My Dear Friends,
It is deeply salutary to reflect on the unrelenting way the devil sought to overcome our Lord Jesus and to divert him from his calling to be the Redeemer of God’s elect. At the outset of his public ministry we find our Lord being tempted by the devil in the desert: “If you are the Son of God...” Remarkably, as our Lord completes his public ministry, we find those same words taunting the crucified One, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God.” Never for one moment did the devil relent in his attempts to lead our Saviour into temptation, and from there to bring him into sin. You and I can be sure that as it was with him so it will be with us.
The believing life is lived out in the midst of an unrelenting warfare. The devil will contest every inch of ground and do all within his infernal powers to destroy your Christian testimony - bank on it. This is why we should never be surprised when we find ourselves and our churches engulfed in difficulties, trials and persecutions. Peter had to remind his Christian readers not to be surprised at the painful trials they were suffering, “as though something strange were happening to you.”
There are at least three reasons why the Christian life is a battle: First, because we have a super-spiritual enemy who hates our Saviour. The devil is a defeated enemy, but he is yet a deeply troublesome enemy. Christ has conquered him by his cross (Col.2:15), but like “remaining sin”, the devil remains to trouble and oppose Christ’s people. He is, if you like, in his death throes, and he thrashes around seeking to cause untold harm to God’s cause in the world. No wonder our Lord Jesus warns us to “watch and pray.”
A second reason why the believing life is a battle is the hostility of a world of lies to the gospel of God’s truth. Our Lord Jesus is “The Truth” and he exposes the lies and deceits that shroud our world in darkness. What was true of our Lord Jesus par excellence, is true of every Christian - the world hates God’s light and will do all it can to extinguish or at least dim that light (read John 3:19-20). There is an inevitable costliness to being “of the truth” (1 Jn.3:19). Truth is the currency of God’s kingdom; our words are to be true and unalloyed and our lives are to be true and unalloyed. Writing to the Ephesian church, Paul tells them, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. LIVE as children of the light” (Eph.5:8ff). Truth is to be incarnated in how we live. In practice this means keeping God’s commandments from our hearts, however costly that will be for us - and it will be costly. We have all but exhausted the spiritual capital and legacy of the Reformation. The fact is, as some are already experiencing, that “living” the truth and not simply “speaking” the truth will bring hostility and worse upon you. Living under the unique and only Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ will mark you out as someone, either to be avoided, or to be ridiculed, dismissed (perhaps literally), or persecuted. But, as Peter again reminds his readers, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pt.4:14).
A third reason why the Christian life is a battle is the presence of indwelling sin in our yet sinful bodies. Our blessed Saviour has broken sin’s power in us and for us, but he has not yet eradicated sin from our lives. The devil has a “Quisling” within our own hearts, a welcoming landing ground for his wiles and temptations. My dear friends, none of us can ever “cruise our way to glory.” We must “put to death what is earthly in us,” by the help of the Holy Spirit (Col.3:5 and Roms.8:13), and do so every day of our lives.
We are all in a battle - but it is a battle well worth fighting. We fight it in union with our Lord Jesus Christ and for his glory. One day the battle will be no more. Satan will be finally and forever consigned to the lake of fire. We will all be made perfect in Christ’s own likeness; sin will trouble us no more. Until then, go on. Fight the good fight of faith. You may well accumulate scars, but they will be the marks of a life “participating in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pt.4:13).
Yours in the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ