We are at war. It's an old war, as old as the earth. It's an invisible war that, at times, reveals itself in the visible world. We are at war, and we would do well to recognize it. Our enemy is as real as flesh and blood, though he takes not the form of it. He's working in the spiritual realm - planning, scheming, attacking. This enemy never tires of his evil. He is unrelenting. He's made up his mind - he is greater than God, and he's out to prove it, whatever it takes.
And here we are, all of us Christians, following the Lord wherever he calls. The enemy hates us. It's not as if in a worldly war, where upon one side seeing the face of the man he's fighting against grows some form (even small) of sympathy and sadness for the man he's trying to kill. Our spiritual enemy knows our face, but does not care, because he hates our Godward heart. He hates what Jesus has done to us in saving us. He hates what the Spirit bears witness to us. He hates the throne of God.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul instructs us about this battle.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
We need to know whom we are wrestling with. This is not a benign threat, nor a mere warning of what may be. This is a full-fledged attack, with a draft into the Lord's army.
What would it look like for your ministry if you realized you are in the midst of war? A wartime mentality, while taken too far can be weird, taken too lightly can be disastrous. There is a real war going on, and if you are a Christian serving in ministry, you are an officer with a bounty on your head. The enemy wants you dead, and he'll go to any lengths to make sure he succeeds.
But he can't succeed. He's already lost the war. This doesn't mean we can underestimate him now, or take him lightly. He still has his flaming darts, and he's a good shot. But he can't ultimately defeat you, because he has already been ultimately defeated.
He thought he won at the cross. As Jesus hung there in agony and frailty, he rejoiced as only evil can. His hellish laughter rose to its pinnacle as the spear entered the side of the Savior. His devilish pride ascended above the cross to look down upon his defeated foe. He walked away with a smile on his face, and a pep in his step - all the way into the empty grave, upon where he realized with horror his utter defeat. The cross was his shining triumph, but it was also his staggering downfall
We cannot even agree on the meaning of days anymore. That first Friday was not good. It only became good because Sunday followed. Our enemy sees it the other way. We are utterly opposed to one another. There is no hope of restoration. He’s made up his mind. God must go. But he won’t. He can’t. He’s the victor, and victors don’t give up their kingdom.
Now we are the ambassadors of the King. We are sent out to proclaim this good news of the victory of Jesus on the cross. But we do so not as proud soldiers in that heavenly war. We were not there to take up our swords. We were on the ground, rebelling against God right along with our enemy, because we too are the enemy. Our own hearts have rejected God. And the cross was our defeat as well, if we’ll have it.
The difference between the enemy of God and the friend of God is the difference between humbling ourselves at the foot of the cross and propping ourselves up on his throne. The glory of the gospel is that Jesus didn’t kill us at first sight. Instead, he yielded his throne for a manger. He traded his crown for a cross. He laid down his shield and let the flaming darts penetrate deep inside his body – all the way to death. He let us, and Satan, kill him, because it was the only way to save us.
So as Hellish Friday turned into Good Friday as morning rose on Sunday, those in Christ went from citizens of the underworld to citizens of heaven as quickly as the sun turned night into day. The Savior walked out of the grave and defeated his challengers by the power of an indestructible life. He could die yes, but he could not stay dead. And that makes all the difference.
You can’t keep a good man down. But our enemy doesn’t see this yet. So he fights on. Now he attacks the King’s ambassadors. We must pray for them, for they are our brothers and sisters – they are us. We must take up the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Under that protection – His protection – we cannot fall. We have become good men through the Good Man’s death and resurrection.