Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Spirit of Holy Warfare

Audio Message:

“You must fight devils, lies, fleshly indulgences, hardships, disappointments, and everything that sets itself up against God, or that is apposed to the living of a holy life, or which threatens the damnation of man. At all risks and consequences, you must fight for God and the salvation of souls.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits

Today, we consider holy warfare. For this I will direct you to a famous story that William Booth recounts, and is commonly referred to as “What will you do?” Many of you have probably heard of it. If you’d like to read the full story, get a copy of this book titled “William Booth’s Amazing Visions.” Booth one day was home, sitting alone considering the plight of the millions of lost in the world. And he saw this vision. He saw a raging sea, storming, lightning and thunder, and he saw thousands and thousands of people drowning in the waters. Then he saw a mighty rock rise up from the waters. And there was a platform at the rock, on which people were rescued. Some on the rock were working tirelessly to help save the people that were still trapped in the water, throwing them life preservers, and building boats to go down into the water, and even some dove into the water to help fish people out that way. But to Booth’s astonishment most of the people on the platform were not helping to pull people out of the water at all. They were going about their worldly affairs, gathering money, working, going on vacations, playing sports; while others were growing flowers, playing music, accumulating products, others debating about theology, and still others painting, taking classes, and so on and so forth.

Then in his vision Booth saw one drop down into the water, helping to save people dying in the water, and he was bright and brilliant, fighting with all his might, and he cried out to the people on the platform “Come help me! Come help me!” But they did not respond. Sadly, they did not care.

Booth realized quickly what the vision meant. The storming sea and the people it in were the unsaved in this world drowning in sins and brokenness. The rock that rose from the sea was the salvation provided in Christ. The platform and the people on it were the church. And he realized that the people in the boats and the ones throwing out life preservers were salvation soldiers, those who burned with the true spirit of holy warfare. But most of the church didn’t care, for the lost. The bright one in the waters was Jesus Christ himself, fighting to save the lost to this very day.

And this visions I believe perfectly describes what it means to be living the Spirit of Holy Warfare. There are only two kinds of Christians, the Christian who sits on the platform, enjoying worldly pleasures, and the Christian who is down in the waters tirelessly fighting to save souls from damnation. Which one are you? Are you down there in the water fighting tooth and nail to get people saved? Or are you up on the platform, ignoring the cries of the dying? Only you can answer that question.

It could just as easily be me. In fact as an officer it is very easy to get bogged down in paperwork, fundraisers and food drives, that pretty soon there is no soul winning going on at all. And what will be my fate on judgment day, if I live that way? Is there any chance of my attaining to eternal life? None-whatsoever. I must be a soul winner. I must be one who practices holy warfare.

Everyday we suite up for conflict, in fact conflict is our very nature. We fight to provide for our families. We fight to teach our children. We fight to make money. We fight against disease and old age. Life is often a conflict, and we meet it daily in the struggle of life.

If we fight in this world, how much more do we fight in the Christian faith? The Christian faith is a constant battle. Once first get saved, all sorts of problems suddenly spring up to try to tear us back down, and rip us away from God. The enemy does his best to dissuade us, to get us to turn back. Sins of the flesh boggle our minds and we find ourselves confessing and repenting, and desperately trying to live holy lives. And how bleak it seems at first, in those first few years, wondering if there’s even any chance to live like Christ.

That is the personal struggle. But we must too struggle to get others saved. William Booth said, “This is desperate, agonizing, wounding business.” My goodness Booth could turn a phrase. I recall when at training college we went out did evangelism at a public event in downtown Chicago. It was exhausting, talking to person after person about Jesus Christ. But after being there a few hours, I had spoke to probably about ten people about Jesus. And on the way back in the van, I felt the wounds. The harsh answers, the debates, the discussions, and the stress and strain on my soul.I felt beat up in my spirit. But I felt so… real. So complete in those moments. I tell you today that there is never any time that I feel more alive, more Spirit-filled, more completely like a true, real Christian, than when I witness to the unsaved. I always feel as I do that, that this is the single, most important thing I can do as a Christian, to win the lost to Christ, by simply sharing the faith with a stranger. Or a friend, or a neighbor.

I dare you to do it. Do it daily in your life. And feel the Spirit declare in you the fullness of who you are, a real Christian.

That is true holy warfare! That is the difficulty we are called to. We’re all here on the platform, and we see the raging sea around us. And how clearly we can see it in Flint. We see the dying people slowly drowning in the waves and crashing sea. And how difficult and agonizing work it is, to try to fish them out of the sea, with row boats and life jackets and ropes. It is not easy work. It is thankless work. But it must be done.

Booth said, “Think of the difficulties that have to be surmounted before a man can have ground for expecting the “well done” at the judgment throne, or a victorious crown in Heaven. “Be thou faithful unto death!” Do you ever consider what that faithfulness unto death meant to those to whom the words were first spoken? The visions of the torture chamber, the wild beasts in the arena, the crucifixion, which it called up in their minds?”

Even today, in the middle-east, in China, in north Africa, in India, there are Christians who are dying everyday for their faith in Jesus. These are the heroes of our faith. And who is to say that something like that couldn’t happen here in America? It is closer that we might all realize. But when we consider the blood of the martyrs, and the struggle of our faith, we are drawn back to the first one who offered up his blood.

In our scripture today, Revelation chapter five, we see the one on the throne holding a scroll. This scroll ushers in the final conclusion of God’s kingdom program. And there is one who is able to take the scroll and open the seven seals. The messenger of God declares, “Fear not, for the lion of Judah has triumphed!”

Now let’s just pause there for a moment. We’ve gone through Revelation, and we see these amazing displays of God’s throne, these scrolls, all this sort of esoteric imagery. Does it seem strange to you? Does it seem just like a little bit too much? I must admit at times, I doubt. I think to myself, could that really be true? Is this really real?

Could it really be true that an ark carried all that was left of the animals and people of the Earth at one time. Could it really be true that a giant fish swallowed Jonah? Is it really true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Isn’t it all just a bit too extreme? Haven’t they disproved all of this with science?

And I would answer myself this way: Has science disproved religion? Absolutely not. Science simply measures the observable universe. It doesn’t have anything to say about religion. In fact I’ve found that science and religion complement each other quite well. A natural process shows how rain falls, or how water freezes, or how vapor becomes clouds, and so on. Our religious faith answers the questions as to why we exist at all on this planet. Can everything be explained through natural means? Not at all. In fact I think the single best argument for the existence of God comes from science. Science indicates that the universe is expanding. Scientists discovered that the universe is not eternal, but that is began to exist at a fixed point in time. They call this “the big bang.” Now ask a scientist, where did the big bang come from? And some would say that it’s simply a mystery. There was nothing, then bang, the universe. But someone whose honest would have to say, “What caused the bang?” And one could indicate, that God is the best explanation for the cause of the universe. Something that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore God exists.

Now, if God can make the universe, the stars, and craft the planet is Earth from nothing, into a lush green ecosystem, and create humanity, in all our complexity, from our auto-focusing eyeballs to our fully functional endocrine and circulatory systems, then is it really that hard for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead? Is it really that hard for God to keep Jonah safe in the belly of a whale? And is it really so difficult to believe that God exists in some sort of ethereal throne room on a plain of reality we refer to as “heaven”? No, it isn’t that hard. If God can make the universe from nothing, imagine what he can do in our lives.

Revelation 5:6 “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth.” The lamb is at the center of the throne, that astonished me. Jesus Christ is God. He ‘s right there on the throne with the Father.

Then the elders and the living creatures cried out in worship to Jesus saying, ““You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Jesus Christ triumphed in his life. He lived a life of holy warfare fighting tooth and nail for the lives of lost humanity. He fought so hard, toiling in prayer, constantly surrounded by crowds, preaching the word, constantly dealing with people who would argue with him, call him a demon, mock him, and ridicule him. He fought against the religious leaders the Pharisees. He fought for the weak, the poor, and the sick. And Jesus Christ fought a very certain sort of holy warfare. He fought with love, grace, and truth. He fought by dying on the cross, by giving up His life to the Father of Lights. And by offering up his blood, Jesus Christ our King purchased us. He purchased for God people from every nation and language and group across the face of the Earth. He purchased lost souls in China, he purchased homeless boys in India, he purchased settlers in America, he purchased rich business men, prostitutes on the streets, drug addicts and Nobel prize winners. All gathered to God, because of the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, to pay off our debt of sins, and take us home to God.

In the Salvation Army, God worked through two rather ordinary people named William and Catherine Booth. Through two people, not all that special, just ordinary folks, he launched a war on Satan and his dominion over the poor, the homeless, the starving, the alcoholic, and the addicted, that were being sorely neglected by the churches of their day. From a poor, broke man named William, preaching to drunks in bars, and having beer bottles thrown at him, God launched a war against Satan and a war for the souls of humanity, that has spread to 130 countries in the world today.

The goal of my life, is to fight tooth and nail for the lost souls of humanity in this world, by winning them to Jesus Christ, and teaching them to live in holiness. I want to bring as many souls with me to heaven as possible.

And I believe on that day, when each of return to the God that made us, there will be a special sort of ceremony for salvationists who have won their battle and proceeded home triumphantly. I can see it now. The bright golden hauls of heaven. And we are walking down a long, long corridor. And to the left and to the right of us, we see thousands and thousands of salvationists in their uniforms cheering and applauding as we march forward, step by step. Can you see it? I see them cheering and giving glory to God, and praising Jesus Christ, as we march forward. And standing along the path we walk, will be the people we preached to, the people we prayed for, the people we won to Christ, stopping us, and hugging as we go by, and shaking our hands, with huge smiles, and tears in their eyes. And we’ll walk forward together with them, to a brightness beyond our comprehension, a glowing love and beauty, from the throne, where Jesus will stand, and say to us, “Well done good and faithful soldiers.” You have won your battle.

In conclusion today, William Booth said:

“If you are saviors of men you must fight. Make up your minds that it is so, and that nothing on earth or in Heaven, human or divine can change it. The Devil has got possession of the world; anyway, of the people that dwell in it, and if you want them for Christ and holiness and heaven, you will have to take your stand and hold your post, and close with your enemy, and fight for their rescue, and you may be sure he won’t loosen his grip without inflicting all the damage he can upon you who dare to attack him and his prey. This law is not of my making. I am not responsible for it. I found it in my Bible. It is God’s plan and God’s plan for us. Have you accepted it? I have.” –William Booth

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