Christ the Prince of Peace never ceased from war, nor does He now.
Have you ever noticed that the letters of Paul seem to have been written with the point of a sword? Do his words in 2 Timothy 2.3 not knock you off your rocking chair?
And yet it seems many professing Christians are oblivious to the fact that our King has called us to a life of warfare.
What is it exactly that we are called to war against? Is it not our very own sins of disobedience, sins of rebellion against our Chief Shepherd? So sad is our culturally-cozy indifference to the "Shepherd and Overseer of our souls." Have we really joined His Army if we never leave the funny-side of the TV set or the sunny-side of the house? What kind of enlistment is that? Has He given us a love for the LazyBoy, or the spirit of good soldiers?
But who am I really fighting? At whom am I throwing punches? The Greek of 1 Corinthians 9.27 reads something like this: "But I beat of me the body and bring into servitude, not hardly to others having preached, myself disqualified l might be." The NIV translation renders it like this, "No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave..."
Friends, here's the mistake I've made: Though I've desired to come outside the safety of the foxhole and face the enemy head on, l've failed to see the necessity of first fighting inside the foxhole. If I am going to win any battle against the sin in my life, the first person that needs to be put to death is me! As I say this, I can hear shouts from the sidelines, "But Les! Grace, grace! Didn't God shed His grace on thee and isn't His grace sufficient?" Absolutely! But the real, all-sufficient grace of God never leaves us content or comfortable with spiritual lethargy.
How can I buy that lie when I hear our Lord say, "Strive to enter the narrow gate." Why use the word strive? As Christians we strive because grace is alive in us, providing the desire & strength to swim upstream, to go against the flow, against the current of the world. Isn't it easy just to pick up our feet and drift down stream? The harder thing, indeed the impossible thing apart from God's grace, is to turn around and go against the flow: to strive.
I've struggled over the years understanding how God's Law & God's Grace work together. Friends, church family, fellow believers, I have a confession to make. Here lately, listening to Paige proclaim Jesus' Sermon On the Mount, there have been times I've come away feeling strong-armed, even labeling his approach as a bit legalistic.
Truth is though, when the preached Scripture makes me uncomfortable, God's Word is at work! We both know our under-shepherd's zeal and love for us. Paige's desire is for us to know & love the Truth. Praise God he takes pain to point us back to Him each week. What a burden He must carry being a "voice" in this Hill County wilderness.
John the Baptist was right: "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Where's the fruit, the proof of real repentance? Fruit doesn't grow while we simply sit on the tailgate of Grace swinging our feet in the air. We must be grounded, firmly planted and pushing, striving all the way.
I recently listened to a good sermon that pointed out in Jonah 3.10 that
The cool thing is what it doesn't say. It doesn't say "God read their thoughts." It doesn't say "God heard their prayers." It says God saw their works. God evaluates our repentance. And by what standard? Our works & fruit. Seems true repentance produces proof!
Praise God for His grace, love & forgiveness, as well as His command to obey & the power He provides through His Holy Spirit to do so! There's nothing legalistic about that. It's the Truth of His word.