Magazine Article

“To Him Who Overcomes!”

Our reward when we resist temptation

Jay Gallimore
“To Him Who Overcomes!”
Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

With our background, we can feel overwhelmed when faced with the teachings of Paul and John. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:1). Or “I write to you, so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). Is that an impossible goal for people like us? All of us are all quite aware of the spiritual misery we exist in—our selfish natures, thousands of temptations, Satan and his evil angels, not to speak of a corrupt world that is a moral sewer. Yet our heavenly Father has not asked us to do the impossible. He is keenly aware of what we are swimming in (Rom. 3:9-18).

The Goal

Since we have all sinned and have carnal natures, we can never say, this side of heaven, that we are holy. Nevertheless, we are called by Christ and Scripture to pursue holiness (Matt. 5:43-48; Heb. 12:14). And what is holiness? It is Christlikeness. And Christ was morally perfect because He was unselfish love personified. He kept God’s law of love—the Ten Commandments. Many people, with right intentions, have striven to be overcomers, only to become discouraged with their failures. But what was their goal?

What is the goal of the gospel? Paul is clear. “He [Christ] condemned sin the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:3, 4). Only when sin is condemned in us can those requirements become a reality. And sin can be condemned only when we love the Savior for who He is and what He has done for us. And when we love the way He loves, we will have victory and joy on the journey!

Secular Christianity sometimes sings amazing grace to excuse or cover for sinning. But amazing grace not only forgives but defeats sin in our lives. Grace is the enemy of sin, not its enabler! It delivers us from sin, not in sin! God, in His grace, did not send His Son to Calvary to excuse our sinning, but to conquer it!

The How

But how is sin conquered in our lives, given the mess we’re in? Certainly not on our own or even partially on our own! Let us start where Jesus started. He told Nicodemus that he must be “born again.” Paul would call this justification. What does that mean? God makes a sacred pact with us—if we will trust Jesus’ death and resurrection to pay for our sins, then He will write our names in the book of life. And at the same time, He gives us a spiritual new birth. This new birth condemns sin in us because it brings Christ into our hearts. This is the secret of our overcoming power. While being covered by His grace, we have “Christ in [us], the hope of glory!” (Col. 1:27; see also Gal. 2:20). We conquer sin by trusting His grace and abiding in His love (John 15:10).

If our justification was obtained by genuine love and faith, it will always and without fail give birth to conquering sin! Without being born again, we are helpless! We call this conquering process sanctification, or becoming like Jesus in character. John says, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:5). Christ wants us to boldly enter heaven as mighty conquerers!

Our confidence in Christ’s love for us gives birth to our faith in Him. Jesus knew His Father loved Him. And confident in that love, He would trust His Father to lead Him into the darkness of Calvary. A darkness so thick that He couldn’t see through it!1

In the Garden of Eden, Satan went after Eve’s confidence that God loved her. Once she accepted that God was keeping something good from her, she lost her regard for God’s commands. First, she switched her faith to Satan and then switched her loyalty by disobeying God. One always follows the other. Same with us. When we trust His love, we will trust His commands. Such faith will always produce loyalty that obeys out of love!

The Choice

John says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Our living faith brings the mighty Conquerer to our side. Living by faith is not an option for Christians. Faith is the prime mover of our behavior. Belief in someone or something always directs our actions. Let me explain. Let’s say there is a congregation sitting comfortably in church listening to an inspiring sermon. Then the building begins to shake violently. What happens to everyone’s behavior? Why are they now running for the exits? Because their faith in the building has been subverted. Life is built on trust. All behavior, from driving our cars to marriage to buying and selling, live or die on trust!

The formula for overcoming sin is simple. If we love Christ, we will trust His promises and His commands. Then obedience will not be a burden but a joy. When we believe His promises, we are empowered to resist temptation, even under the severest circumstances. Grace does not always remove trials in resisting temptation. Many have given up their lives, rather than yield.

Nevertheless, it is these very hardships that have made some Christians to embrace a weak Jesus who will excuse their sins. We must remember that His mighty power to deliver us from sin is just as great as His power to forgive sin! Forgiveness comes with deliverance, not without it.

Temptation is a sure part of the Christian’s journey! “Prayer is the key in the hand of faith” to overcome temptation.2 Daily, in prayer, we need to examine our hearts. Do we cherish some sinful indulgence that is contrary to the commandments of God more than our precious Savior? Like the psalmist, we should plead, “Search me, O God” (Ps. 139:23). Christ will reveal our weaknesses to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit. This will enable us not to be caught off guard by temptation.

Exiting Camp Au Sable one day and entering I-75, I saw an interstate sign that said something like “Don’t swerve for deer.” Why would the sign say that? Because the natural thing is to swerve when a deer runs in front of you. If you swerve at 70 mph, you can roll your car, and at that speed you are not likely to survive.

If our minds are prepared ahead of time, we will not do the natural thing when temptation surprises us! Joseph had prepared his heart to be loyal to God before Potiphar’s wife showed up. That’s why we talk to our Savior about everything. Jesus will hear our earnest prayers for power and grace to resist the seductive power of temptation.

When evil thoughts cross our minds, as they do for everyone, the temptation is to cherish them instead of expelling them. While Satan can’t read our thoughts, he seems to have the ability to flash ideas or scenes, aided by movies or music or past behavior. Divine help is only a prayer away. Singing a hymn or quoting Scripture out loud or in our heart will help to overcome temptation. By God’s grace we can choose what we think. Our minds don’t have to be a trash can for Satan’s garbage.

The Motivation

Many are troubled by character weaknesses that make us prone to temptation. By bad habits or practices we have chiseled into our characters weak spots, aided by our heredity. Jesus made a fascinating statement, as He headed to Gethsemane, to the effect that when Satan would come with his temptations, He would find nothing in Christ that would respond (John 14:30). As we walk with Jesus over time, faith works through love to fix our vulnerabilities (Gal. 5:6). When we are under God’s banner of love and empowered by grace, Satan and sin loses much of its power to tempt us. For sure, temptation is not sin, but yielding to it is! And if we do sin, thank the Lord, we have an Advocate, who knows how to wash us off!

But we must be warned. We cannot take the justification of Christ or that new birth for granted. We cannot harbor bitterness or cherish rebellion in our hearts toward the commandments of Christ. To do so will harden our hearts. It will diminish our love for God and destroy our faith in Him. Then we will choose to throw away our justification and despise our forgiveness. And because of the deceptiveness of human nature, this can be done under the guise of hypocrisy while preaching or sitting in the pew. 

My memories from childhood are often filled with my mother’s self-sacrificing love. Mother always made sure that our clothes were clean when she sent us off to school. Not always simple with two energetic boys. In those days washing clothes was not easy. The washing machine sat on the back porch. It had two rollers that stood upright for squeezing out the water after the washing was done. And there was no electric dryer. Everything had to be hung on the clothesline, even in the dead of winter.

One day my mother said, “Please, son, try to stay clean today.” I heard the tiredness in her voice, and in my 10-year-old heart I determined to be careful. Our church school at that time was temporarily at the church. My favorite subject was recess, and the parking lot and yard were our playgrounds.

We loved to play tag, and racing around the church was part of it. It had rained the night before, leaving puddles for us to dodge around. But I failed to evade a rather large one. My first thought was about my mother. I loved her, you see! Oh, how I hated to go home and show her my mud-soaked pants. But she didn’t scold me. And she sent me to school the next morning with clean ones. Despite my love for play, her sweet love motivated me, and I became much more careful with my clothes. Her love was growing my character! And that is what Jesus does with us!

I can’t speak for others, but I have come home to Jesus too many times with mud-soaked pants. And I can hear the weariness and pain in His voice when He asks me to keep my clothes clean. Calvary’s washing machine still works, but it is associated with a lot of pain for Jesus. Like my mother, Jesus is very precious to me. And His love inspires me to keep my clothes clean. Still, even though I know He will wash them again, it has become very painful to me when I have let Him down. If we love Jesus with all of our hearts, His love will lead us from faith to faith and from victory to victory! This side of heaven we will never feel or think we have arrived. But we can trust His love, His grace, and His mighty power to keep His promise and deliver us, not in our sins, but from our sins!

1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 753.

2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 94.

Jay Gallimore

Jay Gallimore is a retired pastor who wishes to win souls for Christ.