Snuggled In

God, through Jesus, gives us this overcoming victory, but we have a part in it – the “make every effort” part.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1: 3-7 

I have been thinking the last two weeks about overcoming (see Overcoming and He Who Overcomes ). God, through Jesus, gives us this overcoming victory, but we have a part in it – the “make every effort” part. Sometimes that is confusing, as there appears to be a conflict between justification by faith and working out our own salvation. Which is it? Just believe or make every effort? I like how Charles Spurgeon explained it: 

“It is not man’s effort that saves him; but, on the other hand, grace saves no man to make him like a log of wood or a block of stone; grace makes man active. God has been diligently at work with you; now you must diligently work together with him.” — Charles Spurgeon 

Peter admonishes “make every effort to add.” Adding things like self-control and perseverance, and even mutual affection and love requires, in the “making every effort,” a dying to self. Jesus said that the dying must be a daily thing. A continual effort to die, which in itself seems like a mysterious paradox. 

Before I go on, you may be wondering about the title, Snuggled In. This whole blog came about because of a misreading on my part. In the Bible Hub Strong’s Concordance definition for the word (pareispheró) translated “effort” (where it says “make every effort” in the above verse) there is this under Usage: “contribute besides, bring in besides, smuggle in.” (Apparently, this word was used in ancient Greek for smuggling). Well, instead of “smuggle in,” I read “snuggle in.” 

At first, I laughed at myself, but, actually, when you look at the definition of pareispheró, “snuggle in” makes perfect sense – and provides the key, at least for me, to “making every effort.” 

Here is the Strong’s definition: “[Strong’s] 3923 pareisphérō (from 3844 /pará, “from close-beside” and eispherō, “bring into”) – properly, “bring deeply into,” i.e. from very close beside). 3923 /pareisphérō (“personally carry-through“) is only used in 2 Pet 1:5 referring to carrying through with real personal involvement (energy). This strongly stresses the need of the believer’s deep, personal involvement in the faith-life.”i 

Deep personal involvement, from very close beside. This, to me, assumes relationship, humility, and dependence. There is a contribution we have to make to our sanctification. Jesus said “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”ii Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation. But it is not an effort made, struggling alone, under the eyes of a critical God holding an impossible checklist, shaking his head in disappointment over our many failures. Rather, it is an effort made close beside Him. Snuggled in. Close beside a God who loves us and works in us everything we need, a God who has already granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. A God who comes along beside us to help. A God who even lifts us up and carries us.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 (NLT) 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength. Habakkuk 3:19 

“We talked about duty. We talked about picking up your cross and following Jesus down a road of suffering and pain. We talked about denying yourself, putting off the deeds of the flesh, and fighting the fight of faith. We talked much about labor, and little about grace. We quoted, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” but didn’t finish the sentence: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).” — Steven Lee (emphasis mine) iii  

God is my strength in this making-every-effort journey. If I stay snuggled in. Yes, I have to make an effort. We are not blocks of wood (though we are living stones!). But I make the effort to die to self snuggled in beside the One who died for me, who knows the way – who actually is the Way – who has gone before, who gives me the grace and the strength and the soul-penetrating Word that changes me, who works in us all what we need to stand victorious with him in the end. 

Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. Psalm 63:7-8 (NLT) 

i Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies Copyright © 2021 by Discovery Bible

ii Luke 13:24

iii From Chore to Treasure https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/from-chore-to-treasure

Image free download from Pixabay 

He Who Overcomes

It seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

Last time I started looking at the concept of overcoming or conquering (Greek = nikaó) and what it means. This week I decided to take a look at the verses in the Bible where the word is used. I found there are a lot of them in Revelation, and they are all accompanied there with promises. 

The one who conquers (nikaó) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-27 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:12 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (ESV) 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (nikaó) will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:16-17 (ESV) 

What struck me about these verses in Revelation was the similarity in outcome and promise to the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25: 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13 

The Parable of the Talents: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21 

The Final Judgement: Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 

Two things stand out to me in all this. First, the readiness and the faithfulness and the true serving of Jesus by loving others must be related to this overcoming thing. For they both have the same reward: to be admitted into the Kingdom and to the family, to sit on the throne and have authority. The second thing is that it seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

And how does that happen? John says it is by faith, by believing. But, how does that work in everyday life? In Proverbs there is a verse about a disciplined servant that helped me to see it. 

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19 

If the Bible is “mere words” to me, by it I cannot/will not be disciplined – chastened, admonished, corrected. It must be more than words, more even than mere understanding of the words. Mere words won’t change the servant. He must be in love with the Master. 

Isn’t that what happened with the virgins who ran out of oil, and the servant who buried his talent, and the “goats” on the Lord’s left hand who did many things, but never out of love, never for the love of the Master. They only heard mere words, they only did just enough to get by, to technically obey. They never let the Master correct their wrong thinking. They never had that close relationship that is requisite, walking along side, carried in the Everlasting Arms. 

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 … But I tell you: love … Matthew 5:20, 44

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:22-23 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 

To overcome there must be faith and trust in, and love for, the Author of the word, not just head knowledge. Love of the discipliner, love of the Father. And we can’t love Him unless we know Him. We can’t truly respond except through love. And all of this must be a work of the Spirit of God in us. 

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world … Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:4, 7 (ESV) 

Next week, the glorious key.

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

Overcoming

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

The word translated “overcomes” in the above verse is nikaó (from nike = victory) and means to conquer, be victorious, to prevail, overcome, subdue. According to Kenneth S. Wuest, “The verb implies a battle.” i 

Yes, to overcome in this world is a continual battle, but one primarily with my “self.” There is an enemy of my soul who wants to destroy me, but the battle to overcome is for holiness, for sanctification, for putting down the flesh and fighting off “human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” and “every proud obstacle that keeps [me] from knowing God” and to capture my “rebellious thoughts” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT).

We must overcome the world in us. The way the world has influenced us to think and respond, the world branded on our broken hearts, the world mangling our souls and deforming our hearts. For, before we can truly help anybody else, before we can begin to overcome the evil in the world outwardly, we must first do battle within our own hearts. The Apostle John talks a lot about this battle. 

No New Testament writer makes such frequent use of the metaphors of combat and victory as this gentle Apostle John. None of them seem to have conceived so habitually of the Christian life as being a conflict, and in none of their writings does the clear note of victory in the use of that word ‘overcometh‘ ring out so constantly as it does in those of the very Apostle of Love. Equally characteristic of John’s writings is the prominence which he gives to the still contemplation of, and abiding in, Christ. These two conceptions of the Christian life appear to be discordant, but are really harmonious.MacLaren’s Expositions 

Can the contemplation of our Lord, the fixing of our eyes on Jesus, the abiding in Jesus, be the key to victory in this battle, to overcoming the world? And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 

“Remember, that this is much more important than I can express: fix your eyes on your crucified Lord, and everything will seem easy to you.” — Saint Teresa of Avila ii 

Well, I don’t know about being easy – at least not yet, not for me – yet. But Teresa echoes God’s word and the promise throughout the Bible: 

Be still and know that I am God. The battle is not yours, but God’s. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. iii  

I have overcome the world. 

Where did John learn the expression? Who was it that first used it? It comes from that never-to-be-forgotten night in that upper room; where, with His life’s purpose apparently crushed into nothing, and the world just ready to exercise its last power over Him by killing Him, Jesus Christ breaks out into such a strange strain of triumph, and in the midst of apparent defeat lifts up that clarion note of victory:- ‘I have overcome the world.’ He had not made much of it, according to usual standards, had He? His life had been the life of a poor man. Neither fame nor influence, nor what people call success, had He won, judged from the ordinary points of view, and at three-and-thirty is about to be murdered; and yet He says, ’I have beaten it all, and here I stand a conqueror!’ That threw a flood of light for John, and for all that had listened to Christ, on the whole conditions of human life, and on what victory and defeat, success and failure in this world mean.” — MacLaren’s Expositions 

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean. Not the outer accumulations and renown, but the inner triumph, the doing of God’s will, the being faithful to the end. Jesus has overcome, and – Praise God! – he accomplishes the overcoming in us. It’s only when you think of things this way, that all of a sudden, scriptures like this one in James make sense. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 

This sort of success, this overcoming, is an invisible victory as far as the world is concerned. What J.D. Walt calls this “learning the way of ‘yetting,’ the mystery of joy, and the practice of ‘rejoicing in the Lord,’ and yes all of this before anything changes.” It happens deep down. 

“As we learn to rejoice in the Lord at the bottom, we find a strange shifting of the center of our gravity. We go from all manner of striving after any form of strength we can find (including endlessly asking God to help us) to realizing ‘The Sovereign Lord is my strength.’” — J.D. Walt iv 

“Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

Each self-thing as God puts his finger on it, every lingering Eden-sin, he will give me the grace to overcome, to subdue. God will work his overcoming in me. But I have to cooperate with this working, I have to renounce the sin, hate the sin, be brutal with the sin. I have to cut off the hand and gouge out the offending eye (Matthew 5:29-30). As Charles Spurgeon said, “grace saves no man to make him like a log of wood.” We have something to do; we need to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  

There is so much more to overcoming I am finding. So, I would like to continue this wonderful discovery of hidden treasure next time. 

“He conquered once for all, and His victory will pass, with electric power, into my life if I trust Him.” — Alexander MacLaren 

i Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 

ii Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, or, The Mansions https://archive.org/details/St.TeresaOfAvilaTheInteriorCastleOrTheMansionsIncludingSomeOfHerMoreInterestingLetters 

iii Psalm 46:10; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Matthew 11:30 

iv J.D. Walt, Why the Glass Is Not Half Empty, Nor Half Full—There Is No Glass https://www.seedbed.com/why-the-glass-is-not-half-empty-or-half-full-there-is-no-glass/ 

Image of lightning by Duane Schoon https://flic.kr/p/8nTDnP

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