28 October 2005

Now, let's get personal

Centurion's Mugless Mug

I have been trying to underscore some principles about spiritual warfare from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. If you get nothing else from that passage, please understand this much: First, the spiritual warfare we fight as Christian soldiers is a battle for truth, not territory.

Second, our weapons are not the carnal apparatus of worldly warfare, but vastly more powerful spiritual weaponry. Specifically, we wage this spiritual battle "by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Corinthians 6:6-7).

Today I want to consider those principles from a very personal and practical perspective.

Have you ever realized that if spiritual warfare is ideological, the most crucial battle you will ever participate in takes place in your own heart? If the goal and the end game of this warfare is to bring "every thought [captive] to the obedience of Christ," that presupposes that my own first order of business must be victory in my own thought life.

I have no control over your thoughts. I can perhaps influence your thinking by proclaiming the truth of God's Word, but my role in that capacity is instrumental only. You can't really be accountable to me for your private thoughts, nor can I be similarly accountable to you. This is a battle you must fight, sometimes all alone. It's lonely, grueling, lengthy, frustrating—and it's the one great battle you can least afford to shirk.

Paul knew that. On occasion, he described the Christian warfare in precisely those terms:

  • Romans 7:22-23: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
  • Galatians 5:17: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

Paul was describing a struggle in his own heart. He says you can expect to have the same kind of internal conflict. That conflict you feel inside yourself is one of the key skirmishes you must win in the spiritual arena.

Peter understood that aspect of the warfare, too. In 1 Peter 2:11, he wrote, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."

That is why the New Testament uses such graphic and violent language when it speaks of our duty in the matter of sanctification.

  • Romans 8:13: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
  • Colossians 3:5: "Mortify . . . your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

One of the sad realities of warfare is that the soldier must kill or be killed. In the spiritual warfare, there is some killing for us to do, Paul says. It's not about killing people, for that would require carnal weapons. But it's about putting to death sin—first of all in our own members.

May I say as gently as possible that you that you cannot be a good soldier unless you take this warfare seriously? You must be spiritually earnest, sober-minded, sound in the faith, strong in the Word of God, and diligent in the battle.

Too many Christians, especially in this worldly age, are content to coast through life taking nothing seriously. If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm not arguing against every expression of a lively sense of humor. But I am saying that this warfare we are engaged in is serious stuff. It's not for the lazy or apathetic. In fact, if you are passive or careless at all in your own personal spiritual walk, you will suffer agonizing defeat at the hands of the enemy.

Phil's signature

30 comments:

chamblee54 said...

This call to battle business is serious, and taken the wrong way by far too many people.
While I think that you are sincere, many who read this will wind up waging war against their neighbors, often over petty personal quarrels.
You should remember that not everyone considers the bible to be the word of god. This concept cannot be proven or disproven, but must be accepted by faith.
Also, many of us have been hurt deeply by jesus and jesus worshippers. I know that I cannot put my faith in a spirit that has been used to hurt me.
I recently received the following message:
I suggest that you try to find SOME way to work through enough of this hurt so that you will not spend the rest of your life being the Continual Victim. Because if you spend the rest of your life living with all this hurt, then those mean-spirited hateful people who profess to be christians will have won.

Steven H said...

While the location of the battle is within, the nature of the battle is spiritual. Man cannot understand God’s Word apart the illumination of the Spirit of God. One example, Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus would have their eyes enlightened, that they may know what is the hope of the calling… (Ephesians 1:17-19). The serious nature of our internal battle must be met head on with an intentional conscientious humble dependence upon the Spirit’s illumination.

Micah said...

Chamblee, did you read the same post I did? Phil was talking about the Chrisitan's inner-war with sin, not waging war with neighbors. As to the Bible being "proven or disproven", the very nature of the unbeliever's attitude and arguments against the Bible being the word of God generally prove that they in fact do consider it authoritative and yet intently reject it's authority over them.

No one's been "hurt by jesus" in the manner you speak of and those who mistreat others in His name are by no means "jesus worshippers" any more than every person who mistreats me is an atheist, even though they are acting out that attitude in their lives. I have found that a majority of hateful, mean-spirited people are infact God-haters rather than lovers of God. And many of those who claim to be sheep of Christ are in fact goats of a different flock entirely.

Libbie said...

Chamblee,

it certainly is taken the wrong way by a great many people. I think those are the very issues that Phil is attempting to address here.
If people do read this post and then end up waging war against their neighbours, they will have grossly misunderstood the post, and indeed, the Scripture.
Please understand that the truth of a matter is not defined by those fallible people who hold to that truth.

Kim said...

Okay, I'm having some serious spiritual warfare at this moment....I am hugely envying those books in that picture.

Jeremy Weaver said...

"But I am saying that this warfare we are engaged in is serious stuff. It's not for the lazy or apathetic. In fact, if you are passive or careless at all in your own personal spiritual walk, you will suffer agonizing defeat at the hands of the enemy."

I recently preached a message from I John 3, and tried my best to hammer home this truth. Sin is serious. I surprised most of the congergation I think by telling them that sin is Satanic.
"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God..." I John 3:10

One of the points that I made about that is that when we sin, we are walking on enemy territory. I think that's a good reminder to help keep us walking in righteousness.

LegoVires said...

I recall John MacArthur warning from the pulpit about the hidden sins in the church. And was it less than a year? that the revelations of Jim Bakker started rolling out. Lk 12:2
I try to convey often that we cannot escape the consequences of that hidden side of our lives.

When I see an ineffectual Christian life or ministry, I wonder . . .

The whole world has seen inner personal failure on a grand scale during the last Presidential administration. But this struggle is hidden, and I am convinced now more than ever, in our life as Christians, that the failure there is to blame for. . . everything.

Wayne Hatcher said...

chamblee54: you say: "You should remember that not everyone considers the bible to be the word of god. This concept cannot be proven or disproven, but must be accepted by faith."

The Bible does not have to be accepted by faith. there is a reasonable and conclusive reason to believe Listen to R. C. Sproul's mock debate entitled Is the Bible Inspired by God? The piece aired on the 26th, but the Streaming audio is free to listen to for the next month or so.
I too would say that Jesus has never hurt you. He says to all "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke apon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." God's peace friend.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phil, did Frank make you pay for that mug?

Steve said...

Phil: I deeply appreciate your admonishment regarding the spiritual battles that rage within us. We don't have to look far to find the reasons that Christianity as a whole is in such a weakened and ineffective state today:

1. We don't take God seriously enough, and
2. We don't take sin seriously enough.

Kim: You're not the only one envying those books!

Finrod said...

Phil:

You wrote,

"Too many Christians, especially in this worldly age, are content to coast through life taking nothing seriously. If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm not arguing against every expression of a lively sense of humor."

I do read your blog regularly and believe that you are one who takes it seriously - most of the time. At other times, when you are in a acrimonious or sardonic mood, you send a mixed message. Like you, I'm all for humor among Christians - but not at someone else's expense. But also like you - or maybe even more than you - I've been guilty of this very thing. When I (we?) have done this, I fear I haven't taken my flesh or sin seriously enough, deluding myself with the smooth, sophisticated veneer of acceptable behavior in worldly Christendom.

But I digress. To return to the issue you raised: I quoted the following by Robert Hicks yesterday; I'll repeat it here since it is relevant:

"Christianity is no trivial pursuit. As C.S. Lewis concluded, if it is true we should not sleep at night. But the way Christianity is presented and lived out in the church, it is often reduced to the most insignificant trivia. It's no wonder men want no part in it . . . If we do not call men to true Christianity and challenge them to invest their lives personally, not institutionally, I fear we will continue to lose the best men . . ."

The church loses the best men because we act like Christianity is a game. If it were only a game, it would be terribly boring and I would have little interest in it myself. In fact, it is why I have little interest in things "Christian" today: insipid music, anthropocentric sermons, and a disingenuous disposition among most believers while at church.

Well, I'm rambling incoherently now; my apologies. One correction about something you said? You wrote, "One of the sad realities of warfare is that the soldier must kill or be killed. Not exactly. Remember those pictures of the Iraqis surrendering by the thousands during Desert Storm? It is how I envision many people in the church when they are faced with the spiritual battle that is raging: giving up and going over.

centuri0n said...

Phil:

That's an amazing mug you have there. And I don't mean the coffee cup with my logo on it. Fight the good fight. :-)

Moorhead:

Jealousy looks ugly on you.

Timothy Smith said...

Phil,
One of the important books in this area is D. Powlison's "Power Encounters." The importance of his book is its argument that we need to recover the historic view of spiritual warfare most powerfully expressed by the puritan authors like Bunyan, Owens, Gurnall, et al. Its the view of personal responsibility you write about.

Chamblee's post is critical. As true as Phil's point is about this being a personal battle within the soul, and that we are accountable first for our personal sin, there can be little doubt about the current problem of spiritual warfare being viewed as an attack on others that causes them pain.

2Corinthians fully bears this out. No doubt that Paul was wrestling with his personal responsibility and his quest for "comfort" (e.g.- 2Cor 1:4-7; 12:9). But much of his pain revolved around the fact he knew he needed to cause the Corinthians pain but feared he may have caused them too much pain (2Cor 6-7) and sought to apply the comfort of Christ (but not worldly comfort). As any one who loves knows (like a parent) - it is hard and painful to have to cause pain.

Anyone who sincerely tries to minister for Christ in our time fully knows the problem chamblee posts about. People who encounter truth regularly cry "too much pain" and feel like victims of insensitive "wrathful" tyrannts.

In a postmodern, relativistic, world, where there is no belief in absolute truth, the only thing considered wrong IS pain - causing pain or experiencing pain. If there is no truth or true path, than pleasure (or least absence of pain) can be the only standard. This is why spiritual sloth is THE chief characteristic of our time.

I don't know chamblee's personal experience and I don't mean to trivialize anyone's pain, but I know from Scripture and experience that expericing pain and even causing some pain is an inevitable part of believing in truth outside of ourselves. Jesus does insist that we first take up our cross - (and instrument of pain).

The truth oftentimes hurts - but it is self-defeating to kick the doctors of our souls who know there is no remedy without at least some degree of pain. I know I have come to be thankful to those who caused me some pain because they loved me too much to let me continue in paths of error.

chamblee54 said...

The best way to know a spirit is through its believers. Is there a difference between being hurt by jesus and hurt by jesus worshippers who misunderstand the message ?
Also, there is a difference between a book inspired by god and "the word of god". The only way you can accept the later premise is through faith. And this faith should be in god , rather than in a book written, edited, translated, and read by man.
Even if the bible is divinely inspired, one must trust the person reading it to us. Is a person who turns his neighbors against each other to be trusted?

John Rush said...

This issue gets into the fallacy of one's public life vs. private life. We cannot "compartmentalize" our thinking in any area can we? What we consider "entertainment", attitudes we have, actions when nobody else is around... If we believe we can compartmentalize, our lives can be split down the middle. I think the word for that is hypocrisy.

Jesus said beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. I pray that my inner life is right with God and that my "outer" life reflects it in right measure.

I would say that there is a difference, however, between a hypocrite and a struggling Christian.

A hypocrite may win some battles but loses the war.
A struggling Christian may lose some battles but will win the war.

A hypocrite basically caves in to the spiritual battle, while a struggling Christian fights to the death...or life, I should say.

The battle is constant.
JRush

John Rush said...

Did not God hurt Job?

Did he not hurt him for reasons beyond Job's knowledge? I'm symapthetic to chamblee's comments, although I disagree with what appears to be his view of the Scriptures.

Yes, God does hurt us at times, and this hurt appears to be unjust when we go through it. Job felt like God had set him up as a target and was shooting arrows into him. Job cursed the day he was born.

I do not want to be a foolish counselor to anyone who suffers. I don't know why God hurts people specifically, but the Scriptures do say that, for His children, our sufferings make for an eternal weight of glory on the other side.

Keep the faith although its whittled down to almost nothing. The mustard seed is still enough.

JRush

Stephen A Morse said...

Phil... Thank you for your timely word of encouragement. You have truly ministered to my heart with this one.
Keep up the humor... I love the sarcasm...
but most of all please keep pointing to the Captain of our Salvation! He bears the scars of His/our warfare and I only wish I could praise Him as He alone deserves!

LeeC said...

Chamblee,

The Bible itself tells you that there are many who say they are worshippers of Jesus but instead are wolves roaming about creating divisions and tearing at the flock.

Their goal is to make people look at them and use thier actions to judge Christ. They want to decieve you. Don't let them win.

Mat 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Mat 7:16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Mat 7:17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
Mat 7:18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
Mat 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mat 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
Mat 7:23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'


Professing to be a Christian makes a person one as much as my profession of being Napolean makes me the old general. It is an age old strategy that Satan perfected and man imitates often.

What if you were at the Boston Tea Party and since you saw Indians doing the deed went on a program to wipe out the local natives?

2Pe 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
2Pe 2:2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
2Pe 2:3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
2Pe 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

wisdomofthepages.com said...

Good stuff here. Phil, were you the editor for Mayhue's book on spiritual warfare?

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Phil. Any ideas on how to fight, what it might look like on a practical level?

TheBlueRaja said...

Never mind. I just got my practical advice from this post the TMS Alumni Page.

Jim Crigler said...

"But I am saying that this warfare we are engaged in is serious stuff. It's not for the lazy or apathetic. In fact, if you are passive or careless at all in your own personal spiritual walk, you will suffer agonizing defeat at the hands of the enemy."

And once in a while you will suffer "agonizing defeat at the hands of the enemy" anyhow. War is like that. And when you suffer defeat, the Cross of Christ is still there, the eternal punishment for your sins taken, paid for, and used up.

Yeah, there will still be natural consequences. "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." But not one drop of consequence is punishment for the believer. It is all designed on purpose by God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit for his good. (See question 1 in the Heidelberg Catechism.)

Micah said...

Hmmm... I see centuri0n's mug in Phil's picture and wonder why he didn't but a mug from a more reputable store such as my solafide store at cafepress? ;)

Tolle, Blogge said...

Good stuff, Phil - it's been on my mind recently how striking it is that spiritual warfare is entirely absent from most treatments of Christian Worldview. In fact, "engaging the culture" seems to have moved from a military to marriage metaphor.

Bhedr said...

When a Spartan was asked what were the boundaries of his country, he replied, "The limits of the Sparta are marked by the points of our spears." The limit of our church is also determined by the points of our spears; but the weapons are not carnal. Wherever we go, we preach Christ crucified, and His word of solemn proclamation, "He that believeth and is baptised is saved." The enquirer turned, and said to the Spartan, "You have no walls to Sparta." "No" he replied. "The walls of Sparta are the breasts of her sons."

We have no defences for our churches, either in Acts of Parliament or enforced creeds; but the regenerated hearts and consecrated spirits of men who resolve to live and die in the service of King Jesus, have hitherto sufficed, in the *hands of the Spirit* to preserve us from grievous heresy.

AN ALL ROUND MINISTRY- The Chuckster

centuri0n said...

Micah:

Because the mug at my store is for refined tastes. If one simply likes Boone's Farm by the box, or a "cooler", he would certainly shop your cafepress shop. If he prefers something more challenging and provactive, the mug or perhaps a t-shirt will do.

centuri0n said...

I'm holding out for Pecadillo merchandise, btw.

Denise said...

Truth is offensive and Jesus is the rock that makes men stumble; what Jesus taught and Who He is offends many people.

Could it be Chamblee that you were ultimately offended by the truth?

Generally speaking the problem is we often think we deserve better (better treatment, better things), but in light of a holy and righteous God, we deserve nothing less that God's wrath. The good news is that Jesus took the Father's wrath for those whom He saves, even while all of us deserve hell and death.

No one has a corner on pain. We've all been hurt. I'm sure everyone here at this post has been hurt by Christians and non-Christians. For the true Christian, though, God works all things to our good (conforming us to the image of Christ Jesus and rejecting sinful Self) and for His glory. Our confidence is that through every trial and trouble, we can go to Him, finding rest and peace in Christ Alone.

Outside of Christ Jesus, chamblee, you have no hope. You cannot rest in your own works, no matter how *good* they seem. Even the *bad* works you don't do (adultery or drunkenness for example) won't help you eternally.

The beauty of God's grace is that warts and all, we who are true Christians are forgiven in Christ, and as we grow in Him, we will see more and more our own filthy sin and confess it to the Lord as He changes us. Christians are hardly perfect. We're sinners saved by grace through faith alone in Christ and we are growing---we haven't by any means arrived.

Ultimately it seems that chamblee your issue is with God and His Word. May the Lord open your heart and mind to the truths of Scripture and may He grant you repentance, faith, love and peace found solely in Christ Jesus alone.

Milton Stanley said...

Amen. It's a battle, all the time. I quoted part of your post on my blog today. Peace.

ambiance-five said...

There is no defeated position in Christ.

impossible

victory- in Christ
defeated- the enemy