This past Sunday, Johannes reminded us of our need to fight the good fight of faith as we seek to build God's Kingdom. I don't always fight very well though and often need to be reminded of how to fight correctly. Proper technique and form go a long way in helping us properly combat the strategy of the enemy. To fight correctly requires a basic understanding of who we are fighting, why we are fighting, and how we can best fight the battle before us. So, let's start with the first question: Who are we fighting?
It makes sense that we know exactly who we are fighting so that we can be sure we are expending our energies in the right place at the right time. Scripture exhorts us to stand firm against the Devil, put to death the deeds of the flesh, and to resist being conformed to the world at large. Scripture also admonishes us to STOP fighting against one another as we present a confused message to those around us. Let's think more in-depth about these for a few moments in this post.
First, we need to Stand Firm against the real enemy out to destroy you as a believer. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul tells the church in Ephesus that the real battle is not against flesh and blood (as typical of warfare as we know it) but instead he appeals to the spiritual realm. He says that we are to clothe ourselves with the gospel (notice how each article corresponds to the gospel) and to take up the word and engage in prayerful dependence upon the Lord. We stand strong and firm by depending upon the power of God as revealed in Holy Scripture as well as making prayer a habit where we ask the Lord to give us wisdom, humility, and dependence in our days of struggling. This passage in Ephesians is no 'ivory tower' discussion of theology but a survival guide for believers. The threat of spiritual warfare is a constant for true followers of Christ and scripture is filled with many more references to this reality.
Second, we need to Put to Death the works of the Flesh. Just as we are under continual assault by the forces of evil as described above, our own sinful desires lead us away from what God wants to what we want. To be honest, this is perhaps the most stealth enemy of all. We find ourselves struggling not because of someone else or something else but simply because our own sinful desires lead us from humble dependence upon the Lord and what he desires. Read James 4:1-3 to get a better descriptor of what this looks like. To be sure, our flesh plays an active role against our desire to follow Christ completely. Why do you do sinful things? Because in that moment, we cease to submit to the Kingship of Jesus and choose to get what we want. Notice, that scripture doesn't day that the Devil made you do it. Instead, our desires for what we want, sometimes even good things, come about due to selfish and sinful reasons. Satan desires to destroy you and your flesh seeks to betray you.
Third, we live in a world whose values, desires, and priorities do not align with the values, and desires, and priorities of the God we trust. As we live in the world, we need the wisdom of Holy Scripture to clarify how we spend our time, talents, and resources. The world will try to define these things for you but we are called to live with biblical wisdom to avoid being conformed to the image of the world. God is seeking to make us more like Christ and the world system is opposed to making this happen. Satan is the 'god of this word' and he uses its systems to work against true believers. Again, only as our minds are renewed in the word of God will we gain wisdom to correctly fight against the enemy of the world.
To be sure, we are to actively engage the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to have a good understanding of the true enemies we face. Satan, our flesh, and the World System are real enemies whose ultimate goal is to wreck and ruin. Jesus gives us VICTORY over these enemies when we receive Him as Lord and Savior. This doesn't mean the battles cease but it does mean that we can fight in the name of the only One who gives us hope, power, and grace to endure. This brings me to one last truth:
STOP FIGHTING ONE ANOTHER!!! Believers are notorious as fighting each other and we must depend on the Spirit of God to refine our hearts and minds so that we can pour our energies into taking the gospel to all corners of the globe. Every book in the New Testament deals with conflict and appeals to our unity in Christ as being shaped by understanding the gospel. I'll talk more in detail in the next post about conflict within the body of Christ.