We watch on television as people are robbed, hurt, beaten, and killed in our cities. We sit in silence as the images are played out before our eyes. We see pictures of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as natural disasters at home and around the world. Today with the internet, satellite, cable, smart phones, and social media we are instantly updated with the latest catastrophes. Yet these events are so far away. They happen in other parts of our nation as well as distant places around the world, places like London, Paris, Pakistan, Baltimore, New York, and Dallas. Even people close to us might be touched with situations which bring heartache, but for the most part we live and exist in relative safety. Besides, if we are Christians [someone who has repented of his sinful life; believed on God’s son Jesus who lived, died, and rose from the grave; and confessed this to God and men] we know that God does not let bad things happen to His children. We are saved and safe [Proverbs 12:21]!
Yet this is not reality, nor is it scriptural. Each day we live a war zone. Each day we exist in a battlefield. Each day we are surrounded by hurt and death. These battles take place in the real world where God exists. It is a spiritual world because God is spirit [John 4:24]. The created world, which we know and experience, is a temporary world in which we exist [2 Corinthians 4:18]. The created world is a world limited to time, space, and matter. It’s a world which will pass away [Luke 21:33]. If we live and focus only on the created world then we will be able to find some normalcy and live a saved, safe life. It seems that we can do this on our own and have no need for God. When we become a Christian and the Holy Spirit comes to reside in our life, then we are introduced to reality and the real world [Romans 8:11]. We still live in the created world and are tied to time, space, and matter, but a new world is opened up to us in which we seem to struggle because it is not tied to time, space, or matter. In the real world things happen which we cannot explain or understand [Isaiah 55:8-9].
The struggle originates from the warfare which is going on in the spiritual world. It’s a war for the glory and honor of God [Isaiah 14:13-14]. It is waged by Satan and the fallen angels [demons] which follow him [Revelation 12:4]. Satan already has captured the souls of men thus distorting the image of God in which man was created [Genesis 1:27]. He did this through tempting Adam and Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-7]. He fights desperately to hold on to our souls thus robbing God of glory and honor which is rightfully due Him. When a person becomes a Christian [someone who has repented of her sinful life; believed on God’s son Jesus who lived, died, and rose from the grave; and confessed this to God and men], then Satan is robbed of a captured soul [Colossians 1:13]. Satan’s tactics at this point are to cause the Christian to fail in obeying God. These failures can ruin the Christian’s testimony and service to the God he loves. The Christian then begins to live in defeat and depression. As Christians we must learn to walk by faith not by sight [2 Corinthians 5:7]. We are encouraged to walk in the Spirit [Galatians 5:16], and live in the Spirit [Galatians 5:25]. We are encouraged through scripture and the Holy Spirit to trust God and obey Him [Deuteronomy 27:10] even if it is contrary to how we perceive things. To do this we must live each day continually aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives [Proverbs 3:5-6]. We must constantly know He is abiding [John 15:4-7] within us each day. The choices and decisions of our daily lives need to be made with God’s presence in mind [Deuteronomy 31:6]. This is the battle field where the spiritual war for God’s glory takes place.
One of the best books to read on the subject of spiritual warfare is one by that same title written by Jerry Rankin. He was the president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. When he served the International Mission Board part of a missionary’s training was a seminar on Spiritual Warfare taught by Bro. Rankin. Bro. Rankin shared with new missionaries that the spiritual battle for God’s glory and honor rests on their faith. Their faith in God and His Word must be unshakeable [Proverbs 3:5]. Faith is the channel through which we are saved and live for God [Ephesians 2:8]. If Satan can tempt us to doubt and second guess God, then the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is interrupted [1 Thessalonians 5:19].
God loved us enough to provide a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. We committed our lives to God when through faith in Jesus’ work we are saved from sin’s power over our lives [Romans 6:7]. Our lives need to be committed to God and His Word, holding fast to His promises [1 Corinthians 15:2]. Paul puts it this way, our life is lived “IN CHRIST” [1 Corinthians 1:29]. As believers our lives are hidden in Jesus. When God looks at us He does not see our sin and disobedience. He sees the righteousness of His beloved son, Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Our lives are in Christ. Our standing before God is in Christ. Our relationship with God is in Christ.
Our minds must be renewed [Romans 12:2]. Our thought processes and decision making must be based on God’s Word and His promises. If we continue to make our daily decisions based on our senses, environment, or our own understanding of things then the results of our decisions will be worldly and not spiritual. Our responses to situations will be governed by our selfish desires, not God’s desires. If we love God and want to please Him, then we must live a holy life daily guided by the Holy Spirit. This can only happen when we can think and make decisions with God’s will in mind.
If we know what to do because we have spent time with God in prayer and reading His Word, then we need to obey. We do not need to question, justify, or rationalize our response to situations in our lives. If we try to work things out in our heads instead of just obeying God then we are selfishly trying to get our way. Our pride causes us to think it will be okay with God and that He’ll understand. He’ll understand all right. He’ll understand that we have chosen to disobey instead of obey what He has told us in His Word. Jesus said that obedience was the proof of our love for Him [John 14:15].
Love is at the essence of our redeemed life. Love is shown through our unquestioned obedience to God. We may wonder about God’s will for a specific situation in our life. We want to obey, but we might not be sure of how to obey. Jesus gave us a guide when He named the greatest commandment. Everything we do, think, or say should reflect the commandment to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. This love for God and others compels us to give ourselves to God and others unquestionably. It calls us to a life of sacrifice and denial [Romans 12:1, Philippians 2:3-4]. Paul states that he was crucified and that it was no longer his life he was living, but Jesus lived in and through Him [Galatians 2:20]. We can love anyone because Jesus loved us [Luke 6:27].
If we live by faith being committed to God and His Word, the Holy Spirit will renew our minds. If we obey God and let Him take care of the results, we will live our lives “in Christ” knowing who we are and to whom we belong. If we love God and others as Jesus loved us, we will give ourselves for God’s honor and glory, and the benefit of others. If we live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit by faith then we will live a victorious life free from the power of sin and the deceptiveness of Satan’s temptations [John 8:36, 10:10]. Our lives will reflect the divine image of God and bring glory and honor to Him.