1 Peter 3:18-4:11; John 21:1-25
Conquer by This
History has it that a Roman general by the name of Constantine had a vision in which he saw a cross above the noonday sun with the words “Conquer by this” – this, being the sign of the cross. Constantine became a Christian and later became the first Christian emperor, conquering by the cross.
Perhaps it’s not the best illustration, but then I’ve never been a soldier. Anyway, Christ does want us to conquer under the sign of the cross, not with the weapons of this world, of course, but with the weapons that are powerful to sanctify. We are reminded that Christ “suffered in the flesh,” and that we must submit to the same kind of treatment. The reason for this is that “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” The Church has historically referred to this as “mortifying sin,” “mortifying” coming from the Latin meaning, “putting to death,” and in this case, our passions, or more simply, our sinful nature. For it is the sinful nature that drags us down and keeps us from spiraling upward as we long to live in the Spirit. The good we wish to do, we don’t do, and the evil we wish to avoid, we do (Romans 7:7-25).
But we have hope in realizing that the sufferings we endure in this life are actually part of the sanctifying process. Do you have some malady, some constant source of irritation, some thorn in your side? Let God use it to make you more like His Son – that’s why it’s there – not to give you a reason to complain. God uses these to put sin to death in us, if we allow it. Of course, all trials and tribulations can be used of the devil to drive us away from the Lord, if we allow that.
It is this living in the spirit, free from sinful passions, that energizes us for ministry, and it is living by the Spirit that allows us to squelch temptation when it comes our way in this life. Paul makes it clear that it is a “take no prisoners” battle in which we are engaged, the flesh and the Spirit warring against each other (Galatians 5:16-26). But he also makes it clear that we can win. We can never be sinless, but we can win some battles, and see progress along the way. Through the Spirit’s help and the trials we all endure, we can put to death the sinful nature and its appetites and desires, and walk by the Spirit. Paul said, “I die every day” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Let us arm ourselves with the same desire and conquer by the cross.