The Gospel War

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If you would have told me on this day 10 years ago that I would be in Apple Valley, at a church Mark Mikels had planted, Preaching… it would have blown my mind.

First of all I had just LEFT Apple Valley, I had no idea that Sonlife had been planted, and I was in a profession that seemed as far away from being a pastor as you imagine, for I had just begun training to be an officer in the United States Navy.

July 5th, 1999 found me in Annapolis, MD. I hadn’t been out of high school more than 2 weeks… and I was already fully immersed in what would be a 4 year program in which we were trained… in the Art of War.

At Annapolis the official mission statement is…

“To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”

But they mean is… to prepare you for WAR.

And they did. For 4 years I was prepared to lead men and women into war. I took classes that you wouldn’t find at a typical university…. classes such as tactics, navigation, military ethics, counter-terrorism, and espionage.

I didn’t just receive a degree in systems engineering, but I received a degree in weapons systems engineering. Or in other words I didn’t just learn how to make robots… I learned how to make robots that could kill people.

Likewise, my roommate didn’t just receive a degree in economics, but in how to economically force an enemy into surrender, much like we did to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

We were also prepared physically. Our PE courses were boxing, wrestling, judo, hand-to-hand combat, combat rifle training, scuba diving, and parachuting.
For 4 years we were sharpened and refined into tacticians, commanders, and warriors.

But that’s not the only thing I experienced over those 4 years… I also experienced… for the first time ever… The War Within… or what I am calling today… The Gospel War.

You see, as our Key Truth #1 States…

There is a WAR being waged… WITHIN every Christian.

A war for which ALL Christians need to be prepared!

The apostle Paul himself describes this war in Romans 7:15-25.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Now I want us to observe 2 things about the war that is waged within us.

First of all… our own worst enemy… is the sinful nature that dwells in our flesh.

Paul says in verse 18; “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”

And then in verse 20; “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

So Paul is saying that even in Him… the APOSTLE PAUL… the man who was so filled with the Holy Spirit that people were healed by touching his handkerchief… there was lurking WITHIN him… His sin nature… Or his FLESH.

But that’s not all. Without 2 sides there can be no war. And so Paul explains in verse 22 that the other side… the second combatant in this war is our inner being… which desires to please God.

Verse 22 says; “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.”

And so on one side we have The Flesh… and on the other side the Inner Being… The part of every Christian that delights in The Lord.

And then it all comes out in verse 23;
“but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

And so literally, Paul is saying… “There is a WAR being waged WITHIN me!”

Verse 15 is what actually puts this whole thing in words I can best relate to when Paul says,

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Can you relate to this? Can you look back over your life… over the last year, the last month, maybe even the last week and say;

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT I DO!”

“WHAT I WANT TO DO… I DON’T DO!”

In fact;

“WHAT I HATE… I DO!”

I find myself in this situation over and over and over again

There are times when I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT I DO… in my marriage… in my prayer life… as a father… as a son… as a brother… at work… at play… at home… on Bear Valley Road… I do not do the things I want to do… and the very things I hate… I do.

And so it seems like I am constantly battling against myself… not doing what I want to do and doing the things I don’t want to do!

Let me give you an example…

…Garage Sale Example…

Now, we come to our 2nd Key Truth.

One that is just as important as the first. For in the first we realize that there is a war being waged within every Christian, and in the 2nd we learn that,

Tactical ERRORS are made by EVERY Christian.

This is extremely important for us to understand.

It is vital for me to realize that I am not the only husband who loses the garage sale battle. I am not the only Christian who makes tactical errors.

Lets look first at Abraham, and how he fell prey to fear… (Gen 20:1-13)

Abraham and Abimelech
1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4 Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8 Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.” 10 And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ‘ ”

Likewise, we can also see that David… the man after God’s own heart… even he had losing days… days in which his flesh dealt such devastating blows that he became overwhelmed by the sinful nature that dwelt within him… (Psalm 51:1-5)

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

And finally Peter… The Rock… the man who God used to bring literally thousands of people into a relationship with Christ. Even this great apostle fought through times where the tactical errors led him so far astray that it took another apostle to reach out and pull him back into fellowship… (Gal 2:11-13)

Paul Opposes Peter
11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

You see, the truth is… not only did Abraham have losing days, not only did David have losing days, not only did Peter and Paul have losing days… but we all have our days… days when the war within beats us up to the point where we, like Paul in verse 24, come to the place where we cry out… “What a wretched man I am!”

And not only that… but I find it interesting that the word Paul uses for wretched here comes from the Greek word Talaiporos, which can also be translated to mean a state of exhaustion…

Or in other words Paul is even saying here what an EXHAUSTED man I am!

That… is the effect of war…

It… is… exhausting.

It wears you down.

It causes you to doubt yourself, doubt your ability to succeed, doubt your ability to lead, even doubt who you really are.

And the worst part… the most frustrating thing of all… is what I am calling the BAD NEWS about this war… and that is that,

As long as we are Alive… we will never fully DEFEAT the Flesh.

We can beat the sinful nature within us down over and over again all day long. We can get up at 4:00 in the morning. Spend 2 hours in prayer. Fast all day. Share the gospel with 10 people at work before lunch time even comes. Spend our lunch hour handing out tracks. Spend the afternoon on facebook raising money for missionaries in China. Spend the evening in silent mediation. Sleep with 88.5 on the radio… and the very next morning… the second we wake up… There will be our FLESH. Dressed and Ready… Full of coffee, bouncing on the bed, and ready to fight again. Never dying… never giving up… never letting us rest.

Now that’s BAD NEWS.

But then there comes the GOOD NEWS…

Its what leads Paul to follow “what a wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?!?” with…

“Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

And it is found in the very next few verses… Romans 8:1-4.

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

You see the GOOD NEWS… is not that we will eventually reach an age where we are able to fully defeat the flesh… but the GOOD NEWS…is that

Our VICTORY… Is Already SECURED In CHRIST

That’s how the GOSPEL… is applied to the life of every believer.

That’s how we are not only justified… or counted as righteous before God… but it is how we are continually sanctified… or made to be righteous.

It is why the tactical errors… though they may frustrate us… can never fully defeat us.

The GOSPEL… is what keeps us both HUMBLE… and HOPEFUL!

HUMBLE because as we mature in the faith, and as we are continually being conformed to the image of Christ, there is a temptation to start to take on the mindset that says, “Look what I have become… Look what I am doing for God… I haven’t made a tactical error in almost 36 hours…”

And yet… it’s what GOD has done.

And conversely, at those times when the war within us leads to tactical error after miserable tactical error and we fall deeper and deeper into such spiritual depression that we would call out with what seems like our last breath, “What a wretched man I am!”

…We are reminded of what God… HAS DONE… for us.

You see… This is the story of my life…

When I first arrived at Annapolis… EXAMPLE…

And so in closing… I would leave us with this final thought…

The Best Way To FIGHT The FLESH… Is To Focus On Our VICTOR!

Romans 8:5&6 finishes this lesson on war with the following wisdom;

“5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”

Similarly the author of Hebrews puts it like this, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Or I would say let us fight with all our heart… But…) 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,”

Let us Fix our eyes on JESUS…

The war within will continue to wage on… tactical errors will be made… victories will come and go… but JESUS will never change.

He will remain at the right hand of God… praying for us… lifting us back to our feet… and cheering us on… Knowing… the VICTORY has already been secured.

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