Podcast: This is the Victory
Podcast: This is the Victory
This is the Victory
This is the victory. But, what does that mean? What is Victory? Does it mean that I’m never going to sin again, as I consider my life as a Christian? Does it mean that I’m going to pray an hour every day? Does it mean that I’ll never get angry in traffic again? Does it mean I’ll never yell at my kids again? Does it mean (fill in the blank)? What does it mean? What is victory? What is it?
Of course, when I was thinking about victory, I couldn’t help but go back to the Orange Bowl in 1984. After the ‘83 season, and you know the story if you were alive and well at that time. We were playing Miami; heavily favored to win. And there it was, at the end of the game. We had caught up after falling behind.
And now, there’s time for a decision. What is victory? If we go–back in those days, they didn’t have overtime. So, you kick the extra point, we tie, we win the national championship, right? Victory! Surely, the pollsters would have voted us number one if we would have tied.
What is Victory?
But, what did Coach Osborne do? He went for two and they didn’t make it. So, on the scoreboard we lost, but the interesting thing is that we probably gained more respect, we probably gained more notoriety, we probably gained more in the image of sports fans and sportscasters around the country, we probably gained more by going for two than going for one and the tie. Isn’t that ironic? So, victory. Was there a victory? What is victory?
Well, let’s look at the Word of God. I John 5, verses 3-4, which has influenced my title today: For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For, whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.
What is Faith?
But, then you might ask, what is faith? Is it faith in faith? Or is it faith in His promises? Is it trying to have a positive view and hope for the best? What is faith? I pray by the time we’re done today, you’re going to have a clearer view of victory and faith in how they relate to one another. A working definition that I would offer at this time would be: Faith is the means, the instrument, the spiritual armor, an artillery by which the believer may overcome the world, Satan, and sin (the world, flesh, and Devil, if you will) and ask and receive of God all that is needful in this life.
I don’t know about you, but what immediately comes to my mind when I read that working definition of faith today is 2 Peter 1:3, His divine power has granted to us–this is not in your notes or on the Power Point, so please don’t get distracted–His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and Godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.
The Why of Faith
Participation with the divine nature. He’s given us everything we need for life and Godliness. “Oh, that sounds good, Steve, but you’re still not helping me much. What is victory, Steve? What is faith? He’s given me everything for life and Godliness–what does that really mean?” Well, let’s drill deeper. I think many times it’s helpful to have a handle to grab ahold of, of application. Because, faith is active. It is not passive.
But, we’re going to be talking this morning not just about the what of faith, but we’re going to be talking about the why. We’re going to be talking about the how. So that by the time we leave here today, there’s at least a beginning experiential awareness and knowledge and revelation of what victory really means. What faith really looks like and how this relates to our lives as those who love Jesus.
I’ve entitled this next section, Faith Activated. As I prayed about it, I thought: we need an application point. We need something to grab ahold of. We need a test. We need something that is really challenging. It’s not going to be easy. In fact, apart from the Lord, it’s going to be impossible. So, that’s why I’ve chosen the text that we read earlier from Matthew 5:44. But, it has to do with responding in the opposite spirit. You know, it’s one thing to react in traffic or otherwise, but responding in the opposite spirit–what does that mean?
Well, let’s take a look at I Peter 2:23. This is how Jesus responded when He was tested. This is how He responded when He was mocked and reviled. When He was mistreated. When He was rejected. When He was not treated the way the Father would want Him to be treated. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him Who judges justly. He went in the opposite spirit. He entrusted Himself to Him Who judges justly.
How Do You Respond?
Now, how are we commanded to respond? That takes us back to our text for today that we had our table talk and discovery Bible study on, Matthew 5:44, But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
At first glance, you might be thinking, “You’re crazy. I mean, that’s impossible. You don’t know the injustice I have suffered. You don’t know this person in my life. You don’t understand. It’s impossible; I could never forgive them, I could never give thanks, I could never respond in the opposite spirit, I could never pray for them, I could never bless them. You’re crazy!”
So, we’re talking about not just what. God’s given us the what, in the form of a command. He did it. He lived this way. And, He’s given us His life to live it. He’s given us everything we need for life in Godliness. So, how do we tap into that? How do we appropriate that?
Well, let’s take a look at the why. Why obey? Because we love Him. Let’s look at John 14:21, He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father. And I will love him and disclose myself to him. Why do we obey the Lord? Why do you obey the Lord? Do you obey the Lord because you love Him? Do you obey the Lord because you don’t want to face the pain of not obeying Him? Why do you obey? Is it love-motivated? Notice what this says; what the result of our obedience is, motivated out of love: He reveals himself to us. Isn’t that interesting?
Let’s read that again in another translation. John 14:21, Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.
Is there something to this? Am I getting a beginning hint of how this works? I obey, no matter how I feel, out of love for Him, motivated out of love. And when I do, when I participate that way–and it can really be hard. I can really feel tested and it can really feel unfair and unjust. But, will I participate, will it be an active faith, will it be a submissive faith, will I entrust myself? Will I entrust the care of my heart to Him if I get hurt again? Will I participate? But, then, what’s going to happen? As I do, He reveals Himself to me–what He’s like.
“You Don’t Understand”
It reminds me of a story from our recent trip to east Asia. During the course of our time together, a young woman came up to me and she didn’t mock me and revile me, but she challenged. She challenged what we were saying. She tried to be nice about it; she said, “We really appreciate your stories. We really appreciate the truth you’re sharing about how you’ve forgiven others and how you’ve been wronged and how you have been hurt and how you’ve responded initially and how you responded eventually, how you gave thanks, how you forgave. But, I don’t think you understand the social injustice that we experience in China.”
You don’t understand. That was the challenge. “What you’re sharing is good,” but what I was hearing her saying is, “It’s not at the same level as where we live. It doesn’t relate to where we live. It isn’t severe enough. It isn’t heartbreaking enough. It isn’t unjust enough. You don’t understand, what you’ve experienced doesn’t even come close to what we’ve experienced.” It was a challenge.
An Attitude of Caring
And I’m so glad that I had the presence of mind to apply what I’m sharing with you today, because I really believe God gave me His heart for her at that time. And I had the presence of mind of saying, “You’re right. I don’t understand. How could I? How could we? But we care.” And we talked a little bit further, and she said, “Well, I could never forgive this person! It’s so unjust, it’s so unfair.” And, I listened some more, and my attitude, my posture was, “Tell me more…” But, the walls were already coming down because I was listening and caring. And I was not arguing. I wasn’t defending. I wasn’t being defensive. I was entrusting myself and what she thought of me, what she thought of us, to Him Who judges justly.
I was willing to be of no reputation as we continued to talk. But, I did say one other thing before I went on, I said, “Of course, the best reason to forgive is, Jesus is worthy. But I want to give you another reason. It’s not as high, it’s not as important, but it may be something that will help you: If you want to become like that other person that’s hurt you and wounded you and treated you unjustly; if you want to become like them or worse, don’t forgive them.”
Jesus Understand Our Pain
And the walls were coming down even more. Her heart was melting even more. But then I said, “I have a question for you. And the question is, who in all of human history has been offended, rejected, suffered more social injustice than anyone else in all of human history ever, ever, ever. Who comes to your mind? What is His name?” And she said, “Jesus.” The walls were coming down.
I said, “Isn’t it interesting that the wrath of God had to be satisfied, because God is holy. He is love, but He is holy, and He had to satisfy, His wrath, and there was only one way His wrath could be satisfied. We could never be good enough. We could never do enough. He sent His only begotten Son–not as a victim, but to do His will, submitted to His mission. And in so doing, He experienced the most rejection, the most social injustice, the most unfairness, the most heartbreak you could ever imagine. He not only cares, He’s qualified to understand.
She professed to be a believer, but her heart had gotten away from her. But, with that conversation and the seeds that were sown, and the entreaty that was made on her heart, the next day when I gave opportunity for people to come forward and forgive, she came forward and cancelled the debt.
Victory of Forgiveness
She was willing to entrust herself to Him Who judges fairly. And then before we left the seminar, she came up to me and said, “When you come to Beijing some day,” which is where she was based, “I want to be on your team to spread the fire of forgiveness.” God had changed her heart.
But, it didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a point-counterpoint argument. It wasn’t us trying to do a sell-job on her. It wasn’t a point-by-point logic: just do this, just do that. But we entreated her heart, we involved her heart, she counted the cost. She compared up with Him; she went vertical and she was willing to participate. And God opened the eyes of her heart and He revealed Himself more fully.
Motivated by Love
So, notice the faith alive progression. You obey his commands, whether you feel like it or not. [laughter] Because we don’t always feel like it. But, He’s worthy. And we love Him. And we’re motivated out of love. And when we do, He reveals more of Himself, so you increasingly know Him and His character; more and more, that He’s just.
You get to know this God that I’ve just described. This One, Who sent His only begotten Son. You get to know and feel and experience in your mind and heart, you begin to relate to Him and Who He is and what He’s really like. You increasingly have more confidence, reliance and trust in Him. And then once you do, it progresses more. The more you know Him, the more you love Him, the more you want to obey Him, the more you’re motivated to obey Him because you love Him.
And he reveals more and more of Himself to you, and you increasingly know His character more and more, and you increasingly become more and more confident and have more and more reliance and trust in Him, and you have a faith in Christ alone. Experiential. Tested and proven. Not a classroom theology; not a headfaith. But one that is tested in the trenches. Tested when you’re treated unfairly. Tested when you’re challenged. Tested when your goals are blocked. Tested when you have opportunity to entrust yourself to Him Who judges justly.
Loving Our Enemies
And then we see this verse: But I say to you, love your enemies? Oh, that’s unnatural. But, as you enter into this lifestyle that I just described to you, then you know and experience His heart for the ones that you would think of as enemies, but you might even have a hard time thinking of them as enemies anymore. You might be thinking, “They’re enemies of God, but I have such compassion for them. I see them with eyes of destiny. I have a heart for them; not to excuse them, not to condone, but I begin to have a redemptive heart of love for them. They curse me, but I don’t curse them in return. I bless them and want the best for them. They try to use me? Well, if they do, they do.
But I know that I’m going to obey the Lord, no matter what the cost. No matter what the loss. No matter what the pain, no matter what the gain. Because he’s worthy. And more and more, our life becomes a life of victory, from the standpoint of responding to these tests in trusting ourselves to His character, to His goodness, to His kindness, to His sovereignty. Not knowing sometimes how it’s going to turn out.
Surrendering to God
But, it matters less how it turns out circumstantially. I find that less and less, I’m thinking about an outcome. Less and less, I’m thinking about justice. Less and less, I’m thinking about that person needing to change. More and more, I’m thinking, “God, change me. Have your way with me. I just want to know you more. I just want to know you more. I just want to experience more of You.” And He becomes the goal. The outcome that you’ve been praying for changes, and all of a sudden–or, maybe not suddenly, maybe gradually; there can be dawnings and times of revelation–but, you realize, the outcome that I’ve been hoping for, praying for, having faith for, is no longer the goal. He’s the goal.
I’d like to have the worship team come and we’re going to sing a song that I believe captures this message. Over the years, you would often hear Pastor Murdoch say, “The sermon, in a sentence, is…” and then he would say it. I want to propose to you that this song is what this message is all about. If you want to live a life of victory, if you want to live a life of faith, embrace these words. Drink them deeply. Drink in the Word of God and embrace these words as we all stand and sing:
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
lyrics by Keith and Kristyn Getty
Obey Him… Because You Love Him
Is your faith hanging on like a thread today? Is it a hope in hope? Is it trying to put faith in some promises, but you’re just hanging on by a thread? But do you know Him? Do you know this One Who has more love and compassion than you can ever imagine? Do you know this One that loves to heal? Do you know this one Who loves to set the captives free? Do you know this One Who’s good? And He can only do us good? Even if it doesn’t feel good. Do you know this One?
Is He the goal? Is He the one? In Christ alone. I have tried to keep this message simple and I pray God will make it profound and as you apply it, it’s going to make all the difference in your life. It’s not complicated. Obey Him because you love Him.
And when You do, He will make Himself more real to you. And when He makes Himself more real to you, you will know who this One is that I’m talking about and you’ll have more confidence in Him. And you won’t have to gear up faith, pump up faith, or hang on by a thread trying to have faith, but you’ll know this One. And you’ll be more and more confident in Him, in Who He is and what He’s like and what He wants to do and it will affect how you pray, it will affect what you say, it will affect how you life your life.
Power of Prayer
There are those that would be willing to talk to you or pray for you this morning. I’d like to have our ministry team come forward and be available, as there may be those that have questions and prayer and maybe there’s physical needs, maybe there’s emotional needs, there could be any needs. He matters. And you may be thinking, “Well, I’ve come forward before, it didn’t do any good. I’ve prayed, it didn’t do any good. I’ve trusted His promises, it didn’t do any good.” Oh, it’s all part of the process. It’s all part of the process of knowing Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings to know Him. To know Him.
I pray that you leave here today with your hearts stirred to approach things differently and I’ve given you a couple of handles to grab ahold of, and one in particular: Bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you. Bless those who treat you unjustly and unfairly. Pray for those. Forgive those. Give thanks to the Lord, even when you don’t feel grateful that it’s happening, but give thanks as you submit to His sovereignty and you’ll be inviting a change of heart.
Victory Through Thanks
If you’ve heard Mindy talk about giving thanks before, you’ll know that she views it as one of God’s secret weapons, and I believe it is. Spiritual weapon series, warfare series, you’re tapping into something very strategic when you submit to the sovereignty of God; giving thanks even when you’re not grateful and blessing those who curse you and praying for those who persecute you. You’re tapping into something very significant that will invite a change of heart, a change of attitude. And you will begin to experience this One Who says, Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and humble in heart. And you will find rest for your souls.
The meekness of Jesus–not trying to control the outcome, but submitted to His Father’s mission. The humility of Jesus–not making agreement the goal, but submission to His Father the issue. To live that way will invite more revelation of what He’s really like. And the more you know Him, the more you’ll want to obey Him. And the more you obey Him, the more you’ll know Him. And the more you know Him, the more He will reveal Himself to you. And faith will become experiential. And you’ll realize, “I know Who He is! He’s trustworthy. I can totally rely on Him. I don’t know what’s going to happen; but I know He’s good and He can only do me good.”
Lord, thank You. Add the increase to this time today and speak to each heart with takeaways of application, Lord. We don’t want to just be hearers of the truth, but doers of the truth, Lord, and we want to apply these unsearchable riches in our lives, and see our hearts come alive and our hearts change and make a difference in the lives of all around us as we have impact for the glory of God and for the benefit of others. Thank You for this time, this family time, this worship time, this time around the table, this time opening our hearts to You. May we leave here changed. And may we leave here on a mission to bring You glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.