Fighting The First War

   The first step to victory in war is evaluating our resources and gathering credible intelligence about the enemy and the battlefield from trustworthy sources. Jesus Himself alluded to this in Luke 14:25-35:

Or what king, going to make war against another king, does
not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten
thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty
thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off,
he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

   Obviously, there is no source more trustworthy than the Word of Almighty God Himself. The intelligence we gather from it is not only reliable, but absolute and final as well.

   So what does the Bible say about this enemy we’re at war with? Who is the enemy? What are its full compliment? Who is its leader? What are their strategies, capabilities and weaknesses?

   Conversely, what’s in our arsenal? Do we have what it takes to win the battles? Can we ultimately win the war, or is it a lost cause? Since God, who knows the end from the beginning is our Commander-in-Chief; can we know who wins the war in the end? And if we do ultimately win the war, then why worry about the battles?

   From the word of God we shall discover the answers to these question marks in our souls. We cannot allow these uncertainties to go unanswered because they affect our morale, drive and confidence in battle.

Jude asserts that we should:

  • Earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)

Likewise, the Apostle Paul suggested that we should:

  • "Run with certainty and fight with aspiration and Not aimlessly." (1 Corinthians 9:26)

And that we should:

  • Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called…” (1Timothy 6:12)

And this so that like Paul, we can say with him at the end of our tour of duty:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept
the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and
not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:7,8)

Notice, that in the last three passages Jude and Paul are talking about the "good fight of" and "for the faith." This is the focal point of the war. How-ever, in order to achieve “the crown of righteousness” for this fight, we must first identify, engage and advance through the frontlines of the enemy. This is what I call THE FIRST WAR!

   Fighting this war is the underpinning to what the Apostle Paul was alluding to in the 9th chapter of the book of 1Corinthians where he declared:

Don’t you know that those who run in a race, all run, but only
one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all
things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty.
Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my
body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached
to others, I myself should  become disqualified.
(verses 24 thru 27

This is said however, in the context of fighting for the ultimate war for the faith. – Verse 24 -“Now I do this for the sake of the Good News, that I may be a joint partaker of it.”

   The fight for the faith is the reason for fighting the first war - so we are not “disqualified” from participating or engaging in the overall objective, which is to defend the faith while evangelizing the world. These are not separate goals or objectives here. There is only one objective we have been entrusted with - to evangelize the world. (Matthew 28:19,20). Everything else yields to and campaigns for this end; or at least it should. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

  • I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I maybe partaker of it with you." (I Corinthians 9:22, 23)

  • "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
(Galatians 2:20)

  • "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spir-it within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
    (1Corinthians 6:19,20)

  • "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him Who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2Timothy 2:4)

Why should we act in accordance with these verses?

Love: ~ We serve God out of love, not out of indebtedness. We do not owe God anything. He cancelled all our debts. We are sons and daughters of the King! We belong to Him. Just as a child does what he does for his mommy & daddy out of love and not out of a sense of indebtedness; so we too ought to serve our heavenly Father in this very same way.

  • For the love of Christ constrains us, having concluded this,  that one died for all, therefore all died; And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 
  (2 Corinthians 5:14,15)

Evangelism: ~ We realize that unbelievers are looking for a reason to believe or not to believe. Our conduct either gives them a reason to believe or an excuse not to. Either our behavior convicts them of their sinfulness and consequent need for Him; or it reinforces their ignorance and hard-heartedness. We are the only bible some people will ever read. When unbelievers attack our good conduct; it’s because they are responding (howbeit negatively) to the conviction by the Holy Spirit of their sin. When our behavior looks just like theirs, we have nothing to offer as far as reasons why they need a Savior.

  • Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they war against your very souls. Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God in the day of visitation.”  (1 Peter 2:11,12)

  • Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." (2 Timothy 2:10)

   All believers are all enlisted into the Kings Army at the point of their salvation. From that moment until the "great get'n up day" we are commanded to:

  • Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
(1Peter 3:15)

   There are many aspects to this war and we are either attacked or resisted on many fronts, but we need to be clear as to what our ultimate objective is and where the focus of our efforts need to be concentrated at any given moment. For example, if we are talking to someone of the opposite sex; should we focus on purity or evangelism? We should do both unless we felt that it would create a problem. But again, that would depend on our individual weaknesses. This is where we would have to identify the enemy and choose where to fortify our arsenal.

   Is Satan himself attacking us? It’s possible, but probably not because he is not omnipresent. It may be that he’s in Japan or Iraq at that moment. Are spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places who work for him resisting us? Probably. Or is it just this world’s system of beliefs, ideologies and values, of which Satan is the author of, that is influencing and even tempting us? This too is a force to be reckoned with.

   Nonetheless, we must look at the front line or the infantry if you will, first, before we jump straight to the General. And who is on the front line fighting for the enemy? We are! Actually, we are the General in this and most situations! That’s right, our own flesh. Our own selfish wicked desires that only serve our own interests.

  • Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." (1Peter 2:11)

  • For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:17)

  • But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)

Consider what Jesus has to say about this:

  • Watch and pray, that you don't enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
(Matthew 26:41)

  • If anyone comes to me, and doesn't hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can't be my disciple. Whoever doesn't bear his own cross, and come after me, can't be my disciple… Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
(Luke 14:25-35)

   Salt is a symbol for our ability to have a constructive influence on the people we come in contact with, just as quality salt effects whatever it is utilized for, so we need to be able to have a positive effectiveness in relation to whatever we are utilized for.

   As for our example above, while trying to identify whom the enemy is we need not look any further than our own hearts. If we have our hearts in the right place (our flesh in submission or rather crucified) then and only then are we adequately prepared to challenge the rest of the opposing forces that have mounted an assault against us and ultimately, the Holy Spirit who is in charge of evangelizing the world, particularly this person of the opposite sex that we are currently talking to.

Let’s debrief the intelligence we’ve gathered thus far:

1) Who is the enemy?

  • Our own flesh, this world’s system of beliefs, ideologies and values, fallen angels, and the Prince of the power of the air.

2) Who is the leader?

  • Our own flesh – "But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:14) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

3) What are their Strategies?

  • Appeals and excitement to our fleshly lusts - “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
(1 John 2:16)

  • Self-deception - "But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)

  • Provision - “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)

   We make room or “provisions” - opportunities, reasons, chances, occasions, openings, prospects, justifications, rationales, rationalizations and just plain excuses for our flesh instead of taking the way of escape God has promised to provide. Consider  the Word:

  • “No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

  • “ … that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:11)

4) What are their Capabilities?

  • Satan can set traps and roar - “Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

  • The world can appeal and excite us - "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
(1 John 2:16)

5) What are their Weaknesses?

  • Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings.
(1 Peter 5:9)

  • You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; be-cause greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
(1 John 4:4)

  • No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

   Being aware of what we face allows every believer the opportunity to train his flesh for the battle. To prepare specifically for the challenges before us as we take up our cross daily in our service to our Lord.
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Practical Theology
                                 with Christopher Santiago