Question: Exactly what does it mean to "overcome"? Is "overcoming" important in living the Christian life?
Answer: While Jesus was instructing His disciples, He told them: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Did Jesus mean that His followers would become absolutely perfect while still human beings?
Since we have a nature that tends to sin, God knows we cannot become absolutely perfect until the resurrection when He will complete the process begun in our lives at baptism. It is then that we will be born of God. He will give us perfect spirit bodies with a perfect, sinless nature like Christ’s (1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21).
In the meantime, God wants us to strive to "overcome" our sinful nature and grow in His character daily by obeying His commandments and rooting sin out of our lives (2 Peter 3:18). Thus we will be growing toward God’s spiritual perfection while still fallible human beings.
We are told that Jesus Christ, our supreme example of spiritual maturity, "learned obedience" (Hebrews 5:8–9). As a human, Christ learned obedience through the trials and tests of human experience (Hebrews 2:9–10). He overcame all the temptations of the devil, the temptations of His flesh, and the temptations of the world around him. Thus Jesus Christ became the perfect example all true Christians are to strive to imitate (Ephesians 4:13, 15), while asking for God’s forgiveness when they fall short because of sin (1 John 1:7–10).
Because Christ overcame during His human life, He has been given great power and authority. Notice just how great that power and authority really is: "But in these days at the end he has spoken to us by a Son—a Son whom he has appointed heir of the universe…."! (Hebrews 1:1–2, Moffatt)
We who have become the Spirit-begotten children of God are "joint heirs" with Christ, destined to share His great inheritance and responsibility when He returns (Romans 8:16–17; Revelation 21:7). So it is extremely important that we, too, "overcome," because the Scriptures make it very clear that it is God’s overcomers who will receive the opportunity to rule the earth with Christ! (Revelation 2:6–27; 3:21).
Overcoming is a life-long process. By overcoming the sinful pulls of the flesh, the world and the devil, and submitting to God and His ways, we are building the very character of God. And the more we overcome, the greater the responsibility Christ will give us in His government on earth.
Overcoming requires putting forth effort on our part, together with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. Overcoming involves letting Christ live in us through His Spirit (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:5). As the Apostle Paul wrote, "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
Christ is on the job as our High Priest and able to help us in times of weakness and trial because of His previous experiences as a human being, full of compassion and mercy toward humanity (Hebrews 4:14–16). Through His Spirit, Christ will help us live a life of overcoming—if we ask for that help (Colossians 1:27).
We cannot overcome on our own human strength. We must stay close to God through daily prayer and Bible study (Ephesians 6:17–18; 2 Timothy 2:15). The Apostle John wrote that you can be spiritually strong, and overcome because "the word of God abides in you" (1 John 2:14).
Grow spiritually by building godly character prior to being born into the family of God. It is then that we shall receive the gift of eternal life and be made inheritors and co-rulers of this earth and the universe with Jesus Christ! Only then will we be absolutely perfect as Jesus commanded. Christ knew that human beings cannot achieve "instant perfection," but He made godly perfection our goal—a goal we look forward to achieving!
What a glorious and productive future God has in store for His overcomers!