Tag Archives: victory

Today’s Scripture – October 14, 2018

John 12:31-33 (NIV)
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus had just received comfort and reassurance from God that He was on the right track, and directly in the center of His will. Other things were already starting to drop in importance in His sight. His life was even then being stripped down to essentials.

One of those essentials was that His death on the cross would be the cause of judgment on the world. From that moment all of humanity would be divided into two, and only two, groups: those who trust in Jesus for salvation, and those who don’t. Those who trust in Him will experience both salvation and eternal life. Those who don’t, who trust in someone or something else, or who simply refuse to submit to His lordship in their lives, will experience judgment and eternal condemnation.

The second essential was that His death on the cross would be the ultimate nail in satan’s coffin. Up to this time, satan had had the run of the world, creating havoc, leading people astray, and even accusing the people of God. But when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, satan’s power and his ability to accuse would be stripped away, at least as far as the people of God were concerned. Instead, his ultimate doom would be solidly sealed. Events leading to that doom would still have to play out, but his fate, his condemnation to suffer eternally in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10) would be a done deal with no escape for him possible.

The third essential was that His death on the cross would enable all people to be drawn to Him. Prior to the cross (John 6:44), Jesus stated that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” But when he looked forward to His death on the cross, He could already see that the gates to the kingdom would be open to all people – they would all be drawn to Him, and whoever responds in faith and surrender will be saved. (John 3:16)

Jesus also clearly indicated by these words the kind of death He would soon die. The words “lifted up from the earth” communicated clearly the concept of crucifixion to the people of the day (Also see John 3:14 and 8:28.) But He could also see that being lifted up on the cross was only going to be a prelude to being lifted up clear into heaven, and then being lifted up, exalted by the people of the world, people from every nation, and tribe, and people, and language (Revelation 7:9).

Father, this illuminates another passage, that it was for the joy that was set before Him that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Help me, Lord, every day, to look past the trials and pains of this world, of this life, to the joys that await me in Your presence forever, so that I can persevere, overcome, and gain the victory. Amen.

 

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – July 23, 2018

John 8:12 (NIV)
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The world is a dark place, full of far more questions than answers, full of troubles and ills that seem to lash out at people when they least expect it, confusing them, hurting them, even causing death and destruction on levels from individual to nation-wide. This was NOT the way that God created the world or designed it to be.

When God created the world, everything He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means that it was just as he had planned it to be, and there was no death, no disease, no sin. Even in those places on earth where it was night, the light of His presence ensured that all was well.

But when the first man and woman used their freedom to rebel against God, their desire for freedom and autonomy from Him actually released darkness of soul and slavery to their own desires into their lives instead. Their desire for greater wisdom and knowledge produced instead a darkening of their minds and intellect, and the inability to see things objectively. Their quest for power apart from God unleashed sin and death on the whole world, horrors that they found themselves powerless to understand or control.

The world continued to spin on with darkness and death infecting and affecting everything. Until one day, when the time had fully come, God sent a brilliant light into the darkness: Jesus, His One and only Son. Born and raised in humble circumstances, He was nevertheless full of the light of heaven. His mind was not clouded by ignorance; He saw all things clearly, and was able to know far more than He saw. His heart was not darkened by sin; sin had no hold on Him, and He never succumbed to temptation, even as a child.

Throughout His life, especially during the last three years or so, His light shone with ever increasing intensity, even as the darkness in the hearts of His enemies tried to snuff it out. When He spoke, His words were light, and that light took root in the hearts of all who were willing to receive them. He brought the light of wholeness and healing into the lives of those who were afflicted with the darkness of sickness and disease. And of course, the light of His presence shattered the strongholds of demons, creatures of darkness, wherever He set foot.

Jesus was right in pointing out that only those who followed Him would be able to walk in the light while the rest of the world stumbled along in ever-increasing darkness. Only those who follow Him are truly born again, given a new, untarnished life, untainted and undarkened by sin. Only those who follow His teaching can have their ignorance, false biases, and prejudices blasted away by God’s pure, undiluted truth. And only those who follow Him can have the death that they had carried along in their own souls washed away by the rivers of living water that begin to flow through their lives when they put their faith completely in Him.

Father, thank You that these truths found their way into my heart more than three decades ago. Thank You for removing all the darkness of sin that threatened to completely overwhelm me, filling me instead with the glorious light of Your Spirit through the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf. I will never be able to thank You enough for light, for life, for Your all-encompassing love. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 3, 2017

Matthew 26:39-46 (NIV) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus’ heart was so heavy that His main desire was to pray, to commune with the Father before everything started rolling forward. He knew that He was standing on the precipice, and had to take the leap into the yawning abyss at His feet of His own free will.

But He also knew that once He jumped, there would be no turning back, no opportunity to second-guess His choice. If He left the garden right then, just slipped away into the shadows, the betrayal would be fruitless; the trap would spring on empty air. But the task would still lie out there undone. Mankind would still be lost, and all that He had done up to that moment would become worthless.

But, at the same time, His humanity wanted to shrink away from the pain, the degradation, the suffering that lay before Him. And His divinity wanted to shrink away from the stain of trillions of sins poised to fall on His shoulders, and from the sudden separation from the Father that would result. Never before had there been such a gargantuan battle in the soul of one person.

The key to victory lay in the simple words, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In these words, Jesus chose to submit Himself fully to the will of His Father. He would take the plunge. He would not run and hide, but would boldly march forward and willingly endure that path laid out for Him.

It did, however, take three rounds of prayer before He gained the full victory. Three times His flesh and His spirit tried to draw back, and three times He recommitted Himself to God’s will, God’s plan, regardless of the cost to Himself.

Sadly, His inner circle of disciples was of no help at His time of greatest need. They were mentally and emotionally spent from the strange events of the evening, so they simply fell asleep as soon as they sat still. And they could not get the victory over their exhaustion, despite Jesus’ exhortation to stay awake and pray with Him.

So He prayed alone. He gained the victory alone. And He let His disciples sleep until the moment was upon them, and the trap about to spring. They would be scattered for now. The foreseen and foretold denial would happen just as He had warned them. But the time for His leap into the abyss was upon Him, and He was ready to jump.

Father, so often we focus our attention on the sleeping disciples, trying to learn the lesson of not letting You down when You call on us. But we miss the Herculean battle raging in Jesus’ own soul, and fail to learn the lesson of true submission to Your will. Jesus had been intent on doing what He had been sent to do, on finishing His mission, long before this moment. And it was only that firm resolve, steeled well in advance of the crisis, that enabled Him to stand firm no matter how much His flesh and spirit recoiled from the pain and suffering waiting for Him, now mere minutes and hours away.  Lord, You have placed a call on my life, too. I need to learn from the disciples’ failure, yes. But even more, I need to learn from Jesus’ success. Help me to stand firm in Your calling, to move forward boldly in Your strength, and even to leap willingly into the abyss when the time comes. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 3, 2014

Mark 3:23-27 (NIV):  So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.  In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

The teachers of the law were exactly wrong in their assessment of the source of Jesus’ ability to cast out demons.  Their reasoning went like this:  All demons are subservient to the king of demons.  The demons are subservient to Jesus.  Therefore, Jesus must be possessed by the king of demons.

But Jesus pointed out the glaring flaw in their reasoning.  If the king of demons was working through Jesus to cast out demons, then he was intentionally tearing apart his own kingdom brick by brick, setting his own slaves free, and even giving God glory in the process.  Jesus knew (and so did the teachers of the law, really) that satan was too smart to ever cut his own legs out from under himself on purpose.  So their conclusion, no matter how logical it might seem from a human standpoint, was deeply flawed.

The better, more accurate (and ultimately more logically satisfying) answer was that Jesus was simply more powerful than any demon, than even the prince of demons.  He could only take back satan’s slaves because He had overpowered and outmastered the “strong man” on his own territory.  He was not a demonstration of satan working against his own self-interest, but of God’s overwhelming mastery over a being that mere humans had no ability to fight against on their own.

Luke included Jesus’ final statement in his gospel account of this encounter:  “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”  (Luke 11:20)  Jesus’ effortless victory over satan and his demons showed clearly the victory that the people of the kingdom can have over satan and his forces in the new economy that Jesus made real by His death, resurrection, and ascension.  No longer would God’s people have to be victimized by this powerful, unseen enemy.  Much more power, and complete victory is theirs in Christ!

Father, thank You for this victory.  It is real in my own life, and I see it working powerfully in the lives of so many of Your people.  Help us all become satan’s worst nightmare by realizing and living in the victory that You have purchased and made real for us.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 25, 2014

Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV):  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Notice the verbs in this sentence; they are all in the past tense.  So many Christians seem to be anxiously waiting for the day when they can at last be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom where Jesus rules.  But Paul knew that that reality is not held for some future date; it has already been accomplished.

If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  That new creation includes the present reality of being rescued from the dominion of darkness.  When we belong to Jesus, the enemy no longer has control over us.  We have God’s own power working in us to be able to resist him, and when we do, he will flee (James 4:7).  The devil has no more power in our lives than we are willing to give him.  We can, from the moment that God comes to live in our hearts, walk in the light, which will keep the enemy far from us.  He may try to entice us, to lure us into some spiritual dark alley where he can ply us with his temptations, but we never have to follow him there.  He never has to gain control over us again.

All of that power over the enemy is a side effect of being brought into the kingdom of Jesus – a kingdom that is not a matter of talk, but of power (1 Corinthians 4:20) – God’s power working in and through each follower to live in and to grow that kingdom.  Power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:1).  Power over the enemy, over sin, over the things of this world that so easily ensnare.  No longer do God’s people need to struggle and strive, failing and struggling on.  Power is now ours, and because of the reality of that power, victory is ours as well.

This power and victory is not something that must wait until after death, or after Jesus’ return, as some teach.  Paul lived in that power and victory, as did the other apostles.  It was a done deal for them, and it is a done deal for those of us who follow Jesus today.

Father, thank you for giving us this freedom, this power, this victory.  We could never do any of this on our own, but with You working in us, this really can be a done deal in our lives today.  Help us to live out that reality, starting right now.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 18, 2014

Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV):  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

When Cain’s offering was rejected, while his brother, Abel’s, was accepted, anger began to boil in his heart.  The core issue was very simple:  Abel had offered his sacrifice according to God’s instructions, and with a submissive heart that sought communion with God above all else.  Cain, on the other hand, wanted to be accepted on his own terms.  He brought a sacrifice based on what HE had decided to give instead of basing it on God’s instructions.  So naturally, his offering was refused.  It was principally a matter of the heart:  Abel’s heart was soft, submissive, and obedient; Cain’s was hard, rebellious, and striving for mastery, even of God.

When God saw the hatred begin to boil in Cain’s heart, hatred of Him for refusing the sacrifice, and irrational hatred against Abel because his sacrifice was accepted, He intervened.  He laid out a clear choice to Cain:  the way of life, or the way of death.  The way of life was to lay down his anger and his hatred, surrendering his will and his agenda to God, and offering the sacrifice of obedience and submission.  The way of death was to surrender to his anger, to submit his heart to the sin of hatred, and to let it lead him to actions that would ultimately separate him from all that he held dear; to put him and his descendants on a trajectory away from fellowship with God.

The key was, Cain was in a place where he could choose whichever path he wanted.  He was not powerless or helpless in the face of this anger, or of the temptation to let it fester into hatred.  Sin was indeed crouching at the door wanting to master him.  But he was a human being, not an animal.  And, as a human being, he retained the divine prerogative of choosing his response to the situation.  If he had let his heart be soft toward God, God would have given him all of the power that he needed to master the sin that was trying to trip him up.  But instead, he chose to harden his heart against God and His words.  And, as a consequence, anger turned to hatred, and hatred gave birth to murder.  And from there, the whole trajectory of humanity was changed.

People today still retain that divine prerogative:  the ability to choose how we will respond to the situations that arise and to the temptations that crop up.  If we choose to let our hearts be soft toward God and His words, He will give us all the power that we need to master the sins crouching at our door, enabling us to master the evil that is striving to master us.  But if we choose to harden our hearts against God and His words, then sin will master us, and the whole trajectory of our lives will be put on the path leading to death.

Father, help us to choose right.  Help us to keep soft hearts before You, to desire Your love and Your acceptance more than anything else.  Help us to never believe that we must give in to sin; that we have no choice.  Instead, help us to keep our hearts always turned toward You, so that we can receive Your power to be completely victorious in every situation.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 30, 2013

Matthew 6:13 (NIV):  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Some people have developed a dualistic theology, a kind of “Stars Wars” way of looking at the way the universe runs.  They see everything as being in the hands of two equal and opposite powers, one good, and one evil.  They believe that these two forces stay roughly in balance, with one occasionally advancing, only to be pushed back by the other, maintaining a kind of spiritual equilibrium.  They apply this model to God and satan, making them the two ends of the spectrum, with neither of them able to gain a decisive advantage over the other.  (Or, worse, when they see the evil that exists in the world seeming to advance and grow, they decide that perhaps evil is the stronger of the two, and that it will eventually gain the upper hand!)

The fact is, as God revealed to the writer of the book of Job, satan is a created being, not some kind of primal evil force.  God is, and always has been, the Creator, the Almighty.  Satan, for all of his bluster, and for all of the authority that people want to imagine him having, can only do what God allows him to do. The only reason that God allows him to continue to exist at all (Read Revelation 20:7-10 to see how God will deal with him in the end) is to act as a refiner for His people, testing us and giving us resistance to fight against, so that we learn to depend wholly on God’s strength; to build our complete dependence on Him.  Without the enemy we, as God’s people, would quickly grow spiritually fat and lazy, and would lose our sense of need for God’s presence.

The prayer Jesus taught us is a prayer of complete dependence on God.  Even in the matter of temptation and testing, it acknowledges that the enemy, the evil one, is real.  It accepts as a given that we humans, in our own strength, are unable to defeat him or stand against his temptations.  But it also freely testifies that God is in complete control, even of satan, and that He can, and will, give daily victory over the enemy to those who ask.

Father, this is wonderful stuff.  I know too many Christians who believe that we are powerless against the enemy, doomed to fall to his schemes day after day as long as we live.  Forgive us for forgetting that You are the creator of all things, and that our temptations, the testings that You allow, are designed to make us strong in You.  Thank You for the every-day victory that You make possible.  Help us to never forget.  Help us always ask for YOU to deliver us from the evil one.  Amen.

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