The thief comes to steal and destroy, but I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
There are two great forces at work in the universe. One seeks to give us life, freedom and peace. The other seeks to steal our peace, enslave us and destroy our life. We live in a world where both are waging war in a battle where the outcome is already determined. That does not make the battle any less real or the enemy any less powerful or threatening. In fact, the certainty of the outcome serves only to infuriate and motivate the enemy to deceive us all the more.
The most heinous form of this deception is its power to convince us that there is no real battle going on at all. Many believers are uncomfortable talking about things like warfare, weapons, battlefields and victory. “Onward Christian Soldiers” has become a forgotten hymn from a bygone age. Such is the power of this deception. And it will continue to blind us as long as God’s people refrain from reading God’s word. You see, the Bible is a book about warfare from beginning to end. There was warfare before creation, warfare in the garden, warfare throughout the Old Testament, warfare surrounding the birth of Jesus, warfare during his entire ministry, warfare in Gethsemane, warfare on the cross, warfare at the founding of the church, warfare throughout Acts, warfare that followed Paul, and warfare right down to the last chapter of Revelation. To deny the spiritual battle we face we must ignore major tracts of Scripture, close our ears to a significant amount of Jesus’ teachings, and reject a central theme of human experience that is lived out from Genesis to Revelation.
If warfare and our spiritual battle is such a central theme to God’s story of creation, salvation and final glory, how well is your church preparing you each week to enter into the battle? The fact that we deny this battle or fail to prepare God’s people to enter it with power and passion is testimony to the depth of the enemy’s deception.
The aspect of this warfare that concerns us most specifically is the battle for our freedom. Paul tells us, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) That is the strategy of the enemy, to re-enslave a people who have been set free. He does it by lying to us about our relationship to Christ, our true identity, our need to succeed, the importance of our agenda, the value of possessions and the purpose of our life. He uses our ignorance and inattentiveness against us. When we lose sight of God’s word and become distracted by the things of this world, we are easy prey for the lies and lures of the hater of our souls.
God calls us to put on the full armor of God and wade into this battle. We must fight against the forces that seek to enslave us again. God created us for freedom. Christ set us free. And the by the power of the Holy Spirit we protect and advance that freedom as the army of the kingdom of God. If we shrink back from battle language we have already lost the war.
It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. That freedom must be fought for every day. We must take up our cross and wade into the battle knowing we will be victorious, because greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Are you engaged in this great cosmic battle? Are you prepared for it?
Spend some time reading through the following passages: 1 Timothy 1:18-19,
warfare, our role and God’s promises? How will that change the way you approach
Gracious and loving Heavenly Father, thank you for having won for me the great victory over death and evil. I claim that victory for my life in the name of Jesus Christ. I know that even though the outcome is determined, I am still to be engaged in the battle every day. I confess that I don’t feel prepared or equipped to do so. My faith seems so weak that it is hard for me to imagine myself as a warrior. But you have promised that all things are possible through Christ who gives us strength. I need that strength, Lord, because by myself I will fail in the future as I have in the past. I am sensing the freedom that you want for me. I have felt that chains fall off of me throughout this study. I have experienced my anxiety and fear turning to trust and peace. I don’t want to lose this, Lord. I don’t want to go back and be enslaved again by all of the bondage that I used to carry. So I am willing to fight, to be part of the army of the kingdom of God, to enter into the battle in your name. But I will do so only through your power and with the strength that comes from you. Prepare me, Lord, for this work. Grant me the courage to step out boldly and, with faith, claim the victory in your name. Amen.