In July 2003, I attended the Summer Conference of Forerunner Christian Church (http://www.forerunner.cc/). The theme of the conference was "The Overcomers". I was greatly blessed by being there. When I came back, I wrote the following paper reporting what I learned from this eye-opening conference: How to Become An Overcomer.
To overcome, in Scripture, means to hear God's voice, then to follow it in obedience and perseverance. It means to endure to the end, despite suffering, shame, rejection and death. As it is written: "They [the saints] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev 12:11). To overcome does not mean to attain success, recognition, acceptance or prestige in the world or in a church. It does not mean to achieve health, wealth, prosperity or popularity.
Jesus calls us to overcome; this was clearly expressed in His letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation:
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Rev 2:7)
"He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." (Rev 2:11)
"To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Rev 2:17)
"To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations." (Rev 2:26)
"He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." (Rev 3:5)
"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Rev3:12)
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." (Rev 2:21)
Calling 1. Fall in love with Jesus
If an army does not have a clear vision about what it is fighting for, the army is doomed to be defeated. In the same way, if a Christian does not have a vision, he will soon loose focus and be overwhelmed by the circumstances and temptations of the world. What is our vision? This is our vision: the love of God—this is what we should live and die for. For among all the gifts in heaven, the most precious and fulfilling gift is God Himself and His love.
When Jesus calls us to overcome, he first calls us to enter into his love. This love is not ordinary fondness, but deep affection, strong passion, stronger than any worldly zeal. God desires us to know His affection for us and to response to Him with also a deep affection, because He first loved us so passionately and with such jealousy. As the Song of Songs puts it:
"Place me like a seal over your heart,
Jesus is worthy of our deepest love and affection. "He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed—the Son of Man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness." (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, Chapter 1). "Love, mercy, and compassion were revealed in every act of His life; His heart went out in tender sympathy to the children of men. He took man's nature, that He might reach man's wants. The poorest and the humblest were not afraid to approach Him. Even little children were attracted to Him. They loved to climb upon His knees and gaze into the pensive face, benignant with love." (ibid.)
God desires us to be in love with Him. Without falling in love with Jesus, it is impossible to overcome. That is why in the very first letter to the seven churches, Jesus calls the saints in Ephesus to return to their first love.
"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." (Rev 2:2-3)
"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Rev 2:4-6)
See that the church of Ephesus was a remarkable church, nearly perfect: they were faithful; they labored hard for the gospel; they had discernment; they did not tolerate wicked men; they were not deceived by false "apostles"; they hated false doctrines; they endured hardship for God's name… But Jesus warned them of this very subtle danger:"You have forsaken your first love." What was their first love? Their first love was the zeal, the joy, the excitement, the deep affection, the sweet intimacy, the child-like attachment to God they once had when they first experienced God's love. In other words, they had lost their vision—They became "work" oriented, became independent and self-sufficient, became "detached" from God. This is the start of all spiritual downfalls. Therefore Jesus warns them: "Remember the height from which you have fallen!" (Rev 2:5).
So the first calling of the conference is: fall in love with Jesus. This was expressed in one of the conference theme songs, The Pouring of the Heart to the Lord.
When Jesus calls us to overcome,he first calls us to enter into his love; then he calls us to enter into his death. To enter into Jesus' death means to renounce the world, to give up our worldly ambition, solely live for Him. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2:20). Jesus asks us to take up our cross to follow Him, to be faithful to Him even unto death. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mt 16:24). "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Mt 10:37).
So the second calling of the conference is: we must die to ourselves.
Without first entering into Jesus' love, it is impossible to enter into His death. On the other hand, without entering into Jesus death, we cannot enter into His love to the fullest, because our natural self is enmity to God. Any reservation for our sinful "self" is an obstacle to prevent us to love Him. Therefore in order to live in God, we must die to ourselves."For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Mt 16:25)
That is why Jesus calls us to first enter into His love—because love triumphs over death. When we are captured by His wondrous love, our whole perspective will change—His love becomes our vision and inspiration. We will be happy to live and die for Him, to obey Him at all cost. And His amazing grace will enable us to endure suffering, scorn and shame for the joy set before us, to imitate Him."For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Heb 12:2). So before we can enter into Jesus' death, we must first enter into His love, to fall deeply in love with Him.
Calling 3. Behold the Lord
In order to overcome, we must let JESUS be our vision everyday. We must submerge ourselves in HIS LOVE and in HIS DEATH everyday. As the hymn says:
So the third calling of the conference is: behold the Lord.
"Beholding Christ means studying His life as given in His Word. We are to dig for truth as for hidden treasure. We are to fix our eyes upon Christ. When we take Him as our personal Saviour, this gives us boldness to approach the throne of grace. By beholding we become changed, morally assimilated to the One who is perfect in character. By receiving His imputed righteousness, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we become like Him. The image of Christ is cherished, and it captivates the whole being." (Ellen G. White, God's Amazing Grace, page 96.)
"The true seeker, who is striving to be like Jesus in word, life, and character, will contemplate his Redeemer and, by beholding, become changed into His image, because he longs and prays for the same disposition and mind that was in Christ Jesus. . . . He longs after God. The history of his Redeemer, the immeasurable sacrifice that He made, becomes full of meaning to him. Christ, the Majesty of heaven, became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich; not rich merely in endowments, but rich in attainments." (Ibid., page 61.)
"When you respond to the drawing of Christ, and join yourself to Him, you manifest saving faith. . . . Faith familiarizes the soul with the existence and presence of God, and, living with an eye single to the glory of God, more and more we discern the beauty of His character, the excellence of His grace. Our souls become strong in spiritual power; for we are breathing the atmosphere of heaven. . . . We are rising above the world, beholding Him who is the Chief among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, and by beholding we are to become changed into His image." (ibid., page 183.)
Every day spend at least 15 minutes to meditate on Jesus: His love, His perfection, His holiness, His purity, His godliness, His goodness, His graciousness, His gentleness, His truthfulness, His faithfulness, His majesty, His wonderfulness, His surpassing excellence … This "Beholding the Lord" is our intimate personal communion with our Lord. So during this time, we should put away all our earthly burdens and requests, focus on Him only, adore Him, admire his marvelous beauty, seek His face, express our love and our affection for Him… If we do this everyday in perseverance, in due time the Holy Spirit will richly come upon us, heaven will be open to us and we will see His glorious face. Not only that, little by little, God will transform us into the likeness of His own Son, in order that in the ordained day, the Day of Marriage, He will usher us to the presence of His Son and give us to Him as His bride—and our Betrothed King will take us into His garden, His inner chamber—and we will be united with Him forever as one in exceeding joy—this is God’s eternal will from the creation of the world. And THIS is our ultimate overcoming, our ultimate victory.
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor 3:18 NKJV).