God Wants Us to Be Overcomers for Jesus Christ

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God Wants Us to Be Overcomers for Jesus Christ

The Book of Romans

Romans 12:17-21

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - November 13, 2016

(Revised September 2, 2021)

BACKGROUND:

*In Romans 1-11, Paul went into great detail about our terrible sinfulness and our desperate need for the Gospel of God's salvation. Paul made it clear that salvation can only come by God's grace through faith in our crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the good news about Jesus: He died on the cross for all of our sins. But three days later, Jesus rose again from the dead, and now He will give eternal life to everyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior.

*This truth is why Paul went as far as he could, as long as he could to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in Romans 1:15-17, Paul proclaimed: "As much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'''

*THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO BE SAVED BUT BY BELIEVING IN JESUS CHRIST. Peter confirmed this truth in Acts 4:12, where he said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." And in John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

*James Merritt explained, "Jesus said the path to Heaven is a PERSON, -- not a principle, practice, precept, or philosophy. The path to Heaven is not the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, loving our neighbor, or clean living. . . All of these are good and godly things, but all of them put together could not pave one inch on the road to Heaven. Jesus is the only way. If you're going any other way, you're going the wrong way." (1)

*All true Christians have been born again by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But how are we supposed to live this new life we have in Christ? This was Paul's focus for the rest of this book, and tonight he shows us how to be overcomers for Christ. Let's begin by reading Romans 12:17-21.

MESSAGE:

*God wants us to be overcomers for Jesus Christ! The Bible makes this truth clear in many places, and vs. 21 is a good example. Here God tells us, "Do not be OVERCOME by evil, but OVERCOME evil with good.

*The original word here is "nik-ah'-ō." It means "to win, conquer, overcome, or get the victory." The root word is "nike." That means "victory," and that's where Nike got the name for their clothes.

*This word translated as "overcome" is found 28 times in the New Testament, and God surely wants His people to be overcomers. 1 John 5:1-5, is another good example. There John said:

1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.

3. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

4. For whatever is born of God OVERCOMES the world. And this is the victory that has OVERCOME the world, even our faith.

5. Who is he who OVERCOMES the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

*Through Jesus Christ we can overcome everything the world throws at us, and the main reason why is because Jesus has overcome the world! As the Lord said in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have OVERCOME the world."

*God wants us to be obedient overcomers for Jesus Christ, and tonight's Scripture gives us some of the details.

1. FIRST: GOD WANTS US TO REFUSE TO GET REVENGE.

*God wants us to refuse to get revenge. That's how to be an overcomer, so the first part of vs. 17 says, "Repay no one evil for evil." Then in vs. 19 Paul quoted the Lord from Deuteronomy 32:35. And Paul wrote, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."

*When somebody hurts us, sometimes we want to strike back. It's tempting, isn't it? But God wants us to walk in His way of forgiveness. And as we think about God's kind of forgiveness, we need to clear up some misunderstandings.

*Robert Enright explained that "Forgiveness is not forgetting. Deep hurts can rarely be wiped out of one's awareness. Also, forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people, but we can forgive someone without reconciliation."

*You see, forgiving other people is mostly a matter between you and God. It does not mean that you have to tell the person who offended you that you have forgiven them, though sometimes that might be helpful. But sometimes the person doesn't think they did anything wrong. They might say, "What do you mean you forgive me?!? I didn't do anything wrong!" They might even get furious or just laugh in your face.

*One lady I know needed to forgive the father who had abused her in the worst possible way. But he was dead. Her forgiveness wasn't for the dad's sake. It was for her sake, and it did help her.

*"Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation. It's also not condoning. Our forgiveness does not require us to excuse bad behavior or pass it off as insignificant. Also, our forgiveness is not a pardon that releases an offender from the consequences of an action." (2)

*All of these things are important for us to know, but it is also important to know that forgiveness is not a feeling. Years ago, I heard Charles Stanley speak on this topic, and he helped me to understand forgiveness in a brand new way. Most people think that forgiveness is a feeling. But it is not a feeling.

*Let me also say here that forgiveness is not giving people a blank check to abuse us. It does not mean that we allow ourselves to be a doormat for someone. Yes, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. But in Matthew 18, He also gave a process to deal with fellow Christians who mistreat us. So, forgiveness is not a blank check for people to take advantage of us.

*But also know that forgiveness is not a feeling. Lots of times we get confused about that, and we think we can't forgive someone until we have this feeling in our heart. But again, forgiveness is not a feeling. It is both a command from God, and a choice of our will.

*We can see this truth in vs. 17 and 19, where God's Word says, "Repay no one evil for evil." And "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."

*These are commands from God. He is commanding us to choose to forgive those who have hurt us, -- not because they necessarily deserve it or ever will. Rather, He is telling us to choose to forgive them, because it's the Christ-like thing to do, and because our forgiveness will bring healing in our hearts from the Lord.

*Christians: We know that God is a forgiver because He has forgiven us! We know that He loved us and wanted to forgive our sins so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place. And by the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ, the doorway to forgiveness was opened for us.

*Now, as Christians we can choose to forgive, because we have been born-again with the nature of our Risen Savior. We can also forgive, because we have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us to help us forgive.

*I ask people to picture God asking them if they are willing to forgive. And then to pray something like this, "Yes Father, since I know that you have commanded me to forgive, and since I know that I can because I am born again, and since your Holy Spirit is living in me to help me forgive, right now, I choose to forgive that person."

*And when we do this, God begins to heal our wounded heart. It can even make a difference in our physical health. President Ronald Reagan knew this truth. Remember that John Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan back in 1982, and he almost succeeded. The bullet went into Reagan's lung and stopped less than an inch from his heart!

*But daughter Patti Davis later reported, "The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking." (3)

2. GOD WANTS US TO REFUSE TO GET REVENGE. HE ALSO WANTS US TO REVEAL HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.

*God wants our lives to be a revelation of His righteousness. That's how to be an overcomer, and we see this truth at the end of vs. 17. Here God's Word tells us to "Have regard for good things in the sight of all men." The KJV says: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men."

*The idea here is that we consider in advance or think ahead of time to behave in a good and honest way before other people. That's why the International Standard Version says, "Focus your thoughts on what is right in the sight of all people." Or we might say, "Plan ahead to do the right thing in the sight of all men."

*People should be able to know that we are Christians by the way we live. Paul also stressed this truth in Philippians 2:14-16, and there he told us to:

14. Do all things without complaining and disputing,

15. that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

16. holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

*God wants us to "shine as lights in the world." We also see this truth in the Lord's Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said this to His followers:

14. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

15. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

*People should be able to notice that we are Christians by the good things we say and do. And God wants us to shine brighter for Jesus every day!

*W. H. Griffith-Thomas once said, "There are people in the world around us who never open, who never read this Book. But they are reading us. Are they able to see God in our lives? Are they able to say of us to others, -- 'That man -- or that woman -- reminds me of Christ?' Do we let our light so shine that men may see, not us, but our Father in heaven?" (4)

3. GOD WANTS US TO REVEAL HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THE WAY WE LIVE. HE ALSO WANTS US TO PURSUE PEACEFUL LIVING.

*This is God's message for us in vs. 18, where Paul wrote, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

*It's important to know that know that Paul was not talking about governments here. He talks about government in the next chapter, and there we see biblical support for just wars, as well as capital punishment.

*But Paul is not talking about governments here. He is talking about our personal relationships with our family, friends, and more. He is talking about our relationships in church, in the neighborhood, at work and in school. So, "if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

*It's not always easy, is it? No. There are all kinds of problems. We get stressed and irritable. Sometimes we get downright selfish, and living together peacefully is not always easy. Sometimes, it's even impossible, but again in vs. 18, Paul said, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

*Years ago, in "Christianity Today," Josephine Ligon told a story from her childhood. It was about a special family in the town where she grew up. Their name was Parsons, and the special thing Josephine remembered was that the Parsons always preached and practiced forgiveness.

*One time Josephine and some of her third-grade friends put a handful of pencil shavings in the Parsons girl's sandwich. They just wanted to be mean and make the girl mad. But she didn't get mad.

*Instead, the next day, without any sign of repentance from her persecutors, the Parsons girl brought everyone in the class a large, beautiful, delicious, hand-decorated cookie. And each cookie had a message written in icing that said: "Jesus loves you."

*The Parsons girl and her family did everything they could to live in peace with their neighbors. And years later Josephine said she still remembered that demonstration of forgiveness more than any sermon. (5)

*Some people will surely notice when you try your best to live in peace, and Jesus will always notice! So, "if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

4. GOD WANTS US TO PURSUE PEACEFUL LIVING. HE ALSO WANTS US TO DEPEND ON HIS DIVINE HELP.

*This is part of God's message for us in vs. 19. Here Paul quoted Deuteronomy 32:35, and he said, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,'' says the Lord.

*The whole heart, the whole foundation of this verse is us depending on the Lord, depending that we are not just Paul's beloved, but God's beloved! And He will take care of His children.

*Here we are also told to depend on the truth that we don't have to avenge ourselves, because our God is always just. And He will always do the right thing at the right time. That's why in vs. 19 the New Living Translation says: "Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, 'I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,' says the Lord."

*It takes faith to depend on God's promise here. It takes trust to patiently depend on God to do the right thing. It takes the same kind of trust that Jesus demonstrated when He was here on earth.

*Peter talked about this in 1 Peter 2:18-25, and there he said:

18. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.

19. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.

20. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer for it, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

21. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22. "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth'';

23. who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24. who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed.

25. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

*Our Heavenly Father wants us to have the same kind of trust Jesus had when He was here on earth. God wants us to trust Him to do the right thing, because He always will! Thank God, we can trust Him completely!

5. AND GOD WANTS US TO DEPEND ON HIS DIVINE HELP. BUT HE ALSO WANTS US TO DEMONSTRATE THE KINDNESS OF OUR KING.

*That's how to be an overcomer, and this is the message for us in vs. 20-21. Here Paul said:

20. "Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.''

21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

*Here Paul quoted from Proverbs 25, and I am sure he wasn't talking about heaping physical coals of fire on our enemy's head. If that was the case, the poor man would be better off hungry and thirsty! I'd a whole lot rather be a little hungry than have burning coals on my head, right?

*So, here Paul must be talking about the fact that sometimes our kindness can melt a heart as hard as stone. Sometimes our kindness can bring godly sorrow and repentance in hard hearts. Sometimes our kindness can be a great picture of the kindness of our King. And we should always try to demonstrate the kindness of our King, because that's how we can overcome evil with good.

*Michael Luke told about a tough drill sergeant whose life once overflowed with many kinds of sin. This sergeant was arrogant and cruel to his men. But God turned his life around, and he became a Christian.

*Someone asked him what made the difference, and the sergeant spoke of a private in his platoon who was a courageous Christian in his outlook and behavior. This private was frequently harassed by others but was faithful to Jesus Christ.

*One night the private came into the barracks quite late. It was a very rainy night. Before getting into his bunk, he knelt, as usual to pray. The sergeant was in a foul mood that night, and he picked up one of his boots, heavy with wet mud. Then he threw it across the room, hitting the private in the side of the head. The private said nothing. He wiped the mud from his face and crawled into bed.

*But the next morning, the sergeant woke up to see his muddy boots cleaned and polished by his bed. He said: "It broke my heart." And he received Christ as His Lord and Savior. (6)

*Doing good to someone who has mistreated you can change their life for all eternity. God could use your kindness to help point them to Jesus. But even if they never trust in the Lord, we need to do good to them anyway, because that's what the Lord has done for us, and that's what He wants us to do!

CONCLUSION:

*God wants us to be obedient overcomers for Jesus Christ, and He will surely help us have this great victory. Let's trust the Lord to help us, as we go back to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from Sermons.com sermon "What Are Your Chances of Going to Heaven" by James Merritt - John 14:6

(2) Adapted from Robert D. Enright, in Niki Denison, "To Live & Forget" - On Wisconsin Nov-Dec 1992 - Source: Sermonillustrations.com 09152002

(3) "Angels Don't Die." - Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership. - Source: Bible Illustrator for windows - Topic: Forgiveness - Index: 1314-1316 - Date: 6/1998.2000 - Title: "The Healing Power of Forgiveness"

(4) W. H. Griffith-Thomas in a sermon: "Knowing and Showing," from Keswick's Authentic Voice - Source: Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 5 - Source: "Bible Illustrator for Windows" - Topic: Christlikeness - Index: 382 - Date: 6/1998.1452 - Title: Our Lives as Books

(5) From "Your Daffodils are Pretty" in "Christianity Today" - March 2, 1979, p. 18 - Submitted by Rev. Steven J. Cole, Cedarpines Community Church, Crestline, California - Source: Bible Illustrator for windows - Topic: Forgiveness - Index: 1314-1316 - Date: 12/1997.1911 - Title: "A Smile Will Do"

(6) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Love Your Enemies" by Michael Luke - Matthew 5:38-48

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