The Winning Life
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 21, Nov 2017
Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 15:29
‘The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent.’
In some bible, in the margin, ‘the Strength of Israel’ is translated as ‘The Victory of Israel’. So it is read as ‘the Victory of Israel will not lie nor repent.’ Israel is definitely the people of God, referring to each and every one of us who calls upon the Name of Christ. This is a phrase that only occurs here and it is also the first mention of victory in the whole bible. The Victory of Israel (us) is not an experience or an event; it is a person. I am sure that we will know that Person is Jesus Christ. Victory is not you, who many a times are the problem. Victory is the person of Christ living for you. There is no such thing as weakness and defeat; for ‘Christ is our life.’ Col 3:4 says, ‘And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.’
The life that God has ordained for Christian is a life that is hid with Christ. And this Victory will neither lie nor repent. From the Holy Scripture we may see that the life as ordained by God for Christian is one full of joy and rest, one that is uninterrupted communion with God, and is in perfect harmony with His will. It is a life that does not thirst and hunger after the world, that walks outside of sins. Indeed it is a holy, powerful and victorious life.
You ask? How is all this possible? Why did the bible say the Victory (the Christ) of Israel (the people of God) will not lie nor repent? There are a few truths that we must understand.
1. The Exchanged Life
Gal 2:20 says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, that faith which is in the Son of God.’
Victory is because I have been exchanged and not that I have changed. Gal 2:20 says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, that faith which is in the Son of God.’ What is the meaning of this verse? It has only one meaning; the life spoken of is an exchanged life. Basically, it is no longer I, for it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
Pastor Lily has a copy of an old worn out Bible. She treasured it. If she wants to change it, she would add a new cover, apply some glue, and probably imprint upon the cover with the letter spelling ‘Holy Bible’ which she did. If however she decided to exchange it for a new Bible this could be done in a matter of seconds. She could give her worn out bible to a bookseller (which they do in China) and she could exchange it for a new Bible. It is the same with our spiritual life. Since God has given His Son to you, you need not spend any strength of yours but simply give Him your worn out life in exchange for His Son’s life. I think that is the experiences that many of us tries to go through and God has to force us to one corner and says God I surrender all to you. You try to change many times; the things that you would not do, you do and you tried and tried until you are worn out. Then finally we come to this truth which God patiently tries to teach us. You can never have victory no matter how much you try to change; you have to exchange your life for Christ. This morning, some of you just have to come to Christ and say, ‘Lord, I exchange my worn out life for Christ.’
Let’s look at another illustration. A pastor bought a watch with a warranty on it for two years. But as it turned out the watch was in the repair shop far more than it was in his house. You see, upon the purchase of the watch, it began to run inaccurately after a while. It had to be taken to the company many times for the repair; once, twice, even ten times. The pastor was tired of going to the repair shop again and again and moreover, it remained inaccurate. Hence he requested the company to exchange it for another watch. They replied that they would not do so as their company has no such regulation that allowed for this. But since they guaranteed the watch for two years, they told him they would continue to repair it within the warranty period. This went on for 8 months, yet the company still refused to exchange it for a good watch. Finally, the pastor grew so tired of this that he left his watch at the company permanently. This illustration can serve to show that man’s way is always one of repairing. Repair, repair and repair again within the warranty period of life. Man has no way for exchange. But then Christ came for that great exchange. Christ did not come to repair your life. He came to exchange your life for His.
Even in the Old Testament history, we find that God’s way was never to repair, nor to change, but to exchange. This is what David meant which he committed adultery with Bathsheba. In Psalms 51:1-5 he says, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Then in verse 10 he says, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ He knows no matter how he tries to repair again and again like the watch, it will fail because it can never be repaired. The heart has to exchange for a new one. This truth is magnified in Isaiah 61:3 which says, ‘to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called tree of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified.’ To substitute is God’s way. He does not change ashes but instead gives a garland. Neither does he change sorrow in the slightest; He instead gives the oil of gladness. Nor does He change the heaviness into praise, but He gives the garment of praise in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. ‘Change’ is never God’s way; His way is always ‘exchange’ I love the new song that we have been singing. The word is ‘divine exchange’
Let’s be very honest. I am already 56 years old. I was a Christian for 7 years in Singapore and I became a missionary for 31 years. I can say that I have known the Lord for 38 years. Two more years I will be 40 years as a Christian. In our cell group we were discussing about the number 4. Four is the number for testing. The children of Israel were given 40 years in testing. And I am a little bit afraid. Am I like the Children of Israel that grumbled and was faithless for 40 years? The period of testing is 40 years for a Christian. And I am reaching that 40th year as a Christian. I think there is one truth that I learned all these years that I have not been able to change myself. Yet God has exchanged me. The meaning of life is one of exchange and not change which is the secret of Victory. When the life is exchanged, it is exchanged for the Life of Christ in me. This is holiness, this is victory and this is the life of God’s son. Henceforth the gentleness of Christ is my gentleness: the holiness of Christ is my holiness. No sin is too big that I cannot overcome. No temptation is too severe that I cannot prevail. For the life that wins is Christ, not I.
There was a brother who temper was terrible. When it flared up, his entire household was frightened. His wife, his children, his employees at his embroidery shop, and even the Christian brethren were in fear and trembling. His temper would cause disturbances even in company’s meeting. One day he confessed to a pastor that he had no way to control his temper. The Pastor told him that if he accepted the Lord as his victory, he could exchange his life for Christ. Whereupon he accepted and he experienced victory. Sometime after a month, he related that one day during that period his wife was so ill that it appeared she was about to die. Had such a thing happened before, he would have been so anxious that he would walked from one room to another with a long face and a developing temper would appear. But this time, when his wife was ill and her pulse weak, he softly said to God that it was well even if He should take her. His bad temper totally disappeared. His wife got better and was treated with acupuncture. Moreover he was now taking care of his wife with patient love. It is a miracle. Because a divine exchange has taken place. Another great is the life of Billy Fourie. I think Billy is one of the gentle fellows I have ever met. You can sense it in his spirit. How is this possible when he was once so hard, so evil that even when his mum died he could not even cry? Victory comes about because a worn out life is surrendered to God and exchange it for Christ’s life.
Christ wants to live his life through us. It is only the life of Christ; his activity, clothed with you and displayed through you, that will ultimately find approval in God. The Lord Jesus alone makes our sacrifices acceptable to God. Only what Christ does in you and through you merit’s God’s approval. This is probably the hardest to learn in the Christian life. Jesus said to his disciple, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing
Christians are continually trying to change their lives; but God calls us to experience the exchanged life. To be very honest, almost all Christian tries to change their lives for the good but they become miserable, guilty and helpless. Today I think we just have to come to God and say Christ, I exchange my life for yours. Come and dwell in me. Work through me. Live through me.
Brothers and sisters, victory has to do with an exchanged life, not a changed life. Victory does not mean that one is changed, but rather that one is exchanged. We are very familiar with Galatians 2:20, which says, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith in the Son of God.” The overcoming life is not a change but an exchange. If it were up to you, you could not make it. But if it is up to Christ, He can make it. The question is whether it is you or Christ who overcomes. If Christ overcomes, it would not matter even if you were ten times worse than you are now . . . .
Thank and praise the Lord. We have not been able to change ourselves for all these years. Now God is making an exchange. This is the meaning of holiness. This is the meaning of perfection. This is the meaning of victory. This is the life of the Son of God!
2. This Life is a Gift
I Cor 15:57 says, ‘thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
There is another thing we must understand concerning life is that Victory is a gift not a reward. What is a gift? It is something which is freely given to you. That which you earn through work is a reward. A gift, on the other hand, asks for no effort on your part. A gift is that which is given gratuitously with no requirement placed upon the receiver, whereas a reward demands that someone work for it. Victory of the Life that wins, which we are talking about this morning does not require any effort of yours. I mean I Cor 15:7 says it so clearly, ‘thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Victory is something which God has prepared to give to us. Our Victory is obtained freely, not attained through self-effort. When Pastor shared last Tuesday and uses the word ‘the planting of the Lord’, I received a truth. I felt that this church and Pastor Lily and I experienced Isaiah 61:3 which says, ‘to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called tree of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified.’ And the word, ‘planting of the LORD’ was mentioned specifically. All of Isaiah 61:3 was possible because of the planting of the Lord.
Since 2012, which we moved into this new place, I realize it has been nothing but the planting of the Lord; it has totally been the work of God. It is a gift. The connection with LSBC, the Typhoon Yolanda that brings in the finance to help so many people, providence of finances for this church and for Pastor Lily and myself has all comes about not because I made the first move but some people sent by God connected with us. Our victory in the past 5 years is a gift not a reward. Can we say that we work so hard and that was our reward? No! It is a gift of God. I think God is trying to teach this church corporately that Victory is a gift not a reward. And if God teaches the church corporately, he has the same truth for each of us individually.
Too often we believers have a serious misconception. We imagine that while salvation comes to us freely, but victory depends on ourselves. I look at the two great examples of King Jehoshaphat and King Hezekiah. Both kings at one point face armies much greater than theirs. But their victory came about without one single sword drawn, without any effort on their part. Actually their effort will fail miserably against those two powerful enemies’ forces. They just simply depended upon Yahweh. Their victories were a gift not reward.
I mean I know very clearly that I cannot add any merit or work of mine to obtain salvation. I can understand this truth very clearly. Because I know myself, my sins and I cannot do anything about it. I simply come to the cross and accept the Lord Jesus as Savior. That was not difficult for me to understand and to accept. This is the Gospel. Yet many a times for sanctification, I reason that I must do good works after I am saved. This is to say that though I cannot be saved by works but I need to depend on my works or effort for Victory.
Have you ever have this experience in life? For a period of time, whatever you do you have victory after victory. And when you encounter some problem, difficulties, you will be able to overcome and have victory after victory. Why? Because you rely on God. And your victories were simply a gift not a reward. I notice that people that are heavily dependent on God and not their own effort or abilities goes from victory to victory. If there is a sickness, there are dependent on God, if there is a project; there are dependent on God. If you want to go to heaven, be dependent on God. If you want to succeed in life or any adventure, be dependent on God. Let’s just give an example of Fernand. I think he did a good job last Sunday. Let’s give him applause. On last Saturday evening, while he was in the midst of preparing his sermon, Pastor Lily just felt led by God to message him that he has to leave aside his work on his message but to go prayer. He was shocked because he was kind of frantic at that moment. Well, he obeyed and just go to prayer; dependent on God. It was God telling him; don’t rely on your professorship ability but on God. And the principle of life is Victory is a gift not a reward. God just gifted him the success because he recognizes that it is God who giveth victories through our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the same thing with sanctification. A pastor counseled a sister who told him that having spent 20 years in trying to overcome her sin she had not only failed but also felt quite hopeless. I think we can identify with this woman. You may be able to confess your sins, but you are unable to refrain from sinning. You freely lie, and in spite of your exertion against it you continue to lie. Many brothers and sisters though they tried not to lie, they cannot change themselves to keep from lying. I don’t know your sin. This is what the Pastor said to her. ‘If you expect to overcome your sin by your own effort you will not succeed even after another 20 years. There is one verse that we are familiar with, ‘Sin shall have no dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.’ What does it mean by under grace? It denotes God working for man. If we work for God, sin shall reign over us. But if God works for us, sin shall not have dominion over us. Under law, we work. Under grace, God works. When God works, sin shall not rule over us. What I am trying to say that you are even dependent on God in trying to overcome sins in your life. And if you do that, God will work and Sin will not have dominion over us.
Maybe there are many here who have sinned so much until sinning becomes wearisome and meaningless and unchristian like. Let me tell you that if you accept this gift of God now, you may immediately become a victorious person. For the principle of victory is the principle of gift, not reward.
3. This life is obtained
I Corinthians 1:30 says, In Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’
The life that wins is to be obtained, never to be attained. Obtained simply means gaining possession of a thing. Attained, on the other hand, implies you have a long way to go and that you will proceed slowly without the assurance of arriving at the goal someday. What is the difference between obtain and attain? An important element is the difference in time. One is something instantaneous while the other is something gradual.
Before I came here to be a missionary, one of the requirements is to climb Mount Ophir, a very high mountain in Malaysia. You have to start early in the morning and just climb and it will take you the whole day before you reach the top. Of course to come down is really fast and not tiring. But all in all it takes you one whole day to climb Mount Ophir. You pass through running water, flowing down from the top of the mountain and the water is real cold but fresh. We took the water from the running river for drinking and for cooking our noodles and they taste fresh and sweet. I was asked to climb Mount Ophir as required by our Mission Director at that time. As we gradually climb, of course you felt increasingly tired. After we had covered some distance, I thought in my mind how much farther we had to go. The guide will always say that it was not far from the top and that we were almost there. Still we had not arrived. And whenever someone asked the guide, the answer has been always we were almost there. Finally we did arrive. But suppose I were to go up the mountain by being carried in a sedan chair; in that case I would have obtained Mount Ophir, not attained it. All things pertaining to the Holy Spirit are obtained. So that all which is related to victory must be received or obtained.
Romans 5:7 says, ‘If, by the tress pass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.’
God declares that victory is a gift for you to accept. Victory is not something for you to slowly attain. Pastor Lily has being trying to tell us to use the bible and declare with our mouth victory over sickness, success, and sin. Because the Victorious Christian life is already obtained because of what Christ has done. If you study the book of Dr. Cho there is a period, where he would thank God for a bicycle even though he has not seen the bicycle and the next day, the bicycle appear before him. D.L. Moody who at one time feeds 10,000 children everyday would just pray and thank God for the meal even though they don’t have the food on the table. And the next moment a bakery truck would arrive at the doorstep of the orphanage, knock the door and give them the bread. Their victories are obtained not attained.
It is a gift given you; it demands no work of yours. Suppose I give my bible to you. Do you need to exert effort to get it? Just stretch out your arm and you have it in a second. It being a gift to you, you need not go home and fast for it, neither must you kneel towards Jerusalem three times a day. So how many procedures must you go through to receive this bible? There is no procedure but to take it with your hand. The same is it with victory, it is a gift that you obtain not attained.
1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us that God has made Christ to be three things to us; righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Now when did God make Christ our righteousness? You will correctly reply that it was when Christ died on the cross. You did not need to weep three days before you received Him as your righteousness.
Let me repeat that victory is something to be obtained, not to be attained. How is this possible? Well possible this life is a miracle. Unless there is a miracle, none will come unto victory. What are you facing today? Come to the altar and simply declare and thank him for the victory, the gifts, the possession of something that you really need in your life. Do you have a problem that you cannot solve or something that you cannot deal with? Remember Victory is something to be obtained, not to be attained. Our Lord Jesus can perform a miracle for you immediately. Whatever that has frustrated you for years, He can solve it at once. Just thank him for the Victory. That is what we learn from Abraham, who hope against hope believed in hope (Jesus). Because he is fully persuaded that what God has promised (victory) for you, he is able to accomplish for you. The Lord will work a miracle, irrespective of what your sin is, your lack of consecration. Just come to him boldly just as you are and confess Christ and claim victory.