Victory in Jesus

“Take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Last Sunday, the elder leading worship began the service with a quote from David Wells’ book, God in the Whirlwind.  Here is a portion of that quote:

Worship, then, is all about refocusing our lives. It is about confessing our sin together, for God is holy, and once again hearing the words of assurance that Christ has borne sin’s penalty. It is about remembering the resurrection of Christ, his grace, his holy-love, and his reign that will one day sweep away all that has broken life and defied God. There is no other reason to be in worship than to remember and celebrate these truths. They will endure for all eternity because they all correspond to what happened in the cross and to what is there in God’s character. They will be celebrated in eternity. They will be our eternal song.

I had read this passage in Wells’ book, highlighted it, and flagged it for use as an introductory statement as our worship begins.  Still, when the Elder read that quote this week – it got me thinking, and I quickly had to write down some notes while the congregation started singing the opening hymn.

We need worship to refocus our lives.  While I may not be very consistent at vehicle maintenance (how’s that for a leap in thought – trust me, I will come back around), I know that having your alignment checked and the tires balanced regularly is a good thing.  When your wheels are out of alignment, and the tires are out of balance, your tires will wear unevenly, deteriorating faster than they ought, and the general handling and performance of your vehicle diminishes.  If you’ve driven through the streets of Cherokee, IA for a couple of years, crossing the train tracks on Willow, Cedar, or Bluff streets on a regular basis, chances are your alignment is out of whack, and it’s time to have it checked.

Each week, as we gather for worship, we come to get our life back in alignment.  Each day is filled with bumps and pot-holes that make a wreck of our faith.  We face obstacles that seem overwhelming: the bills are more than the paycheck; a friend turns her back on you; the doctor said it’s cancer; your marriage is falling apart.  We struggle daily with sin: we do the things we know we shouldn’t (and often we enjoy it), and we neglect the good that we ought to do; the careless word that cuts someone down, the bitter attitude that can’t let go of old wounds; the arrogance and selfishness that disregard God’s word for what we think is right and best in our own eyes.  We wrestle with doubt: can God really love me; could one man on a cross truly pay for all my sins; if God makes all things work for good, why am I facing this?

This is just one reason why we desperately need to worship.  We may put on a good front when we come in and find our pew on a Sunday morning, but if we could see with the eyes of Christ, what a different picture that would be.  Each one of us comes into the house of prayer beaten, weary, worn, tired, frustrated, confused, broken, wounded.  Our lives are so out of alignment, so out of whack, it’s only by the grace of God that we made it back to worship.  We come, not to show off how right and good we are, but because each of us is sick and we need healing.

There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead, that saves the sin sick soul.

We come to worship confessing our sins, not so that we can wallow in the mire, but so that, having confessed them, we may find healing in the assurance of pardon.  That’s why, at least in our serve, there is no “Amen” after the Prayer of Confession – that prayer is not done until you hear the assurance of you salvation.  “In Christ, your sins have been forgiven.”  That is the proclamation of the Gospel!  That’s what we need to hear, before anything else.  You are at peace with God, you are forgiven your of your sins, the wrath has been born by the Lamb, you are a new creation!

What obstacles do you face this week?  What hardship do you bear?  What sin has beset your soul?  What grief is too much to carry?  What doubts and fears overwhelm you?  Does it seem like God has let go and things are beyond His reach?

Do not lose heart.  Christ has overcome all things.  He has overcome all sin.  He has overcome all doubts.  He has overcome the grief, the fear, the shame.  When we come back to Christ as our foundation, He brings our lives back into alignment.  We find assurance when assailed by temptation, peace in the eye of the storm, hope in the midst of despair.  We will still face suffering and loss, but we know that even these things draw us closer to Christ, in whom we have ultimate victory.

Return to this foundation in the worship and praise of God through Jesus our Savior.  Know that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).  Come back to the message of the Gospel, the truth that will endure for all eternity, the truth that will be our eternal song.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28–31 (ESV)


I need new socks

I was getting dressed this morning for work, rummaging through my sock drawer for a pair of black socks.  Why is it that black socks get holes in the toes faster than any other sock in the drawer?  Are they designed this way?  It is a conspiracy between black sock makers to keep the consumer coming back for more socks every couple of months?

I’ve done everything I can.  When the hole in the toe is on the right side, I’ll put it on the other foot so that my big toe won’t poke through.  But now all my socks have holes on both sides of the toes – what’s a guy to do.  Like most guys, I’ll keep using t-shirts, underwear, socks, jeans, you name it until they’re threadbare and barely even there.  But I think I’m about finished with these socks.

I took a class in high school called “single living”, in which we were taught fundamental things like balancing a checkbook, planning a meal, and even darning socks (you can’t imagine how much fun this was – but you know I took the class to be around the girls).  But do you think I’m going to even attempt to fix the holes in my socks.  Nope – I’m going to K-Mart this weekend and buying new socks.  Until then, I’ll keep my shoes on so no one can see my shabby looking socks with my big toe stiking out.

It dawns on me – that my holey socks are indicative of my (and probably your) unholy spiritual condition.  On the outside we’ve got on our Sunday best, we look put together and tidy.  But really it’s a facade, a thin veneer covering the shambles within.  We’d be appaled if anyone saw the spiritual equivalent of our big toes stiking out.  You know what I mean; there’s the Bible that hasn’t been opened in months, the time of prayer and devotion that’s been neglected for seasons, that secret sin that eats at you from within – making your soul feel threadbare and exposed.

What’s a soul to do?  The fear of being exposed as a sham and a fraud haunt us to keep up the facade, meanwhile we’re crumbling within.  Be of good hope!  Remember the promise of Jesus:  “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”  Luke 12:28 (ESV).  I Peter 5 tells us to cast our anxieties on God, for he cares for us – the anxieties of being exposed, the fear of not being quite good enough, God takes these from us and clothes us in his righteousness.  Zech. 3:4 (ESV) says, “and the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  (If you haven’t read this passage, stop and read it now.  I know it’s a vision of Joshua the high priest, and that it is a prophecy of the coming Messiah Jesus (Joshua=Jesus), but I think it also speaks to what God does for each of us).

This is the problem with being a pastor – I see holey socks and I write a sermon.  May your holeyness be covered by the holiness of Christ as we are clothed in him.  And if you see me at K-Mart this weekend, you’ll know why.