Victory in Jesus

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been gone for far too long!! Right now I am actually away for two weeks of church camp, but I have had this message on my heart and mind for several weeks now and finally feel ready to put it all into words.

How do you define victory? In our world and culture, people place high value on living a “successful” life. But what is that exactly? Is it making a lot of money? Living a safe and healthy life? Or is it something completely different? And as a Christian, what should consider to be victory?

Romans 8:37 declares that we, as sons and daughters if the One True King are “more than victorious through Him who loves us” and yet I’m reminded of one of my favorite hymns that says, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, until my trophies at last I lay down” and Jesus warns His followers not to store up treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20) What is the victory that Paul is writing about in Romans then? Obviously, Jesus doesn’t equate victory with earthly trophies or possessions.

My view on victory has changed a lot over the past couple of years. I used to feel great for winning a competition or acing a test, but there have been and will continue to be days when my results are less than I had hoped for. I will undoubtedly let my own self down. The only kind of victory and success that will never fail is victory in Jesus.

Jesus claimed the ultimate victory over sin, death, and hell when He rose from the dead on that very first Easter Sunday. And now, He invites us to live and reign with Him in that victory and freedom. We can triumph mightily over Satan’s schemes and over the curse of sin. That kind of victory doesn’t necessarily, or even usually, mean a happy life that is deemed “successful” by the world’s standards. It means living knowing that every single day, no matter what is happening on this earth, it doesn’t hold a torch to the victory that Christ has already claimed for us.

I think that a big part of what it boils down to is our perspective. Christ doesn’t ask us to live in victory, or command us to do so. He simply states that we are. So we need to realize that and live in the freedom and power that it provides! We need to remember that as Christians have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, enabling us to powerfully claim victory in the name of Jesus. Victory in the truest and fullest sense of the word. Eternal, irrevocable, unparalleled victory. And when we start to truly see that and live in that, everything else starts to fade and pale in comparison. Earthly things don’t seem to be as big of a deal anymore, and that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood

He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

Advertisements

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Even farther back than I can remember, I’ve gone to church, prayed, read my Bible, been a nice kid… I’ve done all of the typical “Christian” things to do. As a five-year-old I never second guessed it. I did those things out of routine because that is what my family did, and quite frankly, church was where I played with my friends, so I had no objections.

That can only last so long though. At some point, I stopped doing things just because my parents did them, and because they were things I chose to do. But why did I choose to do them? Why am I choosing to do them now?

I am at church almost every time the doors are open, I read my Bible… but why? I’m not asking you, I’m asking myself. I’ve been asking myself this for weeks and months, and still don’t know if I have a definite answer. I wish that I could say confidently that I do those things because I love Jesus. And some days I think that is the case. But other days I wonder if I’m just doing them because I want other people to think I love Jesus

Wow. That’s so sad. I know for sure that there have been times in my life when carrying a clean Christian image was more important to me than passionately pursuing my Savior, and I don’t want that to ever be the case again.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 6:1

When the motive behind my so-called “righteousness” is to be seen by people, I am living with an attitude of pride rather than an attitude of humility. My heart isn’t pure and centered on Jesus, instead it is focused on glorifying myself.

“Humble yourselves before the LORD, and He will lift you up.” — James 4:10

Being lifted up from a Biblical perspective doesn’t look like bragging on yourself or doing “Christian” things to be seen by people. It doesn’t look like arrogantly thinking you are better than other people because of your list of credentials and good works. Paul talks in Philippians 3 about how those things are worthless, and considered “filth” compared to truly living as a follower of Christ.

I am more than guilty of doing all of those things. Of considering myself better than those around me. Of practicing my righteousness to be seen by people. Of trying to lift myself up. But as James writes, I have to humble myself before the LORD, place myself in submission to Him, and in turn He will lift me up. Not for my own glory, but for His glory.

Jesus is the perfect example of humility. Of seeking the Father’s will and glory rather than His own. At the Last Supper, knowing the intensity of the night He was about to face, Jesus chose to serve His disciples selflessly by washing their feet. He could have easily rationalized that He was about to go to the cross for them and that He did not have to wash their feet on top of all of that. No one could have faulted Him for wanting to conserve His energy knowing He was going to be carrying a wooden cross down the streets of Jerusalem only hours later. Instead of letting those selfish thoughts control Him however, Jesus got down on His knees and scrubbed the grime off the feet of His disciples. Jesus epitomized humility, and He is the one who deserves glory more than anyone else ever could. If Jesus acted with humility, for the glory of the Father, shouldn’t I do so as well?

Why do I do the things that I do? Why do I read my Bible and pray? Is it because it’s what I’m supposed to do? Or is it because I want people to think I’m a good Christian? Maybe so, but I don’t want that to be the case anymore. I want to fall desperately in love with my Savior and live so dependent on Him that I rely on Him and run to Him in everything. I want my focus to be humbly submitting to Him, and letting Him receive the glory for anything good that comes out of my life. I want to live my life for Jesus.

I Love to Tell the Story

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” — 1 Corinthians 1:18

The gospel — or good news — is the story of Jesus. The power of God to those who believe. In the words of one of my favorite childhood hymns…

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and His glory

Of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story, for some have never heard

The message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word.

I can’t help but have a smile on my face when I sing these words, but are they true of me? Do I really love to tell the story of my Savior? Or far too often am I ashamed of it, or neglect to really tell it? Do I really spread “the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word”?

I believe that many Christians, myself included, have fallen into the trap of centering the “gospel” around ourselves, not Jesus. Of telling our story, not His. 

It’s easier, more comfortable, most of the time to talk about our own lives than to boldly proclaim His story. But which one has the power to save?

I could tell people about my life all day long. But no matter how great my life is, or how much God has been working in my life, that story will never save them. Only the power of God will save them. Only the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Only the story of His taking our place on the cross. Only the story of God making a way for us to be in a right relationship with Him again. 

That story is powerful. That story gives me chills. So why am I afraid to tell it?

I don’t know. 

I make some pretty lame excuses every day of my life. I worry that people won’t listen or will think I am strange. It’s easier to convince myself that I’m doing all I need to do by talking about myself and bringing up Jesus name once in a while. 

But that can’t cut it anymore. 

I want to tell Jesus’ story. The story that saved me and transformed my life. The message that government officials claimed had “upset the world” (Acts 17:6) when the disciples shared it in the first century. The story that has lasted thousands of years and never stopped being faithful. 

What is the story of Jesus? 

He loved us so much, even though we rejected Him, that He wanted to make a way for our sins to be forgotten, for us to live in a perfect relationship with Him again. But since we are far from perfect, and our sin requires death to atone for it, He took that death for us. God’s own Son in the human form of Jesus came down to this earth, lived here as a man and never sinned. He was despised by His own people and they ultimately put Him to death in a gruesome and horrible way. He gave Himself over to them and died completely innocent. But He didn’t stay dead long. Three days later, He rose victoriously from the dead. Proving that He has ultimate power over death. And with that power, He chooses to rescue us from the inevitable death we all deserve. We only have to ask Him to do so. To believe that He alone has the power to save us. To save us from death. To save us from a life marred by sin. To save us from separation from our loving Father. 

As Paul told his jailer who asked how to be saved,

“Believe in the LORD Jesus and you will be saved.” — Acts 16:31

And as he writes in a letter to the Romans…

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” — Romans 10:13

That’s good news!! That’s powerful. That’s the gospel. And that’s the story I want to tell from now on. The story that has the power to change hearts and lives. I want to fall in love with telling that story,  Jesus’ story.