A Formula for Overcoming

December 14, 2016

God's Word provides the formula for victory over our spiritual adversary.

FROM A SERMON BY John Musgrave

T

he Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos around A.D. 95. Throughout the Book, it is apparent that the Lord looks at the Church and wants His people to have victory. He wants us to be overcomers.

John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, when he saw the glorified, risen Christ and received of Him messages for seven churches in Asia—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Those messages are recorded in Revelation, chapters 2-3. Each follows the same basic structure and includes a praise and/or criticism of the church being addressed and, if applicable, a reproof and warning with instructions for correction. Encouragement is also given, and a reward is promised to those who overcome.  

The messages to the churches tell us that God has an intimate relationship with the Body of Christ, and that He is watching and looking for a Church without spot or wrinkle.

The messages to the churches tell us that God has an intimate relationship with the Body of Christ, and that He is watching and looking for a Church without spot or wrinkle—one that is holy and without blemish. For example, in the message to the church in Sardis, we learn that their works were not found to be perfect before God. This confirms that our Lord is watching, and it tells us that holiness is what He is looking for when He looks into the Church.

The seven messages generally have been viewed in three different ways. Some interpret them in a strictly literal sense as pertaining specifically to the seven locations addressed. Some view them as representing seven different periods of the historical Church. Others view them as highlighting various conditions found in churches of every era. However, each message closes with the admonition, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7). No matter how we view the messages, they are applicable today if we wish to be overcomers.

The formula

In Revelation 12:11 we find the formula for how to overcome: “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.” To get the right results from any formula, all the elements must be present and the formula must be followed correctly.

Years ago I worked at a feed plant in Montana. One day we were making a batch of pellets for cattle. We combined the ingredients and then put the mixture through a pelleting mill. As the batter came out and fell onto a die similar to a table, rollers went over it, pushing the ingredients through holes in the die. Below that was a cutting blade, which was designed to slice the extruded material into pellets. However, on that day, the pellet material was not holding together. Only crumbles were coming through the holes in the die. We adjusted the pellet mill, the amount of molasses, and the steam, but still there were only crumbles. What came out would have made good chicken feed, but it was not acceptable for cattle.

We had a problem, so we looked again at the ingredients and found that we had omitted the bentonite, which is a binding agent. When making the big pellets needed for cattle—ones that are three-quarter to one inch around—a binding agent is needed. We had forgotten that ingredient. To be an overcomer, we must follow the formula using all of the ingredients.

The need for overcoming

The word overcome means “to conquer or defeat, to prevail over, or to overpower or overwhelm.” This definition indicates that we have an adversary. God’s Word clearly defines who that adversary is. In Revelation 12:9 we read, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”

When I started working at the feed plant, I was replacing a foreman who had been terminated. One of my subordinates was that man’s good friend, and he actively did what he could to make my work more difficult. I am certain he wanted my dismissal, and perhaps he wanted my job. At the very least, he would have liked for his friend to be hired back. He was my adversary; he opposed me. That is one of the definitions of an adversary—a person who opposes.

As an adversary, the devil wants more than your job; he wants to destroy you. He wants your soul, he wants my soul, and he wants them to end in a lost eternity.

Other dictionary definitions for the word adversary are “The Adversary,” “The Devil,” and “Satan.” As an adversary, the devil wants more than your job; he wants to destroy you. He wants your soul, he wants my soul, and he wants them to end in a lost eternity. We are given this warning of him in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” This is why we need to have the right formula. This is why we need to be overcomers.

Element #1: the Blood of the Lamb

Looking back at John’s formula, we see that the “blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:11) is the first and most important element by which we overcome. We are sinners by birth and by choice. On our own, we cannot change our condition. However, Satan’s defeat was accomplished on the Cross at Calvary when Jesus gave His life as the sacrifice for our sins. John wrote in Revelation 1:5, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” When we repent of our sins, looking to Jesus as our sacrifice, His Blood cleanses us from sins—we are washed in the Blood of the Lamb. There is no other way to receive salvation. There is no substitute ingredient for that.

The Apostle Peter presented the same thought in 1 Peter 1:18-19, where we read, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” We need to be washed in the Blood of the Lamb if we are to be overcomers.

Element #2: our testimony

We also overcome by the word of our testimony: that is the second element in overcoming. This means being a faithful witness to the work and the grace of God. If you have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb and have had that Blood applied to your heart, you have a wonderful and a powerful testimony. In Psalm 107:2 we find, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” This verse gives us the definition of an overcomer, and also presents a responsibility.

A few years ago I was called to jury duty and was selected for a criminal trial. During the trial, several witnesses were brought in to testify. Each one was asked to give the details of a crime which had been committed at their place of work on a certain day. At the close of their testimonies, this final question was asked: “Is the person who committed the crime present in the courtroom today?” One by one, each witness pointed to the defendant. That was a powerful testimony! People can and will debate religion. They will debate the validity of the Bible. They will debate what constitutes salvation. They will debate how we should serve God. However, they cannot debate our personal testimonies.

Opportunities to present a personal testimony come about in many ways. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Several years ago a medical examiner gave me a test necessary for obtaining a life insurance policy. This person took my blood pressure and a blood sample. Then he asked me some questions. One was, “Do you smoke?” I answered, “No.” The next question was “Have you ever smoked?” I said, “Yes.” Then I was asked, “When did you quit?” I responded, “January 4, 1984.” I remember wondering at that time if he had ever received an answer as direct as that. The examiner went on to ask, “Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?” I answered no to both. Then he asked, “Have you ever?” I said, “Yes.” The next question was, “When did you quit?” To which my answer was, “January 4, 1984.” Your personal testimony is real! It cannot be refuted if it is a testimony born by the Blood of Jesus. The power of that Blood makes a change in one’s heart and life in a moment of time. When this happens, you will know it.

Element #3: not loving our lives to the death

We overcome by not loving our lives “unto the death”—we do not love our lives so much that we are afraid of death. From the first martyr, Stephen, to this present day, countless Christians have sealed their testimonies by paying the ultimate price for their faith. However, in a country that does not persecute Christians or threaten our lives because of our faith, how do we fulfill this requirement? This is an ingredient in being an overcomer, so it is important.

Our Lord told His disciples in Matthew 16:24-25, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Our hearts and our lives must be consecrated fully to God and His service.

Eternal benefits for overcomers

After the Children of Israel were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they were given a warning not to forget God. We can apply that warning to our nations, and to our lives today. It is found in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God.” Paul wrote also in 2 Timothy 3:1-4, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” We must be careful to maintain our testimonies, and keep God first in our lives.

We will sit down with Christ, to reign and rule with Him, even as He overcame and sat down next to His Father on His throne.

In reading through the seven messages to the churches in Asia, we find that there are eternal benefits to being an overcomer. Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” The Tree of Life was in the midst of the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve had access to it before the fall. Then, when sin entered into the world, access was taken away. As overcomers, we once more will have access to the Tree of Life, which is eternal life, in Heaven. Another benefit is we will be clothed with white raiment as part of the pure Bride of Christ. We will sit down with Christ, to reign and rule with Him, even as He overcame and sat down next to His Father on His throne. Overcomers will rejoice with the hosts of Heaven throughout eternity, because they overcame the adversary.

A final admonition was given to each of the seven churches: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7). The Holy Spirit is continually calling after hearts. He wants you and me to be full overcomers. He wants us to enjoy the blessings and the benefits of salvation. Part of the message to the church of Laodicea was, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” (Revelation 3:20). What do you normally do when someone comes to your door and knocks? If you want to see the one who is knocking, you open the door. If you are hopeful he or she will go away, you ignore the knocking. The remainder of that verse says, “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The Lord is knocking at hearts’ doors today, and He does not want to go away. He wants each of us to be full overcomers, enjoying victory.

If you have not answered Christ’s knock, you can today. You can have the Blood applied to your life. Jesus will give you a testimony and a life worth living. Will you let Him in today?

About the author

John Musgrave is the Treasurer of the Apostolic Faith Church, and a minister at the church in Portland, Oregon.