. I knew it was from God.

After about three days the interpretation came to me. "Although the churches (the sailors) do not always tell us so, it is entirely possible to overcome sin and live righteously."

God's people remain bound and guilty when it is not necessary to live in such a condition. They have not been taught how the new covenant operates. They do not understand that the same grace that forgives their sin has the power to set them free from sin.

When I got out of the Marine Corps I went to Bible school, because the Lord had called me to preach while I was in the service.

Although I had several Christian friends while still in the Marine Corps, the Berean Bible Institute in San Diego on South Boundary Street was my first immersion in the contemporary Pentecostal culture. I had not been raised in a Christian home.

The teachers and students of the Bible institute were good people and sincere Christians. But I heard the same idea expressed in different ways: "As long as we are in the world we have to sin. We will keep on sinning until we get to Heaven."

Some go so far as to say we keep on needing to be saved by grace (forgiveness) after we are in Heaven.

How's that for preaching victory in Christ? We already are defeated, so why try?

As I think about it, it must have been God who put it into my heart to decide that we do not have to sin. Through Christ we can overcome sinful bondages.

I can't remember what I did or said about this decision, except I repeated the vow to God I had made while in Bible school that I would do his will whatever it proved to be, provided he gave me the grace (wisdom and power) to do it.

When I had the dream about the sinking ship, which occurred a couple of years after Bible school, it came to me that God's people are ignorant of the victory over sin we can have through Christ. We can overcome sin!

So I have been preaching ever since that through Christ we can overcome sin each day. We can be perfect one day at a time. Finally, if we do not stop somewhere along the way, we will be perfected—fully redeemed from sin. Then we have eternity to grow into the image of Christ.

It may be noted that the promises we ordinarily associate with salvation, such as ruling with Christ, are reserved for "him who overcomes."

I have never in my sixty-five years as a disciple of the Lord heard a sermon on what it means to overcome, or a discussion of the rewards to the overcomer.

Someone said recently that every person who makes a profession of belief in Christ is automatically an overcomer.

But stop and think. The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor. It can be assumed, I believe, that most of the members of these seven churches professed belief in Christ.

If this is true, then all the members of the seven churches were overcomers by virtue of the fact that they had made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In this instance, the two chapters do not make any sense at all.

Every day of our Christian experience we have the choice of yielding to sin or not yielding to sin. Every day we choose either to do what is right or to disobey God.

I would like to add two thoughts. First, when Jesus next appears, only the victorious saints will be raised from the dead, receive their new bodies, be caught up to meet Him in the air, and descend with Him to participate in the work of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Second, there will be a tremendous victory that will occur prior to the return of the Lord Jesus, a victory that will prepare the way for the Lord's appearing and the coming of the Kingdom. The victory I am referring to is the hurling to the earth of Satan and his angels from their vantage point in the heavens.

There will be victorious saints in the last days. Christ will have been formed in them and they will be living by his Life. As a result, God will empower Michael to drive Satan and his angels from the Heavens. This victory shall have been made possible because some of the believers will have overcome Satan by resting in the authority of the blood of the Lamb; by cooperating with the Holy Spirit until their mind, speech, and actions conform to the Scriptures.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they have chosen to love not their own life to the point of death. Because it is not they who are living but the obedient Christ who has been formed in them and is dwelling in them, the accusations of the Accuser, Satan, no longer are regarded as valid by the Father. Thus the Father feels justified in empowering Michael to drive from the heavens the ancient cherub and his followers.

You can be one of those who is raised when Christ appears. You can be one of those who overcomes the Accuser by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of your testimony, and by loving not your own life to the point of death.

I am here to say that each day you can choose to do what is right, and the grace of God that is given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ will enable you to do so.

You can overcome through Christ.

You can live in victory over sin.

Stand up straight and fix your eyes on Christ.

The water is only waist deep.

He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7—NIV)

He Who Overcomes

The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation speak of the rewards to "him who overcomes." Personally, I do not believe enough attention is paid to these two chapters. It is like they are not in the Bible; or else they apply to all believers whether they are living in defeat or in victory.

An even more startling statement is made in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation, where God has said that the believer who "overcomes" will inherit all the promises made in the first six verses of this chapter, and God will be his God and he will be God's son. What does this say about the defeated believers?

There is one thing about the Bible. Either we believe every word or we don't. I choose to believe that every word of the accepted manuscripts is the Word of the one true God.

This adherence to the Scriptures has led me into positions that are not in keeping with much of today's presentations. I certainly adhere to the fundamental view concerning the blood atonement and the literal return of the Lord. But so much tradition has been added to this fundamental view that I find myself at odds with the current preaching and teaching.

If we are to take the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, and the seventh verse of the twenty-first chapter, we must conclude that the believers in Christ are divided into two groups. There are those believers who overcome the obstacles presented in the two chapters; and then there are those who do not overcome these obstacles.

Even more challenging is Revelation 21:7. Are we to conclude that only those who live victoriously in Christ are God's sons?

He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7—NIV)

And the Greek term here is "son," not "child" as in John 1:12. Also, as many as are led by the Spirit, they are God's sons, we find in Romans.

Now, are we to say that there is a difference between God's children and God's sons? I do not like special, mystical interpretations of the Bible. I want an interpretation that comes on boldly in both Testaments, like a huge truck on which you can kick the tires. You know what I mean?

I don't like to dabble with novel interpretations. If it doesn't lie clearly in the Book and lead to righteous behavior, then I don't have time for it.

But you know, there is something here of value. The second and third chapters of Revelation tell us of many rewards, or increments of growth, or positions of responsibility, however you wish to view them, that are the inheritance of those who live victoriously.

Now, this is the problem. These increments of growth, or spiritual capabilities, are those we assign ordinarily to all "saved" people!

Some have taken the position that all believers are overcomers by virtue of their having "accepted Christ." But I do not think this position can be defended. The two chapters are written to the churches, so I think it is reasonable to assume that everyone addressed has "accepted Christ."

If every believer in the "seven churches in the province of Asia" is an overcomer by being a member of one of the seven churches, then the two chapters do not make much sense. After all, each of the seven churches is rebuked by the Lord because of its works.

If we are going to adhere to a straightforward interpretation of the Book of Revelation, then we must conclude that Jesus is saying: "To each one of you who chooses to overcome the problems present in your church I am giving increments of spiritual growth which qualify you for the first resurrection, and will climax with your being seated with me on God's Throne."

"And, I might add, being referred to as God's son."

While the two chapters do not mention the first resurrection, it is implicit in the fact that the victorious saints will be governing the nations with Christ during the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

So we have here a line of thought that definitely is contrary to the gospel to which we have been accustomed. We are saying that there are members of Christian churches, and then there are individuals who through Christ are able to gain victory over the problems that beset their churches.

It is these individuals who will inherit the increments of spiritual growth promised to the victorious saints, and who—possibly forever after!— will be designated as God's sons.

I hope you can see how radical this position is. But the important thing is not that it is radical, the important aspect is that it obviously is what the infallible Word declares.

If we conclude that the position we have outlined indeed is true to the Scriptures, then there should be some evidence in the Old Testament that God intends to have a Church that is divided into two parts: those who were able during their lifetime on the earth to overcome the numerous forces coming against them; and those who believed in Jesus but for whatever reason did not live in victory.

There are several examples in the Old Testament, as well as statements in the New, that portray this division of the Christian Church. One of the prominent examples is that of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Tabernacle Tent was divided into two parts. There was the Holy Place, and then the Most Holy Place, separated by the ornate Veil. Please keep in mind that the Tent is a portrayal of the Church, the Body of Christ.

Also, we think of David's reign over part of Israel, and finally over the entire country. And then there was the division between Judah and Israel.

In the Book of Revelation we find the two marriages of the Lamb. The first at the beginning of the thousand-year reign. The second at the coming down from Heaven of the new Jerusalem.

And notice the "firstfruits" of the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. They are treated differently from the remainder of the elect.

The eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation tells of the two Lampstands. One Lampstand is the Lord Jesus, who is dwelling in His firstfruits. The other Lampstand is the Lord's firstfruits.

In any case, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation portray clearly that there are the churches, and then there are the victorious saints.

Why would there be a division of the one Church? It is because there are many members of God's elect—in fact the majority of members—who simply are not willing or able to overcome the deceptions of the enemy that abound in the "valley of the shadow of death" (life on the present earth). Those who do overcome these deceptions are a minority.

If you find this hard to believe, look at the members of any Christian church and notice how many are denying themselves and patiently following Jesus each day. If you find one out of a hundred of the members who really is a cross-carrying saint, you may be in a church that is above average in spiritual growth.

If the important issue were that of dying and going to Heaven, living in victory in the earth would not be so crucial to God's purposes. But God is looking for individuals who prove, by their willingness to stand true regardless of the opposition, that they have a personality strong enough in righteousness to govern the works of God's hands. God then will appoint them to places of rulership when He sets up His Kingdom.

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5—NASB)

Jesus Christ overcame that which came against him, and He is King over all. They who through Him manage to overcome, are the nobility of the Kingdom. It is just as simple as that.

It seems to me that this separation between the victorious saints and the defeated saints will endure throughout the Kingdom Age (which we term the Millennium). But how long after that I am not certain. Perhaps we can notice that David's "mighty men" always were an integral part of Israel. Yet they continued to be famous because of their exploits in war.

It may be true that those who overcome always will be referred to as "God's sons," while the rest are children of God. I do not wish to make a big point of this and start a new denomination called "God's sons." But I am aware that the Book of Revelation is sealed with a special blessing and a special curse; and that if two of the twenty-two chapters are devoted to the subject of overcoming, we certainly should be hearing more about this subject than is true today in America.

Suffice it to say, there is a reward for serving the Lord. If any person, male or female, young or old, chooses not only to believe in Christ but also to follow Him in genuine discipleship, forsaking all else in order that he or she may cleave to Christ at all times throughout his or her lifetime, I believe he or she will find himself or herself one day transformed into a great pillar of light and glory who will serve as a patriarch over a vast multitude of people throughout the endless ages of eternity.

He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7—NIV)

The Overcomers

Honestly, I have written and preached so much about the overcomers that the word has taken on a special meaning in my mind. It is as though overcoming is part of the Gospel message and everyone knows about it.

I checked out "the overcomers" on an Internet search engine. There are numerous Internet addresses. I only looked at a few. Some seemed solid. Others were a bit flaky, in my opinion. But it is evident there are believers like myself who are aware that overcoming is an important Bible issue.

What does it mean to "overcome"? What if we do not overcome? Do we really lose anything of worth by not pursuing the victorious life in Christ? Why are two whole chapters of the Bible devoted to "him who overcomes"? Since "overcoming" has been a central aspect of my preaching and teaching for many years, I would like to add my two cents to the array of available material on this subject.

Let us notice first of all that the "rewards" to those who overcome are offered to Christians. The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are addressed to churches in Asia Minor. They are not presented to non-Christians.

I point out this obvious fact because some are teaching that all Christians by virtue of their having made a profession of faith in Christ are overcomers. If this were the case, the two chapters would make no sense. If every member of the seven churches automatically were overcomers, what is the meaning of "to him who overcomes"?

Those being addressed had made a profession of Christ, in that they were part of one of the churches. What sense would it be to challenge them to be overcomers if they already were overcomers?

It is not unusual for those who speak of "overcomers" to be engaged in weird references. "The sons of God marry the Bride of the Lamb," and so forth. Such strange ideas are not presented clearly in the Scriptures, in my point of view, and I cannot for the life of me see how they lead to righteous behavior. It is my position that all Christian teaching should lead to righteous behavior.

Speaking of righteous behavior, I have noticed that some who are teaching about overcoming, emphasize that the concept does not refer to a change in behavior but to a change in attitude. It is held that we never could experience any comprehensive change in our behavior, only in our attitude toward salvation. Here is the deadly influence of the grace-dispensational teaching of the present time.

Over and over the Lord stresses that He knows our works. Check out Revelation, Chapters Two and Three. See if this is so. See if He says, "I know your attitudes."

After reflecting for over sixty years on the teachings of Christian theology, I have concluded that there is a grievous, destructive idea present, at least in Evangelical theology. The idea is that Christ can forgive us but cannot make us a new righteous creation. He is the Overcomer. We are overcomers by believing that He is the Overcomer. How this travesty of the Gospel must disappoint our Lord!

You know, it may be true that the fact that our redemption includes our deliverance from the authority and power of Satan has not been widely understood throughout the Christian Era. I think also that Gnostic thinking has influenced the Christian Gospel—the idea that if we hold the correct beliefs we will go to Paradise when we die.

I have noticed also—perhaps stemming from Gnosticism—the concept that spirit is good and flesh is evil. Believe it or not, the reverse is true. When God created the material realm He pronounced it "very good." Actually, the flesh is morally neutral. Sin began in the spirit world and entered the physical world as a serpent. To this very day our problems are coming from unclean spiritual forces.

Whatever additional influences there may be, the conclusion in so much of today's preaching is that while we ought to try to please Christ by our actions, righteous behavior is neither possible nor necessary in order to gain the rewards promised to the overcomer.

Maybe I am coming with good news. I hope so. In the present hour of moral decline in the world, especially in the United States, the Holy Spirit is ready to remove sin from us and to enable the growth of Christ in us.

First, how does the Spirit remove sins from us? As we are following Christ, some unclean aspect of our behavior will manifest itself. We then are to confess our action to the Lord clearly. "I have stolen." "I have lied." "I have fornicated." "I have harmed someone in a fit of anger." "I have gossiped about someone." "I have practiced sexual acts that the Scripture condemns."

Then we are to confess that what we have done is vile and does not belong in the Kingdom of God.

Next we are to renounce the specific behavior, declaring that we want nothing more to do with it ever again.

Finally we are to draw near to Christ with a clear conscience. We have done what the Scripture has commanded. We through the Spirit have put to death a sinful practice of our body.

Part of living the overcoming life is that of keeping our involvement in the world to a minimum. In America it is easy to waste time playing with electronic toys; or acquiring wealth we do not actually need; or wasting time on entertainment; or surrounding ourselves with luxuries.

We are not to be conformed to this world but renewed by the transforming of our mind.

Perhaps the most vital ingredient in the overcoming life is that of denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following the Lord Jesus. If we are a sincere Christian, God will see to it that we are confined in one kind of prison or another. We do not enjoy our circumstances. There is something we desire intensely and we are not getting it.

The purpose of such prisons, such crosses, is to kill our self-will. We absolutely must die in the Lord if we are to overcome Satan. There is no other way.

Permit me now to discuss the difference between works and fruit. When we state that the actions I have mentioned above are necessary if we are to live the life of victory in Christ, a great cry goes up to Heaven. It reminds us of the people shouting "Great is Diana of the Ephesians"!

"He is teaching works! We can't have that! He is a legalist! He is detracting from the sovereignty of God in the work of salvation! We are saved by faith (translated 'belief') alone! Anything we do, any effort we make, takes away from the grace of God!"

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:8—NIV)

How ignorant so many believers are! They would acknowledge that God wants us to live a righteous life. But they have been taught that it is impossible.

The good news is that He who stretched forth the sky above us has the power to enable you and me to do good works, so that people who see us acting in this manner will glorify God. Do you believe this? I know you do. We just have been taught error.

Does Christ save us in our sins or from our sins? What do you think?

Well, to sum it all up, an overcomer is an overcomer, not just someone with a better attitude. Each day there comes some sort of pressure or influence to provoke us to do something we know would not please Christ. How are we to respond?

Are we to pray, "Dear Lord, I thank you for your grace. I know you are kind and forgiving. I know that God sees me through Christ. As long as I am in this world I have to sin. I wish I could do better."

Or are we to pray, "Dear Lord. You have the power to help me resist this temptation. Help me right now, in Jesus' name."

Then do not do it! As you turn away from the temptation, Christ will feed you in the spirit realm with his own body and blood. These will build you up in Christ so that the next time you are tempted you will have the strength to resist Satan. "Resist Satan and he will flee from you"!

There is a difference between trying to save ourselves by our own works, and the works that proceed from our daily interaction with the Lord Jesus. The first are dead religious works. The second are the fruit of abiding in Christ.

Works, and fruit. Can you see the difference.

The "rewards" we associate with the Christian life, such as ruling with Christ, are reserved for those who pursue victory in Christ. The rewards actually are steps of authority and competence that lead to the first resurrection, the resurrection of the ruling priests. They shall be raised and receive the making alive of their bodies when Jesus next appears.

They are God's firstfruits!

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:21—NIV)