My friend and brother in Christ, Fletcher Matandika, has written this e-book on Psalm 119. I would like to recommend it to you.
Another passage worthy of our meditation during this Christmas season is Deuteronomy 18:15: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen”
A prophet, according to the Bible, is the one who speaks on behalf of God to his people. Moses was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, and as his life approached to an end, he foretold of a greater prophet to come. The Bible does not leave us to guess as to who Moses was referring to because Apostle Peter in Acts 4:22 tells us that Moses was speaking of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is greater than Moses and all other prophets because he does not merely speak on behalf of God, but he himself is God. The author of Hebrews also emphasizes this truth and writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Unlike the other prophets whose word had authority because God had sent them to speak, Christ speaks with his own authority. This why the other prophets had always to say, “Thus says the Lord…” while Christ says, “I say to you…” because he is the prophet per excellence.
Now this greater prophet came to us on Christmas day, and he called everyone to believe his word for salvation. The same call still stands today, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life,” (John 5:24).
Jesus Christ’s words show us that there is no middle ground. Believing the word of this prophet leads to life and rejecting it leads to death. May our celebration of the birth of this prophet also afford us time to reflect on which ground we stand.
“A little child, thou art our guest
That weary ones in thee may rest
Forlorn and lowly is thy birth
That we may rise to heav’n from earth” (Martin Luther)
Another Old Testament passages that points us to the coming or birth of Christ is Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
In this passage God promises to bless Abraham. The Lord also promises to bless the families of the earth through Abraham. There is no better commentary to this passage that the Bible itself. In Galatians 3:16, Apostle Paul looks back at this passage and writes, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”
God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth was ultimately fulfilled through his offspring, Jesus Christ. Today many families of earth have been blessed through Christ. Families that were once not a people, but now are God’s people; once they had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).
Today, every nation, race or tribe has people calling upon the name of Christ. John confirms this truth in his vision of heaven. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9).
This is the real meaning of Christmas namely that in Christ God is pouring out his rich blessings of justification (forgiveness of our sin and declaring us righteous in Christ) and sanctification (transforming us more and more in holiness after Christ). These blessings will climax in our glorification in which we shall be completely like Christ without sin, and we shall live with him in glory eternally. What a blessing!
For sure the hymn writer was right when he penned:
Ponder nothing earthly-minded
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descend
King of kings, yet born of Mary…
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly glory.
In a few days’ time, the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas. Christ’s birth is worthy celebrating because it marked God’s coming down to dwell with his people ( as his name, Immanuel, means) and to save them from their sin ( as his name, Jesus, means). Therefore, as we move toward Christmas, God willing, I would like us to reflect and meditate on a number of passages from the Old Testament that point us to the birth of Christ. I pray that these passages will help us celebrate the season meaningfully and with gratitude for God’s indescribable gift to us ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).
The first passage is Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
At the completion of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God saw that everything was good. Man was also God’s best friend, and he enjoyed uninterrupted communion with his Creator. But in Genesis 3 we see the entry of sin,evil and death in a once good world. Man being deceived by the evil one sinks to his lowest end. He sinks deep in a quagmire of sin, misery, and shame.
Due to sin, man is alienated from God. Once a friend of God, man now hides himself from his best friend. Man is also alienated even from his fellow man. Adam and Eve no longer enjoy the sweet companionship of husband and wife. Hear the words of Adam describing his wife whom he once called the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh, “The woman whom you gave to be with me…” He doesn’t call her his wife. Sin does not only alienate us from God but also from our fellow man.
God being just and righteous comes in judgment upon man. To Adam he says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).
To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
But that’s not the end of the story. God also being gracious and merciful announces salvation and redemption for man as he condemns the evil one: “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The good news or the gospel comes in a form of enmity. It is important that God re-establishes this enmity because before sinning, man was a friend of God and enemy of the evil one. But when he sinned, he became a friend of the evil one and enemy of God. Therefore, God re-establishes this enmity as his gracious means of reconciling man to himself. What a gracious LORD. What an amazing love!
The seed of the woman ultimately refers to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent (Romans 16:20; John 12:31, 32; Colossians 2:15) triumphing over him in victory. This victory began with God’s promise coming true on the day of Christ’s birth.
Therefore, Genesis 3:15 forms the backbone of our rejoicing on Christmas. The promised seed is finally here to crush the head of the serpent and give us life. Charles Wesley hit the nail right on the head when he composed:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever.
John 16:25-33: May all God’s people pay attention to His Word:
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
All men are like grass. The grass withers, the flowers fall but the word of our God shall stand forever. Amen.
Dear congregation, the title of our message this afternoon is: “Be of Good Cheer, Christ has Overcome the World.”
One preacher once remarked: “Everywhere you go you in this world, you will find three groups of people. Whether Christian or not, but there are always three groups of people. The first group is of people who are experiencing hardship or trials or suffering in their lives. The second group is of those who are just coming out of hardship, trials or suffering, and the third group is that of those who are just going into hardship, trials, or suffering.”
This is true, is it not? We are all familiar with suffering, hardships or trials. We all experience or have experienced or we will experience hardship in one form or the other and in our text for this afternoon which is John 16:33, Jesus is speaking to us regarding suffering in this world. However, before we look at our text in a more detailed way, I would like to provide some background or context of Jesus’ words in this text.
For us to understand the text better we need to go back chapter 13 of the gospel of John because Jesus’ words here are part of what he has begun speaking in chapter 13. In fact, chapters 13 up to 16 consist of one address or discourse that Jesus makes before he is arrested and crucified. John 16:33 are very the last words of Jesus to his disciples before he prays for them in chapter 17 and later arrested in chapter 18.
Chapter 13 begins with Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciples during the last supper. Then Jesus begins explaining to his disciples what he has to go through. As Jesus looks ahead to the cross before him, he tries to explain its meaning to his disciples but they are slow to understand. For sure, the disciples understand something about Christ’s imminent death but they still fall short of full comprehension of the cross and its meaning hence they ask questions like “Lord we know not wither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:1) or “Show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).
Jesus patiently explains the meaning of his death, resurrection and ascension and what these things will accomplish which includes the sending of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the disciples into all truth. Jesus also again and again comforts the sorrowful disciples that although time of sorrow and suffering lies ahead, their hearts should not be troubled. Two times in chapter 14, Jesus comforts his disciples and tells them that their hearts should not be troubled (14:1, 27). He goes on to encourage them to remain in Christ if there are to bear fruits (John 15:4).
Nevertheless, Jesus does not hide the fact that the disciples will face hardship in the world for the sake of his name. In John 15:20 Jesus assures them that just as those who hate the truth persecuted Jesus, the disciples too will also be persecuted. And now in John 16:33, Jesus concludes this discourse with these words which are our text this afternoon, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
As we reflect on this text, I would like us to grasp three important truths that Jesus points out:
1. Suffering is unavoidable in the world
2. Peace is available in Christ
3. Victory is inevitable in Christ
II. Suffering is Unavoidable
First, suffering is unavoidable. Look at verse 33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Notice the certainty in the words of Jesus. He does not say that “In this world you might have tribulation” or “Perhaps you will have tribulation.” He clearly puts it that in the world, we shall have tribulation. The word translated “you shall have” here in the original language of the Old Testament literary means “you have and will have.” It is a verb which implies a completed action but with continuing results. In other words, Jesus is saying, it is sealed. In this world, suffering, hardships or trials are unavoidable. They will surely come. Primarily, Jesus is refering to persecution of believers here for their faith, but we can also apply the same truth to any suffering we experience in this world.
Dear congregation d, I will not be a faithful preacher of the gospel if I stand here and tell you that if you are in Christ or if you come to Christ everything will go well for you. I will not be a faithful preacher of our Lord Jesus Christ if I tell you that if you are in Christ you will be rich and prosper by worldly standards. This is not what our Lord is telling us and I don’t have any right to tell you a different thing rather than what our Lord says here. “In this world you shall have tribulation.”
One thing that troubles many people and even Christians sometimes is the problem of suffering. Why does God allow suffering in the world? Those who hate God even take advantage of suffering in the world and ask, “If God exists and he is good, why does he allow suffering?” Then they go on to conclude that the fact that there is suffering it means God does not exist or he is not a good God at all. Some also look at suffering in the world and ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” They look man and conclude that man is good and innocent and then wonder why bad things happen to this good man. Dr. R.C. Sproul responds well to this question and he says: “That happened only once, and he volunteered.” In other words, the only time that bad things happened to a good person was when Jesus Christ who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21) was crucified not because of his sin but because of our sin. But you might still say, “That still does not answer the question. Why is there suffering in the world or why does Jesus in our text says that suffering in unavoidable in the world?
Indeed, Jesus does tell in this text that suffering is unavoidable in this world. Of course, he does not give the reasons in this text; however, the entire Bible which is Jesus’s own word has an answer and we are going to look at three reasons why we experiencing suffering in the world. First, it is because of sin.
A. Suffering is unavoidable in the world because sin’s entry into the world
Let’s go back to Genesis where in chapter 1 and 2 we read that after creating the heavens and the earth, God saw that everything was good. However, when we come to Genesis 3, we find the entry of sin in the world when our first parents Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. With that act of disobedience, sin entered the world and with it came suffering. One of the reasons why we have suffering and hardship in this world is because of that sin. When our first parents disobeyed God, they were actually saying we don’t want to be guided and led by God anymore. We want to be independent of God. However, little did they know that divorcing God out of one’s life brings sorrow, pain, and suffering.
Friends, whenever we point our blaming figure at God for suffering in the world, the other four fingers of our hand are already pointing back at us. We need to realize that we brought pain and suffering upon ourselves when in the Garden of Eden through our representative, Adam, we said that we don’t want God to guide and lead us anymore. When we rebelled and refused to submit ourselves to the authority of God and wanted to be like God as the serpent deceived us. Oh, what pain and suffering that sin brought upon us! When God gave the judgment for that sin of rebellion, he declared suffering. To the woman he said: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). To the man he said: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” (Gen. 3:17-19).
So here my friend we see why Christ says that in this world we shall have tribulation. It is because of sin. Sin polluted the world. The world that was once declared to be very good after creation by God is now fallen and infected by sin. This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation.
B. Suffering is unavoidable because of enmity between the seed of woman and seed of serpent
Secondly, in this world you shall have tribulation because there is warfare going on between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Genesis 3:15 shades more light on this truth. In the verse, God declares to the serpent that deceived our first parents and says: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” Here we have the first proclamation of the gospel. God puts enmity between his children and the children of the serpent. The gospel comes in a form of warfare. There shall be war between the two parties. There shall be war between the Church and the kingdom of darkness, and right away we see it happening in Genesis. The ungodly Cain against the godly Abel. The seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. Then again later we see it between Jacob and Esau. Then later on between God’s children, Israel and the ungodly children of Pharaoh in Egypt.
The warfare continues into the New Testament and reaches its climax in our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan fights hard against him from birth until on the cross where our Lord and Savior defeated and crushed the head of the serpent when on the third day, he rose again from the dead. And soon Satan will get his final judgment when he and his angels and all those that are not in Christ will be thrown into the eternal lake of fire and condemned for good. If you are not in Christ my friend, flee the coming judgment by running to the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.
So beloved in the Lord, we experience suffering because of the warfare that is going on between the seed of the woman and the serpent. This is why Apostle Paul in Ephesian 6:10-18 tells us to put on the full armor of God. He writes: “Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (11-12). My friend in Christ, you are at war! This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation. But the good news is that Christ has already won the battle for us and that is what we shall be looking at later on in the sermon.
C. Suffering is unavoidable because God uses it to sanctify and strengthen the Christian’s faith
Thirdly, we sometimes experience hardship in this world because God uses suffering and hardships to sanctify and strengthen our faith. We see this truth in James 1:2-3 in which we read: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” One Bible commentator, Robert Johnstone commenting on this verse says:
“The heart of man, brethren, ‘is deceitful above all things,’ and even the Christian knows very little of himself. Affliction lets down a blazing torch for him into the depths of his own nature, and he sees many things which he little expected to see. He finds his faith weak where he thought it strong, his views dim where he thought them clear, his pride strong and stubborn where he thought it broken; and he cries to the his Father for a fuller sanctification. Thus afflictions of every kind are ‘trials’ testing and revealing agencies. Through them, the Master, Himself all-knowing, tries (us) as gold and silver are tried by fire.
Here in this verse we see another reason why Jesus says that in this world we shall have tribulation. God uses suffering, hardship or trials to sanctify and strengthen our faith. Friend, sometimes it takes suffering to purify our faith just as it takes fire to purify gold. Apostle Peter also writes in 1 Peter 4:12, 13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trail which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
So, Jesus assuredly tells us that in this world we shall have tribulation because of these three main reason namely sin, the warfare between the seed of the woman and the serpent and because sometimes God uses suffering to sanctify and strengthen our faith. But notice that this is not the end of the story. In the text, Jesus does not only say that suffering is unavoidable in this world but also goes on to show us that peace is available.
III. Peace is Available
Look again at John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is saying that for sure suffering is unavoidable but I am your peace. Oh, what a comfort to know that peace is available in Christ. As one hymn writer once put it:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
As Jesus Christ tells us that peace is available, I would like us to notice, first, the source of this peace.
A. The source of peace
Our text shows us that the source of this peace is Jesus himself. “In me ye might have peace.” The world today just as always desperately longs for peace. But sadly, often the world looks for peace in wrong places. Recently, I was talking to a friend in Kenya. One part of Kenya has been affected by terrorist activities from some Moslems in the neighboring, Somalia. Now, when I asked him, how things are, he responded and said, “Things are not fine here. Luck you, you are in America where there is true peace.” Then I responded and said, “Friend, true peace is not found in America. If you don’t have peace there in Africa you will not find it in America. True peace is not in America. It is not in Europe neither Asia nor Australia. True peace is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Jesus Christ speaking earlier in this same discourse in John 14:27 says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace, I give you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” True peace comes from Jesus who is our prince of peace (Is. 9:6). This is why also Apostle Paul writes and says: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1). Oh my friend do you have peace with God? Can you say that Jesus is your peace? If not, Jesus stands at the door and knock. If you open the door, he will come in and give you his peace. Please as you hear his voice today, do not harden your heart. Let him in. Let him in.
B. The nature of the peace
Secondly, notice the nature of this peace. Jesus says we will have tribulation in this world but in the midst of that tribulation, there is peace. It is a very unique peace. This peace of Jesus does not depend on the circumstances in the world. Thomas Boston preaching about this peace says, “This peace is durable. Let men rage and devils too, they may take away outward peace, but this they cannot carry away.”
I remember in high school studying Biology. My teacher taught us that animals are grouped into two: cold blooded and warm blooded. The difference between these two types of animals is that the body temperature of cold blooded animals depends on the weather around them. If they are in a cold place, their body temperature goes down and if they are in a warmer place, their body temperature goes up. However, warm blooded animals always maintain their body temperature whether they are in a cold or warmer place. Those in Christ are like warm blooded animals. Their peace does not depend on the circumstances around them because Jesus Christ who is the source of their peace is always with them even though they are passing through hardships, suffering or trials. This why the hymn writer once observed:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.
My friend, you can only say this if you know Jesus. You can say this only if you know that Jesus Christ the source of true peace is in your life. I pray that you are in Christ because without Christ, I don’t know how you will survive in this world of tribulations. Where is your hope you my friend who is not in Christ? Where do you get your peace in this world of tribulations? How do you respond to the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day Number 1: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Blessed are those who can confidently answer, “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.” It is only those who have experienced the peace and comfort of Christ that can answer in this way.
From our text, Jesus does not only tell us that suffering is unavoidable and peace is available but also that victory is inevitable.
IV. Victory is Inevitable
Look at the verse again, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus says that he has overcome the world. Notice that he does not say, “I shall overcome the world” but I have overcome the world. The word again here in the original language of the New Testament is a verb which implies a completed action with continued effects or results. Jesus does not wait to go on the cross and die and later rise from the dead in order to declare victory. He declares it right away because in him, the God-Man, victory is guaranteed. Our Lord looks back to the promise made in Eden by his Father in Genesis 3:15, “It (the seed of the woman) shall bruise your head (the head of the serpent).” Jesus then declares and says, now is the time, “I have overcome the world.”
Child of God, Jesus has overcome the world for you and if you are in him, you have also overcome the world. This is why Apostle Paul writes that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:27), and the Bible shows us three main areas in which Christ has overcome.
A. Victory over sin
First, Christ has overcome sin. The first Adam was overcome by sin but Jesus our second Adam has overcome sin. The first Adam when tempted failed miserably but the Second Adam was tempted in every way but never committed sin. When the first Adam yielded to sin, he plunged the whole human race into sin and misery, but the second Adam has overcome sin so that we should live in his righteousness and joy. Apostle Paul puts this truth in perspective when he writes in 1 Cor. 15:56, 57: “The sting of death is sin…but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ.” What a comfort to know that Jesus has overcome sin!
Therefore we can boldly rejoice with Apostle Paul and say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). My friend, be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world by overcoming sin. Through Christ, we need no longer to live in sin or according to the standards of the world because our Lord and Savior has overcome sin so that we should live in holiness and truth. Sin shall no longer rule in you my friend because Christ has overcome it.
B. Victory over Satan
Secondly, Christ has overcome Satan the greatest enemy of all God’s children. Remember the enmity that was established in Genesis 3:15? God said the seed of the woman shall crush the seed of the serpent. Indeed, this is what Christ confirms in this text, “I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ also speaking earlier in John 12:31, 32 says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Friends, Satan is defeated, the chains of his slavery are broken and Christ calls you to freedom. Please do not let Satan hold you captive anymore through sin for Christ has overcome the world. Do not be discouraged my friend in your pursuit for holiness. Do not be discouraged in letting the light of Christ shine through you in the world that is infected with sin and evil. March on in the mighty of Christ for he has overcome the world.
But I know that some look at the world and wonder if Satan is really defeated. Sin seems to be growing and increasing. So much evil in the world. We hear of ISIS persecuting and killing Christians. In Northern Nigeria and Sudan, Christians are being killed almost every day. We hear of corruption in the world. We hear of wars and so many other evil things. “Is Satan really defeated?” They ask. Let me assure you friends that Satan is indeed defeated. Christ has overcome the world. Martin Luther commenting on our text says: “The world is a vanquished enemy; Satan is a humbled foe; and all that believers have to do is to put their trust in the Captain of their salvation, putting on the whole armor of God, assured that the victory is theirs, and that the church shall yet shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun.”
C. Victory over death
Thirdly and finally, Christ has overcome death. When the first Adam sinned, he brought death into the world but now through Christ all who are in him have life. What a precious gift Christ has brought us through his victory over the death. Apostle Paul again writes in Romans 5:17, “For by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Writing further the apostle also tells us in 1 Cor. 15:21: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Oh, my friend, have you experienced this victory of Jesus in your life. Can you say that you have life in Christ? If not, Christ is at the door of your heart knocking, please let him in. Why should you remain dead in the first Adam while there is life in the second Adam? For you my friend who is in Christ, may you be comforted with this truth that in Christ you have life. Though you face some trials, hardships or difficulties in this world, be comforted that you have King Jesus who has overcome the world for you. Jesus as your king defends and protects you from sin, Satan, and death as the Westminster Catechism Question and Answer 26 puts it: “How doth Christ execute the office of a king? Answer: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.” Blessed are those who can confidently say in their hearts that Christ has subdued them to himself and he defends and conquers all their enemies.
So dear congregation, in our text we have seen that Christ encourages us to be of good cheer because although suffering is unavoidable in this world, peace is available in Christ and victory is also inventible in Christ. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ who has overcome the world for us. To Him alone be glory, now and forevermore. Amen!
Some months ago, a Ghanaian online newspaper carried an article of a woman who claims that she went to hell where she saw world leaders and celebrities who died some time ago. She claims that Jesus took her to hell and later brought her back to life to warn people so that they should repent and believe in Christ. Her story can be accessed on this link, http://www.reportghananews.com/i-saw-whitney-houston-gadhafi-in-hell-and-they-gave-me-messages-woman-narrates-her-2nd-visit-to-hell/
Now, this is not the first time for me to read or hear stories like these. Dozens of books and movies have been written and produced of people who went either to hell or heaven or both and were sent back by Jesus to share their experience so that people can believe in Christ and escape hell . Whether these stories are real and true is another topic for another day. However, in this post, I would like to highlight this important truth: If people cannot believe in Christ through the preaching of the gospel, they will never believe in him through these stories.
Why am I saying so? Because the Scriptures say so. In Luke 16:19-31, we read a story of a rich man and Lazarus. Both of them died and were buried. Lazarus was carried by angels to the side of Abraham (Paradise/heaven). The rich man went to Hades (hell) where there was torment.
The rich man later made a request to Abraham who was in heaven with Lazarus and said: “I beg you, father (Abraham), to send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment”(v.27).
By this request, the rich man is asking that Lazarus who had died should come back to life and share his experience of hell and heaven to his own people. Lazarus’ experience should act as a warning to unbelievers so that they should believe in Christ or else go to hell when they die.
Abraham responded: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29).
“Moses and Prophets” here refers to the books of the Old Testament (see also Luke 24:27) since by the time Jesus was narrating this story, the New Testament had not yet been compiled. In other words, Abraham is saying, “Those people have the Bible, let them believe it.”
The rich man replies: “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30).
Here now comes an important answer from Abraham. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets (Bible), neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” ( v. 31).
In other words, Abraham is saying, “If they cannot believe the Bible, even if someone should rise from the dead and warn them of hell, they will never believe.”
Friends, this is an important truth for us. Let’s not underrate the sufficiency of Scriptures in our lives. God has given them to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). For sure, no single person can be saved without hearing the gospel (Gospel is a synonym for Scripture). Apostle Paul drives this point home in Romans 10:8-17: “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching…So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Personal experiences of hell or heaven alone can never save anybody. This is why I am reiterating that the Church should remain faithful in preaching the gospel and never let the so called experiences of hell or heaven take her eyes of the main thing which is the preaching of the Scriptures or the gospel.
As I am writing this post, my heart is filled with fear. I can literary feel it as if it is sinking down into a bottomless pit. Why am I afraid? I hear that the movement pushing for legalization of abortion in Malawi is gaining momentum. They are courting religious leaders, chiefs, law makers and other people of influence and power in our land to sway them towards supporting legalization of abortion.
I cannot help but fear for my country. Friends, legalization of abortion not matter on what grounds is ugly and should not even be the last thought for Malawians. Please let’s learn from the countries who have taken this path before and we will discover what a dangerous beast legalization of abortion is to any society. It will devour our nation.
Right now, I am living in a part of the world that has taken this path. It is sad and heartbreaking to hear that every day women are killing so many unborn children even for lame reasons like “I just don’t want this baby.” Just open your browser and google the numbers of children being killed in their mothers’ womb in the countries that have legalized abortion and you will be shocked. Malawi should not cheat herself that she can legalize abortion and never reach that point because she will sure do.
It is a very dangerous trajectory but it all starts with that one step of legalization. The advocates of legalization of abortion are making it to sound as if it is a very good and harmless idea as they fly their statistics in our face of how many women are dying due to the so called unsafe abortion and how much money our government is spending in post abortion care, but believe you me the consequence of legalizing abortion will overwhelm us. Once Malawi opens this door, there will be no any other way of closing it. Any woman even without any reason would choose to murder their unborn baby. Who would stop them if the law would leave the door wide open?
Those advocating for legalization of abortion argue that they are many women who are dying due to unsafe abortion. But what is causing abortion? Is it the law that prohibits it? Definitely not! No one would abort just because the law states that abortion is illegal. There should be factors that are causing this murdering of unborn children. Why not then address the causes instead of spending more energy on effects.
Life is very sacred and priceless. God the creator and giver and sustainer of life has not entrusted the right of taking it to a mother who thinks that she does not need the child in her womb for various reasons . “You shall not murder,” he commands us in Exodus 20:13. He also tells us in his word, the Bible, that life begins at conception (Psalm 51:5) hence abortion is murder and sinful.
Malawi, seriously ponder on this: according to God’s Word, God’s wrath shall rest heavily on a nation that perseveres in such murderous tragedies as abortion. Dr. Joel Beeke and Jim Beeke have explained this point very well in their essay, “Is Abortion Really So Bad?” and I will borrow some of their thoughts to expound it.
In Exodus 21:22-23 we read: “When men strive together and hit a woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judge determines. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life.”
If God commands such a heavy and great penalty for an accident like this one, will he stand aside and idly look at a deliberate and planned abortion? Legalizing abortion is tantamount to calculated and legalized murder of nameless, voiceless, helpless human beings created by God. Like those ungodly nations we read in the Bible who sacrificed their infants to their gods (Deuteronomy 12:31), I am afraid that if we legalize abortion in Malawi, it will also one day be said of us that Malawians sacrificed their unborn sons and daughters to the god called Selfishness on the altar of abortion. I pray that we will not reach that extent. May God bless Malawi and keep it a land of peace where we continue to value, respect and appreciate the lives of unborn children just as we value, respect and appreciate any other human life.