How to Live a Life of Victory
How to Live a Life of Victory
Years ago, a young member of our congregation at HTB had a job working in the library of a major national newspaper. This newspaper kept files of old cuttings about every well-known person. The files were kept in rows of long shelves and were separated into ‘living people’ and ‘dead people’.
One day, the young man was looking through the files of dead people and came across a large file marked ‘Jesus Christ’. He glanced over his shoulder to check that no one was looking and quickly moved the file from the ‘dead people’ section to the ‘living people’ section.
Jesus Christ is alive. He is risen from the dead. To anyone looking for him among files of dead people, the angels would say, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ (Luke 24:5–6).
Victory is not a dirty word. Jesus is the great victor. As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin often said, ‘The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the manifestation of a victory.’ The cross was not a defeat. On the cross, Jesus won a great victory for us over sin, death and the powers of evil.
Receive the benefits of his victoryPsalm 51:10-19
I love this prayer of David and have often prayed it myself. David, like us all, had messed up. He had cried out for forgiveness and now he cries out for victory. When we sin we do not lose our salvation but we may lose the joy of our salvation (v.12a). David does not want to be defeated by sin again.
All this starts with ‘a broken and contrite heart’ (v.17b). You can be absolutely certain that if you come to God in this way you will not be rejected: ‘A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’ (v.17b).
David prays that he might live a life of victory. It is worth noting that David’s prayer is not purely personal. He prays that he might also have an impact on the city (v.18).
Lord, I pray for a pure heart (v.10a), a persevering spirit (v.10b), the presence of God (v.11a), the power of the Spirit (v.11b) and the pleasure of salvation to be restored to me (v.12a).
I pray for a trusting spirit (v.12b) and that I would be able to teach the ways of God (v.13a), turning people back to God (v.13b). I pray for a tongue that worships you. ‘O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise’ (vv.14b–15). I pray for the transformation of our society (v.18).
Recognise Jesus and his victoryLuke 24:1-35
How can you and I encounter Jesus today?
The resurrection of Jesus is a historical event. It actually happened. But it is not just a historical event. As people experienced the risen Jesus at the time, you too can experience his presence today. This passage tells you how.
This was the day the world changed for ever. Jesus was raised on ‘the first day of the week’ (v.1). Thereafter, the first day of the week (Sunday) was to become the day of rest and worship.
In this passage we see two key pieces of evidence of Jesus’ victory over death:
1. Jesus’ body was absent
‘They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus’ (vv.2–3).
The angels said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ (vv.5–6). Indeed, as he predicted, on the third day he would be ‘raised again’ (v.7). (Sometimes the New Testament states that Jesus ‘rose’ from the dead. More often it is in the passive; ‘he was raised’.)
When the disciples are told by the women ‘they did not believe’ (v.11). However, we can picture Peter’s excitement – he ‘got up and ran to the tomb’ (v.12). He too saw that the body of Jesus was gone. He ‘saw the strips of linen lying by themselves’ (v.12b) – the tomb itself was not empty but the body of Jesus was absent.
Peter must have begun to realise at that moment that Jesus had won a great victory. Jesus had died, but death was not the end. Death is not cancelled but it is definitively conquered.
2. Jesus himself was present
Jesus himself was seen. This was not just a ‘spiritual’ presence. His physical, resurrected, transformed body was present with his disciples. The first appearance we read of in Luke’s Gospel is on the road to Emmaus. Jesus reveals himself to the two disciples in two ways.
First, he reveals himself through the Scriptures: ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (v.27). This must have been the most amazing Bible study in the history of the world. Jesus went through the Bible explaining that it was all about him.
Have you ever had a sense of your heart ‘burning within’ (v.32) as you have been listening to the Bible being explained, or as you have been reading it yourself? Sometimes, when I am reading the Bible or listening to a talk explaining the Bible, the words suddenly seem so relevant to me and to my life that it feels as if God is speaking directly to me. At that moment it seems like my heart is ‘burning within’ me. A young woman who was in our Alpha small group recently had just started reading the Bible for the first time in her life. She said it is as if the words were jumping off the page towards her.
The disciples said, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ (v.32). We get a taste of this every time we hear the Bible explained in such a way as to reveal Jesus.
Second, he reveals himself through the bread: ‘When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him’ (vv.30–31). Later on they explained ‘how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread’ (v.35).
Luke’s description of this encounter is probably deliberately told in a way that echoes the account of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. It is supposed to encourage us that we too can encounter Jesus in the ‘breaking of bread’ when we celebrate Communion together.
The Scriptures and the sacraments are two of the ways in which we can encounter Jesus today. Jesus will continue to reveal himself to us as we study the Scriptures and as we break bread together. If you want to experience the presence of Jesus – make sure that you do these things on a regular basis.
Father, thank you that Jesus is alive right now. As I study the Scriptures, may my heart burn within me as I encounter Jesus through them. As I receive the bread and the wine, may my eyes be opened to recognise Jesus.
Reflect the victory of JesusJoshua 11:1-12:24
I would love to know what Jesus said about this passage when he was going through all the Scriptures and explaining what they said ‘concerning himself’ (Luke 24:27).
This passage continues the theme of Joshua’s victories (‘great victory’, Joshua 10:10). Here we read of how the kings joined forces to fight against Israel (11:5). But the Lord says, ‘Do not be afraid of them’ (v.6). The Lord ‘gave them into the hand of Israel’ (v.8). God gives them victory wherever they go: ‘So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel’ (v.23).
I imagine that Jesus would have explained that Joshua’s military tactics are not the model for anyone today. Nevertheless, one aspect, the victory itself, prefigured and foreshadowed the great and very different type of victory that God was to bring about through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Joshua was a ‘type’ of Christ; indeed, Jesus is actually the Greek form of the name Joshua, meaning ‘the Lord saves’.
As we will read tomorrow, the victory of Joshua was never complete. The Lord said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over’ (13:1). It is Jesus alone who brings a complete victory. He is the one to whom all the Scriptures point. He is the great victor and the source of every possible victory in our own lives.
Lord, thank you for your great victory over sin and death and all the powers of evil. May my life today reflect this great victory. May I see it more, not only in my own personal life but also in our community, city and nation.
I love the combination of the bravery and practicality in these women. The moment the Sabbath is over they are on their way to the tomb. Where were the men? They seem to be in disarray! We mustn’t stay away from Jesus, even if things aren’t going well.
Verse of the Day
‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ (Luke 24:5–6)
Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Eerdmans B Publishing, 1995), p.36.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.