Margin notes: Remembering our warfare

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Eph 6:10–13.

I don’t know about you, but it is easy for me to forget that the normal Christian life is one of perpetual warfare. I don’t like it. I want to set it aside. I want to live in peace and joy and not need to be constantly vigilant about my soul. That day IS coming – but it isn’t here yet. This is the day of battle. This is the age of conquest. And while we battle on 3 fronts, the Word, the Flesh and the Devil – I find the battle against my own flesh to be the most difficult. I do so because the other 2 are outside of me, but the battle against the flesh is internal, it is very really against myself.

Now in a prolonged battle, weariness is a constant concern. And if we are battling in our own strength, weariness is impossible to avoid. It is why our text calls us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might. To stand constantly depending upon the work Christ has already finished on our behalf. To find the one place where we can stand firm – in a Gospel of the finished work of Christ on the Cross, having already paid the price for all my sin – even those I’ve yet to commit, and therefore standing in the perpetual light of the Father’s smile. Fully accepted in the Beloved. And clothed with His righteousness, and not my own. And it is the battle to retain such things in my own heart and mind as static truths that I sometimes fail.

But let me encourage you today with a quote I’ve oft cited before from that grand divine of the 19th century, J. C. Ryle. With hopes that you will be reminded once again that Believers alone are blessed to be in this battle at all. Unbelievers are just content in their chains. Oh, they may struggle against some behavior which causes them trouble, but they never fret over sin as sin, as an offense to their God. This is our turf. And if you know something of that battle today – take heart. It is a mighty proof that He is yours and you are His. Be strong in the Lord my friend. You are in a battle of His design. Put on His armor. And go out to fight again today. He has promised eventual victory over every sin.

So Ryle: “We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would? (Gal. 5:17.) Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us, should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 82.

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