Thursday, February 16, 2017
'whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' (John 5:4–5).
Many examples exist, on both sides of the European conflict in WWII, of downed airmen, who - having escaped from prison camps - went on to re-join the fight in the air. In this I see a picture of the way the Gospel works in the life of a Christian.
Sin and guilt have a way of ending our 'flight' as Christians. We find ourselves, not only grounded, but out of 'the fight' as well. Do you feel that your failures and past sins have down-graded you to the position of being useless as a Christian witness? If so, this is a known tactic of the devil to cripple people who would otherwise serve to advance the kingdom of Christ.
Christians so held in the bondage of guilt are like 'prisoners of war', grounded and unable to challenge the evil that threatens the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven. Forgiveness of sins is not only intended to restore us once more to be aloft with the angels, so to speak, but forgiveness of sins, through trust in Christ, our Redeemer, sets us free from the power of guilt to hinder our Christian life.
This means we can be more than forgiven. We can be 'conquerors' and 'overcome' the forces that would keep us down and out as Christians. Look at all that God's word has to say about 'overcoming', and how often Christ encourages us to remain steadfast through trials (Revelation 2:26; 3:21; 21:7). This is because the Christian lives in a world that is not a playground, but a battleground. Look at the theology of 'spiritual warfare' in 'the Church Militant'.
We speak of 'the Theology of the Cross', because the cross is not just something Christ carried to atone for the our sin, it is also a burden we take up, as His forgiven people. As one of our hymns puts it, 'Then let us follow Christ our Lord, and take the cross appointed; And, firmly clinging to His word, in suff'ring be undaunted. For those who bear the battle strain, that crown of heavenly life obtain' ('Come, Follow Me', by Johann Scheffler, 1624-77).
God is challenging you and me, to get back into the game! He has forgiven our sins. We should consider ourselves re-furbished, re-habilitated, and ready for action. He expects us to suit up with the body-armor He provides, escape from the clutches of diabolical doubts, and fight on! Ephesians 6:11–17 describes 'the armour' available to all believers, to put on 'with prayer and supplication to God'.
Because He offers such heavenly support, God is able to issue the order to 'stand firm'. Sometimes all it takes to overcome temptation is to 'stand your ground'. We have God’s promise, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you' (James 4.7)
And, when we are weary from the fight, and have taken a few hits along the way, He offers healing and wholeness again, by His Gospel word and sacraments. At every Divine Service we are re-armed as well as renewed. Then, in the days to come '… when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song. And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!