When you think about July 4th, what comes to mind?
Perhaps you think about a day off from work with picnics, fireworks, and those red, white, and blue flags displayed in front yards along your neighborhood.
This is all good, but the one word that comes to my mind is freedom.
It is a fact that we live in the United States of America where we can voice our opinions freely and can vote for the people of our choice. These are very good reasons why we should never take our freedom for granted.
Each year, I notice that some people really go all out decorating for every holiday. For the 4th of July, I display my flag in the yard for the entire month. The flag means a lot to me because of those in my family who have been in wars. I have also had friends who served our country, and I have known some who did not come home in the past and present war.
My father served in World War II. My mother was a Red Cross volunteer during that war. My niece and her husband served in Desert Storm. I also have had loved ones in the Vietnam War and a friend recently in Afghanistan.
Because of their contributions in keeping us all free, I proudly display the flag.
Have you thought about the American flag and all that it stands for? This emblem of the greatest nation on earth is placed on graves of our honored dead who fought for us to remain a free nation, and it flies high during times of peace, as well as war. “Old Glory” is its name.
There is another real freedom we can have. We can display it every day of the year, and that is our freedom “In Christ” to live a life to glorify Him, so that His banner of love, truth, and peace can be seen by all.
It is a flag flown high in the castle of my heart (taken from a song). We can be free in our spirit to serve the Creator of the whole universe and that my friends, is True Freedom.
Romans 8:2 says,
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.” (ASV)
Just like the flag that represents freedom, Jesus is a banner over us, protecting and shielding us. He is the “Glory and the Lifter of our heads” at all times. Let freedom ring out in your heart today.
Overcoming the World
“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).
– 1 John 5:4–5
In our day, as in the past, the book of Revelation remains one of the most studied and controversial books in all of the Bible. Many people spend years looking at the details of this fascinating piece of inspired literature in order that they might understand what seems to be its perplexing message. In good faith, Christians of all kinds put forth all sorts of positions on things such as the dating of the book and the nature of Christ’s millennial reign.
Whatever position a person may take on these issues, it is clear that Revelation was written in order to encourage Christians to overcome the world. The letters to the seven churches in chapters 2–3 repeatedly promise rewards to “the one who conquers.” The majestic portrayal of the exalted Jesus throughout the book is clearly given to encourage continued faithfulness on the part of believers.
It is no surprise the theme of conquering, or overcoming, the world is also very important in John’s first epistle. We read in today’s passage that everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world and that the one who overcomes the world is the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God (5:4–5). John concludes his summary of the three tests of assurance by bringing us back to the essential confession of the identity of Jesus he gave us in verse 1.
This confession involves believing Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. In other words, it is believing the divine Son of God became incarnate. This is the only confession that can enable us to have victory over the forces of darkness, for only the God-man Jesus Christ is worthy of our ultimate allegiance, and His intercession alone can guarantee His victory over sin will become real in our own lives (Heb. 9:13–14).
First John 5:1–5 reminds us primarily that the three tests of assurance are inseparable. True confession of the God-man Christ Jesus reveals us as born of God and leads to true love of God. This love leads us to obey commandments we do not consider burdensome because we overcome the world by our faith in God incarnate whose work makes us children of the Father (John 1:12–13).
Overcome by Love
“I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” 2 Samuel 6:21b-22a (NIV)
Joyful voices filled the church that Easter Sunday morning as we sang, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,”*
Although I tried to focus on the words of the song, my thoughts were distracted by the runner. I looked inquisitively at the woman next to me, hoping for an explanation.
She whispered an answer to my unspoken question: “He was a drug addict. A couple of months ago he surrendered his life to Christ and is now free from his addiction. He’s overcome by love for Jesus!”
About that time an elderly woman and man started to dance with him. They were his grandparents. For years, this couple had steadfastly prayed for their grandson.
Watching this freed man and his joyful grandparents worshipping reminded me of King David returning to Jerusalem. David explodes with love for his Lord. He couldn’t contain his awe and gratitude for all God had done for him: winning a huge battle, restoring the ark of the Lord and appointing him king. Coming down the road, everyone could see “King David leaping and dancing before the LORD” (2 Samuel 6:16 NIV).
Stories of people being overcome by love for God are awesome. But there is one example of love that tops them all: the gift of the cross. I know John 3:16 is a familiar verse to most of us and can be easy to skim. But let’s read it again with the view of God’s love for us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
The young man and his grandparents probably gave up some self-consciousness to display their love for the Lord through dance. In our key verse, we learn that King David admitted he let go of pride to show his love through worship: “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:21b-22a). He sacrificed his dignity for the Lord.
And God the Father sacrificed a most precious gift, His Son, Jesus. And Jesus surrendered His very life for us!
Why? They were overcome by love.
As a mama of five daughters, I’m hit hard by the depth of God’s love to offer His Son in our place. It seems impossible for me to even think about giving up my children for the sake of someone else. Let alone sacrificing my own life!
Yet out of unfathomable love, God sent Jesus to death on a cross to pay our debt of sin. By this sacrifice, Jesus secured eternal life for those who surrender their lives to Him. That truth makes my heart overcome by love!
When we’re overcome by love for God, the way we show that will look different for everyone. For some, it’s quietly praising the Lord in their hearts. For others, it is worshipping at the top of their lungs or dancing in the aisles.
However you express your praise to God, take a moment to reflect on all the Lord has done in your life and give thanks for His overcoming love. You may just find your toes tapping and your feet moving!
How We Overcome
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NIV)
I’d been in a spiritual wilderness season for quite some time. Having resigned from my job, I walked by faith, but as the days, weeks and months went on, God felt more and more distant.
I wasn’t hearing His voice clearly, and I wondered if I’d misstepped or made a mistake. After year three of unanswered prayers with hope deferred and no job in sight, I asked myself, Would this heart-sick feeling stick with me the rest of my days? Would “Defeated” be my new name?
We will not feel like conquerors every day.
In the seasons and years we feel weary, unseen and tired, it’s important to not rename ourselves in the middle of a storm. We’re meant to be more than conquerors, and “Overcomers” will be a part of our new name — if we don’t give up.
I never felt like the phrase “more than conquerors” applied to me. After being abandoned by my biological parents, losing extended family members, facing financial independence as a teenager and being unsure where I would lay my head at night, I certainly didn’t feel like “more than a conqueror.”
And I know I am not alone.
To the woman facing an unwanted break-up, a betrayal or the death of a loved one — I’m sure you don’t feel like you’re overcoming, either.
But let’s not miss the questions that precede calling us conquerors. The Apostle Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35, NKJV) We’re told we can be more than conquerors in the midst of these hardships and evils — right smack-dab in the middle of a trial.
Being more than a conqueror means whatever the enemy intended to use to take you out — whatever was meant to destroy you — did not in fact destroy you, and it’s now being used for God’s glory.
It means we don’t rename ourselves in the seasons we feel forgotten and forsaken. It means we persevere to the other side of the trial and wait, expectantly, for our new name.
Our stories are important. They’re part of our testimony about what God has done for us. But there’s a second part to our stories. How are we overcoming? How are we being made new? What’s God doing inside of us, not just yesterday or last week or 10 years ago, but today? Do our stories show God’s ongoing faithfulness?
I used to see myself as an orphan, but now I know I am an adopted daughter.
I am more than a conqueror.
I used to label myself forgotten, but now I know I am chosen by God and included.
I am more than a conqueror.
I used to feel unwanted, but now I know God went to great lengths to save me.
By His power, I am more than a conqueror.
When we stay in our old names, identifying with our old stories, we make the name-changing process about us. Yet this overcoming process is not about us; it’s about God revealing His name to the world. God will reveal Himself through our stories and the people we become. But the trial is not supposed to be the end. The persecution, famine and distress are not our destiny, nor are they our final destination.
In Romans 8, Paul says our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (v.18). He explains that even creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed (v.19). If creation is excited to see God revealed through you, imagine God’s delight in bringing about this overcoming process in you!
Romans 8:37 declares that one of your new names is “more than a conqueror” — the victory God has for you will be overwhelming! Don’t give up or rename yourself too soon. Your new name and His name will be on display as we overcome.