3: REAL AND COUNTERFEIT VICTORY

Victory is a great word in the New Testament, and yet I am sure there are many
Christians who have received Jesus as Saviour, who have been born again and have
passed from death unto life, who nevertheless are deceived day-by-day by a counterfeit
victory when God wants them to know what real victory is. I can speak with deep feeling
as to this, because I lived to be nearly forty years old (after having lived for more than
twenty-five years as a sincere Christian) never knowing what real victory was, and
having all those years taken the counterfeit victory – active Christian worker though I
was – as a substitute for the real.

Our Lord once said to some Jews, who were sure that they were all right, “Jesus
answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is
the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the
Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free
indeed” (John 8:34-36).

Then again, the same Holy Spirit who indwelt the Lord Jesus said to Paul, “Sin
shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace,”
and the Lord Himself adds later, “Mygrace is sufficient for thee.” “Ye are not
under the law” which says DO, “butunder grace” which says DONE, and that is the
reason why “sin shall not have dominion over you.”

So it is that Paul could cry out to the Galatians, as he was making that passionate protest
against relapsing from grace into law, as most of us Christians have done at one time or
another, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me.” And again in Philippians, “To me to live is Christ.” And to the
Corinthians, “Thanksbe to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ.” If there is one word that we do not always realize should be printed in
capital letters in that triumphant thanksgiving, it is the word “GIVETH.” “Thanks be
to God, which GIVETH us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That is grace. That is the test of the real or the counterfeit victory. Just remember this:
any victory over the power of any sin whatsoever in your life that you have to get by
working for it is counterfeit. Any victory that you have to get by trying for it is
counterfeit. If you have to work for your victory, it is not the real thing; it is not the thing
that God offers you.

On the train this afternoon I was reading a letter from a woman who is at this
Convention, and she said, “I am trying to live the victorious life,” and so I did so and so
under certain circumstances that Christian friend may be in this audience tonight; but if
she is, I cannot refrain from saying that as long as she keeps on trying to live the
victorious life, she won’t live it. If any of you are making the mistake of trying to live the
victorious life, you are cheating yourself out of it, for the victory you get by trying for it is
a counterfeit victory. You must substitute another word; not try, but trust, and you
cannot try and trust at the same time. Trying is what we do, and trusting is what we let
the Lord do.

Let us think for a few minutes of concrete examples of the counterfeit victory and the
real victory, keeping in mind as we do so the offer of the Lord Jesus to set us free so that
we shall be free indeed. Because the pity of it, the tragedy of it, is that the Christian
people of our land have not been taught the truth in this matter. Our ministers, many of
them, are not able to teach the truth in this matter. They themselves have not been
taught the truth. Our seminaries are not teaching it. So laymen and ministers are
substituting counterfeit victory for the real.

I read not long ago some extracts from a sermon by a well-known preacher, and they
were something like this: “We all of us need to do weeding, rooting up the bad weeds in
the garden of our own life. The thing to do is to give your attention to some weed, some
sin that has taken root in your life, and with prayer and effort dig it up. It may take
you a long time, but keep at it day after day, week after week, month after month if
necessary, till you have weeded that sin out. After you have gotten rid of that sin, take
another, and keep at that till you have weeded it out. And then another and another of
the sins of your life, till you have made your garden what it ought to be.”

Dear friends, you do not find anything of this sort in God’s Word. A victory gained in
that way, by a gradual conquest over evil, getting one sin after another out of our life, is
counterfeit victory. No, the Lord Jesus does not offer to give us any such gradual victory
over the sins of our life.

There is an old story, which I am very sure is not a true one, – but a very good one to
remember because it illustrates so clearly the mistake of supposing that victory over our
own sins can ‘at best be’ only gradual. A man who was down and out wandered into a
rescue mission one night, and there found Jesus Christ as his Saviour. He had been a
thief, but now he was saved. As he went out from the mission, he talked with himself
something like this:

“I have been a thief, a pickpocket. When business was good, I have picked on an
average a dozen pockets a day. But now I am a Christian, and I must give up that
method of earning my livelihood. For the rest of this week I will reduce that number of
pockets to about eight a day, for I am a Christian now. The week after that I will cut it
down to about six a day. During the third week I shall not be picking more than three
or four pockets a day, and in a month from now I shall have given it up entirely, for I
am a Christian now.”

I don’t believe that is a true story, do you? I don’t believe that a man who had found
Christ as his Saviour would be so foolish as to reason with himself that way about the sin
of thieving. But, dear friends, I have an idea that I am looking into the faces of some
Christian people who have been just foolish enough to reason that way about the known
sins of their life; that next year, and the year after, and the year after that, they
would have reduced some of the known sins of their life until sometime in the vague future
they would have given them up entirely. And I perfectly sure that you are looking into
the face of a man who was foolish enough to reason that way about the sins of his life for
many years.

No! the victorious life, the life of freedom from the power of sin, is not a gradual gift.
There is no such thing as a gradual gift. And victory is a gift. It is not a growth. –
“Thanks be to God, which GIVETH us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” How long
does it take you to grow into your birthday presents? On your birthday, when you come
downstairs, and find them there on the table with your name on them, how long does it take
you to grow into those gifts? One minute a gift is not yours, though it is labeled with your
name. The next minute it is yours. Why? Because in that minute you have taken it. You did
not grow into it; in an instant you took it. Victory is a gift which we take in exactly the
same way.

Please do not misunderstand me as saying that in the victorious life there is no growth.
That would be absolutely false; wholly untrue to the Word of God. But we only begin to
grow normally, grow as God wants us to grow, after we have entered into victory. Then
we have the chance to grow for the first time as we ought to grow. And then we can
“growin grace” in a thousand and one ways; grow as long as we live, learning more of
the Lord all the time, and of His Word, and growing as He wants us to grow; but not
growing in freedom from the power of sin. For we can have that victory today as
completely as we can ever have it in this world. If Jesus is not able to do it for us today,
then He will never be able to do it for us. But, praise God, He is! And He is ”
the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”

Victory is not fighting down your wrong desires.

That is counterfeit victory. It is not concealing your wrong feelings. That is the
counterfeit. Yet, how many of us have supposed that victory is simply keeping our wrong
feelings from expressing themselves. Do you remember the story of the old Quaker lady,
told over and over again, to illustrate victory? This dear old Quaker lady, who apparently
never lost her temper, always keeping unruffled under the most trying circumstances,
was approached one day by a young girl friend, who said: “I want you to tell me how
under the sun you do it. How do you always keep sweet the way you do? Why, if some of
the things happened to me that I have seen happen to you, I would just boil over; but
you never do.”

And the old Quaker lady answered quietly, “Perhaps I don’t boil over, my dear, but thee
doesn’t know what boiling is going on inside.”

That story has been told as an example of wonderful Christian victory. It is no such
thing. It is a counterfeit; it is a fake; it denies the offer of the Word of God. If the only
victory we can have is to be boiling inside and not let people know how sinful we feel,
that is a poor kind of victory. The Lord Jesus Christ never offered it to anyone. For it
does not take any supernatural grace to keep from boiling over if you are boiling inside.

Anybody can do that if there is inducement enough. Any businessman who wants to sell
goods, or to get another man to sign a business contract so that he can make money – if
the man he is talking to says something that makes him “boil inside,” he is not going to
boil over. It is not good business. He smiles, and for purely selfish reasons he does not
let the other know how he feels.

But there is no grace, no miracle, no victory in that. Anybody can keep from boiling over,
I say. Women do it all the time for social reasons – and there is no Christianity no grace
in that.

But I heard of a woman who did not “boil over” for a very different reason. She was out
in India as a missionary. She had gone out there to serve Christ; doubtless she was a
surrendered Christian. But she was not yet a victorious Christian. Perhaps we do not
realize that surrender and victory are not always the same thing. It is possible to be a
completely surrendered Christian and a defeated Christian, as some of you may know to
your sorrow. An older missionary friend of the younger missionary told of her
experience himself.

One day he with other missionary friends said, “We are not living the kind of life that the
New Testament describes and that those early Christians apparently lived. Let us go
away by ourselves and ask God to show us what is the matter and to give us what we
have not got.” They dropped their work and went off for a few days, asking for they knew
not what, but hungry for what they did not have. And God met them, and gave them
what they asked for. They came back changed men, with Christ in His fullness reigning
in their hearts, and with the victory. Then this older missionary told the younger woman
about it. He told her of the revolution wrought in his life, veteran missionary though he
was. She saw the truth and took it all by faith.

Some months later, he – then at a distance – had a letter from her saying that she must
now tell him of the wonderful things that were happening in her life, so wonderful, she
said, that she could scarce believe they were true.

“I wanted to write you at first,” she said, “but I was afraid it would not last. But it has
lasted. – For example, do you know that for three months now I have not only not once
slammed the door in the face of one of these Indian servants that used to get on my
nerves so, but I haven’t even wanted to, once in the three months?”

That was a miracle. That was victory. It is not a miracle to go without slamming the door
for three months. We can put our hands behind our back, set our teeth, and not slam the
door. But would it be a miracle for you to go three months without ever once feeling
within your heart that angry surge of irritation, impatience, unlove, that would make it a
relief to “slam the door” or give expression in some way to your feelings? Would that be
a miracle?

Yes, our hearts tell us that it would. We know that no effort of our own can possibly
bring such a miracle to pass; the taking away from our hearts of even the “want to” of
sinful desire. That young woman now had real victory, the miracle, the gift of victory,
which can never be wrought by our will power or resolution, or by our efforts of any sort.

Dear friends, that is the real thing. That is real victory. In the counterfeit victory we have
to conceal how we feel. The counterfeit victory means a struggle; whatever we do, we do
by our efforts. Oh, yes, we ask Him to help us; and then we feel that we must do a lot to
help Him – as if He needed to be helped! In real victory, He does it all. We do not dare to
help. We realize that the battle is His. And remembering that Christ is our life, we do not
need to conceal Christ. The things we have to conceal in our lives are the things that are
from Satan, not from Christ; from our sinful nature, not from our “born again” nature.

When the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit works in our life to give us this victory, it
is a miracle every time. If it is not a miracle, it is not victory. Yet that is the man who had
said a few days before, “If you say that is true of you, I believe you; but it never could be
true of me.”

Yes, it can be true of anyone whom God has created. The Redeemer Christ can be our
victory. It is not a matter of temperament or environment; it is a matter of Jesus Christ,
and it is His grace that is sufficient

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