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Victory Through Defeat

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Introduction

Sermon Series: Doormat Christianity - We struggle with feeling like others are walking all over us as Christians
There is a great scene in the first Spider Man movie, where Peter Parker is first grappling with obtaining his powers. He is in the cafeteria and ends up enraging the school bully. The bully ends up trying to fight Peter, but Peter ends up knocking the snot out of the guy.
There is something that resonates with us when we see depictions of an underdog taking out those who oppress and bully and take advantage. Why? We have all been underdogs at some point. We have all been oppressed and bullied and taken advantage of. Regularly.
Have you been treated unfairly by an employer?
Is your family irritated over your decisions and priorities?
Do you have coworkers who make comments in an attempt to offend you?
Do others hold you to a hire standard than they hold themselves?
Do people take advantage of you because you are nice or generous?
Does it feel like our culture is growing increasingly hostile to the Christian faith?
In other words, do you ever feel like a human doormat? Do you feel like people are always trying to walk all over you?
I think if we were honest, we all wish we could be bitten by a radio active spider and be able to beat up our bullies. How are we supposed to respond to the people who walk all over us? What can be done to free ourselves from those who continue offend and malign us?
Over the next several weeks, we are going to be in a new series called Doormat Christianity, where we are going to look out how to live in a world where we are treated like doormats.
But before we can talk about how we should respond to those who take advantage of us, we need to look at what God has done to deal with those who oppress, bully, and malign others. What is God’s fix for a world hell bent on defeating us? To answer that we must go back to the beginning.

How to Crush the Serpent’s Head

In the beginning, God created a beautiful paradise for his people to live in. He gave them access to everything they could ever dream with only one small restriction: don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden.
A figure appears, the very first oppressor, whom the narrator identifies as “The Serpent.” He comes along and tempts the first woman, along with her husband, by telling them that God is holding out on them. So together they eat of the fruit of the tree.
God shows up and calls them out. He asks the man why he ate the fruit. He blames the woman God gave him. God asks the woman why she ate. She blames the Serpent for tempting her.
God then turns to a series of curses on the human couple for their disobedience, the fruit of which explains the broken world that we now find ourselves in. But before he pronounces any judgment on the two humans, God offers a strange promise of hope, that comes in the form of a curse. Let’s listen in.
Genesis 3:14–15 ESV
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God promises a future of humiliation for the Serpent. It is cursed below the rest of creation, and will eat dust, a phrase pointing to its filthy nature. How will this defeat happen?
Well, first there will be a war. There will be a constant fight between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the Serpent. Those who are identified with God will be at war with those who are identified with the Serpent.
There will also be a final decisive blow given to the Serpent. There will be one particular offspring of this woman who will come and crush the head of the Serpent.
But there is more. In the process of defeating the Serpent, the offspring of the woman will be bitten in the heel.
The picture is of this man coming and raising his foot to stomp on the head of the snake, but before his foot comes down, the serpent strikes, sinking its fangs into his heel. He then drives the heel, with the serpent head still attached into the earth.
So God promises to defeat this Serpent, though at the cost of the offspring bringing the victory.

Crushed for our iniquities

Let’s fast forward in the story to the book of Isaiah, where God’s people have continually failed to uphold the stipulations that God has given them, just like their first parents in the garden.
Throughout the story potential offspring candidates have come and gone, whatever promise they have shown being drowned out by their own personal failures.
In light of all of these failures, Isaiah renews the hope of this coming offspring who will finally give victory to God’s people, a figure he identifies as the Servant of the Lord.
Isaiah 52:13 ESV
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
God promises that this Servant will be an exalted and victorious figure. But the way in which his exaltation comes is highly unexpected.
Isaiah 52:14–53:3 ESV
As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
This is not the description we would expect of an exalted figure.
His form would be marred beyond recognition.
He would not look impressive or beautiful.
He would be acquainted with grief and sorrow.
He would be despised by others.
Isaiah 53:4–6 ESV
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Even so, he would bring victory to God’s people.
He would carry the sins and the effects of those sin of his people
He would be punished, but it would bring peace
Isaiah 53:10–12 ESV
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Yet all of this anguish and sorrow is by God’s design. God has sent him to this long defeat. For what purpose?
To make an offering for the guilt of his offspring (God’s people, the offspring of the woman)
He will make his people righteous and deal finally with the effects of sin introduced by the Serpent.
As a result of this long defeat, God will consider the Servant victorious. He is viewed as a conqueror, even though he appears like one who has been conquered.
This is the offspring who defeats the Serpent at the cost of his own defeat.
Of course, we know who this Servant is, this offspring of the woman. It is Jesus. Jesus is the suffering servant who bears the sins of his people. Jesus is the one who crushes the head of the viper. How does he do it? By being bitten on the heel: dying on the cross. Listen to the book of Hebrews:

Through Death he destroyed Death

Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Jesus became a human being and experienced the kinds of things human beings experience, including death.
All of our lives we anticipate our impending death. It enslaves us. There is nothing we can do to escape its grasp. Death comes for us all.
Death comes as a result of our sin. And the devil uses this against us. He accuses God’s people of their sin and reminds us of our death sentence.
When Christ died for our sins he de-fanged the devil. His chief weapon against us was blunted. Christ defeated death by dying. And death could not hold him.
Christ vanquished death for us by his death for us.

The Triumph of the Cross

Colossians 2:13–15 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Paul says that God made us alive with Christ when we were dead in our sins. He canceled our record of debt. How? The cross.
Listen to what this act of death does to Jesus’ enemies. He disarmed them. He puts them to open shame. He triumphs over them.
Sometimes Christians think that Satan wanted Jesus to die and only realized too late what it meant. This is not the case. Satan knew the stakes from the very beginning as we have seen.
In fact, that is why Satan tempts Jesus in the gospels. He is offering to Jesus alternative paths to becoming Messiah.
Messiah by miracle worker only.
Messiah by need provider only.
Messiah by allying with the devil.
And when Peter tells Jesus that he would never stand by and let Jesus die, what does Jesus say? “Get behind me, Satan!” He hears the serpent’s voice on Peter’s lips.
The only path to ultimate victory over his enemies was through defeat.

Jesus won by losing

Jesus died to bring life
Jesus won by losing
Jesus conquered by being conquered
Jesus modeled for us that victory often comes through defeat
In the kingdom of Jesus, things are often very backward from the way we expect. The Jews expected the Messiah to ride in on a white horse and start kicking but and taking names. Instead the Messiah comes to suffer and die?
The call of Jesus to his disciples is to follow him. That means, like Jesus, we are to face temporal defeat in view of eternal victory. Rather than clamoring for an immediate win over those who oppress us, we need to play the long game.
How often do you fight to preserve your rights, safety, preferences? Think of all of the areas of your life where you fight to get ahead and win.
Think back to the last argument you had with your spouse. How would things change if you no longer had to be the one who was “right?”
Think back to the person who takes advantage of you at work. What would be different if you let them and treated encounters with them as an opportunity to serve?
What would happen if you stopped defending yourself when your family criticizes you?
We are so scared to live this way because we don’t really believe Jesus is going to bring us final victory. We can’t imagine letting others use us as doormats because then there might not be any end to our oppression. We are forgetting that Jesus will right everything in the end.
Over the next several weeks we are going to look at different areas of our lives, that as followers of Jesus, we are called to be doormats. Areas where we are called to accept defeat in light of a coming victory. I would encourage you to commit to be back and see how God wants all of us to live with that final victory in mind.

Communion

On the night that he was betrayed...
Communion reminds us that Christ was defeated to bring us victory. Communion is a call to join Christ in that defeat. It also reminds us that the defeat was temporary, for Christ rose from the dead. We are able to face oppression in the short run because we know how this all ends.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are invited to take communion with us.
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, instead take Christ.
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