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Worthy is The Lamb: We Shall Overcome

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God’s people are ‘overcomers’.

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Text: 1 John 5:1-5; Revelation 2:7; 11; 17; 26-29; 3:5-6; 12-13; 21-22
Date: 12/31/17 File name: Epiphany_Sunday.wpd ID Number: 103
Theme: God’s people are ‘overcomers’.
Those of you who went through the 1960s remember that the most important social crusade of that era was the Civil Rights Movement. "We Shall Overcome" was a song that became the anthem of that movement. Around the nation, Black-Americans joined hands as they marched and sang that song. They challenged our culture to live up to its basic creed: “That all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
The lyrics and tune of the song are derived from an early gospel hymn, "I'll Overcome Some Day", written in 1901 by African-American composer Rev. Charles Albert Tindley. The first stanza reads simply:
This world is one great battlefield,
With forces all arrayed;
If in my heart I do not yield
I’ll overcome some day.
I’ll overcome some day,
I’ll overcome some day;
If in my heart I do not yield
I’ll overcome some day.
While an appropriate theme-song for the Civil Rights Movement, it was first-and-foremost a gospel hymn reminding Christians that, in Christ, we shall eventually overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.
This morning I want us to double-back to the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia. Back in the fall I began preaching through Revelation, taking a break from it to preach on the great themes of Advent. Thematically, resuming our journey through Revelation fits right into the celebration of Advent since Revelation is about the Second Advent of our Lord, Jesus. At his 1st Advent he came unobtrusively and unpretentiously. At his 2nd Advent he is coming majestically and gloriously. The reason I want to double-back to the letters to the Seven Churches is to consider the promises that Christ makes to the believers in those congregations. The promise is to he who overcomes — which is our Lord’s promise to all true believers. Seven times, at the end of each letter, Jesus makes promises to he who overcomes. There are rewards for the faithful at the coming of the King to establish his Kingdom. This morning, I want you to see all the things that are yours in Christ.

I. CHRISTIANS ARE OVERCOMERS

1. Revelation is not the only place where the Apostle John refers to believers as Overcomers
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:1–5, NIV84)
a. what does the Apostle mean when he says that we are overcomers?
1) it’s a wonderful word, but it needs some explaining
2) it’s a word that has important implications for our spiritual lives

A. BELIEVERS GO BY MANY NAMES

1. the title Christian is the most frequent name applied to those who have chosen to follow Jesus, who is the Christ of God
a. the name means little Christs and was given to the early believers by their pagan neighbors as an epitaph of derision — it’s a name that is meant to mock
1) “Oh, so you’re one of those Christ followers, are you? You, you ‘Christ-ian’— you ‘little Christ’, you.”
2) if you are a believer, ware the moniker proudly
2. but there are so many other great descriptors of who and what we are
a. in the Scriptures we are also called ...
1) Children, Children of God, Children of Light, Children of the Day, and Children of Obedience
b. we are called ...
1) Believers, and the Faithful, Friends of Jesus Christ, Brothers and Sisters, Sheep, Saints, and Holy Ones
c. we are called ...
1) Soldiers, Witnesses, Stewards, Fellow-citizens, Salt, and Light
d. we are called ...
1) the Elect of God, the Chosen of God, Ministers of God, Servants of God, Disciples of God, Heirs of God, and Joint-heirs with Christ
e. we are called ...
1) Branches in the Vine, Members of the Body of Christ, Living Stones, the Temple of God, Living Letters, the Beloved, and Followers of Christ
3. each of those terms gives us the definition of who we are
a. and when you take them all together they express the fullness of what it means to belong to God through faith in Christ
4. but there's one other title that isn't generally a part of the list of descriptors that most of us would refer to, and that is this term that is used a number of times in 1 John 5:1-5, and Revelation chapters 2 and 3
a. we are overcomers

B. BELIEVERS ARE THE SUPER-VICTORIOUS

1. the word that the Apostle John uses three times in 1 John 5:1-5 and seven times in Revelation is nikaō (nik - ah - o), and it means to conquer, it means to win, it means to defeat, it means to gain victory over
ILLUS. It comes from the Greek nikē (nik - ee) who was the Greek Goddess of Victory and Triumph. The Greeks actually believed that only the gods were ultimately unconquerable. True, ultimate, final, permanent and a lasting sort of eternal victory only belonged to the gods. It was denied to mere mortals.
a. for men, there might be a triumph here and a triumph there, but there would be mostly defeat and failure
b. only the gods could reach the level of victory implied by the word nikē
2. playing against the background of that kind of thinking in the ancient world, it was a pretty stunning for the Apostle John to assure believers that they had the kind of unconquerability that belonged only to the gods of that culture
ILLUS. Bill Bowerman, a track and field coach who went into the athletic shoe business liked idea of winning so much that he renamed his company, originally Blue Ribbon Sports, to Nikē shoes which are advertized to lead you to triumph in whatever athletic endeavor you're engaged in.
3. the word is used by our Lord Jesus Himself in John 16:33, when He says, "In this world you shall have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
a. Jesus is telling His disciples, “I have won out in conflict with the world. I have defeated the world. I have conquered the world. I am the victor over the world.”
4. the Apostle Paul uses a form of the word in one of my favorite passages of Scripture
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, NIV84)
a. the Apostle refers to the unconquerable position of Christians in Christ
b. but the Apostle adds a twist — we're not just overcomers — we're not merely nikē
1) we are huper nikē, meaning, we're super-conquerors — we are the ultimate conquerors
5. through faith in Christ we unconquerable
a. the Apostle Paul goes on to describe this unconquerableness this way:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, NIV84)
b. there is nothing that can conquer us, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword
1) we are super-conquerors
2) we are the unconquerable
3) we are the overcomers
ILLUS. In 1798, when the English Admiral Lord Nelson came back and reported to the British Admiralty, his great victory over the French in the Battle of the Nile, he said this, (and it's a great quote), "Victory is not a large enough word to describe what took place."
c. this is certainly true of our salvation in Christ Jesus
1) victory is not a large enough word to describe what takes place when a sinner is justified by faith

C. WE ARE PERMANENTLY VICTORIOUS

1. all the uses of the word overcome in John’s 1st Epistle, and the Revelation passages are present tense participles, and thus literally is the overcoming one
a. the Apostle John tell us that, by our faith in the risen Christ, we are continually overcoming the world
1) our victory over the world, the flesh and the devil is habitual, it is permanent, it is ongoing
2) we are permanently triumphant, permanently conquerors, the victory can never be taken from us
b. we may fail along the way
1) we may fall victim to the enticements of the world here and there
2) we may lose some skirmishes
c. but the great war has been won, the victory is ours
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” (Colossians 1:13, NIV84)

II. CHRISTIANS ARE OVERCOMERS WITH A GLORIOUS FUTURE

ILLUS. Charles Albert Tindley wrote ...
I’ll overcome some day.
I’ll overcome some day,
I’ll overcome some day;
If in my heart I do not yield
I’ll overcome some day.
1. ‘some day’ when the Kingdom of our Christ comes in its fulness, all those who are in Christ will experience the reality of our Lord’s promises made to all those Overcomers

A. 1st, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Ephesus (and us) ...
a. Overcomers will eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God
2. by referring to the tree of life, John takes the reader back to the beginning of human history ... a Garden where Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with each other, and perfect fellowship with God
a. after Adam and Eve sinned, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and placed an angel with a flaming sword there to guard the tree of life (Gen. 2:9; 3:22, 24)
b. by guarding that tree, God prevented our forebears from eating the fruit of the tree of life and thus living eternally in the unredeemable state in which the fallen angels exist
3. what the First Adam lost for us, the Second Adam has regained for us — an eternity of bliss and uninterrupted fellowship with the God of Creation, and each other in a place that will be ... well, like Paradise

B. 2nd, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL HAVE ETERNAL SECURITY

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (Revelation 2:11, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Smyrna (and us) ...
a. Overcomers do not have to fear wrath and hell
b. some of the Christians at Smyrna are going to suffer and die for their faith, but the great promise is that Christ has given them the crown of life — they may die once, but not twice
2. the first death pertains to one’s physical demise, the second death to being cut off forever from God
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8, NIV84)
a. there is a Heaven to be gained, and a Hell to be avoided, and only by being in Christ — only by becoming an Overcomer — do you gain heaven

C. 3rd, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL ETERNALLY FEAST WITH THE SAVIOR

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 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.” (Revelation 2:17, NIV84)
ILLUS. Jewish legend told the story of “hidden manna.” A jar of the manna that fell in the wilderness was placed in the ark (Exod. 16:32–34; cf. Heb. 9:4). Tradition said that at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the Prophet Jeremiah was told by God to take the ark and hide it underground at Mount Sinai, there to await the end of history, when the Messiah would place the ark in the new temple. The Hidden Manna, therefore is connected to the messianic feast of the end times and refers to the eternal bliss of heaven.
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Pergamum (and us) ...
a. Overcomers will experience eternity as a great feast
b. this promise is a reference to how the Jewish people pictured eternity
1) this life is often a life of toil, want, and sadness
2) but there are special occasions where we put all those cares momentarily behind us, and join in a time of feasting and celebration, and worship of the Lord with family and friends
ILLUS. Most of the High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar include feasting ... the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks. Jewish eschatology associates eternity with eternal feasting. The Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the Last Days, wrote, “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (Isaiah 25:6, NIV84). Jesus reinforced this idea with his Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-23), and a number of other references to feasting in the Kingdom. (Baptists can really appreciate this picture of the Kingdom)
2. all of this points to the promise of future and eternal fellowship with the One who died for us, so that we might live forever in Him

D. 4th, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL RULE THE NATIONS WITH CHRIST

“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’— just as I have received authority from my Father.” (Revelation 2:26–27, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Thyatira (and us) ...
a. this promise is taken from Psalm 2:7-9 and reminds us that those who remain faithful to Christ despite being beaten and despised in this life will rule with Him in His earthly kingdom
b. it’s an authority we will exert in Jesus’ name who in this passage is called the Morning Star
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18, NIV84)
c. the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth that they’d better learn how to judge minor disputes between the brethren since a time is coming when we will judge the nations, and even the angels
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? ... ” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3, NIV84)
d. Paul told Timothy
“if we endure, we will also reign with him. ... ” (2 Timothy 2:12, NIV84)
2. during our Lord’s 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom on Earth, God’s Elect will have a hand in administering God’s rule, God’s judgments, and even God’s wrath over the nations of the Earth
a. I’m not sure I can tell you everything that is implied in this passage, simply because the Bible itself does not go into great detail here, but I can assume a few things
b. our spiritual transformation will have been completed, and we will have been totally conformed to the character of our Savior, therefore ...
1) our rule, our judgment, our wrath over the nations will flow out of vindication, and not revenge
2) our rule, our judgment, our wrath over the nations will flow out of holiness, and not hatred
3) our rule, our judgment, our wrath over the nations will flow out of righteousness, and not retribution
c. this does not mean that our rule, our judgment, our wrath over the nations won’t involve weeping and gnashing of teeth
“ ... “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”” (Jude 14–15, NIV84)
3. the Psalmist warns the kings and potentates of the world that such a day is coming
“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10–12, NIV84)

E. 5th, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL BE TRIUMPHANT WITH CHRIST

“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. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:5–6, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Sardis (and us) ...
a. in the ancient world, white garments were worn by those celebrating victory in battle
ILLUS. In the city of Rome, when a General who had conquered a foreign army received his victory parade, all the citizens dressed themselves in white. The city itself was called urbs candida, meaning “the city in white.”
2. the white robes given to Christians is symbolic of our ultimate victory through Christ over sin, the world, death, and Satan
a. and because we’ve experienced victory with Christ, our name can never, ever be erased from God’s book of life

F. 6th, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL BE PART OF GOD’S ETERNAL BUILDING

“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. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:12–13, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Philadelphia (and us) ...
a. throughout the New Testament, Christians are referred to as God’s Temple, or God’s Building
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21, NIV84)
ILLUS. In the description of Solomon’s Temple, we’re told that two great bronze pillars were cast that held up the porch covering the Temple’s entryway. There were given the names Jachin, and Boaz. Jachin means he will establish, and Boaz means in him is strength.
2. wicked men in this world may destroy church buildings, and may kill God’s people, but in the Kingdom, God’s Church is permanent and indestructible
a. in this passage is a promise of security — we have been established in the faith through the redemptive work of Christ, and secured for the Kingdom through regenerating power of the Spirit
b. here is a picture of the Church Triumphant in all eternity, secure in its Savior for whom it is named

G. 7th, HIM WHO OVERCOMES WILL BE HEIRS WITH CHRIST OF ETERNAL HONOR

“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. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:21–22, NIV84)
1. listen up, this is the promise from the Lord to the Church at Laodicea (and us) ...
a. as Christians we are joint-heirs with our Christ, and will reign with him
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17, NIV84)
2. to enjoy fellowship with Christ in the kingdom and throughout eternity is a sufficient blessing beyond all comprehension
a. but Christ offers more, promising to seat believers on the throne He shares with the Father
“Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6, NIV84)
3. and so, we are Overcomers ... we are Victors ... We are Uber-conquerors, and all these seven promises — even though we may not fully comprehend them — are our in Christ
At the end of John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and his good friend Hopeful, find themselves in Beulah Land where the air is sweet and pleasant. In Beulah Land they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle [dove] in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day: wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle.
As they continue through Beulah Land they catch sight of the Celestial City. Finally, they reach a river at the edge of Beulah Land. It stands between them and the gates of the Celestial City. It is the River of Death, and they must wade through it to reach the Celestial City. On the other side of the river they meet two Shining Ones — ministering angels — who lead them through the gate and into the presence of the King who joyfully receives them.
John Bunyan concludes: “Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honor. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, “ENTER YE INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD.” I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “BLESSING, AND HONOR, AND GLORY, AND POWER, BE UNTO HIM THAT SITTETH UPON THE THRONE, AND UNTO THE LAMB, FOR EVER AND EVER.”
This is our spiritual inheritance. All these things are your in Christ.
The last stanza of Charles Albert Tindley hymn appropriately reads ...
Tho' many a time no signs appear,
Of answer when I pray;
My Jesus says I need not fear,
He’ll make it plain some day.
I’ll be like Him some day,
I’ll be like Him some day;
My Jesus says I need not fear,
I’ll be like Him some day.
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