Victory Over Death

From God comes…

From God comes victory over death.

Thousands of years ago, Job asked a question about death that has continued to plague mankind. “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Science may be able to prolong life but not cheat death. Everyone knows death is inevitable and it’s only natural that people want to know what happens after we die.

Death can be hard to face. The Bible refers to it as our final enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) A loved one’s death can fill us with helplessness or if it comes quickly, anger. Facing our own death may have us feeling fearful, uncertain, perhaps defeated. Even those who bail out of life with suicide are hoping for something better.

At this time of year, we are reminded of the One who lived and died for us. Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth, lived among us, and freely died for our sins. But death was not the end of the story—for He rose from the dead and is victorious. 1 Corinthians 15:42-55 says, “…Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

The good news is that Christ’s victory over death is ours as well. He fought the battle for us. All we have to do is to choose to partake of this victory in Christ. John 5:24 tells us, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” This has nothing to do with living a good life or earning salvation. It comes from believing and trusting God.

When we understand this concept, singing old hymns like “Victory in Jesus” have so much more meaning—for His victory is our victory too!

Christ was crucified and died willingly for our sins. Because of this we are forgiven and no longer condemned. This is great news, but without Christ’s resurrection it would be null and void. Christ was delivered to death for our sins, but raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-24)

Death no longer holds us in bondage. (1 Corinthians 15:55) Christ’s victory over death is our victory, too. (1 Corinthians 15:57) Because Christ lives, we can live also. (Romans 6:8, 9) We who believe in Him will live—even though we might die, we will live again. (John 11:25-26)

Job’s question can be answered because at death our “perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death doesn’t have to be the end; it can be the beginning. Death is swallowed in victory.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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The Resurrection

From God comes…

From God comes the resurrection.

When the women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his dead body with spices, they were surprised to find that He had risen from the dead. (Mark 16:1) When they told the disciples, the disciples had a hard time believing it. Peter went back to the tomb to check for himself. (Matthew 24:8-12) Although, Jesus had told them this would happen, it was still hard to believe. (John 20:9) But now Christ’s words rang true!

Belief in the resurrection is an integral part of the Christian faith. Jesus tells us in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Some doubt the resurrection of Christ happened. It was the same in Jesus’s time. Rumors spread. It was said that the disciples stole the body to make it look like Jesus had risen. (Matthew 28:13) Or the Roman authorities removed the body. Or eye witnesses who actually saw Jesus were hallucinating. Even when the more than 500 saw Christ at the same time, some surmised that they were all caught up in a “mass ecstasy.”

However, the disciples believed and some even died because of it. They would not have been willing to die for a lie. Realistically, the Romans would have gladly produced Jesus’s body if they had it to debunk Christianity. It’s doubtful that all the eyewitnesses would have hallucinated the same thing. And “mass ecstasy” sounds like a feeble attempt to find anything to support a losing battle.

When Paul spoke to the philosophers in Athens, the intellectual center of the world, he preached Jesus and His resurrection. (Acts 17:18) This message was so remarkable and amazing that it turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6) God has given assurance to all men because He raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 17:31) 

Critics don’t deny that Jesus lived. There is too much evidence to the contrary. But it wasn’t Christ’s life that led to the spread of Christianity; it was His death and resurrection. The late German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch said, “It wasn’t the morality of the Sermon on the Mount which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman Paganism, but the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”

Without Christ’s resurrection, Christian faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:17) In other words, the resurrection declares that Christ is Lord. Without it, He would be just another moral teacher or dead prophet.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Good News

From God comes…

From God comes good news. How refreshing to find a little good news in a world full of turmoil and strife.

To be honest, I rarely watch or listen to the news anymore. It’s too depressing and often misleading. Disease, distress, and disappointment abound. So do turmoil, fake news, financial setbacks, finger-pointing, and misrepresentation. Most media is not there to inform, but to promote controversy. So they sensationalize everything that happens.

Yes, it is good to know what’s going on in the world, but to feed on murder, injustice, politics, hate, and health crises 24/7 is not healthy. Neither is looking for conspiracy theories which, if they do exist, we can do nothing about. Constantly filling our minds with bad news gives us no room for anything else. It allows negativity to creep into our lives and consume us.

Yet, in the midst of all this bad news, there is good news if we look for it! The gospel is good news!

The Greek word for gospel is euaggelion which means “good news” or sometimes “God’s good news.”  (See Strong’s Concordance #2027 and #2028.) New Testament authors used this word regarding the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. That’s why the first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John gave us various eye witness accounts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. (Mark 1:1)

Each of these gospels was written from that particular author’s point of view. That’s why there are things one author might mention but another might not. However, that does not weaken the message of the gospel. It actually reinforces it. If each of us shared our “good news” about Jesus with others, it would vary depending on our experiences, but the message would remain the same.

When Christ was born the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Paul embraced Jesus’s gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24) Jesus came to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:41) Jesus brought the gospel of salvation, a free gift for all who believe. (Romans 1:16) The disciples were told to preach the gospel. (Mark 16:15)

Now here’s some good news: Jesus came to earth. Jesus dwelt among people. Jesus loved us while we were sinners. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus lives in us. His life, death, and resurrection gives us victory over death. (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

No matter how bad today’s news is, Christ gives hope in a hopeless world. That is indeed good news!

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Free Will

From God comes…

From God comes free will.

God is all powerful. He could have created us to blindly follow Him, but He didn’t. Instead He gave us free will. In other words, we are free to make our own choices. God does not force us to do what He wants us to do. We would probably be better off if He did.

Free will is synonymous with making choices. God gives us the ability to make our own choices. To help use wisdom in this process, God put certain laws into motion, such as cause and effect. Biblically speaking this means we will reap what we sow. Certain things we sow could lead to corruption, while others lead to eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

God will not automatically give us good habits or self-discipline. God will not obtrude moral character upon us. We get these things by actively practicing Christian principles we’ve been taught. That’s why we study God’s words and integrate what we learn into our lives. Timothy was told to train himself in godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)

God offers us His instruction and encourages us to take it. (Psalm 32:8) He tells us not to be like a horse or a mule who must be harnessed with a bridle before they will come near you. (Psalm 32:9) God does not want to control us. He wants us to freely come to Him. God wants us to choose to obey out of love for Him and because we truly feel He knows what is best.

We cannot save ourselves. God does that. We cannot do what God does and God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. That’s why He tells us to work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12) In other words, God gives us salvation and we “work out” what we will do with it. That’s where free will comes in.

God longs for a relationship with us, but He will not impose it on us. He will beckon or encourage us to come to Him. He will make Himself available. He will love us. He will stand at the door and knock, but He won’t come in and fellowship with us unless He is invited. (Revelation 3:20) He initiates, but we must respond on our own.

God has given us free will and does not make us to do what He wants or what is best for us. He allows us to go our own way if that’s what we choose to do. God does not use His supreme power to control us because God is not a God of control; He is a God of love.   

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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No Condemnation

From God comes…

From God comes no condemnation. Condemnation means to find someone guilty and make sure punishment is received. No condemnation means a person has been absolved of all guilt, therefore free from receiving punishment.

Did you know that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ? (Romans 8:1) This is good news indeed! God’s plan all along was that His Son would not come to condemn the world, but to save the world. (John 3:16)

The concept of no condemnation is hard to understand when we know we are all guilty. We have all sinned and fallen short. (Romans 3:23) And the result of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) However, Jesus paid our penalty by His death. The charges against us were nailed to the cross and no longer held against us. (Colossians 2:14-15) Once we give our lives to Christ, we belong to Him—and because we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit frees us from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:1-2) 

Living without condemnation is not as easy as it seems. Although God does not condemn us, many times we condemn ourselves. We do not feel worthy of all the blessings God gives us: forgiveness, salvation, mercy, refuge, peace, comfort, joy, and so on. Indeed, we are not and never will be worthy of God’s blessings but as His children, He bestows them on us anyway. (1 John 3:1-3) So we must be willing to receive with a grateful heart, giving thanks.   

Satan likes to plague our minds with destructive thoughts from our past. His goal is to make us feel condemned. To fight this temptation, we need to continually praise God for sending His Son to die for our sins. We can’t afford to let Satan taint our understanding of what Christ has done for us. Satan holds our past against us, but God does not.

God does not condemn us, nor should we condemn others. (Matthew 7:1-2) Those who are judgmental or critical of others may feel that God hasn’t fully forgiven them. We must believe in God’s forgiveness and guard against passing our insecurities on to others. (1 John 1:9)

Not living under condemnation does not mean we will live a sin free life. We are human. We will struggle and have problems. We will make mistakes. At times, we will stumble, trip, and fall. However, God will not condemn us when we do. When Jesus encountered the adulterous woman at the well, He did not condemn her but said, “Go and sin no more (Romans 8:10).” A life without condemnation strives to do better.

Praise God that Christ’s death delivers us from condemnation and that His resurrected life delivers us into victory! (John 5:24)

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Hope

From God comes…

From God comes hope. There are times in life when our circumstances seem so daunting it feels hopeless. Yet as Christians we never need to feel as if there is no hope because our God is a God of hope.

Spiritual hope is not merely wishful thinking. The Old Testament word for hope is “yachal” and means to wait or be patient. The Greek word for hope in the New Testament is a little different. It is “elpis” which means favorable and confident expectation. We aren’t just waiting; we are confident our wait will reap positive results.

Hope is as necessary to the human spirit as oxygen is to the physical body. When people lose hope they are overcome with despair and lack of purpose. They lose all desire to go on. Problems overwhelm them. Not having hope can literally destroy lives.

There is a lot of pain, tragedy, trauma, and suffering in this world which can lead to feelings of hopelessness—if we don’t have God in our lives. (Ephesians 2:12) Those without God don’t understand that the problems of this world are temporary. Even death is a temporary condition. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Hope is not something that magically appears. It comes from a relationship with God. Christ is our hope. (1 Timothy 1:1) When Jesus died and was resurrected we were begotten to a living hope. (I Peter 1:3-5) In other words, we have an inheritance that will not fade away. Our hope is blessed assurance that everything God has told us is true. We know salvation is a done deal. We don’t have to wonder about it. We don’t have to doubt it. We can be confident about that! Everything God promised us is true and God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)

Hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:18-19) What does an anchor do? When the boat drifts a little this way or that way, the anchor tugs it back. The anchor keeps the boat centered and steady. We need to be anchored to our living, loving God so we don’t drift away.

Much is said in the Bible about Christian trials and suffering. Although it’s not something we like to think about, trials and suffering happen to all of us at one time or another. Hope helps us make it through the hard times because we are patiently waiting on God with confidence and expectation for His will to be done.

Hope cannot be seen with the human eye. (Romans 8:24-25) In other words, hope is not held in our hands, only in our hearts. It comes from God. Christ living in us is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27)

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Sustenance

From God comes…

From God comes sustenance. Sustenance can be defined as nourishment or living support. We need sustenance to survive physically and spiritually as well.

The way God designed our bodies to be self-sustaining is amazing. The heart expands and contracts about 100,000 times per day, pumping 5 to 6 quarts of nutrient rich blood each minute, approximately 2,000 gallons per day. In addition, we need physical food and water to sustain our lives as well. No wonder the Bible is full of analogies comparing our physical needs to our spiritual needs.

Jesus wants to live in our hearts. (Ephesians 3:14-17) He doesn’t just want to visit; He actually wants to live there. From our hearts, He can make sure we are rooted and grounded in love. He can motivate and inspire us. He can guide our thoughts, our will, our emotions, our actions, and so much more.   

Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life. (John 6:35, 48) When Jesus made this reference, He had just fed the multitude. People witnessed this miracle and wanted to see more supernatural signs. Instead, Jesus redirected their focus from the physical to the spiritual. He told them that He is the Bread of Life. He is the very source of life itself. Only Jesus can satisfy our deep spiritual hunger. He is the deep sustenance for our souls. Without Him we are undernourished and unable to experience the fullness of life He wants for us.

Only Jesus can give us living water. (John 4:10, 13, John 7:37-39) Science says that our bodies are over 98% water. Humans can live weeks without food, but only a few days without water. There is no substitute for water. There is also no substitute for the spiritual living water we can only get from Jesus. It comes from having a relationship with God. Living water gives us purpose and hope. Only Jesus can offer this living water to a dying world.

A favorite old book and movie I enjoy is Auntie Mame. Auntie Mame is a flamboyant lover of life living in the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. One line I always remember her saying is, “Life is a banquet but most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Well, life is a spiritual banquet when we yield to God and enter into a relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our spiritual needs become paramount to our existence. From God comes our spiritual sustenance. Only God can supply a healthy spiritual heart, the Bread of Life, and living waters. These can help us not only to survive, but to thrive.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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The Word

From God comes…

From God comes the Word.  

Jesus tells us that if we abide in His Word, we are truly His disciples. (John 8:31) This has a two-fold meaning because not only are we to abide in God’s Word, we are to abide in Jesus and let Jesus abide in us.

God’s Word is vital to our Christian journey. It reminds us of who Christ is, what He has done for us, what He continues to do for us, who we are in Christ, and how we should live our lives. We are encouraged to study God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15) It is the only way we can really learn about the mind of God.

Scriptures were given by inspiration from God to help us understand doctrine, correct us, instruct us, train us, and equip us for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Thessalonians were commended for searching the Scriptures daily. (Acts 17:11) This was no small feat since in biblical times the average person did not have access to a Bible. Only religious leaders had a copy of the Bible and probably not in total. That’s why public reading of Scripture was important. Paul refers to this in 1 Timothy 4:13 when he says, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.”

What a privilege it is to have access to God, His thoughts, and Jesus’s example at our fingertips. The Word of God is living and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) The more we read the Bible, the more we have God’s words etched in our mind and living in our hearts. (Colossians 3:16) When God’s Word is hidden in our hearts, God’s ways become our ways. They help us when we are tempted to do the wrong thing. (Psalm 119:11) God’s Word should not be just something we believe, but something that shapes our thoughts.

At a young age, Jesus could converse openly about scriptures with the teachers in the temple. (Luke 2:41-51) When Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus recited passages from Deuteronomy. (Matthew 4:1-11) At the Last Supper, Jesus cited Zechariah. (Matthew 26:31) When Jesus was carrying His cross, He thought of words from Hosea. (Matthew 9:13) When Jesus was dying, He quoted Psalms. (Luke 23:46) 

Is it any wonder that Jesus was filled with God’s Word because Jesus is the Word! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1-4, 14). Jesus is indeed the Living Word of God—and if we let Him, He will dwell in us. (Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 1:27)

As we yield to God we realize that He alone should have the first and last word about everything in our lives. After all, from God comes the Word! 

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Intercession

From God comes…

From God comes intercession. Intercession can mean to help, to intervene, to request, or to pray for others.  

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us during our times of weakness. (Romans 8:26-27) When we don’t know the words to say during a prayer, the Spirit intercedes for us. The Spirit feels what we are going through. When we don’t know what to pray or how to express ourselves with words, the Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes for us.

Jesus made intercession for us by dying on the cross. (Isaiah 53:12) This intercession does not mean He was protecting us from a harsh God. Sin comes with a penalty and Jesus paid that penalty for us. He gave His life to pay our penalty for sin. He intervened or interceded for us. This intercession continues today—not only through His death but through His resurrected life. (Hebrews 7:25)

Intercession can also mean to pray on behalf of others. Prophets of old did this all the time. (Jeremiah 27:18) The Bible is full of examples of praying for others. Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18) Moses prayed for the children of Israel. (Exodus 32:11-14) Stephen prayed for those who persecuted him. (Acts 7:59-60) The churches prayed for Peter while he was in prison. (Acts 12:5-17)

As children of God, we should be interceding for others through prayer, as well. (1 Timothy 2:1) These intercessions are not begging and pleading for what we want done in a person’s life, but asking God for His will to be made manifest. God knows every circumstance. He knows what is best. However, we are the ones who must come before God on their behalf. Let’s face it! If we don’t pray for certain loved ones or others we meet, who will? Who will lift them up to God?

From God comes intercession through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They intercede for us. As God’s love is manifest more and more in our lives, we will be interceding for others.    

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Refuge

From God comes…

From God comes refuge.

Refuge means to provide safety and protection from danger and distress. Many scriptures refer to God as a rock, a strong tower, our strength, and our refuge. (Psalm 18:2) God is our refuge. He’s our safe place to go when this world gets us down. Sometimes we forget that and try to muddle through on our own.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to set apart six cities as “cities of refuge,” places where people could flee if they unintentionally killed someone—an accidental death. (Deuteronomy 19) These cities were easily accessible and open to everyone. The gates were never locked. People could be protected from those seeking vengeance. 

Moses was the first to use the concept of God being a refuge for all His people. (Deuteronomy 33:27) King David said God was his stronghold and refuge. (2 Samuel 22:2). Psalm 46:1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” Psalm 91:4 lets us know we can take refuge “under God’s wings.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need somewhere to flee when we get off track, inadvertently harm others, and make mistakes. We need a place to cast our cares during dire circumstances. (1 Peter 5:7) A place to find rest when we are tired or weary. (Matthew 11:28) A place to find solace when we are fodder for the rumor mill or falsely accused. A place to find comfort when we feel hurt or misunderstood. We have such a place. We can flee towards God’s mercy and grace.

From God comes refuge. When life gets us down, there is no need to muddle through on our own. We can run to God’s loving arms. God is our refuge. 

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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