We Are At War
Most of us are aware of Paul’s statement, “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” (Eph 6:21, NIV). We are at war.
My reaction to this verse has been, “I don’t know about you, but I do struggle against flesh and blood.” But Paul says the real struggle, the one that really matters, is spiritual and is going on in spiritual realms that we can’t see. In Duane Garrett’s class on Job, he makes the point that this spiritual, unseen war occasionally breaks through into the visible world, and we experience in small measure the war that is waging for our lives.
My wife Robin went to a friend’s church a while back, and as she recounted the sermon, I was reminded that we are at war in the world, in the church, and in our souls. Paul says that we are to forgive “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11).” Unless we recognize his schemes, unless we recognize we are at war, we will be taken by surprise and will lose the battle.
There can be no doubt that persecution from the world against Christians is on the rise. Just the other day, a two-year-old child in North Korea was sentenced to life in prison because his parents had a Bible. We all have read about Christians being beheaded in the Middle East. A school board recently refused to allow any Christian to be on the board. As Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
But the war also rages inside the church. The sermon my wife listened to was on Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The pastor’s point was that this is too exclusive, putting pressure on us, was not of grace, and leads people away from God. “If it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God,” she affirmed. “Fundamentalism,” she said, “uses Scripture to divide.” This pastor in a mainline denomination told people that Jesus was wrong and she was right, and they applauded. (I am sure men preach equally heretical sermons.)
Thirdly, we are at war within ourselves. Sin pushes us to do what we don’t want to do and fights against us doing what we want to do (Rom 7:15). My good friend Tom Schreiner helped me understand this. He encouraged me to think of sin as a foreign object, an alien object aggressively working inside us. It’s not passive, hoping you will become angry. It is pushing on you, enticing you to become angry. Sin is not passive; it is active.
So why this discouraging blog? Because we will never defeat the enemy unless we know who the enemy is. The world hates us as it hated Jesus. People claim to be Christians in our churches who are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Acts 20:29). And Satan wants to return you to his kingdom.
So please, recognize that we are at war on all fronts. Bind yourself to your spiritual community. Read and reflect heavily on God’s word. Be open to the working of the Spirit. And know the enemy. Then one day, when all is over, know that those who are victorious (Rev 2:7 et al.) will enjoy living in God’s presence forever.
by Bill Mounce