Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 March 8, 2020
“We’re in a War”
It doesn’t take much sensitivity just now to note the widespread upheaval in our world. We went to the polls on Tuesday here in North Carolina and expressed via the ballot our preferences for federal, state, and local offices. That day—not to mention the days before and since—gave us, according to our preferences, rejoicing, woe, and confusion intermingled. These weeks have brought much worry as well about coronavirus infection and transmission. Infected parties are quarantined and treated, and our government invests billions of dollars to find a cure in haste. That worry has contributed to economic upheaval and volatility as well. Let’s just say that the stock market is no place for the faint of heart just now. We have these external upheavals, amid others, but there is another closer arena for turmoil as well.
In these days of upheaval, we find ourselves tempted to, and occasionally overcome by, internal turmoil. We have much anxiety and worry eroding our souls—despite the numerous Scripture commands and encouragements to the contrary (Matthew vi.25-34, Philippians iv.6-7, et al.). We also experience inner turmoil of another sort—to wit, anger. We are angry with that class of people, or we are angry with the way things are, or we are angry and cannot remember why. We have great inner turmoil in a time of great external upheaval.
These events, and resulting conditions, are not the result of impersonal forces. They are the prima facie evidence that we find ourselves engaged in a war. Happily, we have great help for these events and conditions, and for our conflict, in today’s text. Let us look to the Lord, and let us hear Him speak as we hear His Word read and proclaimed once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, exhorts us with a great challenge in these times: Be strong. Note, however, how God calls us to be strong. We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. In particular, we must not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and, by extension, we must not trust to ourselves in anything. Let us be strong, then, in the strength that the Lord provides. Let us also receive training and encouragement to this end from the rest of the passage.
Conflict, and strength for engagement in it, presumes a foe. The Lord, through Paul, tells us about the foe against whom we must stand—the devil. Not only must we stand against him, but also we must stand against his schemes and his host. Note that our warfare is not against flesh and blood; too often the Church errs here. We think that our war is against those human beings outside the Church—or occasionally we think that our war is against certain ones inside the Church. Our war, though it may involve visible, tangible things, is at its core a spiritual war against a spiritual foe.
Now, with the foe identified, let’s note the weapons and armor (Greek panoplia: panoplia) of our warfare. The list of weapons and armor leads us to conclude that our posture, essentially, is defensive. We are to resist our ancient foe (cf. James 4:7)—and, having resisted and otherwise accomplishing all, to remain standing. Yet we do have an offensive weapon—but more on this later.
The components of our weapons and armor include truth (the belt holding the armor in place), righteousness (the breastplate that protects many a vital organ), readiness given by the Gospel of peace (the shoes that protect the feet and enable the speedy travel to declare the Gospel), faith (the shield that extinguishes all the fiery darts of the evil one), and salvation (the helmet protecting our master organ, the brain). To these important defensive implements, we add a single offensive one: the Word of God (the sword of the Spirit). With these qualities from God flourishing in us, we both find ourselves defended from the foe and strike forth with God’s Word, the Bible, as He leads.
Now we note the arena for conflict—namely, prayer. Our Christian warfare neither occurs in the parking lot, mano a mano, nor in the comments section of that Internet web site you visit. The ground for our warfare against the devil, that ancient foe, is prayer. Pray, then, in the Holy Spirit. That is, pray in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and pray agreeable to His will. Moreover, do this with all persistence. Be urgent and endure in prayer, especially when you find your circumstances difficult. Pray with prayers and with pleas—that is, pray in a manner consistent with strong prayer described above. We’ve seen now how to pray. Let’s see for what we are to pray. We are to pray for all the saints—all God’s redeemed in Christ Jesus. We are to pray also for bold, clear proclamation of the Gospel—by all Christians generally and especially by His commissioned, ordained servants. We are to pray also for winsome ambassador-ship of Christ’s Kingdom. May the Lord make us consummate diplomats in His sovereign, righteous, loving reign.
After a week of fighting the evil one tooth and toenail, we often want Sunday—and Sunday sermons—to soothe, not to nettle. Yet if we do not realize our providential setting, we harm our souls. We are in a war. We are in a spiritual war—with visible, tangible effects—against a spiritual foe. We wrestle against the great hater of our souls, to be sure, but we wrestle against a foe defeated utterly by Jesus via His Person and work: His sinless life, His death on the Cross, and His resurrection from the grave and ongoing eternal life. Therefore, the outcome of this war is certain: We win, because He won, is winning, and evermore shall win. Let this glorious fact not lull us to passivity, but let it spur us to fight the good fight of faith (2 Timothy 4:7).