First Principles Part Five: Living an Overcoming Life

LIVING AN OVERCOMING LIFE requires intentionality and an exercise of faith. It involves following hard after God. Specifically, it features yearning after Him in wonder; choosing a “resurrected” life in Christ. A.W. Tozer warns us that lack of holy desire leads to a stiff and wooden quality in our spirituality. “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.”(1) The Christian church has unfortunately become a place of religious complexity, missing the stripped-down simplicity of first principles. Of paramount importance is the work of redemption, meant to undo the damage sin has done to our relationship with the Father. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). It is only through Jesus that we can be restored to favor and become the adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

An overcoming life turns on full reconciliation; returning again to what Tozer calls conscious communion with God. Paul said, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before [the Father]” (Col. 1:21-22). Paul said we must “…continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23). I find this passage to be a necessary reminder that we are to remain “in the faith” regardless of life’s circumstances. We must avoid falling into such ruminations as, If God really loved me, why would he allow my son to die in a motorcycle accident?! Or, God must not be real after all; look at the troubles that keep coming my way year after year!

The first step we must take is surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—our one and only source for living a victorious life. Watchman Nee wrote about “…the excellent Christ who is in us as our victory.”(2) This is the very source of living an overcoming life. The apostle John made this very clear: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5). God only knows how many times I tried to quit drinking and getting high. I struggled with addiction to pornography for many years. My unbiblical relationship with money reflected my addiction to the trill of spending. Each of these strongholds had to be overcome through Christ. Until I did that, “stopping” eluded me. I could not “not.” (See my article of June 25, 2022, I Cannot “Not” Do.)

Nee believed overcoming involves living the life God has ordained for us. A life that does not thirst after the world. It includes walking apart from sin; indeed, reigning over sin. It is a holy, powerful, and victorious life that knows and follows the will of God and fellowships with Him without interruption. We begin with acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and build on the fundamental truth of His atoning death and resurrection through which we are redeemed and set free. We have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us. The life we now live in the body we live by faith in Jesus, who loves us and who gave himself for us (see Gal. 2:20). Complacency and indifference will get us nowhere. We must walk with Christ in victory and submit to guidance from the Holy Spirit. Tozer said, “This contentment with inadequate and imperfect progress in the life of holiness is, I repeat, a scandal in the church of the First-born.”(3)

Victory Through Christ

Victory is likely one of the most elusive qualities of life. Ask any number of people on the streets or at your church if they regularly experience victory in their lives and you will hear a range of responses: Nope! What is victory? Yes, I live a victorious life through Christ. Unfortunately, most responses will be in the negative. And if Christians struggle with a consistent victorious life, I can only imagine how difficult is the life of the unbeliever. As human beings, we strive for victory. Misguided desires to win or conquer will always take us down any number of dubious paths that lead only to more defeat. This is true because at some point we run out of the power and resources necessary to overcome on our own. No human power can rescue us from the bondage of our sin nature. Paul wrote, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

Please know that I am not an “expert” on living a victorious life. Until recently, I remained powerless over several bad habits, including binge spending. I lived in active addiction for forty years. I needed a “higher power” in order to overcome. Through Jesus we are able to take every thought captive. We can say no to habitual sin. Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit through Whom we receive power and guidance. We have confidence to take a day-by-day approach and not live in constant anxiety. Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). Consider the apostle John’s words, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). There is, however, a valuable lesson I had to learn which was defeating me when I asked for a job or “more money.” James hits it right on the head: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). I had been wasting the resources I was already given. God would not give me more until I managed what I already had.

When we accept Christ as our Savior we are born-again and perfected by the Word of God. There is an amazing aggregate in this thought: the Bible (the Word of God) lays before us the thread of redemption from the moment of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden to the atoning and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. But, more importantly, Jesus is the Word. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He was crucified for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus walked the earth as God’s will incarnate. As both fully God and fully man, He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane before being delivered up to be tried and executed and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Because of His resurrection, He is alive. His Word is alive. His Word is eternal. His Word is powerful. The writer of Hebrews said, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

The power in the Word of God is key to today’s first principles lesson. When we are in Christ, we become partakers of His power—a power that is creative and able of changing us to our very core. It is able to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. This is the bedrock of transformation. We are given access to the very abilities we need for taking every thought captive to Christ. Jesus calls us out of our graves and into His glorious life. We are transformed—the “old” becomes a new creation. Not a remodeling job. A new house, a temple for the Holy Spirit. This transformation is beyond human comprehension. Watchman Nee wrote, “You believe in the death of the Lord Jesus and you believe in the death of the thieves with Him. Now what about your own death? Your crucifixion is more intimate than theirs. They were crucified at the same time as the Lord but on different crosses, whereas you were crucified on the selfsame cross as He, for you were in Him when He died.”(4)

Indeed, a “Glorious Day.”

Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theo.

References
(1) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 13.
(2) Watchman Nee, The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, Vol. 24, The Overcoming Life (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1993), v.
(3) A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1966), 37.
(4) Watchman Nee, “Romans 6,” Bible Faith Hope Love (n.d.), accessed July 5, 2002. URL: http://biblefaithhopelove.blogspot.com/2010/07/romans-6-watchman-nee.html

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references herein are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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