Empowering people to be Christ s followers in the world

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1 Empowering people to be Christ s followers in the world WEDNESDAY 26 June 2013 PRAYER CENTRAL The Prayer of the Overcoming Church PREACHER: Martyn Day

2 SERMON PAGE 2. Tonight I want to encourage us in prayer in a particular way. I want to speak about what it means to pray as an overcoming church. The reason why I want to speak about this is because as we press forward with God, we are likely to face opposition. We saw this in the life of Nehemiah, when we had our sermon series on him last year. If we just potter along as a church in a very innocuous way, then the devil doesn t take much notice of us. But as soon as we really get serious about pressing forwards for God, then we can expect active spiritual opposition. And the way we respond to that is by prayer which recognises that we are an overcoming church because of the victory of Christ. The word overcome is an important word in the NT. Greek word nikao, which means to conquer. Overcome is a translation of the It is used in 3 main ways: To prevail, to be the victor in a battle military connotations To win a court case legal connotations To be stronger than The Greek word nikao is used in a number of places in the NT, in different ways. What I want to do tonight is to share 3 ways to focus our prayers which are connected to the truth of the church being an overcoming church. Each point I make will link with some of the NT occurrences of the word nikao to mean overcome. For each point we will learn what it means for us to be an overcoming church and how this truth can guide and encourage us in the way we pray. So what is the prayer of the overcoming church?

3 PAGE Prayer focussed on Jesus as Victor The starting point of the church being an overcoming church is that the Lord of the Church is an overcoming Lord. John 16 v 33: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome (nikao) the world. There are a number of important features of this verse. First of all, we see the importance of us knowing that Jesus is an overcomer: we live in a world which will give us trouble. Life will not be plain sailing for the Christian believer. We need a hope in the face of the difficulties of life. And Jesus says we can take heart. The word but in this verse is very emphatic and the word I includes the emphatic Greek word ego. Jesus says yes in this world you will have trouble, BUT I, I have overcome the world. And the verb nikao occurs here in a tense called the perfect tense. That implies a truth achieved in the past, which continues into the future. Jesus has not only demonstrated He is a victor, He still is a victor in the present and He will continue to be so. Another verse which uses the nikao overcome verb is 1 John 4 v 4: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome (nikao) them because the one who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Here we have a clear declaration of the supremacy of Christ over the world. When we pray, it is good practice to declare who Christ is in nature and character and ask for more of that to be seen. So if we are praying for a situation where we need a breakthrough, we can pray something like this:

4 PAGE 4. Lord Jesus, we praise you that you have the victory, you are the conqueror. Let us see your victory in this situation. Be the overcomer that we know you are. Can you see what we are doing when we pray like that? We are calling on Jesus to demonstrate more of who He is. This is a common pattern of prayer that we see in the Psalms. So we pray for Jesus to show His victory in the situations we pray for. It s a prayer full of trust and commitment to Him because we are asking Him to demonstrate what victory looks like for Him, not what we might think it looks like. Another verse that includes the nikao word is Revelation 17 v 14. This chapter contains a vision of conflict between the powers of darkness and Christ. The verse says, They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome (nikao) them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. The significant thing about this verse is the use of the word Lamb to describe Jesus. This description specifically refers to Jesus work achieved on the cross. It is an allusion to the OT practice of sacrificing a lamb to achieve forgiveness. With this image, Jesus is portrayed as the one perfect sacrifice that means forgiveness is now available to us. So the work of Jesus on the cross is seen as an important part of His victory. Back in 1931 a very significant book was published which highlighted the place of the cross in the victory of Christ. It was called Christus Victor by the German theologian Gustav Aulen. In his book he wrote, the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil. And this brings us to our second point. The prayer of the overcoming church is:

5 PAGE Prayer that proclaims the victory of the cross The Bible gives us several images of the cross as a place of victory. Luke 11 v 22: When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers (nikao) him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils. The context of this teaching of Jesus is that He has just cast out an evil spirit. Jesus was declaring Himself to be the stronger man in His parable. He is able to attack the devil, overpower him and disarm him. A similar image is given to us from Colossians 2 v 13-15: He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. And in one of the visions in the book of Revelation, a voice from heaven proclaims the victory of the cross over Satan: They [the saints] overcame (nikao) him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. (Revelation 12 v 11) It is one of the many paradoxes of the Christian faith, that the cross, which looked like a place of total defeat for Jesus, was actually the place of total victory. As Christians we need to incorporate the victory of the cross more into our praying. This can be particularly significant when praying for people to be set free from issues which oppress them.

6 PAGE 6. How do we use the victory of the cross in our praying? It s helpful for us to use the language which the Bible verses I ve just quoted give us. The vocabulary is one of disarming evil powers and removing oppression. So declaring the victory of the cross in our prayers is about praying that the oppressing influence of dark spiritual forces would be broken and disarmed. This is how we can pray for breakthroughs in our lives and the lives of others. A bit later there will be a specific opportunity to receive prayer if you desire a breakthrough of some kind in your life, particularly if you feel you are being held back or oppressed in some way. Third, the prayer of the overcoming church is: 3. Prayer that stands in the authority of Jesus Did you notice when I quoted that verse from Revelation that the saints of God overcame Satan through two means: the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. In other words, the people of God themselves were triumphing over evil. This is because we stand in the authority of the Lord who is the overcoming One. We get a similar image from 1 John 5 v 4-5: This is the victory that has overcome (nikao) the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes (nikao) the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Here we see the teaching that those who confess the name of Jesus can also be overcomers. In the Gospels and at the start of the book of Acts, Jesus confers His authority upon His followers. We exercise His authority out of 4 things:

7 PAGE 7. Position as adopted into God s family, with all the rights of a child of God (John 1 v 12) Submission we are subjects of God s kingdom. Being under authority, we have authority (Matt 8 v 8-9) Relationship we are branches of the one true Vine (John 15 v 5) Anointing when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1 v 8) I read the story of an Anglican minister in England, who had a vicarage garden with apple and pear trees. Sometimes boys from the local area would sneak into the garden and try and steal fruit from the trees. The vicar s young 5 year old son would stand in the garden and shout to the much older boys who were trying to steal, Get out of here, this is not your garden! That little boy had the right idea. He had the authority to speak in that way. And speaking is one of the essential ways in which authority is exercised. Kings in ancient Mesopotamian culture would declare, Let there be taxes, and there were taxes. What is the language of God s authority? Let there be light, God said, and there was light. In the creation narrative God s authority is seen through His voice. In the life of Jesus, His authority was so often witnessed through His voice. Be healed, be opened, Lazarus come forth! It is not accidental that the root word of authority is author. One aspect of authority is using words to author new realities into existence. That s authority. So spoken prayer is a very key way in which we as Christians take up and exercise the authority Jesus gives us. We can speak new realities into situations through prayer.

8 PAGE 8. So we might use a language of prayer like the following: Standing in the authority conferred on me by Jesus, I pray for this situation, that new life and hope might come into being. In the name of Jesus, I speak life and hope and peace and faith and courage into this situation. So we ve looked at 3 ways that our prayers can be influenced by the church being an overcoming church. We ve thought about the authority of Jesus Himself, the place of the cross in His victory and the way in which we ourselves exercise the authority Jesus shares with us. How can we bring all this together? Well, there s one biblical word which for me brings this subject matter to a fitting crescendo. We have studied different examples of the Greek word nikao for overcome. There s an extension of that word that is used just once in the whole NT. It s the word hupernikao. Huper is the Greek prefix from which we get the English word hyper which means above, over, in excess of. So hupernikao means excessive overcoming, in other words, to be completely victorious. The word gets used in Romans 8 v 37: In all these things we are more than conquerors (hupernikao) through Him who loved us. More than conquerors hupernikao, what a great word. This is the reality of who we are. But there is an important aspect to that reality that we must always hold onto as well. Although we are more than conquerors, we still live in the time in between the coming of the God s rule in the life of Jesus and the final fulfilment of His rule when Jesus returns again. In this in-between time, yes we do see amazing breakthroughs of God in answer to our prayers, but there are also times when those answers don t come. So we might pray for healing, but someone doesn t get healed, or we pray for some other spiritual breakthrough and yet we continue to struggle.

9 PAGE 8. What does it mean to pray as people who are more than conquerors, but who live in the tension of the now and not yet kingdom of God? I think one word can help us here. We are learn from the word PUSH. P-U-S-H. Pray until something happens. Let s PUSH, pray until something happens. In other words, being overcomers means committing ourselves to passionately pray for God s kingdom to come and to persevere in prayer until either we see the breakthrough, or God Himself shows us He wants to do something else. So I believe it s right to keep praying for healing for people, until a time when we sense God showing us another way. St Paul prayed that something he called a thorn in the flesh would go from his life, but it didn t. Instead God said to Paul that His grace would be sufficient for him in that situation. So as we move forwards as a people of prayer, will you PUSH with me? Will you pray until something happens? Let s pray with boldness and expectancy and with the authority Jesus gives, because He is the One who is the overcomer. That s the prayer of the overcoming church. Amen.

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