On our most difficult days when life’s challenges seem particularly tough, meditating on how the finished works of Jesus give us victory over those challenges provides the encouragement we need to move forward. In the Old Testament, the people lived under the Law of Moses and were required to follow hundreds of rules and regulations to earn God’s blessings. Their efforts were never enough, however, and the threat of punishment was always present. However, the cross of Christ changed everything.
Before Jesus’ death, God’s blessings depended on man’s perfect performance. Any mistakes brought multiple curses (Deuteronomy 28:1-68). After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the requirements to be blessed changed. They went from constant self-effort to simple faith in Christ; this change in thinking is what many new Christians can struggle with the most after being born again.
During Jesus’ ministry, the old covenant was still in effect. This was shown by His response to the rich young ruler’s question of what was necessary for salvation. “…If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17, NIV). However, blindly following a set of rules was no longer necessary after Jesus’ resurrection, which Paul and Silas indicated to the jailer who asked them the very same question. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
Religion has taught us that Jesus isn’t enough, that we need to add to what He did so He’ll be pleased with us. Most churches still teach the law and the Ten Commandments, which is why most people live as if Christ never went to the cross. The truth is that we’re blessed not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus did. Now, our trust is what means the most to Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Under the law, man had to deal with God’s wrath, but God isn’t angry with us anymore. He’s not intent on punishing us. Jesus took all the punishment for us on the cross so we could truly experience God’s love, free from the fear that was the people’s main motivation in the Old Testament. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…” (1 John 4:18, NIV). Many of us are accustomed to “running scared,” so even this one thing alone—the absence of fear—radically changes life for the better.
When others struggle with issues that rise up against them and fearfully wonder if they can handle the situation, we have confidence that we will succeed because Jesus has already overcome adversity. When we’re in Christ, His victory takes on personal meaning for us when we believe that nothing can defeat us. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Now, we don’t pray for victory, but from a place of victory. This has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with God’s favor toward us.