AND HONOURED TO FIGHT.
Readings: • Neh 4:10-20 | • Ps 35:1-10 | • 1 Tim 6:11-16 | • John 18:33-38
Australia Day next Friday will be full of fun and fireworks, but the day which most weighs on our national conscience does so because it honours those who fought for us in war (ANZAC Day).
If this is totally obvious to our natural senses why are so many Aussie Christians disconnected from the honour of joining in the fight of God?
We seem to be like Israel in Isaiah’s day; “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to lay hold of you….” (Isa 64:7).
Jacob famously wrestled with the angel of the Lord and would not let go of him until he received a blessing (Gen 32:26 cf. Phil 3:12) but few today understand what it means to struggle with God to get a blessing.
Several decades ago a bishop asked me what some Pentecostals meant by an “aggressive faith”, no one would ask that question today because virtually all branches of the Church have been pacified by cultural correctness. On the one side dark forces have cowed believers into conforming to the ethics of the age. On the other side many are tired or dispirited in the fight against a seemingly irresistible tide of godlessness (cf. Rev 13:4).
We need a fresh revelation of the honour it is to contend with Jesus for the kingdom of God
(Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16; Phil 1:27; Jude 3).
CONFLICT AND CONTROVERSY
The New Testament takes it for granted that the Church is militant and on the offensive. Paul’s calls his co-workers “fellow soldiers” (Phil 2:25; Phm 2) and describes himself as “struggling with all Christ’s energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col 1:29). The word behind “struggle” here is the one from which we get our English “agony”. The prayers of the early Christians involved painful pleas for others (Col 4:12). In the Roman arenas those facing beasts or gladiators prayed anguished prayers, not for their own already forfeited lives, but for the salvation of their persecutors and the greater glory of God. Such a fighting spirit is still working today.
Alison: While she was still in full time secular work our previous pastor Alison fasted from dawn to dusk every day for a year for the salvation of her husband Robert. In her own words she did this because she was desperate and didn’t know what else she could do.
A friend of mine prayed all night in hospital for her husband whilst litre after litre of blood was transfused into his body. He survived and went on to an artificial heart then to an organic heart transplant and is still going years after his normal life expectancy has passed.
Spirit filled fighting women is the only reason these men are alive in the Lord.
We all have plenty of things worth fighting for: marriages, children, grand-children, friends, neighbours, workmates, health, finances……And the motivation for such our warfare is that the victory of Christ be visibly manifested in people’s lives.
The strength for this fight can only come from Jesus.
TESTIMONY OF JESUS
GOOD WARFARE, FIGHT & CONFESSION
Everyone who has a rich revelation of the utter goodness of the Lord’s fight readily enlists in his war against the demonic powers that destroy human life (1 Cor 9:7; 2 Cor 10:3; Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:3f.). Paul says, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare…. Fight the good fight of the faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12). The source of the dignity of the fight for God’s kingdom comes from the testimony of Jesus himself, as Paul goes on to make clear in his exhortation; “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…” (1 Tim 6:13 cf. 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1).
When Pilate said to Jesus, ““So you are a king?””, Jesus answered, ““You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. (John 18:36-37 cf. Mark 15:2).
Jesus knew his testimony would mean being condemned to death, a death not for his own sake but for us and for the glory of God. At the moment of his supreme earthly weakness and vulnerability Jesus made the good confession to the ultimate truth that he was sent by God and in so doing gave honour to his Father. And in time the Father honoured Jesus by raising him from the dead (Heb 2:9).
We are called to share in the good confession and honouring of Jesus.
Everyone who owns the baptismal confession “Jesus is Lord” has the Spirit of Christ in them to fight the good fight and to lay hold of eternal life (cf. Rom 10:9-10; 1 Cor 12:3).
General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, really understood and lived these things. Here are his recorded words from his last public address (1912)
(first 55 seconds)
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight
While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!”
Booth fought the social ills of his day in the power of God to the very end of his life; what is Christ calling us to fight against in our day. Drug abuse, the sexualisation of children, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking, marriage breakdown, the state of our Indigenous people, the needs of refugees, the cause of persecuted Christians, the lost state of all those who do not know Christ….
I want to illustrate the need for spiritual warfare by highlighting just one contemporary issue, cyber-bullying.Newspaper headlines cried out for action when 14 year old “Akubra Dolly” Everett committed suicide after being mercifully harassed online. There were calls for social media companies to police their sites, the need for education in empathy and resilience in families and schools and so on.
These are worthwhile things but anything that leaves out Jesus cannot penetrate to the heart of social evils and bring healing.
Bullies are hooked on the evil pleasure they get in hurting others and the power they possess to incite depression and suicide is the power to sow shame.
Satan is the father of the degrading accusations that create shame, and the internet has become an agency for his evil demonic hordes to spread vile filthy attacks against the tender confused consciences of a generation that knows nothing of the power of the name and blood of Jesus.
see (Gen 3:1ff; Zech 3:1ff; John 8:44; Eph 4:29; Rev 12:9-11).
The only way to overcome the sheer wickedness of this ultimate bully, the devil, is with the spiritual weapons of God’s Word and prayer.
We all instinctively know how evil it is for the strong to attack the weak.
A friend told me this story the other day.
When he was about 13 he went down the beach and came across a boy a couple of years older than him who was terrorising a girl by pushing her underwater. Straightaway something rose up in him and he punched the bully to the ground. We intuitively know that it’s a good thing for righteousness to fight unrighteousness, for justice to combat injustice, for holiness to tackle depravity (Phil 4:8).
How then is Satan strangling the Church keeping us from being a fortress of prayer and the Word bringing down the evil spiritual strongholds which surround us (2 Cor 10:3-5)?
The Bible’s greatest exhorter for us to fight the good fight puts the matter positively; “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Paul found that becoming a servant of the gospel imparts an incredible sense of honour that leaves no room for dwelling on the shames of the past (Eph 3:7; Col 1:23 cf. 1 Sam 2:30; John 12:26; 1 Pet 3:15).
The spiritual paralysis of the Church is a certain sign we are suffering from the same underlying condition that caused little Dolly Everett to kill herself.
By our failure to pray and give testimony to Jesus we show we are paralysed by shame; and the reason for this paralysis is that we have forgotten the power of the honourable name of Jesus (James 2:9).
Our prayers are heard only through the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14; 16:23ff; 2 Cor 1:19-21), and only in the name of Jesus can people be delivered from evil powers (Acts 4:7-12; 16:18).
It is only in the name = reputation of Jesus that the good fight can be fought. We must urgently turn to Christ!
Let me be personal.
It would be easy for Satan to accuse me by saying, “Who do you think you are to preach/pray/write/speak into the lives of others? Look at these things in your family, look at the multiple disasters in your ministry!”
If I listened to these voices, and there’s been quite a few over the years, I would be completely paralysed.
But this is not a fight for my good name; it’s a fight about the name, authority and reputation of Jesus.
RELY ONLY ON THE NAME “JESUS”. & FIGHT IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD ALONE.
To fight the good fight we must understand the “signs of the times” (Matt 16:3), we must see that in his all wise purposes our heavenly Father has painfully allowed the names “Church”, “Catholic”, “Anglican”, “Evangelical” and so on to be dragged through the mud over issues to do with child abuse, domestic violence and gay marriage so that we might rely only on the name “Jesus”.
Our Father has allowed us to put on trial by media to bring us to a place of earthly weakness and vulnerability so we, like Jesus in his time of trial, might fight in the strength of God alone.
As Christ on the cross could depend only on the promises of his Father to overthrow the seemingly conclusive victory of the powers of evil, so we too must depend solely on God’s Word and prayer (cf. Ps 22:1= Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46 = Ps 31:5). 2018 is to be a year when we take up the good fight like never before.
A stark choice is set before us.
The New Testament holds up sober warnings to those who under the heat of battle abandon “the good warfare…. the good fight” and “the good confession” (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12).
The lukewarm (Rev 3:16), deserters from the faith (Gal 1:6; 2 Tim 4:16) and cowards to the cause of Christ (Rev 21:8) are in dreadful danger of being eternally dishonoured before the Father on the Day of Judgement (Matt 10:33).
But to fight for Jesus is an honour that infinitely exceeds that given to those who fight the wars of this world.
Jesus longs to share with us the honour of his death and resurrection (Phil 3:10)
When Jesus in great agony cried out to God in Gethsemane and from the cross (Mark 15:34; Heb 5:7-8) he was crying out for strength to fight to the very end, and he was heard by the Father.
This can be our prayer too (cf. 2 Tim 4:7-8).
If we ask for the strength to fight the good fight to the very end God will not disappoint us (Rom 5:5)
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 21st January, 2018 | St Marks
Author: Dr. John Yates
Related Link: Nil