For many months now, we have been talking about “reflecting God’s image,” which is the purpose of our lives as Christians. In order to accomplish this purpose, God has given us His indwelling Spirit so that we can be transformed into His likeness and we can glorify Him.
We have also talked about some of the “hindrances” to God’s purpose being implemented in our lives. For example, we explored the war that goes on in our souls between “our flesh” (our natural thoughts and emotions) pulling us one way and God’s Spirit and His power pulling us the other. The solution to this problem, we said, is our own moment-by-moment “faith choices”-choices to follow God no matter how we feel or what we think. This is why they are called “faith” choices. This is the only way we will ever overcome “the flesh,” the world and the enemy.
Ever since becoming a Christian, I have been fascinated with the words overcoming and overcomers. So much so, that Chuck and I together are writing a new book called The Kingdom, Power and Glory which will be “an overcomer’s handbook.” I think we are more excited about this new project than any of the others, because the overcomers are the ones promised Millennial inheritance.
Listen to what Chapters 2 - 3 of Revelation promise those who overcome: “I will give [him] 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” (2:17); “I will give [him] power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron...and I will give him the morning star” (2:26-28); “...[he will] 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” (3:5); “I will 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.” (3:12)
And the most incredible promises of all, 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.” And Revelation 21:7, “He shall inherit all things and I will be His God and he shall be My son.”
“Overcoming” simply means relinquishing our entire selves to God so we can be controlled and directed by His Spirit. 1 John 5:4 affirms this: “For whatsoever is born of God (by His Spirit in us) overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth [is committed to, relies upon, trusts in] that Jesus is the Son of God.”
God tells us to “take every thought captive” and make the appropriate choices to put off our sin and self and to put on Christ so that we can learn to be overcomers. (2 Corinthians 10:50; Ephesians 4:22-24) In the next few paragraphs, I want to share with you the story of a beautiful, young woman who has learned how to make those moment-by-moment “faith choices” to do put off her natural thoughts and emotions and put on Christ. And by doing so, she is in the process of learning how to overcome her flesh, the world and the enemy.
A Beautiful Example
Erica is a precious, young woman who works with us at The King’s High Way ministry. I asked her to write her story as she is one who has experienced firsthand the spiritual battle that is raging around each of us and the importance of our faith choices in learning to overcome. Erica is 29 years old. Here’s what she had to say:
“As I write down my testimony, all that I can think about is how far God has brought me. It’s nothing short of a miracle. I know I had to endure some of the bad stuff so that I could see the faithfulness and the goodness of God, and see that I was living in complete darkness-Satan’s world.
“I was an alcoholic and drug addict for ten years. I lived for it. It was who I was and my life. I was born into the dysfunctional lifestyle. I was so empty and lonely that I tried to end my life many, many times. I’ve been in jails, mental wards, four treatment centers (for a total of one and a half years), gone to Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and contracted Hepatitis C through I.V. drug use. Nothing I did, no matter what I tried, worked-until I was on my way to the State Mental Hospital for six months, court-ordered by the Judge. That’s when the Lord found me and began to change my life. I finally surrendered!
“The Lord has taken my old emotional outbursts and replaced them with a supernatural Love in my heart for others. Before, I didn’t care who I hurt or used. Bitterness, hate and resentment consumed me.
“God has healed me because He loves me! He has healed me from hepatitis C (it will be two full years this summer), from alcohol, from drugs, from cigarettes, from depression, from suicidal thoughts and abuses of all different kinds. If you would have told me that ‘God loved me’ before, I would have told you, ‘You are nuts.’ Yet, after everything I did, He still loves me. I know it in my heart, it’s not a head thing anymore. His faithfulness and Love are too evident. I can’t deny this. It takes away all the pain and loneliness I experienced.
“Because of His unconditional Love, God is showing me how to surrender my life back to Him (moment by moment). He is continually teaching me how to be a godly wife and mother. This has been a struggle, but I am learning that my ways don’t work anymore. I can’t fix or change my family. In fact, I only seem to make things worse. The Lord is showing me that He can handle it all! Thus, I lay my husband, Bill, and my children down to the Lord every day and when I do, I see the hand of God move in such a visible way. It’s absolutely amazing.
“I love my husband and am learning so much through him. When I surrender my life to the Lord on a moment-by-moment basis, I’m able to love Bill with God’s Love and he, in turn, can see Jesus in me. I know my husband and my children belong to the Lord and are simply a gift to me for which I thank the Lord every day.
“What I strive for now, is to be a clean vessel so that God can continue to use me.”* * *
It’s important to understand that we can never overcome “the flesh” by natural means. In fact, we cannot repair “the flesh,” discipline it or educate it. The flesh must be crucified. Only by putting our sin and self at the Cross can we ever be liberated to live totally by the Spirit.
Knowing God Loves Us
In order to begin to be an “overcomer” like Erica, we must not only recognize the spiritual battle going on around us, we must also personally experience God’s Love. God’s Love is a gift that we all receive when we are born anew by His Spirit. Therefore, if we have asked Jesus into our heart to be our Savior, then not only has Jesus come into our heart, but His Love is there also. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is Love. And in John 17:26, Jesus tells us: “And I have declared...that the Love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Saying that “we must know that God loves us” might sound a little simplistic, but let me tell you, it’s one of the most important concepts to learn. Everything else hinges upon this one principle. Knowing God loves us is the foundation of our walk with Him. We can’t surrender our lives to Him if we aren’t really sure that He loves us. You can hear in Erica’s testimony how important that fact was to her. Again, this sounds so easy (know that God loves you), but in reality it’s probably one of the most difficult things to really experience, especially if there are “strongholds” in our soul.
In our haste to be like Jesus, many of us have forgotten this first basic step-to personally know the extent and the depth of God’s Love. If we really knew how much He loved us, we would never fear what He might allow into our lives or doubt His power to cast out the impostors. We would always have the confidence and the trust to continually abandon ourselves into His care and know that He will take care of us no matter what. What happens if we don’t know that we are loved by the Father, is that we won’t have the confidence or the trust to lay our wills and our lives down to Him and do as He asks.
When I first began teaching about faith choices in the study, The Way of Agape, my focus was on the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind...and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
But after several years of hearing the reactions of the women in those first classes, I realized that there is no way that they could ever learn to surrender themselves to God unless they first personally knew that God loved them. Knowing that God loves us is the foundation of our faith walk and without being able to personally experience His Love and acceptance in our own lives, we’re never going to be able to move forward in our Christian life.
This principle is true no matter how long we have been Christians, no matter how many people we have led to the Lord, no matter how many Scriptures we know or how many Bible studies we have taught. If we really know that God loves us, then we’ll have the confidence and the trust to continually relinquish our wills and our lives to Him and, thus, see His hand print of Love at every turn. This is what gives us the confidence to make choices we don’t feel, because we know God will be faithful to align our feelings with our faith choices and perform His will through us.
As Isaiah 49:16 so beautifully says, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls [your souls] are continually before Me.”
If, however, we doubt His Love, we won’t have the confidence to surrender ourselves, which will not only limit our ability to experience His personal touch on our own lives, but also hinder our passing along His Love to others. This doesn’t mean that God isn’t in our hearts, loving us. He is! It just means that because we have quenched His Spirit by doubt, unbelief and fear, we won’t have that daily, living, experience of encountering His hand print at every turn. And if we’re not sure of His Love, our feelings will continually scream, “It’s scary. I can’t do it. I’m afraid. It’s going to fall flat! It won’t work! I’m not sure! I can’t.” Therefore, knowing God loves us personally is critical. It’s a very important step to putting off the flesh, fighting the enemy and learning how to become overcomers!
Isaiah 43:2-5 reassures us: “When thou passest through the waters [trouble], I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God... [You are] precious in My sight and...I have loved thee.”* * *
(If you have trouble believing that God loves you and will be faithful to perform what He has promised to you, I strongly suggest getting The Way of Agape textbook and specifically reading Chapter Seven, “How Do I Know God Loves Me?” You might also go over the Knowing God Loves Me Scriptures in the Appendix of that book and, by faith, choose to believe what God says in those Scriptures.)
To be continued next month: Learning to Love God. This article has been excerpted in part from Nan’s new book Reflections of His Image: God’s Purpose for your Life. See page 37 for details on this book and other King’s High Way materials.