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Tuesday, February 19th 2013

7:54 AM

Time to Join the Battle!

By Pastor Bruce Sikes


You’re in the Army now! That phrase is usually shouted out to new recruits. But in this case, it was aimed at someone who had been in the Army for years. Which is rather strange. You would think a long time soldier should know that already. So, under what possible circumstances could that make any sense?  Well, in this case, war.

When that soldier agreed to join the Army he swore allegiance to his country, received a nice clean new uniform and was given some basic training. Of the many necessary jobs in the Army, he chose to become a cook. Then after years of service he found himself to be in an Army which was at war. From time to time he would read the battle reports from those on the front lines which gave accounts of the fighting. On rare occasions, he might hear the faint distant rumble of cannon, but he himself was far from the actual combat.

Then, quite suddenly and unexpectedly to him, the enemy was at the gates. The alarms were sounding and the call to arms was being made. Even though he had known for some time that the enemy was attacking and advancing against his army, he was caught completely off guard and unprepared to meet them on his own doorstep. An officer arrived and told him that everyone was needed on the front lines immediately. The soldier did not know what to do or say so he mumbled, “I am only a cook.” It was then that the officer said, “Well, you’re in the Army now! Time to join the battle!” The soldier cook replied, “But sir, I do not know how to fight.” The officer said, “You’re wearing the Army uniform aren’t you? Ready or not, grab your weapon and take up your position alongside your brothers in arms and fight!”


This situation could easily describe the current state of affairs in God’s earthly army, the church. In the ongoing struggle of God’s people versus the world, many Christians have opted to serve in “non-combat” roles. They have been living off the fat of the church’s past successes and have said, “Why fight? We are safe behind our own lines. The enemy will never invade our camp. God has promised us victory!” And so the church has become overloaded with Parade Ground Christians, Mess Hall Champions and Public Relations Officers. Any actual fighting is expected to be done by the church’s “elite special forces”, or in other words, missionaries, evangelists and the like.  With this mindset, there has been very little call for the so called “rank and file” Christian soldier to study spiritual warfare, intercessory prayer and evangelism. As a result, the bulk of God’s earthly Army has grown weak due to lack of training and practice, and especially instruction.


Preaching over the last twenty years has largely consisted of what God can give us: more gifts, more healing, more money, and a lot more moralizing on relationships. It’s all been about pleasing the person in the pew rather than pleasing the person of Christ. Instead of advancing outward, churches have been retreating inward. Many have simply chosen to circle their wagons and wait to be rescued. Others have regrouped into mega-church fortresses for preservation and protection. We are now building some of the biggest churches in history and at the same time the church’s influence in the world is getting smaller. Instead of becoming places to reform our ranks and return them to battle, most have become permanent rest and relaxation camps catering to refugees rather than warriors.


On the other hand, our Enemy, Satan, has not been resting, and his followers do not relax. They continue to be fully committed to our total destruction and are working non-stop to attack us wherever and whenever we are weak. The Enemy attacks us anytime we give him an opening, whether through unrepented sin or spiritual weaknesses brought on by neglect, apathy, and laziness in our Christian lives.


He further exploits our weak conditions by spreading propaganda messages saying, “Peace in our time," “Let’s not judge one another,” “None of us is perfect,”, and the popular, “Let’s all work together to make the world a better place!” (Insert smiley face here)  All that sounds great, but it really depends on who’s saying it, don’t you think? If Adolf Hitler said those things, would you just give him the benefit of a doubt and invite him into your home for coffee or tea? No, yes, maybe? What if he had a different name and was very attractive looking, with a big friendly smile on his face?  What if he carried a pretty bible?


The Enemy is not stupid. His standard tactics include disguising his own troops and slipping them in amongst the opposing army, that is, the church. This is not paranoia or alarmism, it’s a fact borne out in Scripture. If the Enemy used this tactic against the Apostles, what makes us think we can lower our guard in our time? Paul writes:


"…some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." (Galatians 2:4)


Regardless of his methods, an infiltrator’s duty is to confuse, disrupt, and misdirect the opposing army. His typical tactic is to take a bit of truth (God’s truth), and bend it, twist it, and modify it to create an environment of uncertainty among God’s people causing inaction on their part. The Enemy’s methods are so insidious he will even assure us that we need do nothing because we are on God’s side and we have already won the war, or, he will affirm to us that the world as we know it is fast heading to hell in a hand basket and therefore we need do nothing but only wait for Jesus to return and rescue us. (Diabolical, isn’t it?) Either way, we are told to just live quiet little lives because God is in control. The Enemy could care less which one we believe, only that we do nothing about it.


In the meantime, we dither back and forth pondering and debating these views amongst ourselves in a spiritual stalemate. So many Christians today are feeling, sensing, knowing that they need to do more but are uncertain as to what to do, when to do it or how to do it. There’s a spiritual stalemate in their church, a spiritual stalemate in their family, and a spiritual stalemate in their relationship with the Lord. The definition of spiritual growth and obedience these days seems to mean just sitting on our spiritual hands and  waiting for God to tell us what to do, waiting for a supernatural sign, waiting for our church to do something, waiting for strong leader to lead us, waiting, waiting, waiting.

The time for waiting is over.

Time to make a stand.

Cook, musician, usher, chauffeur, student, teacher, church member, pastor: You’re in the Army now!

Time to join your brothers and sisters in arms and do the work of the missionary and evangelist.

Time to put the armor of God you were issued with to good use.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

In reality, as a soldier of Christ you should already be wearing it. It is intended to be used NOW. We will not need it in heaven. When the day of evil comes it will be too late. Notice too the scripture says to put on the full armor of God. Yet, what we have in church today are masses of Christians wearing only their helmets of salvation, running around claiming to be warriors and shouting, "We are saved! We are saved!" No wonder they are driven back into our churches week after week in need of repair after being shot full of arrow holes by the devil. Whose fault is that? It’s not God’s.

Every single believer must put on the full armor of God and keep it on!


By the way, armor is not meant for hiding or running away.


 Armor is for fighting.


It comes with both sword and shield. The shield is our protection in battle, but it’s hardly a battle if all we do is just spend our time sitting behind it while the Enemy shoots arrows at us. We weren’t given armor to hide behind. Soldiers have missions, and our mission as soldiers of Christ is to advance the Gospel. To do that, we must pick our shields up, put them in front of us and move forward. 


Even more importantly, we have also been given a sword, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Have you used it lately? I don’t mean have you been polishing it or just waving it around to impress the natives. I mean have you struck a heart with it? Have you penetrated bones and marrow with it?


Hebrews 4:12 says; “…the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.“ 


People cannot be saved unless the thoughts and attitudes of the heart are changed. It is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God that opens the heart up so the person can be saved by the message of the Gospel. Why then are the soldiers of Christ today so reluctant to draw the sword God has given them to use?  It is the Word of God that judges the person, leading to conviction and Godly repentance. It is not we who judge them. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work. We are only God’s messengers. All the Lord asks us to do is use the sword of the Spirit! We must pick up the sword and never lay it down. A soldier without a sword is not a soldier. You need not be an expert. We have churches full of experts who can tell you everything you want to know about the sword of the Spirit, but who have never actually struck a single blow for Christ with it! Give me one novice with just enough courage to swing the sword, and they can keep their thousand timid experts. 


Grab your weapon and join the battle to save souls! Use the sword God has given you and watch the results. The Lord will teach you and guide you as you use it. Your courage and confidence will grow as you share the Gospel again and again. Like a soldier in battle, you will learn by doing.


You’re in the Army now! God's Army!


If you are born again, if you have a Bible, if you can pray, then you can fight. You are fully equipped to be a "good soldier of Christ," to do His work and to endure whatever hardships may come your way as you serve Him. (2 Timothy 2:3)


No apologies, no excuses, no fear.


As Jesus was walking along the road He told a disciple to follow Him. The disciple said that he would, but he first had to take care of some family business. (He had to make funeral arrangements for his father.) The reply Jesus gave the man might seem harsh to us, but He knew time was short.


In Luke 9:60, Jesus said to the disciple, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”


Much like the admonishment the Army Officer gave the cook, ready or not, it’s time to join your brothers and sisters on the front lines.


If your church is dead, leave it; “but YOU go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” By the way, a church can be full of young people with a lot of activities and an “awesome” praise band, but still be dead. The world can be a very lively place but it is full of spiritually dead people and we have allowed a lot of the world into the church. So, don’t be fooled or even tempted to substitute a church’s outward activity for its inward spirituality. Regardless of whether they appear dead or alive, run from any church or pastor who preaches and practices a phony watered-down Gospel. Use your God-given discernment. Pray.


Remember the goal of a Christian’s life is not to try and find a “perfect” church. We could spend the rest of our lives looking for one and never find it. Even if you did manage to find one, and I don’t believe you can, at least I’ve never seen or heard of one, the question is what are you going to do when you get there? Whatever it is, you should already be doing it. Some people are just settling for a “lively” looking church where they “feel” comfortable. The last thing the Church needs is more comfortable Christians. What we need are more uncomfortable Christians. We need believers that are uncomfortable with weak-kneed Christianity in their churches and in their own lives. We need believers who are uncomfortable seeing the millions of lost souls around them going to hell without the Gospel.


Jesus did not tell that disciple to “go and find a church”. He told him “you go and proclaim the kingdom of God”. 


It’s time to make a stand, time to be a missionary, time to start evangelizing. 


Maybe the rest of your church will join you, maybe they won’t. Maybe your family and friends will join you, maybe they won’t. Maybe some people will think you’ve lost your mind, so what? Jesus‘ own family thought He had lost His. Mark 3:21 says, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” So yes, it’s quite possible and even likely many people will think you have gone off the deep end and carried this proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus thing too far. So what? What are you worried about? There aren’t too many Christians these days in danger of being accused of that anyway. I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly like to be guilty of it! I hope you’ll join me.


I remember a few years ago hearing through a friend that a man had called me a “Bible Thumper!” I was surprised because I had not seen that person in a couple of years and I don’t remember ever talking about the Bible, much less sharing the Gospel with him. He was wrong about me being a “Bible Thumper,” and that realization troubled me more than anything else. Since then I decided to redouble my efforts to be worthy of that title.


In the end, we will all have to answer to God.


So ask yourself the question the Apostle Paul asked, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)


Are you a servant of Christ?


We have plenty of “believers” in Christ, but how many of us are servants of Christ? Can you be a believer and not be a servant? God forgive us, Yes! We act like guests in our Master’s house rather than His servants. We sit around reading, playing music and fellowshipping, and when we need something we call God for room service! We wake up in the morning and wonder what our Master will do for us today instead of what we can do for our Master. We’ve got it completely backwards. Then we have Christians trying to please both God and man at the same time and winding up pleasing no one, including themselves. It is far, far better to shift our focus and priorities into pleasing God first and foremost by doing as the Lord says, “YOU go proclaim the kingdom of God” 


The problem is many Christians have allowed themselves to become so entrenched in their identity and position in the world and even in the church, that they don’t know how to reposition themselves to even begin proclaiming the kingdom of God. 


If you truly want change and want it to happen now, then start by sharing the Gospel. 


Someone will say, "Yes I will, but I have still have a couple of things in my life that I need to work on first." (Translation: Sin) Ok, so get rid of it NOW! Go to God. Get on your knees and confess it. Repent. Then don’t wait until you become perfect to share the Gospel. If you do, you will never start. If you have truly confessed and repented to God for your sin(s) and you are sincerely and honestly striving for holiness, then share the Gospel.


Once you start it won’t take long to see how you are doing because the people around you will begin to react, some positively, some negatively. No one is indifferent to the message of Salvation through Christ. Not only will you notice a change in the way people act and speak around you, but you will notice changes in yourself as well. Sharing the Gospel will actually help cleanse your life of sin and bring you closer to God because you will more clearly see the hindrances and temptations that are put in your way.


Then even when the devil tries to throw that sin in your face that you repented and got rid of by saying, “You are unworthy to share the Gospel,” you can stand your ground and answer, “Yes, but Christ died for my sins and it is He who testifies through me and makes me worthy.” Then, keep moving forward!


This includes those people who may question your worthiness and call you a hypocrite! Stand your ground. Say, “Yes! I was, but no more!” Then take the opportunity to share your new and deeper heart of Christ with them and keep moving forward. Have courage and stay on the course of pleasing God.


As you begin sharing Christ, friends and coworkers may try to avoid you, but do not avoid them, because in their sin you have become a representative of God to them. So, be the glowing face of Moses to them. In Exodus 34 when Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets, the people knew he had been speaking with the Lord because his face was radiant, it was glowing!


“When… the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them and [they] came back to him, and he spoke to them… and he gave them all the [10] commands the Lord had given him…”


However, unlike the face of Moses whose radiance would fade after leaving God’s presence, we have the presence of Christ radiating outwardly from within us. All we need to do is let Him shine out! We all know believers who have a glow about them because of their intimate relationship with the Lord. It’s time to be that person!


You’re in the Army now, God’s Army!


The house of God is under siege by the Enemy. Darkness is growing over the land, and the righteous judgment of God is looming before us. Some have chosen to surrender, others are doing nothing, and many are running away. Yet now, as in the past, the Lord reserves a Remnant of faithful believers to act in accordance to His will for such a time as this, and His will for us is to be holy and to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. 


You are a servant soldier of Christ! Man of God, woman of God, this is your true identity. Change your priorities and accept it. When we put on the full amour of God, even the least and weakest of us is more powerful than the mightiest warrior the world has to offer. Be brave! Have courage! Take heart! The Lord is calling you.


Now is the time to stop, to turn and face the Enemy and join the fight to save souls. Tell him, show him, that you are unwilling to let him take any more of your friends or family or even the stranger that crosses your path. Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let the Enemy know, let the world know, let all of God’s people know that you are done retreating, done making excuses, done apologizing,  you are making a stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your work, in your home, in your church and in your life.


In the words of A.W. Tozer, "The true follower of Christ will not ask, 'If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?' Rather he will say, 'This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!'" 


Let us pray right now, “Let come what may Lord Jesus. My old self is dead, my new self lives for you.”




For Christ and His Remnant,


Pastor Bruce 

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