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Rainbow Divider

OVERCOMING THE BEAST

by Phil Enlow

Rainbow Divider

We love to think of ourselves in ways that enhance our own vision of who we are. We like to measure ourselves against somebody else and if we see someone whose life is dissolute, caught in some obvious sin, and it’s out there for everyone to see, we look down on them as though they’re somehow lesser than we are. And the truth of the matter is every single one of us has exactly the same nature. It simply expresses itself in different ways.

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Adapted from a message preached at the Bible Tabernacle on May 8, 2016, also used on the Midnight Cry TV broadcast in September, 2017.

Last week, the subject had to do with how God works in our lives to prepare us for what He wants, individually. It wasn’t just, trials have a purpose in some vague sense, but how God uses them, individually, very personally, to prepare individual Christians for their place in His kingdom.

And our place with respect to that is, of course, to stand fast in our faith, keep looking to Him and trusting Him through the process, and knowing that the process itself develops the quality of perseverance, which is never giving up, and that quality of perseverance is what takes us to the final goal. There is certainly a standing and a yielding and all of that to it.

During this past week, the Lord had several ways of reminding me that that’s only part of the picture, that if we’re going to be the kind of people God wants, there’s more to it. And you can see it, certainly, in the writings of the New Testament.

Consider Paul’s exhortations to Timothy, for example. He’s writing to a younger man based on a lot of personal experience, recognizing that he has been through things himself. He’s had to discover things about himself that weren’t fun.

And I have a feeling that’s where a lot of us are. We’re having to reckon on the truth of what God is saving us from, seeing ourselves, in the big picture, as objects of God’s mercy. Paul, the self-righteous Pharisee, got to the place where he could write with a straight face, this is something that’s true, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (NIV).

So, instead of seeing himself as somebody who was pretty good but had made a few mistakes along the way, he saw himself as the very worst of sinners. Of course, that put him in a position of being able to look anybody in the eye, no matter what they were guilty of, and say, “There’s hope for you because look what God did for me and I’m worse than you are!”

Now, that doesn’t come naturally. We love to think of ourselves in ways that enhance our own vision of who we are. We like to measure ourselves against somebody else and if we see someone whose life is dissolute, caught in some obvious sin, and it’s out there for everyone to see, we look down on them as though they’re somehow lesser than we are. And the truth of the matter is every single one of us has exactly the same nature. It simply expresses itself in different ways.

And, if we’re going to serve God, we’re going to have to reckon honestly with the reality that we live in bodies that hate God. They have a nature, on the inside, that hates God, hates what is right, and absolutely will stand in our way, if we let it.

A lot of people think of salvation as simply God blotting out the guilt of our sins and giving us a ticket to Heaven. But there’s so much more to what He has done for us and what He has purposed for us than simply blotting out our sins and saying, okay, go live your life and I’ll take you to Heaven one day. He is doing a work of changing, of transforming, of giving us a different life.

But while we live here, His purpose in giving us that other life is that we may learn to live by it and not by the old one. And so, Paul’s instructions to Timothy are full of warnings about the need to overcome.

There’s a scripture in 2nd Timothy chapter 2 where Paul has just finished talking about the fact that “The Lord knows those who are His….” But then he says in verse 19, “… and, everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

And here’s the principle: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

And it’s on the heels of that, he says, Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” And, there are other instructions, but this recurring message to Timothy is, don’t just assume that because God saved you and He’s called you to do a work that you’re equipped to do that. You have a part to play and if you don’t deal honestly with sin, and the principle of sin that would operate in your body, you’re going to be hijacked. You’re going to be rendered useless to the master.

And there’s a scripture at the end of 1st Corinthians, chapter 9, where Paul talks about how he looked at his own ministry and his own life. He says in verses 24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

So, being saved, being genuinely even born again, is an awesome thing! It’s wonderful! But if we’re going to actually be useful to God in the world, there’s going to have to be some overcoming, isn’t there? There’s going to have to be some reckoning, honestly, with sin. And I feel like that’s something that God is bringing many of us to in a way that perhaps we haven’t seen before. Am I wrong? Am I the only one?

I was thinking, the other day, of a scripture, and I’ll just refer to it. You can read it later, but it goes all the way back to the beginning of Genesis, in chapter 4. And in Genesis 4, you read the account of Cain and Abel, two of Adam and Eve’s children. And it talks about the fact that Cain did this and Abel did that.

But they brought offerings to the Lord. And obviously, there was a difference between them. The Lord doesn’t explain it all, but He recognized Abel’s sacrifice and did not receive Cain’s and Cain was mad! And the Lord reached out to him and said, why are you angry? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? But He says if not, sin crouches at the door and, “…it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

That’s an interesting picture of how the Lord portrays sin. You know, we think of sin as “sins,” acts that God doesn’t approve of. We think it’s like breaking rules. But God pictures sin here, not as a bunch of rules, but as a beast, a powerful, angry, destructive beast that’s ready to devour you.

I think there’s a place for really coming face to face with that. How many of you remember that Paul did? Paul’s concept of being right with God, at one time, was entirely based upon rule keeping. It was practicing a religion with all its rituals, observing its rules, refraining from this, doing that, and so on.

And, based on that, he was very confident of his righteousness before God — and he despised those who didn’t measure up to that standard. And God had to take him all the way from that place down to where he was actually able to say — and it wasn’t just something he said, it was something he believed from the depths of his soul — “I am the worst of sinners!”

What was it that accomplished that in him? We’ve talked about it many times. He came to a place, after he met the Lord, where in the strength of all his religious zeal he was really going to serve God. He was going to give it everything he had! His attitude was, “I’m going to obey God’s laws and everything is going to be wonderful.” The only thing is, he absolutely and utterly failed.

And I know there are people here who know exactly what he was feeling. The whole idea of law is based upon one simple thing: it’s God demanding something of you that you, in your strength, rise up and do in order to acquire His favor. And an awful lot of people have that idea about God. He’s just the Rule-maker in the sky.

So Paul still had to really learn something about why it was he needed a Savior to begin with. And he came all the way down to where he recognized, I want to do right, why can’t I? What’s going on here? I don’t get this. He says, if I do what I don’t want to do, then it’s no longer me but it’s sin that dwells in me!

He ran into that beast! He recognized, there’s a beast in this body that lives here. As long as I’m in it, I’m going to be dealing with it. It’s there. It’s real. And so he cried out, oh God, what a “… wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (KJV). There was a real confrontation.

And my purpose at this point is certainly not to exalt sin and try to make us feel like, oh God, there’s no hope. That’s not the point at all. But if we’re going to deal honestly with life and with serving God, we’re going to have to reckon on the reality that we’re up against something we have no answer for, in ourselves.

The Lord allowed me to experience something the other morning. It doesn’t matter what it was about, but I woke up and felt this presence and it certainly was a spirit. But in one sense, I wasn’t thinking, “This is a spirit.” It was like, “This is that beast. This is sin.”

And it was projecting onto me this feeling of, “I’ve got you. I’m more powerful than you. You cannot beat me. I rule over you. Your situation is hopeless. It’s futile. No matter what you do, I’m going to win. I’ve got the upper hand.”

Well, of course, thank God, that’s a lie! But I won’t ask you for a show of hands. How many of you ever really realize what you’re up against? You’ve had some run-ins with that beast when you suddenly felt the terror of sin’s power?

I’ll tell you one thing it does. We were singing about Jesus and what He did: in taking upon Himself our sin, it wasn’t just the guilt of a bunch of acts of sin, He became sin! I don’t know how to even put it into words, the magnitude of what He did for us, to face that beast down, and to conquer it on our behalf! My God! What an awesome, amazing thing!

And so over and over again you will see Paul exhorting Timothy and Titus and Christian believers in general, and you get this feeling: don’t you dare take sin lightly! Don’t you dare just blow through life as though all you have to do is show up and just live your life and sin is not a problem anymore. If we’re going to be God’s people in an hour of darkness, we’re going to have to reckon on the reality of what it is that we fight.

Paul didn’t say, “Just show up and minister. God’s called you. That’s all you have to do.” He said, “Fight the good fight of faith.” I had a big fight to get up here today. Thank God for everything that was shared! I appreciate it! God put that into your heart, Matt, and others, to get up and share, because there’s an honesty we need!

And I believe that we do need to be reaching out. We need to be fighting back. We don’t just need to show up and expect, hey, God’s salvation is so great, He’s just going to take care of it. There is a part we play. There is, absolutely, a part that we play. Timothy was not just told, as I say, to show up but, you have to fight. “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (NIV).

The obvious question then is, how do you do that? And that’s one that I’ve had to wrestle with. Thank God that He takes us through these things, though! We cannot be His servants and not go through the things that help us to understand what it’s all about.

So, if you’re going through a battle today with self, if you’re going through a battle with your nature that wants to rise up and take control, God is allowing that because He wants you to understand the magnitude of salvation and He wants to turn our eyes to the solution, to the greatness of the salvation that He has given us so that we don’t yield to that thing, we don’t back down when the Devil roars in our face.

And I praise God! I mean, I praise God for the battle. I praise God for times when feelings aren’t there. Because, praise God, we live by faith. There are times we’re going to have to rise up and say, God’s Word is true!

Well, just like I had to do this morning. I had to say, “Lord, okay. You’ve put this in my heart. I can’t do anything about it. It’s really not what I wanted to preach, because it’s so real to me, it’s so personal. Who am I to stand up and talk about these things?” And the Lord went the extra mile this morning, didn’t He?

But I believe what He told me was true this week. He kept reminding me, “You’re not the only one. You’re not the only one.” God’s people are being tried in so many ways. If you want to live a defeated life with sin in control, in one way or another, you just get up in the morning and waltz through your life. Maybe say, “Hi Lord, how are You doing? See You later,” so to speak. But you just simply live your life, in your own strength, doing what you want to do, and I guarantee sin will beat you every single time.

And if you’re not even aware of that, you really are in a bad place. If you can live your life and you’re not even aware that there is something that is wanting to rise up in you that is against God, that is wanting to take control of your life, that’s a bad place to be. I’m thankful! I’m thankful for a sensitivity. I’m thankful for an awareness.

I read something online. It doesn’t matter all the details. But it was somebody who was talking about being caught in a lifestyle. I guess I’ll put it that way. And it probably isn’t what you’re thinking. But anyway, they were caught by something. And one of the things that was expressed in this was a sense of terror at a loss of control.

How many of you have gone down the path of a weakness in your life and you’ve reached the point where you don’t have control anymore? You just kind of go right along and you know, this is not what it’s supposed to be, but, somehow, you can’t stop. That’s a scary feeling.

But I’ll tell you what, if we did not have an answer as to what the Bible teaches us on this subject and what we experience in our lives, if we didn’t have an answer, we might as well turn the lights out and go home. There’s no religion you can practice that’ll deal with this.

But I’ll tell you, there’s an answer that God has already set in motion. He gave laws, yes. But He didn’t give them to save us. He gave laws to restrain evil among the Israelites in the Old Testament. It did a limited job but at least they knew what was right and what was wrong in His eyes.

But He also gave it to demonstrate to every single one of us that we are sinners and we need something beyond ourselves. We need to learn the same lesson that Paul learned. And if God is taking you through something like that in your life right now, do not be discouraged by it! Don’t you give up! Don’t you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “There’s no hope,” and give in to that beast that wants to look you in the eye and say, “I’ve got the upper hand, there’s nothing you can do!” It’s like Ron says: it doesn’t matter whether you’re up here or down here, we fight the same battles.

And God has arranged it that way. It’s right that every single one of us, who serve God, has to fight the same battles. And so, don’t you say, “I’m different from so-and-so. I can never amount to anything.” God has a place for you in His kingdom but He wants every one of us to face that beast and to know how to defeat it. Praise God!

And so, the question is, how do you do that? Let’s just look at a couple of passages of scripture. Galatians 5 is certainly one of them that we’ve used many times. And Paul is specifically dealing with the question of law and so that’s not especially what I’m worried about. We’ve already talked about that. But the Galatian believers had come to Christ and somebody had come in behind Paul and tried to impose the law on them as though you need Christ and the law. And he says, you can’t do that, you can’t mix them.

But anyway, coming down to verse 13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” So, that right there tells me that we have a part to play, that the course of our Christian life is not just something where we lay back and God performs operations on us: we have a part, we have a response, we have a responsibility. In the course of our life are we going to be victorious or are we not? Every one of us can do the wrong thing, can yield to the wrong thing.

Do you know the letters that Paul wrote were not written to unbelievers? Every one was written to believers, warning about things. And, as I say, just coming to Christ doesn’t eliminate all this. Why else would Paul say, now you’re saints, you’ve been called, you’ve come to Christ, so stop lying to each other, stop practicing sexual immorality, stop all these things.

Obviously, there’s no instant transformation that happens, in a practical sense, in people’s lives. You’ve got to teach and exhort and help people to understand what the Christian life is about and how to get there. You don’t get there by rules, you get there by taking in the new life and living by it.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Now, that’s written to Christians.

It’s a warning, isn’t it? There are a lot of people sitting in churches who would look down their noses at somebody who’s caught in sin and lying in the gutter somewhere. And from God’s point of view, they might be in worse shape because they are shameless gossips, they’re people who run people down with their mouths, they have all of these other kinds of self-righteous sins of the spirit, and they’ve got a strong hold and it defines their character. And yet there they are, pointing the finger down here.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

How many of us can say, “Lord, I love You? I want to serve You. I thank You for the freedom. Lord, have people point to me because they’re going to see You.”

You wonder why we’re experiencing some of the things that we’re experiencing right now. See, the Lord wants to take us closer and closer to that place. It’s not a leap where you suddenly are there. This is a process. This is a journey, not a destination. But it’s a journey we need to take and not just throw up our hands and say, “This is the way it is. I’m just stuck here.”

“…Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (NIV). And the words behind this next expression about ‘the sinful nature desires what is contrary’ — there’s an adverse relationship. They are enemies. You have two literal life forces that are at war with each other!

As I say, sin is not just a list of things not to do. Those are expressions of a nature that is opposed to everything about God’s nature. And God’s nature defines His creation. The other life is like a cancer. It is a wicked life form that destroys everything it touches!

And what’s deceptive about it is it promises, and actually delivers, moments of pleasure! What sin nature does is take the gifts of God that He gave us in His creation and perverts them into a selfish use that totally twists His purpose in giving them to us in the first place.

God is not against pleasure. We haven’t even begun to taste what pleasure’s about. There are pleasures forevermore at His right hand. But they will be free from all of this selfish kind of thing that takes hold and takes people down the road like that woman said. She was terrified by how out of control this thing felt to her. It had become the master.

I’ll tell you, the pleasure that He gives doesn’t do that. It sets free. We can enjoy the sense of peace with God and the love and all the fruits that He’s given to us. We can enjoy them. The closer we get to Him, the more real pleasure there will be!

But oh, there’s a war going on. There are these adverse life forms. We possess it. Don’t you look in the mirror and say, I’m different. You’re not. You’ve got it, and if you listen to it, if you go by it, it’s going to take you down a bad road.

We read recently the scripture in James 1 about not saying when you’re tempted, God’s tempting me, because we’re tempted when we’re drawn away by our own lusts. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished…” (KJV). See, it’s not an instantaneous thing. “…Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Oh, thank God there’s an answer for that awful beast!

Thank God! I hope, in one sense, if you’ve never felt the terror of that beast that you will. Because what it does is help us never again to take it lightly, to blow it off and just think we can handle life. You can’t. If you just run through in your own strength, sin will take you over in one form or another. It will rule your life.

So, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you…” — this is the reason — “…So that you do not do what you want.” (NIV). This is the reason Paul felt that helplessness. It’s because they were adverse to one another.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” And so now, he gives examples. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious.” This is not sin itself, but this is what sin does. These are some of the things. “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” So, it’s not a comprehensive list, is it? “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s a description of the world.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Boy, we need that last one, don’t we? “Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” So, Paul is constantly going back to what God has done for us, isn’t he? Thank God there’s always someplace we can look where there’s hope!

But listen to what he says here. Verse 25 is revealing. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Now, what does that tell you? They’re not the same thing, are they? It’s possible to be born of God’s Spirit and have His life in you and yet not walk in accordance with that. Why would he spend so much time in the Scriptures warning about this issue if it didn’t matter?

You know, it’s quite a balance to take this thing so seriously that we recognize the power of that beast and yet, not to be discouraged, not to be down, not to be defeated, not to have the sense of futility that you could get if that’s all you looked at. I want to have that balance.

I believe Paul did, don’t you? He was honest enough to say, you have got a real enemy here. You’ve got something that, if you’re going to serve God, you’re going to have to fight. You’re going to have to gain the upper hand. You’re going to have to rule over this thing if you’re going to successfully serve God.

But thank God we have got the answer to everything that rises up in here! There is a power that is greater that’s available to every single one of us! We didn’t earn it! We don’t deserve it! But God has given it to everyone who will take a hold of it.

And I know everyone who’s served the Lord any length of time, you know the difference between walking with the Lord, and there’s a measure of peace, there’s a measure of victory, it’s not just feelings, and then all of the sudden, you get tired, and you kind of drift. And the next thing you know, things start coming into your mind. You’ve got things that begin to work on you and begin to take you down roads. And I’ll tell you, if you’re not careful, it’ll take you down some bad roads. Thank God, we’ve got an answer.

But there’s that admonition, “Since we live by the Spirit….” We have His life. If we’ve come to Christ, if we put our faith in Him and recognize, Lord, I come to You as a sinner. I come to You because I need salvation. Lord, let the blood that was shed back there cover my sins. I need that new life. I need that new life that’s going to blossom and going to live forever. I’ll tell you, there’s a God who’ll answer a heart cry like that.

But then, the Christian life begins. Then is when we need to learn how to walk by the Spirit. And it’s not just religious rites and activities. It’s lifting our hearts to Him.

You know, when we’re awake, it’s just lifting our hearts and saying, “Lord, I love You. Lord, I need You. Lord, help me to solve this. “I feel this thing coming against my mind” — and it’s not just a bunch of empty words.

God has to teach us how to live with a consciousness of Him, that’s not just activities, not just, okay, I’ve got to read this, I’ve got to do that. You can reduce the Christian life to a bunch of duties if you’re not careful.

But I’ll tell you, there is something real that He’s describing here. It’s a real war, but God has made provision that you and I can have real victory. And so, I hope this helps all of us to understand some of the battles that we’re in.

Let me go to Romans chapter 6, because this is the one where Paul really deals with this issue in a very straightforward way. He’s just informed us that those who live by the Spirit, those who draw upon God’s grace in this life have the ability, by that grace, by that strength that we receive from Heaven, to reign in life. That is, we’re in charge. Sin’s not in charge. That’s what it comes down to.

And where sin got stronger and stronger because of God’s law, God’s grace is greater than that. Thank God! Thank God there’s a source of help and hope that we have in Him! It’s always greater.

But now, Paul goes back to the Cross and to what happened there and the resurrection and helps us to understand. And something more happened than simply Jesus dying for the guilt of my sins. It’s that He took me with Him. I died with Him. It’s not a matter of how I feel, not a matter of whether I even understand it, because the people to whom he was writing, this was new stuff, I’m sure, to them.

But this is something God did knowing that I was going to face the issues that I faced this week, the last week before that, wherever, whenever it was, the issues that you’re facing right now, God knew that. God knew that there was something that was going to rise up in us that was contrary to Him that we’re going to have battle against and overcome! And He already put us to death back there.

So, we’re not trying to make something happen that hopefully will happen someday. We are laying hold of something that’s already happened. Do you understand the difference? Think about it. Praise God! I’m in a position where I’m just right there with you, trying to lay hold of the reality of what God has done.

When He died, I died. When He was buried, I was buried. God put me in the ground. When He came forth, there was a new life. The life that’s in me was in Him when He came out of that tomb. And now He has shared it with me, and He’s shared it with you if you’re His. Thank God, it’s real!

Verse 8: “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…” Thank God! “…Death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all.”

It represented not just a death because of sin, it was a death to it! It was a rejection of that beast! He said in effect, “I’m going to face you and I’m going to beat you the only way that I can. I’m going to surrender my body to death, and I’m going to rise up with a new life that you can’t touch.” Praise God!

“…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. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s where it gets down to the practical side, because if it was sort of an automatic thing, we come to Christ and, praise God, sin has no more power to do us any damage, why would he say what he’s about to say? “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” It would make no sense to say that if it wasn’t possible.

“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…” (Thank God) “…but under grace.”

There are areas of weakness in every one of us. Your area might not be getting drunk and falling in the gutter somewhere, but you’ve got other things where Satan has had access to your heart, to your spirit, to your mind. And under the right conditions, he will cultivate that. He will work in that. There are habits that develop in the way we think, the way we act, and God is shining His light in our lives.

You wonder why the battles? God is interested in delivering us from strongholds that we may not even realize we have. And so, as painful as it sometimes is, as humbling as it is, thank God for that, too. We have reason to rejoice. We have reason to say, “Thank You, Lord for the light, because I didn’t realize this had such a hold on me. God, help me! God, help me to be honest with myself! Help me to face what’s going on, to realize the enemy has created a habit of thinking and acting!”

I had this thought also. It talks about, “don’t yield,” but when is it that we actually yield? When do we actually yield? I think I used this silly example one time. It was from the movie, “Smokie and the Bandit.” Sheriff Buford T. Justice was a character in it.

He had caught some young punks trying to steal stuff from a car, and he left them standing with their hands on the car. He said, “Wait, my deputy will be here.” And he said something like, “Don’t even think about leaving.” Then he said, “Well, you can think about it. Just don’t do it.”

But you know, that illustrates, I think sometimes, the approach we have. We think if we don’t actually do something that it’s okay. At what point are we really yielding? If you’re letting negative thinking and angry thoughts or self-pitying thoughts, if you’re letting those possess your mind, you’ve already yielded. Now, that may unfold and lead you down a path to an act, but the yielding doesn’t happen down here, it happened back here.

It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? But I’m so thankful that what Paul is talking about here is not simply a negative battle not to do stuff. We have another alternative. We don’t just “not” yield to this. We yield to Him. There is a reaching out after God. There is a reckoning on the reality of what Jesus died to give us. There is something that is real that God has laid up for you in Heaven. It belongs to you! It belongs to me!

And the very fact that everybody is so quiet right now tells me that this is a battle. It’s a battle to realize that, in spite of what I am in myself, that really is mine. Am I the only one who fights this battle? No! The tendency is, as soon as we feel, as soon as we realize the weaknesses, or as soon as we sense something that’s not quite like it ought to be, our focus goes to that.

And suddenly I remember this glorious provision. Well, that’s wonderful for somebody else, or later, or when I get myself back up to a certain spiritual level. I don’t deserve it. I just can’t quite bring myself to believe that it really is mine now.

You know, I believe with all my heart God is longing to teach us that that’s the very time — that is the very time — if we’re going to fight the good fight of the faith, that’s the time we’re going to have to be willing to rise up and say, Lord, that’s mine. Devil, you are lying to me. You are doing everything in your power to keep me as your slave.

Because Paul says, if you offer yourself to somebody, and you obey what they tell you, you are making yourself their slave whether they have a right to it or not. There are people here right now with strongholds in your lives and the reason is you yielded. I yielded. There are things to which we have habitually yielded in our lives that God longs to see us delivered from so we can be effective for Him.

But, thank God, He’s not just standing up there with His arms folded, looking down at us with disgust, and saying, “Straighten up and fly right.” He’s saying, “I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been here. I have the answer. I have a source of life that if you will exercise yourself, if you will simply pray, if you will lift your heart to Me, if you will praise Me, if you will fight against, if you will resist those lies and declare them to be what they are, if you will feast upon the promises of My Word, if you will do all these things, there’s a source of life that will flow into you that will give you a strength to stand up and say, ‘Devil, I don’t have to listen to you. I don’t have to yield to your lies. I don’t have to go down that road. God has given me the victory.’” Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

Praise God! That’s from 1st Corinthians 15, if you want to look at that at the end of the chapter.

I want to go back to one scripture that I referred to in Timothy. I’m not even going to look up where it’s at right now, but where he says, “Fight the good fight of faith…” (KJV). What does he say next?

In the King James — this is how I tend to remember it: “…Lay hold on eternal life.” See, it’s not just fight the good fight of the faith. Draw upon your resources! Get your will power geared up, and you’ll…no! It’s “lay hold.” There’s something there that is real. If we are not victorious in any area of our life, it’s not because God has failed. It’s because we are not laying hold of what He’s given to us.

Just like the Israelites, God gave them the land, but they had to go and possess it. This body is the land He wants us to possess.

And so, along with God’s call and God’s working in our lives to make us into the vessels He wants, there’s a part that we play. Like Paul, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels….” We’re going to have to do some fighting. We’re going to have to do some laying hold of what He has given to us through the Cross.

And so, I think the thought we need to be left with is not, oh my God, this beast is so terrible, and I have no chance. It’s rather, I have all that I need in Jesus Christ.

His promises, His grace transcend everything that…I don’t care how bad that beast is. I don’t care how long He’s been around. He was defeated at the Cross, and whether I can just rise up right now and suddenly be totally free, I can start. I can believe God today. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow or yesterday. I can put yesterday under the blood. I can let God take care of tomorrow.

Right now, I can stand there and say, “God said this. This is where I stand. I do not have to listen to you. I am going to become the slave, as Paul put it, to righteousness rather than a slave to sin. And I can do that because His grace is greater.” And so, in my pursuit of what you have called me to, I’m going to stand when You allow something in my life that tests my faith.

But this is the greatest test. This is the greatest battle we fight. It’s not the devil out there. It’s in here. It’s what’s in here, and God has given us the victory over this, as well. His salvation has touched every issue that you and I could ever face. So, if your life is caught by something, I want to point you to Jesus. If you’re fighting a battle and you’re discouraged, I point you to Jesus. He is the answer!

He rules, and he reigns! He didn’t do that for Himself! He did that and went to the Cross because of us and our need. And I don’t want to be one that says it’s not enough. It is enough, all that He did. Thank God for Jesus Christ.

So, “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” It’s there. It belongs to you, because He paid the price. You and I don’t have to earn that. We don’t have to pay it. He did it. It’s complete. To Him be the glory forever and ever!

Praise God! I believe, with all my heart, God is bringing forth a people who are going to rise up and begin to say, “No,” to things that we have been caught by. And we’re going to do it, not because we’re strong or worthy, because He has won it. He has won the battle at the Cross. To Him be the glory. Praise God!

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