Discipleship, Grace

Conquered

As I read Scripture this morning I came across a passage in Revelation 12 that at once made me nostalgic. In the apocalyptic narrative of the dragon’s defeat and Satan being thrown down, the people belonging to Christ overcome by the blood and the word of their testimony.

The description, written to encourage believers facing first century persecution, is meant to stir rejoicing in the heavens, and among those in Christ. New Life Worship added the refrain to their mid-2000s song Overcome. That was my jam for a bit. That is the place of our victory, by the blood of Jesus we have forgiveness, a new covenant of grace. And the word of our testimony echos back the glory of our Savior as we stand firm in his righteousness and mission.

But as I read this text again this morning it was something else about these conquerors that stirred a different part of my soul.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11 (ESV)

Did you notice it? “For they loved not their lives even unto death.” You see if I worship only from the first half of the verse it can be my life that I cherish, a settled comfort in my faith when things are going right. After all we are overcomers. But I am struck that the conquering, the overcoming in Revelation 12 has an longer lens than my present experience. After all, there are plenty of moments that don’t feel like conquering. Especially when the standard by which I make such judgments is my life.

These conquerors though, who I think we are numbered among, don’t use their life as the gauge of overcoming. They gave their lives away. The did not love their lives, even dying for it. They answered the call of the Kingdom to come and die, not for self, but because the self had found something better.

In a year where many of us have made more than one statement prioritizing our “rights” and have aggressively tried to maintain our “lives” as they were before the pandemic, I wonder if this opportunity is exactly what we needed to steel the conquering spirit in us. All of this is for Jesus, his glory, his message, his Kingdom come. When we embrace sacrifice, surrender and giving away of our own lives, that is where this truth is owned. And where the Lord bolsters us for the battles ahead.

I know how hard this is and I am convinced that is why Scripture puts it before us so often. I also know there is never enough when the flesh lives for self. The only way I have experienced satisfaction is finding it in Jesus regardless of what life looks like. You still overcome by the blood and the word of your testimony – of God’s faithful, of his grace. And it is that blood and testimony that prime you to surrender your life for the only thing that is better.

As you ponder this today I pray that Jesus meets you and frees you of your life.

Grace

He Could Have Kept the Temple

This morning as I was reading of the finishing work of Solomon’s temple, the overlaying of the gold and bronze, it struck me that God could have kept the temple.

Here is the House of the Lord David dreamed of. Extravagant, covered in splendor and meaning, holy. It would be the place God’s people would make offerings to him, worship him. It would also be the center of all of life in Jerusalem. But for all of its glory and place in redemptive history, it would not last.

Due to the rebellion of the faithless, the disobedience of those made a people it would be stripped of its finery. It would be ruined. There would be rebuilding projects but the Temple would never again match the early majesty. And eventually it would be gone forever, burned to the ground.

God could have kept it though. In his sovereignty he could have maintained its foundations regardless of the unfaithfulness of the people he called his own. It could still remain today as the center of life, where we communed with God, a place of pilgrimage, of power. But he did not keep it.

There was something better to come, many temples made of hearts and flesh. A complete sacrifice that discontinued the need for bulls and lambs. The opportunity to commune with our Creator where we are through Jesus.

God could have kept the Temple but it is glorious news for us that he didn’t. Grace was coming another way. Those that waited longed not for the Temple but for God himself. In Advent we long for the same thing. Having tasted of salvation we desire completion. The return of our King, that he would be the center of all life, the radiance of our days.

Today be reminded of God’s care for you. That his plan brought us here, to longing and hope. And his plan will see us through. He could have kept the Temple, but he chose you.

Grace

A Lamp Shining in a Dark Place

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2

We have entered into the season of waiting. Advent. It begins not with the eggnog and Mariah Carey but instead a realization of the darkness. That a promise of light came to a people familiar with dark. And that we now await his return, experiencing the very real dark of our own sinful flesh and the brokenness of our world.

We are meant to ache for more. To cry out for light. This year of all years has seasoned us for this very act. We are acquainted with uncertainty, loss, grief, anger, longing.

We have come face to face with our own idolatry. We are beginning to recognize the ways we placed hope in things that are not light. Even our reliance on self above all things has only left us shattered and bitter.

We have lost control. Events of the day are beyond us and our weak attempts at conspiracy to provide answers only leaves us deeper in the dark. We have been brought again to the reminder that there is One sovereign but it is not us.

So we wait. Longing for light.

But we wait with hope. Because in Christ we have been exposed and rescued by light. Each and every day now brings us one closer to his return and eternal reign. The correcting of all that is wrong. The healing of all things. We can trust the promise of Maranatha because a child was born.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” 2 Peter 1:19 (ESV)

The lamp is still shining, the day is dawning. Wait well my friends. Look to Jesus. Feel the encroaching darkness and know there is a better home. Cling to his forgiveness, comfort, and new life. As the light has shone on you, shine it among others. Christmas is coming…