Summary: This sermon discusses the Church as the Army of the Living God, and what we should be doing to win the spiritual war against the forces of evil.
Transition: Two weeks ago I shared with you the idea that we are living in a Postmodern society that in many respects is much like the First Century world in that Christianity is seen as a threat or is looked upon in a very negative light.
Last Week I shared with you some ideas of how we as Modern day Christians can Share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people in this postmodern era. Today I want to remind you that we are at war, and I’m not talking about the War in Iraq, or the War on Terrorism. If you have you Bible’s turn with me to the book of 1 Samuel 17:20-26.
“Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.”
Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers.
As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.
Now the Israelites had been saying, "Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel."
David asked the men standing near him, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
The analogy of the Church being the Army of the Living God is found in several passages of Scripture in the New Testament, as is the idea that we as Christians are soldiers in the Lord’s Army. Paul refers to a couple of his associates in the ministry as "fellow soldiers." And in 2 Timothy 2:3 He, encouraged Timothy to "Endure hardship......like a good soldier of Christ Jesus"
Jesus realized that we are in a Spiritual war for the souls of men, women boys and girls, and in Matthew 16:18, while talking to the Apostle Peter, Jesus He described this war by saying, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
Ancient cities were all built with walls around them. The walls generally had several gates in them. The purpose of these gates was not to keep people in, but to keep their enemies out. When the city came under attack, the best thing they could do was to shut the gates, and gather everyone up behind the walls. The weakest places in this kind of a defense system were the gates. And almost without exception, the opposing army would usually choose to begin their attack there. So when Jesus said, "The gates of Hell shall not prevail" against the church he wasn’t talking about the church holding it’s ground against Satan’s attack. Instead He was saying that they gates of Hell would not be able to prevail, or stand up under our attacks.
With this statement Jesus was saying, "My church is to be like a mighty army, aggressively driving back the boundaries of darkness as it extends the Kingdom of God to all persons everywhere."
But, unfortunately, many of our churches are retreating, just like the Israelites did when Goliath confronted them on the battlefield. Many of our churches today seem to be satisfied to just hold their heads above water. Other churches are being pushed around and beaten back by the Devil and the Forces of Darkness. The Devil is taunting the church today, just as Goliath taunted the army of Israel. Churches all over our nation are sliding backwards instead of surging forward.
Several years ago there was a movement to remove several hymns that speak of war or battle from our hymnals. Those who were in favor of this argued that as Christians we should not sing such great hymns as Onward Christian Soldiers and Stand Up Stand up for Jesus. Let me remind you of some of the words of these great Hymns.
Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on Before!
Christ the Royal Master leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banners go!
"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss;
From victory unto victory, His army shall he lead,