Monthly Archives: December 2013

Is Jesus Really the Winner?

There is a great spiritual battle raging in and all around us. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth said these words to His followers shortly before He gave His life on Calvary to conquer this world. Did Jesus succeed in defeating Satan and the rest of our foes, or did He fail? Just how do we know that Jesus really is the winner in this war of all wars?

The evidence of Christ’s power over the god of this world is convincing. Keep in mind that the conflict is spiritual at its core, though it does manifest itself physically in battles between nations and individuals. If this were just a physical fight, Satan could be instantly crushed by Jesus. But the spiritual fight about whether or not sinful man has a right to be accepted by the righteous God could only be settled by the Lamb of God being offered for our sins. In this way, Jesus proved that “Right makes Might,” not “Might makes Right,” as earthly wars are intended to prove. Praise God that Christ obtained for us the victory rightfully and that we now have the “right” to be God’s children with an eternal inheritance in Heaven!

The great miracles of Jesus proved that He really is the Winner. Healing the sick, for example, was not something He did to eradicate illness and make the world a better place. “But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then he said to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6,7). Since Jesus is more powerful than physical sickness, we can trust Him to heal us of the sins which cause our spiritual sickness! The King of kings cast out demons: The reason? “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). When temptation seems so hard to resist, just remember that Jesus is stronger than the god of this world! Think of the display of our Savior’s superiority over nature itself when He calmed fierce winds and turbulent waves instantly: Don’t you believe He can bring peace to your life, no matter how great the storm may be? We should never forget how Jesus gave “life from the dead” to at least three people, and was Himself raised from the dead! Not even death itself, our “last enemy” (I Corinthians 15:26), could overcome the Captain of our Salvation, so rest assured (Revelation 20:14) that it will once and for all be cast into the lake of fire on the Day of Judgment!

In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes from Psalms 68:18,19 and gives us a unique description of what Jesus has done to prove that His cause is right and that He is victorious over all enemies: “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’” “He led captivity captive” is a reference to the practice of conquering kings leading a victory procession before their loyal subjects which would include the enemy king (or kings) who had been defeated – the enemies who had previously held others captive until the conquering king came and made them captives!

It was very prudent for kings to make good use of their successes in battle, capitalizing on them to gain more honor in the eyes of their subjects and insure for themselves a legacy. Kings of Israel did this by erecting memorials, from King Saul (I Samuel 15:12) to King Absalom (2 Samuel 18:18). Jesus, however, has obtained something far greater from His victory in this great spiritual war: an eternal memorial with The Name that is above every name; the Name which every tongue shall confess, and to which every knee shall bow! (Philippians 2:9-11).

Here is an example from history to illustrate what it meant for a king to “lead captivity captive.” At the end of the third century, a magnificent triumphal parade was led by the Roman Emperor Diocletian down the streets of the capitol of Rome. Adorning the procession were the captives Queen Zenobia of the East and King Tetricus of the North. Both of them had been rebellious in their own regions, making themselves enemies of the Empire. Though Emperor Aurelian actually defeated them in 274 A.D., they became Roman captives and were not put on parade until 20 years later under Diocletian in 294. On top of all the pomp and ceremony of the triumphant procession, the “benevolent” Emperor Diocletian also passed out gifts of clothing and food to the citizens of Rome, “giving gifts to men,” thus solidifying a dearer place in their hearts.

This one example illustrates plainly what the inspired writers were referring to when they spoke of “leading captivity captive” and “giving gifts to men.” Even as Roman citizens were physically comforted and reassured by the procession of conquered enemies and the outpouring of gifts from their Emperor, we receive even greater security and comfort by the public spectacle of the enemies Jesus has captured (Colossians 2:15) and the gifts He gives to the church!

The enemies of Jesus and the things that would keep us from our Creator include pain, suffering, disease and death. The gifts that Christ gives to the church are described in Ephesians 4:11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are the precious gifts Jesus left for us to edify, strengthen and comfort the church of Christ until the Bridegroom returns to take us home to the place He is preparing in Heaven. Much could be said about these edifying endowments, but for now, ask yourself if you truly appreciate these gifts and do you take advantage of the teaching they provide for us? Are you preparing yourself to be one of these gifts yourself, if it is God’s will?

An honest evaluation of the evidence shows us that Jesus is the clear winner in the war that matters the most. You didn’t start it, but you had better be on the right side when the final verdict is announced. Choose today the winning side! Stand on the promises of God, knowing how Jesus has proven His superiority over Satan, and rejoice in all the blessings we are given in Christ, especially the dear men who teach us the Word. Sweet victory can be yours, but only in Jesus, the bona fide winner of the epic battle of the ages!

Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL 62012

DEALING WITH BROKEN HEARTS

There are many serious issues we all must deal with in a lifetime.  This is part of living in a physical world with its accompanying limitations and liabilities.  I would like to address a specific issue while coming from a perspective of having to live with one of the most heartbreaking things with which parents must deal.  This is one many of us must deal with no matter how much it hurts.  This is in regard to Christian parents who have raised children who have chosen not to follow the Lord.  From my perspective this is one of the most heartbreaking things many of us must endure.

Becky and I can speak with personal conviction.  Of our 4 children, we have 2 children who have chosen not to follow the Lord for whatever reason.  We can understand this heartbreak that we know many of you share.  I have spoken to many parents of faith who speak of this hurt while tears are bravely held back.  I know mine are.

For many reasons we are constantly looking back to our child-rearing years and wondering—“What did we do wrong?!”  And surely there are many mistakes we can see we made, for which of us can say we were the “perfect parent”?  I can think of many times in which I had unrealistic expectations and times when I said things I did not mean or raised my voice when I should not have, or gave out a discipline that was inappropriate to the circumstance.  How many times did I make an issue of things when I could or should have just let the matter go?  I could go on and on about my imperfect parenting that reminds me of what?  That I am imperfect?  What parent is not?

However, the problem is not truly about being perfect or imperfect!  Even though our Father in Heaven is perfect, that in no way accounts for His children’s misbehavior.  He has done everything right and look at His children!  No, it is not about being an imperfect parent, though there are things we did or said that may have contributed to our children’s lack of faithfulness.  It is still about personal choice, and no matter how perfect the Lord’s parenting is, He still lets His children choose against his wishes as most of them do.

Yes, there are certainly exceptions, but most children of faithful parents still make this conscious choice whether their parents made a particular mistake or not. Ultimately, there is no profitable purpose for parents to constantly feel guilt and castigate themselves as they search their memories for parenting mistakes and even blame themselves for their children’s ultimate choices.  Sometimes we act as if we are to blame when our children choose against the Lord, and we forget our children must be given the same conscious ability to choose whether to follow the Lord or not just as we all must make.

Now I do not wish to be misunderstood.  I praise the Lord for families in which all the children have chosen to follow their parents’ faith, and I certainly wish we had more examples of such.  However, to them I say, “Didn’t you also make mistakes?”  To which, if honest, they must reply of course they did.  Recently, I was comforted when I heard a brother humbly give credit and praise to God for his children’s faithfulness.  He wondered how his children chose the Lord in light of his own imperfections.

Likewise, it is a serious mistake for us to assume parents of unfaithful children did NOT teach their children the Lord’s will!  I know Becky and I spent our child-rearing years trying to instill in our children the ways of the Lord.  Those of you who passed through our home were part of our evening prayer and Bible teaching sessions that were so much a part of our family life for many years.  Even with all the teaching and trying to live godly lives, 2 of our 4 children chose another way for whatever reason.  I know many families in the body with such activities who still had children choose other paths.  I certainly am not God, and I cannot explain such choices, but I know they exist.

Likewise, there are examples of faithful children who chose the ways of the Lord though their parents themselves may have left the Lord.  Surely those parents taught their children things that may have been wrong or even showed signs of future unfaithfulness, and yet their children chose faithfulness.  How does that happen?  For the same reason that children with faithful parents choose not to follow the Lord:  it still comes back to an individual’s choice.

For those parents who have had children choose not to follow the Lord and who feel they did their best to raise their children in the Lord, there is still hope. Remember the passage in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I am convinced this teaches us that if we instill what is right in our children that knowledge will always be with them.  They can choose to access it anytime in their lives and perhaps that may indeed lead to their repentance at some point in their lives.

The battle is not lost! You can continue to have an effect on your adult children’s lives by your walking with God.  There have been many instances when adult children came back to the Lord as a result of their parents’ godly lives as examples and servants.

Now consider a sub-theme in this same area.  How many Christian grandparents are endeavoring to teach their grandchildren the ways of the Lord because their children are not instilling these values in their own children? Probably many! Again, we can speak from experience.  We have 3 grandchildren that Becky and I are endeavoring to have a positive influence upon.  We are fortunate that our children do not object to our influencing their children in this manner.  I know there are many who do, and that makes the grandparents’ job even more difficult.

What can you do in this circumstance? As grandparents you can endeavor to do everything in your power to live as honorably as God requires.  With your contact, your grandchildren will see such godliness, and you may indeed have a positive influence upon their lives.  I recall a discussion I had several years ago when I was lamenting my lack of influence on my grandchildren.  A brother reminded me I could still show my grandchildren a picture of the Lord in my life.  What a great reminder that was!  Do not give up. The Lord has not and neither should we!

As long as our children and grandchildren live there is hope.  The Lord is a merciful God, and He will judge all with righteousness and truth.

~ Jay H. Graham
— 7715 Quarterhorse Cir., Flagstaff, AZ  86004