He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:15-18
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Why does it seem Christians are almost always on the defensive rather than preaching the gospel, influencing culture, and standing up for Christ and His truth? Jesus Christ enlisted us in active service, and we are to make it our goal to obey and please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). As soldiers of an eternal army, we cannot afford to be indifferent or ignorant about the intensifying battle all around us. When we are silent and fail to engage in warfare, we become ineffective for God’s kingdom including the important work of making disciples.
Here’s an excerpt from The Cost of Our Silence (chapter 14).
This epic battle between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness is real whether you believe the Bible or not. Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and when He returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to help us fight (John 14:12).
The leaders of the armies are Jesus Christ whom God has exalted forever far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:21); and Satan, the temporary ruler of this world (John 12:31) whose time is short (Revelation 12:12).
God allows us to choose what part we will play in advancing His kingdom. We can choose to do nothing or we can respond to His call and fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7). Yes, it is risky, certainly unpopular, and potentially dangerous, but without risk, we experience little reward and we often suffer repercussions for not taking action.
Lord of the Rings’ fans will remember the scene in The Two Towers in which the massive, evil army of Mordor was on the move toward Gondor in their quest to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. After being warned about the enemy advancing, Aragorn encouraged the king to ride out and face the enemy. Théoden, King of Rohan, declared, “I will not risk open war.”
Aragorn replied with truth,
“Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”
Instead, the king ordered the city to evacuate and retreat to Helm’s Deep, a fortress that had kept them safe in the past… As a result of not staying to fight, many more lives were lost.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Do we avoid conflict and run away when life gets difficult or when we are faced with opposition?
For some, their security is money; for others, that security comes from family, a job, a relationship, the Internet, or even church activity. Some escape to entertainment; others to whatever provides immediate gratification. Our culture will only get worse if we continue to seek comfort, worldly things, or our own happiness while avoiding the battle for souls and ignoring our mission in Christ.
Most of us would acknowledge the enemy’s army of wickedness has wreaked havoc in our country by chipping away at its Christian foundation. What we see today is the result of our silence and inactivity, but the Bible teaches that when we choose to take a stand for righteousness, we have the power in Christ to overcome Satan and his schemes.
The question is: Do we have the will?
Christians are instructed to Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). We are not to be the ones who run away. Peter reminds us that other true believers around the world are resisting the enemy by standing for Christ in the face of persecution , and they are enduring the same experiences of suffering (1 Peter 5:9) we are; and much worse.
After we spend time in the Word and in prayer and put on the armor of God and after we do everything we can to prepare for the attacks of the enemy, Paul tells believers to stand firm.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).
You and I have three possible choices:
- We will put on our spiritual armor, engage in battle, and not only stand against the enemy but stay on offense by wielding the sword of the Spirit. We will stand on God’s Word in all things and battle until the end, hoping to hear the Lord say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
- We will refuse to take our faith and God’s Word seriously, perhaps even suggesting the Bible is not literal, but figurative. As a result – though we profess to be Christian – we fail to build on a proper foundation, and we conform to the world, falling prey to the devil’s schemes. This will have repercussions on many souls in our sphere of influence.
- (Most common) Though we say we trust God, believe the Bible, and are somewhat aware of the battle, we will avoid or ignore it and live this temporary life for ourselves and our earthly families. We may do some good works, but fail to see the big picture. This will often produce an empty existence, and as our faith becomes lukewarm, our lives will be of no consequence where God’s purposes and eternity are concerned.
The apostle Paul describes all the pieces of the armor of God, and everything we need for battle is provided for us. Each piece of armor represents a blessing in Christ: Salvation, righteousness, truth, the gospel, faith, and the Word of God. In that order, we have helmets, breastplates, belts, shoes, shields, and swords, but one area is left uncovered – our backsides. Why?
Two reasons: We are only supposed to be moving forward, and God has our backs! He will not only lead us, but He is our rear guard as well.
The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God … For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard (Isaiah 52:10, 12).
The path of least resistance however, has been to not even show up for the battle and not let anyone else know what side we’re on. Rather than stand firm when opposition increases, many of us duck conversations about sin, the Bible or our faith so we won’t ruffle any feathers. Thus, we avoid the very mention of Jesus’ name in public.
Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).
What if we get laughed at or ridiculed for being a Christian? Press on.
What if they claim we’re intolerant because we say Jesus is the only way? Press on.
What if people say we hate women because we are pro-life? Press on.
What if the most conservative Christian candidates do not get elected? Press on.
What if judges overrule marriage laws the people voted for? Press on.
What if they say we’re racist for opposing the policies of a progressive president? Press on.
What if homosexuals call us hateful for saying their lifestyle is a sin? Press on.
What if we get arrested or fined for preaching the gospel? Preach on.
And what if people in our own church say the Bible is not inerrant, there are no moral absolutes, and we are taking our faith too seriously? Press on!
We’re not to be overcome by evil; we are supposed to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Today’s remnant of committed believers must not follow the pattern of the [lukewarm] church in the last hundred years. We will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary of the battle and give up (Galatians 6:9).
There is no retreat! There is no waving the white flag. Nothing in the soldier’s instruction manual, the Bible, explains how to run away from conflict and avoid the fight. Doing so gives the enemy ground. God does not discuss the option of quitting. Jesus, the Lamb of God, has overcome the world. He has beaten death, and in the end when the beast wages war against Him one last time, the Lamb will overcome them because He is the Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our faith in Him is the victory that helps us overcome the world (1 John 5:4).
I agree with Charles Spurgeon and others who believe we are foolish to expect to serve God without opposition. In fact, Spurgeon stated, “the more zealous we are, the more sure are we to be assailed …” But he always kept the victory in sight:
Glory be to God, we know the end of the war. The great dragon shall be cast out and forever destroyed, while Jesus and they who are with him shall receive the crown. Let us sharpen our swords tonight, and pray the Holy Spirit to nerve our arms for the conflict. Never battle so important, never crown so glorious. Every man to his post, ye warriors of the cross, and may the Lord tread Satan under your feet shortly!
The Bible teaches that though we live in this world, the weapons of our warfare are not of this world but are spiritual, and we have the ability to not just survive but to crush the enemy. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that we do not wage war according to human standards because our spiritual weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
Jesus used Scripture to refute the enemy – and He is the Word, so we would be wise to know the Bible and follow His lead.
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him (Matthew 4:10-11).
We have the most powerful weapon in the world – the Word of God! An offensive weapon, God exalts His Word and His name above all things (Psalm 138:2). In the book of Hebrews, the Word is described as being living and active and sharper than any double edged sword (4:12).
Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). Think about what gates are used for. Christians will overpower the enemy’s gates in the end. Did you get that? Though Satan constantly attacks believers, the Bible never refers to the enemy storming the gates of heaven!
One of the keys to our success in spiritual warfare is this pearl of truth: Gates are defensive!
All hell should be on guard, and a strong, armor-wearing, battle-tested church should be on offense, attacking the enemy with God’s Word. Preaching the gospel is one way to stay on offense and help rescue people from the camp of the enemy.
Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Too many of us leave our swords at home on a dusty shelf. We forget Satan is a defeated foe, and one day Jesus will cast him into the lake of fire to be tormented forever (Revelation 20:10).
We must know Scripture, apply it to our lives, and stay on offense by speaking its truth. John said, Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The same Spirit power that defeated Satan dwells in converted believers. Consequently, we are never alone or without divine resources.
Though Israel is of utmost importance and one of the great obstacles in the enemy’s way, America has become one of the key epicenters of spiritual warfare. World events and cultural chaos reveal evidence of the battles being fought. Most of us know how this will end, but for those who don’t know or believe the Bible, they only have a shaky confidence in their own ability to save themselves and many are overcome by fear or uncertainty in these dark days.
During seasons such as this, more people are looking for hope and peace. Because of this, we have the unique opportunity to share the gospel with them, because we have the answer to every problem facing mankind. They, too, can be forgiven! True hope and lasting peace can be acquired by knowing Jesus Christ and trusting in Him.
On the other hand, desperate times often pave the way for anger toward God, because people fail to discern the spiritual nature of events surrounding them. They blame a God they don’t know and don’t believe in when life gets hard and trouble increases. Trials bring some to their knees in surrender, yet cause others to stand in defiance, shaking their fist at the heavens.
Some will hunger for the truth and receive salvation, while others will hate those who proclaim it.
The lines have been drawn and attacks are going to increase against the church. There is no middle ground; Jesus said we are either with Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30).
Pick a side: Culture or Christ!
Our actions reveal our true faith, and our obedience reveals our love for God (John 14:15). Are we contenders or pretenders? Since we are living in the last days, it is time to counter the anti-Christian movements in our culture with our own revolution of righteousness.
The good news is Jesus will soon return as a conquering King, just as He promised.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war… From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11, 15-16).
Rather than despair, we need to remember the reason we are here and the tremendous hope we have to share with a dying world. Yes, the world looks bad, and it will most likely get worse as lawlessness increases, but we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and should not be shaken as long as Jesus Christ is our main focus.
Knowing the power of the Holy Spirit, many early church fathers, particularly those within the Protestant Reformation, believed the church could permeate every aspect of culture and continue salting it and shining on it until culture resembled Christianity. Today, however, the world is influencing us.
In 1997, Dr. D. James Kennedy (1930-2007), founder of Truth in Action Ministries and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, preached a sermon entitled, “Will the Church Forget?” He explained how God needs men and women who will speak on the pressing and sometimes controversial issues of today, and he emphasized how “we are literally seeing the end of Western Civilization.” He also reminded individual believers to become and remain active in this culture war. Dr. Kennedy declared:
We are involved in a great conflict for the soul of this nation, for the soul of the world – and many are spectators on the side. Ah, dear one, Christ wants you to be a soldier for Him. Pray that God will fill you with intensity to do whatever you can, to become involved, to get out of the bleachers and onto the playing field and become a participant in the greatest struggle in the history of the world – a struggle for goodness, a struggle for godliness, a struggle of Christ against Satan. That is the battle we are in.
If this is your heart as well, let’s work to wake up and warn as many of our brothers and sisters as possible. People need to hear the truth, and we are running out of time. The message we proclaim is so simple it takes us to complicate it: Christ crucified for the sins of the world.
The great Charles Finney once said to church leaders and pastors to “be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.” Though pastors and teachers will be held to a much higher standard and stricter judgment (James 3:1), every one of us will be held responsible for delivering God’s message and bearing good fruit.
No more remaining silent about sin. No more caving in to pressure. Our struggle is not against people and our enemy will not relent, so let us fight to advance the kingdom of God and bring as many with us as possible. Onward, forward, soldiers of Christ, arise! No retreat. No regrets. It is the least we can do for the One who called us into service.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).