Explosive gunfire shattered the still night air. The slumbering troops bolted for their weapons and raced instinctively for their posts while radios crackled with clipped intense voices spitting out enemy positions and retaliation instructions. It was another in a series of blistering attacks by a well-armed, organized, and cunning adversary. Scrambling for cover, Sargent Conner was barely audible as he barked his warning, “This’ll take all we’ve got!” As I fell next to him within the relative protection of the bunker, I lamented, “Will it ever end?” Within minutes of the first enemy salvo, our team was venomously answering with blistering counter-fire from a wide array of deadly weaponry. Thirty minutes later silence hit as suddenly as the battle began leaving a dense cloud of dust, and acrid smoke ripe with the stench of hot metal and gunpowder.
The reality of war is a stark and horrifying historical tradition of Man. It is embraced by many and condemned by a similar number, but will likely haunt us forever. For those in arms, it is necessary, brutal, and arduous moments of terror laced with seemingly endless rigors or boredom of a Spartan existence awaiting the next adrenalin rush. And always wondering when it will be the last day among the living.
However, that warfare is, at least, overt, real, physical, and inescapably “in their face”. It affords rational, natural, and learned motivation for reaction with a solid defensive or aggressive offensive strategy of action. It may be hell, but it is within the realm of understanding and a tangible situation to analyze and act accordingly. What is significantly more difficult is the quantum leap to engagement and struggle with an intangible enemy – an unseen metaphysical adversary with extreme intelligence and cunning; one that has almost unlimited resources, energy, and weapons to wage his insidious campaign of destructive terrorism. This formidable foe hides in the darkness of the supernatural world where humanity is lost in unfamiliar territory and vulnerable prey to deception, subversion, and destruction. This wily adversary employs a wide range of wickedly offensive tactics; however, they are usually far less obvious and brazen than Hollywood satanic film scenarios lead us to believe. Real life victims, most often, experience little, or no, cognizance of any effects of the covert spirit world insurgency.
It appears to me that Christians today face a struggle far more complex, confusing, and dangerous than ever before. In the early days, the church was subjected to physical threats from heathen antagonists who injured or killed believers for their profession of adherence to, and trust, in Jesus. That behavior advanced to persecution and murder by organized religion for alleged heretical beliefs or physical offenses because of their resistance to, or rejection, of the doctrinal errors, moral decline, and political power hungry misdeeds and outright crimes. We had the well-known Spanish Inquisition and the early American witch burnings among the many horrors of fanatical religious terror campaigns. These acts were, of course, perverse and egregious travesties of justice, especially so because perpetrated in the name of God who had no part in their evil activity. The world has never experienced more inhumanity, death, and destruction than from those falsely claiming divine direction.
I believe our creator recoils in repulsion as he surveys the timeline of post resurrection history. Yes, God presided over wars in Old Testament times for His necessary purposes, but in these last days Jesus came forth as the human embodiment of the invisible God to usher in the new era of peace as well as love, compassion, and forgiveness. God basically repented of the age of war and wanted a new approach that was available if humankind wanted it. Now, as those who know the scriptures can agree, Man, on balance, has rejected that new concept, for Jesus said, “Broad is the path to hell, but narrow is the path to life and few find it.” However, though the Lord Jesus came for peace, we now have a new frontier of warfare to negotiate. The real peace will never be realized until Jesus returns for establishing a new heaven and earth. Therefore, in this current age we now face the unseen enemy, the prince of darkness, Lucifer the angel of light – the infamous devil cast from heaven for his rebellion against God.
Satan, or Lucifer, walks the dark, foreboding halls of the supernatural world seeking whom he can pervert or convert and conform to his evil ways. It spans a spectrum from extreme demonic behavior, murderous acts, and sexual depravity to mere complacency in our supposed religious beliefs. Criminal acts covertly inspired by the devil are heinous enough, but lukewarm attitudes and lifestyles by professing Christians is just as dangerous to our spiritual health as blatant Satanic practices or sociopathic transgressions. Many church people assent to this truth, but approach it as abstract philosophy and therefore have difficulty incorporating this concept into their daily lives. One reason is that so many of us have been erroneously led to believe that simply by church or Bible school attendance, tithing, observing religious rituals, toiling in ministries, and utilizing Biblical vocabulary that they then acquire good standing with God. Moreover, because of the enemy’s deceptive powers, these people find it nearly impossible to grasp the fact that their reliance on those surface motions and words is a slippery slope – a smokescreen of the Devil to keep them from the truth of serious intimacy with Jesus and learning the real emphasis of the Christian life. Our heavenly Father wants His children undergoing an intense training program for eternal existence and a deep knowledge and close relationship with our Savior; it is a thorough preparation for the spiritual warfare that will result from, and escalate in relation with, our growth in Jesus. Our enemy doesn’t waste much effort on those already lulled into complacency. He concentrates his efforts on those who are actively engaged, by faith and trust, in the Lord’s work or those who awake to the need for change to a serious walk with the Lord.
Now, those Godly activities mentioned above, or the “works” referred to in the scriptures, are right and good as long as they spring from the essential grounding and saving faith and serious adherence to the heart of Jesus. For it is by faith alone that we are made right with God. And by that faith we bring forth the fruit of good works as God intended for us. We must always remember that God’s principles in this manner are eternal. Even though appearances can lead us astray, it has always been salvation by faith and trust in God and always will be. As we have all read, by faith, Abraham was made right with God. There were no church pews to warm, no ministries for labors, no Bible schools to attend, and no established religious rituals to observe. Amazing! Abraham experienced salvation without all the modern trappings of our current religious machine. And moreover, this forerunner of saving grace proved his faith by his “works”. He trusted God and followed orders even though it was terrifying to do so. His trust paid off and the goodness and mercy of God was on display.
However, it is relatively easy to whip up zeal for significant spiritual endeavors. We can momentarily envision ourselves as members of an elite sports team intensely striving for excellence and winning performance or as heroic warriors in the battle for truth and justice, but when we get right down to converting that abstract theory to action in our everyday existence, there is a monumental block of confusion. How does one realistically implement the vision and the concept of conflict with the invisible yet notoriously depraved and vicious supernatural legions. It is a frustrating dilemma, for we are so entrenched in the familiar routine of working with the natural and tangible world with which we can converse, touch, and feel,
Let us consider the quandary of what we as Christians now face. The simple yet complex admonition of the Apostle Paul found in the letter to the Ephesians: “Put on the full armor of God to fight the good fight of faith.” vs. the valid question, “How do we realistically do that?” The first step is cultivating a deep personal friendship with Jesus – getting to know him in the fellowship of his sufferings and in the power of His resurrection. It is written that those who will not submit to the Lord’s personalized training program to vicariously or realistically share in and experience all that Jesus endured such as long-term toil, humiliations, false accusations, persecution, and possibly even torture and murder will not share in the final glory or enter His eternal rest. Although we find some enjoyment in this current life, its primary purpose for those committed to Jesus, is serious training for eternity, not an indulgence in selfish pleasure. This rule at first may seem beyond comprehension and be difficult to swallow, but with God all things are possible. So, again the query, how do we move from the abstract concept to the reality of implementation? I personally have struggled with this issue for many years. For a while, on fire, then at other times lost in confusion, but the Lord helped me persevere.
Jesus spent His time on earth utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit to do all the wondrous works we read of in the bible. He rose from the dead to then impart that same Holy Spirit to all those who would believe and trust in Him. We have, at our disposal, the very same power that enabled our Lord for His work on earth with and in us now to use for His purpose and mankind’s benefit. It is then a matter of committing to learn to live and operate our lives by the Holy Spirit’s leading, strength, and energy. It will not happen over-night, we must be patient and follow in His footsteps against the forces of darkness. He WILL teach you how, why, and where. Just trust in Him.
Therefore, lay aside this world’s alluring attractions and join God’s elite team as agents of light, truth, and hope in an age of declining morality, serious threats to our security, and the rise of atheism. The modern church has, virtually, a chapel on every corner of this land, yet has failed to be the beacon of God’s morality and compassion He desires. Let us correct this travesty and reverse the tide of evil moving against us. Take hold of the mighty sword of the Spirit and wake the sleepers to effective Godly action not with fire and brimstone anger, but with the unswerving tough love and compassion of Jesus.
Jerry Clifford, the Word Guru
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