Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Not Against Flesh and Blood" Addendum

A few final thoughts about the matter of the believer's plainly declared spiritual responsibility to "fight the good fight of faith."

First, I purposefully did not use the term,"spiritual warfare," during the series. While certainly faithful to Biblical teaching, the terminology has become a broad catch-all in Christendom for many conflicting and unbiblical notions, as well as the truth. "Spiritual warfare" conjures thoughts and concepts in the minds of many believers that make me very uncomfortable. I mean no disrespect to anyone who uses the term, and certainly it is possible to do so in close faithfulness to Scriptural teaching. However, my experience is that many inaccurate and misleading teachings characterize a significant portion of "spiritual warfare" consideration among believers.

I also strongly suggested during the series that there is nothing for believers to fear about the fight to which we are called, so long as we are fighting in according with the Bible's truth. How often have we heard that "if we start engaging in spiritual battle, expect that the devil will begin to attack back in our lives!" Let me respond bluntly: who do you think started such a notion? Who might want us to avoid fighting the good fight of faith, and thus attempt to intimidate us from doing so?

The Bible plainly declares, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). I suspect that the truth of the matter is that if we seem to experience devilish attacks when we begin to fight, we may be erroneously and unbiblically waging the battle to which we are called. If so, God Himself may orchestrate our difficulties in order to correct us. There are many misnomers about the fight, some that can set us up for grievous deception. If we stumble into such error, any challenges that result may be far more related to God's chastening than Satan's responsive attacks. James plainly states that resistance causes the devil to flee. But the resistance must be in accordance with the Word of God. We therefore should not fear the fight to which we are called so long as we are wielding the authentic "weapons of our warfare."

As strongly emphasized in yesterday's message, we do not fight Satan directly. The command that immediately precedes James' calling to resist the devil commands that we "submit ourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7).

"Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 1:9).

Michael is a powerful heavenly being, perhaps the most powerful of the faithful angelic host (Daniel 12:1; Revelation 12:7). However, he does not directly address Satan, deferring to the authority and power of the Lord Jesus. Any notion, therefore, that we should directly address or rebuke the devil places those who do so in great jeopardy. We confront Satan by drawing near to the Captain of salvation, consciously and decisively asking Him to deal with our spiritual enemies in accordance with His will and power.

Finally, we must fight the good fight of faith. As mentioned yesterday, the temptation of Bathsheba, in countless forms particular to us, awaits us if we "tarry still at Jerusalem" rather than warring from the finished work of the risen Christ. Through the years, I have often considered the question of why some believers progress in their faith, maturing to a vibrant experience of the Lord Jesus, while others settle into a nominal spiritual existence that is foreign to any expectation revealed in the New Testament. There are likely many answers to this question, but I have come to believe that the failure to fight is at or near the top of the list. Many believers do not know that salvation enlists us to become "good soldiers of Jesus Christ" (II Timothy 2:3). Ignorance of our calling does not cause our enemies to leave us alone. They rather swamp us with temptation and attacks of discouragement that unnecessarily wound us to the degree we feel unable to consistently access the living experience of the Lord Jesus provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Great dishonor to the name of our Savior results rather than the glory of which He is so worthy.

Thankfully, and this may be the most important point of the series of messages, we do not have to remain on the sidelines of conflict if we realize we have failed to fight (and if spiritual damage has resulted). The grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus can restore us to fighting form. Also, to whatever degree we have in fact fought in the past, we can - and must - war more consistently and effectually in the future. Our Lord was tortured to death and forsaken by God and man to win the battle of the ages, and to engage us in applying the effects of His triumph throughout our sphere of influence. It would be a tragedy to fail to fight when we are so powerfully equipped with the Lord's weapons of salvation, righteousness, peace, truth, the shield of faith, the Word of God, and the amazing gift of prayer whereby we joyfully witness on our particular battlefields that...

"The Lord is a Man of war; the Lord is His name."
(Exodus 15:3)

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