2 Timothy 2:4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
In this natural world, no one is a soldier and a civilian at the same time. You are either one or the other. You are either serving your country in the military (subject to the requirements and structure of that life) or building your own life according to your own desires.
There is a similar spiritual reality. We cannot be engaged in this spiritual battle and be entwined with the things of this carnal life. Yes, there are things that require our attention-work, grocery shopping, home maintenance, etc-but these things don’t need to disengage us from the battle. In fact, they could all be theaters where the battle is engaged.
How many believers indulge in entertainment that pollutes them or leisure activities that dull their spiritual appetites? We deceive ourselves when we think we are effectively fighting an enemy that we live in agreement with. A soldier that defects to the enemy is called a traitor and is subject to being charged with treason and we would agree that is the right thing to do. We are much more merciful to ourselves, justifying our daily defections as we romp carelessly in the devil’s minefields. Unaware of the danger that lies just beneath the surface, we risk being blown to pieces at any moment.
The true spiritual soldier realizes the importance of being focused in the battle and the danger of compromise, but his primary motivation is the pleasure of his commanding officer. He serves joyfully for the reward of the pleasure upon His countenance. He embraces the discipline required and the sufferings encountered because the battle is a worthy one and the reward is eternal. He is ever on the alert for a command that may be issued and hastens to perform all that his Commander requires, for he is well equipped and victory is assured. The affairs of this life pale in comparison to the excitement of his journey. He will live and die as a soldier of Jesus Christ.
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1)
The word here translated bondservant is actually the word slave (doulos). It is a strong word, carrying the following meanings:
- It refers to one born into slavery.
- It refers to one who is in a relation to another which only death can break
- It refers to one whose will is swallowed up in the will of another.
- It refers to one who serves another even to the disregard of his own interests.
The word slave is an unpopular word….and for good reason. Throughout the history of humanity, the stronger have conquered the weaker and subjected them to the most horrific indignities. The first goal of a slave is simply to survive. But a close second would be to obtain freedom. Yet the Apostle Paul willingly made himself a bond-slave of Christ.
Born a slave to sin, he was born again a slave to righteousness. At the moment of new birth, he entered into a relationship with the Lord Jesus which not even death could sever, for the power of death was broken on the cross. He was a man whose will was utterly swallowed up in the will of God, demonstrated by his utter disregard even for his own life that he might preach Christ.
This disgraceful word…..slave…..has now been given an air of dignity by all of those who, like Paul, have gladly chosen the title of slave for themselves because of the exceeding greatness of the Master. Head high, chin up, eyes lifted heavenward…….we serve with gladness.
“However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Caanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.” Judges 1:27-28
And the list continues of each tribe that did not drive out all the inhabitants of the land they were inheriting.
They had been warned by Joshua before his death that those peoples who were not driven out of the land would be “snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.” Joshua 23:13
You would think that such a warning would have compelled them to fight until victory was complete. But they didn’t. They acheived a measure of success. In fact they were probably mostly successful. But they remained content with a job unfinished. Maybe they just got tired of fighting and an enemy determined to stay in the land was a bit more than they felt like dealing with. After all, if they could put the enemy under tribute, if they could keep that enemy under their control, wouldn’t that be good enough?
These people allowed to remain in the land were a continual cause of stumbling to Israel. We would do well to learn a lesson from this. That seemingly insignificant compromise that we tolerate and make a convenant of peace with is the compromise that will one day gain the strength to make all out war against our soul. The command of God is that all foreigners (and what should be more foreign to the life of a blood-bought believer in Jesus than tolerance of sin and compromise) must be driven out and He has promised His own help. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus, the ultimate overcomer, dwells in us, faithfully showing us those enemies and then empowering us to be free of them. But we must rise up determined that none shall remain. Those enemies you do not fight, you will live with. So let us fight by taking hold of God in prayer. Let us fight by clinging to the promises of His word. Let us fight by a daily surrender of ourselves to the will of God. Let us fight brothers and sisters, and never be content to merely keep those enemies suppressed. But let us live in the glorious freedom purchased for us by our Lord Jesus.
For 2 years I’ve been part of my church’s prison ministry to Angola, the state’s maximum security prison. One of the high points of the month for me is the evening we spend at Angola having a church service with them. However, one of the difficulties has been that there is not much time for personal interaction with the inmates, and even what little time there is, as a woman I have to be very careful with how I interact with these men. I have had a desire to have access to LCIW (Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women) but there were no available time slots for a new ministry.
But in May I learned about a discipleship program that uses volunteers. I immediately began making calls. I found out what training was required and attended the course, only to be told that they didn’t have many evening spots available and those usually filled up quickly. After the training I contacted the volunteer coordinator, who again told me there wasn’t a spot available for me. However, she did need someone who could be available to substitute if one of the regular volunteers was unavailable, so I gladly agreed to do this. And I waited……….
Then, a few weeks ago I got the phone call. I was needed to fill in. I was nervous, anxious, unsure of what the prison would be like or what the inmates would be like. My stomach was in a knot as I walked through the prison to the chapel with the other volunteers. I walked into the main meeting room to await the arrival of the inmates. They slowly trickled in by two’s and three’s and when they saw me, a new face they didn’t recognize, they came over to meet me and hug me. Within ten minutes I felt like I was at home.
I led a discussion group with about 8 of the ladies and immediately decided that I liked them very much. My only sorrow that whole evening was knowing that it was just a one time thing. They asked me to come back next week, but I felt sure that was impossible……until I got the email asking me to substitute again the following week. And the second week was better than the first! Four weeks have passed now since that first visit and I am a regular now. Even when I’m not needed to lead the group, the team leader has given her approval for me to come and be there. And somehow, just seeing my face there let’s these women know that I genuinely care about them.
It is a blessing to be part of what God is doing at LCIW.
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. John 12:42
Jesus’ lived in a religious society. Religion was not only accepted, it was expected. Those who were learned in religious things were held in high regard by all. However, when Jesus showed up on the scene, with His “new” teachings, upsetting everyone’s apple cart, He was not accepted by the religious authorities. But our verse tells us that there were some who believed in Him. We need to think on that for a minute. These people were experts in Scripture and they knew that Jesus made claims to diety. And they believed in Him. They believed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Let that sink in for a minute. But they were secret disciples, afraid to identify with Jesus openly because He was unaccepted by their peers. Afraid to be known as His disciples lest they should be put out of the synagogue and lose their place in the current religious system.
The world that we live in today is not unfriendly to the religious, but it is increasingly intolerant of Christ followers. When the name of Jesus Christ is introduced into conversations, many times you can see a physical reaction in people. They don’t mind our religion, but they cannot tolerate our Christ.
For each of us who follows Christ, there will come a day when you are presented with a “lest” moment, when it will cost you something to be counted among His followers. It could mean the loss of position, loss of esteem of those you care about, or even a loss of possessions. What is the thing you are most afraid to lose? And if the loss of that thing was threatened for the sake of Christ would it cause you to hide your faith in Him and become a secret disciple? What is your lest?
What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols and have become idolaters? Jeremiah 2:5
I will begin with the definitions of several of the words in this verse that I found to be interesting:
Idols (Strong’s #1892) – emptiness or vanity; something transitory and unsatisfactory.
Idolaters (Strong’s #1891) – to be vain in act, word of expectation
I wonder what kind of answer Jeremiah received to this question. I wonder if anyone dared to answer. Upon serious reflection, the only reasonable conclusion would be that there was no injustice found in God. They just didn’t follow Him anymore. They were interested in other things – namely vanities. Things of no consequence, value or importance.
If you go back and read from the beginning of this chapter, the Lord starts by telling the people that when they followed after Him, they were holiness to the Lord. But now that they are following after vanities, they have become vain.
Have you ever followed somebody somewhere in your car? It can take much concentration as you try to keep that one particular vehicle in sight at all times. They change lanes, you change lanes. They speed up, you speed up. Your driving mirrors theirs. While you are following, conformity develops. You are becoming like the one you are following.
I am reminded of the words of Jesus when He said “You will know them by their fruit.” The fruit of our lives will demonstrate who (or what) we are following.
So…..how’s your fruit these days?
“Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.” Mark 14:15
The disciples had asked Jesus where they were to make ready for the Passover. Jesus gave them directions to a place that was ready and waiting for this use. I had to pause when I read this because it made me think about my life.
Those who want to be used by the Lord must be furnished and prepared. We must live in the place of readiness, and if we truly love the Lord, we will live in this place of readiness because our love for Him will compel us to draw near.
What does a furnished and prepared life look like? I’d welcome your input on this. As I was thinking about this, the following things came to mind: being full of the Holy Spirit, being increasingly surrendered and yielded to God, being a person of the Word and prayer.
In verses 13-14, when Jesus was ready for that room He gave directions to the disciples:
Go into the city
There will be a man
He will be carrying a pitcher of water
Follow him to a house
Speak to the master of the house
Jesus knew exactly where the room was. And He knows exactly where we are. He knows those who have faithfully devoted themselves to drawing near to Him, and when He is looking for someone to use in this wonderful task of sharing the gospel, He knows how to find us.
Oh, that we would live in this place of readiness, free from the many distractions of this world, and with our hearts set on knowing Him. Lord, help us to be furnished and prepared.
“Count the cost
Of being Mine”
Take up your cross
Lose your life for My sake
And for My gospel
Be hated of the world
And esteemed a fool
This is the lot of my disciples”
“Will you lay down your will
And will you embrace Mine?”
Is my reply
“I will follow”
Because my heart
Has thus agreed
My mind believes
It has obeyed
Yet hear this heart
It’s desires or comfort
Hear it protest
Against the unfairness
Hear it cry
How miserable it is
As it languishes in self-pity
Where now is your “Yes”?
Merciful Lord, please give me a “Yes” that penetrates to the very depths of my soul.
As this year began, there was a restless stirring in my soul. I couldn’t put a name to it, or identify a precise reason for it. There was just this vague knowing that God was about to do something. So I waited and prayed. The prayer that seemed to spring from my heart unbidden, with a life of it’s own, was “Lord, what do I lack?”
The days turned into weeks, and yet there was no answer. Still there was the question, “Lord, what do I lack?” As truly as the Scriptures say that He will be found by those who seek Him, He did indeed send the answer. It started with an email I received. (You can read it here)
As I read about the daily life of these believers, I was cut to the heart. I had evaluated my walk with God by comparing my life with other believers that I knew. But my error suddenly seemed so clear as I sensed the Lord saying “why have you assumed the American church is the proper standard of measure?”
I began to review my spiritual life and saw how I had bought into American church culture as normal and acceptable to God. How about this phrase……God understands that you don’t have time to pray. After all, you have:
– a demanding job
– family responsibilities
– too much drama right now
Not only have I believed this, that God would just accept whatever I felt like giving Him based on how comfortable it was for me, but I had told this to other people. But is this the way He reveals Himself in the Bible?
He didn’t tell Abraham, “I understand how important Isaac is to you. A good father should love his son intensely.” No. He said “put him on the altar and kill him.”
No gods before Me. He still means that. He still wants those Isaacs on the altar. Some of them He will give back to us. But others He will require us to plunge the knife into. The choice is His.
David said, I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing. (2 Samuel 24:24). My discipleship has cost me very little.
I don’t want American Christianity. I want radical, authentic Biblical Christianity. Discipleship is being redefined in my life. It is a journey into reality. I expect that it will be revolutionary.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47