Summary: A sermon that tries to encourage hearers to understand that they are part of God

Belonging to the army.

2 Tim. 2:3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

In recent years I have attended many conferences on growing churches and have been instructed by great teachers on how to hold people in the church.

Success in the church these days is measured often by how many people that you can get into the Church Sunday by Sunday on a regular basis.

This church or that church is regarded as doing quite well because they are running against the climate of decline that marks the church in the Western world.

Meanwhile the Church in countries that have faced massive persecution in what was communist Russia up until the miraculous crumbling of Communism and more latterly in China – the Moslem World and India and elsewhere, this church has been marked by Christians who are more like soldiers of Christ than battery fed hens.

The normal pattern is to inspire young people until about their mid thirties and then when their passion abates to provide them with a comfortable spiritual home until they go to be with the Lord. But what would happen if we were part of a Christian counterculture that instead of hitting the wall of indifference and the spirit of the age pressed on to become an army of people impassioned for life to share the good news that Jesus bought with a broken world?

This cvomes into focus as we move towards easter and the moment in history when Jesus hung on a wooden cross for the sin of the world – battered by vicious weapons of punishment with a crown of thorns on his head with his last gasp he cried out it is finished and bowed his head and died.

Three days later he had risen and charged his followers to go and tell all the world not just what he had done but how to live the life of a disciple of Jesus which was made possible by his great sacrifice of love.

His followers then went out all over the world sharing the good news with any who would listen and follow. Like soldiers they fought great spiritual battles and loved with an intense love that the world has never been able to express without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

But right there we have a conflict of lifestyles and interest.

It raises the question – How can I live the life of a Christian like a soldier in the busy world I live in, with the demands made on my life and How can I live that life when really I don’t want to go that far? Also the people I have seen attempt to live lives like that are religious fruitcakes!!!

This morning I would like to explore the scripture that calls us to be like soldiers of Christ and to ask the Question what does a soldier of Christ look like?

2 Tim. 2:3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The old hymn – Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war – inspired an earlier generation – General Booth

The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.

His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship.

Booth decided to found a church especially for them — the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly, but Booth’s faith in God remained undiminished.

In May of 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend George Railton to read a proof of the Christian Mission’s annual report. At the top it read: THE CHRISTIAN MISSION is A VOLUNTEER ARMY. Bramwell strongly objected to this wording. He was not a volunteer: he was compelled to do God’s work. So, in a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out "Volunteer" and wrote "Salvation". The Salvation Army was born.

By the 1900s, the Army had spread around the world. The Salvation Army soon had officers and soldiers in 36 countries.

I think Bramwell Booth is correct – you are not a volunteer like you are doing God a favour – We are compelled because of the cross.

In order to be a soldier of Christ the cross has had to transform us Spiritually – mentally and physically – there needs to be a total transformation of our lives that redirects us. Mostly we need a deep love and affection for Jesus. Many times in this church we hear of how God has turned lives around – Last week Lyn Wilson shared how God spoke to her very clearly about following her so that she was compelled to follow Jesus.

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