Spiritual Warfare


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10: 23

 

A promise is exactly that, when it comes from God. The Lord says what He thinks, and His mind is focused only on that which is holy, just, loving, and righteous. In fact, if there is one thing that I know can be counted on in this world, it is the clarity of God on what sorts of living will lead to a life that is rich and full of the grace of His presence. God’s Word provides us with a highly practical narrative of God’s will and desire for us and a telling of the way that the Lord has continually engaged with His creation in working out that will on the earth. Although there is great mystery surrounding the full nature of God, the Lord, Himself, works to reveal His nature, character, and truth to us.

 

Christ is the answer to this revelation. When we confess our surrender to Him, we enter into the hope of redemption that God has promised to all of His creation in and through Jesus. As Jesus is our Lord, He is our Savior; thus, as He is our Savior, He is also our Redeemer. A significant aspect of this redemption is found in knowledge, understanding, and the wisdom that flows out of this deeply connected relationship with God. In Christ the Spirit indwells us, and the Spirit opens our eyes so that we can see through the fog and the haze of sin into the glory of eternity that is now ours. This grants to us an appreciation for the valid hope that overcomes all of life’s challenges and trials and illuminates the sure path that we can travel in order to stay upright and true to God’s holy calling for our lives.

 

God promised His redemption to His people, and He delivered on that promise in Christ. God committed to open up the mysteries of His will to us; so, He gave His Spirit to His people. The Lord declared that He would never leave us, and He has sealed that covenant with the blood of Jesus. We enter into a relationship with our Lord by walking on the shaky feet of sinful people; then, in Christ’s strength and wisdom, we travel forth in the full confidence of being God’s beloved and chosen people. This world will throw the full weight of its confusion and chaos at us, but we can stay true to Christ and dwell in the hope of our redemption, for He will never depart from our side. This is God’s faithful and true promise to His people.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Ephesians 6: 10

 

There comes a time in everyone’s life when it is necessary to recognize certain fundamental truths. One of those is the fact that there is a lot more power afoot in our world than I have the capacity to stand up against. I can be skillful in debate, possess substantial financial resources, and even have armed responders to support my causes; yet, I will not have enough power and might on my side to defeat every true enemy that I will encounter. Thus, I will come to that end of the road where what I bring to the fight is no more than enough to lead me into defeat and wherein I can either remain beaten or I can surrender myself to the One who is already victorious over all that is in this world.

 

As I surrender to Christ, His victory is mine. When I yield any part of my fight to His will, Christ enfolds some more of me into His form of conquest over all that is evil and lost. In one sense, this process of yielding of myself and of entering into the hard won conquest of sin that came about on the cross is the real point wherein I become strong enough to even enter the battle that is life. Christ calls upon us to be strong and courageous, for this world is a place where terror roams our streets and pain and suffering are promised to us as a part of our spiritual birthright. Living righteously requires far more of these God-given qualities than does dwelling in the flesh. So, we need strength and courage to go out into the storm with God’s truth, love, and justice as our guiding principles.

 

Yet, this is what Christ promises to give to us. He tells us and has demonstrated through His life that He stands up to all forms of opposition and prevails. Now Christ takes His people into that same victory. He grants to us the strength that will be demanded of us along the path that we will travel today. That capacity to engage with the forces of this world does not come from our own skills, intelligence, or other form of resource; it is all a gift that is given out of the love that God has for us and that is found only in Christ. As followers of Christ, we are the truly strong people in this world, but that power is demonstrated in ways that are often strange and contrarian to the environment where we reside. Christ answers the forces of this world with love, grace, justice, and peace, and He uses our yielded selves as His workers in doing it all.

The LORD will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121: 8

 

This may not be what everyone has in mind when they consider a relationship with God. The degree of watchfulness on the Lord’s part that is indicated here is just too close and way too personal for our tastes as there are times when the idea that God sees it all is not very comfortable. In other words, we want to be invisible from time to time, and a God who has His hands on all of my life isn’t going to just ignore what I am about during those days of desired secrecy. Yet, there is a tension implied in all of this, too, for there are many situations and events when I really do want God in His power and with His strength to be watching over my life and guarding my pathway from harm.

 

In truth we cannot have it both ways. We do not get to select which aspects of life are under God’s view and within His area of involvement; rather, He is all in with our existence, and the Lord is fully engaged in the total package that forms the comings and the goings of life. There is no place where He does not go, and we cannot enter into activities or even have thoughts that He is not aware of. So, for me, I have needed to come to grips with the fact that God sees and will engage with everything that I do, say, and think. This part of my reality has caused me to consider the nature and the character of God more closely, for it brings out the question of my comfort with His proximity to my innermost self.

 

When I do carefully consider who God is and contemplate His nature deeply, the eyes of my heart are opened up to the fact that there is simply no one else who I would want to be that close to me. The Lord loves me with an unceasing depth of commitment that is not possible to match elsewhere, and He cares about the nature and the quality of my life to the degree that He has already sacrificed His all in order to redeem me from the pain of death that I so fully deserved. This God, who watches over each of my steps and who places His mighty hand of protection over my head every moment of my days, provides me with guidance and with the wisdom of eternity to use in considering the next steps that I will take. As I yield myself to His will, my Lord takes me into the glory of His will, and with God as my guardian and my counselor, my days are lived out in a form of freedom and peace that is empowering and joyous beyond all imagining.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Romans 12: 17

 

The late 15th to early 16th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch created many vividly detailed and fantastical scenes that depicted the unseen life of the spirit and within the spiritual realm. Some of these works portray the nature of evil in ways that are powerful and that, I think, grant us with a sense of the essential nature of evil, itself. The claws and snarling jagged teeth that are deployed in flesh ripping glee and the violent grasping of others in attempts to gain the upper hand are outward expressions of hearts that are intent on destruction and that are fully and fatally separated from God with His love, grace, and mercy. The kingdom of evil is a place where raging passions go unchecked and wherein destruction is the reward that loyalty to the cause receives. This is not a place where most people actually desire to dwell.

 

Yet, evil has an attractive side to it. Its power is intoxicating, and its passion can be highly energizing, too. It feels good to respond to slights, hurts, and affronts with their equal or even with the next step up in the process of response. This is the way of our world, and this is the natural manner of handling challenging and hurtful situations in our various cultures. However, this is not how God designed for us to live. Anger, violence, and misapplied passion are not the tools that the Lord gave to us as our devices for living together. These are things that we have developed out of our lost allegiance to the Prince of the Earth, and they come straight out of his toolbox. Still, it feels good and it seems righteous to respond with a stinging rebuke or with the removal of relationship when others have spoken to us or done to us like kinds of things.

 

Paul responds to all of this by reflecting on what Jesus taught and lived out in His own life. The Apostle tells us to pause, take that meditative breath, and allow the Christ inspired thoughts of our redeemed minds to take control of our emotions. Then we are counseled to do all that we do, say the words that we speak, and respond to others as an act of worshipful honor to Christ. This approach will change everything in our interactions with others. It doesn’t matter if the person that we are engaged with is close friend, family, distant acquaintance, or a stranger for they are all due to receive the same respect and honor in the name of Christ. This ability to engage with everyone in a loving and God-honoring manner was a distinct marker of Jesus’ way of living in our world. It should be the same for those of us who follow Christ. As we respond to evil with grace we infuse the heavenly into the harsh landscape of our world and touch its fevered brow with Christ’s peace and redemption.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith – just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?

Galatians 3: 5, 6

 

For some of us, the miraculous is easy to see, and for others it is just not all that apparent. Yet, I will submit to you that God is truly and fully present in this world, and if that is true, then the sort of expression of Him that we think of in terms of miracles or the miraculous is, of necessity, also truly present. The God that I know through the way that He has been there throughout my own life is a very active and engaged being. Throughout history He has never taken time off. Even when people have turned away from Him, sought to devise gods that were more to our liking and comfort, and rejected the Lord’s wisdom and council; even then, He has continued to work aggressively for our redemption.

 

The Lord does this same thing in the world today. His presence is seen in the natural wonder of creation, and it is found in the form and the personalities of each and every person on the earth. But God is more real and tangible than just the way that He is found by virtue of His handiwork, for God actively listens to our words, He responds to our needs, and He enters into the course of the lives of people. The Lord brings about healing for broken bodies, and He leads lost souls to the eternal water of salvation. He also protects us from the almost equally assertive attempts by evil to harm us and to divert people from God’s desired path for our lives. There is a spiritual dimension to this world that is even more fully packed with action than is the busiest of city streets

 

So, in light of who God is and because of His ongoing involvement with my world, I do truly believe in miracles. I hold it as a matter of faith that God, in His will and timing, does heal the sick, He will repair broken bodies and remove illness and pain. The Lord does repair shattered relationships and put love in place where hurt and anger have driven it away. Christ, Himself, is the only valid and true answer to the disagreements and distrust that lead peoples and nations to engage in generations of animosity that leads to war. In all of these hard and difficult situations and circumstances, Christ can and does do these things that we view as miraculous but that He knows to be the usual and normal outworking of the touch of the Divine.

God settles the solitary in a home;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 68: 6

 

God is a fisherman, God is a shepherd, God is lion, and God is King. All of these ideas are used to attempt to convey the nature and character of God, and all are quite accurate. He does go about the business of seeking after a catch of hearts and minds of people who would rather remain hidden away in the depths of our own sea of lostness and sin. Yet our Lord casts his net to bring in all varieties of humanity into His grace, love, and life. Our Lord is also the one who provides care and nourishment for us while protecting those precious hearts, minds, and even bodies from the harm that is attached like molecules of air to the atmosphere of this world. By way of His sheep tending metaphorical being, God also seeks after and searches tirelessly for any of us who wander away from His righteousness and life-giving presence.

 

When God is described as being a lion, I think of the proud and almost defiant image of a male lion with a full flowing mane and head half turned to look my way as if to say that He is in charge and that I am not. The lion image seems appropriate in that they are powerful and swift, guardians of their territory, and nurturing and caring with their pride. You do not want to encounter one when you are outside of its good graces, but you would certainly want one to provide protection from the evil forces of the wilderness. This description of God as lion leads to the concept that He is King. Yet, this title is far too limiting, for no king in all of history has had the sort of power, the absolute sovereignty, that the Lord possesses. He did not inherit this world, and no person placed its crown upon His head. God created it all as He imagined it into being. His rule over the universe is a part of the nature of that entity. God’s authority and the grace that is attached to it are what hold this world together despite the rebellious and destructive natures of its inhabitants. All that is good, righteous, and holy in this world is poured into it by God’s regal hand.

 

The thing that is most striking to me, however, is the fact that One who holds this much power, who rules over all that exists in the broad expanse of creation, and that works tirelessly to bring souls into His presence is the same God who reached out to my lost soul and called me into His presence. Then He has continuously provided my insignificance with the dignity and the calling of a person who has prominence in His kingdom and important work to do on behalf of the King. This kingdom of God, the place where I now dwell, is supplied with all that is required for myself and for all of creation to be sustained and to thrive. It is a place that is lush with the truth and the wisdom of the Lord. His grace flows out into streams of refreshing redemption, and the Lord’s love provides a covering for my weariness at day’s end. This place is where my heart finds strength, my mind encounters knowledge and wisdom, and my soul enters into the peace and the rest that it craves. My Lord has redeemed me, and He seeks to redeem all people from the harsh world as He provides us with a home in His presence.

For we are slaves; yet in our bondage, our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra 9: 9

 

In at least one sense, Ezra is speaking truthfully about our lives today; for, we are slaves. It seems to me that living in this world and the effects of being surrounded by what often seems to be a relentless assault by evil can cause us to feel as if we are just as enslaved as were the Israelites during the times of foreign captivity. It often feels like our thoughts are being held captive by our culture. We perceive that it is unsafe to express what we really believe in public. We live with concerns that all forms of entertainment are likely to be infused with dangerous lies or with harmful images. It is easy for followers of Christ to come to the conclusion that there is no righteousness to be found in our world.

 

Yet, Ezra’s calling to stand firm and to shout out the truth of the Lord’s calling to His people in a very oppressive public environment is also our calling. The Lord does not want us to remain enslaved, trapped, and made ineffectual by the forces of evil that try to take away our freedom. God is not silent in these times; for, He speaks continually to the hearts and into the minds of anyone who will seek Him out and who will listen. God wants us to proclaim our freedom in Christ. In so doing He also wants us to bring restoration to the world around us.

 

We can stand up with courage before the rulers of this world, and we need to stand firmly for the freedom that Christ has given to us. We do this most effectively by refusing to buy into the lies and the deception that evil uses to divert us from our true calling and to frighten us into submission to its mission of destruction. Truth is spoken very clearly in God’s Word, and we are called by Christ to proclaim that truth without reservation, hesitation, or compromise. Our Lord also calls us to love all others with the same passion that He holds for relationship with all people. As we do this we become agents for restoration by bringing the love of Christ and His grace into the lives of people who are caught in the trap of bondage to this world. So, as we rebuild the walls of faith and righteousness in our hearts and in our communities, we can reclaim important parcels of territory for the Kingdom of God.

 

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