December 20, 2016

Spiritual Warfare

I cannot relate to Chambers’ devotional today because I do not spend much time with ‘amiable’ religious people who do not understand why Jesus died. Our church family is well aware of the vital importance of the Cross and how much we need it.

However, the context of the verse this author chose speaks to my current thoughts. God asked Jesus to die and in His death, He and the name of God are glorified; the ruler of this world is cast out; and Jesus is lifted up to draw all people to Himself. This is wonderful, yet in the midst of those truths, Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also” (verse 26).

Here is the larger context of what Jesus said . . .

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:23–33)

Jesus is glorified but He must first die. When I read this, I knew right away how this must be applied because as He spoke of this reality He also described another reality; to bear eternal fruit, I must also die to all my plans, desires, and human hopes and follow Him in His death.

This is not literal (although it could be) since death is often simply a great separation. In this case, Jesus talks about my priorities. His words and His life show me that what matters the most means being willing to give up everything else.

In the death of Jesus, the world is judged; the ‘ruler of this world’ who is Satan is cast out; and all people are drawn to Jesus. I get the implication. In my ‘death to self’ I am passing judgment on this world and all it offers by putting it aside to follow Him. I am also casting out the Liar and refusing his temptations because I only want Jesus who is the Truth. By yielding all to Him, I am lifting Jesus up and somehow others will be drawn to Him.

This is true about my salvation experience, but this time it is true about a deeper walk, about sanctification, about realizing there is more of me that must be given over to His loving rule. It is about dying to selfishness, to doing some things my own way and in my own strength.

I consider the alternative and it is not pretty. If I hang on to my way, then I am embracing the ways of the world, listening to the lies of the devil, and exalting myself instead of Jesus. The problems are obvious and that last one is particularly of note. When I try to lift up me instead of Jesus, no one is drawn to Him or to me either. None of this works.

Why should there be any difficulty with this death to self? Such is the spiritual battle against sin. Paul describes it in Romans 7 and also in the following verses:

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:4–6)

Every bit of determination in my arsenal is useless. Instead, I need the “divine power” of God. He is the Savior. He saved me, He is saving me, and one day I will stand completely saved in His presence. This is a certain outcome, but for now the war continues.

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