Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"WAR! ... Are you engaged in the battle?"

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does." - II Corinthians 10:3

Jesus said that before He comes there will be wars and rumors of wars.  That is certainly true in the world we live in today.  Some would argue that it has always been true, yet in the past one hundred years the conflicts between races and nations has reached a fever pitch.  Powerful weapons have been designed that have the capability to bring about unimaginable destruction to property and to human life.  Many worry that at some point someone will miscalculate and we will be plunged into a war from which the world as we know it will not emerge.

But while all of this is happening and the leaders of the nations discuss possible battle plans, there is another war going on that is far more deadly in its consequences.  This is the war the Apostle Paul is speaking about in II Corinthians 10.  Paul had spent some time in Corinth and he had preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to these people.  He had warned them of the consequences of sin, of rebellion against God, and he had offered them the forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul had taught them that believing in Jesus Christ was more than just knowing about Jesus and being a part of the church.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ means being born again by His Spirit and living a new life of obedience to His Word.  And it means engaging in the spiritual battle against evil!

Evil is real!  Satan rebelled against God and some of the angels followed him.  Satan tempted Adam, the representative of the human race, and Adam unwittingly joined his rebellion.  Sin entered the world and spiritual death was the result.  God says that we have all sinned and we are all slaves to sin until and unless God gives to us the gift of His Spirit and calls us to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ as we hear His Word.  There is no other remedy for the human condition of spiritual death.  No other religion, no matter how many rules it may have, no matter how many paths to "God" it may offer, can bring life to those who are spiritually dead.

As Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he boldly addressed them and challenged them to consider how they were living.  In the chapters immediately preceding chapter 10 he commends them for some of the ways they were expressing their faith in Jesus.  But there were apparently some among them who were claiming to believe in Jesus, but they were not living for Jesus.  So Paul reminds them that there is a war going on and that they need to be engaged in the battle!

"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"  (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

As a pastor I see the battle raging in the lives of individuals and families and the visible church.  As Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, where he tells believers to put on the full armor of God:  "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" (Ephesians 6:12).  To the churches in Galatia he writes, "The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."  Within each of us the battle rages, so it is no wonder that there are wars and rumors of war. Friendships and families are being torn apart by selfishness and all its consequences.  Even those who have the Spirit of God and His Word struggle at times with temptation.

So what can we do?  God says we have weapons that are not of this world!  People are concerned about nuclear weapons today and what might happen in the future, but what is happening in the present is worse!!  People are living and dying without the knowledge of God, without the power of Jesus Christ and His Spirit, and are losing the battle to evil - forever!  To the true Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been given.  Through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross God offers forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness as the gift of His grace.  Those who are born again are filled with the very Spirit of God and EMPOWERED to fight and win!  "Greater is He that is IN us than he that is in the world!" (I John 4:4).

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, "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" (I Corinthians 10:13).  Those who do not know Christ are defenseless against Satan's attacks.  They will believe his lies that all is well.  He will even rejoice when they believe in a "god" that is a "god of love," who just overlooks sin and lets everybody into heaven.  Satan knows better and he wants to lead people as far away from the cross of Jesus as possible.  Jesus said the way is narrow that leads to life and few find it, but Satan wants people to believe it is wide enough to embrace anyone and everyone.  Who are you going to believe?

When you place your faith in Jesus Christ you have an enemy that wants you to doubt, to fear, to be anxious.  I grieve when I hear those who believe ask where God is and why He is allowing them to go through trials and suffering.  Doubt is the devil's playground.  When Paul says we have weapons that are not of this world he is referring to the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  God speaks truth and His truth defeats our enemies every time.  Those who do not know Jesus Christ and who do not have His Spirit are spokesmen for Satan.  They lie about the "freedom" they have to do whatever they want and they become angry at those who declare God's Word and who proclaim the narrow way.  In their slavery and bondage to sin they do not understand that they are "dead men walking" and that they will soon face the eternal judgment of a holy God.

As believers, we still struggle with the old nature of sin, but we KNOW that the enemy is defeated and that God's Spirit will complete the work He has begun in us.  The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is our Great High Priest and that when He had offered His sacrifice for sin on the cross, He sat down at the right hand of God.  "Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:13-14).  Through Christ believers have access to the very throne-room of the Father, where Jesus Himself prays, interceding for us.  Our own prayers rise to the God who created all things and who rules over the world, who works all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then believe His promises.  Read His Word ... FEED on His Word and KNOW that He is with you always.  Stop questioning God and believe what He says.  Don't try to figure it all out ... live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you on the cross.  Engage in the battle!  Be part of a body of believers that are committed to God's truth and who are able to help you learn and grow stronger in knowing God through His Word.  His Spirit will be your teacher as you read and study and memorize His Word.  There is no substitute.  Jesus said, "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32), and He said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).

For any who may read these words and not yet know Jesus Christ, you are now "without God and without hope in this world" (Ephesians 2:12).  That is your condition, no matter how religious you may be, no matter how many good deeds you may have done, you are living on borrowed time (because your life is God's) and you need Jesus Christ to overcome the enemy of your soul.  I pray that God will draw you to hear His voice through His Word and that He will grant to you, even now, His Spirit, giving you new life and a hunger for His truth.  Freedom and life with God, now and forever, await you.

The final battles lie on the horizon ... "today is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2).  Don't try to fight against the spiritual forces of evil with the weapons of this world:  your own willpower or effort, or the latest self-help book, or the ideas of someone who appears to be wise in the things of this world.  YOU NEED JESUS!  And you need His Spirit, and the "sword of the Spirit" is the very Word of God found in the Bible.

The war is being fought not only all around you, but within you ... TODAY ... at this moment!  Are you engaged in the battle?!  May the Spirit of the living God empower you today as you hear His truth and BELIEVE!!

No comments:

Post a Comment