Frontline Warriors for Jesus Christ
There is a lot for us to fight against. Satan is strong and crafty. Do you know what is a big problem? That we are so weak. Frontline warriors for Jesus Christ are not strong, with tough language and fists, but weak, needy people.
Do you know what I think is an even bigger problem? That we often do not see our own sluggishness. We think far too highly of ourselves. We compare our lives with other peoples’ lives and find a positive result. We are compassionate, do good work in church and other associations, attend weddings, etc. Good warriors for the Lord indeed. We have achieved a lot in our struggle for the church of Jesus Christ. Many people outside our churches are jealous of what we have.
Even so, I think we are only very resilient to evil when we realize our own defenselessness; when we see that we are a bunch of sleepyheads and can’t win this war ourselves. The result is that we need to leave everything to the Lord. He wins the battle, not us. The only thing that can be expected of us is to allow His victorious work in our lives. In recent years, we have gained greater open-mindedness to the world, some might say. Our eyes are increasingly open to everything that happens. That is good in many respects. A Christian cannot remove himself from the world and isolate himself in home and church life. He has a lot to bear in mind about the world.
But eyes open to the world are often paired with a heart open to the world. And then we easily get taken in. For, “In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us” (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 52).
Therefore our hearts must be open to Christ. And this is a struggle. To do that, we have to conquer a lot in our hearts, since our hearts are not naturally open to Christ.
We need training for this fight: exercise in spiritual life. Consider what Paul says in Ephesians 5: “Walk with the Spirit.” That is a command. One may wonder: if we believe, don’t we have the Holy Spirit? Yes, and yet Paul found it necessary to give that instruction. Let me give an illustration of what Paul means. We are all like leaky buckets. The buckets are filled with water, but if we do not constantly keep refilling the bucket, the water will all leak out. Thus, we must constantly stand under the tap of the Holy Spirit to stay full. In ourselves we are as leaky as sieves. We do not have absolute faith. We do not serve God with such zeal as He requires. You will be familiar with those words from the Lord’s Supper form.
In summary, the ability to fight begins with realizing our own defenselessness.
After that comes the training. If we realize how defenseless we are, then we should be motivated to train. An athlete who feels out of shape will do what it takes to get back into shape.
We receive a variety of training equipment. Chapter 5 of the Canons of Dort is important to the subject we are discussing. How can you, as a believing child of the Lord, keep up the fight? Time after time it turns out that the Lord keeps up the fight. He does everything, and brings the fight for His children to a successful conclusion. He does that by giving us training and resources. Canons of Dort Chapter 5, Article 14 says, “Just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the preaching of the gospel, so He maintains, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His word, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and by the use of the sacraments.” God is the subject of that sentence. He begins His work of grace, upholds it, sends it forth, and completes it.
However, in doing so He also puts us to work. He lets us hear, read and comprehend the gospel. That is training tool number one:
Be Busy with the Gospel
I very intentionally phrased that title: “be busy”. After a sermon on Sunday you may hear people say, “The pastor gave us enough to chew on for the whole week.” That is, of course, meant as a compliment for that pastor. But it’s a dangerous sentence. It is not good to feed a whole week on only that one sermon. The Canons of Dort say, “It has pleased God to begin this work” (V, 14). God wants to move forward after Sunday, and God wants us to go on too. We must hear, read and think about Him every day. Meditate, ponder, and ask questions about what you read from the Bible. This requires time. We must not have the mindset that we are too busy for this. Those who are immersed in the Holy Spirit will have creative ideas about how to stay busy with the gospel throughout the week.
A further training tool is the sacraments. We must use them. Firstly, that means consciously observing them. We find the forms for baptism and Lord’s Supper so familiar that there are no surprises. “Use” means thinking about them afterwards too. Therefore: Meditate on the everyday consequences of baptism and Lord’s Supper.
The Communion of Saints
The third training tool: the communion of saints. I think that this cannot be emphasized enough in our fight against evil: no one is fighting alone. The word “one another” is important in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Arguing with each other, interrogating each other, encouraging each other: that sounds a bit pushy. But that is not the intention! In Greek the word translated here as “encouraging” has many meanings: admonish, warn, comfort, encourage. Literally: call, in the sense of call to Christ, push toward His love. We must do that with, and for, each other. In Christ’s love we must seek one another, and bring each other closer to His love.
Let’s focus on that weakness I mentioned in the beginning of my story. If you see yourself as a weakling in Christ’s service, then you won’t consider it strange if your brother or sister is also weak. This will promote openness about our struggles. Then you will not be afraid of doubts that, in fact, should not occur in the Church. Things are coming out into the open! After all, we are weak.
If our weakness is so great, should we then not be afraid of the great power of Satan and his evil spirits? No. “For when I am weak, (I will go to the Lord, and) then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
That does not mean that you have to accept all sins and shortcomings. But it does mean that we accept each other and help each other. Think of what our Lord Jesus did for the adulterous woman in John 8. People wanted to stone her right away. But Jesus let her go after those Pharisees were confronted with their own weakness. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
If we use that attitude to deal with our weakness, and that of others in the communion of saints, we will have gained much in the fight against evil. We can support each other in that fight. We can talk to each other about what a Christian lifestyle is without conflict, but open to each other’s contributions.
If you feel weak together, you are strong together.
Finally, because we are weak, prayer is our most important training tool. “Father, deliver us from the evil one. Because we are so weak in ourselves.”
Whoever prays, says, “Give, Father, for I have nothing, I cannot do it. Father, you have to do it!” Think again of Canons of Dort V, 14. God begins His work of grace in us. He also continues and finishes it.
Therefore, in order to practice godliness, practicing prayer is especially important. Praying doesn’t come naturally either. It requires training. We need to work at it. We are defenseless in ourselves, so we can’t be lazy about prayer. But anyone who has a living and confident relationship with the Lord does not have to be afraid of the evil one.
This article was translated by Valerie Flokstra.