Grace and Overcoming

By Lloyd Ellefson

Something I received in a letter the other day is worthy of thought. It said, "From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truth, and from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, God of truth deliver us!" The Holy Spirit brings us truth - sometimes it is new to us and at other times He brings previously revealed truth back to our remembrance on a higher level.

Everything that benefits us has its source in the grace of God! It does not come as a result of our works. That is hard for us to believe because rewards and punishment are so ingrained in us! Even in our childhood we experienced the rewards and punishment for our behavior.

There is only one source of power in life. When we are in life, death has no power over us. So we have to get rid of the idea that we are subject to several powers. Those who think there are two sources of power, eventually fear both of them. They fear the devil, they fear God's judgment, and they fear hell. All hope fades away if we think there is no hope in God nor in the devil. There has to be something better - and there is!

In John 16:33 Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." Notice that Jesus did not say, "I'm going to give you peace." Nor did He say that He would protect us from the world. He was telling the disciples that there were two places of living. One place is in Him, and the other is in the world. Living in Him gives us peace, for in Him we can overcome the world. If we live in the world we will have tribulation.

Jesus said, "I have overcome the world." How can we understand this statement in view of what is happening in the world today? We see unrest, violence, evil; we see nations warring against each other, and war within the nations. Evil is multiplying! The tribulation that we experience in the world is ever-present! He has not forced people to settle all their disputes that result in wars and atrocities. There are so many problems in the world, that it is almost like a time bomb today. In spite of all this, we must believe that He did (even though we don't see the evidence), because He said He did! So we have to find out how He overcame the world, for we too want to overcome the world!

So how did Jesus overcome the world? Does overcoming the world mean getting rid of all the evils of the world? Does it have anything to do with getting rid of pornography, abortion, alcohol, drugs, etc.? No, overcoming does not mean getting rid of evil; it means to have victory over the evils of the world. It has nothing to do with fighting against all these evils. Our fight is against our carnal nature that wants to implement its own desires by natural methods. This may sound like a contradiction, but our fight consists of resisting our desire to fight, so the grace of God can work this overcoming. We want to live in the faith that brings us into the rest of God, so He can produce change in us.

In 1 John 5:4 it says, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." This is an interesting statement. Whoever is born of God has the faith that overcomes the world - there is no question about that! To overcome the world we have to have faith in God; having faith in the world is not going to do it. Since Jesus was born of God, He had the faith to overcome the world. He overcame the world by faith!

There is a wonderful promise in Rev. 3:21. It says, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." If we are going to overcome the world, we must have the same understanding of God that Jesus had. We have been given the same Spirit Jesus had, and His Spirit of truth brings us the correct understanding of God! This overcoming is for now!

"And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Rev. 12:9) I wonder how many people who are successful, rich, and in good health would believe that they are in deception. But if they are not in Christ, they are in deception. Christ is the truth, so when He rules, deception is thrown down.

"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, `Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood (soul) of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." (vv.10-11) The power of His Christ is not the power that is in the world; it is not the power that man has been able to accumulate with his scientific knowledge of bombs, etc.

We have no control over life. We can never begin it; we can never destroy it; we can never end it because life is God. We can only operate in a consciousness of life, a sense of being. That is what our soul is. The Greek word PSUCHE has been wrongly translated as LIFE; it should read SOUL. The soul is our awareness, our sense of being, and our consciousness. Those who understand the scriptures, know that most of the references regarding our soul, speak of the destruction of our old soul and the beginning of another. When we receive Christ, we receive a new awareness of being!

The very fact that Jesus Christ came to bring truth means that man did not have truth. Since he did not have truth, he was under a delusion or a deception. If truth had been present before Jesus came, why would He say, "I am the truth"? To Pontius Pilate He said, "For the truth I came into the world." He came to bear testimony to the truth.

Do you think that Christ is made alive in all of the Christian congregations today? Not at all. Many only take the natural concepts of God and bring people into bondage to them. They are denying the Spirit's rule in them, so they are anti-Christ.

"They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." They did not overcome because of the blood that was spilled on Calvary. We overcome because we drink His blood, and thereby receive His sense of being! Receiving His soul means receiving His sense of being. That is what redeems us!

The circulation of the blood in our body helps us to understand this. If our blood did not flow to our fingers, we would lose our sense of touch. What would happen if the blood did not flow to the brain or legs? You see, the blood is really the circulation of the sense of our being. It makes action possible.

It is the same with Christ. When His blood comes to us spiritually, we receive His sense of being, realization and understanding of God. Whoever is in Christ Jesus is a new creation, a new creature! If we are to overcome the world and the god of this world, we have to overcome in the same way that Christ did! We must live in His life, and not love our soul even when faced with death!

Our dwelling place must be in the heavens, and it is a place of rejoicing! "Rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them..." (v.12) When we are living in Christ's sense of being we are not loving our soul, and the devil has already been overcome.

There is nothing in the ten commandments or in any other laws that helps us to overcome the world. Jesus did not use the law to overcome the world, did He? He did not overcome the world during the thirty years in which He lived under the law. If He would have died before He went to the Jordan River, we would not have had any proof that He was the Son of God; He would have died like an ordinary man.

Jesus began to demonstrate the overcoming of the world after He was released from the law at the Jordan; from that day onward He was no longer under the law; He was over the law! All the laws against the evils of this world will never overcome them! The only way they can be overcome, is by embracing the peace of God that is in Jesus Christ, and by having the faith that is in Jesus Christ. A whole new realm of thinking and realization of life is ours in God! This is the message we receive in the Holy Spirit!

Everyone wants to overcome the world, but their ideas and methods vary. Many think that getting money, health, and security is the way to do it. They want power over people and power over nations. Jesus told us to come out of this worldly mess, and to begin operating in the kingdom of God. That is our call, and it has always been the Christian's call!

Rom. 6:16: "Do you know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" Mankind is a slave to sin because it has given itself up to sin. It has yielded to the wrong idea of God.

The mentality of the world is materialism and self. This mentality is anti-God and anti-Spirit. People yield themselves to this type of thinking. After all, Satan is the proponent and promoter of natural materialistic thought, isn't he? If he can get you to think his way, you will have the tribulation that is in the world. All you have to do is to think like the world in order to be taken into the problems of the world.

When we think as Christ thinks we are taken out of the tribulation that is in the world. Yielding ourselves to obey Christ results in receiving His righteousness. How do we yield ourselves to Christ? It begins by yielding our thoughts and ideas to Him. How did unrighteousness have its beginning in Adam and Eve? Were they not offered some thoughts and suggestions which were against what God had said? When they yielded themselves to that wrong thinking, they became slaves to that kind of thought.

Let's look at the consequences. Because we have yielded ourselves to the thoughts and ideas of the world, we are in bondage to them as slaves. We can't get out of this bondage by ourselves. Therefore we have to look for help to change our thinking. If we were not in slavery, we could remedy the situation ourselves. Since we are unable to remedy it, Christ has come to introduce us to a new kind of thinking which will free us. His blood or His soul brings us a new realm of thinking which will eventually overcome the natural mind of this world. Doesn't that sound good? Yes, and that is what He is doing!

In spite of the great salvation Christ has achieved for us, many still think of His death on par with an animal sacrifice with the added power of getting them into heaven. So often we want God to answer our self-centered prayers, for it is so convenient to have a God who is at our disposal to help us. To have our minds changed is such an inconvenience! Haven't we got things backward? What right have we to ask God for things which do not have their source in Him? But haven't we been praying these prayers? They don't work, for the world isn't any better than it was before. Yet we keep believing our delusions.

How can we change? When we recognize that our ideas are inferior to God's, we will be willing to submit to His thoughts, for they are better and higher than ours. This enables us to leave our own ideas - the thoughts which come from self. Everything has to originate from God's purpose and intention for man! When we think according to His will, we will function in His will, and things will begin to happen.

We have to remember that God is not dealing with people's sins. That is not the problem, for He has already dealt with sin. Man's carnal nature, His carnal mind that causes him to sin, is the problem. But God has dealt with that problem too, for in Christ He has created a new man!

Man can only be changed by giving up his own ideas, his own nature. We feel so irritated when people harm us and wrong us, and we often meditate on why they would do such a thing. Wouldn't it be better if we would get our mind off the "Why" and remember they are only acting according to their nature? As long as they live in that nature, they cannot do anything else. Why pick on the little things that people do? Why not just remember that they are operating from the nature in which they are living. That certainly makes for a more peaceful life. Changing their behavior will satisfy us, but it will not have any eternal value. Actually, it is wrong for us to expect them to live in a nature they do not have. Why then do we put these expectations on people? Do you think God expects an unregenerate person, living in the Adamic nature, to live according to a nature which he does not have? If He did, He would have more ulcers than we do.

In order to have the peace of God, we have to receive understanding about our responsibility toward other people. It is not up to us to change the nature of people, or to correct them by putting the law on them and by harping on their wrong doings. Our part is to testify of our understanding of God.

In Rom. 3:4 it says, "...let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." Can we let God be true? Do we let every man be a liar? Or do we have a problem with this? Unless we receive truth and grow in it, we will not know what error is; neither will we have patience, righteousness, and that good which is from the tree of life.

In Psalms 51:4 we read, "...So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge." People's unbelief continually judges God. However this does not mean that God is wrong. Every man who declares God to be wrong will be proven a liar. God is going to be justified in what He says, and He will overcome when He is judged. Therefore, when our confession agrees with what God says, we will be justified in what we say, and overcome when we are judged.

When we are convinced that there is no other truth but the truth we have in Christ Jesus, we will testify to that truth. Judgment reveals the truth of that testimony; it will prove that we have overcome error. All unbelievers will be proved wrong.

Matt. 6:25-28 says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin...Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?'...So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (vv.31,34) In these verses we notice that it is in our thoughts where needs first present themselves. We think that we need this and that as we plan for tomorrow. As we contemplate, fear and/or desire drive us to do something about it.

There are natural things which we need for life. If we do not have wood for the fire, we need to go out and get some. Jesus was not implying that we should not do that. He was talking about something else. He said that we should not be anxious about these things! We should be concerned with the thoughts which are in God.

It says, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You." (Isa. 26:3) How can we get into trouble if our mind is always on Christ? If our mind is on Christ, how can our peace be disturbed? To keep our mind on Christ means to keep our mind in line with the mind of Christ, and to listen to His voice alone! It means to see Him as the answer to our every need!

Jesus said, "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." (Luke 12:40) People's thinking does not influence or hasten the time of His coming, nor does the world's deterioration determine the time of His coming. His coming will occur in an hour when we are not expecting it - when we are not thinking about it. We are to understand that all our natural thoughts about the coming of the Lord are wrong. If we try to induce Him to come by our figuring, we are acting as lord over His coming.

Jesus Himself said, "I don't know the hour." Why? The timing was up to His Father. He did not tell the Father what to do; He only did what the Father told Him. That is the way it should be with us too. The presence of Christ only comes according to the Father's will. Christ does not come according to our figuring. Just because many think He will come at a certain time to set up His kingdom, does not mean He will do so. He comes to us through His own thoughts. He has to give us the thoughts and desire to seek Him. Do you understand that? We cannot find truth by reading the Bible unless the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us; we cannot discover Christ by human activity. He has to reveal Himself!

As we come into subjection to God and meditate on Him, Christ will speak to us and we will hear Him. We cannot know Christ by our own thoughts. It is a subjection of our mind to the mind of Christ. In this process we do not initiate thought, but we let Him speak to us. That is how we receive the coming of Christ, the presence of Christ and the understanding of Christ! As we take time to get into this realm - the realm where we abandon our own thoughts and understanding of God - He will bring us into a deeper and higher level of understanding!

God does not take every natural thing away from us; He places the natural into the light, so that the carnal part of it loses its appeal. That is what we need. The grace of God came by Jesus Christ; it does not come in any other way! We are not going to overcome the world until we can let go of our own works, thoughts and mental attitudes.

The god of this world, of whom Jesus Christ said, "he has nothing in Me," is a thought system. These thoughts were introduced to man in Genesis 3. They are the carnal or natural thinking of the Adamic man. We overcome that mind by the sense of being we have in Christ Jesus! That is why we need the Holy Spirit to be the Lord of our life! We need Him in order to overcome the world!

God bless you! Amen.

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