Posted on December 14, 2010

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. – 2 Timothy 2:3-4

When you think of soldiers, what are the first things that come to mind? Training, warfare, honor, courage, endurance, affliction, pain, sacrifice, battle wounds, and death. How about reward? The greatest honor a soldier could ever receive is dying for his or her country on the battlefield. This is also the greatest honor a born again Christian will receive for suffering, even unto death, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:4; Matthew 5:11-12). Most people reading this blog will likely not face this kind of persecution (martyrdom) unless, of course, we enter into that last stage of human history where there will be great persecution of the Body of Christ before His glorious return. So how shall we live daily as soldiers up until that day we may have to indeed physically forsake even our own life for the cause of Christ?

As born again Christians, the will of God for our lives is clear – our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Yet so many professing Christians struggle with not only knowing the obvious will of God for their lives, but how to overcome the various sins in their life. While we do not cooperate with God in our salvation since it is completely His work, sanctification, on the other hand, is a cooperative relationship with the Holy Spirit. We find many commands in Scripture where we are ordered to “put to death our members”, “crucify our flesh”, “put off the old man”, “purify ourselves”, and flee from sin. Rest assured, those sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of Redemption will indeed be sanctified, and this will be accomplished one way or another – easily by our absolute submission to the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2), or difficultly by the loving discipline of the Father (Hebrews 12:7-8).

The bottom line is this: WE MUST MAKE WAR WITH OUR FLESH! We must understand that the moment we counted the cost and surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, whether we fully understood this  reality or not, we crucified our flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). Further, as we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and have been buried with Him through baptism unto death in order to have newness of life (Romans 6:2-4), we must reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). We are literally dead to our old self and are no longer held under the bondage of sin so that we are slaves to it (Romans 6:6). We are free from sin! As a result of this crucifixion of our old self, our old nature, our flesh, we are therefore given this charge:

Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:12-14

Colossians 3:5-10 tells us to put to death the things belonging to our earthly nature, of which the wrath of God is coming against those who continue to live lifestyles of habitual sin. But because we used to walk in these ways in the life we once lived, Romans 8:13 tells us to put these misdeeds of the body to death! If the Spirit is in us, we are no longer controlled by the flesh, but by the Spirit (Romans 8:9), so we must understand and embrace the fact that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).

These are present realities in the life of the born again believer, not some distant hope to one day achieve. The moment we were regenerated by the Holy Spirit and justified by faith in Christ Jesus, we were clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9) and made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). With this foundation, we are now prepared to cooperate with the Holy Spirit for our purification until the day we are ultimately glorified in heaven.

We must flee from sin (1 Corinthians 10:14; 6:18)! The moment we are faced with temptation, we must run in the other direction! We must avoid allowing ourselves to get into situations where we might be tempted. We must do everything in our power to avoid all kinds of evil. Many professing Christians make excuses and literally whine for not being able to overcome the lingering sin in their lives, but they make no effort to sever the head off the conniving snake of temptation. They moan and groan about continuously falling to temptation yet they continue to hang around the same crowds, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, buy the same food and drink, read the same magazines, go to the same places, and play the same games. Enough! You must cut sin’s head off!

Practically speaking, you cut off friendships, family, entertainment, and venues. You must make up your mind that you are not going to run this same course of destruction. Whatever causes you to sin, cut it off! Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9,

If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

How precious are your eyes? Your hands and your feet? What Jesus is saying here is that whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ, will save it (Mark 8:35-36). This is what it means to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow after Christ daily (Luke 9:23). You are crucifying your flesh every single day so to present your body as a living sacrifice to God. You are cutting off your members if they cause you to sin. You are throwing away your computer; burning your books, CDs, and DVDs; you are changing your phone number to cut bad influences off; you are changing jobs, changing schools, or moving away; whatever it takes, you deny your own passions, desires, and will because you consider the will of God to be your first priority.

We must strive! We must subdue our flesh! We must live out our convictions! We must sacrifice! We must fight! We must! We must! And it will cost us!

Although he was referring to being disqualified from ministry, the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27,

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Every Christian must be resolved to bring his body into subjection. This is not always easy, and most likely it never is. It will also be painful and cause much sacrifice, just like the discipline a soldier of war causes him much pain and sacrifice. But the reward for doing such things is great, for we bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ as we purify ourselves (1 John 3:3) and

cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:1

My brothers and sisters reading this blog, our flesh wars against our soul (1 Peter 2:11), so we must wage war and kill it before it kills us. The great Puritan preacher John Owen once said,

…the choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin…Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work (source).

This is our responsibility. As we are new men and women in Christ, if indeed we have been bought by His own blood, we must

put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24

Beloved, we must arm ourselves every day for battle through the consumption of the Word of God, lest we fall to the lusts of our flesh and the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-17). We must engage our most powerful resources, especially prayer, to prepare our minds and hearts to resist daily temptations. We must surround ourselves with godly men and women, the most mature Christians we can find, so we can be held accountable for our actions and be exhorted to live lives of holiness and practical righteousness through Christ. The man who claims to be a Christian and has no battle plan, utilizes none of the resources God has granted us to overcome temptation and be conformed to Christ, has no desire to fellowship with believers, and justifies and takes pleasure in the sinful lusts of the world, can be sure He has not yet been graced at all with the power of the Holy Spirit to be freed from the bondage of sin. This person is spiritually dead. Lukewarm. Condemned.

If you find yourself with no battle plan but feel the Spirit calling you to the cross, humble yourself before Almighty God, crying out for Him to save you from the grip sin has on you. This bondage has chained you to eternal hell, and unless you repent and plead for God to save you, the chain will not be broken. You will be pulled into eternal darkness as if a millstone is chained around your neck and cast into the deepest ocean. But if you are ready to surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, forsaking everything you are and transferring ownership of your life to this worthy King, He will reach down from heaven, destroy the bondage of sin, pull you from the flames, and embrace you as a son and an heir of righteousness.

If we are indeed heirs of Grace, let us be soldiers of Grace. Let us put to death the lusts of our flesh and our members that lead us into temptation. Let us examine our relationships and cut these off if they are not conducive to a holy pursuit of God. Let us form godly relationships to build and strengthen our faith. Let us be resolved to suffer for the sake of Christ, knowing that our reward is in heaven for the persecuted. Let us be submitted to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, responding to His nudges to be separated from the things of the world. Let us be sanctified by the Truth, bathing ourselves with the Word of God daily. Let us pray without ceasing and utilize this essential heavenly weapon. In all of these things, let us be surrendered to the work of God in our lives so He may be glorified in each of us. This must be the battle plan for every born again believer, for

though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

This is all for the sake of love and for the purpose of godliness. This is to purify ourselves and to sanctify our households. This is to gain wisdom and to grow in grace. This is sacrifice and with it comes pain. This will bring affliction, trials, and tribulations and we will suffer for Christ’s sake. This is self-denial and must be realized in each of us. This is for the love of God and the love of our neighbors, enemies, and brethren. This is for the sake of the Gospel and the building of the Kingdom. This is for the glory of God and for the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Christian soldiers are resolved to do, and we must never forget…