There’s a Fight
to be Fought
1. BORN INTO CONFLICT
While turning over the pages of a magazine I recently stumbled across an article on the poet, William Blake, in which his writings were compared with those of the modern psychologists. I was particularly interested in one of the writer’s statements. “The soul of every man”, he says, “except that of the saint is in a state of disintegration; we are most of us unconscious of this conflict, except in moments of stress and in our dreams....” As I read this the fact came home to me with a new force that one infallible sign of the uprising of new life in one converted to God through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is a consciousness of conflict. The heart of man is a great battlefield between right and wrong, light and darkness, God and Satan; and the Christian is in a very real sense one who is born into a warfare that will only end with his final entrance into the immediate presence of God, when this life has been left behind.
A story has been told of a High Church dignitary, who was ‘tackled’ by an enthusiastic worker in the open air. “Sir!” was the question asked, “Have you found peace?” “No!” came the immediate answer, “I have found war!” Both were right; for while it is gloriously true, and should be proclaimed unequivocally from every pulpit that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”, it is equally true that from end to end the New Testament reveals the bitter struggles against bitter enemies, both within and without, that every Christian must face, but in which he may overcome through grace.
In the first place shall we try to discover what Scripture has to teach us about the conflict within? Romans 7 describes an inward condition familiar to us all. “I find”, writes the Apostle, in verse 21, “. . . a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me”. In verses 22 and 23 he continues, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members”. The Greek word translated ‘warring’ here is a very strong one, and suggests the thought of the massing of forces in an ‘all out’ attack. Is not this one of the major problems facing the work of God to-day? Do not many of us ‘delight in the law of God’ as proclaimed from the pulpit and platform but utterly fail in the application of what we hear to the realities of life.
Prayer, for instance, is often the subject of addresses and Bible-readings, but, speaking broadly, the Church does not pray. Soul-winning is a theme that regularly appears on the syllabus of our Evangelical Conferences and in theory we all admit our responsibility in this direction, but there is a dearth of workers, who are prepared to give themselves in sacrificial service in order that others may be won for Christ. Most of us like to hear preaching that sets a high standard of holy living, and do not greatly object to feeling ‘a little convicted’ by plain speaking on the necessity of ‘putting our house in order’, but the startling fact is that there is little noticeable difference between the attitude to life of the evangelical believer, and the ‘worldling’ he secretly despises. It would be easy to go on accumulating evidence of the same kind, but surely enough has been said to show that in very many ‘Christian’ hearts, and in the Church as a whole, the whole force of evil in the fallen nature is waging an undoubtedly, and yet quite unnecessarily, successful campaign against the saving, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit of God.
In Paul’s case, and what was true of him is surely equally true of all who are determined to ‘go on with God’, the struggle reaches the point of desperation before relief comes, and the way of victory is revealed. “O wretched man that I am!” he cries, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is a cry of real agony, but it is followed immediately by the shout of triumph. “I thank God through Jesus Christ out Lord” (Romans 7 v24-25). It is true that the saint alone knows the antidote to the disintegrating power of inner conflict, Jesus Christ “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1 v30). Is it any wonder that Paul tells the Ephesians, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith . . .” (Ephesians 3 v14-17). The voice that calmed the winds and waves of the sea of Galilee is the only voice that can still the turbulent strife, which at times rises so powerfully in the human breast.
Other passages of Scripture tell the same story of the inner warfare of the Christian life. James, for instance, writes, “From whence come wars and brawlings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members” (James 4 v1). He puts his finger here on the root cause of the tragic disunion so common amongst Christians of our day. It is perfectly natural for you and me to stand on our dignity; to feel that we are always right; to succumb to some rising swell of partisanship that carries us into taking sides for one party in our Church against another; or in attaching ourselves to our favourite teacher, and taking up cudgels against all and sundry on his behalf. Paul’s verdict on all this is succinctly devastating. “Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men” (1 Corinthians 3 v3). Those who profess most knowledge of the deeper truths of Scripture, are often the greatest sinners in this respect. Being blind to the “lusts that war in their members” they lay the blame always on others; on circumstances; on Satan; on the increasing evil of the days in which we live; on anything and everything but themselves. Overcome by their own carnality, their outlook is that of perpetual criticism, their presence a continual cause of friction, and they become unconsciously, but inevitably, a most potent hindrance to the spread of the Gospel in the world. Here again the one cure is in the person of a Living Saviour, who is the author of peace and concord, and the making inoperative of the might of the old nature. “I am crucified with Christ; it is no more I that live, but Christ is living in me . . .” (Galatians 2 v20 / Conybeare), is the act of God upon which Paul rested for his deliverance, and which is just as powerful to-day applied in practice in your life and mine.
Peter also has his contribution to make on this subject. In the second chapter of his first epistle he writes with glowing eloquence of the high privilege of the Christian calling, “Ye are a chosen generation a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his most marvellous light” (v9). Then follows a call to victory in the inner conflict, which he himself knew so well. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (v11-12). Neither does he leave us without also pointing out the way of certain triumph. “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (v24-25). Once more the living presence of our glorious Saviour, and our union with Him in His death and resurrection are shown to be the keys to triumph in the inner conflict which rages in all our hearts.
There is nothing new in all this. We are on familiar ground. But the day by day application of the truth in our lives is the one essential and often missing factor. Never let us relax our vigilance, the enemy within the gates is never so dangerous as when apparently inactive. It is for us to pursue him, seek him out, ask that the Holy Spirit shed the searchlight of His presence into the innermost recesses of our nature, where we may find him strongly entrenched in unsuspected places. We must not be surprised at any evil we may see within, nor let it encompass our downfall by refusal to face and recognise it. Nor need we fear. John Newton had learnt the secret of an utter reliance upon saving grace, and wrote out of a full heart, “Though sin would fill me with distress, the Throne of Grace I dare address, for Jesus is my Righteousness”. What a truly wonderful Saviour we have!
The picture would not be complete without some reference to the foes without, who have so close and unholy an alliance with those within. The man, who in these days shuts his eyes to the might and subtlety of the powers of darkness, is guilty of gross folly. Every Christian is the object of the bitter hostility of Satan, and all his hosts. No man can escape from the clutches of the ‘god of this world’ without a bitter struggle. No man can become one through whom Christ is manifested in this world without the persistent opposition of the spirits of evil.
The Greek word used in Ephesians 6 v12 to describe this conflict is significant. It is the technical word for a wrestling match in the arena, concerning which the lexicon gives the following explanatory note. “The wrestler had to throw his adversary either by swinging him round, or tripping him up, and then to keep him down.” Constantly the enemy strives to throw us down. If he cannot swing us to one extreme, he will seek to swing us to the opposite. If he cannot keep us lukewarm, he will make fanatics of us. There is no limit to his armoury of wiles. Again he will constantly watch to trip us into some foolish speech, some hasty, ill-advised action, some sinful deed, and who is there among us, who does not, more often than we care to admit, take a fall. He must not, however, keep us down. Bunyan’s Christian in the Valley of Humiliation was brought very low, but it was not long before he was on his feet again; Apollyon put to flight, and a bout won to encourage him on his pilgrimage. What is the secret of victory here? Once more, it is Christ Himself. “From henceforth, be made powerful in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6 v10). Every piece of armour in the following verses speaks of Christ. Indwelt by Him through the Spirit, encased in Him, and linked to Him, seated triumphant at “the right hand of the Majesty on high”, we may learn the way of victory, and if we need it the way of restoration too. John shows us the balance of this most clearly. “My little children”, he says, “these things write I unto you that ye sin not”. That is the life purpose that must dominate you and me in every aspect of our life! Then he goes on, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation of our sins . . .” (1 John 2 v1-2). We may be consistently victorious in Him, but if we are tricked and thrown, we may have instant restoration, and rise to fight with renewed purpose, and watchfulness through the cleansing power of the “blood of the Lamb”.
It should be clearly understood that it is quite impossible to do battle for others until the problem of conflict in our own lives has been successfully resolved. We cannot attempt to remove the mote from our brother’s eye, when there is a beam in our own. And yet many of our evangelical activities are an unconscious form of escapism from the reality of this conflict; a mere source of satisfaction, rather than an occasion for gaining a genuine understanding of the way of victory. For this reason the defeated, discouraged outsider does not come to us. Instinctively he knows that our own conflict being unresolved we have little to offer him, and so quietly sinks deeper and deeper into a morass of weary, slightly cynical indifference.
May I be forgiven for closing with some blunt questions? What of your own personal conflict? If you are intensely conscious of it that is healthy. It means that the Holy Spirit is working deep in your heart. Can you yet say, however, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”? Is John Newton’s witness, in the final verse of his hymn already quoted, your battle cry also? “Against me earth and hell combine; but on my side is Power Divine; Jesus is all, and He is mine.”
2. CONFLICT ALL THE WAY
I have just been re-reading the episode in Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian visits the Interpreter’s House, and sees amongst other things the vision of the strongly guarded doorway, and the man who “when every man started back for fear of the armed men . . . came up to the man that sat there to write, saying, ‘Set down my name, Sir’.” Christian service has always been a conflict, and we must engage in it in this same spirit, or we had far better leave it well alone.
I want, in this connection, to study a Greek word, used as far as I can discover, eight times in the New Testament. It is the word ‘agonizomai’ of which the main meaning is to ‘contend for a prize in the games’. Paul uses it six times in his epistles in direct reference to Christian service. We will take them in the order in which they occur.
The first time he uses the word is in 1 Corinthians 9 v25. He has been explaining that for him preaching the Gospel is in no sense a profession or occupation, or even a voluntary work of charity, but an obligation. “Woe is me”, he says, “if I preach not the Gospel. For. . . a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me” (v16-17). To meet this obligation he is prepared to go to all lengths, even to the extent, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (v22). Then he goes on to lay down the standard of self-discipline needed in the ministry of the Gospel. “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (v24-27).
This raises the whole question of our present day attitude to training for the ministry or mission-field. Are we not inclined to place far too much stress on the merely academic, the externals of preaching? The result is that the ministry, ordained or lay possesses very few men who are equipped and disciplined to become deliverers of souls. The use of soul-power to stir the emotions, and gain ‘decisions’ costs little, but to graduate into the ranks of those who can lead the way into battle against the powers of sin and darkness costs all. Those on the threshold of Christian service must settle the matter once for all. Am I willing to face the discipline of the Cross worked into every aspect of my life, to become a bond-slave; to be made all things to all men; to bring even my body into subjection. These are the unavoidable terms of enlistment in the most difficult, and yet most honourable of all callings; and it is as well to remember that such a level of self-discipline is only attained by a deliberate, purposeful determination to go right through with it. Satan will come to us as he came to our Lord himself with the plea “Be it far from thee . . . this shall not be unto thee”, and if we are to live and work to the glory of our Heavenly Father, our reply must be just as uncompromising as was His.
The second time Paul uses the word is in Colossians 1 v29. In verse 27 he unveils the true meaning of the “mystery” made plain to men in the Gospel “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. In verse 28 he defines the objective of preaching, and I think it is fair to include writing as well as speaking in this category, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”. What a tremendous aim! And one which all the powers of fallen human nature, and all the subtleties of Satan and his hosts will strain every nerve to thwart. We can probably all of us gain some kind of a ‘following’, but have we patience to woo our opponents, lovingly instruct the obstinate, and see the deliverance of the devil-dominated? That is the true criterion of evangelistic gift, the crown of pastoral oversight!
“Where unto”, Paul continues, “I also labour striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily. For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you”. Here was no artist producing sermons, through which could be secured the reputation of being an orator, a master of the science of words. Here was no author carefully weighing each phrase so that his work might be acclaimed by the critics, and have an honoured position on the library shelf. Here was no diarist, or writer of letters which perhaps would keep his memory green amongst readers of coming generations. Paul preached and wrote under the dominating influence of an overmastering passion, on behalf of his hearers or readers, “that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding. To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ . . .” (Colossians 2 v2.)
For him ministry always spelt conflict. Energised by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit, he kept this objective in view for all with whom he came into contact “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Christ” (Acts 26 v18). The pride and prejudices of the human heart, backed by all the principalities and powers of darkness continually arrayed themselves against him. But with him words were weapons, and preaching a campaign. Listen to his confidence in his God-given armament. “We do not war after the flesh”, he cries, “for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10 v3-5).
C. A. Fox, living and labouring in the succession of warrior-preachers, wrote, “That sermon which leaves its listeners sweetly placid as an unruffled lake reflecting itself, is an injury to the Church of God”. He is right, the mere giving or hearing of an address has no value in itself, but may only pile up condemnation for both speaker and hearers. Sinners must be roused and saved, believers must be established, sanctified, and put to work. Paul was never satisfied until he could see “Christ formed” in his converts, and persisted in conflict for them through thick and thin to this end. We cannot afford to be more easily satisfied.
Now shall we turn to Colossians 4 v 12 which reads, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always striving fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”. Here we are introduced to the prayer conflict. It is worth noticing that the prayer warrior of this passage was apparently not a worker of any particular prominence or outstanding gift. He was just a member and representative of the Colossian Church, but he had learnt a rarely understood lesson, the technique of fighting prayer.
Much is said and written dealing with various aspects of prayer. Communion, intercession, worship have all rightly received close attention from Christian teachers, but fighting prayer is rarely spoken of, and is, in fact, an idea often viewed askance as being not quite ‘orthodox’. But what are the facts of the case? The Christian Church is called to fulfil her saving ministry in a world that “lieth in the wicked one”. Not only is the unconverted man dominated in a very real way by the powers of darkness, as workers in heathen lands are fully aware because they see his grip in its most blatant forms; but the Christian also is beset on every hand with determined assaults of the foe designed to dislodge him from his standing ground “in Christ”, as the prevalence of backsliding in our day all too clearly proves. The prayer warrior fights in the unseen realm, and striking directly at the enemy in the background with the sharp edge of the glittering sword of the Word of God, sees those for whom he fights not only brought to Christ, but made to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”'. This important side of Christian work needs sanely studying, then testing and learning in the university of practical experience. There is many a minister of the Gospel, who would give much to have in his congregation a band of those to whom he could appeal in these words “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15 v30), and who could understand and respond to the call. This prayer warfare is one of the main needs if we are to see a genuine work of the Spirit of God today. Always remember, too, that it can only lead to victory as it is deep rooted in the fact that at God’s right hand is the Victor of Calvary, Who in His Cross made an open show of the mighty principalities and powers of hell, otherwise we only expose ourselves to the enemy’s counter-attack.
In 1 Timothy 4 v10, we see the Christian conflict linked with persecution, which always dogs the footsteps of every faithful witness to Christ. This is probably one of the hardest aspects of warfare to face. To set out on some project with high hopes, and pure motives, and then to have to endure the misunderstanding of those, who ought to be our most loyal collaborators. To long to help and meet with nothing but rebuff if not open opposition: to walk alone feeling the keen edge of the secret disapproval of those we love; these bring us into some of the darkest spots in this grim campaign. And yet, if in spite of these things, we can still bring self to the Cross, and manifest the sweetness and winsomeness of Christ, what a victory is here! Such prayers as, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, uttered by Our Lord as the nails were driven home, and amid the taunts of the embittered priests, or “Lord lay not this sin to their charge”, the cry of Stephen in the face of the rage of his persecutors, who were hounding him to death, have done more to carry the cause of truth to victory than anything else. We may triumph over our foes and critics by our clever handling of a situation, or silence them by our brilliant retort, but we can only disarm and win them by patient love. The fact that persecution and suffering is the inevitable result of following Christ is a “hard saying”, and yet even here is joy, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ happy are ye, for the spirit of glory, and of God resteth upon you” (1 Peter 4 v14). It is not, then, for us to pity ourselves but to rejoice.
Knowing full well from a long personal experience the intensity of conflict that besets the ambassador of Jesus Christ, Paul gives this ringing call to Timothy, his son in the faith, “flight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6 v14). Such a call can only be given by a seasoned warrior, for whom the ministry is a fight, and whatever outer things may look like, a victorious campaign right to the gates of heaven.
It was literally from the gates of heaven that Paul at length looked back over his long career, and was able, by the grace of God, to say, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4 v6-8).
Love for His appearing is no passive, sentimental emotion, but an absolute response to His call to warfare in ministry, in prayer, in suffering until we are finally released from our responsibility, and that day dawns when that which is merely of this earth is swept away, in the manifestation of the magnificence of the new creation He has been working on all the time.
“There’s a fight to be fought, there’s a work to be done, and a foe to be met ere the set of the sun, and the call is gone out of o’er the land far and wide; who’ll follow the banner? Who’s on the Lord’s side?
“O'er the waters it soundeth from lands far away, where the rebel usurper holds fair realms in sway; there are chains to be severed, and souls to be freed; our Captain is calling; Himself takes the lead.”
On every hand we are hearing of the darkness of the day in which we live, and the difficulties that surround Christian service. Much of such talk is unconsciously defeatist, and engenders a supine passivity of outlook. But John writes in the same chapter in which he discusses the activities of antichrist, “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth”. There is radiance from the past to brighten our path, the reflection of the finished work, and mighty triumph of Calvary; and before us there is the morning star of everlasting day. Shall we not see that this light penetrates to the very depths of the kingdom of darkness; and through the God-appointed means of fighting ministry and prayer; and if He will, persecution and suffering, do His work faithfully “until He come”.
3. THE RIGHT MAN ON OUR SIDE
It is a constant source of instruction to me as I read the Scriptures to note, what I call in my own mind, its compensating truths. To cite an obvious example Man’s utter depravity, and complete inability to recover by his own efforts from the fall is fully and forcibly stated in the Bible; but over against it is always set the “full, perfect and sufficient” sacrifice once offered for man by the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. The first fact viewed alone might well drive any thoughtful man to despair; but when the second fact is set side by side with it, Paul's expression of joy and wonder must surely become ours too “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11. 33).
The same principle operates in the case of the unceasing conflict the Church is called to wage “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6 v12). The Bible unveils with startling clarity the vast satanic system of deception and oppression, which holds empire over fallen mankind; and when one looks out on the world as it is today, the chaos in international affairs, the darkness that covers the hearts of the bulk of mankind, and the prevailing powerlessness and deception within the Christian Churches, are enough to daunt the stoutest heart. What you and I need is therefore a clear grasp of the grand compensating truth of the Victory of Calvary, and arising from it the ability to bring a positive message to our day and generation.
Here is the plain Scriptural fact. The Holy One of God, who died for us on the Cross, lives as our representative in the seat of authority, “on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1 v3). We are told in Philippians 2 v8-11, that He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him The Name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. This harmonises with the words of Jesus Himself to His disciples, “All authority is given unto me in Heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28 v18). Acceptance of and action in the light of this fact was the secret of the success achieved by the early Church, and has been the inspiration behind every victorious invasion of the strongholds of darkness ever since. Martin Luther, for instance, in the first verse of his great battle hymn unveils the power and craft of Satan, and then continues, “Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Doth ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He! Lord Sabaoth is His Name, From age to age the same; and He must win the battle.
May I suggest, therefore, that as a first antidote to the blight and defeatism, engendered by satanic subtlety, which threatens us all alike today in Christian work, you should take the Bible for yourself and find every passage you can, which proclaims the Lamb of God as the Mighty Victorious Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to make this fact live to and in you as never before. The Christian life is full of paradox. How can it be possible to be in conflict when victory has already been won? And yet this is exactly our position. Before ever He went to the Cross the Saviour plainly stated, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12 v31); and again He tells that the conviction, or certain knowledge, that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to is, “Of judgment, because the: prince of this world is judged” (John 16 v11). Here the verb is in a past tense, has been judged. This means that we do not only go into battle sure of victory in the future, but entering by faith into a triumph already complete, which we shall see in our own circumstances while we remember that victory does not always of necessity spell deliverance from suffering. Stephen’s martyrdom, for example, was in full flow of the Divine victory. The triumphs of faith seen in Hebrews 11 v33-40 give us the balance of this thought. In some cases the triumphant conclusion of conflict is seen in wonderful deliverance, in others in suffering endured out of love and loyalty to God.
Martin Luther was under no illusion as to the might and cunning of the enemy, and he was not the man to bury his head in the sand, and say “These facts are unpleasant, I will pretend they are not there”. He was driven by the Holy Spirit to the Word of God, and seeing there the revelation of the reigning Christ; went out into battle in the confidence of a victory already won at Calvary, and in the strength of One mightier than all the powers of hell.
Shall we for a moment turn back to Philippians 2, where it seems to me that we are given some very practical light as to what our attitude should be in view of the paramountcy of our Risen Lord. “Wherefore, my beloved” reads the very next verse (v12), and this “wherefore” links what follows with all that has been said in the previous verses. “As ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life”. The fact of the exaltation of the Lamb to the very “midst of the Throne” (Revelation 5 v6) is here made the base from which every advance in Christian living, and adventure in service, is supplied. We are told that it must be applied to the circumstances of our own lives, and that humbly and carefully we are to see to it that His triumph is not negatived, but manifested continually just where we are. We are to keep our eyes off men and conditions; to avoid grumbling and disputes; and through the indwelling Spirit to keep ourselves from the deception and oppression of the enemy, and the vagaries of our “old man”, so that we may be “blameless and harmless”. We are not to be overcome by the darkness, which surrounds us, but to be shining lights, who display the glories of the Word of Life by behaviour as well as lip.
Many off us are facing problems that seem to have no solution, situations that puzzle us beyond words, defects in our own walk and experience, individuals we long to see delivered and brought to Christ but whom we seem powerless to touch; and above all there are the great clouds of indifference, sin, and ignorance overshadowing the hearts of men about us, which all our efforts to penetrate seem unavailing. Let this fact sink right into the very core of your being. In Christ and Christ alone is the answer. Make no mistake. Satan will spare no effort to drive a wedge between us and our Lord; to keep us constantly running after non-essentials. But in the Lord Jesus Christ is vested all fulness and all power, and “ye are complete in Him” (Colossians 2 v10). Our attitude in these days needs more and more to be “My soul, wait thou only upon God” (Psalm 62 v5).
A glance at a few passages in the Acts of the Apostles will show us how this attitude was this attitude was the secret of the power of the early Church, and how they brought into practical operation the might of the name of Jesus.
Peter, faced with human impotence on the very steps of the temple in the person of the lame man, says “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee, in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3 v6). Subsequently in his defence before the Sanhedrin he tells of this man’s cure in these words, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4 v10). The invariable answer to human need is to be found in the person and name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Saul of Tarsus was “apprehended”, and given this commission “to bear My Name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9 v5) to fulfil which we are told that he “hazarded his life” (Acts 15 v26). In Acts 16 v18 we see him face to face with a devil ridden life, and in utter simplicity, using the authority of that great Name, “I command thee” he says “in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”, and the demon “came out the same hour”. Acts 19 v13 shows us that this Name is no mere “charm”. How tied many of us are to a “form of words”. I have often been asked “how shall I pray about such and such a situation”, and the very voicing of such a question shows a lack of true spiritual understanding. The one thing that matters is our own deep knowledge of the power of the Name of Jesus; and a humble walk with Him so that we may be taught by the Holy Spirit the right moment, when we may proclaim His Name, and see strongholds fall before Him. Note carefully the wording of this verse, “Then certain vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preached”. Note also the answer of the demons to the sons of Scaeva, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?” The Victor of Calvary is known, and feared in the kingdom of darkness, as are they, who united with Him in His death and resurrection, are also seated “in heavenly places”. Apart from this vital union with Him, let no one tamper with powers and forces far too strong and cunning for flesh and blood to do battle with.
Let us face facts. The floods of evil are steadily rising. We are confronted with a peculiarly subtle and devastating advance of the powers of evil against the Christ of God and His Church. The very elect are in danger of deception and witness to the gospel is threatened with eclipse. But the day of grace has not yet finally closed, and His promise is “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28 v20). “Do I really believe this?” is a question I often ask myself. Do you? If we do then everything is at once simplified. The authority of His Name, the power of His throne, and His unfailing fulness are at our disposal. It only needs that we cut adrift from non-essentials in doctrines and activity, and concentrate upon learning from our willing teacher, God the Holy Spirit, how to apply this ample provision step by step, day by day, to every situation around us. We shall then either see Satan give back or shall experience such a manifestation of God’s grace that under extremity of pressure His fragrance shall be spread abroad around us, and the “pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His Hand”.