Love Is War
For people who profess to love Jesus Christ, there is a war going on for their allegiance. For people who don’t know or want to know Jesus Christ, there is a war going on to keep them away from Christ. The influence of popular culture, our own sinful natures, and the kingdom of Satan are all working overtime to prevent people from serving Christ, and to keep those who are serving Christ from growing, and to keep them discouraged. Fortunately for us, we are not ignorant of Satan’s strategies, the strategies of modern culture, and even the strategies of our own sinful flesh. Love is War! The question I am asking is, who or what will we choose to worship?
This is the same question that the Apostle Paul asked the church of Ephesus. In Ephesus, there was a temple to the pagan goddess Artemis. She was the goddess of fertility, the goddess who was supposed to help people have lots of babies. So you can imagine what people did to worship her!! In the book of Acts Paul ended up starting a riot in Ephesus. Do they worship their surrounding culture, their own selfish desires, or the kingdom of darkness? How about us? Please understand that we are in a battle. The battle is whether or not we will love the things of this world, or whether we will love Jesus Christ and what he loves. We will have to fight. We will shed tears. We will sweat. We will lose sleep. But the love of Christ is worth it, worth the war. Indeed, a war is exactly what we are facing. We will have to declare war on our flesh. We will have to war against the sin in our own hearts. We will have to war against the distractions of daily life and the temptation Satan tries to throw at us. Yes, love is war!
We will look at the things that oppose Jesus Christ today, and we will discuss how to overcome them. But first, let us talk about our old lives before Christ…..what things or people influenced us, since we were not influenced by the word of God? Ephesians 2 gives us an idea….
New International Version (NIV)
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
1) The influence of pop culture —- Pop culture is short for popular culture. This means many people follow what’s trending. Politicians, singers, athletes, musicians, movie and television actors are more popular than pastors and spiritual leaders these days. People turn to talk shows and talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil to get their answers for life, but rarely turn to Jesus Christ or the Bible for answers.
1a) we followed the ways of this world —- Most of us still want to be popular, right? Who wants to be unpopular or an outcast? Who wants to be seen as “weird,” or a “Jesus Freak?” Nobody! However, what if that’s what it takes for us to be holy to the Lord?
1b) we gratified the cravings of our flesh —- We didn’t hold back from doing what we wanted to do, did we? Partying, drinking, clubbing, relationship after relationship, we did it all. And part of the reason we did this was because that’s what our culture celebrates!!! The church Paul wrote this letter to was in the city of Ephesus. The ruins of Ephesus are still in modern-day Turkey. Ephesus was a Roman colony. Today we are very similar to ancient Rome here in America, particularly in our morals and the idea of us gratifying our fleshly cravings.
Morality in ancient Ephesus was very similar to American morality today, and similar to the morality in much of the western world. Today most Americans think that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and gay marriage. It was exactly the same in ancient Rome in Paul’s day, and in many Roman cities like Ephesus. A site called Life Site News states that the Roman emperors celebrated gay marriage just like many of our political leaders and celebrities do today. Juvenal was a 1st century Roman philosopher. He wrote satires to make fun of Roman leaders. A satire was basically a funny play or skit. People would gather in the athletic arena or the amphitheater to watch a humorous play that made fun of some ancient Roman celebrity. In Juvenal’s Second Satire (117), we hear of one Gracchus, “arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride,” now a “new-made bride reclining on the bosom of her husband.” Such seems to have been the usual way of male-male nuptials among the Romans, one of the men actually dressing up as a woman and playing the part of a woman.
The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus (ruled 218-222) married and then divorced five women. But he considered his male chariot driver to be his “husband,” and he also married one Zoticus, an athlete. Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally.
This is just one issue, and I brought it up to prove the point that people are giving into whatever desires they choose to today just like when Christianity first began. We need to be falling on our faces crying out to God for his mercy on sinners, and his grace for believers, as grace and mercy are holding everything together.
1c) His mercy made us alive even when we were dead —– It is not because of our goodness that we are saved, but because of God’s great love and mercy. It is important for every Christian to believe this. That way, no one can look down on others who are still trapped in sin. To the non-believer, do not take God’s mercy for granted. Humble yourself and follow him. Let’s put off our old way of living and doing things. God loved us so much that he went to war for us, on the cross. Revelation says that when Christ returns he will come back with a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth, which represents the Word of God.
Love is War.
Ephesians 4:22-24 New International Version (NIV)
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
2) The influence of our own sin nature —— Since the time of Adam and Eve, we have become flawed individuals. The way we think, and the way we behave has been tainted by sin. Sin is a disease, and the only medicine, the only needle and injection that works for sin is the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God.
2a) we are being corrupted by deceitful desires — The great deception about our desires is that we think everything will be okay if we ignore God’s standards and chose our own. But look at what that is doing to our society.
2b) we need new attitudes based on an old book— The people in the Bible were just like us. They had the same wants, needs and desires. This is especially true for the churches that Paul and the Lord Jesus wrote to, such as the Ephesians and Corinthians, and later on, the Laodiceans and Philadelphians that Christ wrote to. Christ and Paul wrote to remind the people that even though they were citizens of Rome they were also citizens of heaven. They had a new identity, an eternal identity.
2c) we have a new identity of righteousness in Christ —– This is a righteousness that is believed by faith, embraced by faith, and only lived out by faith. So what is the issue? The issue that it many churchgoers never become real disciples because loving God and worshipping God are so hard. Building any relationship takes time, and it is the same with our relationship with Christ. It takes time and commitment. It takes discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. Unfortunately, many people the least amount of time into the most important relationship they will every have other than their relationship with their spouse or future spouse. In the Old Testament, God called himself Israel’s husband, and Christ is considered to be the husband of the church. It is a metaphor to describe how serious and intimate the relationship is supposed to be. *My lovely wife gave me this amazing quote. She asked me how I could ever expect our relationship to work if we only saw each other for an hour and a half once a week. Many people treat their Creator the same way. They spend time with their Lord and Savior once a week for an hour and a half and say that’s a relationship. Not so!! In 1 John 3:18, the Apostle John said we should not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. Love is a battle. Love is a struggle. It is in fact war.
Love is War.
It is crunch time. Christians are being killed all over the world. In Syria and Iraq, Sudan and many other places, Christians do not have the luxury of being half-hearted. Do you want to know what many non-Christians think of Christians today?
ILLUSTRATION: This is an example taken from a book called UnChristian, written by David Kinnaman, who is a Christian. He did some research and interviewed people outside of the Christian faith who gave their opinions. Why unChristian?
Using the lens of the careful, scientific research we conducted, I invite you to see what Christianity looks like from the outside. In fact, the title of this book, unChristian, reflects outsiders’ most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be. I will describe this in greater detail in chapter 2, but for many people the Christian faith looks weary and threadbare. They admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him.
One outsider from Mississippi made this blunt observation: “Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fear mongering that has lost its own heart.” [End of illustration].
Ouch! Isn’t this a humbling report on the way non-Christians feel about us? However, we can change that mindset. Each one of us has the power to change the world!!! Ephesians 6 tells how we can.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
The next portion of our study of Ephesians leads us to the spiritual darkness behind the war against our love of Christ.
3) The influence of Satan ————– Satan is very real. Don’t be under the false conception that he is not real.
3a) Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power —– We can do nothing on our own. In the Gospel of John, Christ said that the flesh counted for nothing, but the Spirit was everything.
3b) you can’t go to war without armor — We have to be clothed and wrapped in the presence of God. Each and every day, we must crucify our own needs and desires for those of Jesus Christ. We often want the victory over our sins and over our issues, but are we willing to go to war? We can’t have the victory without going to war. Love is war! But that’s what we do when we love things, don’t we? We fight for what’s important? Don’t we go to battle for our marriages and our children? Let’s fight for our quite time with the Lord every day. Let’s fight for our children to be influenced by the Bible and not the latest Miley Cyrus song, or the latest rapper.
3c) we are battling an evil spiritual army —- It says that we are battling the forces of evil in the heavenly realms. This means that our atmosphere, our air is literally crawling with demonic forces that we cannot see. So we need to put on our armor. I’ve heard about Christians who pray that they can see an angel or that they could see the Lord, but we could never imagine or even be able to handle all the activity that’s going on around us in the spiritual realm!!! Check out this passage in Daniel chapter 10
Daniel 10:1-12 (TNIV) In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. 2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
3d) We can stand our ground when we are in full armor —- The armor is the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of the gospel of piece, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. Next week we will study all of these pieces in depth.
3e) sometimes all we can do is stand in days of evil —– Sometimes, we will get weary. Sometimes, we will not want to fight. Sometimes we have to fall back on Galatians 6:9 which says that we will reap a harvest if we don’t grow tired of doing good. So don’t be weary of carving out that prayer time every day. I know we’re all busy. We’ve got work, and school, and children, college classes, our spouses, I know. But don’t be weary in well doing. Don’t be weary of the struggle. Fight to the death for your prayer life. Fight to the death for your times of worship. Fight for your children’s souls by teaching them the Word of God. Christ will respond to your faith, and will flood your hearts with his love. He stands at the right hand of God, interceding for you because of love. He fought and defeated death, sin, Satan and the grave for the sake of our souls, because he loved us! Hebrews says that for the joy that was set before him, Christ endured the cross, despising its shame. The joy that was set before Jesus was the eternal life that he purchased for his bride, the Church, and the forgiveness of sin that he purchased, all for love, all through love.
Love is War.
[Hillsong United Track, “Love Is War.”]
[VERSE 1] In Your justice and Your mercy
Heaven walked the broken road
Here to fight this sinner’s battle
Here to make my fall Your own
Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder
I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
To throw my life forever
Into the triumph of the Son
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/hillsong-united-love-is-war-lyrics.html ]
And I know Your love has won it all
You took the fall
To embrace my sorrows
I know You took the fight
You came and died but the grave was borrowed
I know You stood again
So I can stand with a life to follow
In the light of Your name
Remember to declare war on distractions, sin and Satan. Remember what Christ did on the cross. Remember that he is coming back again to fight for you. Fight for your prayer live. Fight in order to become more righteousness and Christ-like in our character every day. Fight in order to maintain an intimate, loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Love is War.