Exchanging Defeat for Victory
By LESLIE LUDY
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light … the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7
The meeting hall was filled to capacity.
Christians of all ages had gathered for an afternoon of prayer, worship, and spiritual exhortation. Among them was Oswald Chambers, a Bible college student who was known and respected by everyone present. Over the past two years, this young man had proven a strong Christian leader in both his school and community, and had been instrumental in bringing many to Christ. After the message, there was a time of repentance and prayer. As the congregation finished the song, “Touch me again, Lord,” they were surprised to see Oswald stand, a broken and humbled expression on his face. He confessed that he had no conscious sense of God’s presence in his life, and that he desperately needed strength to take God at His Word and somehow become confident that Christianity was real.
The room was silent as Oswald sat back down. He was one of the most respected Christians present. The words he spoke didn’t seem to fit the image of strong Christianity this young man had always displayed. Finally, a woman sitting next to him spoke up and said, “That is very good of our brother; he has spoken like this as an example to the rest of you!”
But Oswald stood up again and replied, “I got up for no one else’s sake than my own. Either Christianity is a downright fraud, or I have not got hold of the right end of the stick.”
Oswald admitted that he had not found a real, personal relationship with God, that the Bible seemed like the dullest most uninteresting book in the world, and that he lived with a constant sense of depravity and vileness. That night, he chose to renounce his unbelief and apathy. He brought his secret sins into the light. He genuinely repented and asked God for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to walk in the victorious life God had called him to.
It was not an emotional experience with visions of heaven and angels, but even so, Oswald knew that a genuine transformation had taken place in his soul. From that time on, his Christianity was vibrant and real. He was walking in the light, and his relationship with God began to alter every aspect of his life. His outlook changed from one of defeat and gloom to one of joy and victory. He said, “When you know what God has done for you, the power and the tyranny of sin is gone — and the radiant, unspeakable emancipation of the indwelling Christ has come.” And later, “It is no wonder that I talk so much about an altered disposition: God altered mine; I was there when He did it.”
The double-life that Oswald lived during his early days of Bible college is not far removed from the way many Christians live today. It is all too easy for us to dutifully attend church, read our Bibles, sing worship songs, and even share Christ with others, all the while cleverly covering a secret bondage to sin, doubt, and apathy. In fact, defeated Christians are far more common today than victorious ones. It has even gotten to the point where many churches have redefined Christianity to be a “journey of doubt and aimless searching” rather than “the procession of world-changing triumph” that God intended it to be. (See 2 Corinthians 2:14.)
Our worship services are often filled with songs that declare to God, “I’m a mess, but You love me anyway!” rather than, “What an amazing, transforming work You have done in my life!” Christian bookstores are overflowing with books that seek to help Christians “cope” with their disillusionment toward God. Modern Christian music artists sing soulful tunes about living sin-laden lives in the midst of God’s unconditional love.
Christians who dare to say that they have found victory in their spiritual lives are often sneered at by other believers. I remember reading a “Christian” book on relationships in which the author openly mocked the single Christian women she’d met who said that God had given them peace, joy, and contentment in their singleness. She wrote that she always walked away from these conversations rolling her eyes, knowing these women were simply failing to be “honest” about how miserable they truly were.
Not only are countless Christians living in defeat today, but all too many are beginning to mock, ridicule, and hinder the ones who aren’t. It reminds me of the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13: “You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
Because there is such a widespread acceptance of defeat and bondage to sin among today’s Christians, it can be tempting to accept it as “normal” in our own lives. But as 1 John 1:6 so poignantly reminds us, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” We may fool those around us into thinking we have a genuine relationship with God, but we cannot fool Him. If we proclaim to know Christ but are walking in darkness and allowing sin to rule us, we are living a lie.
Does this mean that if we have any sin in our lives, our Christianity is a joke? Certainly not. Walking in the light does not mean living in “sinless perfection” and never stumbling again. (See Philippians 3:12.) But when we are controlled by any kind of sin (whether openly or secretly), then we have not truly grasped the power of Christ in us, the hope of glory — and we are letting darkness, rather than light, rule over us. (See Colossians 1:27.)
Many Christians have come to the conclusion that the epic visions of triumph and victory presented in Scripture are nothing more than poetic-sounding, larger-than-life ideals — sort of like those inspirational posters we see at the doctor’s office or gym. We may be mentally motivated or emotionally moved by the beautiful promises and righteous standards presented in the Bible, but not many of us expect to live them out in everyday life — at least not on a consistent basis.
But God does not give us instructions that He won’t enable us to carry out. If we are living defeated, sin-enslaved lives, the fault lies with us, not Him. Our God doesn’t tease us by making promises to us that He doesn’t also intend to fulfill. (See Numbers 23:19.)
Instead of accepting defeat and mediocrity as normal, God can enable us to follow Oswald Chamber’s example and experience the amazing victory of a supernaturally transformed life — exchanging failure for faith and darkness for light. As Oswald said, “When you know what God has done for you, the power and tyranny of sin is gone.”
This amazing transformation cannot happen through even the very best of our human effort. It is only possible through the enabling power of God. But, like Oswald, we must choose to yield to His transforming work in our soul. As Oswald once wrote, “When we deliberately choose to obey God, He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all His almighty power.” What an amazing reality!
Do you long to be free from the control of sin? Do you want to put hypocritical living aside, and walk in the light, as He is in the light?
Not only is it possible — it is His desire and purpose for you. Here are some important principles to keep in mind as you open your heart to His refining work:
Beware the “Honesty” Pitfall
Walking in the light has been redefined by many modern Christians as simply “being honest” with our fellow Christians about our ongoing bondage to sin and struggle with doubt toward God. Some churches even host what they call “Doubt Nights,” where everyone gets together and vents their doubts about God and His Word. “Confession of sin” in the Body of Christ today has become the idea that “I’m a mess, you’re a mess, but let’s just embrace our brokenness together and thank God that He loves messes like us!”
But this is not what it means to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” Honesty about our spiritual struggles is certainly an important first step in the process of bringing secret sins into the light. But it is not meant to be the only step. God’s Word says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9, emphasis added). Confession of sin is the process of bringing our hidden vices, addictions, and selfishness into the light, laying them at the feet of Jesus, and allowing Him to wash us clean. Then He tells us to repent — which means to turn and walk the other way. Think about the woman caught in adultery. What did Jesus say to her after He rescued her from her persecutors? “Go, and just be honest about your struggles”? No, He said, “Go, and sin no more.” (See John 8:11.)
If you are being controlled by any kind of sin, confessing it is crucial — first to God, and also to the trusted Christians He has placed in our life for accountability and spiritual exhortation. (Note: Be sure to be appropriate with what kind of sins you confess in mixed company.) But if you simply confess your sin and leave it at that, you are not allowing God to do His amazing work of grace in your soul. Rather, confess your sin with an attitude that says, “I am choosing to repent of this sin and believe that God’s power is sufficient to set me free from its bondage.”
Yes, let’s be honest about our sin. But in the process, let’s not forget to also be honest about the reality and efficacy of God’s ability to transform us into “new creatures in Christ”!
Know What You Possess
Coming to the Cross means much more than believing that Christ died for your sins. It means exchanging all that you are for all that He is. It means being overtaken by His divine indwelling power, which supernaturally equips you to live a holy, triumphant life that would be impossible on your own. When you grasp the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), you will grasp the secret to true set-apartness.
When the life and Spirit of Christ dwells within you, you have the power to be holy as He is holy. (See 1 Peter 1:15-16.) You no longer need to be enslaved to sin or helpless against the temptations of the world. You are set apart for Him, not because of your own righteousness, but because you are clothed in His.
I like what Evan Hopkins says about this truth: “Think what it is we really possess, if Christ is in us…all power, all grace, all purity, and all fullness, absolutely everything to make all grace abound toward us, in us, and through us, are stored up in Him who verily dwells within us.”
Many believers have resigned themselves to the attitude I’ll always struggle with sin; I shouldn’t expect victory this side of heaven. We read Paul’s statement in Romans 7, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” and reason, Well, if Paul couldn’t overcome sin, who am I to think I’m any different? But the answer to Paul’s question is presented clearly in the next sentence: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25, emphasis added).
Because of the work of the Cross and the enabling grace of Christ that dwells within us, we have the power to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). Our “old man” has been crucified with Christ. Therefore, we are free to no longer serve sin, but to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (See Romans 6:6; 1 John 1:7.)
If you hear the voice of God’s Spirit calling you toward greater levels of purity and consecration unto Him, beware of hiding behind the excuse, “I’ll always be weak and sinful; I can’t expect anything more.” Such logic will be deadly to your soul and toxic to your spiritual life.
Consider the following words of wisdom of Andrew Bonar: “It is more humbling for us to take what grace offers, than to bewail our wants and worthlessness.”
Just imagine if our worship services could be filled with Christians who understood this. No more wallowing in defeat and frustration, but rejoicing and marveling at the triumphant, amazing, supernatural, victorious, and soul-altering grace of God.
Because of the amazing work of God in his soul, Oswald Chambers went from a defeated, frustrated Christian to one of the most joyful, triumphant, and world-impacting ambassadors for Christ in his generation. If you have ever been tempted to believe that the transforming work of Christ can change everyone else but you, consider the following simple-yet-profound words that marked Oswald’s tombstone when he was laid to rest:
How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?
Receiving the supernatural power to “walk in the light” is not a complicated process only reserved for a few special people in God’s Kingdom. Rather, as Oswald’s life proved, it is a simple matter of asking our Father for His unspeakable gift — and then whole-heartedly receiving what He freely offers.