Chapter 7, Part 5
Overcomers have to Fight
In reviewing the earthly life of Jesus, one sees as if it was one huge battle scene! When he was born, He fought with King Herod or the devil! His life work was nothing other than victorious battles against sin, evil, death, demons, illness, wind and storms. This was especially so in His words. He often sided with the Old Testament prophets and dissected the religious leaders of the time with a saber. His battles were always won. He defeated the tempter in the wildrness and restored the harmony that was lost in the Garden of Eden (Mark 1:13). Even when He was on the cross and all seemed lost, He accomplished the most positive victory of the universe through His passive suffering at Gogoltha. This is just what the Scriptures recorded: "He through death might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb.2:14) Praise the lord!
Jesus Himself told us, "A disciple is not above his teacher!" If our teacher had to struggle like that, what about us, His kindergarten students? Even Job said, "Is there not a warfare to man on earth?" (Job 7:1, original) We, who are the children of the Kingdom, not only have to struggle with sin and evil (Heb. 12:4); to buffet our bodies (1 Cor. 9:27) must also directly or indirectly fight against the devil who is the evil power of the spiritual realm and rules over this dark world (Eph. 6:12)! As for the strategy of the battle, it is not by our personal efforts to accomplish the future victory. Rather, it is to claim the victory that Christ has already accomplished and enjoy the accomplished fruit of what Christ did on the cross. We boast in Christ's victory! Even so, because Christ wants to train us so that we can become His Kingdom's personnel, He also wants us to personally experience combat in our personal lives and personally have victory. Then we can be like Him just as He said, ''The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized." (Mark 10:39) The battles that overcomers should fight are:
A. The Battle to Live for the Lord (Luke 13:22-30)
When Jesus was proceeding on His way to Jerusalem and passed through from one city and village to another in Perea, someone asked Him: "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" Jesus did not give him a yes or no answer but only said, "Strive to enter the narrow door". lt means that salvation is not something easily obtained but requires some struggling to achieve. Since the Scriptures were written in ancient languages, some of the apparent contradictions exist are no other than the same word having several different meanings. One example is the word "good" which was translated into over seventy different Chinese words. Another is "eternal life". In Romans 6:23, it refers to God's gift and whosoever is willng to receive it can possess it. But in Matthew 25:46, "eternallife" here refers to that in verse 34 which is "the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". In the same manner, "salvation" in this portion of the Scriptures also has its other meaning. According to the New Testament, salvation can be in three time periods: in the past, present and future (see 2 Cor.1:10). Salvation in the past is the deliverance from the great peril of death--''dead in your transgressions and sins." The present salvation is deliverance from situations (through prayer and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ) (see Phil. 1:19). The future is exactly what Paul said, "The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into His Heavenly Kingdom." (see 2 Tim.4:18}
A careful study of this passage would show that the salvation mentioned here refers to the salvation in the future (into the Kingdom). Verse 28 mentioned about Abraham, lsaac, Jacob, the prophets, and many people coming from the east, west, north and south who will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. Since it refers to the salvation into the Kingdom, the Lord Jesus wants us to enter by "striving". Also, He warns us that if we are not striving now, later on even "if we seek:...will not be able" to enter! Therefore, the past salvation is "by grace, through faith". The present salvation is by prayer with the help of the Holy Spirit. But the future salvation requires "striving". What then does "strive" refer to?
The word "strive" is originally a verb. The words "agony" and "agonize" are derived from it. It is seen in the New Testament eight times (The early Greek New Testament has only seven occurrences). It was translated into "strive" three times, "striving" once, "fight" two times, "fighting" once and "laboring earnestly" once. The original meaning is to "fight" or "struggle". When Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "If My Kingdom was of this world, then My servants would be fighting!" The word "fighting" is this word. So "strive to enter the narrow door has the meaning that you must have the desire to fight and the attitude to fight in order to enter into the narrow door. What then is the "narrow door"?
The term "narrow door" was used in the New Testament only three times. The two other times are found in Matthew 7:13 and 14. It is easy for us to associate the two doors and they should be similar. In Matthew, the narrow door refers to "dedication". So it should be viewed similarly here. Then the first battle of the overcomer should be "to live for the Lord."
To live for the Lord" is not easily achieved. The Scriptures clearly state that "the mind set of the flesh is hostile towards God (or to oppose God)!" Especially in these last days, all types of education, whether it is family, society or academic, teach young people how to position oneself as the center of the universe. The preamble of life is such goals as self gain, self enjoyment, self interest, self convenience, etc. No wonder the Scriptures prophesied regarding the last days: "For man will be lovers of self!" (2 Tim. 3:2) So the Scriptures require that those who live should "no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf". If it were not for the Lord's special grace, it would be utterly impossible! A while back, a CES alumni came to share with me the progress of her life. She is currently teaching at a seminary. She told me that when she first entered CES, she was very uncomfortable because all college teaching and learning were self centered. When she came to the seminary, everything was God and other people first. This 180 degree change took two semesters of adjustment! Many believers who love the Lord have to struggle over and over again in order to walk on the true path of living for the Lord and become a living and holy sacrifice which is acceptable to God and begin living the victorious life. So to be able to live for the Lord is an absolute requirement. If not, our mind (nous) cannot be renewed and transformed and our spiritual sight will not be sensitive and sharp enough to discern what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Refer to Rom. 12:1, 2). If we have no means of obeying God's will, later on, we will have no means of entering (or inheriting) the Kingdom of God. Meanwhile, we cannot even begin to be an overcomer! This is because the Lord clearly said, "Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; but he (the overcomer) who does the will of My Father can enter!" (Matt. 7:21)
Please note at this juncture that to live for the Lord and to be chosen by God into full time ministry are two entirely different matters. To live for the Lord is because the Lord has saved us with a dual purpose: to live for Him in this world and to be His Kingdom personnel in eternity. So to dedicate oneself is not simply walking forward to the altar, letting the speaker pray for you once and it's all over. And when you return home, it's like nothing has happened. On the contrary, it is living for the Lord moment by moment. So, to rise and to live, to drink, and to eat are not for personal enjoyment but for the maintenance of the body which the Lord has entrusted to you. Even our dealings with people and things are to fulfill the responsibilities bestowed by the Lord. Everything is done from the Lord, because of the Lord and for the Lord. This is the secret of life's true happiness! As for full time service to the Lord, there must be the Lord's calling and sending. Please, never volunteer so that you yourself and the church would not be injured! Only the Lord knows who is qualified and who is not qualified to be a preacher. (Again, this is a reminder to all the young people who love the Lord.)
B. The Battle to Buffet My Body (1 Cor. 9:27)
"To live for the Lord" and "to buffet my body'' is like the two sides of a silver dollar. If the silver dollar has only one side, it cannot be a coin of the realm. In the same manner, if our spiritual life is lopsided in one direction, we would also hit a "dead end" in our spiritual journey! The author knows this so well. God's requirement to Kingdom personnel must be: ''no longer to live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf!" So regarding this topic, the author would take the trouble to imitate God's style of progressive revelation to underscore the importance of complete abandonment of one's "own self'. May God have mercy on us so that we can truly come to know how to live for the Lord!
In the account when Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden, most readers assume that the reason is in the eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the Scriptures clearly state the reason is: "the man has become like one of us (God), knowing good and evil...the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden." Therefore, the reason Adam was sent out is because he has become "like" God. What is the meaning of "like" here? Does it refer to the omniscience and omnipotence of God? This would never be possible. It also is not a reference to the holiness and righteousness of God. This is also never possible because man is light years behind! "Like God" here refers to Adam's choosing of good and evil. The word "knowing" occurs in the Old Testament 943 times and it has been translated into at least sixty-six different words in the Chinese translation such as "good at", "see through", "thinking", "investigate clearly", "expert in", "invent", etc. No wonder old professor Vos at Princeton Seminary in the good old days suggested that here, the word "know" should be more accurately translated as "choose".
"Choosing good and evil" tells us that before Adam had eaten the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, he did know what was good or evil. The function of his conscience is the function of the breath of life (Spirit of man) that was placed in him (see Prov. 20:27). lt came with creation (see Chapter 4 of my book entitled What is Spiritual Life) . Would a gracious and loving God forbid them to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil if they had not the slightest idea of what good and evil is? He certainly would not have made such an unreasonable demand! So the reason Adam was driven out is not because he ate the wrong fruit but in his discernment of good and evil, he would not rely on God's standard. He wanted to set up his own standard. So, eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is merely an outward manifestation of the rebellious heart! The following is a discussion of the formation of one's "own self" and how to buffet my "body". May God enlighten our mind (nous) so that we can have victory over everything.