“Onward, Christian Soldier!”
June 12, 2011
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
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.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Last week we talked a little bit about Nazarene Knights and people of Valor. We learned that they were Loyal almost to a fault. They were motivated by a great love, and they were fearlessly faithful. There was a lot more about that topic I wanted to say, but didn’t have time. I want to revisit the subject of “Christian Warriors” today.
First of all, I need to ask you – “Are you a Christian soldier?” Are you a Nazarene Knight? You aren’t born into His service, you know. Someone said, “God ain’t got no grandkids!” We all need to be born again. We all have to consciously enlist in God’s army. You should be able to remember and point back to that time when you invited Jesus into your heart. You should be able to clearly know when you enlisted in God’s army.
I remember when I enlisted in the U.S. Army. It was at the height of the Viet Nam War. The year was 1967. I had a draft number and was probably going to be drafted – so I went down to the army recruiter and enlist for three years. I signed on the dotted line and before I knew it I was headed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky – the home of the Screaming Eagles (101st airborne). And there was a whole lot of screaming going on as they whipped us into shape for war.
I remember that day. I remember the day I knelt down by my couch and signed up for God’s Army. I remember asking Him into my heart and asking Him to forgive my sins and I remember committing my life to Him. I remember a few months later surrendering everything to Jesus and being filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what you called those things; didn’t have the theology down – didn’t have the head knowledge - but the experiences were real. You don’t have to understand it intellectually to experience it spiritually. It isn’t a mind thing – it is a heart thing. Understanding may come later – though many people understand and then experience. And we need to grow in knowledge, the Bible says. (2 Peter 3:18)
Those are significant events in my life. You ought to know when, maybe even WHERE you crossed over from death to life. You ought to know when you signed on the dotted line and enlisted in the Lord’s Army. If you don’t – if you can’t – then maybe you haven’t. And you should. The bible says, “TODAY is the day of salvation.” If you don’t know for sure if you did – you probably didn’t. Do it today- before you go home. I’ll help you do that a little later in the service if you like. We need to clearly and purposefully enlist; we need to clearly invite Jesus in. We need to clearly reject the world and our sin – and commit our lives to Christ.
Secondly, we need to throw off those worldly things that would hinder our service to the King. When I got on that bus for Fort Campbell, all I had was a little bag of personal items – and most of that I quickly tossed. Soon I was fully equipped from shaving kit to underwear; from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head; from boots to cap. I didn’t need anything from home. The army gave me all I needed to become a soldier. I left my mom and dad; my brothers and sisters, my friends, my home. And I have to confess, it was pretty difficult. I got a little homesick. I was pretty scared.
When I enlisted up with Christ – it was a little scary. It is always a little frightening to walk into the unknown. I lost some friends who didn’t relate to the new me. I had some habit and attitudes I had to leave behind. My pack of cigarettes, my drinking, my occasionally indulgence in pot, my sinful relationships – they all had to go. I had to immediately give them up. The Bible says,
“Let us ...throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4
I remember getting to Fort Campbell and unloading off the buses. The DI’s (drill instructors) were waiting for us. They got in our faces and began screaming. They made it very clear right from the get go who the boss was – THEY were. When they were done establishing that fact – they marched us to the barbershop. Now you need to know, I had some beautiful hair in those days. It was traumatic losing it all. Some barber asked if I would like a little off the top. When I said ‘yes’ he handed me a handful of hair. Not very funny!
After that we double timed to supply and put on army clothes from head to foot. We no longer belonged to our mama’s. We belonged to the United States army. We were told what to wear, what to eat, when to sleep, when to get up, when to go to the bathroom. We were not our own. We had given ourselves to the United States Army.
We understand that. That all makes sense in retrospect. At the time it didn’t – but later we understood it. But if that is true in the military – why is it that so many Christians think they can enlist in the Lord’s army at their convenience and on their terms? If He is not Lord of everything – He’s not Lord at all! If He doesn’t have ALL your heart – He doesn’t have your heart – at ALL!
Too often we think we can have the best of both worlds. We can’t. Jesus said you can’t serve God AND money (or the world). One or the other is going to be your master. Paul said,
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
What are you a slave to? Whom or what is you master? I remember what it was like to be mastered by something. I smoked 3 packs a day. I drank until I passed out. I smoked pot and lived in the flesh. I remember those days – and there is nothing about them I recall with fondness. I was a slave. I was hooked. I was addicted. And this Master of the world and flesh - for every ounce of pleasure, gives you a ton of pain. Why do it? It’s insane! It will kill you or hurt you physically, mentally, socially, and especially spiritually.
Some Christians think they can take an occasional drink, smoke an occasional joint, slip into a sexual sin occasionally – but whatever you surrender to is your master. I want Jesus to be my Master – not tobacco or booze or anything else. I want to be in the Lord’s Army – not the worlds.
Why is it that we do those things anyway? Because those things promise to do the things that only Jesus can do. Jesus is the creator of all that is good. Only Jesus can give us true pleasure. When we go to our substitute Christ’s – and that is what they are – Jesus can’t help us. We willingly get out from under His protection. We choose to go to alcohol or drugs for comfort. We choose to medicate ourselves instead of going to Jesus to meet our needs. If you are addicted to alcohol or pot or food or sinful sexual relationships or worldly entertainment– go to Jesus. Only He can free you. Only He can help you break the addictions. Only He can break the bonds of enslavement.
But let me warn you – you have to make Him your Master and King. If you persist on hanging on to the things of the world – He can’t help you; He won’t help you. Unlike those DI’s, God gently knocks; gently calls; gently invites. He never forces us. He values our free will too much. So we can hand on to these things if we want – but it will be at our peril and it will rob us of better things.
In the army, thirdly, we had standards. We were not our own. We could even be court-martialed for getting a sunburn – destroying government property! If you have a painful sunburn it can hinder you in your job. That may seem extreme to civilians. It may seem extreme to not eat what or when you want; not wear what you want; not do what you want. But you need to remember - when you are in the army – you are not your own.
The Bible says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NKJV)
WOW! That seems pretty extreme doesn’t it? “You are God’s temple. If you defile God’s Temple – He will destroy you!” So much for once saved always saved! That makes it pretty clear, doesn’t it? You are NOT your own. You do not have a right to do whatever you want with your body or life. If you have enlisted in the Lord’s Army – you have willingly and knowingly given yourself to Him. Your job is to obey orders. Get rid of all that contaminates you!
Paul says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” Ephesians 4:1
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart”
“when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:21-34
It is clear that as Christian Soldiers, we are to leave behind the things of the world. We march to a different drum; we live to a different set of standards.
Paul tells the young Church,
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”
“Now you are light!” Live like it! “Find out what pleases the Lord!” “Have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness!” “EXPOSE them!” Pretty strong stuff.
Are you up to it? Let me point out one last thing about being a soldier. There is a time of rest and relaxation. The retirement plan isn’t bad. The medical plan is pretty good. But one of the best things is the ‘glory’ of being an old soldier. We are proud. I am proud of my medals and ribbons and stripes. I am proud of my son’s medals and ribbons and stripes and decorations. I am proud of my dad’s and my grandfathers medals and ribbons and service. There comes a time that the soldier is rewarded for his bravery and valor and dedication. And so it will be with you. Listen:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
2 Corinthians 4:17
“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:4
Do you believe that? Soldiers serve out of love of God; love of Country; and love of family. But the Benes aren’t too bad either. Soldiers fight for glory and honor, too. I want you to know that those things are coming for the faithful Christian soldier. Believing that – I can say no to worldly distractions. Believing that I can ignore the pain and the sacrifice I must go through at times. Believing that enables me to say “NO” to the flesh and temptations. The enemy is the devil, the world and the flesh. We can only overcome them through our faith. Be faithful. Be strong. Keep pushing forward.
Well, I didn’t even get into finding our assignment. Vets often ask each other what was your ‘MOS” (military occupation specialty). What did you do? Christian soldiers ought to be asked that, too. What are you doing in the Lord’s army? How are you advancing the kingdom? How are you helping the cause of Christ? We each have a part to play.
In the military, all are equally important. The guy behind the lines is just as important as the guy on the front lines. The combat soldier can’t fight without supplies. He can’t fight without food. He can’t fight without training. So every vet is equally important in my mind. Some served is safe, comfortable situations – but you know what? There were important. They were needed. They didn’t get the glory or win the medals – but they sacrificed a portion of their life, too.
And you – what ever you do for the Lord is important. You don’t have to be the pastor. You don’t have to serve on the Church Board or be a Sunday school teacher. Jesus said just giving someone a glass of water in His name will not go unrewarded. So get in the game. Get involved. Get busy. Find something to do for Jesus. It will be worth it.
But you have to join. Have you joined yet? Are you willing to leave the world and your will behind? If you are then pray a prayer like this.
I have been doing my own thing and going my own way for too long. Please forgive me. With your help I turn from my sin; I turn away from the world – and I vow to follow you the rest of my life. I vow to obey you and serve you – the rest of my life. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Teach me. Equip me to serve you. Give me the grace – give me the power of your Holy Spirit to break every addiction I have. Give me the power to break free from the sinful masters I have been serving. I take up my sword and shield for you right now. With your help, I will fight your fight – from this day on.
In Jesus Name,