Greeting: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.
1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2) This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3) This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4) for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6) This is the one w ho came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
Introduction: “You may have already won.” That is the promising message of the sweepstakes mail we receive. The reality is that there is a small possibility that we have won, but the great probability is that we have not. How different is the message of Easter!. The message is not “You may have already won,” But “You truly have already won.” The people of God’s Easter faith are winners of glorious things. In one of our hymnal’s Easter hymns, we sing of “Easter triumph, Easter joy.” Victory is not iffy and unclear, it is sure and definite – and it goes to those who have Spirit-worked faith in God’s Easter message. Today we want to better understand that victory. In our message we will explore God’s Word to understand the foundation, the essence and the evidence of victorious, Easter faith.
1. Bases Its Victory On God’s Triumphant Son
Faith’s victory rests on the victorious Christ
Inspecting faith is a lot like inspecting a house. A good place to start is the foundation. The foundation of victorious, Easter faith is God’s triumphant Son, Jesus Christ. In his first epistle, John writes: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. . . Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Everything we expect for blessing and for the future rests squarely on Jesus Christ. We will surely not win life victories in a sin-cursed world, we surely cannot triumph over death in our own natural power. Our foundation for victory must be great. And it is. Jesus Christ is perfectly qualified to give us victory. Jesus has succeeded perfectly. He rose on the third day after His death and won our forgiveness, our freedom and our future. The faith of Easter is Spirit-worked faith in Jesus Christ as the Substitute and Champion God sent for us.
Don’t rely on a false foundation
We should not be fooled to rest our souls on a false foundation. John faced false teachings in his time that were threats to mislead people from the sure foundation of Christ. John battled false teaching of Gnosticism promoted by the false teacher Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that at His birth, Jesus was not the Son of God, but only the natural son of Mary and Joseph. Then, at Jesus’ baptism and anointing at age 30, the Spirit of Christ joined the human nature of Jesus. The Spirit of Christ stayed with Jesus up to the time of His Passion, but then left Him. According to Cerinthus, Jesus died on the cross as just a human being without any special power or ability to save anyone. This complicated heresy struck at the heart of God’s saving truth and needed to be exposed and rejected. The number of false teachings and false foundations has increased over the years. There are those who teach another Christ than the real Christ of the Bible. There is Jesus, the mere man who never was God, Jesus, the charismatic prophet, who had doubts about His own identify, or Jesus, the Person who never really lived. Likewise, there are false views of salvation. Jesus paid for all the sins of only some people. Jesus paid for only some of the sins of all people. People have to pay for their own sins themselves. God won’t condemn anyone to hell. God won’t condemn the spiritually sincere people to hell. God will condemn those to hell who believe that salvation is a pure gift of God in Christ. We are to watch out for these and other heresies, teachings that may sound somewhat good, but surely are not sound doctrine.
Instead, we are to rely on the whole truth of God and the full teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants us to learn “all the things I have commanded you.” God wants our faith to be sound and whole, not sick and full of holes.” We cannot learn the lessons of Scripture and the teachings of God’s Word and Christ too well. We do well to review our knowledge of the Bible’s teachings regularly. Victory comes to us through God’s triumphant Son. What an encouragement this is to eagerly learn all we can about Him and His work.
2. Gains Its Victory Over Sin’s Powerful Realm
The victory is triumph over sin’s rule
When we speak about a victorious, Easter faith, it may be good for us to define what we mean by “victorious.” What is this victory about? Some would define victory as a triumph over the difficulties of earthly life, such as having few problems or struggles in carrying out your daily duties: enjoying good health, living in a safe, low-crime area, having enough money and job security. Or some would define victory as overcoming earthly adversity, such as coming back from a major illness, getting out of bankruptcy, succeeding in spite of a learning disability, being a child of divorce who has a successful marriage. Those are very good and desirable things. As appealing as they are to us, that is not the heart of the real victory of Easter faith. The essence of the victory of Easter faith is on a deeper level. It consists of what
God gives this victory through faith
John declares: “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” Against this spiritually destructive enemy, God gives us victory. The victory is faith in Christ and what He had done for us. Faith is God’s gift to us created and sustained by the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word. Faith is God-worked confidence in Christ, who has taken up our cause, fought our fight, and has defeated the sinful world’s threatening power. Resting in Christ, we enjoy Christ’s conquest. We enjoy a rich, spiritual life in Jesus and are free from the control of the sinful world’s control over us. We are still exposed to its influence, but our souls are free in God through Christ.
Christians continue in this victory by faith-fueled living
The victory God gives is to be savored. It is also to be preserved and expressed as we live out our life before God. God calls and commands us to continue to overcome the world’s evil influences and sinful patterns. He calls us to battle the prevalent worldly thinking we face and to reject it. Knowing and believing the truth of God’s Word, we insist that physical health is not more important than spiritual health, that the “good life” of much money, many material things and lots of leisure is the highest good one can pursue, that lying, deceiving and making promises you don’t keep is an acceptable way to life, that the greatest thing about Christianity is how happy it can make you. God helps us maintain this victory as He strengthens our faith with the Gospel of our risen, living Savior.
3. Shows Its Victory In Life’s Obedient Love
Easter Faith Proves Itself In Loving Deeds
Victorious Easter faith also makes itself known. It shows its positive power as it demonstrates an obedient love. Faith in the living Savior shows its victory in deeds of love. John writes: “This is love for God: to obey His commandments.” The people who enjoy Easter victory are not those who do as they please. Rather, they are the ones who do as God pleases. Faith shows itself in deeds of love, not inaction or empty words. You are I tire of people who only bring empty words. Love is to be demonstrated in actions.
There is a story about a small, wiry, but frail-looking man who was applying for a physically demanding construction job. As he spoke the crew leader, the crew leader looked him over and said: “I don’t know. This is demanding work. You don’t look like you can do as much as the guys on my crew. The small man looked around the circle of larger men who we leaning on their shovels and listening in. He then looked into the eyes of the crew leader and said: “I may not be physically able to do as much as they can, but I assure you that I will do more than they actually do.” He got the job. In that spirit, we understand that God doesn’t want us to waste our potential by just standing around and leaning on shovels. He want us to be active in getting His work done.
Loveless inaction is a contradiction to our victory. It is an embarrassment to ourselves and to our Savior. So we fight against the temptation to be lazy, or have low standards of performance, or set our expectations of ourselves too low, or let our love for God and others grow cold. We believe as God’s says: “that His commands are not burdensome.” They are demanding, to be sure, but they are not burden, not for those who know the burden Jesus carried to Calvary for us and then buried forever in His empty tomb – this burden being the full weight of a lifetime of our sins.
Faith Shows Itself In Love For God And Others
Victorious Easter faith in Christ shows itself in love for God and for other people. Our Father’s love for us kindles our love for Him. We finds ourselves loving His Word and the opportunity to study and learn it better. We find ourselves loving to worship Him and give Him our praise and thanks. We find ourselves loving the way of life He shows us and striving to live that way. Our loving God also links our love for Him to loving others. So His love for us moves us to love the people He has made and placed around us. His love leads us to be kind and welcoming, to be generous and sharing, to be forgiving and reconciling to them.
Close: We live under the blessed influence of Easter triumph and Easter joy. This was won for us by God’s triumphant Son. It was gained for us over sin’s powerful rule. And it is expressed by us in our obedient love. May God keep us rejoicing in the triumph of our victorious Easter faith. Amen.