No pulling punches
Let me be perfectly clear. Whether you believe it or not, you need to know that every minute of every day that God gifts you there is a battle waging for your soul. It may not be clean and tidy or socially acceptable to say, but there is evil in the world and its prince wants your soul and your life as a trophy. We love to talk in terms of good and bad, but that does an epic disservice to the real nature of how things are. Good and bad are palatable terms, they’re not offensive, we can swallow them. When in reality, there is only truth and evil. These are the only two forces at war in our world, on this the Bible is very clear. Jesus says this in Matthew 12:30 (NLT):
Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
No pulling punches, there is all around us at all times a spiritual battle … a battle for your soul. God wants for you to be engaged in the battle. He will go with you and never leave your side, but you must go and be vigilant at all times. Peter says this in 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT):
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Not a lot of wiggle room for interpretation in these two verses. Sounds like the Bible is not passive when it comes to defining how critical this is.
Be on your guard
In the next three weeks, we’re going to unpack and explore one single verse. Namely, Paul’s crystal clear, passionate warning to the Corinthian church about the kind of warriors they needed to be. This is not only for them in their time, but it is also for every person in every era … and it is definitely for us. This week we focus on the four words that precede the first comma in the following verse:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
Be on your guard. So what are we to be on guard against? What are we warring against? Well, let me first refer to Paul’s words about what it’s not…
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
As we accept our call to be a warrior, it is imperative that we understand who we are fighting. We are not warring against the erosion of traditional or biblical values in our society. We are not warring against ISIS. Those things are bad, those forces are strong and oppose God, but we are fighting the evil at their source not them. How often do we get consumed with the “stuff” of our right now. How often do we get distracted by our returning stuff to Wal-Mart, our kids and their sports or education, where we’re going on vacation this summer, what we’re going to buy with our tax return; when all around us, there’s an epic battle going on for the soul’s of our kids, our spouses, our brothers, sisters, friends … and our very own. Be on your guard!
What are we watching for?
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:13-18 (NIV)
There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). As it was 2,000 years ago, it is also true today. There are ignorant and unstable people who take truth, the Word of God, and distort it. So often they make it sound good and right. They spin it into a beautiful web that draws people in and then ensnares them. Peter uses the same words … be on your guard. Don’t be drawn by the guile’s of human wisdom to the hook that means to be your death. Don’t become the mounted trophy of the evil rulers of the unseen world.
Well, that was subtle
And here’s the thing, those rulers of the unseen world, they don’t work in a way that shows them to be the dark and evil forces they are. They disguise themselves well and rarely, if ever, show their fangs or knock you out and drag you away. No, they whisper and nudge and work at you little, by little, by little. They don’t draw a line in the sand and force you to choose, they keep erasing and re-drawing the line, pulling you farther and farther over the true and original line they’ve obscured. The rulers and authorities of the unseen world and those who do their bidding paint in subtleties.
A wake-up call
Both Paul and Peter desire to shout a wake-up call. Wake-up! Pay attention! Be on your guard! Stay in the Word, be alert, be observant of the people and things in each and every moment of your right now. You cannot let your guard down! “Stay in the Word,” you say?! Becoming a warrior involves cultivating a heart and life that are grounded in God’s Word … in truth. In Luke chapter 8, Jesus tells a story about dirt. The dirt represents your heart, and Jesus mentions four different types of dirt (hearts). Three of them are the desire of the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. The last type is a loose, soft soil which has been broken up and fertilized and is the perfect dirt for growing your seed of faith. I’d love for you to read the full story that Jesus tells in Luke 8, but today I’d like to call attention to the third type of soil … the rocky ground.
Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 (NIV)
We hear in the final warning of the verses in 2 Peter above, that Peter is forewarning so that we are not carried away and fall … so that we do not fall away. As we are being on guard, we must also do the hard work of cultivating and fertilizing the seed of God’s Word and truth that has been planted in our hearts. Our soil must be good so the root of our faith grows strong and deep; strong and deep so it does not wither and die when the intense heat of trials and tests come. My friend, don’t rely on coming to Life Bridge every Saturday or Sunday as your cultivating and fertilizing. Don’t let another gardener be the one who’s responsible for the growth of your seed of faith. A church, a life group, being baptized, a pastor … they are not the answer. A strong root of faith, cultivated by the hard work of your personal relationship with Jesus, reading God’s Word, praying, loving others … this is the answer; He is the Gardener.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.