Lanier Christian Church
November 11, 2012
Soldiers of the Cross
2 Timothy 2:1-4
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. - 2 Timothy 2:1-4
Today is Veterans Day. Veterans are men and women who have been called to protect our nation. We are grateful for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for our nation. Today we want to say thank you.
We also honor and thank those families who have stood by their soldiers; Spouses, parents, grandparents and friends who have sacrificed while their loved ones were overseas. These people have prayed many prayers asking God to protect their loved ones when they went off into conflict. Many have had to go the extra mile to take care of the family while their spouse was performing their duty.
So today, we are grateful as a church and as a nation for those who have served in the military and those that are currently serving. Bless you for protecting us.
The image of a soldier is not new to our world. The Old and New Testaments alike refer to soldiers on numerous occasions. In a real sense we, as Christians, are soldiers. We have our marching orders, we have our assignments, we are in a war - a spiritual war - against the evil one. We are soldiers. I guess you could say....
1. Followers of Jesus are soldiers of the cross.
I learned a song as a child that you might know as well..."We are climbing Jacob's ladder"...and it concludes..."soldiers of the cross."
It's the cross that compels us to march forward for our Lord. It is the cross that set us free from our sins. It is the cross that bids us to serve the cause of Jesus as Lord! We ARE soldiers of the cross.
The crowd at the cross taunted Jesus.
But Jesus was committed to a cause!
He wanted to save the world through the cross.
Our veterans have demonstrated a heart committed to a cause:
- The cause of freedom.
- The cause of courage.
- The cause of love of country.
Jesus Christ was committed to a cause!
Our veterans were committed to a cause!
Let me ask you a question: To what are you committed?
For what cause would you risk life?
For what purpose would you dedicate your energies…
your finances, your time?
We honor our veterans.
But we worship our Commander in Chief.
We owe our liberty to our veterans.
But we owe our eternal lives to Jesus Christ.
We salute the flag!
But we kneel before the Christ of the cross.
2. We Must Follow the Guidance of our Commander.
As soldiers of the cross, we must follow the guidance of our commander, our Lord himself. He knows exactly what is best for us and his commands are THE right thing to do. We should never hesitate when it comes to a direct command from God himself.
Reminds me of the story of the father who was having trouble getting his son to clean his room.
That father said: I would insist that he, “Do it now,” and he would always agree to do so, but then he wouldn’t follow through; at least, not right way. After high school, he joined the Marine Corps, which is where he is now. When he and I were on the plane together coming home for his leave after Boot Camp, he said to me, “My life makes sense now, Dad. Everything you said and did when I was growing up now makes sense. I really, really understand.” “Oh yeah, Dad,” he added. “I learned what ‘now’ means.” (Source Unknown).
Michael Molenaar tells the story of going to a ceremony in Iowa where there son Keith was deployed for service. The commander of the Iowa National Guard spoke. He said that his troops would be well-trained. The commanders priority was to bring all his troops home safely and this could be best done by having soldiers who followed orders. He warned of the dangers of not following those orders and taking short-cuts along the way. He said that most injuries occurred when soldiers did things their own way.
Keith spoke about when their truck was hit with a bomb that immediately you begin to do those things you have been trained to do. This is something they had gone over many times. A soldier doesn’t need to think, but he or she follows through by doing each step they have been trained to do. The training might be boring but it prepares the soldier for war.
Just as a soldier needs to follow the orders and training of the commander, if we are going to live our lives as followers of Jesus, it is important for us to follow our orders.
We are not called to go into battle as Christians to protect our own interests but we are called to go into battle into the world to protect the interests of God. What is God interested in? God desires that all men and women come to know him as Savior and Lord. People come to Jesus through the ministry of the church, therefore, we not only have a responsibility of sharing the gospel with our children and our neighbors but we have a responsibility of being involved with ministry throughout the world.
The message that God has given to us to share is a message of salvation. There is a way by which people can be broken free from the chains of sin and death. However, it is challenging bringing this message to the world. It will cost us financially and it could even cost our life but if we believe in the cause then we will be willing to take the risk for the Kingdom of God. So we must understand...
3. When you truly serve as soldiers, the cost is often great.
I will never forget being at church one Sunday playing "king of the hill" with my buddies, before church started. But our play stopped when a car pulled up to the sidewalk and, with help, out came Larry Wheat, who had returned from Vietnam a few weeks earlier. But he came on crutches and he returned to church that Sunday with only one leg.
I have never forgotten that image. It has always served as a striking reminder to me of the cost of war. Battles require you to give your all and often sacrifice your all. The cost for any military campaign is great.
Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends…If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” John 15:13 and 18.
The cost is great when we go up against the devil every day. He wants to destroy us. He wants to rob us of every ounce of faith. He wants to remove every bit of hope. He wants to deceive us into thinking that love for Christ is a waste of time.
Many have fallen away from their commitment to Christ. Their wounds were too great. Many have been attacked by the evil one and have suffered the consequences. Some have suffered innocently when someone nearby has decided to spend time with the enemy.
A military unit is caught in a fire-fight and they find themselves trapped. What do they do? They call for help and they know that there are soldiers who are willing to come to the battle to help out. They have signed up for the fight and when the fight comes, they are there to take on the enemy.
We have a responsibility to each other as soldier of the cross. There are wounded Christians all around us. Have we abandoned them? There are Christian soldiers fighting some tough battles every day. Do we just sit back and watch?
Jesus said: "Great love has no one than this....that he lay down his life for his friends." That's our command. Yes, serving as a soldier of the cross is costly - but it's worth every price!
So, let's get busy, because...
4. Soldiers of the cross have their orders...GO!
The Apostle Paul was sharing with Timothy the importance of being a soldier for the Kingdom of God when he wrote: “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.
Our goal in life is to do those things that please Jesus and the only way we can do this is by following his commands - heeding his orders. And his first order of highest priority is found in Matthew 28: 18-20.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus has the authority. He is our commanding officer. He commands us to "Go." To go into all the world and make disciples. To baptize them. Galatians 3:27 says: for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
To clothe them with Christ. To give them a uniform, so to speak, that they can wear with pride. To give them a purpose and an identity. Soldiers of the Cross!
It is our calling to Go and share with the world around us and the world abroad of the freedom that is found in Christ. That's our purpose as soldiers of the cross. American soldiers have gone throughout the world to serve the United States and offer freedom and hope.
That is exactly our calling as soldier of the cross...to go throughout the world offering freedom and hope that is found in Jesus Christ, the Lord.
After the British people responded in a miraculous way and took every floating vessel they had and crossed the English channel to rescue their soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk, Churchill rallied Britain with his most memorable speech. He said: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
Never surrender. That should be the motto of every soldier of the cross. The enemy is great, but the cause is grand. It's offering hope to the world through Christ. Paul said in II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight.” Have we? Will we? Will we ‘til our dying day?
I pray every Christian soldier here today will do just that.