Unstoppable Love

Good Morning my name is Phil Human and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Journey. It’s a pleasure to worship with you all this wonderful Easter Morning.

In the 1973 Belmont Stakes the great racehorse Secretariat was racing in the third of three races that together constituted the Triple Crown of races. Secretariat had won the Kentucky Derby a month earlier and then won the Preakness.

Winning this race would give Secretariat the vaunted triple Crown, but everyone knew it would not be easy. Because Secretariat was racing against another great racehorse named Sham.

How good was Sham? Although Sham had finished second in the Kentucky Derby, the time he had recorded would have won him that race any of the previous 98 years it was run, and in fact would have won him the Kentucky Derby any of the next 30 years after it was run.

Everyone anticipated a close race. Sham’s jockey was given strict orders to run with Secretariat. Don’t get behind him. Race him neck to neck all the way. Let’s put the pressure on Secretariat and see how he responds. People expected a close race. No one expected this…

Today is Easter. It is the day we celebrate Jesus’ Overwhelming Victory over sin and Satan and the grave. We celebrate today Jesus’ overwhelming victory over death. And in the end, it wasn’t even close.

The Bid Idea for the day today comes from the book of Romans 8 and it declares, Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Jesus rose from the grave the overwhelming victor over sin and death. And because Jesus loves us so much, he invites us to share in this overwhelming victory.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. writes Paul to the early church…
55 O death, where is your victory? You got nothing death! No more need to fear you!
    O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death…. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Easter is the celebration of Jesus winning an overwhelming victory over death, a victory he shares with us because of his unconquerable love for us.

Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? Because it is the proof of purchase. It’s the receipt that proves that what Jesus promised was paid for on the cross.

Our family recently joined Sam’s Club. Because we decided why buy 12 rolls of toilet paper when you can buy 1000. Why spend $5 on shampoo when you can buy a $100 tub?

But when we try to walk out the door with our purchase – there’s a person there stopping us from leaving until? Until we show them the receipt. It’s the proof that we paid for all that unnecessary stuff!

The resurrection is the proof that Jesus had the authority to issue all of his promises. It’s the proof of purchase.

Think for a moment about all the promises that Jesus made to those who would follow him. For instance – in Matthew 11 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Okay Jesus – you got a receipt for that promise? Oh – the resurrection – okay – come on through.

John 10 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. 10 …. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Yes Jesus – I see you want to give rest to the weary. I see that you promise to deliver a joyful and abundant life… you got a receipt? Oh, the resurrection. Thank you sir. These promises were Paid in full!

The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that Jesus is able to deliver on all of these promises. God raised him up from the dead to show the world that he stood by his son’s words.

For the past three weeks we have been studying love – God’s kind of love. And we have been asking, what manner of love is this, that Jesus would willingly lay down his life for his friends?

And I want us to look at one of the most beautiful and encouraging portions of scripture ever written. It is one of the most assuring, and inspirational passages in the Bible. And we find it in the letter that Paul wrote to his fellow believers who lived in Rome.

Romans 8 – and I’m going to read it. 31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Here we see Paul asking a series of questions whose answers are patently obvious.

1. If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
2. Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? This, by the way is law language in Paul’s day. And he is letting us know that Satan – whose very name means accuser, has no legal recourse to accuse us of wrongdoing. No charges will stick against us. Jesus himself is pleading our case. Nothing is going to stick because the penalty has been paid.

3. Who then will condemn us? – And so – here the focus moves from the one hoping to prosecute us – to the judge. Ultimately it is the judge who condemns the guilty. And so here the focus is on God himself – and Paul is telling us that God himself will not condemn us. (Which, by the way, is another promise of Jesus – he is the one who told us that God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.)

The answers to all of these questions are meant to be obvious, of course. No one can stand against us, no one can accuse us before God – even God himself will not condemn anyone who places faith in Jesus.

And I want us to note the only theological justification for all of these promises. How did it come to be that these answers became obvious?

We find it in verse 34: Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

The answers to these questions are obvious BECAUSE Jesus died, rose again, reigns with God and is always on our side. And notice who he did this for? For us! For US! FOR US!

He died, was resurrected, and now reigns over everyone who places faith in Him. FOR US.

Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ’s unconquerable love!

This knowledge leads Paul to ask one final question. 4. Can anything separate us from the love of God? And the answer – in light of the death, and resurrection and reign of Jesus? Is a gloriously obvious one. No. Nothing. Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Overwhelming victory is ours through Jesus, who loved us with a love that will last forever. No greater love is there than the love shown to us by Jesus who died, was resurrected and now reigns forever.

Of course, the real power of this overwhelming love is found NOT on the pages of a theology paper. The power of this overwhelming love is apparent in the lives of the people it collides with.

And what I want to do is to show you three different people that were directly affected by the love of Christ through the resurrection. Three groups of people whose lives were forever changed for good.

And perhaps even you might find yourself in one of the people we read about this morning.

First, we are going to read about Peter. Peter! Peter was one of the three closest friends to Jesus. Jesus had twelve disciples, but of the twelve he had Peter, James and John who were his closest friends. Perhaps none were closer to Jesus than Peter.

Which is why it’s so difficult to read about Peter on the night when Jesus was betrayed. See, just before he was arrested, Jesus pulled Peter aside to tell him that before the morning would come, Peter was going to disown Jesus three different times.

See, Jesus could see that there was something inside of Peter that would crack under pressure. Peter didn’t know it, but his character was not fully formed. And sure enough, before the morning had come Peter, in a self-preserving effort to keep himself out of trouble – indeed denied Jesus three different times.

The last time, within earshot of Jesus, Mark 14 tells us that Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And. according to Luke 22:61, at that moment Jesus turned and looked at Peter. He was within earshot of Jesus. Jesus heard him the whole time. And it was then that Peter realized what he had done. And he ran off bitterly.

How would you feel if you were Peter? What thoughts were racing through Peter’s mind? The last time he made eye contact with his closest friend, was in a moment of betrayal. Do you think he felt ashamed? I’d suggest that Peter felt defeated. He felt like a failure.

Maybe you are feeling that way too. I’m just going to throw that out there. Maybe you are here today on the heels of your worst moral failure of your life.

You know there was a time in your life, like Peter, when you thought, I could never do such a thing. I would never betray Jesus like that. Maybe there was a time in your life when you thought you could never be the kind of person who is doing what you’ve been doing.

Can I just tell you this? Peter is your person today. I want you to notice how the overwhelming love of Jesus washes over Peter.

There are only four books in the Bible that describe the life and times of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We call them the Gospels. Mark is the shortest book. And his description of the resurrection is the shortest. But note carefully what the angel at the tomb tells the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus.

Mark 16:6 The angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. 7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

Why did the angel specifically mention Peter? Peter, it’s not over between you and Jesus. Tell Peter – his failure has not disqualified him from the love of God. Overwhelming victory is HIS through Jesus who loves him.

Jesus never stopped loving Peter. And He never stops loving you. See – this angel – he was delivering a powerful message – one that we are very fond of here at our church. And the message to Peter was this – Peter – faith is journey. Not a guilt trip. Jesus is not here to condemn you Peter! He is risen because of his great love for you.

Do you feel defeated in your faith? The resurrection of Jesus provides hope and healing and wholeness to you. Overwhelming victory belongs to those who feel defeated. Jesus loves you with an overwhelming, unstoppable, never ending love. And he welcomes you back – even now.

Let’s look at the second group of people impacted by the overwhelming love of Jesus in the resurrection. And they are the rest of the disciples. Overwhelming victory belongs to the doubters, through the love of Jesus.

Check out these verses – almost hard to read. In the book of Luke we read that the women of the group gathered together spices and oils and they went to the tomb of Jesus to prepare his body for the burial. When they arrive they are met by angels who tell them that Jesus was alive – risen from the dead. Good news, right?

So the women sprint back to the room where the rest of the disciples were hunkered down – hiding as it were from the people who killed Jesus. Luke says that the women rushed into the room to tell the disciples what had happened, 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.

Here are Jesus’ closest friends. They hear from their friends that Jesus had risen from the tomb. And except for Peter and John – who we read later got up and raced to the tomb, the other disciples shrugged the report off.

Thomas became the most famous of the doubters. But he wasn’t alone. No one believed it could be. They dismiss it as hard – hard to buy.

You know you might be here today and you are a Thomas – you are a doubter. You have serious reservations about believing this could be true. You would describe yourself as a serious skeptic.

And I will tell you something here this morning. We respect that about you. We know you have reasons for believing what you believe, and reasons for not believing what we believe.

I’ve asked my friend Steve Elgan to come up this morning and share his story with you this morning….

Please listen to sermon audio for Steve’s testimony.

Steve was a skeptic – but you know why I love the guy? He allowed himself room to grow and change. He allowed himself to be open to the idea to the idea that Jesus is who the bible says he is.

And the result was that Steve came face to face with the unconquerable love of Jesus. Overwhelming victory is now His through that unconquerable love of Jesus.

Overwhelming victory belongs to the defeated, through the love of Jesus.

Overwhelming victory belongs to the doubters, through the love of Jesus.

And lastly… Overwhelming victory belongs to the devoted, through the love of Jesus.

Lastly – there are the devoted women. You know, it’s interesting to read about the faithfulness of the women in the resurrection story. These devoted women are rewarded by being the first to hear of the resurrection. Which in and of itself is really wonderful.

And the result? Joy! Matthew 28 tells us they were frightened but filled with great joy!

And that pretty much describes those of us who have crossed the line. We are joyful today as we celebrate the overwhelming victory of Jesus over sin and death. And sometimes life still gets scary, but we run our race with joy and confidence, Jesus is our good shepherd. And he is our overwhelming victor.

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