There are many things in life that people are willing to make sacrifices to achieve. Getting ahead in careers, getting good grades, or excelling in sports all take dedication and discipline. Olympic competitors begin at a young age to learn proper eating habits, exercising to strengthen muscles, developing the skills of their sport, and so on. Professional baseball, football, or soccer players learn the rules of the game and train constantly to be better players. Prizes are won for being the best at what you do.
Gold medals or trophies are honors given by men to acknowledge skill. If these goals are your desires in life, you’ll find that the honors are temporary and will soon be forgotten.
Who won the 1970 Super Bowl? Who was the most valuable player in the 1959 World Series? Prizes given by humans are passing glory, but crowns given by Jesus are eternal. Every Christian should put their efforts to a higher purpose and desire to win incorruptible crowns.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible“ (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
The Christian race isn’t a competition against other Christians. You won’t lose the prize if someone comes in ahead of you, but you will lose if you don’t train to win. You’re in competition with yourself and, the prize you win only depends upon your own works.
Being human means that we have a sin nature. Most of us know the Ten Commandments, so we have a basic idea of what God views as sin. Most people don’t murder, but it’s a little harder not to covet. The Ten Commandments are just a start to obedience to God. The whole letter of the Law is a schoolmaster to teach us God’s ways.
“We aren’t under the Law,” you proclaim. “I have freedom in Christ.” That’s true, but that isn’t a license to sin.
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?“ (Romans 6:15-16).
We have two choices… obey Satan or obey God. When you choose to follow Jesus, you begin your training to overcome sin, and become eligible for a crown of victory. God doesn’t leave us in the dark to guess what is and isn’t sin. The New Testament contains many lists of behavior that shouldn’t be part of a Christian’s lifestyle.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Prior to accepting Christ, you may not have been aware that things you found acceptable were sin. Activities that the world accepts as normal probably aren’t acceptable by God. When a person accepts Christ for salvation, change in moral thought should begin.
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God“ (1 Corinthians 6:11).
After accepting Christ for salvation, your goal needs to be gaining victory over sin. Study Scripture and recognize the sin in your life. Then, with God’s help, eliminate it. Do you gossip with co-workers? Look at your own life to see if what you find unacceptable in others is manifest in your own life. Do you live with your girlfriend or boyfriend? A Christian needs to put that sin away and strive for the crown of victory.
We all struggle with sin, but as Christians we need to overcome the sin that grips us.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway“ (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
When people look at you, do they see that you’re winning the race for a crown of victory, or do they see a defeated person who has given up? If you fail in your race, repent and start earning that crown of victory again. You won’t lose your salvation if you stumble, but you will lose joy in this life and in the life to come.
There’s no joy in sin, and when you come to the end of your life and stand before Jesus, watching others receiving crowns, you’ll want one. You’ll be happy to be in the presence of our Lord, but your joy will be multiplied when He gives you a crown as a reward for gaining victory over sin. That crown will be given back to Him because you’ll realize that you could never have gained any victory without Jesus. He alone deserves all glory for all things.
Victory in a Christian’s life means putting the flesh to death…rid yourself of selfish desires, bad habits, bad attitudes, and any lust of the flesh that would bring shame to Jesus.
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness“ (Ephesians 4:22-24).
The word “conversation” is the King James way of saying “the way you live.” Here’s another list of things we need to strive to gain victory over:
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Neither give place to the devil“ (Ephesians 4:25-27).
Lies and anger need to be overcome. You choose whether to follow Christ or Satan, so choose victory in Jesus.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption“ (Ephesians 4:28-30).
When you gain mastery over your sinful nature, you’ll find that other things fall into place. Working and earning an honest living is a Christian attitude. Then we can help fellow Christians in need. If you accept help, your need must be honest, and then you need to help fellow Christians in need. This is victory over selfishness. When you speak, speak truth and use words that are kind and reflect God’s love. Remove foul language from your lips because those words do nothing to honor Christ.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you“ (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Care for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be kind and forgiving of the brethren. Christ died for you and has forgiven your sin; now you need to strive to show that kindness to others. Overcome the ways of the flesh and win the crown of victory.
Crowns are won by doing works in the name of Jesus with no thought of what’s in it for you. Take victory over anger, because you know it honors Christ. Be kind to others because you know that Jesus loves them as much as He loves you. If you win a crown you’ll be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ.
“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward“ (1 Corinthians 3:12-14).
When you stand before Jesus, the fire of judgment will reveal if you did works to make yourself look good or to glorify Him. The works done for Jesus will give you a crown. In this life it may not be easy to bring your flesh under submission, but on that day of judgment you’ll rejoice that you won the prize.
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire“ (1 Corinthians 3:15).
If you don’t win any crowns, you won’t lose your salvation; you’re saved by grace through faith, not by your works. You’ll want a crown on that day, so don’t neglect your training to be victorious over sin.
The first step in winning any competition is to qualify. How does a person qualify to win an everlasting, incorruptible crown from Jesus? Accept Him as your Saviour.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me“ (John 14:6).
There’s no way to gain eternal life except through Jesus Christ. Admit that you’re a sinner and that the blood that Jesus shed on the cross is the only perfect sacrifice to take your sin away. At that point your sins are forgiven and you’re a new creation in Christ. Then you need to learn the rules of running the race. Nothing you do will make you more saved than you are the moment you truly believe, but studying Scripture will tell you how to conduct your life. Applying it to your life will help you gain mastery over sin.
“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully“ (2 Timothy 2:5).
You can’t cheat and get a crown. God set the rules, and He never changes. It’s a sad truth in this life that, if a person abstains from certain things because they’re in training for an athletic event, it’s acceptable. We might ask a friend to go to a movie but he refuses because he’s in training for football and needs to get to bed early. He isn’t mocked or laughed at, but is admired. On the other hand, if a Christian refuses to go to a movie for moral reasons or won’t go to a beer bash because it goes against his convictions, he gets ridiculed.
Don’t let attitudes from people hamper your race. Put the lusts of the flesh to death and win the crown of victory. Please God, not man.
You may have failures along the way, but don’t give up. A crown of victory awaits everyone who overcomes sin in the name of Jesus.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.