What do we Fight in the Fight of Faith?

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage.  If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God.  If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter.  He must “fight.”

With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians.  Wretched indeed is that man’s idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy.  He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, party and party, knows nothing yet as he ought to know.  Never is the cause of sin so helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarreling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.

No, indeed!  The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  These are his never-dying foes.  These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war.  Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain.  If he had a nature like an angel, and was not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential.  But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.

He must fight the flesh Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water.  To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.  “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.”  “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.”  “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  .… They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (1 Cor. ix. 27; Rom. vii. 23, 24; Gal. v. 24; Coloss. iii. 5).

He must fight the world.  The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome.  The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered.  “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.”  “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  “The world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.”  “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”  “Be not conformed to this world” (James iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15; Gal. vi. 4; 1 John v. 4; Rom. xii. 2).

He must fight the devil That old enemy of mankind is not dead.  Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul.  Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.  An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out ail our ways.  A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell.  Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls.  “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”  This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved.  But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armour of God.  The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle.  (Job i. 7; 1 Peter v. 8; John viii. 44; Luke xxii. 31; Ephes. vi. 11).

Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong.  You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colours too thickly.  You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women in England may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting.  Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you that I have something to say on God’s behalf.  Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.”  This Christian warfare is no light matter.  Give me your attention and consider what I say.

What saith the Scripture? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.  .… Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”  “Labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.”  “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”  “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”  “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. ii. 8; Ephes. vi. 11-13; Luke xiii. 24; John vi. 27; Matt. x. 84; Luke xxii. 36; 1 Cor. xvi. 18; 1 Tim. i. 18, 19).  Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable.  They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it.  That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare.

-J.C. Ryle

We Echo Satan When We Laugh at the Sins of Others

By other men’s sins, a holy man is put in mind of the badness of his own heart. Bernard makes mention of an old man, who, when he saw any man sin, lamented and wept for him. Being asked why he grieved so, for other men’s sins, answered, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”

The falls of others puts a holy man in mind of the roots of sinfulness which are in himself. Other men’s actual sins are as so many looking-glasses, through which a holy man comes to see the manifold seeds of sin which are in his own heart, and such a sight as this cannot but humble him.

A holy heart knows that the best way to keep himself pure from other men’s sins, is to mourn for other men’s sins. He who makes conscience of weeping over other men’s sins will rarely be defiled with other men’s sins.

A holy heart looks upon other men’s sins as their bonds and chains, and this makes him mourn. Ah, how can tears but trickle down a Christian’s cheeks, when he sees multitudes fast bound with the cords of their iniquity, trooping to Hell? Who can look upon a lost sinner as a bound prisoner to the prince of darkness and not bemoan him?

If holy people thus mourn for the wickedness of others, then certainly those who take pleasure in the wickedness of others, who laugh and joy, who can make a sport of other men’s sins are rather monsters than men! There are none so nearly allied to Satan as these, nor any so resemble Satan as much as these! (The devil always joys most—when sinners sin most!) To applaud them, and take pleasure in those who take pleasure in sin, is the highest degree of ungodliness!

-Thomas Brooks

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. – Matthew 12:31

What exactly is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? There are a three basic views. The first view is that it is something that could only be done while Christ was on the earth. From this view, this sin involved seeing the miracles Christ was working through the Holy Spirit and calling them evil, but since Christ is no longer on the earth, this sin can no longer be committed. Many great men and women of the faith have held this position so it is clearly within the pale of orthodoxy. The problem, as I see it, stems from the fact that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not against Christ, it is against the Holy Spirit. One of the greatest works of the Spirit is to reveal that Jesus is the Son of God. He has not ceased in doing this work and his work can still be blasphemed.

The second view is also held by many, and it considers blasphemy of Holy Spirit rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work until death. In other words, to never come to faith in Christ. This seems reasonable because that is unforgivable. I believe rejecting Jesus until death is an outworking of blasphemy of Holy Spirit as I will explain below, but this view seems to leave out the fact that blasphemy is a sin of communication. That is the thrust of the sin, and to ignore that seems to miss the mark.

A Third view holds that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sin of communication. It is a known, malicious, speaking of the works of the Holy Spirit as evil. It can still happen today, but it cannot be committed ignorantly. What this means is that there must be a mental assent, or a full knowledge, that the Holy Spirit is the one doing the work, but in an attempt to suppress that truth in unrighteousness, the person blasphemes by calling it a work of evil.

One of the reasons many believe this sin cannot be committed unknowingly is because it is often linked with the sin found in Hebrews Chapter 6. In that passage, the person has been enlightened to the truth, and has even partaken in the Holy Spirit’s work; though not salvifically. They know and understand the truth and still reject Christ. In rejecting Christ they are rejecting the Holy Spirit who testifies of Him. The person who does such a thing is said to have crucified Christ afresh, and that it is impossible to renew such a one to repentance (Heb. 6:6). Since the scripture tells us that all sin is forgiven of men except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and the sin committed in Hebrews 6 also seems to be unforgivable, there seems to be a good reason to link the two.

So how do Bible expositors link blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to being a continuous ultimate denial of the grace of God? They do this by looking at Jesus’ words which shows us that this blasphemy is ultimately a sin that flows from the heart. Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” This sin flows from a heart that is so hard toward the things of God that it will never repent, and God in his purposes has turned them over to this hardness and leaves them there.

The sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has caused many people trouble and fear. They wonder after reading about it if they have committed it. If this is you, and your concern stems from a heart that desires to be right with the Lord, then you have not committed it. If a person’s heart is sensitive to the truths of God, then they are not guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The person who’s heart is as hard as those who blaspheme the Spirit would not be concerned about being right with the Lord. They would despise Him.

Another aspect of this sin is that those who have been saved cannot commit it. In Hebrews 6 the author says to his audience of believers that he did not expect them to fall away and crucify Christ afresh. Instead he expected to see from them things that “accompany salvation.” From the context, perseverance seems is one of those things that will accompany salvation. So a Christian is unable to commit this sin for we are kept by the power of God through faith.

-D. Eaton

Satan’s Dread

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. – Ex. 1:12

At this point in history, the Israelites were in Egypt because of God’s sovereign work through Joseph. They had been living in freedom and peace, when a new pharaoh comes into power and sees their prosperity. He does not regard Joseph’s memory, and he became concerned with Israel’s growth so he and the Egyptians begin to oppress God’s chosen people, but the more they afflicted them, the more they grew.

Within this historical truth we find a spiritual truth. Many people live in fear of Satan, but as children of God we need not fear, for he is fulfilling God’s will in our lives. He is so blinded with pride that he thinks he is thwarting God’s plan but is in fact helping to fulfill it.

When the Lord allows Satan and his demons to mettle in a Christian’s life, it is for a good reason. We know this because all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). God has started a good work in us which He will finish, and the more we are afflicted, the more we grow. Until, to Satan’s demise, He is in dread of us.

An example of this can be seen in the life of Peter. Satan, during the crucifixion, asked to sift him, and God allows him to do so. As a result of this sifting, Peter commits one of the most heinous sins possible, he denies Christ three times. Failure and affliction have hit hard, but to Satan’s dismay, it is this fall that the Lord used to grow Peter’s faith and make him more like Christ. After Jesus restores Peter with three affirmations, the same number as Peter’s denials, Peter then goes on to lead thousands to the Lord, and his testimony is still encouraging people today. After Satan thought he had defeated him, Peter became a dread to Satan. You can be sure that Satan regrets ever tempting Peter in that way.

Now many may say, it’s how you respond to affliction that matters. But we need to look at why Peter responded correctly. He responded correctly because God convicted him of his sin. God broke his heart instead of letting Peter harden it. God did it all. Why? Because Peter was one of His, and of us, He will not lose one. Sanctification is what God does in us, it is not what we do for God. What we end up doing for Him is merely a response of what He is doing in us.

As we face the schemes of the Devil, remember, God is always working in His Children, and He uses many things to grow our faith: even afflictions, temptations, and failures. So when you feel that the prince and the power of the air is winning the fight, remember he is only playing right into the hands of our Father.

To quote John Bunyan, let us never forget, “When Satan, death, the grave, and sin have done whatever they can do, we are still more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

Finally, let us never forget that, ultimately, it is not us that Satan dreads, it is God’s Spirit who is at work within us. For greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

D. Eaton

How to Resist the Devil

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7

Satan always seeks to your usurp our territory. By yielding in one temptation we let the devil into our trench and give him a fair advantage to do us more mischief. The angry man, while he is raging and raving, thinks he will only say so much, but alas while his fury and wrath are rallying, the devil finding the door open, enters and hurries him farther than he ever dreamt of.

The best way to never give him a foothold. Never venture near the door where sin dwells, lest you are dragged in. If you do not wish to be burned, don’t walk upon the coals of temptation. Do not think that you can yield to Satan in one thing and make believe that you will not yield in another. You cannot sit with drunkards and pretend you will not become one. You cannot lend your eyes to unchaste object and yet be chaste. These are strong delusions. If a man does not have the power to resist the devil in small temptations, what ground does he have that he can in great ones?

When a captain directs his soldiers to fight in their ranks, he bid them to stand. Military discipline allows no one to stir from their place without special warrant. Every Christian needs to stand where God has placed him. The devil’s method is first to route and then ruin. We must stay with our own duty and contentiously attend to it so God will bring us safely to our journey’s end.

Paul charged Timothy to give himself wholly to the discharge of his duty. The power of godliness lies in this. It is a contradiction to profess to know God but in your works to deny him. This can never be reconciled. He that is not a Christian in his shop is not a Christian in his closet, and is a hypocrite at church. Wound religion in one part and it is felt in every part. Stand firm!

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

From Voices from the Past, Edited by Richard Rushing