The nation celebrated the July 4th weekend recently. The way in which we celebrate, would lead one to think the war of American Independence began and was won on July 4, 1776. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The official starting day of that war was April 19, 1775, and it would continue for 8 years, 4 months, and 15 days, finally ending on September 3, 1783. One would also think that the combatants were American colonists vs. the British Empire. While true, it’s not the whole truth.
The Colonial army and militia fielded some 40,000 soldiers, plus a Navy with 53 frigates and sloops with 2,131 Marines. I do not know the number of sailors but estimates are that 300,000 from all nations took part in warfare during that time. The State navies added 106 ships. France contributed 10,800 soldiers and 2 fleets with Spain adding another 12,000 soldiers and 1 fleet. An unknown number of Native Americans fought for the colonies.
The British fielded 48,000 soldiers with their Navy, the world’s largest, sent taskforce fleets and blocking squadrons. American colonists, loyal to the Crown and fighting against their fellow colonists, numbered 25,000. There were also approximately 30,000 German troops and 13,000 Native Americans fighting alongside the British. One battle, or one day, does not a revolution make.
The way many Christians describe their Christian life, one would think that on a certain day, at a certain time, one declared dependence on Christ and that was it. War over, victory won. In my own case, I consider March 3, 1970, as my “Dependence Day,” if you will. But I have been in a series of battles ever since and I imagine most who profess the Christian faith have had a similar experience.
Now, I realize that the war, our war, is ultimately won. Jesus won the war with His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. This reality of the ministry of Jesus has led Eastern Christians to exclaim that “I have been saved, I am saved, and I am being saved.” In other words, the war is won but we still face battles. So, who or what is our enemy?
St. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and shares what their condition was, that is, the hopelessness of life, prior to Christ. He says, basically, in Ephesians 2:1-3 that their enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In the past, Paul intimates, we faced powerful foes that we, on our own, could not be continually victorious over. Now, the war is won (“we were saved and we ARE saved”) yet the battles remain (“we are being saved.”) I do not mean that eternal life is by works but to “be saved” in the fuller sense, is being made whole, complete, lacking in nothing, not simply escaping hell. Salvation is more than “fire insurance.”
“The world” is not simply culture itself, although it includes it, but rather, all that is hostile and opposed to God. As one author wrote, “The present evil age works its thoughts into our hearts and minds in both blatant and subtle ways, so we must be discerning.”
That which we watch or read or that to which we listen — much of this is opposed to God and his word. If you think the world is not influencing your children or grandchildren against God and His word, you are not paying attention.
The world says that all religions lead to God. According to Jesus himself, they most certainly and decidedly do not. The world says that pornography is normal and even healthy. It most certainly and decidedly is not. The world says that the ultimate goal in life is to be happy but true peace, joy, and contentment is found only in a relationship with God through Christ. The examples are limitless.
The world hates God and, if we are true to Him, it will hate us too. Yes, we are “in this world” but we are nor to be “of it.” The world system — the culture of this age — is opposed to God and there is no life in it.
Then there is “the flesh.” In 2017, a Japanese man was killed when six tons of pornographic magazines that he owned fell on him. His body was found six months later when the landlord came for the overdue rent. And whether you kill yourself instantly with 12,000 pounds of porn or do it one photo or movie at a time, it is still a destroyer of souls.
What is it that we do that keeps us from a good relationship with God? Drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality, hatred, unforgiveness, bigotry, anger? Oh, and there’s much more than that to damage our spiritual selves. What is that we, as believers, give place to and indulge the desires of the flesh and mind? As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
I am one of those who believes in a spiritual opponent, an adversary. St. Peter wrote, “Be sober (well balanced and self-disciplined). Be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion (fiercely hungry), seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 Amplified Bible.
“That enemy of yours …” This is personal. We are created in God’s image and the enemy of our soul hates us perhaps as much as he hates God. He, however, is not a god, even a minor one. He is a fallen and cast out created being with limited power and abilities, the ability to deceive being one of his strengths. Does he have a certain power? Yes. However … the Apostle James wrote that those who are submitted to God can successfully resist him.
It is in Christ alone that we have the promise of being victorious in our battles and conflicts, and not in our own strength.
The war has been won, the outcome certain but we can still live a defeated life if we underestimate these enemies, nonchalant them, or decide we will entertain and compromise with them. These enemies are to be avoided where possible and defeated when necessary. We were created to be “more than conquerors.”
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]