Archives For Devotional

September 17, 2014

The Holy War

by Eric Davis

swordIt’s a word with which much of the world has unfortunately become familiar in recent years: “jihad.” “Jihad” is the Arabic word which carries the idea of “struggle,” and is often referred to as “holy war” within Islam.

While not all Muslim scholars agree on the way in which holy war should look, one need not look far to understand what it means to many in our world today.

But though such wars have been going on for centuries, Christ would in no way attribute the term “holy” to them. Worship and devotion to the true God means loving, not murdering, our enemies. Those of different faiths are not to be the object of our killing, but praying.

There is, however, a true holy way commanded by God. This war is spiritual in nature. It is a war against ourselves, and against the lack of holiness within, the moment we become a Christian. The true holy war is physically peaceful towards others, but spiritually aggressive towards self. Its not about strategically hunting down, and systematically taking out, the enemies outside of us, but the enemy inside of us.

While God’s agenda advancement for his disciples today does not consist of killing others, it certainly consists of killing our own sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

john-owen-by-john-greenhillThe 17th century puritan pastor, John Owen, has been greatly used of God to help the church in the holy war. He writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it [while] you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Now, studying sin may seem strange and undesirable to many. But our sin is not something we forget about simply because we are forgiven of it. An attraction to sin still exists inside the Christian because of our residual fallenness, the flesh. As such, it is our great enemy within. And its the thing which keeps us from doing what we most want: to love Christ. That’s why the true holy war is one of the sine qua non’s of the Christian life.

Here are 7 truths to arm God’s people for the holy war:

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Last week, we considered Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We saw how an implication of that command is that our fight for holiness is to be fueled by Gospel grace. But how does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel?

Gospel Driven

Today, I want to try to answer those questions by considering 12 different biblical virtues, and showing how the Gospel draws a straight line to each of them.

 

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“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
– Philippians 1:27 –

Phil 1;27This little phrase is the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul’s preeminent concern in his letter to the church of Philippi is that they would bring the practice of their lives into conformity with the position they enjoy as sharers in the Gospel of Christ. In reflecting on this command, two implications become immediately apparent.

Sanctification is the Necessary Fruit of Justification

The first implication of this text is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The one who has been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone—the one who has been declared righteous in his position before God—will grow and progress with respect to practical righteousness in his life.

This is the consistent testimony of the New Testament, and especially throughout Paul’s letters.

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In honor of Labor Day here are four truths your HR department probably didn’t cover in your orientation package…

1. Work is a gift

God created the man with a purpose: to enjoy fellowship with God and offer worship to God through workplow

Genesis 1:26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Yes, God loves to work, just look at creation]… 28 … “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Dominion is more than bragging rights, it means managerial prominence; if the gopher is messing up your putting green, you have the prerogative to translocate said gopher. Why? Because you are human and you are in charge.]

Gen 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

And this was before the Fall and the Curse.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, …3:22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.

An enjoyable, challenging and profitable career is one of God’s greatest blessings.

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When other people treat us badly, or backstab us, or wrongly speak ill of us, how are we to respond?

Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Contentment, answers that question by reminding us that, even when others mistreat us, it is no excuse for growing anxious, angry, or discontent.

He says this:

* * * * *

“I think I could be content with God’s hand,” says one, “So far as I see the hand of God in a thing I can be content. But when men deal so unreasonably and unjustly with me, I do not know how to bear it. I can bear that I should be in God’s hands, but not in the hands of men. When my friends or acquaintances deal so unrighteously with me, oh, this goes very hard with me, so that I do not know how to bear it from men.”

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The pop icon with the most remarkable lip-to-face ratio, Mick Jagger, encapsulated the sine qua non of Ecclesiastes with the characteristic pithiness of enduring poetry: “I can’t get no [obligatory guitar lead interlude] satisfaction.” And in one of the most elastically generous half-rhymes in the Presley corpus, “A little less conversation, a little more action / All this aggravation ain’t satisfaction in me.”  I am half way through preaching Solomon’s pensive, apparently cynical magnum opus, and I’m resolute in my determination to not slit my wrists. Last night’s sermon was the mid-term review—chapter 6 of 12. Basically our emo author is waxing glumly about life, the universe, and everything and how nothing in this sunburned existence brings happiness or fulfillment.

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The Lord is NearOver the last two weeks, we’ve been considering Paul’s command to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5). We considered five characteristics of that gentleness, and then took some time to consider the scope of that command, noting that we are not only to be gentle with fellow Christians, but also with those who are enemies of the Gospel.

And we ended last time asking how could possibly do that? let our gentle and forbearing spirit be evident to all people—even those that would take advantage of us?

And we can be so thankful that Paul seems to never lay upon the shoulders of the people of God a divine imperative without also laying under our feet a divine indicative upon which we can stand. In Philippians 4:4 he didn’t merely command us to “Rejoice always,” but to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The Lord Himself is to be the source, sphere, object, and ground of our rejoicing. Well here also in verse 5, he doesn’t merely command us, “Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men,” but also adds, “the Lord is near.”

So, how is it that we can patiently endure the ill-treatment of a hostile and perverse generation, and consistently repay evil with good? How can we subject ourselves to the attacks of the enemies of Christ and His Gospel without becoming defensive and asserting our rights? Paul says, “The Lord is near.”  This is the ground of our gentleness.

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Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
– Philippians 4:5 –

Gentleness (Phil 4;5)This passage of Scripture comes in a list of brief commands that Paul means to demonstrate as the means of remaining spiritually steadfast (cf. Phil 4:1). That list is usually read through very quickly, and this command to be gentle often doesn’t enjoy the extended meditation that it deserves.

But the word is packed with meaning, so much so that the translators have always had a hard time translating the Greek word, epieikes. The verse at the top is the New American Standard Update. The older NAS has, “Let your forbearance,” or “your forbearing spirit be made known to all men.” The ESV says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The HCSB has, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone.”

The commentators don’t help either, as their lists are even longer: gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, generosity. In some measure, all of these concepts are at play in this one word. I thought it would be beneficial to select a number of them and amplify them a bit, so that we can gain a firm grasp on the nature of this duty to which we are called, but which is often easy to overlook. So here are five characteristics of the gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ.

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If you are not Superman, whose vascular system is exponentially energized by photosynthesis of a yellow sun, or a Duracell Bunny, who can pummel a drum for ten hours from four AA batteries, you need to put some thought into how to charge your body.

nappingThis may seem as obvious as a gleaming golden arch, but many Christians view sanctification as merely a spiritual pursuit. We err as Plato did, drawing too sharp a distinction between spiritual wellbeing and physical succour. After all, didn’t Paul tut-tut disparagingly at treadmills and jump ropes when he pointed out that, “Bodily training profits little, while godliness profits in every way, for it holds promise for this life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8)?

Well, yes, if you have to choose between being eternally godly, or fighting fit, then remember that your body will one day fuel the secret subterranean lives of creatures that you now temporarily outweigh.

But most of us do not have to choose between the two. We could benefit from mastering our memory verses, while working a Stairmaster.

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brideLinda Lou Taylor only got married once…for love.

It was in 1957. Linda was sixteen and she married 31 year old George Scott, whom she loved deeply. The marriage lasted seven years, ending in a regrettable divorce. After that Linda gave up on the idea of marrying for love, and instead began to marry, it seems, for sport. She wed and divorced with a dizzying frequency.

She tied the slip-knot in rapid succession, collecting a string of ex-husbands form all walks of life, including a plumber, a preacher, a bartender, a musician. To add valuable rare items to her collection of erstwhile hubbies, she married a one-eyed convict, two homeless guys, and two gay men.

She creatively upped her matrimonial stats by “committing” to one fellow, Jack Gourly, on three separate occasions. Her shortest marriage lasted a mere 36 hours.  It seems her goal was to immortalize her hubby-hobby with a dubious entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most married woman.”

She accomplished this notoriety by wedding Mr. Glynn Wolfe in her 23rd wedding. The marriage was unabashedly performed solely for the publicity of getting into Guinness. You may ask yourself, what kind of man would marry a woman just to help her get into a record book? Good question. The motive was hardly difficult to discern, as that wedding happened to secure for 87 year old Mr Wolfe his own record as “most married man,” when Linda became his 29th bride.

He died a year later, and Linda, age 63, has been single for ten years now, but she told a journalist that she’s on the prowl for husband #24.

Personally, I rankle at the recurring spectacle of those who degrade the sanctity of marriage with such reckless abandon. But it does remind me of another far-fetched story of serial marriages. One that was not trying to mock the sanctity of marriage, but rather to mock—of all things— the doctrine resurrection.

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