The Warring Christian

The state of affairs in which we find ourselves as Christians is one of perpetual opposition. I have found that it is always healthier if one honestly and accurately sets expectations up front. This way, at least we know what we are getting ourselves into. I don’t know about you, but I am tired. I am tired of the moral degradation of the culture in which I live. I am tired of the irrational arguments opposing Christian belief. I am tired of the sheer volume of people flirting with evangelical Christianity who have no interest in a genuine covenant relationship with Christ. I am tired of the liberal scholars who, at every turn, are coming up with theories aimed at weakening the integrity of the Christian story. And I am tired of the conservative scholars who tolerate them in the name of Christian scholarship. I am tired of the unbiblical virtual campus model and the veiled arrogance behind it and the pastors who are too political to speak out against it. I am tired of the empty emotive rock concert atmosphere called Christian worship in many evangelical churches today. I am tired of Christian leaders who are giving every appearance of accepting outright false teachers all in the name of unity. I am tired of generic Christianity. I am tired of timid pastors who are more interested in building empires, kingdoms, and reputations than they are in applying the truth of God’s Word to the lives of their respective communities with love and grace in holiness and the fear of God. In summary, I am tired.

I have to ask myself, “why am I tired?” A little reflection indicates that I am tired for all the wrong reasons. I am tired because my aim is misguided. I am tired because my motivations and my targets are misdirected. I am tired because what brings me pleasure is not what is supposed to bring me pleasure. I am tired because what is bringing me frustration and pain is the thing that ought to bring me great pleasure. I am tired because my expectations are faulty. They are out of touch with reality. In short, I am tired because my expectations are out of touch with the reality that is clearly presented in divine revelation and I need to do better. There is nothing new about this state of affairs in which I find myself except, that is, for me. I am the variable. The only thing different about this sinful world in which I find myself is me. I wasn’t here and now I am. It’s time for an adjustment to my thinking.

The Bible Depicts the Christian life as a War

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:4) Paul describes the Christian life as one that is a warfare, complete with weapons and all. And in this case, he clearly thinks of these weapons as being designed to destroy an enemy. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare. (1 Tim. 1:18) In this case, Paul charges Timothy to he must wage a good warfare! In fact, Paul charges Timothy to wage a good warfare by the prophecies previous made about him. Again, Paul writes to Timothy, Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Tim. 2:3-4) Paul repeatedly uses military language to describe the Christian life. To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Notice the language again; struggle, powers, world forces, spiritual forces. The Christian way is not for those who want a life of comfort, of luxury, and of ease. The minute the Holy Spirit regenerates your person, you are placed in the most intense battle you will ever know. The New Testament writings could not be clearer. In light of this, the Christian must prepare himself or herself for what is to come. And this “what is to come” will come until you draw your last breath. The Christian life is by definition a life of struggle. When you are born again, both the spiritual forces of darkness and your own spiritual nature immediately respond: THIS MEANS WAR!

Old Testament History as a Depiction of War

Our first parents could not even get to the third generation without violence of the worse kind; murder. Cain murdered his own brother under the most ridiculous circumstances. Sin produces violence, animosity, war! The good that is, exists eternally. It is only to be expected that if evil comes to be in a reality that has eternally existed as good, immediate tension would arise. And so it does. It is for this very reason that tension will not cease until good finally puts an end to evil: perfect good cannot rest until even the slightest evil is destroyed once and for all. We trace this violence to the generation of Noah where it is described in this way: Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5) As one traces the accounts recorded in the Old Testament narratives, it is impossible to miss to continuous struggle between good and evil and the constant warring faction between the two! The violence and war are everywhere we read. Consider the prophets and the number of them who lost their lives because they took up the sword of truth against the tyranny of wicked behavior and false teaching! From the fall all the way through the pages of the Old Testament we read of murder and war and violence and exile. It is impossible to miss. What is God telling us? What are we to learn from this? Can we say that both the Old and the New Testaments are setting expectations for us? I think we can. The servant of God is a warrior, continually at war, never at rest. Peace comes in the morning, but so long as we breath, and so long as Christ tarries, it is day. And as long as it is day, there will be war.

Church History and the on-going spiritual battle

To begin with, the evil system of the world took the most perfectly good human who was also divine and subjected him to the most violent death available at the time. God came into the world and the world killed Him. Jesus told us as Christians to expect to be false accused and slandered for His name’s sake: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:11-12) Paul told Timothy, Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim. 3:12-13) One might be tempted to say that this is pretty morbid. And by natural standards, it is. But Christians do not operate by natural standards. Our standards are higher. We remain engaged in this battle, in this war, in the discomfort not for our own morbid interest in fighting and discomfort, but because it is to this that we are called! Good opposes evil. Truth opposes error. Righteousness opposes unrighteousness. It could not be any other way!

Jarsolav Pelikan wrote, “for when the church confessed what it believed and taught, it did so in answer to attacks from within and from without the Christian movement.”[1] From the beginning of the Church, there was opposition from without and from within. This opposition is the result of what happened in the Garden some 6,000+ years ago. The introduction of evil into the reality of good created a tension that has manifested itself ever since. Human beings are either loyal to God or they are loyal to something else. Only God is good said Jesus. If you are loyal to something other than God, and only God is good, and everything that is not good is evil, then you must be loyal to evil. For this reason, early Christians were destroyed by the Romans on several occasions. To refuse to burn incense before the emperor’s image was a sign of treason or at the very least of disloyalty.[2]

The war between the Church of God and the sons of unrighteousness continued throughout church history. Even though he was not excommunicated while living, after his death, John Wycliffe was condemned by the Council of Constance, his remains were removed from the sacred burial place, burned, and his ashes were thrown into the river Swift.[3] William Tyndale, on the other hand, never made it to a natural death. He was arrested for heresy in the Low Countries, he was tried, condemned, degraded from the priesthood, and strangled, and his body was burned (1536).[4]

If you are reading this post and you are in this war, and like all of us from time to time, you feel like quitting, don’t! Don’t ever quit. We need one another to be sources of encourage to stay in the fight, to hold up God’s truth, to point the culture to God’s righteous standards, to glorify God in all things. Your church needs you to hold the battlefield line, no retreat, no surrender, not even an inch of ground. The battle is here to stay; are you? It is easy to walk away. It is easy to park it in front of the television and disengage. It is easy to adopt modern methods of consumerism, to go along and to get along. Jesus never called us to “easy.” Jesus called us to division, to tension, to war! In closing, I remind myself and you, of the words of Paul to young Timothy: No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Tim. 2:4)

[1] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989), 11.

[2] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, ©2010), 22.

[3] Ibid., 411.

[4] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, rev. ed. (Peabody, Mass.: Prince Press, 1999, ©1975), 799.

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