More Than Conquerors
Romans 8:31-37If you’ve ever done any mountain climbing, you know that as you near the summit, you will often reach a peak that is not the ultimate peak. It’s a lower peak that you have to traverse to get up to the very top of the mountain. We’ve been climbing the mountain of God’s grace that is found in Romans Chapter 8. We’re at the peak just below the summit.
We started out by saying that of all the books in the Bible, Romans is the greatest. Of all the chapters in Romans, certainly Romans 8 is the greatest. An excellent case can be made that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in all of God’s Word. We started out in the lowlands and moved up through the forest, eventually climbing past the tree line, to the rocky barrens, in the snow fields, and up through the valleys and crevasses we climbed, and finally, we have come to the lower peak. Above that is only one more peak to ascend.
In writing about our text Matthew Henry said that it seems as if Paul has been riding a holy chariot on his way up to heaven. There’s another way to understand our passage. Besides being a teacher, Paul was also a preacher. Romans 8 actually reads like a sermon. Verses 1-4 are the introduction, verses 5-17 form the first point, verses 18-27 the second point, and verses 29-31 the conclusion. Verses 31-39 serve as the application of the message.
Like any good preacher, Paul closes his sermon with a personal application, and a bit of soaring oratory. In verse 31, you have the preacher saying “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” Verses 31-37 gather together the major truths of Romans 8 in the form of five unanswerable questions. The questions pile up one after another—bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, like shots out of a machine gun. These five questions summarize the love of God and the grace of God and all that God has done for us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Question # 1: If God be for us, who can be against us? 31
This is the question that the people of the world want answered. Is there a God, and if there is a God, is he for us or against us? When Paul says if God be for us, he’s not saying maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. It can be translated “Since God is for us” or “Because God is for us.” There is no truth more fundamental in all of God’s Word than this truth. God is for us. God is not against us. God is not neutral towards us. Because of Jesus Christ, once and for all the question is settled. God is for us. All that God is, all that God has and all that God does, he does on behalf of his people. Even those times when God seems to be acting against us, if we could only look behind the veil, even in those times, we would understand that God is for us.
Name the enemies of the people of God. Can the devil stand against us? No, because he has been defeated. Can the world stand against us? No, because Jesus has overcome the world. Can the flesh destroy us? No, because in Jesus Christ we overcome the pull of the flesh. Therefore, let the people of God be bold. Who dares to stand against us if God be for us?
Question # 2: Will God hold back on us? 32
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” This is the question of provision. Will God hold back anything that his people need? Paul answers this by giving us an argument from the greater to the lesser. Paul is saying if God has already given us his son, if he’s done that for us, will he hold back anything else that we truly need? The answer is no. If he’s given us his son, he’s given us the best that he has. He’ll hold nothing back that his people need.
It’s like going into a jewelry store and deciding to buy a beautiful and expensive diamond ring. You put down your money and you’re about to take your diamond ring. You say to the jeweler, “Oh, by the way, do you mind if I take the box, too?” What would you think if the jeweler said, “Oh, no, you can’t have the box.” If you buy the diamond, the box comes with it.
Or suppose you enter a contest and win a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud—a car that would cost you well over one hundred thousand dollars. You go into the dealership and say, “I want my car,” and they say “Here it is!” You get in the car and find there are no keys. You say, “I’d like the keys to my car.” They say, “Oh, no, you just won the car, you didn’t win the keys.” No, if you win the car, you win everything that’s necessary to drive it off the lot.
In the very same way, God has given us his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has not held back the best that heaven has. Will he hold back from us food? No, he won’t. Will he hold back from us water? No, he won’t. Will he hold back a job? No, he won’t. Will he hold back from us answers to our prayers? No, he won’t. Since he has given us the greatest, won’t he also give us the least? He will. If he’s given us his best, will he hold back the rest? No, he won’t. If God has done this much we may be sure that if we need anything else, he will supply it for us. Why? Because God is for us.
Question # 3: Who can successfully accuse us before God? 33
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” This is the question of protection. What if someone wants to accuse us before God? Can anyone bring a charge against us and make it stick? Satan comes and testifies against us in the court of heaven, “Get rid of him! He’s a bum! He’s a sinner! Did you see what he did? Did you hear what he said? Do you know where she went last night?” Who is there who can bring a charge that can stick in the ears of Almighty God? The answer is no one! Not even Satan! Why? Because it is God who justifies.
Who can bring a charge against the people of God? Shall the law bring a charge against us? No, because the law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Shall the devil bring any charge against us? He can try but it won’t work because he was defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ. What about our own consciences which often rises up against us? Our consciences have been cleansed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Not anyone, not any angel, nor any demon, nor anyone in heaven or on earth or under the earth, or anybody we know could bring a charge against us in the ears of God. No one can say, “Oh God, you have chosen this person but they have disgraced you, you ought to get rid of them.”
It is God who justifies. That means the judge of the universe is on our side. There is no one who can bring a charge against you which will ever cause your salvation to be in jeopardy. God will not listen to that charge. For the sake of his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, he has justified you. When God justifies you, you stay justified. When God says not guilty, nobody can ever condemn you nor can you be guilty again.
Question # 4: Who can condemn us? 34
“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us.” In this world there are many people who condemn us. Our friends and even our loved ones sometimes whisper and pass rumors about us. When we fail, others rise to condemn us. Sometimes the condemnation comes from people at work, people at school, or people down the street. We live in a world where we are condemned for our failings.
The devil rises up to condemn the people of God and our consciences rise up to condemn us because we don’t even live up to our own standards. Well, who is it that can condemn us and make it stick? The answer is no one.
Paul gives us a short course in Christology in just one verse:
Jesus rose again
Jesus intercedes for us in heaven
When he died he paid the price for your sin completely and forever. When he rose from the dead, he defeated Satan once and for all. When he ascended into heaven, he was seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Now that Jesus is in heaven, he intercedes for us. When we sin, and when we are condemned and when our friends turn against us, and when we fail to meet up to our own standards, Jesus says, “Father, I plead my blood!” The blood of Jesus is more than enough. Who can condemn you before the throne of God? Nobody can. Jesus who lives in heaven makes intercession for us.
Not only is the judge of the universe on your side, you also have an advocate. You have a man in heaven, Jesus Christ, who is pleading your case right now. All our hopes are pinned on Jesus. This week one of our ladies told me a story that happened in the office where she worked. One day she was chatting with a friend when the conversation turned to spiritual things. “I just blurted out to my friend, ’I know that I’m going to heaven when I die.’ My friend said, ’Well, what makes you think you’re so good that you know you’re going to go to heaven when you die?’” To which she replied, “Oh, it’s not that I’m so good. I’m not really good at all. But I know Jesus and Jesus was good on my behalf and he died on the cross and I’m trusting Him to forgive all my sins and if I go to heaven, and I am, I’m going because of Jesus Christ.” What a fantastic answer!
Who is it that condemns us? No one on earth can condemn us because Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, now making intercession for his people.
Question # 5: Who can ever separate us from the love of God? 35-37
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, ’For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Who can separate us from the love of God? The answer is no one. That teaches us that Christ is not fickle! Those he loves, he loves forever. Those he saves, he saves forever. Sometimes Christians worry about whether their faith is strong enough to take them to heaven. They get scared and say, “I’m hanging on to Jesus. But what if I lose my grip?” That can happen. If your salvation depends upon your hanging onto Jesus, you could be in trouble. It’s like a little child who is hanging onto his father’s finger. The child is doing well until he begins to slip. As he falls, the child accidentally lets go of the father’s finger. But when daddy reaches down, he doesn’t grab a finger. He grabs a hand. When the father grabs hold of the child’s hand, it’s not the child hanging onto the father. It’s the father hanging onto the child. Let us all learn this lesson. You are not going to heaven because you are hanging onto Jesus. You’re going to go to heaven because Jesus is holding onto you.
Our text gives us seven things that somebody might think can separate us from the love of God. He says what about trouble? No. Hardship? No. Persecution? No. What about famine? No. Nakedness? No. Danger? No. Sword? No. All these things could happen to the people of God. You could have persecution. You could have trouble. You could someday face the sword. You could someday be naked. You could someday be living in famine. You could someday be persecuted for your faith. Someday, all these things could happen. Verse 36 is even stronger. This is a quote from Psalm 44, “For your sake we face death all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” That, too, may happen. Martyrdom is a terrible reality for some of God’s people scattered around the world. Not everyone today has it cushy like we have it here in Oak Park. Not everybody around the world has a lot of money. Not everybody around the world has a good job. Not everybody around the world who loves the Lord, can get in a car and drive away.
A week and a half ago I was in Haiti—the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. They don’t have anything compared to what we have in America. The believers in Haiti know all about persecution, famine, hardship and the danger of the sword. Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter even if you are in a situation where you feel like a lamb going to the slaughter. Can that terrible situation separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Paul says no, it can’t.
Many of you know Ruth Hall. She has been part of this church for 54 years. On Friday Marlene and I visited with her in her home. She has an incurable disease that will eventually take her life—sooner rather than later, if the doctors are correct. When we talked on Friday, she was so spunky and cheerful. I hope I come to my end half as spunky as Ruth is. She said, “The doctors have said a month or two or three, and that’s it.” Then she said, “I’m praying that the Lord would heal me, but it really doesn’t matter. If I am healed, I’ll live longer, but if I die, I’m going to heaven. It’s going to be OK, either way.” That’s exactly what Paul is talking about. Though we face death, we are more than conquerors.
Let us learn the great lesson that Jesus still loves you even though you may be going through a hard time. Jesus still loves you though you may be out of money. Jesus still loves you though your body may be wasting away on the outside. Jesus still loves you though you may be persecuted for your faith. Jesus still loves you though your marriage may be falling apart. Jesus still loves you though the world may be against you. Jesus still loves you though you may feel like the lamb being led to the slaughter.
Here is a thought that may cheer you up. Trouble can take many things away from the people of God. It can take our happiness away, it can take our prosperity away, trouble can take our health away, it can take our friends away, but there’s one thing that trouble cannot take away from us. Trouble cannot take away the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. That is why we can overwhelmingly conquer even in the worst that life has to offer.
Verse 37 says we are more than conquerors. That’s five words in English. In Greek it’s only one word. But it means super-conquerors. We are super-conquerors through Jesus Christ who loved us.
What does that mean? Number one: We are conquerors. That means we can face anything the world has to throw at us. Had a bad week? You’re a conqueror. Facing a bad week? You’re a conqueror. Hard times ahead? You’re a conqueror through Jesus Christ. No matter what may be thrown at you, you are a conqueror if you are joined by faith to Jesus Christ.
Number two: We are more than conquerors. You say “How can that be?” Consider this. The only things that trouble can take away from you are the things that don’t ultimately matter. The things that really matter, trouble can’t touch. Your life with Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of your sins, your justification with God, the inner joy of the holy Spirit—the devil himself can’t steal that away. That makes you more than a conqueror.
Third, this is possible only through Christ who loves us. The cross is our only hope. That’s why we come back again and again to the table of the Lord because he is our only hope. Paul is saying that Jesus takes the sting out of suffering. He gives us the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to overcome. “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) As long as we are linked with Jesus Christ, we, too, will overcome. The most amazing thing about this is the phrase “like lambs to the slaughter.” We think of a lamb as a poor, weak animal. We think of the lion as the king of the beasts. And yet we are lambs who conquer. What a blessed image that is. We are lambs led to the slaughter, yet through Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors.
A Murphy’s Law Trip
We discovered this on our trip to Haiti. It was really a Murphy’s law kind of trip. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Nothing went the way we had planned. Two days before the trip, Bruce Smith, who was on our team and was going to be one of the basketball coaches, was playing basketball in our gymnasium, and he ripped out all the ligaments in his right ankle. He ended up going to Haiti in a cast and on crutches.
We flew to Miami, then changed planes for the flight to Haiti. Because the airline had overbooked the flight, they left most of our luggage in Miami—including most of our supplies in Miami and most of our money. So although the team made it to Haiti, all the things we were going to use for our ministry were left behind on the tarmac at Miami International Airport. For the first three days, we smelled kind of funny because we couldn’t change clothes. We washed our clothes in the sink and hung them on tree branches to dry. Then the city-wide crusade—which was going to be in the town square—was moved inside the church because there wasn’t a sound system. The reason there wasn’t a sound system was because there wasn’t any gas and there wasn’t any gas because there’s an embargo. So we couldn’t have the crusade where we thought we were going to have it. We planned to have a five-day Vacation Bible School but that didn’t work out either.
For most of three days, we were out of water. We were out of gasoline. We were out of ice. That’s a bad thing to have happen to you when you’re in the middle of Haiti. No gas means you can’t go anywhere. No water means you can’t take a shower. If you can’t take a shower, everyone gets pretty uptight. No ice means you can’t get cool at the end of the day. When relief finally came, we had two gallons of water left in the cooler for 18 people.
Every night we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning by sounds and noises and distant voodoo funeral processions. One night we awoke to the sound of someone climbing onto our roof. Allan McLeod-Smith actually saw his legs dangling over the edge. During the second week we were told, “Of all the groups we’ve ever had visit us from America, your group has faced more trouble, more difficulty and more opposition than any group we’ve ever hosted.” The ’Judge’ said, “I was here last year with the construction team from Little Rock and we didn’t have a single problem. But you folks have come to preach the gospel. I think that’s where the problem is. Satan is opposing what you are doing.”
I didn’t really take him seriously when he said that. But during the second week we started the crusade, the Vacation Bible School, the basketball camp, and the couples conference. As we started to see victories, we also started to see Satan move in against us. I don’t know if you realize it, but voodoo is the religion of Haiti. It’s an African religion that’s been mixed in with a corrupt form of Catholicism. It is practiced by 90+% of the people in Haiti. It involves sacrifice of animals, prayer to Satan, candles, incense, witch doctors, spells, zombies, and various forms of demon possession. Many of the followers of voodoo wear bright red. They wear a red shirt or a red bandana, or if they want to be more suave about it, they wear a red handkerchief in their pocket. It’s a sign that their soul has been sold, given and vowed to Satan.
Dedicated to Satan
One day as we drove down the road, Enoch Lucien stopped the truck and said, “Look at that little boy over there.” The lad was about five years old with orange hair in dredlocks. Enoch said, “That boy has been dedicated to Satan.” I said, “What do you mean?” “When that boy was born, his parents dedicated him to be raised in the service of Satan to be a witch doctor when he grows up.” Somebody asked, “How do they know which child to pick?” In a voodoo ceremony the spirits come and choose which child they want. Why is his hair long? It’s just like Samson’s vow in reverse. Voodoo families believe that if they cut that child’s hair, Satan will come and harm him in some way.
The very next day that same child came to the Vacation Bible School. I wish I could tell you a happy story, but all I can tell you is this. Marlene and Vicki were right around him the whole time. When all the other kids were singing and clapping, that little boy just sat there with a flat face, glassy eyed, as if he was in a trance.
Later Enoch told me, “Pastor Ray, I believe that our nation has been cursed because of voodoo. Two hundred years ago the leaders of Haiti made a vow during a voodoo ceremony. They said to Satan, ’If you give us our independence, Haiti will belong to you forever.’” Enoch told me, “Pastor, I believe that Satan has kept his bargain.” I’ve been to Haiti three times, but never have I seen spiritual warfare as we saw it on this trip.
The first three days of the crusade we had great services but no decisions for Christ. Finally on Wednesday afternoon I felt the Lord saying, “Put aside your prepared sermons and preach something else.” So I wrote out a sermon called Who is greater, Satan or Jesus?
“The Witch Doctors Are Liars!”
I began by talking about the great voodoo festival that was going to take place in Cap-Haitien that weekend. Thousands of people come from all over Haiti for a drunken orgy, for baptism in mud, for the public celebration of Satan. So I talked about Satan—who he is and where he came from. I asked the question, “Who is greater? Satan or Jesus?” I compared the two through the story of Jesus’ life and when I came to the end, I said, “If you’re following Satan, you’re following a loser.” Then I just blurted out, “The witch doctors are liars!” I believe that was the turning point, spiritually, in my trip. Everybody in the church was cheering. Then came the invitation and everybody was singing. Nobody came forward. You know what we were singing for the invitation? A Creole version of Hold The Fort, For I Am Coming. When we got to the Creole part that says “Raise the banner back to heaven,” everybody raised their hands while we sang, “By Thy grace we will.”
Eventually a girl came forward. Then another person came forward. Then another and another. Finally eight or nine people came forward. Most of them were young people from our basketball camp. One was the daughter of an associate pastor, one was the daughter of a deaconess, and they said, “We were afraid to accept Christ because we were afraid of what Satan would do to us.” Know what? That was like stepping into a Frank Peretti novel. It was like being in This Present Darkness or Piercing the Darkness because I don’t live in a world where people really go around so afraid of Satan, afraid of what Satan will do to them, but that’s what we found on Wednesday night.
It was late that night—about 3:00 a.m.—when somebody tried to climb up on top of our building while we were sleeping and we think tried to get in, or as Caleb suggested, possibly to put some kind of voodoo curse on us.
The next day, Thursday, our last day of the crusade, everything started off well. During the morning Enoch visited several homes in Pignon. He came back that afternoon with a sobering report. “Pastor, I’ve got news for you. Some people in Pignon are very unhappy with your team.” Why? “Because word has gotten out about what you said last night. They don’t like it.” Word had gotten out among the community, among the followers of voodoo, and they were very unhappy.
The Battle is Joined
That night, the service had a completely different atmosphere. There was a feeling of tension, of oppression, of warfare and struggle.
Just before the service started, three young men walked by, dressed in red from head to toe. They were on their way to a voodoo ceremony. It was almost as if Satan was saying, “You may be inside holding the service, but I own this country.” All during the service other young men were driving their motorcycles up and down the front of the church, revving them as loud as they could, trying to harass and intimidate us. When I got up to preach, I was aware of a great heaviness in the air. I preached on “What will happen when Jesus comes back?” Every word was a struggle. As I preached, the strangest thing was happening. I was aware there were 20 to 30 people standing in the back of the church. It seemed like they were muttering while I was preaching. It was only after the service that I discovered they were followers of witchcraft and voodoo who had come into the back of the church in order to try to disrupt the service.
At the very end of the sermon—trying to show that when Jesus returns one shall be taken and the other left—I walked up the middle aisle and almost all the way to the back of the church. I touched different people and said, “One shall be taken, one left, one shall be taken, one left. What will happen to you when Jesus comes back?”
We went into the invitation. For twenty long minutes nothing happened. I felt as if Jesus was at the front of the church and Satan was at the back. The whole congregation seemed to hang between heaven and hell. For twenty minutes we sang and sang and sang. The pastor exhorted the people to turn from Satan and to follow Jesus. Finally one girl came forward, then another. It turns out they were sisters. The pastors began to deal with them and it seemed like they were dealing with them for a long time. We had been in the invitation almost thirty minutes at that point. Finally Enoch came back up on the platform and said to me, “Pastor, the problem is that these two girls have been demon-possessed. They come from a Satan-worshipping, demon-possessed family and they want to accept Jesus Christ, but they are saying, ’Please don’t stop praying for us because we are afraid if you stop praying for us, Satan will come back into us.’” That hit me like a ton of bricks. I walked off the platform and found Kevin and Vicki. I saw Marlene and Allan, Bruce and Gary. I said, “Listen, you better start praying because we’re in a real spiritual battle.” Our team started praying and right then people started coming forward. Before the whole service was over, twelve people had come forward to make clear-cut definite professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
A Struggle in the Pew
The most amazing moment happened late in the invitation when a girl in her late teens stood up to come forward. As she tried to come forward, her friends grabbed her arm and pulled her back down because they didn’t want her to accept Jesus Christ. There was a struggle in the pew and then finally she stood up, ripped her arm away, came forward, and gave her heart to Jesus Christ. Every single person who came up that night said they wanted to accept Jesus Christ but were scared of what Satan would do to them.
Suddenly everything made sense. Bruce’s accident, all the trouble with the luggage, changing our plans, running out of water, the fact that we’d gone without so many things, the fact that we couldn’t sleep night after night, the fact that people didn’t like what we were saying and were trying to disrupt the services, the fact that somebody was climbing onto our roof and the fact that to this day—a week after the trip—most of the people who were on our team are still sick.
Fifteen Rounds With Satan
I believe it is because we were engaged in top-level spiritual warfare against Satan and I’ll tell you, when I got home from the trip, I felt like I had been in a 15-round boxing match. I felt like I had given a few punches and taken a few punches. I look back and I see that Satan had tried to stop us here, here, here, here, here, and as we got closer and closer, he came in harder and harder, and I’m happy to tell you that there are 30 people who said yes to Jesus Christ, who are being followed up, who have come into the Kingdom of God, and a great victory has been won. Why? Because trouble, persecution and difficulty may come but through Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors. Satan cannot stop us. He can slow us down, he can knock us down, but he cannot stop the church of God. He cannot stop the people of God because through Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors.
You Are Already More Than a Conqueror
What shall we say to these things? What shall we say? The real question is, what shall you, the people of God say to these things? What difference does it make to you that through Jesus Christ, you are not condemned? You are justified. You can never be separated from the love of God and this very week, you are more than a conqueror. Already, before the week begins, you are more than a conqueror. What difference will it make to you? What shall you say? I’ll tell you what I will say. I will say, “Lord, Jesus, I love you with all of my heart. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you have made it possible in a world full of difficulty and persecution and opposition of every kind, that no matter what happens to us, through Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors.”
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will drive this truth home to us that we might leave here undefeated because Satan has been defeated. May we leave here victorious because through Jesus Christ you have made us and we shall be more than conquerors. Amen.
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