The victory of Jesus is real. he has, as Martin Luther said, “overcome sin, death, and the devil.” Furthermore, through baptism you are invited into His victory. In a real sense, His victory is our victory. This is most certainly true. But it begs the questions (or questions):
- Why is life so hard?
- Why does God linger in bringing to completion all that He has promised?
- If sin, death, and the devil are defeated, why does it seem like they are winning?
- Why does so much bad exist still?
These are great questions. Wrestling with them is a faithful exercise of our faith. Short and quick answers are hardly sufficient or satisfactory. And this quick post will barely scratch the surface of getting to the core. But, hopefully, this post will offer some things for you to consider as you wrestle with these and similar questions.
To begin to respond to these questions, we must first assess our posture as we ask them. Where one sits in asking these types of questions matters. A faithful position of approaching these types of topics is laid out in Isaiah 55:8-9.
Coming to Jesus with these questions begins with humility. Just as a parent does not explain the full rationale or thinking behind every decision to a child, so too we must realize that we are not entitled to answers to every one of our questions. As we don’t understand things it is helpful to remember that we do not have a grasp of the entire picture. It is in times like these that, instead of the circumstances, it is helpful to look at the character of our God. What are the virtues that the Lord exudes in scripture? In the stories of the faithful from the past? We may be confused by circumstance or the situation. Faith calls us to trust the character of our God. He is good, even when things are bad. He is faithful even when silent. He casts light even when all we see is darkness.
why does sin linger?
Even though sin has been cast into the deepest parts of the ocean, it persists. In my life. In your life. And in the world around us too. Why does it seem as though the evil one has so much power on this side of the cross and the empty tomb? If those three days changed everything–why does it seem like nothing has changed. Lately, in fact, it seems like things have gotten worse!
Here are two insufficient responses that begin to paint the picture. Like an unfocused photograph, these answers help to see the shapes and colors, but the details are fuzzy. The first answer is this. On the cross, the Son of God delivered the death blow to the evil one. The victory has been won, but it is yet to be realized totally. As a child of the 80’s it gets no better than Rocky IV. Rocky fights Ivan Drago, the Russian super fighter. The last fight scene is cinematic mastery. (Watch It Here) Okay, maybe not… but it helps tell the story. In the final moments, our hero knocks the enemy to the canvas. It is clear that the match is over. It is clear who won and who lost. Yet, the match is not officially over. The referee still needs to count to 10. Nobody watching the movie has any doubt who won. This bout is over. And yet, it isn’t. Victory has been won–but it has not fully been declared yet. And so it is at the cross. The death of our savior is the deathblow to sin, death, and the devil. Victory has been procured through the blood of the Lamb. Sin has been put in its place. The devil is defeated. Death has died a painful death. But it still lingers because the referee hasn’t finished counting.
Why the Slow Count?
If this is true, it begs the question–why is this the longest count to 10 ever? God’s grace is the best answer here. When the ref gets to 10, the match is over. In God’s infinite grace and mercy, His patience is providing time for more and more people to come over to the winning team. Put another way, there is one element of our Christian life that will become obsolete when the ref gets to 10: our ability to witness and evangelize those who are on the other team. Christ hasn’t returned yet (the ref getting to 10) because there is still work for us to do in proclaiming Jesus and partnering with the Holy Spirit to set the captives free. Sin lingers because God’s grace patiently delays the final pronouncement so that more and more may come under the banner of His love.
Now and Not Yet
Throughout His ministry, Jesus painted a picture of the Kingdom of God. That it was here now, but it was not yet fully here. The Now/Not Yet nature of the Kingdom is experienced daily in our lives. It is those moments when you are drenched in the goodness of God. Its those times your smile starts deep within your soul. It’s that all consuming joy that wells up within your gut. The Now nature of the kingdom is your eyes seeing God working, finding peace in His presence, even as your world is crashing down and leaving you in a heap of rubble. The Now nature of the Kingdom is sin fleeing, the devil running, and death–sometimes even as it takes your loved ones last breath–consumed by the promise of life. The Not Yet nature? That’s all around us. It is that nagging sense we have that “there must be more.” It is when we sense things are not as they ought to be.
I’ve learned over the years of trying to fix stuff at home that having the right tool is at least half the equation of a successful fix. I have not learned that trying to get by with the wrong tool is a fools errand. I still try to fix the part with the wrong tool. This is the Not Yet nature of the kingdom. Everything is harder. The right tool is always out of reach. The Not Yet nature of the Kingdom is the living out of the curse God declared in Genesis 3. Every time we encounter something that is harder than it ought to be; every time it feels like we are hamsters running on a wheel; every time we encounter resistance to the good things of God–this reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully here. Sin, death, and the devil are the sludge that still clings to us. The Good News of Jesus is two fold. He has already defeated them. And, the promise is that there will be a day when all of this gunk fades away. Come, Lord Jesus.
So What Do We Do While We Wait?
First, we live with confidence. We live with our eyes on Jesus. We live with the great anticipation that the victory has been won. We live with hope, longing for the day when we raise our hands with the King of kings in exuberant celebration. But, we also live knowing that the totality of the victory is not yet ours. We live aware that the evil one still lurks and he is trying to pull us down with him. We push back against sin. We trust Jesus. We look to the character of our God when we are going through the valley. And we hold tight to those times when the Kingdom of God is revealed to us now.