Last month we began a new series called The Kingdom, Power and Glory. As was stated in that first article, Chuck and I are convinced that the truths contained in this series “are some of the most life-changing principles we’ve encountered since our new births.” That’s a big statement considering we both have been believers for over 50 years and in minis-try for 35!
We told the story of the famous statesman, Daniel Webster (who, by the way, was a believer), and how he felt that the greatest thought that had ever passed his mind was his own personal accountability before the Lord. And, he meant after he was saved. This, we said, is the subject we will be exploring over the next several months—the importance of our own personal accountability or responsibility before God as believers.
Again, a few of the issues that we are going to cover might go against some of your traditional viewpoints. So, we encourage you to “be open and teachable” like Acts 17:11 exhorts and then, “search the Scriptures to see if these things be so.”
We used to believe that God’s whole reason for calling us was to “be conformed into His image.” (Romans 8:29) But, we’ve come to understand that God’s calling is far more extensive than that. The real reason for our calling is to rule and reign as kings and priests with Christ in the coming Millennial Kingdom and after that for eternity. Both Genesis 1:26-28 and Revelation 5:9-10 confirm that we were created for this very purpose.
Being conformed into His image is critically important (being a living example of Christ is what will bring others to Him), but the real purpose for our calling is to have positions of authority alongside of Christ in the coming kingdom. But, here’s the catch: Our life here on earth is the training ground, the proving ground, and the testing ground for that privilege. In other words, it doesn’t happen automatically! It’s doesn’t happen without effort! The deciding factor is how we live our lives here and now!
Consequently, there is an urgent need in the Christian body for a renewed recognition of our own personal accountability before the Lord (after we have been saved). It’s essential that we have a “kingdom perspective,” where we see our lives here on earth in the context of eternity. We must understand that once we are saved, we are still responsible for what we do with the rest of our lives here and now.
Saving faith is more than just belief. It’s more than just knowing the Scriptures! And it’s more than just going to church on Sundays. Saving faith is learning how to be a partaker of Christ’s Life––which means not only receiving His Life at our new birth (being born again), but also living His Life every day (through sanctification)!
What Is an Overcomer?
The Bible calls these kinds of “sanctified” Christians (those who partake of His Life) “overcomers.” The Greek word to overcome is nikao, which means “victory over hostile powers.” Christ, of course, is the real overcomer, but as we become cleansed, open and yielded (sanctified) vessels, He can over-come the world, the flesh and the devil through us. Overcomers, then, are those faithful and obedient Christians who not only talk about doing the will of God, but who also do it.
As we begin to discuss overcomers, we want to make some-thing absolutely clear. We are not talking about someone who is perfect or religious or good. We’re talking about someone who simply recognizes his choices, confesses his sin, and then chooses to turn around and go God’s way. Remember David in the Old Testament? He was an overcomer and yet remember all the ways he blew it? The New Testament even calls him “a man after God’s own heart.” Why? It’s because David knew how to confess his sin, how to turn around from following it, and then, how to go God’s way.
This is the kind of overcomer that we are talking about. He is just a regular person who has learned to follow Christ regardless of what is going on in his own life. He could be that janitor in the school building down the street, or that laundry woman in the back room of that large downtown hotel or that widow in the country who faithfully gives her one dollar every week to the Salvation Army.
In our opinion, these believers are often more faithful over-comers than the most popular Christian television personalities. In no way is being an overcomer dependent on our socioeconomic status, our educational abilities or our years as a Christian. Being an overcomer simply depends upon our own moment-by-moment choices.
Why Is Being an Overcomer so Important?
Okay, so why is learning about being a faithful overcomer so important? Why make such a big deal about it? It’s important because the Bible teaches us that overcomers are the only ones who will inherit the Millennial Kingdom and possibly rule and reign with Christ. They are the ones who will have various levels of responsibility in the coming kingdom.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. We believe that all Christians will be a part of the Rapture. All Christians will enter the Millennial Kingdom. And, all Christians will be “with Christ.” We have that eternal security. But only the “faithful overcomers”—the ones who have fulfilled the conditions set down by God in His Word—will inherit and have positions of authority in that kingdom.
Some of those “conditions” are found in Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 24:45-47; Galatians 5:19-21; James 2:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. So, there’s a huge difference between simply entering the Millennial Kingdom (which all believers will do) and actually inheriting that kingdom (which only the faithful overcomers will do). All born-again believers will enter, but only the overcoming Christians will rule and reign. Again, the deciding factor is how we live our lives here and now. This is why learning how to become an over-comer is so very important! What we do in this present life does affect our role in the future kingdom.
At the beginning of the “church age,” this kingdom perspective (that we are being trained here to rule and reign with Christ there) was the central message and the prevailing thought taught throughout Christendom. Now, however, at the end of the age, this message has been essentially forgotten. Except by a few great men:
Charles Stanley (Baptist pastor, radio preacher, and author of 45 books) wrote in his book, Eternal Security: “Does our behavior matter once we are assured of our salvation? You bet it does. Are there any eternal consequences when a believer sins? Absolutely. Will eternity be the same for those who follow Christ faithfully and those who live for themselves? Not a chance. Our God is a God of justice as well as grace. His offer of grace is continually extended to even the most vile sinner. But His justice moves Him to keep a careful record of those who remain faithful and those who do not. His grace moved Him to sacrifice His only Son to provide a way for our salvation. But His justice causes Him to take special note of those believers who are willing to sacrifice for His Son.”
Donald Grey Barnhouse: (Pioneer of radio preaching, Presbyterian pastor and author of many theological books) says in his commentary on Romans: “We can be sure that at the Judgment Seat of Christ there will be a marked difference between the Christian who has lived his life before the Lord, clearly discerning what was for the glory of God...and a nominal Christian...All will be in heaven, but the difference between them will be eternal. We may be sure that the consequences of our character will survive the grave and that we shall face those consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
Erwin Lutzer (Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, radio personality and author of 30 books, including One Minute after You Die) notes in his book, Your Eternal Reward: “The assumption that “rewards” are nothing more than the crowns themselves is false in my opinion. Rewards have more to do with levels of responsibility that will be given to us. When we become like Him, we will be qualified to share with Him in the inheritance, and to work with Him in important positions of high responsibility over the whole universe.”
Tim LaHaye (Pastor and the author of the Left Behind series and 50 other books) says in his book, The Popular Bible Prophecy Workbook: “Apparently Christians will be assigned to specific areas of service in the kingdom directly proportionate to the amount of ‘good works’ performed while alive on earth.”
So, the message we would like you to consider is this: All Christians will be “with Christ” in the Millennium and in heaven, but only the overcomers––only those faithful and obedient ones who recognize their choices and allow Christ to live His Life out through them––will inherit that kingdom and have positions of authority there.
It’s grievous that the church today seems to be relying upon the illusion that being born again and bringing others to Christ is the ultimate goal of preaching the gospel. It’s not! It’s just the beginning. Working alongside Christ in the coming kingdom is the final and ultimate goal! Paul even tells us in Philippians 3:14 it’s the prize of the “high calling” of God.
To be continued next month: Aren’t All Believers Overcomers? This article has been excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan’s newest book The Kingdom, Power and Glory: The Over-comer’s Handbook.