The Overcomer Trust

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By J C Metcalfe

"Partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1 v4)

The Bible is full of the wisdom of ordinary life.  In Jeremiah chapter 13 and verse 23 it asks a question, ”can the leopard change its spots?" and in this way brings before us one of the great facts of life, which you and I take for granted.  Why does a leopard behave as it does?  The answer is simple, it was born a leopard and has a leopard’s nature.  It is reasonable to expect that any animal will act with the nature it was born with.  A bird will fly, a fish will live in the water, a monkey will climb trees, because it is their nature to do so.  In just the same way we sin because we are born with a sinful nature.  David in the Psalms confesses what every honest person knows is true, “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51 v5).  When you are born again you receive a new nature.  Peter tells us he became a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1 v4).  Paul says, "if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here" (2 Corinthians 5 v17).  Therefore it is to be expected that we will live a new life, for the simple reason that we are now children of God.

Bishop Ryle in an article on the new birth, wrote as follows, "new birth is necessary for salvation.  The next step is to find the evidence of whether or not a person’s heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit, or whether change is yet to come.  This evidence is spoken about in Scripture.  God foresaw how some would torture themselves with doubts and questions, and would never believe it was well with their souls.  He also knew that others would think they were Christians who had no right to do so at all”.  He has, therefore, mercifully provided us with a test of our spiritual condition in First John.  There He has written what the Christian is and their habits, ways of life and faith.  We find six marks of being born of God.  More than once in this letter, when these marks are mentioned, the Apostle tells us about people who are “not of God”.  The six marks of this new life are these:

1. "No one who is born of God will continue to sin” and, “we know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin" (1 John 3 v9, 5 v18).

2. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5 v1).

3. "Everyone who does what is right has been born of Him" (1 John 2 v29).

4. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other” and, ”everyone who loves has been born of God" (1 John 3 v14, 4 v7).

5. "Everyone born of God overcomes the world" (1 John 5 v4).

6. "The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them" (1 John 5 v18).

These verses give us a picture of the born again Christian, and the character that they receive by being a child of God.

Does not continue to sin”. 

One of the first things which happens when a person is born again, is that they have a completely different attitude towards sin.  We are not told that they never do anything wrong, nor are we told that they are never tempted.  They break with the habit of sinning, and see themselves as God sees them, which means leaving old ways and attitudes.  They begin to take God's side, with the aim and purpose of being free from the dominion of sin, and living a life that is pleasing to God.

From the days of Adam, humans have tended to blame someone else for their own sin.  Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the devil.   King Saul when he failed to obey God in his campaign against Amalek blamed the people (1 Samuel 15 v15).  The wicked King Ahab tried to make Elijah the prophet responsible for the judgement that had fallen on Israel (1 Kings 18 v17).  Again and again this same feature of human nature can be seen in the Bible, and is true to the everyday experience of life.  Today people blame the others they live or work with, the circumstances of life, in fact anything and everything but their own sin.  The born again Christian, on the other hand, submits their actions and thoughts to the Word of God, and confesses their sin.  

Each of us can be very content to build up a self-satisfied standard of righteousness, which does not ask too much, and has no relationship to God's standard revealed in Scripture.  I knew a man who was always afraid that I would speak to him about his soul.  He thought that being honest in business was his one standard of good living, and always used to say to me, "I owe no money, and always pay for everything I buy".  I used to tell him, "if you did not do that you would go to prison", and then tried to show him his need of Christ.  When the Lord Jesus was on earth the Scribes and Pharisees had built up their own standards of good living, but He warned His disciples, “for I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5 v20).  Those who are born again should never be satisfied with themselves, knowing that God's aim is to make us like Christ.  We can never fully reach this glorious goal until we can say with David, ”as for me, I will be vindicated and will see Your face, when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing Your likeness" (Psalm 17 v15).  Until then sin is something to be hated, feared, avoided, and fought against everyday with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Believes that Jesus is the Christ”. 

This is something more than just knowledge about the Biblical history of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In many Churches preachers talk about the life and teachings of Jesus, and ask their listeners to try and copy Him.  This is not the Gospel, because the Christian knows by the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus died on the Cross in their place, and that "He was pierced for our transgressions" (Isaiah 53 v5).  He also knows that "He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15 v4), and that finally He "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven" (Hebrews 1 v3).   He knows that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" and that "in Christ you have been brought to fullness" (Colossians 2 v9-10).   The Christian lives in the light of the fact that anything we cannot do by ourselves, Christ can help us by His Holy Spirit.  The Apostle Paul in Philippians 3 shows how this new nature worked in his case.  In verses 5 and 6 he made a list of all those things in which he had placed his confidence before his conversion, and then in verse 7 declares, "whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ", and verse 8 tells of his whole aim in life, ”that I may gain Christ”.  

Just as it is natural for a bird to fly because it is a bird, so it is natural for the born again Christian to see all their needs met in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Does what is right“. 

This is something more than just continuing not to sin, and means that those who are born again are set apart to fulfil the purposes of God on earth.  The Lord Jesus came into this world with a clear purpose.  He said, ”the one who sent Me is with Me, He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him" (John 8 v29).  Hebrews quotes from a Psalm in this way, “here I am, it is written about Me in the scroll, I have come to do Your will, My God" (Hebrews 10 v7).  Doing righteousness, is fulfilling the will and work of God here on earth, and many do not see this.  They think of holiness as avoiding certain wrong actions and attitudes.  It is far more than this, it is the recognition that from now on we are not our own, but are set apart for God’s will in us.  After He had risen from the dead, the Lord Jesus told His disciples, ”as the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20 v21).  John remembering this wrote, "in this world we are like Jesus" (1 John 4 v17).  

The Son of God naturally lived to glorify His Father, and to do His will.  The children of God will also naturally seek to do God's will.  You begin to understand how great it is to be a Christian, when you realise that God has something prepared for each one of us, in which we can glorify Him here, and which no one else can do.  Few people who read the Bible ever seem to see this verse, ”for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2 v10).  Before we are converted “each of us has turned to our own way" (Isaiah 53 v6).  In doing this we follow our nature as sons of Adam.  When we are born of God we can offer our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”, so that we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12 v1-2).  This is doing righteousness.


Since it is the nature of God to love, and therefore to give to those He loves, it is easy to see that love will also be natural to His children.  They will love God, who has done so much for them.  "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4 v19).  "God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Romans 5 v5).  It is not only the acceptance of truth that makes us a Christian, it is loving truth (2 Thessalonians 2 v10).  There are many who are not real Christians, for they believe the Gospel, but they neither love the Saviour who died for them, nor the Father who gave His only Son.  Those who are born again love other Christians.  To quote again Bishop Ryle, "we feel that they are members of the same family, brothers and sisters of the same Father, who travel along the same difficult road, and soon they will rest with Him in the same eternal home.  We may be very different in nationality, work or wealth, but we are all Jesus Christ's people, and we cannot help loving each other”.  Animals will often fight to defend their own, because it is their nature to do so.  How much more then will one who has become a participant in the Divine nature, love his fellow Christians.  "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15 v13). This love is a love that gives.

“Overcomes the World”. 

To understand this part of the Christian life we need to know what the world is.  It is used here for the population of the world who are not born again.  The apostle Paul described the world in this way, ”you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2 v1-3).  Satan is the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4 v4), or as John puts it, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5 v19), and the Greek word means "to lie like a baby on the lap of the evil one”.  Satan's one job is to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ, and all who belong to Him.  He tries to draw them away, and Christians are warned against "the devil’s schemes" (Ephesians 6 v11), and if he cannot do this he will stir up opposition and persecution. The Lord Jesus seeing this warned us that "in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world" (John 16 v33).  He lives in us by His Holy Spirit, so we also overcome the world.  Just as a bird flies through the air because of its natural ability to do this, so the believer can live above the difficulties, and trials of this world.  It is with this in view that Paul writes to the Roman Christians saying, "do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12 v2).  Many professing Christians allow their thinking and attitude to life to be ruled by the ideas of the world, and those who watch this cannot see any difference between the so-called Christian and those who profess no interest in religion. Those who are born again seek to please God, and not live simply to please others.  They are children of God.

“God keeps them safe”.

The meaning of the Greek word translated "keep" is to "watch carefully".  God did not make machines when He made us.  Machines can be manufactured to do many wonderful things but they cannot think for themselves.  You cannot befriend a machine.  False Christian teachings cause people to place the responsibility for their spiritual lives on someone else like a priest.  The believer takes responsibility for their own life in fellowship with God.  Paul expresses it in these words, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2 v12-13).  

The people of Israel made a mistake, which led them into continual backsliding, when they made the decision that Moses should deal with God on their behalf, because they were afraid to do so themselves (Exodus 20 v19). The experience of the one who is born again is very different. The promise quoted in Hebrews is, "I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be My people.  No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Hebrews 8 v10-11).  We now have the great honour of being permitted to know God, and the dignity of no longer living as a slave.  Christ has broken the reign of sin, and overcome the world.  

We can apply to our own heart and life the laws of this new life.  Everyone who is born again is sealed by God with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1 v13), and He puts inside us the new life given in Christ, which is the life of God Himself.  As we learn to live with God, the evil one cannot touch us despite trying.  As a sheep stays near the Shepherd, the wolf cannot catch it, "for ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2v25).  Remember that there must be a family likeness between God and His children, and without this you are not His.

From the book “Out of Adam - Into Christ”.