Called To Battle
August 5, 2001 / No. 3057
Dear Radio Friends,
Are you ready to fight? No, I am not asking about a physical fight with fists, guns, bombs, planes, but about a spiritual fight against sin, the wicked world, and the devil. Are you ready to fight in that war?
The Word of God in Ephesians 6:1 reads, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” That verse is a call to battle, to war, to fight. Although it is not a physical war, as I just said, nevertheless, it is not an imaginary war, but real. It is the only war of importance in which you must fight. As a child of God you must fight. In fact, all are enlisted on one or the other of two sides: either, by the grace of God, in the army of God; or in the ranks of the foul fiend of hell, the devil.
Child of God, are you ready to fight? Do you stand in your faith against your sins, against a wicked world tempting you, and against an unrelenting foe called the devil?
Young boys and young men feel a deep interest in war. Mention the names of battlefields and hearts begin to swell. Normandy, The Bulge, Gettysburg, Antietam, Bunker Hill, Iwo Jima. But there is another warfare of far greater importance. This warfare is fought over the cause of God, over His truth revealed in the holy Scriptures, over the honor of Jesus Christ and His honor in the life of His people. This war is fought over God’s truth as it is seen in you, and every Christian is called to be a soldier in this war.
There are many in the church world today who know nothing of this spiritual battle. For many in the church world the word today is “disarmament.” They would look at you as if you were mad if you talked to them of the spiritual battle against sin, a wicked world, and the devil himself. Perhaps they would call you a legalist or a fanatic. Then they would come to the conclusion that you are dangerous to their fun.
Yet the Bible is very plain. The Bible makes it clear that every child of God is called to a spiritual battle. I Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” I Timothy 1:18, 19, “War a good warfare; holding faith.” II Timothy 2:1-3, “Thou therefore, my son, … endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight.” I Corinthians 16:13, “Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men.” For the true child of God, hand-to-hand combat is ahead. You can only expect to be engaged in a spiritual battle against sin. There will be wounds. There is the call for constant watching. There will be fatigue, sieges, and assaults of the enemy, defeats due to the weakness of our faith, and the promise of victory – absolutely certain – victory in Christ. This is the nature of the true Christi!an life. Therefore, the Word of God calls us to be equipped and trained in the spiritual warfare.
The spiritual warfare that we fight is not a fight against each other as children of God. Then we would contend with each other in our envy even in the church of Jesus Christ. Then we would fight with each other over gossip and bitterness. The devil wants that. He wants the camp of Jesus Christ to fight itself in their little arguments and out of pettiness of pride.
But that is not where we must fight. We must stand united to fight against the true foe: sin. If we are to walk worthy of our calling in Jesus Christ, then we must fight against sin. We live in a day of compromise. We live in a day in which many in the church of Jesus Christ, rather than look for spiritual struggle and resistance against their temptations and sin, would rather hear a message of ease and compromise. Now there is no greater misrepresentation of the Christian life than to depict that life in terms of ease without a battle. The Word of God is very plain. I John 4:17 tells us that as He, Jesus, was in the world, so shall we be in this world. He was beset by the devil, tempted for forty days in the wilderness. As the wicked world about Him never ceased to assault Him, so also are we assaulted by this world.
There is also the idea held among some that the truth of God’s sovereign grace, namely, that we are saved by grace alone, means that we do not need to concern ourselves with resisting our sins and fighting against the devil. We hope today, by the grace of God, under the light of God’s Word, to attack that notion and to show that notion as nothing other than the lethargy and the treason of sin. We are saved by grace alone. And we are preserved by the mighty God Himself, who said that “no man is able to pluck My sheep out of My hand.” That is absolutely true. The victory is ours in Christ. We fight in the confidence of the victory that is ours in Christ. But we are called to fight, to the glory of God, and to the well-being of our own souls. We are called to walk in the way of obedience in which we shall enjoy the blessings of God. And God also warns us that when we set! aside our spiritual armor and forget our calling to fight against our sin, then the way of despair and destruction, sadness and pain will be ours. Then the very poisons and anguish of the devil will be found in our life. Therefore, we need the grace of God which has saved us, also to give to us courage and determination and vigilance and hope. We need to obey the exhortation of the Scripture: Stand strong in the Lord. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand all the wiles of the devil.
The apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:11 is identifying our foe as the “wiles of the devil.” We must “stand against the wiles of the devil.” We have other foes. We have the wicked world. Jesus referred to the world as the “children of disobedience.” That world does not cease to tempt us and to lure us to come out of the church and to join them in their life. There is also another enemy, a fearsome enemy, called our sinful flesh. That sinful flesh is with us wherever we go and always strives against the new man in Jesus Christ given to us by the grace of God.
But the apostle here in this passage speaks of the devil, Satan. Satan is to be feared because he is the organizer of the foes. You must not think that the threefold enemy – the world, the sinful flesh, and the devil – are a disorganized mob which does not act in unison. No, Satan is a master. He is a master of our human nature. He knows what makes our sinful flesh tick. He has been studying human nature now for some 6,000 years. Your sinful flesh is naked and exposed to him. He knows that your sinful flesh is his best ally. His attacks will always be directed to your flesh.
Still more. It is the devil who organizes all the assaults against the church and the child of God. Satan’s purpose is to attempt to defeat the cause of God. Satan hates God and he hates the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And specifically, Satan’s intention in this war is to dislodge you as a child of God from your high position given to you in Christ in the heavenly places. He wants you in hell. The apostle Paul in this beautiful epistle to the Ephesians, in the second chapter, has spoken to us of the richness of God’s grace to us – that we are saved by grace, and not only that, but that same grace has made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). Think of it! In Jesus Christ the child of God already has the inheritance in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Satan wants to dislodge the child of God from that. He spares no effort to do so.
Still more. The Word of God tells us that the devil is more than our match. The spiritual battlefield is strewn with those who did not take him seriously, those who tried to fight him on their own strength or make terms and concessions with him. He loves to see the careless and arrogant young man – this careless and arrogant young man in the church of Jesus Christ who says, “Oh, I know, I know; but it won’t get me.” He loves to see young women and men who play games, those who try to get as close to the line between obedience and disobedience as they can. He loves that! But when he sees Jesus Christ in you, when he sees the genuine and sincere work of God in your heart, when he sees repentance – a hatred of sin and a love for the truth of God – then the devil blows up in rage. He flies upon you to test your mettle.
The Word of God tells us that he fights with wiles. “Stand,” says the apostle, “against the wiles of the devil.” “Wiles” are clever plots or strategies, tricks, deceits, a ruse. He is a master of these things. The devil always hides his real intent from you. Remember the fall of Adam and Eve and how he approached Eve in the garden of Eden? He tried to hide his intent. He tried to appear neutral, seeking only information from the woman. When the devil comes against you, he is not going to wave hell-fire in front of your eyes. But he is going to work so that when at last you see that to which he is leading you it is too late for the consequences to be avoided.
He always works along these lines. He says to you concerning disobedience and sin, “It’s a little one. It’s really nothing. You really can be excused. It’s only once. Everybody else is doing it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a Christian. No one will find out. Secrecy can save you. You have the right. No one should tell you what to do. Look at those other Christians. They claim to abide in Christ? Look how hypocritical they are!” Those are the themes of the devil. He will appeal to lust – especially to the lust of young men. A whole book in the Bible, the book of Proverbs, is really geared to equip young men and women against the wiles of the devil – the whole book. He works today especially through pornography. The acceptance of pornography in our society is demonic. Through this, Satan hopes to attack the very covenant of God, the sanctity and purity of marriage, the purity of sexual relationships within marriage, and to corrupt, defile, pervert, and twist children. He works towards infidelity, saying that infidelity is, after all, to be expected and is really nothing. The devil hates sexual faithfulness. He hates it. And he tells you that lust is fulfilling, that lust will satisfy, that really you cannot help it. We must remember from the Word of God that pornography is deception, pornography is the lie, and it is to worship the lie. It is to worship the devil himself. It is bondage.
But lust and pornography are not his only weapons. There is the weapon of greed. He works hard on this theme as well today. He says to you, perhaps, as a young man concerning a car: “You have to have it. Your parents are just evil. They’re just against you if they won’t get you one. You have to have that! You ought to be able to have whatever you want.” He works today in drunkenness. Our society is also sold over to alcohol. Perhaps there is a little bit of concern about drugs and drug addiction, but there is prevailing silence over the abuse of liquor, the drunkenness that is so prevalent today. The devil smirks when society expresses its supposed righteousness with the saying, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” as if the epitome of virtue is that you not let someone drive drunk. That the person is drunk!, well, that is his choice. But love will not let him drive drunk. That is the folly of sin. True love condemns the drunkenness!
But the devil continues his attack. It is not just with vices. He attacks the absolutes of God’s truth. False teaching is legion today – false teaching in the church of Jesus Christ, the setting aside of the absolute truth of God’s Word. This setting aside of the truth is not because of serious scholarship in the Word of God. But this setting aside of God’s truth is, as we read in II Thessalonians 2, that God has sent strong delusion into the church that they might believe the lie and be damned. The devil will come and he will work on you and he will work on your church if your church desires to be faithful. He will say, “But is not your church exclusivistic? Are you saying that no one else is saved? How do you know that you are right? Doesn’t God’s truth come with many shades of color? False doctrine, well, yes, but those who teach it are so sincere! Does!n’t that mean that if you say ‘This is the truth” that you are intolerant?”
And on and on we could go. We could speak of the fact that the devil uses the world with its compliments to flatter the child of God out of the church, or the devil will come to you simply to appeal to your own pride. I say again, the devil has had 6,000 years. He can hide, cover, and justify any sin and he wants you to be indifferent, careless, arrogant, and unfaithful.
Now the Word of God comes: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Put it on! That means that you must know what this armor of God is. And you must know what it is to stand in the truth. You must be convinced that you are engaged in a war. If you are not convinced that you are engaged in a war, you are not going to put on this armor of God. What would you think? Use your imagination. You are in the army. You are about to assault a beach. There is barbed wire and obstacles, landmines and artillery, machine gun fire spraying the beach that you must assault. One of the soldiers has come in a bathing suit and with a lawn chair and thinks that he is on a holiday. What would you think? You would say, “Well, either the man is insane, or he doesn’t care about his life, he doesn’t care about his comrades, he doesn’92t care about his country, he doesn’t care about freedom. He just doesn’t care!” Do you care? Are you alive in Christ? Do you love Christ? Do you love your salvation? Do you love the glory of God? Do you love the honor of Christ? Then fight! Put on the whole armor of God. There is no neutrality in this warfare. To be neutral as a child of God is to be guilty of treason. Do not rely upon yourself but put on the armor of God.
In verses 14-17 the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6, gives six pieces of Christian armor. He speaks of the girdle of truth. The girdle was so important because it would hold up the robe of a man in order that this man would be able to move about with agility. The Word of God is telling us that without truth, everything falls apart in the Christian life. If you cast aside the truths of God’s Word, the absolute truths of God’s grace, then you are going to be hampered and slain in this battle of sin.
You must put on, says the apostle, the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate would cover the vital organs, especially the heart. The righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. We must stand in the assurance that our salvation and forgiveness is earned in Christ.
We must have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel. The means that you must know the Word of God and you must be ready to apply the Word of God.
Above all things, says the apostle, you must have the shield of faith, faith which is knowledge and confidence in the Word of God.
The helmet of salvation, says the apostle. Put that on. That refers to your thinking, your choosing. Do it all in the light of your salvation.
And the sword of the Spirit, says the apostle, which is the Word of God. God’s Word is your defense. And God’s Word is your offence. Do not just let that Word of God rest in the scabbard, but pull that sword out and use it. And stand!
That tells us that God has given, by grace, ground on which we are to stand. You must defend. When you stand, you are defending something. We defend the heritage of God’s truth. It is called the Reformed faith. It is the truth of the absolute Scriptures, which attributes all things to the glory of God, which says, God is God and man is nothing before Him. Man is saved by grace alone. God’s eternal purpose is to glorify Himself and His people in the church. Stand in the truth.
Stand in holiness. Stand as men and women of the church of Jesus Christ. Stand in Christ. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
The Lord’s might. That is our confidence. The might of the Lord caused the cedars of Lebanon to burst. The might of the Lord parted the Red Sea. The might of the Lord caused sun and stars to stand still. In the power of Jesus Christ, by faith, we stand.
Are you ready to fight? Are you fighting in the strength of faith? Then the Word of God to you today is: “Be of good cheer. Christ has overcome the world.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that it may be a blessing, that it may alert us to the reality of our spiritual warfare. And give us to trust in the strength of Christ alone. Amen.