Victory is a common theme in the New Testament. Christians are compared to soldiers in a war and athletes in a competition. Paul lists an array of forces at work against us and boldly declares, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). This theme of victory is popular in the church today and prominent in our preaching, worship, and merchandise.
A Flawed Trend
Which makes it a shame that victory in the biblical sense is badly misunderstood. It seems “victory” is thought to mean being happy in spite of the stress in our lives. This stems from our misguided goals as Americans and a resulting ignorance of who our enemies truly are.
As Americans, our goal is to be successful and happy. We regard anything that interferes with our happiness as an enemy and claim “victory” over it in Jesus’ name. But as Christians, our goal should be to honor Jesus as citizens of His kingdom. We must claim victory over anything that pressures us to dishonor or disown Him.
What the Bible Says
The New Testament mentions five enemies that work against the Christian life. It assures us that we are able to overcome them, and promises us a reward for doing so. Here are the enemies we must conquer in Jesus’ name and power:
- Sin. Sin and temptation are our enemy. Sin has a corrosive power that decays our Christian character and relationship with God. Our spiritual nature and our sinful nature are always “in conflict with each other” (Galatians 5:17). We must avail ourselves of “the grace of God that…teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:11-12).
- False teaching. False teachers who tell lies about Jesus are our enemy. Their lies produce false beliefs about Him and foolish behavior in His name. John says we have overcome these antichrists and false prophets because we have the Holy Spirit and know the truth (1 John 2:18-27; 4:1-6).
- Persecution. Governments and religions that are hostile to Jesus are our enemy. They hinder the gospel and harm the church by mistreating and murdering Christians. But those who suffer for Jesus’ sake “will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:5), and “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
- Death. Death is mankind’s ultimate enemy. It destroys us spiritually by separating us from God and physically by separating us from our bodies. Paul says God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5). He also says that “death will be swallowed up in victory” when we are raised from the dead at Jesus’ return (1 Corinthians 15:54).
- The world. The world is Satan’s domain and host to all our enemies. It is a spiritual system that is marked by and motivates rebellion against God. But we can take comfort because Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4-5).
What It Means For Us
There is an army of enemies waging war against Christians! But Jesus promises that “the gates of Hell will not overcome the church” (Matthew 16:18). God has given us every resource to conquer our enemies in Christ:
- The armor of God. Paul orders us to “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) and describes a full suit of armor, including: a girdle, a breastplate, boots, a shield, a helmet, and a sword. We can play defense and offense against our enemies if we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus’ promises. Jesus gives sweet promises in His seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2 – 3). He identifies the enemy present in each church and offers a reward to “him who overcomes” it. It would do us much good in our own battles to reflect on and draw strength from these promises.
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