He had lived through the war and the war had shaped who he was.  It had also shaped how he saw others.  In particular, it shaped his view of the Japanese. 

Between Pearl Harbour and the war that followed he had very little time or use for those who called Japan their home.

But in 1953 that changed, that was when Theodor Geisel visited Japan to research an article for Life Magazine.  You know Geisel by his Nom de plume, Dr. Seuss. 

The result of Seuss’ visit to Japan was a book, not a book of philosophy or political science, instead, it was a children’s book, and in the book was a memorable line, “ a person is a person no matter how small.” 

For the vast majority of his readers, Dr. Seuss was speaking of the residents of Whoville, but Seuss himself knew that it reflected a change of heart that he had experienced toward the people of Japan and he used this book as an allegory for the American post-war occupation of that country.  He dedicated the book to a Japanese friend he had made on his visit.

Later in an interview Seuss would state, “Japan was just emerging, the people were voting for the first time, running their own lives—and the theme was obvious: ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small,’ though I don’t know how I ended up using elephants.” 

And that brings us to our current series, Whoville, and if you are still scratching your heads, we are looking at Who God Says we are.  Because often our self-identity, how we see ourselves is shaped by our experiences and our expectations, by what others say about us and by what we say about ourselves. 

But if we are following Christ, our identities, who we are, should be shaped by God.

So, in the first week, I looked at the fact that we are called disciples of Christ and all that entails and then last week Pastor Deborah spoke about the fact that God calls us His Children.  And how God protects his children, corrects his children and directs his children.

This morning I want to focus on the last verse of the scripture that was read for us earlier if you have your Bibles turn with me to  Romans 8:37  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

You might be familiar with other translations where we are told that we more than conquerors.  But the meaning is the same, we aren’t just conquerors, we are more than conquerors.  We don’t just have a victory, we have an overwhelming victory.   We don’t just squeak by we ace it.

So, who does God say I am? God says that I am a victor, that I am more than a conqueror. 

But what does that mean?  And more than simply what does it mean, what does it mean for our lives today?

So, for a little bit this morning I want to take a look at the Jesus story and how some Jesus followers discovered that they were victors.   

Let’s start with   Luke 9:51-54  As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival.  But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem.  When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?”

Really?  Probably a little bit of an overreaction here.  We don’t know if the guys’ anger was just because the village didn’t welcome Jesus or if it was because a Samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus.  Maybe there was a little racism mixed in.

But their reaction was over the top.  What Jesus had told them is spelled out in Luke 9:5  “And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

That seems fair.  Jesus was simply honouring the request of those folks to not have a relationship with him.  One of the questions I hear from people is, how can a loving God send people to hell?  Actually, God doesn’t send anyone to hell, as a matter of fact, he sent his Son so people wouldn’t have to go to hell.  But if people choose to not have a relationship with God then God honours that decision, not just for the here and now but for eternity.

That was free. 

So, Jesus has told his disciples that if a group of people chose to not welcome him that was fine, to symbolically shake the dust from their feet and move on. 

But John wants to call down fire from heaven and burn the whole bunch up.  Anger issues John?  As a matter of fact, if you’ve read the gospels then you know that John and his brother James were often called the Sons of Thunder, probably indicative of this very anger issue.

And while that may have been who John was that wasn’t who John stayed.

John wrote the Gospel that bears his name as well as the book of the Revelation and three letters to the early church.  And the word that shows up time and time again in those writings is the word love. 

For example, 1 John 2:7-8  Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.  Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

So it’s here we discover that John was Victorious over His Anger   It was through John’s relationship with Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit in his life that his anger was replaced with love. 

If you are struggling with anger issues then this is something you need to deal with, anger isn’t just a character flaw, anger is an insidious sin, Alfred A. Montapert writes,  “Every time you get angry, you poison your own system.”

And I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to be angry, that’s just the way I am.  I can’t control myself.”  Here is the reality people, like most of life, anger is a choice. 

Alfred A. Montapert later goes on to write,  “Question: Why are we Masters of our Fate, the captains of our souls? Because we have the power to control our thoughts, our attitudes. That is why many people live in the withering negative world. That is why many people live in the Positive Faith world.”

In Galatians 5 when Paul is describing the acts of the sinful nature, anger is listed.  In the proverbs, King Solomon writes,  Proverbs 29:11  Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.   And then we are told in Ecclesiastes 7:9  Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you won’t get angry, that is to deny our humanity.  Instead, the victory we win is the ability to control our anger. 

And it was Aristotle who said,  “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Which is why Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26-27  And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,  for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Listen up folks, you will either control your anger or your anger will control you.   Do you struggle with anger?   Has it caused you to say and do things that you regret?  You don’t have to because overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  Even victory over our anger. 

But John wasn’t the only one to see his life changed, he wasn’t the only one to be able to claim a victory.

Peter was one of the very first disciples, and he wasn’t just one of the twelve, he was one of Jesus’ inner circle.  It was Peter who first realized who Jesus was when he said in Matthew 16:16  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  It was Peter who walked on the water with Jesus, it was Peter who Jesus called the Rock, it was Peter who vowed that he would die for Jesus before he ever turned his back on him, and it Peter who denied that he knew Jesus not once, not twice but three times.

You probably know the story, it happened the night that Jesus was arrested, and three separate times Peter was offered the chance to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus.  And three times he denied that he even knew his best friend. 

We read the account in Matthew 26:69-74  Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.  But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.  Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”  After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”  Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.

I remember someone saying, silence is golden, but sometimes it’s just plain yellow.  I think this was one of those cases. 

Peter had seen them come in the dark of night to arrest Jesus.  He had heard the charges against Jesus, he had watched the mockery of a trial, he had seen Jesus spit on, beaten and humiliated.  And he didn’t want that to happen to him.  He had a family to think of, a future to think of and so he denied that he even knew Jesus.  Why?  Because he was afraid.  And with good cause, it didn’t look like there was any way for this story to end well. 

Now let’s skip ahead 50 Days, Peter is standing in front of a mob of people, publicly declaring his allegiance to Jesus and calling others to do the same.  Shortly after that Peter is arrested by the same people who had Jesus arrested.  And this time when Peter is asked who’s name he was preaching and healing in he answers Acts 4:10  Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.

And when they ordered him to stop preaching in Jesus’ name Peter asks, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?

Peter was Victorious over His Fear.  So what are you afraid of? Now don’t tell me “nothing”; an article in one Medical Journal stated, “The man who knows no fear is not only a gross exaggeration, he is a biological impossibility.”  

You know that’s the truth, in many cases, it’s not a matter of not being afraid as much as it is a matter of conquering your fear.  And sometimes it’s fear that does the conquering.

Fear will always be with us, it’s one of the base emotions along with hunger, love and hate, and it’s not just limited to the human animal but is instinctive and crosses throughout the animal kingdom. 

You might even say that fear is a gift from God, it keeps us alive.  Leonardo Da Vinci made this comment, “Just as courage imperils life; fear protects it.”

It is fear that keeps you from driving 200 km/h on a back road or stepping off a twelve-story building.  This is not an unnatural or unhealthy fear.  Of course, you can overcome this, jumping out of an airplane with nothing between you and the ground but a square of silk and a bunch of strings should inspire fear, but skydivers overcome that.  Race car drivers have learned to overcome their fear of speed.

Over and over again Jesus challenges his followers not to be afraid of what the future might hold or what the present does hold.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Is your life characterized by fear or by trust in God?  And if you are thinking that you will have to understand everything before you can live a life of trust, then are destined to live a life of fear. 

John 14:27-28  Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”   Can you believe that?  Can you claim that? That promise is yours today because, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  Even victory over our fear. 

But it wasn’t just Peter and John who won victories in their lives. 

His nickname, while he was growing up, was, the Twin, but that’s not how we know him.  This was the disciple that tradition says was responsible for taking the gospel to India. We are told that he was martyred for his faith in the Indian city of Madras.  If you read through the accounts in the Gospels you see a young man fully devoted to Christ.  And yet how do we know him?  Yeah, that’s right 2000 years later we still call him “Doubting Thomas”  Why?    

The answer is found in John 20:24-25  One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came.  They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

How many of us have had doubts?  Doubts about our faith, doubts about prayer, doubts about the bible?  I think if we were being honest most of us would put up our hands. 

And understand, victory over doubt doesn’t mean that we have no doubts, that’s crazy.  It means that despite those doubts we still believe. 

Canadian author Yann Martel wrote,  “I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

Let’s keep reading and see what happened with Thomas, John 20:26-28  Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”  “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 

Thomas was Victorious over His Doubt  Jesus offered to answer Thomas’ doubts with experience, he offered him the evidence that he wanted.   I don’t think Thomas really wanted to put his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hand or put his hand into the wound in Jesus’ side.  But Jesus said if that’s what it takes, knock yourself out.

And sometimes, like Thomas, we will be offered enough evidence to satisfy what we are looking for, but not always.  And that’s why Jesus told Thomas,  John 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

 That’s us.

Here’s your promise for today, from the word of God Psalm 94: 19 When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

That promise is yours today because, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  Even victory over our Doubt. 

And maybe you don’t struggle with any of those things, you can’t imagine having to deal with anger, fear or doubt.  Bless you, but do you struggle with the thought of death?

In his song “Prop Me Up Beside the Juke Box When I Die”, yes that’s a real song, Joe Diffie sings these words, “Well I ain’t afraid of dying, it’s the thought of being dead
I wanna go on being me once my eulogy’s been read.” 

I’m kind of the opposite, I’m not afraid of being dead, it’s the unknown part of dying that troubles me.  I’m kind of like Woody Allen who said: “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

I think the great victory that is our as Christ followers is spelled out in 1 Corinthians 15:57  But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

He gives us victory today over sin, we don’t have to make harmful, wrong choices, we can do the right things.  That is the victory for today.

The apostle John, remember he won the victory over his anger issues, wrote these words,  1 John 5:3-5  Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.  For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.  And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

That is our victory for today, the victory over sin.

But the forever victory is the promise that Believers will be Victorious over Death

Here is your promise, not just for today but for eternity, it’s found in 1 John 5:13  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

That promise is yours today and forever because, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  Even victory over our death. 

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