A Call to Arms: We are at war!
An orange glow lights the horizon. Deep rumbling thunder echoes on the air; it is not natural thunder warning of a coming storm, but the relentless booming of enormous guns. Explosions rocket into the air, bursts of bright orange in the blackness and smoke. Men duck and dodge, racing for cover from the deadly hail. In the midst of the chaos, a man sits alone, contentedly sipping a cup of tea and completely oblivious to the horror and destruction surrounding him. He neither hears the shriek of the shells hurtling past, nor feels the impact as they shatter against the ground, nor sees the deadly conflict waged around him.
Too often I feel that we are like that man. Content in our pleasures, we are completely oblivious to the fact that, as Christians, we are in the midst of a war. Can you imagine telling the average American “Christian” family sitting comfortably around their breakfast table on Sunday that we are in the midst of a deadly conflict? What would be their response?
There are only two sides in this conflict, and all of mankind is divided between the two. On the one side is Christ, and His eternal Kingdom, and upon the other, the devil. The Bible makes it very clear that there is no middle ground, no neutrality towards Christ. A man is either sided with Christ, or against Him. Jesus says in Luke 11:23 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.”
Both the age old conflict of good against evil and the image of light versus darkness, which are depicted in so many novels and movies, have their origin in this war. In Colossians 1:13-14, it is written “For he has rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Formerly we were on the enemy’s side (Rom 5:8-10); we lived in the kingdom of darkness and dwelt under the shadow of death. But Christ rescued us from darkness through His blood and we became a part of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of light and life. Isaiah 9:2 states that “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Our citizenship is now in heaven, and our first allegiance is to Christ. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 3:20)
Paul exhorts us in 2 Timothy 2:4 to “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” A little earlier, Paul also wrote “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:21)
We are soldiers, soldiers of Christ. And as any soldier must arm himself and prepare himself for battle, Christians also must prepare for war. Peter wrote in I Peter 1:13 “Therefore, prepare your minds for actions; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Prepare your minds for action; to me, those words bring to mind the image of a soldier buckling on his armor, checking his sword in its sheath, and strapping his shield to his arm, readying himself for the battle.
The passage continues in verses 14-16 “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” This passage from I Peter, serves as a reminder to us that we do not wage war as the world does, our weapons are different and so are our enemies. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, it is written “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Our commander, our captain, is Christ. Soldiers fighting in wars on earth have no clue how the conflict will ultimately end. They do not know whether they will be victorious or defeated. But it is different in our case. We know that the final victory has already been won! It was won by our captain, Christ, when He died on the cross, paying the punishment for sins, and then rose again, triumphing over sin and death. It is written in Colossians 2:14 that “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to 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.”
But though the victory is won, the battle is not over. We are soldiers on active duty, we are at the front! Since we are at the front we must be prepared for battle, we must be alert and at our posts, ready to take and obey commands!
I Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
This verse serves as a reminder that our enemy is active, and we must be active as well. But too often, we fail. We go AWOL – absent without leave, we fall asleep at our posts! Too often we behave as “luke-warm” Christians. We are ineffective, apathetic, and stagnant, we accomplish nothing. Too often, we are completely useless to the Kingdom of God.
Revelations 3:15-16 speaks of such “luke-warm” Christians. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are luke-warm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Romans 12:11 tells us to “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.”
Instead of being “luke-warm” we must be “on-fire” for Christ. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be on-fire for Christ? It means that we are passionate for Christ; we are totally sold out to Him, ready to give up our very lives for Him. And that is what He has called us to do. We are no longer masters of our own lives.
I Corinthians 6:19b-20a writes that “…you are not your own; you were bought at a price…”
Paul while addressing the elders of Ephesus said these words. “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
Let us not love our lives so much as to shrink from death for the sake of Christ. Revelations 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
“Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)
Now granted, in America (at least at the present moment) we do not face intense persecution for being Christians. It is highly unlikely that any of us will face death or even imprisonment for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we must be willing to die to ourselves, every day. To remember that we have been bought at a price, that we are no longer our own. Daily, we must die to ourselves; die to our plans, our wishes, and our will. Instead of following ourselves, we must follow Christ.
In Matthew 16:24-27 it is written, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Of what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward every person according to what he has done.”
To follow Christ, we must deny our self and follow Him. He must have first place in our lives. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
However, our enemy, Satan, does not want us to be on-fire for Christ. As soon as we show signs of bursting in flame, he is waiting there with a 500 gallon fire truck to try to put us out. But whether the hose is filled with trials or distractions, whether our enemy should try to overwhelm us in a flood of difficulties or attempt to smother us with the things of this world, Christ has promised that He can give us strength to carry on and burn all the brighter!
John Bunyan, in his well known allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, describes it in these words:
“Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.
Then said Christian, “What means this?”
The Interpreter answered, “This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it; to extinguish and put out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that.” So he had him about to the back-side of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.
Then said Christian, “What is the meaning of this?”
The Interpreter answered, “This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of His grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still.””
The Bible states in I Corinthians 10:13, that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
And Peter says in 2 Peter 2:9b, “…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…”
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So, be on-fire for Christ! Do not be apathetic, luke-warm, useless Christians. Be ready for battle, soldiers! Our enemy is active; we cannot fall asleep at our posts. Instead, let us be alert and ready to die to ourselves, our desires, and our plans, to follow our Lord!
“If [you] would come after me, [you] must deny [yourself] and take up [your] cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Where do you stand? Are you alert and at your post? Are you prepared for action? Are you ready to die for your Lord?
“To the praise of His glory!”