Blogtext:"Without were fightings, fears were within."

A word about our battles.

"Great is my boldness of speech toward you; great is my glorying of you. I am filled with comfort; I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. For when we had come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side: without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;"

I could not consider myself to be done with the topic of spiritual armor or warfare without taking a close look at the issue of how the fighting is done and what the frontlines are. I have often reminded you that the clear and unequivocal message of the Spirit about the bible is that all things are written for our instruction. The likelihood of us ever maturing, and indeed for qualifying to be found as good soldiers, depends on our learning of those instructions. The passage I have just quoted is from 2 Corinthinas and pretty well sums up a common bewilderment for every believer. External struggles hardly ever come without inward fears. Our physical frame is  deeply involved in the struggle, and the body suffers along with the spirit within us. There is common mistake made in this area.

My body is not my enemy! This body is the very tabernacle of God and should be treated with honour and dignity. It should neither be seen as something to be cossetted and spoiled by being fed on leisure and luxury, nor should it be maltreated and ignored as to it's needs. The physical needs are legitimate but must never be allowed do be more important than the needs of the one living in that tent. Physical needs must sometimes be set aside in order for the "work of God to be done." But fasting can not be indefinite because then the tent can no longer be a spiritual house. Whereas fasting prepares for battle on a spiritual level, the fasting ends  by 'and angels came and ministered to him", and then, spiritually and physically victualled and supplied the Lord moves into action. (Matthew ch 4)

We would also do well to learn the meaning of what happened as Christ met the woman at the well according to John ch 4. The disciples went off in search of food for them all but when they returned to the Lord at the well and offered him lunch he sidestepped the meal, much to their surprise, and told them: "I have food, nourishment, provisions of which you know nothing." They naturally drew the conclusion that someone else had supplied physical food. He had to correct them: "My food is to do the will of Him that sent me." The body may be geared to five different meals a day, but when that regularity is made more important than the feeding of the spiritual individual that is the occupant of the body then even believers can be lambasted by the apostle as such:  "(For many walk, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even with weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction, their God is their belly, and their glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
For our abiding is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."

Fightings without and within
You must see this: there is an ongoing conflict within ourselves. It is little use to join the army to fight the battle of the Lord unless you understand that there is a primary battle that must be won on the daily battle field. That field is within our own selves. All defections and desertions from the Lord's battle happens because we have not as first priority to win the battle within. It is the echo of that battle which so puzzles the reader of Romans chapter 7. "14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I know not. For what I would do, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law, that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
For the good that I would do, I do not; but the evil which I would not do, that I do.
Now if I do that which I would not do, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God according to 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.
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."

A bit of confusion arises from the word 'my flesh". In the passage referred to at the top of the text Paul spoke of being troubled in the flesh. His peace was gone, he could not concentrate on matters in hand, he was flustered in every way. His body was suffering what the spirit in him suffered. He spoke there of his own body. But when the matter under review in Romans 7 is called "that the flesh is at enmity with the spirit" he speaks not of the body but of the natural man, whose every inclinition is away from god and towards that which is earthly. Other words are 'the old Adam', the sinful nature that resides in us and will not finally be gone before we have left this body behind. As long as there is a body that can sin, given the chance it will. The primary war that we must fight before being ready to serve in the host of the Lord is within us. This is what Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians ch 5:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion of the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye not be consumed one by another. This I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
For 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.

Will a physical solution cure a spiritual ill?
Martin Luther (and many with him)  once believed that punishing and castigating his body with things like lashings with whips would bring about a spiritual quality in himself. But "the flesh" viz  the old adamic nature, does not respond to physical chastening. Our weapons are not physical, remember? The old nature which makes itself known over and over can only be fought by the Spirit of God. And the presence of that Spirit within us is the one and only result of the regeneration of the new Birth. Without that Spirit no flesh can be conquered. And if we lose the battle within, we are sure to lose the battle without. And if we do not obey the word in considering that inner battle, no amount of armor is going to be useful. We will be back with young David who, having tried on Saul's armor must say:"I can't do anything with this lot, I have no such skills." 
You can dress up a Gorilla in an army outfit, but that does not make it a soldier. Sadly many soldiers dressed up in army uniform become worse than even mad gorillas along the way. Ceasing to obey the Commanding Officer they soon become guerillas and do most harm to their own army.

So you want to be a soldier of the king! Fine, laudable, praiseworthy! Identify first of all this primary and constant battle front. It is impossible to be a success at the front against the powers of the spiritual darkness if you are losing the battle within. First things first.

Stand fast!
Paradoxes are common in the bible. They may not be so in reality, but they appear to us, and frequently because we read too little and read too much in to the little we read. But there are two seemingly conflicting statements made about the nature of the battle.

One the one hand: stand fast on a victory already won. Stand fast therefore in the mighty power of the Lord  Eph 6:10  (Incidentally this transfer of power has all the connotations of an old time dynamo on your bike. Flick the tab on the generator and the top will align to the tire of the bike and your motion forward generates light to travel by.)
One the other hand: as you move towards the enemy, even the very gates of hell will not be able to withstand your advancement.  "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

So which is it? Are we to take up position and stand fast come what may? Or are we in fact to find the direction to the gates of hell and charge against them? James has a comment on this matter in chapter 4:
"Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, “The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy”?
But He gives more grace; therefore He saith, “God resistes the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.”Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded." 
Note: Resist AND draw nigh.

Both to stand firm and to be on the move are seemingly correct, are they not? But the move is entirely our deliberate move in the direction of "nearer my God to thee" because only when clothed in the reflected light from the Son of God will darkness flee from us. The move is that of the enemy!! As we move closer together towards Him who is the Commander, the tighter will our union be, and the more obnoxious we will become to the Evil one, he cannot stand in the presence of God. The brighter we shine together in His reflected light, the wider the light reaches, and the further the darkness recedes. 

He will withdraw. He must. He will regroup and change dress, he will appear as an angel of Light! But this light will be like a candle against a Laserbeam and fool no-one who is walking in the light of God. The enemy prevails only against those more interested in his lies than the truth of God.

Standing firm means coming closer together! 
When I did my army training in an infantry regiment we spent best part of the first week learning to stand in formation. Equidistant from each other, arms length in distance to the man in front and arms length in distance to the man on either side. Freedom to turn and move and handle the weapon, but together, in motion one, in intent one. We learned to walk in step and in time. We learned to run up inclines and hills in time and with complete adherence to the requested  formation. And by immediate response to a change of command!

Is God for us?
Much is frequently made of the words of Christ: "He that is not against us is for us." It appears to be a matter of "on whose side are you"? The answer may then be, well I am a member of such and such church, so of course I am on your side. Either or, then. But it is not as simple as that. The phrase "against us" in the Lord's statement includes Himself foremostly. And here we have a very important aspect of this matter. Ask the question: "Is God for us?" How would we know? Would it not then be evidenced by the success of every enterprise? Let us commiserate with the man Joshua, the son of Nun for a moment. He, if anybody, had that concern the night before the totally mad enterprise of walking down the walls of Jericho. His people were not skilled in war, were ignorant of how to lay a siege against a fortified city, only used to desert-flowers, dried out wadis, and being on the march year in and year out for the last forty years. What could Joshua hope for? Their main asset was the ability to march!

"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went unto him and said unto him, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?”
And he said, “Nay, but as captain of the host of the Lord have I now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said unto him, “What saith my lord unto his servant?”
And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, “Loose your shoe from off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so."

Whose is the battle? What are the vested interests? What are the conditions for it? Naturally Joshua is keenly interested in finding a strong ally in this undertaking. When the man with the drawn sword stands before him, Joshua may have been both relieved and alarmed. He appeared mighty enough to be either useful as an ally or fearsome as an enemy. So Joshua asks the leading question: Are you for us or against us? Two unequivocal choices: are you Friend or Foe?  Neither!!!

"Nay, but I am here in the role of the commander of the Armies of the lord. This army never takes sides, but is always on the Lord's side. Our tasks are never defined by your needs or wants, but they are always concomitant with the grand master plan of God." 

Now, is Joshua puzzled or what? Does he ask for clarification? Yes, hoping for a commitment one way or the other by this champion for his own cause he does ask for further orders. I am sure he did not expect the only order he got: "Worship the Lord Sebaoth" (compare Isa 6) When Moses was conscripted the same thing happened. Now it is Joshua's turn to stand barefoot on holy ground. "The Lord will not share His glory with anyone", but anyone can share in His glory. The provision is what?
Obedience to given orders. "And Joshua did so". He now did so for a week, marching to order round the city walls. And on the last day the victory was given, "not by flesh nor by might but by my Spirit says the Lord." 
But read on: next target in the battle for the land? The little outposting of Ai! Aye aye!! How did it go? Disaster is a small word for it. Why did the Lord allow this? Answer is simple and momentous:

" So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”
So when is God on our side? When we deliberately are on His side! Never else. Presumption that all is well because we happen to call ourselves by this or other name, or claim immunity from God's orders by association with some religious body or other is  a fatal failing. "You have broken the covenant. Therefore all promises, and indeed all protection is off."

Achan stole what he desired. It cost Israel defeat and cost Achan and his whole family their lives.
Why does the church of Christ today show up a string of lost battles with enormous cost for church and society alike? Is God on our side by our say so, or by His consistent holiness, immutable righteousness and consistent concern for His own agenda??

Onward Christian soldiers, onwards as to war?
Not until we have been trained to realize what the order of the battles is: your own inner battle is primary, (the very one that Achan lost in view of the accessible spoil) and will be continuing even when engaged and involved in the common battle with all your brothers and sisters. If you do not know what this battle is, then you will be a liability to the army of the Lord, not an asset.

May God give grace to his church. He has already given his word to teach us  the eternally successful strategy, but we pay scant attention to it, and not even God can overlook our refusal to comply with the law of spiritual warfare. His mercy is not in ignoring our faulty understanding, neither by preventing us from harvesting what we sow, but in pointing it out to us. Inviting our repentant response.

How long will he have to wait?

"When everything else fails, read the instructions."

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster  June 1st 2018



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