Living the ChristLife by Wayne Barrett

The Conquering Christ

      “Now I will arise,” says the LORD
                        “now I will lift myself up;
                        now I will be exalted….
            Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
                        and you who are near, acknowledge my might….
            Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty;
                        they will see a land that stretches afar.
                                                                     —from Isaiah 33 (ESV)

     For those who have placed their hope in God, there is always a living, expectant hope, and that hope will not be disappointed. Do not let the devil rob you of that hope. He knows that his time is short, and he seeks to destroy as much as he can in his defeat by the Lord Jesus Christ. One way he can destroy your joy and your ability to live in the life God has provided for you is by destroying your hope.

     Where is your hope being attacked? Is it in your personal circumstances? Your health? Your finances? Your future? Your habits? Your success in overcoming your failings? Is it in your hope for your family? Perhaps it is in your hope for this nation or your hope for the future of the world?

     The big lie is that the devil will win, and the great truth is that Jesus Christ has already conquered. He has all authority in heaven and on earth. He has conquered death and all that goes with death. His Lordship is incontestable. He is at the right hand of the Father. And He is coming again.

     This world has its hardships. Jesus told us that it would. And these hardships should not be understated. They can be brutal, traumatic, unexplainable, indiscriminate, and overwhelming. There are many tears on this journey in a fallen world, But Jesus also said “Take courage; I have overcome the world.” For present sorrows, we have the comfort of God and the comfort of one another. And we also have hope, because we are, in fact, on a journey. And we know where the journey is leading. It is leading to the feet of Jesus who, in His glory, is coming again. Those who have loved His appearing will be filled with eternal joy and those who have scorned and hated Him will be crying out for the rocks to fall on them, so great will be their despair.

     The Apostle Paul said that in Christ we are “more than conquerors.” Perhaps you don’t feel that you look like much of a conqueror. Well neither did the Apostle Paul—nor did any of the apostles. Jesus Himself did not look like a conqueror, except to those who saw Him following His resurrection. The people of God usually look, as a whole, weak and unimportant to a world that has a different ruler. But once in a while even in this world, in our own lives and even in world affairs, the King of King stands up and declares Enough for now! And the Angels of God go forth in the name of all that is good and right. Evil is exposed for the detestable thing that it is, cringing and fleeing in the divine light that blazes upon it.

     Hope in God. Your hope will be vindicated. Live for God. Your living will be vindicated.

     Jesus is the victor, and those who belong to Him will all live to see their King exalted above the heavens. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. They will all live to hear the seventh trumpet sound and hear “loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’”

     Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Our life. And our hope.

The Bible Is Written to You

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in …
           —Ephesians 1:1 ESV

 Consider the challenges you are facing in your life, whatever they are. And some of these challenges may be shaking you to the core. They may seem to have little to do with “religion,” although you may find that your faith is severely tested because of the nature of these challenges. These challenges may have to do with personal disappointments, family matters, goals and dreams, health issues, job concerns, other issues.

And now consider the New Testament. And if you do, what may come into your mind is a thought that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about your particular challenge. That there is not really an answer there that directly applies to what you are facing. You are not alone if you think that way, but it is a tragedy that so many believers do. This kind of thinking reveals a misperception about the Bible and what God has given when He gave us His written word.

The purpose of the Bible is to help bring us and help keep us in a deep, abiding, trusting, joyful relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not an “answer book,” in which we look up solutions to problems, although some solutions can no doubt be found there. It is not a collection of magazine articles that provide ten ways to do this or three steps to a more successful that. It is far beyond any of those things. Through the Bible, God points us to Christ, He reveals Himself to us, and he both teaches and enables us to experience the life that He has given us in Christ, a life that is rich and everlasting. It is also a life to be lived in the here and now, and as we learn about life in Christ, we are helped in all that we face.

 The teachings of the Bible were not written for theologians, they were written for all of God’s children. These are not essays or manifestos. The Bible is not a collection of philosophical contemplations. God reveals Himself in the New Testament primarily through letters to churches—to everyone in them—and through biographies of Jesus, through one history of the early Church, and through one book like no other that wraps it all up. The teachings of the Bible may not always seem to relate directly to our problems and experiences, but they do. Because they bring us to Christ.

 It’s not about knowing all the answers. It’s about knowing God. And trusting Him. And relying on Him. And seeing His great work unfold in our lives as we live in relationship with him.

Go to God. Go to Him in prayer and in the reading and studying of His word. It is for you. God is on your side. He has not forsaken you. Christ died for you. He loves you with a love everlasting. You can trust Him. Even if you do not know the “answer.”

Elijah on the Mountain

And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 ESV)

The prophet Elijah was crushed with depression. He was tired. He was despondent. His life, as he assessed it, seemed to have counted for nothing. And, in fact, he prayed for God to take away his life. He was spent. He was done. He was through.

Elijah was a living legend. He was God’s prophet. His power was unparalleled. By his prayers God withheld rain and God sent the rain. By his prayers the altar and sacrifice on Mount Carmel were consumed by fire from heaven, rocks and all, in a dramatic challenge to the religious and political powers in the land: the 400 prophets of Baal, minions of Jezebel. No one man was more identified with the Lord than was Elijah. No man represented God’s power more than did Elijah.

And Elijah knew that. But it was not enough to prevent him from giving up. For no matter how great were his victories, the challenges would not let up. And no matter how diligent his service to God, the results of his work seemed to be a people who were steadfastly unchanged in their unfaithful behavior.

God allows his servants to reach the end of themselves. To stare what Helmut Thielicke calls “grinning meaninglessness” in the face. To be emptied of faith, hope, or love and to fall on their faces exhausted, angry, ashamed, and utterly depleted.

God took over for Elijah. An angel fed him and let him rest. And then Elijah was taken far away, far away from the spotlight and from the battlefields, to the mountain of God, Mount Horeb. Elijah needed renewal, and he found it at Horeb where after the turbulence of wind, earth, and fire, a conversation began with a voice, a low whisper (the King James Bible calls it a “still small voice”), asking “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah was through, but God was not through with Elijah. Even Elijah had to learn anew to find his every resource, and his comfort, in the One for whom he acted and who had never abandoned him. And Elijah had other victories yet to experience.

Hundreds of years later, on another mountain, the Lord Jesus was preparing to face His great suffering and sacrifice. Jesus took Peter and John and James “and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

I wonder what Elijah said.