Based On: Luke 10:17-20
Do you remember the great victory Elijah had over the prophets of Baal? The false god, Baal, couldn’t even produce a spark to ignite the offering that was set up in his name, but when Elijah called on the Lord, fire rained down on the offering Elijah had prepared – even the stones were consumed. It was a tremendous victory, but soon after this Elijah was running to hide – afraid and depressed. Did he see the real victory? The victory God had won in the hearts of 7000 people in Israel who did not worship Baal? What about the disciples? They saw Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. They saw the power Jesus had, and yet when Jesus was crucified, they hid behind locked doors. Did they see the victory Jesus had won for them? What about you? Do you see the victory Christ won for you? He destroyed Satan’s power over you and even gives you authority over Satan. This victory is yours both now and forever.
If this victory is so incredible, why don’t we always see the victory? We must admit that when we look around, sometimes it doesn’t look like Christ won anything and, as for us, we certainly don’t always feel victorious. This world is full of people who only want to serve themselves. There is the guy who speeds past you on the road, only concerned about how soon he can get to his destination. And what about the coworker who advances his career in a way that you might call “unethical” but even that term isn’t strong enough. If Christian virtues and a general keeping of the Ten Commandments were signs of victory, then a quick look at television programming would make it clear we were moving away from victory. Many churches have left the truth of God’s Word and follow the example found on television. They show little regard for God’s institution of marriage and condone couples living together outside of marriage, whether that couple is two men, two women, or a man and a woman. At a personal level, where is the victory in our own life? You mention church to a friend and she gives you that look – the look that says, “Why do you waste your Sunday morning?” You struggle with a particular sin and you fight against it, but it keeps coming back. You don’t feel victorious. You feel defeated. Even the simple monotony of daily life could bring you down. You might think as you wash the dishes or cut the grass, “I have done this so many times. Will it ever end?” It is difficult sometimes to see that we have won any kind of victory.
We want to be successful. We want to feel victorious. But we hurt ourselves by looking in the wrong place for victory. We think, “If we only had more people come to church, then we would be successful. Then we could celebrate our victory.” Or “You know, I could really see this victory if our church had more money.” We look at the big churches and think wow that church is truly successful. Perhaps we think that success would mean we are always happy or we are blessed with material blessings or even that we are able to get rid of the sin in our lives.
The problem is complicated even further because Satan, a fallen angel, and his followers are here on this earth. The victory Christ won for us was also his defeat. He will do everything he can to make us doubt that victory. He does not want us to believe it exists. He will cause you as much pain as he can or give you as much earthly success as he needs to so that your view of Christ’s victory is clouded. The unbeliever is already clouded in darkness and Satan needs to do very little to maintain their condition. Instead, Satan is using most of his time and resources to shroud the believer in darkness. That means most of his energy is directed toward you!
In spite of all we see in the world around us and in spite of the places we look for success and in spite of the deceit of Satan, Christ’s victory is certain. On the cross of Calvary Christ crushed the serpent’s head just as God had promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The relationship between God and man broken apart by the first sin was made whole again. God punished Christ for every offense we commit against God, whether we say it or do it or it just remains a thought in our head. This victory was as good as done even when the 72 returned to Jesus. Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." The fall of Satan was made complete and final on the cross. Satan was thrown out of heaven, no longer before the judgment seat of God able to accuse you and me before the almighty judge. Instead, Jesus gives us authority over Satan. We didn’t fight in the battle. We didn’t have to pick up a weapon of any kind, but we enjoy the spoils of the victory won for us.
Jesus says, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” As you rely on Christ, it is not possible for Satan to hurt you. It doesn’t matter what crafty trick or venomous traps Satan has in mind for you. Christ’s victory is complete and his power absolute. Every angel, even the fallen angels, must submit to him. Satan will try to use temptation, suffering, and even earthly success to try to harm us, but God will use it to bless us. What is more, that gives us the authority to act in his name to call on his victory and on those unconditional terms of surrender that Satan had no choice but to agree to.
But where is that victory? How do we see that victory? When you hear the words, "your sins are forgiven" then Christ’s victory shines through all of the clouds Satan puts in the way. Satan, after all, does not want you to hear those words. His goal here on earth is to get you to live with your guilt and keep you away from God’s promise of forgiveness. So any time we proclaim the victory Christ has won for us, we hurl Satan to the ground and throw his defeat back in his face. Every time a baby is baptized, a soul is snatched out of Satan’s claws and placed into the arms of the Good Shepherd. When we celebrate Holy Communion, we celebrate the victory that Christ has won for us and we receive forgiveness for all our sins. As we taste the bread and the wine and we receive the body and blood that secured Satan’s defeat, we are enjoying the sweet taste of victory. When we hear God’s Word and take it to heart, we push a defeated Satan away from us. We celebrate our victory by simply living our Christian lives. Now, when Satan comes around to tempt us, we can say, "get away from me Satan" and that demon, Satan, must submit to you. If Satan tries to overwhelm you with the guilt of your sin – “do you really think God will forgive you for that horrible sin?” – tell him, “God has forgiven me! Jesus Christ defeated you on the cross and you have no power to accuse me."
This is the victory we have now. This is how we can see it, taste it, grab hold of it right now. But this victory is not like any other victory that we might have here on earth. This victory will not end. The victory we have in Christ now is only the beginning. This victory is yours forever.
Jesus tells you and me to "rejoice that your names are written in heaven." This is something God did before time was created – he wrote your name in heaven. It is your reservation – your name on the door to your room in the mansions of heaven. God has prepared a place for you there and it can not be given to someone else. It is already done – it can not be erased or blotted out. The one who would try to change this fact – Satan – has been thrown out of heaven and can do nothing about it. All his powers and tricks and schemes to cloud our ability to see the victory will be gone. We will see clearly the victory Christ has won for us.
This is truly the part of the victory worth rejoicing over. The victory we have over Satan and his demons here on earth is certainly wonderful and necessary, but that victory exists to give us the victory celebration in heaven. In heaven it will be a true victory celebration, lasting forever instead of the glimpses of victory we see here on earth clouded by the sin of this world and the tricks of Satan. This victory is not about me and what I can do here on earth, whether or not I can drive out demons, it is about what God has done for me without my help. He has written my name in heaven.
You have Christ’s victory and Christ gives you authority over the defeated enemy. This is true even at times when, to your own eyes, you don’t seem to be victorious. This victory is yours now, but more importantly it is yours forever.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.