Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Blogtext: "Not my war"

An old and well known saying let's us think twice before we engage in any strife or battle. "Fight only such battles as you may win." The obvious futility of picking a fight with a superior enemy is declared by Greek Philosophers as well as by our Lord Jesus himself. This is the attitude of Epictetus on the one hand, and of the Son of God on the other.


For which of you, wishing to build a [h]farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?
 Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him,Saying, This man began to build and was not able ([i]worth enough) to finish. 
Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
 And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace."
Clearly then one must understand about the enemy before volunteering for service in the army. Now here is the oddity: most people who claim to be Christians are unaware that being a disciple of Christ is identical to being enrolled as a soldier in a fiercer battle than any other on earth.
"So you, my son, be strong (strengthened inwardly) in the grace (spiritual blessing) that is [to be found only] in Christ Jesus. And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also. Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him."
The open-mouthed astonishment of many is there: "I had no idea this is what was meant when I came to Christ." The slipshod preaching of the day has many sins on it's account. One of them is the fact of an unknown enemy with enormous resources and a fierce battle plan who triumphs left right and center, and all that the opposing commander has at His disposal is an under-informed, under-trained and non-equipped trash crowd whose sense of the importance of the battle is no greater than their concerns for the right choice of hymn or the lack of fresh flowers in the vase on the pulpit.

The battle is the Lord's, states the scripture. "And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" " And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands." And in one sense the outcome of that battle is a victory for  the home side. But this in no way means that the army can go home on indefinite leave. The opposite is true. Just because of  that victory the need is for the army to maintain the victory by staying on the field and standing firm. The defeated enemy has neither sense nor acceptance of his defeat, and will continue to rob, kill, maim, steal and conquer what and whom he may. (The roaring lion bit! Especially as he knows that his time is short!) Not standing firm against him cuts deep into the echelons and kills those left unprotected by the defecting front soldiers. 
Conscientious objectors to warfare claim that it is the existence of weapons that causes war. They believe, contrary to all evidence, that if we lay down our weapons the enemy will serve us tea and scones and stop fighting. That is nonsense in a world where evil is a reality, and it is even less true in the matter of spiritual battle. Where we do not stand firm against the tide of uncleanness it will sweep us away. Where we do not defend the faith of our fathers the faith will be spurned, jettisoned and forgotten within a generation.
Therefore..
When the apostle Paul writes his letter to the Ephesian church he lays a foundation in the first three chapters by stating certainties. And nothing that is said in the next and last three chapters can be understood without those certainties. The start of chapter four is indicative: "On the strength of what has gone before you now come to apply what you have been given to know." Or as one of my teachers in bible school used to say: Whenever you find a "therefore" there was a "wherefore" before it. So we come to chapter six in Ephesians and take note of the total and full armor of every christian. If any of the things said about the church of Christ in chapters  1-3 shall be seen in time and space then this is what must be a basic note in the ministry of every preacher and every church: the equipping of the saints. To refuse to do it disqualifies from further claims to be christian. The sole role of the oversight of the church, whatever titles are used to designate them, is to train the rest of the church to become skilled in their work as an army of the Lord. To omit the task of equipping the saints is to miss the mark. And that is the meaning of the word 'to sin".
Note: this is not a business for a sub division of the church. It is not the equivalent of the SAS, the Special Air Services. This is not a special command unit of the "double 00" category. This is not some small guerilla troupe acting behind the scenes. This is the standard equipment for the standard church. Everything less than this is substandard. It is not a plus factor type of Christianity, it is the very foundation. Who would guess looking at the real life churches of today?
The enemy at hand
So we must begin at the beginning. Who is the enemy? What is his master plan and what are his strategies? Paul seems to assume that every believer knows. "
 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sake's forgave I it in the person of Christ;  lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (Indeed?) " And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."  

In general it is not so today. Belief in the real existence of the evil One is rare and when it exists it is often on the overstatement side of the issue. Too much credit is given to the Evil One and not enough to the Victor over him. But his basic strategy is to be unseen and unknown and to appear as anything but himself. We ought to know that, but we do not. Too few know too little and too late. Two ditches, one on either side of the road: Ignorance of and undue interest in. A mature understanding  stays on the road.

Satan is methodical in his constant undermining of the words and work of God. I have two videos on my web-page dealing with the basics. I will only repeat the gist:

"Has God said?" The constant revision of the word of God forced on us with beautiful words full of venom and deceit.
"Can any man born of woman be righteous before God?" 
The accuser accuses in four ways.
1 Accuses God of unrighteousness before mankind.
2 Accuses man of unrighteousness before God
3 Accuses the brothers and sisters to the other brothers
4 Accuses me to myself
Our wayward responses to these is what comprises the entire catalogue of sins that we do. We say often, partly in jest, "Oh the Devil made me do it". But that is also a lie. All he could do was aid and abet us in what we chose to do, as we had already chosen to act as if God and God's word did not exist. "Oh wretched man that I am. That which I disapprove of I allow myself to do."
Unless we understand the methods of the Evil one we are unlikely to appreciate either the need for the armor or see fit to wear it. But salvation is only available in the conscription office of the Kingdom of God. There is no room for the sideline observer in this battle. That is what Eliab accused David of wanting to do: "You just want a bit of sensation, you have come to watch!
No, said David, I have come to do what you should have done, but you would rather dissuade me from fighting than get ready yourself.  Your king Saul can't lead. I have a king that does."
In the posting of yesterday I referred to Jesus as the Captain of, the Commander of, the armies of the Lord. The old testament phrase used is most often "Yahweh Sabaoth". Literally LORD of the Armies. You may well refer to the book of Revelation for a fuller presentation of that thought. He who came  to be led like a lamb to the slaughter has triumphed over the power of death by his death, and now he is a Lion, ready for battle against all evil to the very end. Make no mistake. Our God is a consuming fire. 

The scene of the conflict
Paul has admonished us in many ways to be heavenly minded. To see beyond the physical and endeavour to understand that behind the visible things invisible realities reign. "If you have been raised with Christ then set your minds on that which is heavenly. Set your minds on that which is above." Col 3:1-2 We are to live our lives in the world but not live as if the world was our be all and end all. In it but not of it. We have a citizenship above. We have access to powers not of this world. We are told to forgo the pleasures of this world in favor of the good things to come. We may have spiritual insight to understand what what is seen is not what it is, but what it tries to appear as, as part of the delusions and seductions of the evil one. Wisdom from on high is needed to understand this:
"
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." Or as the expanded version in the Amplified Bible has it: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places."

Discernment of spirits is called for. It is one of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to a spiritually alive church. A Church that has it's mind on that which is above comes into view. Also a church that consists of believers to whom the words of Paul in Romans ch 12:1-2 are meaningful enough to have become a daily practice. For the renewing of the mind away from the mindset of the World leads the believer to give the whole of life to God on a daily basis. 
Knowledge about the spiritual domain comes by revelation, not by studying the earthly and the physical.

Line up soldiers
In order to be able to understand the nature of the enemy, understanding the strategies of him we must get into the armory of God. And "we" is not the same as I, myself, me only. But the collective us, we. An army does not consist of soloists but of cooperating units, all equipped the same, informed the same and held together by the com
mon ethos of the whole. Our times are often described as the "selfie generation",  such a generation never makes up an army and hardly ever produces a hero either.  "Take to you and put on the entire armor of God so that YOU may be able to hold out, withstand in the evil day and having done all, remain standing, whatever the onslaught." Solomon was wise in pointing out the sadness of singularity. " Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor;  for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm aloneAnd though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  If we reduce the issue of this armament to what the individuals do when it pleases them, then there is no army, nor any chance of victory.

One final note on the idiocy of the single handed warrior. The lasting shame of King David is found in his treatment of a husband and wife. It is a shame that carries over into the first chapter of Matthew where we are told that Solomon was born to David by the wife of Uriah. (Matth 1:6)
The story is found in 2 Samuel ch 11. Alas it is tragic. Note especially what is  said about how David disposed of Uriah, by proxy. That is, not straight up like, but by deceit and underhanded abuse of his royal and general power.
"
He wrote in the letter, “Put Uriah in the front line of the heaviest fighting and leave him, so that he may be struck down and die.” So it happened that as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew the [enemy’s] valiant men were positioned And the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among the servants of David fell; Uriah the Hittite also died.  Then Joab sent word and informed David of all the events of the war.  And he commanded the messenger, “When you have finished reporting all the events of the war to the king,  then if the king becomes angry and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot [arrows] from the wall?  Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth (Gideon)? Was it not a woman who threw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ Then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”
I have often said it, and know it out of personal experience: The christian church is the only army which sends poorly armed soldiers to fight alone against the fearsome enemy, and when they return wounded punishes them for their wounds. "All things of old were written for our instruction". When everything else fails? Read them!
The actual armor
First: it has no protection for the back. None whatever. It is not for the coming and going from the battle line but only for taking up position and never leaving it. Unrelenting watchfulness is of need, as the arrows of the enemy are never on let up. And they may find any unprotected glitch in the armor and be our bane. The sad end of King Ahab comes to mind. (1 Kings 22) And again the safety of the frontmen is only safeguarded by them standing together. The roman unit under the centurion formed an almost impregnable fortress as the 10x10 number of men formed a square where the men o the outside of the square held their shields close together in all directions and the men behind the outer lines covered the heads of them all. A Centurion, by definition  "the commander of hundred" led them from the front row. One in line with them, one in command over them, among them. "So Christ was in all things tested as we are." Therefore let us look to him, the 'captain and commander' of salvation so that we faint not. Or as the revised KJV has it: "
 Therefore, seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
All movement comes from the hips. All procreation comes from the loins. Our sexual nature and the sins that can be committed with those hidden and less often displayed parts, parts worthy of greater honour but also the very parts which sink mankind into perversion and depravity, are to be covered with a loincloth that is held in place by a belt of truth. Truth is today forsaken on many levels. Not the least on the level of sexual conduct. Speak the biblical truth about sexuality, about abortion, about same sex relationships and the venom of hatred floods you like  nothing you have seen before. Truth is the first victim in the liberation from the Holiness of God. To worship God presupposes that the worshippers are aware of both  Spirit and Truth, and there is in the church only one Spirit who is there by rights. The Holy Spirit. Test therefore the Spirits. Gone by the same flood is the biblical truth about love.
There is no ability to stand and fight if your loincloth slips un-gathered by the belt of truth. Neither progress nor procreation are safe unless kept in by the truth of God's original order and the responsibilities adjoining that wonderful gift.
 
" Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.“All things are lawful unto me,” but all things are not expedient. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be brought under the power of any."
Starting with the undergarment, in more meanings than one, the next item is the breastplate of righteousness. The roman soldiers are notoriously portrayed with this metal shield that reaches from collar bone to pelvis. They were made of other materials also, such as leather, but their common aspect was the protection they afforded for the sensitive entrails, the liver, heart and lungs. Collectively known as 'ta splanchna', or less charmingly: the entrails, the guts, the seat of emotions, the seat of the life source itself, of the blood, and of the government of all that belongs to the soul of man. Figuratively we may even in the English language refer to someone's 'spleen' when we mean some mental attitude or such.  Righteousness is not a human achievement but a divine reckoning on our behalf. Our own righteousness counts not at all. Therefore the breastplate is not made by us but for us. It is held in place by leather straps across the back, but has little to offer an unguarded back.

As vital as the hips are for movement of the legs nothing can hide the fact that without shoes walking will be limited both as to surfaces to walk on and how far any person can go in any direction. There is in the christian armor only one kind of shoe. One with a missionary intent. The preparedness that comes from the gospel of peace is the only sole for a born again soul. Peace in this context? At the frontline of a war? Yes the lasting peace is to come when we have stood firm to the end of the war. We wear the shoes of promise and hope. And where we stand is our ground. "Take your shoes off for the ground is holy where you stand." Yes, but while the battle rages, we will stand well shod. "Being ready"  is that old scouting maxim and is enjoined by Peter in his letter where he calls on us to "be always ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us." Prepared to share the gospel is the footwear of the christian soldier. The very marching boot, not an occasional evening great-gala-night triviality. It is not for show but for hours on watch.

We are here meeting the commands, the 'imperatives' as it were. Imperative of course is related to the word "Imperator" which is another way of saying that what is here enjoined upon us is not open for deliberation. If you are in the army, this is what you wear. No-one appears at muster without all these things. They are needed. The Shield of Faith is next.The roman soldier has a choice of two different kinds of Shield. On the one hand the square one which is so useful when making the defensive square and which covers from chin to below the knee and is by definition less wieldy and more cumbersome than the round shield which more easily could be turned against visible attacks. The reference to "extinguishing the fiery darts of the enemy" refers to the fact that the shield could be clad with thick leather. This could in turn be soaked before battle and the wet leather would then extinguish the arrows,which had an early version of napalm, tarred strands of flax burning as they came flying, and if they hit the bare skin or clothing would bring about fierce  burns. Those fiery darts correspond to the elements of slander and false testimony which are so often the cause of ruptures in any church fellowship. The shield of faith meaning faith in a God who will exact revenge and address injustices in His time on His conditions. Leaving us free from the burdens of stored up misdeeds done by other people. "Forgive them, they know not."
The head is covered by salvation's helmet. Head is not so often connected to thought but more often to things like responsibility and leadership. Protecting the head is to stay on top of things, remaining 'Head' and not allowing yourself to be reduced to a wagging tail. Whereas a Christian is not proud in the normal sense of the word, the believer is assured and proclaims, against all odds, who his Saviour is. Come what may. " I know in whom I believe". Shut up about Him! "Never, we must obey God more than men." That is the heart and head of a soldier. We are under orders, he says, come and we come, he says go, and we go. We acknowledge His right to lead us. We do not discuss his marching orders. We obey. Humility is not selfdeprecating lugubrity. It is anything but apologizing for your being or convictions, but it means that you always know your rank in the line up, and you will not tell your superiors how to run their job, but will be free to respond when so invited.

In hand at last: the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The abject lack of knowledge in the Word also by necessity leads to a mere collection of harmless fruit knives in the hands of the army. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly!" Because without a reservoir of  truth within you will not be able to either withstand or pursue the enemy.  You will not understand when you are attacked or in what area, and you cannot ask for relevant assistance if you do not know where the shoe pinches. The enemy will gladly use any bible verse to make you distrust a Bible-given Truth. As all scripture is "God breathed", all of it is part of our weaponry. To be ignorant of it is to say that you want to be in an army but not follow the commanding officer's words.  Satan tried  it with our Lord, a deliberate misqoutation of the very word of God is the best possible way of making a believer stumble and fall, Christ knew better than to let one scripture override many other.  Satan wont hesitate tying that on you.(Study Matth 4!). The Spirit and the Word work together, you cannot have one without the other.
I see the armor, how do I get it on?
Appropriation by receiving it by faith. Read Hebrews 4:2 Hearing about it is not availing yourself of it. Personally stepping up to receive your equipment from the divine Quarter-Master and signing for every item on the list is done by prayer, incessant and daily and constant, and thanksgiving. A never ending story!  And as you stand there in the dressing room you include all the other saints also, in your preparation for getting ready to take up your stand in the gap in the wall, left by other's who have been there before but have passed on or gone out. "God looks for men to stand in the breach of the wall." Will you be counted among them?

" Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, down by the riverside."

But not until the Commander of the Army of the Lord says so..
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Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster 30 May 2018


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