Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: The greatest conqueror of all time didn't look like much in the world's eyes. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth explains.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, Christ's conquering is the pattern for our conquering. His conquering was accomplished how? By His death on the cross.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Friday, November 10, 2017.

Jesus addressed seven churches in the book of Revelation and ended each message, “To him who overcomes.” When you really understand what that phrase means, it will deeply affect the way you live. Learn what it means to overcome as Nancy continues in the series "The Cure for a Lukewarm Faith."

First, your small group is invited to explore Titus 2 together along with Nancy, and six other speakers, by going through the Adorned small group video series. Picture this: You’re all reading Nancy’s book Adorned together. Each week you read a chapter, answer just a few follow-up questions. Then come together and watch speakers like Nancy, Mary Kassian, Susan Hunt, or Dámaris Carbaugh explore a passage in Titus 2. Each video is about twenty minutes long. Then you discuss the material and help each other learn and grow together.

To get the Adorned small group kit, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Now, here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Did you know that the word nike relates to the ancient, Greek goddess of victory? The goddess Nike personified triumph or strength. In fact, the front of each Olympic medal has the picture of the goddess Nike holding a palm in one hand and a winner's crown, a laurel wreath in the other. And that word, Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, is related to two other important Greek words as we look at these letters to the churches in Revelation.

There's the word, nike, which is spelled n-i-k-e but pronounced nee-kay, which in the Greek means "conquest" or "victory," and then there's the word nikao, n-i-k-a-o, nikao, which means "to subdue," "to prevail," "to win a victory," "to conquer." This word, nikao, to conquer, to overcome, is used fifteen times in the book of Revelation. It's an important word as Jesus gives this message to the church and tells us about the things that are and the things that are yet to come.

The word victory or overcoming or conquering is an important word. Nikao—think nike. Think victory and triumph. At the end of each of the seven letters as we've looked at them over these last weeks, we have seen this phrase, “To the one who conquers,” or “To the one who overcomes,” depending on your translation. That's that word, nikao, “I will give,” something, and there is a promise, a reward, a blessing promised to the one who overcomes or conquers, the one who nikao.

The churches in first century Asia Minor were faced with a temptation to compromise, to accommodate to the world, to fit in, to be less than passionately devoted to Christ. And sadly, some were giving in to that temptation. They were being overcome by Satan and by the world's system, overcome by the opposition, overcome by the attacks, overcome by false teaching. Instead of them being overcomers, they were being overcome. They were being nikao. So Jesus exhorted them to be conquerors, to be overcomers.

What did He mean by that? He meant, be faithful. Stop compromising.  Continue persevering. Continue standing strong against every form of compromise. The churches or the believers who would nikao, who would stand firm, who would stand strong, who would stand their ground in Christ, who refused to compromise, would prevail over; they would overcome. They would nikao those who were attempting to overcome their faith.

There's a battle going on. In fact, one way in which you could describe the whole book of Revelation is: war and worship. There's a battle for worship. The Enemy is seeking to overcome us; he's seeking to overcome our faith. But we are called to nikao, to overcome, to conquer, to be victorious.

Paul says it this way in Romans 12:21. 

Don't be overcome by evil [nikao], but instead [nikao] overcome evil with good.

Not to be overcome but to overcomers.

So this concept of conquering, of overcoming is a key concept in the Christian life as that life is portrayed in the book of Revelation. The faithful Christian life can be summed up as: conquering, overcoming. We must nikao, we must overcome before we receive the promises.

You say, "We want the promises, then we think we can overcome."

Jesus says, "No, you overcome by faith, and then you will receive the reward. You'll receive the promise."

Now, our inspiration for nikao-ing, for overcoming, for being a conqueror, is Christ. He's the model. He's the pacesetter for us on this whole issue of overcoming.

We saw in the letter to the church in Laodicea, at the end of that letter, Revelation 3:21, “The one who conquers,” the one who nikao, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne,” Jesus says, “as I also conquered.” Jesus says, “I nikao, and I, “sat down with my Father on His throne.” He has gone before us. He has paved the way. He has overcome.

Now, this concept becomes really precious as you see it lived out in Christ, as you go (and I wish we had time, and maybe someday we will, but to teach) through Revelation 4 and 5, to see the throne, to see the Lamb on His throne. But let me just give you a little glimpse of it. In Revelation chapters 4 and 5, we see this throne room scene in heaven where John is given this vision of the heavenly throne room where God is seated on His throne. It's an awesome place. There are angels and living creatures and elders who are worshiping, exalting, adoring the One who is seated on the throne.

Then we come to the beginning of chapter 5, and we see that there's a scroll in the right hand of the One who sits on the throne. This scroll contains the revelation of God's plan and God's purposes for history. The scroll is sealed with seven seals, and John discovers that no one is found worthy to open the book, the scroll, or to break its seals. No one is found worthy to open this book.

We read in chapter 5, verse 4, John says,

I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has [nikao], conquered (vv. 4–5).

He has conquered. He has prevailed. He has overcome so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals. Now, who has conquered? The Lion of the tribe of Judah, right? Next verse.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw, [what?], a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.

Now, this is a little perplexing if you don't already know the script. Behold the Lion as conquered. You can imagine a lion conquering. The Lion of the tribe of Judah—Christ Himself. He has conquered. He has nikao. He has prevailed.

And then John says, "I looked and what did I see? Not a lion but a lamb. 'A Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.'"

Slain? That doesn't sound like a conqueror. That sounds like someone who got conquered, someone who was nikao, but here's the key. The Lamb is standing. He's standing. Through His death and through His resurrection, Jesus gave a radically different meaning to conquering than what the world understands about conquering.

You see, Christ's conquering is the pattern for our conquering. His conquering, His nikao was accomplished how? By His death on the cross. Now, that death at the moment, if you didn't know the whole scheme and plan of God seemed like He was nikao, like the ultimate defeat. But in fact, His death on the cross became His greatest victory. It's the means by which He overcame sin and Satan and hell and death and pain and sorrow and suffering. He accomplished that overcoming, that prevailing by being willing to lay down His life on the cross.

I've been challenged in this whole concept by one particular commentator who has a whole section in his commentary on Revelation on what he calls the ironic concept overcoming in the book of Revelation.

Let me just try to summarize it in laymen's terms. This is a commentary that has a lot of Greek words and things I needed help to comprehend. I've mulled this over, and it's a fascinating concept and a rich one.

He explains that those who overcome spiritually in the book of Revelation and in God's plan are for a time overcome themselves physically and materially by persecution, rejection, etc. 

Those who overcome spiritually are for a time overcome themselves materially or physically.

We actually conquer in the long-run by being willing to, apparently, be conquered. Those who refuse to compromise, those who stand firm for the name of Christ and the Word of God, the Word of His Testimony, those who refuse to compromise in Revelation are called spiritual overcomers. They are conquerors.

But paradoxically, those who overcome, usually encounter some form of persecution and suffering as a result.

So the pathway of a conqueror is not an easy path. It's not an easy life. It's a hard life. It's challenging. If you're going to be a conqueror, you're going to face attempts to conquer you. You're going to face suffering, persecution in various forms.

When those first century believers in Asia Minor stood up against the world's system and refused to compromise, when those little, itty-bitty Christians stood up against the Roman empire and refused to compromise—they said, “We will go to the arena. We'll be torn apart and eaten by lions. We'll let you destroy us.” They said, “We'll go to our death,” singing hymns of praise, by the way. They were persecuted by unbelieving Jews, by unbelieving Gentiles, by Roman authorities.

Overcoming or maintaining a faithful witness in the world meant for those Christians, and it will for us, it meant facing opposition and suffering. It was part and parcel of the whole package. Overcoming meant being physically conquered by the opponents of Christ. It meant, in many cases, having their material goods taken from them. In the midst of the suffering and the persecution, they appeared to be anything but victorious. They appeared to be defeated even as Christ appeared to be defeated when He died on that cross.

As the story unfolds in the book of Revelation, we learn that this is the way it will be as the battle intensifies between God and Satan, coming through the end times up till the culmination of history. Let me read a couple verses to you that may surprise you to find these in the Scripture.

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them [that is on the saints] and conquer them and kill them (Rev. 11:7).

The beast kills the Christians. This is what was happening in first century Rome. It's happening in many parts of our world today. I've just finished reading two books on the persecuted church. This is happening in our world today and in small ways (that we're so wimpy we think are big ways), it's happening in this country. It may be happening in your home. It may be happening in your workplace. The beast overcame them and literally, physically killed them.

Revelation 13, this is an even greater mystery. The beast was allowed—who allowed him? God, the one who sits on the throne—"[the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them" (v. 7). 

God gives to Satan, at times, permission to conquer them.

If been reading in the book of Job recently. God gave permission to Satan to inflict affliction on Job and his family. The beast was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them.

See, these believers understood that when they stood up for Christ and His Word, they were laying down their lives.

They were willing to, for a time, be conquered in order to conquer. But Christ and His followers who persevere and who maintain their faithful witness, even in the face of opposition and persecution, they are spoken of in the book of Revelation as overcoming the beast who has tried to overcome them. In our willingness to persevere, to be faithful in the face of opposition, we become conquerors. Let me read a couple of verses to you from Revelation chapter 17. “The beast and his followers will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them” (v. 14). I love that verse. I don't love so much the verse about the beast conquering the saints, but here's the outcome.

The Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful (17:14).

Can you imagine a lamb conquering a great beast? You think of a lamb as being weak and helpless. But in God's story, the story that He's writing, the Lamb wins! That could be the title of the book of Revelation. That could be the title of the story of history. The Lamb Wins! The Lamb Conquers!

How does He do it? He does it by being willing to lay down His life. "No man takes My life from Me," Jesus says. "I lay it down. I give it up." And God gives Him back resurrection life, and the Lamb conquers. The Lamb wins.

What is true of the Lamb is true of his followers. Revelation 12 tells us,

They overcame the great dragon [that is Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (v. 11 NKJV).

They realized physical death was not the end. It was only a means through which they would ultimately conquer as Christ went through His cross and came out on the other side victorious, nikao. Revelation 15:

I saw those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands (v. 2).

They stand firm. They refused to compromise. They are attacked. They are opposed. They are conquered for a time. They endure the adversity. They endure the persecution, and they end up—these saints end up conquering the dragon, conquering Satan. Christ and the saints overcome the beast by maintaining their faithful witness even while enduring suffering and persecution.

For some that will mean being faithful all the way to a martyr's death, but let me suggest that overcomers, those who nikao, are not some special class of Christians. They are not just those who are martyred for their faith.

We read about it in Revelation, and we glaze over it. We don't know much about that kind of persecution—laying down your life for the gospel.

We ought to be reading about the persecuted saints so we can: 1. Pray for them. 2. So we can prepare ourselves for what I believe is coming—likely in our lifetime.

You don't have to be martyred for your faith to be an overcomer.

Every Christian's life is to be characterized by overcoming, nikao, persevering in faith, not giving in to false doctrine, not giving in to compromise, not accommodating to the world but triumphantly resisting the enemy and all his wiles and all his means of causing us to compromise.

We ought to be characterized throughout all our lives by overcoming. An ongoing lifestyle of overcoming, nikao, is characteristic of every true believer. You see, the promises in these seven letters that are given to those who conquer, are blessings that accompany saving faith:

  • protection from judgment
  • an inheritance in the eternal city of God
  • participation in Christ's reign
  • eternal life
  • communion with God
  • fellowship with Him

Is that just for some special class of Christian? No, it's for every Christian because every true Christian overcomes. So when it says, “To the one who overcomes,” don't think, “Oh, that's for some Christians who overcome, and the rest of us just get dragged into heaven by the skin of our teeth.”

No, every true Christian, by definition, overcomes and receives these promises. These promises apply to all those who belong to Christ. All who belong to Him are overcomers. First John 5, verse 4, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”

  • If you're not overcoming the world's system and its thinking,
  • if you're not overcoming Satan,
  • if you're not overcoming sin in your life,
  • if you're not overcoming opposition by faith (the faith of Christ that He places within us),
  • then you need to ask yourself, "Have I been born of God?"

If you're living a perpetually defeated life, being overcome by sin, being overcome by compromise, being overcome by temptation, being overcome by those who oppose the gospel of Christ, you need to say, "Do I have true faith? Have I been born of God?"

Ultimately, it's not just, we have spiritual Christians who overcome and others who don't (that is carnal Christians). Overcoming is a sign that someone is a true believer, and those who don't overcome prove that they never were true believers. It's not just how we die that proves us to be overcomers; it's how we live.

The whole of our Christian life is to be characterized by overcoming, a process that is completed at death. So the call is to trust Him for grace to overcome here and now, to hold on to the hope of the prize and the reward to follow in eternity.

You may be living in a difficult marriage, in a godless workplace, in strange relationships with nonbelievers, in a culture that prizes immorality and perversion rather than godliness and holiness.

We all have to deal with conquering our own body: the lusts of our flesh, indwelling sin, our tongues. We are called to be conquerors. Paul says, "I don't let my body tell me what to do, I tell it what to do.

So many of us, as professing Christians do what our flesh feels like doing. We want to say it, we say it. We want to eat it, we eat it. We want to sleep, we sleep. We don't overcome. But we are called to overcome.

That means, if I am willing to overcome now, I have set before me a hope then of a reward that He holds out. If I'm willing to deny myself and say "no" to my flesh now, I have the promise that the day will come when I will be fully satisfied—when all my longings will be fulfilled in Christ.

If you are willing to love now a mate who is self-absorbed and unresponsive, you have the promise that you will one day spend eternity as the beloved bride of Christ. So hold on, persevere, nikao, overcome. The willingness to be rejected now means down the road there will come a time when you are approved, you are accepted, you are received into God's eternal kingdom.

To overcome may mean that you lose friends, but ultimately, you will have His friendship.

It may mean that you lose your house now, but you will have an eternal home to share with Him. It may mean that possessions are taken from you now, but you will one day share in His eternal riches. It may mean that you are alone now, but you have the promise that you will enjoy His presence forever. It may mean that you labor now.

I found myself working on this series and just, as is often the case getting ready for recording days, struggling to get this all to come together. Twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting in my room in tears at one point going, “I cannot make this make sense. I cannot pull this together.” The Spirit is speaking to my mind the words of the Scripture, “overcome, overcome, overcome.” That means say "no" to my flesh. That means say "no" to the distractions. Press in. Press in. It's hard work. It's a battle.

There's a battle where you live. There's a battle where I live, and sometimes it's flesh and blood, other people. Sometimes it's our own flesh and blood, but we can overcome by God's grace and be assured that we will experience the promised rewards for those who overcome.

How do you do it? Hebrews 12, you keep looking unto Jesus, looking unto Jesus. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (see vv. 2–4). That's the key to not losing heart. That's the key to not growing weary and not throwing in the towel in the race. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

I can't tell you how often I am tempted to throw in the towel. I love ministry. I love the Lord. I love teaching His Word, but I do not love all the hard work that goes into it because I'm human. I want an easy life. I want a trouble-free life, and how often do I think, I just can't keep doing this, but God's Word comes, “persevere, endure, overcome.”

With you it may be toddlers or teenagers or a marriage or a workplace or singleness or infertility or whatever. Persevere! Overcome by God's grace, by keeping your eyes on Jesus. Paul says:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).

The songwriter said it this way.

Oft times the day seems long,
Our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain,
To murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear
To catch His bride away,
All tears forever over
In God's eternal day.

It will be worth it all
When we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small
When we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face
All sorrow [and struggle] will erase,
So bravely run the race [nikao, overcome]
Till we see Christ.1

And what did the apostle Paul say?

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine or nakedness or peril or sword. As it is written, "For your sake, [Christ who overcame] we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:35–36 paraphrased). 

We follow in the steps of Christ, the slain Lamb of God. Listen to that next verse. “In all these things we [overwhelmingly nikao, conquer] are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37 NASB). So press on, nikao, following in the steps of Christ, the slain Lamb of God who's gone before, who has nikao for us.

Leslie: Jesus is the true conqueror, giving hope to all who follow Him. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us this important truth. 

That teaching is part of a major study Nancy’s brought us this year on the letters to the churches in Revelation. To get the entire set of series on CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also stream them or download them from the site.

The entire series has been deep, convicting, helpful, and practical; the type of teaching that fits with our mission, as Nancy explains.

Nancy: Each day on Revive Our Hearts, we try to show women how God's Word intersects with the most practical areas of life. Let me give you an example. One of our listeners needed godly wisdom about how to manage money. She wrote and told us,

I've been going back and forth in my mind about purchasing items for my house. One day I say, "Sure, go for it." Then the next day I say, "Too much debt on my credit card." 

Well, this woman listened to Revive Our Hearts one morning when we were challenging listeners to think through their motivations for spending, and we encouraged women to set priorities and make decisions based on God's Word. This listener responded to that program and was challenged in relation to her values. She said, “Today's lesson has pointed me in the right direction. I'm so glad I listened this morning.”

Leslie: That’s just one example of how the truth of God’s Word sets women free to make wise decisions. We can’t make those kinds of connections without listeners like you who support the ministry financially. Can you give anything this month to support Revive Our Hearts? Would the Lord have you give?

We’d like to give back to you when you stand with us. So we’ll send the brand new wall calendar our team has prepared for January 2018. The theme this year is “The Truth That Sets Us Free.” You’ll be reminded of the wonder of the truth each month when you flip this wall calendar. Ask for it when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com or by calling 1–800–569–5959.

What keeps you going through periods of great struggle? A promise will help you bear almost anything. Hear about the many promises God has given when we’re back Monday with Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to provide you with truth that will set you free. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 When We See Christ. Words and music by Esther Kerr Rusthoi.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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