God sent a Hero

Saturday 6 August

Ben Stuart is an author, speaker and pastor of Passion City Church, Washington D.C. Ben served for eleven years as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries, a weekly Bible study attended by thousands of college students on the campus of Texas A&M. Here NH Media team bring you a summary of his message on the opening night of New Horizon 2022.

1 John 3: 1- 10 (ESV) 

I’m excited about what the Lord has for us in His word this week.  The God who illuminated the heavens, illuminates hearts. We need to know the king. We need to know the Saviour.  Open our hearts to be receptive. Change us as we see the Lord Jesus.

Through a unique set of circumstances, I have spent time with quite a few Navy seals. When they are training they do incredible things.  I spoke with one when I was in training (learning theology and New Testament Greek).  He told me he was learning how to stalk a guy.  Another was learning to take a vehicle up to 90 mph and then do a 90 degree handbrake turn.  One of them had just got back from HALO school – high altitude low opening -when special forces jump out of a plane at a high altitude and freefall much lower than usual before deploying their parachute in order to avoid detection by the enemy.

They showed this video. At first it look odd.  Even if you have never jumped out of a plane, you kind of know that you need to go horizontal but they were doing this differently.  But with each jump they looked less and less funny, and more and more impressive. As we watched them prepare for their final jump, they changed their blue suits for dark green. They did not look nervous anymore. As they descended through the night’s sky, we were not laughing them any more. They were impressive. These were warriors preparing to insert behind enemy lines.  The high altitude was so the enemy could not hear the plane. The reason they were leaping was to rescue those who had been taken captive.  

As I watched the video, I thought, “That is Christmas”.  Next time someone asks what is the reason for the season, can I give you a one word answer? The reason for the season is destruction. We take that from the text we have just read. The son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.  God wanted something destroyed. To save us assumed that we were held captive. To heal us means that there is a sickness that had to be cut out.  We need to understand that our God wants something destroyed.

What does He want to destroy?

He came to destroy the works of the devil. The universe is at war. If you dismiss the idea of the devil, then how do you explain the evils of the world?  How do you explain war and famine and evil?  We look at our own lives and see the selfishness of our own story. We see the ugliness in our streets. Humans can create an internet to touch the world and fill it with violence, pornography and evil.  The person behind it is Satan. Jesus called him the ruler of this world.  Paul called him the god of this age.  

God has laws by which He allows creation to flourish. God laid the foundations of the earth by wisdom. It is shalom. He created the world to work in a certain way and when it does everyone wins.  There is a rhythm to it that makes sense.  There is a rhythm to natural laws. It spreads to relationships.  Men are supposed to love women. Husbands are supposed to love their wives.  Wives are supposed to respect and cherish their husbands.  Children are supposed to honour their parents. When we walk according to His ways, everyone flourishes.

We are going to be talking about renewing our minds. Adam and Eve believed a lie that to enjoy life, to be free, they had to sever ties with the author of life.  But when that happened things went wrong.  It all stems from breaking faith with our maker; everything broke.  Yet when Adam and Eve still had the stain of their sin on them, what did God say? He looked at the serpent and said, “the seed of a woman will crush your head.” God was sending a hero.  We need a rescuer and if someone does not come for us we will never be free.

We can talk about the techniques and tactics to solve the challenges we face but God’s solution is a hero. He did it by His appearing.  Jesus’ birth was a landed invasion.  Immediately He started His ministry, the devil tried to tempt Him.  Jesus response was to walk into the synagogue and read the prophet Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… to set the captives free.”

One of my favourite moments in Jesus’ ministry is when He describes a strong man who is overcome by a stronger man.  Read Luke 11.  

Why did the demons scream in Jesus’ presence?  Because a “stronger one” was here.  Some sang with joy tonight (it was great to be back together). Others of you barely sang a word because the songs of freedom sounded hollow.  If you feel like something in your life is too strong for you, the “stronger one” is here.  You need not be captive any more.  

Satan tried to keep Jesus from the cross but Jesus set His face like flint. On the night, He was betrayed, He said, the ruler of this world is cast out. When Jesus went to the cross, He destroyed the works of the devil not by perpetrating violence but by taking it on Himself.

He who knew no sin became sin for us.  He said, “Let me take it.” The stone was rolled away. His perfect love could not be overcome.  Death lost its sting. The cross was a place of triumph over the enemy.  He took all our sin, our shame, our failure. He took the thing that shames us in the dark and He buries it. The power the devil has over us is as an accuser.  He can torment us with guilt. But Jesus has taken the consequences of our failures.  He has taken it away. He triumphed over the enemy at the cross.   

In the old days, if your king rode out to battle, you were praying for your king because he was fighting the enemy. If he was victorious, you were excited.  On  the day of triumph, he would ride into the city and you would see the king. Behind him would be the enemy king, stripped naked and in chains. The idea was that you need not be afraid of the enemy anymore because your king was stronger. They would spread incense to remind everyone of the aroma of the king’s victory.

Jesus did this by His appearing. He did it on the cross. Sin no longer holds us. He rescues us. We participate in His victory over the devil. I’m going with the king. Colossians 1 says He delivered us and transferred us.

Before we shift our behaviour, we have to shift our belief.   Before we shift our activity, we need to shift our identity.

Does this teach sinless perfection? Do we have to be sinless to be saved?  No it is in the present tense.  It is saying we don’t march indulgently and persistently in sin. Do you revel in what Jesus came to destroy? If I go to rehab and I get clean then I don’t fill my body with drugs again.  

John 1 says if you say you are without sin, that is a lie. We don’t live a sinless life and yet when we follow the king; we move away from those ways of living and thinking that take us away from God. Our assurance is not in perfection but in progress. We need to look for progress.  Some of you love Him but you have wandered down empty roads. God sent you a hero.

In the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan – there are two types of soldiers. One type looks serene even peaceful. One type looks agitated. The calm one is dead. Dead people don’t jump when a bomb goes off. It is those who are alive who are most aware of the struggle. I meet so many people that struggle with their sin. The sad things you put into your body for comfort. The dark places you go online. As they struggle with their sin, they think maybe I am not really saved because I struggle so much. For some of you the struggle is real but the struggle is the sign that you are alive. The dead don’t struggle. Your dislike of the sin in you is the sign that you are alive in God.

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