VICTORY 4-21-19

Victory!

April 21, 2019

Whether we are battling an opponent or an enemy, we all want the victory.  Whether it is a sports event or a war, we all want to win.  No one wants to lose.  Ed, Tommy, and I play Scrabble quite often.  We all play to win, but neither of us wins every game.  Some games are really close and it comes down to the last round to see who the winner is going to be.  Any of you who are Cubs fans know that sometimes you have to wait a long time for that big win, as it took your beloved team 108 years to finally win the World Series again in 2016.  And as citizens of a country that stands for freedom, we all know how important military victories are.  What if we had lost World War II?  But there is a victory more important than even that one.   It is the victory that Jesus Christ won on Easter morning. 

Let’s start at the beginning…  The war to end all wars had been going on since before the Garden of Eden.  Satan wanted God’s throne and recruited an army of fallen angels to help him take over heaven.   They lost that battle, and came down to earth.  (Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:9). Then Satan attacked Adam and Eve by luring them into sin.  That battle he won.  But God promised his people that he would send them a savior to redeem them from Satan’s power and save them from eternal death.  However, they waited much longer than 108 years for him to come.  They waited almost 4000 years. 

When Jesus was finally born, Satan went into overdrive.  First he incited Herod to try and kill him while he was still a baby.  Countless baby boys under the age of two perished because of Herod’s edict, but Jesus eluded his sword. 

On to the next round…  As Jesus began his ministry, Satan tried to win the same way he had won with Adam and Eve.  He tried to lure him into sin, because he knew that if Jesus sinned, he could no longer redeem mankind.  And even beyond that, if the Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, sinned, then God was no more perfect than Satan and the playing field was evened.  This battle is recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 - “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”  And so again, Satan lost another battle. 

But the war wasn’t over yet…  Jesus had among his disciples, one whose heart was susceptible to Satan’s influence, one that could be easily won over.  And so Satan used him, and his love of money, to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests who wanted Jesus done away with.  Now Satan was getting giddy.  It seemed the tide of the war was shifting in his favor. 

Satan did everything he could to play his cards right.  He knew this was his big chance.  He used the hatred of the Jewish leaders, and their fear of losing their power over the people, to demand that Christ be killed.  He used Pilate, who believed Christ was innocent but succumbed to the wishes of the crowd, to have Jesus handed over to the Roman soldiers and led to the cross.  And as they were pounding the nails into Christ’s wrists and feet, Satan thought he had won. 

When Jesus said “It is finished”, Satan was sure it meant that as Jesus died, the war would be over, and his side would win.  He excitedly thought to himself, “Jesus will be put in a tomb and I will rule forever!”  But their celebration party only lasted until Sunday morning. 

Because then the unthinkable happened.  Jesus rose from the dead!  Jesus had prophesied that he would, but Satan saw how mangled his body was after the crucifixion and thought there was no possible way.  But there he was.  Risen.  Still with holes in his flesh where the nails had been, but he was more alive than ever! Satan’s heart sank.  He knew what this meant.  It meant not only had he not defeated Jesus, but because Jesus had lived a perfect life, and died on the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and then rose from the dead, that he had lost his grip on mankind.  The faithful souls that had died up until this time and were being held in the Paradise side of Hades would now be ushered into heaven, and all those who died from that time on trusting in Jesus for their salvation, would also live forever in heaven. 

Satan had lost the Great Battle of Calvary - the turning point of the War of the Ages.  But Satan is not locked away forever just yet.  He is still trying to capture as many as he can, is every possible way that he can.  His primary weapons are lies and false promises, just as they always have been.  He will use hatred, envy, lust, and fear as well.  If one doesn’t work, he’ll try another, and another.  But Christians have stronger weapons than him.  We have God’s Word, which Jesus himself used to defeat Satan.  We have unlimited access to God through prayer, and we have the Holy Spirit within us.  Satan cannot overpower these. 

And the day is coming when the final battle will be waged, and Satan’s counterfeit Christ will rise up and rule the world for a brief period.  But we need not fear, because we have already won.  We won when Christ died for our sins and rose again.  We defeated Satan and death when we put our faith in Jesus.  But we do need to fight for the souls of those who Satan wants to claim for himself.  We need to pray for them and reach out to them with the message of the Gospel. 

And as for that final battle still to come, I’ve read the end of the story.  God wins!  Amen.

VIDEO:  "Jesus' Resurrection" (from the "Son of God" movie)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3g_xOzKf0Y 

CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:

A butterfly emerges from it's cocoon, just as Jesus emerged from the tomb, and we also will from the grave!