The Christian Civil War

An awful thing has happened. I was traveling, when, during the night, some of the wicked men of Benjamin arose and came after me with the intent to kill me. They raped and killed my concubine, so I divided up her body parts and sent them to the rest of the people of God so they would know what evil has taken place (Judges 20:3-6 Paraphrased).

In the child of God there is a civil war raging. There is flesh and there is spirit. There is the new nature and there is the remaining indwelling sin, and like Israel’s first civil war, drastic action must be taken. As John Owen once said, “Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes.”

The first thing we must do is recognize the evil for what it is. When the Levite learned of the sinfulness at work in Israel, he did not partition it off as something that could be tolerated if they would simply keep it quarantined. He saw it for what it was, and he knew it needed to be killed.

One of the most dangerous aspects of sin is its deceitfulness. It is always trying to convince us that it is not that bad, and we can simply section off our lives and still be happy and spiritually healthy. This is not the case. There is no quarantine that can keep our sinfulness from poisoning every other aspect of our spiritual life. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. We must put it to death.

Once we see the danger, we must take action to kill it. Just as the Levite took drastic action to notify all of Israel of the danger, we too must make sure to sound the alarms. Not only within ourselves, but also to our fellow believers. God has not called us to fight alone. You need to find a band of trustworthy brothers and sisters in Christ to whom you can confide and find help. The purpose of this alliance is to gather strength to kill the enemy. So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city (Judges 20:11).

Our hope is that this will be an easy war, and our flesh will simply lay down its arms, but this is never the case. As we begin to take this action against our iniquity, our sinfulness will also fortify itself. At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men (Judges 20:15). The strength of the emeny will gather, and there will be causalities in this battle.

The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day (Judges 20:20-21).

When we face a loss like this, we realize how daunting the enemy truly is, and we wonder if we should continue. The bloody nature of the fight rightfully leads us to the Lord to see if we should go up once again. The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they inquired of the Lord. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?” The Lord answered, “Go up against them” (Judges 20:23).

This will always be the Lord’s response when it comes to fighting our indwelling sin. Yes, you are to fight. This command of God to go up against our sin can often lead us to assume the next battle will be easy and the victory painless because he told us to contend. This, however, should not be assumed. The Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day.  This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords (Judges 20:24-25).

Why would the Lord do that? Why would he tell us to go fight and then let us lose the battle? I believe Israel’s response to the defeat gives us the answer. Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord (Judges 20:24-25).

As we contend with our sinfulness, we will be bloodied and bruised. Maybe you are there now. You have been fighting for some time with no success. The only proper response is to draw up under the wing of your God. As we lose battles, we begin to learn the most important lesson. This battle cannot be won in our own strength.

Much like when God wrestled with Jacob, the contest was not about Jacob getting something out of God, it was about God getting something out of Jacob. One of the most important aspects of that event is that Jacob, when he realized he could not win, went from contending against God at the beginning of the match, to clinging to Him at the end. This is exactly what our failures in our battle with sin should do to us. It should drive us closer to our Lord and cause us to cling more tightly to him.

Know this, this civil war of flesh and Spirit will rage until the day we die, but there will be victories as we lean more and more on God. We may be hesitant to continue the fight, but as you trust less and less in your own power and might and trust more and more in his Spirit, ask Him again if you should fight.

They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands” (Judges 20:28). The more we know that the battle belongs to the Lord, the more he will give the enemy into our hands. He will use our hand, but it will be his power that is at work.

So how do we begin to fight? How does the Lord direct us to march? “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?” The Lord replied, “Judah shall go first” (Judges 20:18). Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah. Though we will win some and lose some, there is only one way in which we should march. Advance with Jesus in the lead. He is our forgiveness and righteousness. If he is our head, then our ultimate victory is assured even if we lose some battles.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:2

-D. Eaton

How Many Scripture References Can You Find?

How many Scripture References can you find_Charles Spurgeon once said of John Bunyon “prick John Bunyan…he will bleed Bible.” I am currently reading through Pilgrims Progress for my umpteenth time, and, as always, I am amazed at how many nods to verses of scripture can be found on every page. So with that in mind here is the opening paragraph from when Christian meets Faithful. How many bible verses can you find alluded to in this passage?

“As Christian went on his way, he came to a hill which was cast up on purpose that pilgrims might see before them. Up Christian went; and looking forward, he saw Faithful before him upon his journey. Then said Christian aloud, “Ho, ho! So-ho! stay, and I will be your companion.” At that Faithful looked behind him, and Christian cried again, “Stay, stay, till I come up to you.” But Faithful answered, “No, I am fleeing for my life, and the avenger of blood is behind me.” At this Christian was somewhat moved; and putting forth all his strength, he quickly got up with Faithful, and outran him: so the last was first. Then did Christian boastfully smile, because he had gotten in front of his brother; but, not taking good heed to his feet, he suddenly stumbled and fell, and could not rise again until Faithful came up to help him.”

Today, If You Hear His Voice

Today

The Lord is always speaking through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. He does so through His word, through the law written on our hearts, and through His providences. For the spiritually-minded believer, He is always there showing us the futility of the things of the world. It is all passing away, we are weak and broken, and He is eternally glorious. The problem is, we are often blinded by pride; our sinful nature is always at work.

Sin often makes us feel like we are the exception. Has the Lord prospered us? We look at our riches and take the credit, and if we were able to accomplish this, we will always be able to do so.  Do you have good health? Undoubtedly, if we keep doing what we have always done, it will continue. Right? Isn’t our destiny is in our hands?

Yet, day after day the Lord is reminding us of the futility of it all. From the calamities we see on the news, to the thorns we experience in our work, to something even as small as a broken shoelace, He is telling us that it is unreliable and our only hope and surety is Him. On the contrary, the world is always trying to tell us something different. The Prince and the Power of the Air has blinded millions to believe this world is the source of their joy and the place of their hope.

If you have heard these voices today, make sure you can tell the truth from the lies. Providences, and even the law written on our heart can be easily misinterpreted, we must have the Word of God dwelling in us richly. His word is truth.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 15-17

If the Holy Spirit has illuminated your heart to the truth of His word today, and He has reminded you of the futility of the world, do not harden your heart. Do not continue in its ways: earthly-minded. Draw closer to your Savior, and He will draw near to you. Be spiritually-minded. Be ready to give it all away, for only then, when it is all taken, for it will all be gone someday, your heart will not break as you stand upon your true Rock.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, – Psalm 95: 7-8

A Prayer for Order

samuel-martins-631378-unsplashAnd David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi:  – I Chronicles 19:15

Lord, we are naturally prone to disorder and sin, and there is so much in this life that is out of place. Help us order our spiritual lives first, for if they are out of order, how will we be able to order anything else rightly. Primarily, Lord, I pray you help us order our loves with you having the preeminence. Once that occurs, then all the other loves will fall into place, and until that happens, no other love will be loved properly.

From there, help us to bring order to our families and work in a way that brings you glory and us joy.  May we see effectiveness in all we attempt, and holiness in all we do.  You are our true desire, Lord, and You are not a God of chaos, but of order and peace. May our lives reflect that, as well as the institutions in which we function. For we desire to be conformed to your image and see your kingdom come.

Death: A Gaping Hole in the Old Testament Priesthood

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. – Hebrews 7:23-24

There is a depth to these verses that is often missed. The basic truth is clear, under the old covenant, though there was only one high priest at a time, there had to be many of them because they were prevented from continuing in the office by death, but think about this a little deeper.

The priesthood under the old covenant was a wonderful picture or shadow of the reality that Christ would fulfill. Some people, including the original readers of the book of Hebrews were tempted to go back to the old system for several reasons, but one of the benefits was that it was tangible. You could see the sacrificed animal, you could smell the incense burning, and hear the priest make intercession for you. This was undoubtedly a comfort, but in this picture of our true salvation in Christ there was a gaping hole. The priests kept dying.

The role of the priest was to mediate between God and man, and they would illustrate atonement from sin, but the wages of sin is death and even the priests continued to die. If you are in desperate need of salvation and you understand that death is part of what you need to be saved from, how much hope could you receive from priests who continue to die? You could only gain hope if you understood that it typified something greater that God was going to provide.

Every one of us, unless Christ returns, is going to face death. Some of us may already be feeling its effects. We are unable to do many of the things we used to do, and the older we get the more illness and health issues we have to deal with. When death becomes more of a reality for us, to whom are we going to turn and place our hope? To priests who still die? Your own goodness or heath regimens? Since none of these have defeated the enemy of death, there must be something greater in which we can place our trust.

V. 24 But he [Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently. He will never stop being our high priest because he continues forever. He has defeated death, even after tasting it on our behalf! So when your body starts to break down, when your work hours begin to outlast your physical strength, when you begin to see the doctors more frequently, you will know you have the correct High Priest if he has defeated death and continues forever. No other priest will ever truly be able to mediate between God and man and make atonement for sin and its wages. Never shrink back from Christ, and never lean on any substitute, for Christ and Christ alone is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For those who have faith, we have peace with God. He bore our wrath and His righteousness is accounted as ours so we can be co-heirs with Him, and since He lives forever, exalted with the Father, His work as our mediator is an ever present reality in the true tabernacle. In Christ, because of His priestly work, all of God’s actions toward you are grace, and none of it wrath. Even His chastening hand is moved by love.

Draw near to Christ today, approach the throne of grace with confidence, and if you are feeling the effects of a body tainted by sin, let it drive you to your Savior’s side, for all those who are in Christ will live with him forever. Though we are sown in weakness we will be raised in power, and though we are sown perishable we will be raise imperishable.

D. Eaton