Three Steps To Victory
January 5, 1993
Certain subjects are of perennial interest to thoughtful Christians. Whenever a pastor deals with one of those subjects, he knows that most of the people will be right with him from the very beginning. It may be Bible prophecy, it may be the Holy Spirit, it may be something about marriage and the family, or it may be something about spiritual victory. That is my subject in this message: How to walk in victory in the Christian life.
If you doubt whether that is a popular subject, I invite you to go to any Christian bookstore and see how many books and tapes there are for sale on the general subject of spiritual victory. You’ll find books about three steps and four ways and five secrets and seven ideas and eight good things that you can do that will help you find spiritual victory. Radio preachers, the men with the great nationwide ministries, talk about spiritual victory all the time. They do it for a reason. There is a great hunger and a great desire among the people of God to find a way to live in victory. Behind that hunger is the reality that many believers live spiritually-defeated lives. So many Christians go through life struggling from day to day, from hour to hour, from month to month, and so many Christians struggle with the same sins over and over again, month after month, and year after year that they feel like they never make any progress.
Are there any secrets? Are there any steps? Are there any things that we can discover from God’s Word that can help us live victoriously this week? I think the answer to that question is yes.
Seeking a Balance
However, there is a problem with much current teaching of the victorious life. So much of it tends to go to extremes. For instance, there’s the teaching that says you if want victory, all you need to do is understand that God has done it all. Those who teach this use the slogan, “Let go and let God.” That teaching, which basically has a Biblical core to it, if taken to an extreme will turn you into a very passive Christian. Other teachers say, “You have to do it all.” Spiritual victory depends 100% on you. That teaching–which also contains a core of truth–may turn you into a legalist, a rule keeper, a performance addict, and ultimately into an arrogant, proud person with perfectionist tendencies. A third teaching suggests that if you want spiritual victory, you need a crisis experience. Certainly many Christians do come to a moment of decisive surrender to God. But if you take that too far, it may turn you into an introspective and somewhat emotional Christian, who is dependent upon an emotional experience.
Let me repeat: All three views have some biblical basis. God has done something to make it possible for you to live in victory. Yet there is something you must do. And most of us will have very crucial, deeply moving crisis experiences with God which lift us from one plateau to another. So I think there’s truth to all these teachings, but we don’t want to go to extremes. We want to find a solid biblical balance.
The Central Passage
In order to do that, we’re going to look at the central passage in the New Testament on spiritual victory–Romans chapter 6:1-14. I want to make a comment before we jump into the text. The general thrust of these verses is very clear. The details of any particular verse may confuse you but the general flow of Paul’s thought is not difficult to follow. Rather than spending a lot of time on any one verse, I want to survey the entire section. Taken together, this passage presents a great message from the Apostle Paul about how you can live in spiritual victory.
Here’s a quote from Charles Erdman: “The life of a Christian need not be one of ceaseless conflict. It should be a life of ever more continuous victory.” Sounds good. I’m all for that. The question is, How do you get from where we are to a life of ever more continuous victory? If there is a way from here to there, it’s revealed to us in Romans 6. This passage tells us that there are basically three steps to spiritual victory.
Romans 6:3 asks “Or don’t you know?” Verse 6 adds “For we know;” verse 9 also says “For we know.” Spiritual victory begins with someone knowing something. That’s the first step. You’ve got to know something. Step 2 comes in verse 11, “in the same way count yourselves.” I prefer the word used
in the King James version. Not “count yourselves” but reckon yourselves.” Then we come to step three, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin … but rather offer yourselves to God.”
Step one: Know!
Step two: Reckon!
Step three: Yield!
Everything in this passage fits into one of these three headings. You’ve got to know something, you’ve got to reckon something, you’ve got to yield something. Taken together, they’re God’s prescription for the believer’s walk in victory.
Step # 1: Know!
If you want victory, you must know certain things. Christian living is always dependent upon Christian learning. Duty follows from doctrine. If Satan can keep us ignorant, he can keep us impotent. So if you want victory, it’s got to start in the mind with knowing certain truths.
Verses 1-10 tell us that that you need to know what you were, what you are, and what you now have.
A. What You Were
1. Crucified with Christ 2
2. Buried with Christ 3
3. Raised with Christ 4
4. United with Christ 5
“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
How many people were crucified at Calvary? If you said three, from a historical point of view you’d be quite correct. From a theological point of view, you’d be wrong. These verses are telling us that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you were there that day. You were crucified with Christ, you were buried with him, you were raised from the dead. The cross of Jesus Christ is an event that transcends time. It is an event that is so important that it has implications that begin before the universe was created and stretch out all the way to the end of time. Your spiritual history begins at the cross of Jesus Christ. You died with him. You were buried with him. You were raised from the dead and therefore you are united with Jesus Christ.
All of that is symbolized in the act of believer’s baptism. When I baptize somebody, they symbolically portray the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the new testament the word baptism, though it literally means to immerse, has a symbolic meaning. The symbolic meaning is wrapped up in the word identification. When you are baptized, you are publicly identified with Jesus Christ. That’s why whenever we baptize, we always sing “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.” Baptism is that point at which you publicly identify with the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It symbolizes what happens to you the moment you say yes to Jesus. It happened historically 2000 years ago. It happens for you the moment you say “yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says, “We died to sin.” That’s a fact, not an experience. You may say, “I don’t feel like I was crucified with Christ.” Feelings have nothing to do with it. “I don’t feel like I was raised with Christ.” Your feelings have nothing to do with the truth. From God’s point of view, he sees you as dead, buried and raised with the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore united with him so tightly that you could never be separated. That’s the basic truth of this passage.
B. What you are
1. Dead to sin 2
2. Freed from sin 7
Paul draws two conclusions from the truth of your union with Christ. Verse 2 says “We died to sin” and verse 7 says “Anyone who has died is freed from sin.” To be dead to sin means to be freed from the ruining power of sin in your life. Dead to sin does not mean that you do not sin. I get scared when people say, “Pastor Ray, I’m beyond sin.” I just back off from people like that because they scare me to death. Dead to sin doesn’t mean that you never sin again. It doesn’t mean freed from temptation to sin.
Although you are dead to sin, sin is not dead to you. What it does mean is this. Although sin is a reality, it no longer has the power to dominate your life. That’s what it means to be dead to sin. You are separated forever from the dominating ruling power of sin. It’s like watching a lion roar at the zoo. You may get a thrill from listening to the lion roar in his cage. But as long as the lion is behind bars, you’re safe. The lion can roar all it wants but it can’t do anything to you unless you do something stupid like crawl into the cage. Then you have problems. Sin is like a roaring lion. As long as you understand that the power of sin is broken, sin cannot dominate your life unless you choose to let it dominate your life.
C. What you have
1. A brand-new life 4
2. Resurrection life 5, 8-10
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”
God did what he died for us in that “we too may live a new life.” (4) In the Greek that’s an interesting word. It means “new of a different kind.” It does not mean new in the sense of better. God did not save you to give you a better life. He saved you to give you a new life. He didn’t save you in order to renovate the old life that you messed up. No, he saved you to give you a brand-new life of a completely different kind. Salvation is not reformation or renovation. It’s not just an improvement over what you used to have. It’s the impartation of the divine life of God–which means that you have something now that you never had before.
What is it? You have the resurrection life in Jesus Christ. “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (5) You now have the resurrection life of Jesus within. That’s a fact, not an experience. You may say, “I don’t feel like I’ve got a new life.” It doesn’t matter what you feel on the inside. We all go up and down emotionally. If you’re a believer, then God has given you a brand-new life, the resurrection life of his son Jesus Christ. It’s a fact not an experience.
True spirituality begins with a proper understanding of what God has done for you. If you don’t understand what God has done for you, steps two and three aren’t going to work in your life. It all begins with understanding what God did in your life the moment you trusted Christ. He gave you a brand-new life and transferred you from the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God. But how do you you make it real? All this truth, this head knowledge, how do you make it real on a day to day basis?
Step # 2: Reckon!
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
You have to reckon, or consider or count that everything I just said actually is true. “Dead to sin but alive to God” is basically a summary of what he said in the first ten verses. If you don’t understand all of that about baptism and the old man and being dead to sin and freed from sin, just focus on this one phrase: Dead to sin, but alive to God. You were dead to sin but now through Jesus Christ you are alive to God.
In place of “count” or “consider” I’ve used the old word “reckon.” But that might be misleading to some people. Down South people use “reckon” to mean “maybe I will and maybe I won’t,” as in “I reckon I’ll come by and see you.” That means, “I suppose I’m coming, but I’m not sure.” There’s an element of conditionality in that use of the word “reckon.” But that meaning in English has nothing to do with the meaning in Greek.
The Greek word is a term from banking or accounting. It means to credit money to a particular account. It means that when you deposit $1000, the bank credits your account with $1000. Therefore when you write a check for $500, you don’t worry about it because you are reckoning on the fact that money is actually in your account.
Reckoning means to count on the fact that God has actually done what he said he would do. It means to count on the fact that if God said it, he meant it, and therefore he did it. It means to live on the basis of the fact that God wasn’t kidding when he said he would do this, therefore he did it, and therefore you can count on it.
Reckoning is not claiming a promise but acting upon a fact. It’s not make-believe. It’s not getting yourself into an emotional tizzy, or pretending something is true that you know is not true. It’s believing that what God has said he would do, he really did do, therefore it really is true, therefore you can depend upon it, therefore you can stake your life upon it, therefore it’s an actual fact.
What does that mean spiritually? Everybody by nature is born into the kingdom of Satan and sin. You were born here. You are going to live there all your life until you come to Christ. When you say yes to Jesus, you’re transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. Once you lived for sin; now you’ve been transferred into the kingdom of God.
*You have a new King.
*You have a new Master.
*You have a new Lord.
*You have a new citizenship.
*You have a new way of looking at things.
*You have new boundaries for your conduct.
You’ve been changed; you’ve been transferred. You were living one life; now you’ve been given a brand-new life and transferred to a brand new realm.
To reckon means to count on the fact that those things really are true. It means that basically the whole story of your life is basically just two parts: BC and AD, Before Christ and After Deliverance. The whole story of your life can be written in two volumes. Volume one would be called “What I was like before I knew Jesus Christ.” Volume two is “What my life is like since Christ came in.”
It’s like those ads you see for Jenny Craig. “I used to weigh 450 pounds until I started going to Jenny Craig. Now I weight 108 pounds dripping wet.” Or it’s like those old ads that said, “I used to be a 98-pound weakling. Then I signed up with Charles Atlas and now I’m a muscle man.” To reckon means to understand that your life has a before and an after.
37 Years in the Jungle
In 1982 an unusual thing happened on the island of Guam. A Japanese soldier came out of the jungle. He had been living in the jungle for 37 years, since the end of world war II. Why? Because when the news came at the end of the war, he couldn’t believe that Japan had surrendered and the war was over. So for 37 years he lived in the jungle.
Let me ask you a question. During those 37 years was he free? Sure. At any time from 1945 until 1982, he was completely free to come out of the jungle. It’s not like General MacArthur was coming in to get him. He was free. He could come out in 1950 or 1955 or 1969. He was completely free on a theoretical basis. But because he didn’t believe it–because he didn’t reckon the fact of his freedom to be true–he lived in self-imposed bondage in the jungle for 37 years. Was he free? Yes. Was he free? No, because he chose to stay in bondage, in hiding, in fear in the jungle.
Many Christians are still living in the jungle of sin. The war is over, Christ has won, but they refuse to believe it. They live in self-imposed bondage to sin. They are still in the jungle spiritually because they refuse to believe that Christ has set them free.
A Tale of a Defeated Tyrant
Once upon a time a mighty, terrible tyrant ruled the land. So terrible and so powerful was he that all the people cowered before him. They hated him fiercely but he was so powerful they could no nothing about it. He was a cruel, vindictive task-master who abused everyone without exception. He took their money and corrupted their morals. He was evil through and through.
One day a man riding a white horse came to town. He challenged the tyrant to do battle with him. The tyrant thought it was a big joke. But when the battle was over, the stranger on the white horse had won and the tyrant was thrown in prison. When the victory was announced, a strange silence fell across the land. The people had lived in bondage so long they couldn’t quite believe the good news. Every time they ventured outside, they got scared and returned to their homes. After all, the tyrant was not destroyed but only in prison. From time to time they heard his wild screams and wondered if he would someday get free.
If only they had known the tyrant was locked up forever and could never get out. But they knew it not. Life didn’t change much. They were so fearful of the tyrant that even after the battle was over and victory declared, they still lived in abject fear.
Were they free? Yes, the man on the white horse had won the battle. The tyrant was in prison. Were they free? No, because they did not believe it in their hearts. They continued in fearful slavery to the defeated tyrant because they did not reckon the victory to be true. If they ever had enough courage to believe in their hearts what was actually true … their lives would reflect the freedom they already had.
Yesterday I attended a meeting with Luis Palau–the famous Latin American evangelist. He was born in Argentina but in his message he kept emphasizing his American citizenship. “I was born in Argentina but now I am an American citizen.” He said it three times. Then he pulled out his passport as if we were doubting his word. He opened it up and said, “See, it says, ’U.S. Citizen, Luis Palau.’ I’m a citizen of the United States of America. I was born in Argentina and once was a citizen of that country. But now I’m a citizen of the United States of America. When I went before a judge in San Francisco, he said to me, ’Sir, do you renounce the government and the flag of Argentina?’ I said, ’Yes sir, I do.’ The man said, ’Do you swear allegiance and loyalty to the United States of America?’ I said, ’Yes sir, I do.’” Then Luis Palau said, “If I go back to Argentina, I don’t go back as a citizen. I go back as a visitor because I’m not a citizen of that country any more. I’m a citizen of the United States of America.”
The same thing is true for you and for me. If you know Jesus Christ, you’re not a citizen of this world any more. You’re a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. The moment you said yes to Jesus Christ, God gave you a new passport and its got a stamp on it that says Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the great defining spiritual truth. You can’t go back any more. You can’t pretend that you are still a citizen of this world. You’ve got to reckon yourself, you’ve got to count yourself, you’ve got to consider yourself transferred by God from one kingdom to another. You can’t live the way you used to live because you’re not the person you used to be. You’ve been changed. You’ve been transformed. Your citizenship has been transferred from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of heaven.
Step # 3: Yield!
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
So step number one is Know! Step number two is Reckon! Step number three comes in light of number one and number two: Yield! Paul says it negatively and positively: “Don’t yield!” and “Yield!” Don’t yield what? “The parts of your body.” Yield what? “The parts of your body.” What are the parts of your body? Your hands, fingers, eyes, ears, lips, legs, feet, toes, and all the rest.
He’s very specific about it. “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness.” The word “instruments” really means “weapons.” Don’t offer your the parts of your body as weapons of wickedness but rather yield yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and offer the parts of your body to God as weapons to righteousness.
There are two facts about this yielding. Number one, it must be decisive. By decisive I mean that you’ve got to come to a place in your life where you decide that you’re going to be God’s man or woman wherever you go. Too many of us are living partly in the world and partly in the kingdom of heaven. You can’t do that. You cannot do that and be successful and happy in the Christian life. You’ll never know victory if you try to live in both worlds. The way to spiritual victory is to understand that you are now God’s man or woman and you must now live for him.
Number two, this yielding must be definite. Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” What are you to offer to God? Your physical body. Why does God wants your body? Because if God’s got your body, he’s got you. Because everywhere your body goes, you soon must follow. If God’s got your body, he’s got you.
The Battle Is On!
Yesterday one of the members of our church said to me, “Pastor, we need more teaching in this church on spiritual warfare. Look what’s happening in our world around us. Look at the decline of Oak Park and River Forest and the spiritual decline of America. There’s a war going on and our people have got to understand that.” I think she’s right. There’s a war going on out there, a war between the forces of good and the forces of evil, a war between Satan and God, a war between the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of righteousness. You see it every day. God is looking for some people who will sign up to be in his army.
Here is the awesome truth: Satan and God are battling for you. Satan would love to sign you up to serve in his evil empire. God through his Holy Spirit is saying, “No, you’re my child. I want you to sign up in the army of God.” Have you ever thought of it this way? God has no lips except your lips yielded to him. He has no eyes except your eyes yielded to him. He has no ears except your ears yielded to him. He has no hands except your hands yielded to him. He has no feet except your feet offered to him.
Spiritual victory will never be real for you until you make it particular and definite regarding the parts of your body. Let’s talk about your eyes. Have you been looking at things this week that you shouldn’t be looking at? Let’s talk about your ears. Have you been listening to gossip, slander, filthy talk and coarse humor? Let’s talk about your lips. Have you used your lips this week for swearing, for anger, for bitterness? Are your lips yielded to God? What about your hands? Are your hands yielded to God or do you use your hands to grasp more of this world’s goods? What about your feet? Are your feet yielded to God or are they constantly taking you where you shouldn’t go? What about the most intimate parts of your body? Are those parts yielded to God or are you using them for evil?
Spiritual victory isn’t going to happen until you make it very personal. How personal? Yield your body to God. I challenge you to check off those areas that need to be yielded to God.
_________My intimate parts
How about your lips? How about your eyes? How about your ears? Your mind, your hands, your feet, your heart, your intimate parts? If you want victory, you can have it. You have to know something, you have to reckon something, and then you’ve got to get serious. You’ve got to yield the particular parts of your body for the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. When your lips become his, your eyes become his, your ears, your hands,your feet, all become his, you know what’s going to happen? You’ll be his. You’ll be his wherever you go and you will know spiritual victory. It’s possible. God has made it possible. But now you’ve got to be serious and yield the parts of your body to him. When you do that, you will know lasting and true spiritual victory.
Lord, some of us would like to talk about victory but we don’t want to talk about our hands, our feet, our lips, our eyes. We want victory but we don’t want to yield anything to you. Help us to be specific, definite and decisive. May we yield all to you. May we become men and women of God so that through us you can minister your healing grace to a world in need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.