Competition is the stuff of life. Last month was “March Madness” where college basketball teams compete for being recognized as the best in the NCAA. As of this writing, only four clubs remain in competition. Sports of all kinds and at all levels thrive on competition. But beyond this, there is a sense in which competition involves all of life. In sickness and disease, people are battling or fighting whatever is attacking their body. There is the constant battle between good and evil, between the forces of righteousness and the forces of Satan or wickedness. No matter what you are talking about, it can and is expressed in some kind of competition.

Some say, “Forget it. I don’t want to compete!” Well, that is like saying, “I didn’t ask to be born.” No, you didn’t, but name me someone who did! We exist and are competing whether we want to or not. As soon as we start breathing, we are competing against something.

One of the best illustrations of competition comes from the world of Sports. The apostle Paul expressed this well when he wrote: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Although Paul is using illustrations from the Greek/Roman games, he is actually speaking of a much greater competition – a spiritual competition.

Satan Is Winning The Battle

Whether we recognize this or not we are in a battle against Satan. And may I point out that Satan is winning this battle. John wrote: “19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19). All of us at one time or another have been brought under the power and control of Satan. As Paul expresses it: “6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom. 5:6-10). Notice that the words “ungodly”, “sinner” and “enemy” are used to describe those Jesus died for. Other passages confirm these same truths such as Paul’s writings in Eph. 2:1-3 and Titus 3:3-7. These passages teach that before we came to know Christ through the gospel, we were enslaved by various lusts, self-centered and acted in terms of our own self interest rather than in regard to God and others. This is the biblical view of Christians before being freed from the great tyrant Satan. These facts are confirmed by both experience and the statements of the Bible. Yes, I know, these simple truths are rejected by many as we want to see ourselves in a far better light.

True Freedom Is Found Only In Christ

The good news is that Christ is the great liberator. Christ has overcome Satan in the following ways: (1) He was born of a virgin becoming God in the flesh [Matt. 1:21-23; Gal. 4:4]; (2) He lived in the flesh without sin [John 8:46; Heb. 4:15]; (3) He was rejected by men by being unjustly put to death on the cruel cross [John 1:11; Acts 2:23; Phil. 2:8]; (4) He became the perfect sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2]; (5) He was raised from the dead thus overcoming the power of death [Acts 2:32-33; 3:15]; (6) He allowed many to be eye-witnesses of His resurrection [Acts 1:3; 10:40-42]; (7) He ascended into heaven itself to the right hand of the Father [Eph. 1:19-21]; (8) He made the full atonement for sin [Heb. 9:11-13; 10:14]; and He lives forever more. These are a few of the basic facts about Jesus Christ. These facts are all incorporated into what is called the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our part is to accept the great mercy of God by faith. By believing or trusting in Jesus Christ [John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 1:16-17], we are acknowledging our sins [Luke 13:1; 24:47; Acts 2:38] and accepting Him as our Savior [Acts 2:21; 4:12]; Lord [Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46]; and Messiah , denying self, taking up our cross and become obedient to him in all things [see Luke 14:27, 33]. See number of times “Lord Jesus Christ” is used [Acts 2:36; 10:36; 11:17, etc. for a total of over 90 times]. I mention this only because some believe that they can be saved apart from obeying Jesus as Lord. Upon being baptized into His name, we are promised the forgiveness of sins and have dedicated ourselves to live in harmony with His will [Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-5]. In these two paragraphs I have put a lot of things into a few words, so please check the references for proof and a better understanding.

Satan’s Weapons vs God’s Weapons

Satan uses whatever methods he can to keep the people of the world in bondage. He is an effective adversary. The apostle John expresses this quite clearly in this way: “ 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
Many famous athletes, who are experiencing the fame and honor of the world, laugh at the idea of self-denial and following the way of Christ. However, the harsh experiences of life teach that the freedom promised by Satan can only result in bondage and cannot produce genuine happiness, as many have already discovered.

But the weapons of Jesus Christ are far from useless. He uses truth, extends mercy, and is especially mindful of the weak and faint-hearted, those souls who have been beaten down by the Devil. See how Isaiah describes the mission of Jesus Christ—Luke 4:17-21. Also Peter describes why people are attracted to Jesus Christ in 1 Peter 3:21-25. Jesus uses different weapons, but do not think that these weapons are without power. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:1-5: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ-- I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, . .”

Yes, we are in competition in all sorts of ways, but there is one battle that we cannot afford to lose, and that is the battle for our souls. To lose this battle is to lose everything that is good and precious. To win this battle defines the goal of all goals and all future happiness and security. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if folks were as interested in this spiritual struggle as they are in sports competition?!!

Lindy McDaniel, April 1, 2011

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