I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

John 16: 33

 

Jesus must be kidding, right! He can not possibly mean that He has overcome all that runs about wildly causing havoc and bringing grief and pain in its wake. This place is far too engaged in destructive thoughts and actions to be considered subdued or tamed, and I sadly admit that my own thinking is too frequently caught up in the same sorts of processes to be contemplated as under control. I am capable of doing more harm than good on almost any day that comes along. When He said this, Jesus was facing into the reality of His imminent arrest, trial, torture, and execution, and He knew it. He was not left in the dark by the Father. Jesus was the sacrifice that gave Himself up for slaughter, and He was very rational and well-thought out in doing this. So, where exactly does it seem that He had overcome much of anything in this world?

 

The fact is that Jesus’ death is the singular event that turns around the direction of history. Once Jesus had satisfied God’s need for there to be a sacrifice on the part of Creation that would respond to our rebellion and ensuing state of sin-driven separation from God, all of Creation, especially humanity, was freed from the awful estrangement from God that had overtaken our existence in this life and beyond into eternity. Satan’s lies and deception had drawn us away from our commitment to our Creator, but Jesus poured out God’s healing oil of peace and truth upon that wounded relationship by allowing His own blood to be shed despite His absolute innocence. So, in Jesus, we are each granted the opportunity and the right to return to the loving presence of God in our lives as Christ’s Spirit comes to dwell within us.

 

By entering into the world’s violence and rejection on the cross, Jesus has overcome all of the malintent that came into being when those first people said yes to that which God had expressly forbidden thus turning away from life and stepping out toward a death that was painful beyond measure. Jesus took upon Himself that pain that we had earned, and in so doing, He took the sham dominion that Satan had claimed over this world away from him and granted renewal, healing, peace, and life to each of us who turn from the world to Jesus. The peace that we own in that hour of redemption and onward from there is the one that bridges the separation that sin has caused between ourselves and God. This is a peace that resides in the individual spirit and that speaks victory over all that is broken, painful, and life-threatening in this world. This peace is Christ within, and in its presence with us, Jesus has truly overcome the world.

Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.

Deuteronomy 11: 16

 

It seems that there are many things in which we need to trust in living our lives. We trust in the rising of the sun every day, and we rest in the certainty of the fact that gravity will hold us onto the earth’s surface. When we get into a car we start it and proceed believing that it will go where we direct it. Of greater importance is the fact that I have no question at all that I can trust God to be who He has always been and to do what He promises to do. However, I know that I need to be very careful about trusting my own heart to remain true to Christ’s calling and to always follow the righteous path that God has set out for me.

 

This world surrounds us with a very active campaign of deception and lies that Satan is fully committed to waging. I might say that I am clear about who I am and regarding the way that I will choose to travel through life. Of course, I wouldn’t deviate from the direction that is spelled out in God’s Word. After all, I am a new being, a redeemed soul, and Christ is lord of my life! All true statements, but also, they can be dangerous if they are claimed with the sort of arrogance and pride that convinces me that I have it all together. There is enough of the old, sin-influenced self left in me to provide evil with a place to start turning my mind a little left or a little right of God’s singular way. Unfortunately, small deviations from the righteous path can have disastrous consequences.

 

That is why Moses warned his people with such stern language. That is why God’s Word continues to warn us today in the same manner. The gods that I can turn to may not be stone carvings, but they demand my loyalty and my worship in ways that are just as compelling as those ancient false deities with their promises of health, power, contentment, and success. Anything that turns me away from humble dependence on God and submission to His will can become my personal idol. Thoughts and actions that seem to meet my needs and desires at the expense of trust and commitment are dangerous deviations from God’s direction for living. God demands and requires that I turn over all of my life to Him in sacrifice and worship. When I hold any of it back, I am dedicating that part of me to idolatry, and God is a jealous god who desires all of me. He is also a loving God who has given all of Himself to me.