Saturday, May 21, 2011
Picture by Richard Wong at http://www.creationswap.com/media/774
The sound of victory is a sweet sound, isn’t it? Everyone wants to be on the winning side. Does anybody set out to be soundly defeated…on purpose?
Victory indeed stirs up a wide range of emotions. And memories. Everyone can identify where they were on the winning side at some point in their lives. Can you remember a time of your own? Maybe it was on the playground as a child playing a game of dodge ball, kick ball, or hide-and-go-seek? Maybe it was playing Candyland, Sorry, or a simple game of Checkers? Many of us identify with a team in some sport like football, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc. Maybe it’s been years since your team has won a championship (Chicago Cubs anyone?) But at some point, we all have savored the taste of victory. Even if it was for a fleeting moment.
What if I were to say to you that as a Christian you are a conqueror? (This is assuming, of course, you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have put your faith in only Him for your salvation.) In fact, whether you know it or not, you already are on the winning side. Does that surprise you?
You might say, “Wait a minute! If I am on the winning side, why do I feel so defeated?” Yes, sometimes we do things that we shouldn’t. We behave in ways that are inconsistent with being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if you are truly repentant and confess your sins to Him, you can be assured that He knows your heart and has forgiven you. (1 John 1:19)
There are a couple of other things that must be considered if you are to understand this correctly. One, as conquerors our victory has nothing to do with you or me. It has everything to do with Jesus. Secondly, our victory has nothing to do with you or me. It has everything to do with Jesus.
Okay, that was a little redundant. But there is a point here. If you’re the type to boast and become prideful as a Christian because you believe you had something to do with your salvation, you need to remember…it’s not about you, it’s all about Jesus. Conversely, if you’re beating yourself up because you messed up or are wondering if God cares or loves you due to your circumstances, you need to remember…it’s not about you, it’s all about Jesus.
In Romans 3 and 4, Paul talked at length about those who boasted because they felt they were justified before God either because they were descendents of Abraham or because they believed their own righteousness merited God’s favor. In fact, some Jews considered themselves greater than the Gentiles because they were of the circumcision. Paul corrected this faulty thinking and ensured them that God was the God of the Jews and the Gentiles. What really mattered was righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood. Jesus is the one who justifies.
Then in Romans 8, Paul alleviates some of our concerns about sin. For those that put their faith in Christ Jesus, He has set them free from the power of sin and death. Yes, we still live in sinful bodies. That’s our natural state, but Paul explains that in Romans 8:10 that, “...even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness." Paul tells us to put to death the misdeeds of the body. So we need to do our part and cooperate with God. Repent, turn yourself around and follow Jesus. But we see again that it’s because of Jesus that we are free from the condemnation of sin. It is all about Jesus.
Christianity is also not a feel-good religion. It’s not about pumping yourself up or stroking your ego to make you feel good. There are enough self-help books at the local bookstore for that kind of thing. Neither is it about a defeated lifestyle. There’s a healthy balance in understanding that as a Christian you have the resources of the Holy Spirit to help you live a victorious life. A holy life. Notice I didn’t say a happy life. Jesus didn’t suffer up on the cross so we all could live in comfort. In fact, as a true believer, I would imagine there will be times you will encounter some difficulties. Opposition. Maybe some hardship. Your experiences may differ from mine and others. The one thing that is certain, though, is that God is in the business of changing lives. His goal is holiness and He wants us to be sanctified and be like His Son Jesus. For some, that may be a difficult and painful process. For others, it may not. However, if you’re on the side of Jesus Christ, you are an overcomer, a victor, a winner! Paul gives us this glimpse into our victory at the end of Romans chapter 8.
More Than Conquerors
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What is this passage saying? First of all, this is after Paul was explaining the idea of suffering. He encourages us by saying that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. There may be unpleasant times in our lives when we go through trials and testing. But if we’re to share in the inheritance and glory that comes through Jesus, Paul says we also must share in His sufferings.
So, in a way, Paul is encouraging us. Don’t lose heart and don’t lose hope. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Interestingly, Paul invokes the life and death of God’s own Son by saying that God didn’t even spare Jesus to accomplish His plans. Can you imagine that? We think we have it bad in this life. Jesus went through persecution, the cross, and even death. So it’s no wonder that Paul is so encouraged. If God is going to go through such lengths to bring about the plan of salvation for those He has chosen, can any form of suffering on our part somehow thwart that plan? Seriously, for anyone to believe, for example, that they can lose their salvation due to any circumstance or person or thing, it’s ridiculous. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it’s a done deal.
I like how Paul ties in our victory through Christ’s love for us. If He loves us that much that He will die on a cross to justify, restore, and sanctify us, can we not also be assured that nothing will keep us from a relationship with Him? If sin, hell, death, or Satan himself could not contain Jesus, how much more can we know that through His love for us we will arise victoriously? We may endure hardships. We may endure famine. We may need to endure some difficult circumstances like many of our brothers and sisters in the persecuted parts of this world. But one thing is for sure. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And it’s all because of Jesus.
Now that’s a victory dance I want to be a part of.