Calvary Road Baptist Church

“YOUR JOURNEY: There is no plan B” 

It is usually the case that a sinner comes to Christ with significant misunderstandings about many things. It should not surprise the child of God to learn that we do not know very much about very much. After all, part of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ that spans the most extended amount of time is the final stage, when we are being taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us. Those of you who have been believers for a while, were you as surprised as I was when you began to discover that your Christian life was not a bowl of cherries? Regardless of the truth that you were told that led to your conversion to Christ, were you under the misapprehension that the spiritual warfare that you were introduced to would not be as nasty as you have discovered it to be?

I have never been in combat as a serving member of the US Armed Forces. However, I have read so many books related to military history and armed conflict that I have no doubt those who have been in combat will agree with what I am about to say. No matter how realistic the training of members of the Armed Forces is made to be, the reality of actual combat is an incredibly different experience than any soldier ever imagined it would be. Retired Lt. Col. Dr. Dave Grossman wrote two books, “On Combat” and “On Killing,” in which he describes the psychological and physiological results of being in combat and being trained to take human life taking human life in combat.[1]

He points out the thousands of loaded rifles left on the battlefield at Gettysburg during the Civil War, left by combat veterans of many battles from both armies who, nevertheless, refused to engage an enemy determined to kill them. He also informs his readers that soldiers do not infrequently lose their bowels and bladders during their first engagement due to uncontrollable terror.

The commandant of cadets when I was in the United States Air Force Academy was one of the most successful fighter pilots of all time. Yet he confessed that he dropped his spare fuel tanks on his first mission over Europe in World War Two to engage enemy aircraft, only to forget to switch his fuel supply from external to internal tanks. The result? As he was diving on an enemy aircraft, his engine ran out of fuel and stopped completely. Fortunately for him, he fired his machine guns, shot the German aircraft down, and was able to restart his engine to fly back to his base safely. One wonders how many young pilots did the same thing and did not survive their first mission.

I mention these things to draw attention to the reality that most people engaged in combat do not fight or do not fight proficiently. That is a reality known to generals since the time of Napoleon. Therefore, what conclusions might be drawn about those involved in the real war, the spiritual war?

I have mentioned before in many sermons, and evidence is found throughout the Bible that we are in the midst of a great spiritual war. Though the victory has already been won by the Lord Jesus Christ, as evidenced by His resurrection from the dead and His ascension to glory, it is still a deadly fight, and there are many casualties.

I plan to bring this message to you under three major headings, to relate to you what the Bible teaches and some of the practical lessons I have learned. I trust that different parts of this message will benefit those of you who are unsaved and those of you who know the Savior. The title of my sermon is “Your Journey: There is no plan B.” This is what will happen to you should you come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and should you become an experienced and seasoned spiritual combat veteran. Of course, no one in his right mind wants to fight in a war. Some who serve in the military do so because they believe they are better suited to combat than most of the people they know and serve so that they might protect their loved ones and civilians.

Spiritual warfare is different in this respect. Everyone is in the war. Not everyone fights. Not everyone is even aware. However, everyone is in the war. Should you desire to experience victory and enjoy the blessedness of peace of mind and heart, you will deal with reality, fight the good fight, and reap the benefits of total victory.

Allow me to describe your life in four parts, a 30,000-foot overview from the moment that you are a twinkle in your father’s eye until that time you stand before the Savior in glory. Using broad strokes of the brush, these will be your experiences: 

First, YOUR CONCEPTION 

Insofar as we can tell, existence for you begins at the moment of your conception, when your mama’s egg welcomes your daddy’s critter. From that moment, you are a bearer of God’s image, and therefore you are sacred. You will grow in your mother’s womb, and you will be born into a frightening and war-torn world as a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.

If you are born to Christian parents, it may very well be that you are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Regardless of how you are raised, you are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. That would be a wonderful thing. Yet even Christian parents are capable of misapplying the implications of your sinfulness, imagining that depravity does not extend to every part of your being. Such would be detrimental to your perception of reality. It never helps any sinner imagine themselves better than they actually are. A child can be loved and encouraged by a mother and father while, at the same time dealt with truthfully about that child’s spiritual condition before God.

Of course, an unrealistic notion of spiritual reality is a consequence of the spiritual warfare into which you were born. Even Christian parents, as well-intentioned as they may be, are subject to the influence and effects of the doctrines of demons. All warfare involves deception, especially spiritual warfare. And our adversaries are brilliant tacticians who are experts in the use of lies to deceive and divert unbelievers and believers in Christ. 

Next, YOUR CONVERSION 

In some way, you will be exposed to the ministry of God’s Word, and the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to give you the gift of faith. That gift of faith will be the useful means by which you will trust Christ as your Savior and receive the gift of eternal life.

Your conversion may occur when you are quite young, thereby avoiding some of the scars and consequences of living a sinful life. Your conversion may occur when you are significantly older, with significant scars and consequences resulting from years of sinful experiences.

Regardless of your age when you are converted to Christ, your conversion to Christ will not be relief from the spiritual warfare you were born into. Rather, your conversion to Christ will be your introduction to born-again status as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, the captain of your salvation.

Welcome to the Lord’s army! You have been drafted. Your term of service is eternity. You don’t want to fight in the spiritual war? Too bad. The alternative is the eternal torment of the damned, so learn to count your blessings. 

Third, YOUR CONSECRATION 

Too many are born again into the Christian life without the benefit of instruction and guidance so necessary for growth and effectiveness as a fruit-bearing believer. This results in a seriously compromised consecration of that individual Christian.

Such believers in Jesus Christ are sometimes denied the benefit of guidance as spiritual babes into the obedience of believer baptism. Others are insufficiently trained or not trained at all and imagine that their involvement in spiritual warfare is optional.

Involvement in spiritual conflict is not optional. The unsaved typically delude themselves into thinking that because they are not consciously involved in spiritual conflict that they are somehow divorced from the consequences of spiritual warfare. They think they are okay because they are not wounded in battle and bear no scars from conflict. What they do not realize is that they are the losers. They are on the wrong side of the conflict, and that they and their children will suffer the eternal torment of the damned as the direct result of their delusional decision to “opt-out” of the spiritual fight. What choice did the Chinese have when the Japanese attacked them in the 1930s? What choice did the Poles, the Czechs, the Dutch, or the French have when the Germans attacked them in the 1930s? What choice did the South Koreans have when the invasion came in 1950 from the North? In like manner, there is no such thing as a choice when it comes to spiritual warfare. Satan decided to engage in spiritual warfare, and it was the serpent in the Garden of Eden who expanded the war to include the human race. My friend, you are in it.

How you choose to conduct yourself in this spiritual warfare is your call. Should you choose not to engage, should you choose not to participate, you forfeit any opportunity you have to benefit and bless your loved ones. Going AWOL, absent without leave, does not remove you from either serving in the war or engaging in the battle, but only surrendering to the detriment of those around you. Scripture calls for you to 

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” 

Throughout your Christian life, your engagement of the enemy, your service to the Lord, and your ministry in the lives of others, will stand you in good stead. May I make mention of several considerations for you to give thought to, somewhat like an old gunnery sergeant might do with younger Marines, in the hopes that he can help them survive an upcoming battle? 

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” 

Do you want to believe the unverified accusation of someone God’s Word identifies as a liar against a blood-bought child of God?

“he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” 

My wife is the greatest blessing to me because of what she does not do. In the almost 46 years we have been married she has never rehearsed to me a wrongdoing someone has done to her. Ever. When a husband tells his wife, or a wife tells her husband, or one Christian tells another something that comes from a single source, unverified, there are two results: First, you cannot or should not respond to any unverified accusation from anyone about anything. Second, the person who told you the accusation has weakened your relationship with the person accused.

How does that information help anyone? Yet, I have seen parents do that with siblings many times. The remedy, of course, is to deal with the problem and make no unverified third-party accusation. To harm a relationship is likely the unintended consequence of a Christian repeating a matter, but it is almost always the intended consequence of a non-Christian repeating a matter. 

“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” 

Charity, of course, is love. Do you love enough to want a multitude of sins covered?

This is all part of the mindset of the warrior, don’t you see? Do you imagine that men in combat always have nice personalities? That they always treat each other cordially? That they always attend to the niceties? Of course not. Every soldier who has ever served in combat has a deep love for their fellow warriors. Why so? Because he fights for his comrades and knows that he cannot survive unless they also fight for him. I have no desire to remove devotion to the Savior from this consideration, for that is all-important. But love for others in our congregation is not unimportant. With a renewed love for Christ and love for others, and with hindrances and spiritual obstacles and grievances against others eliminated from your life and memory, you will find witnessing to others so much easier. And your joy will return as the Spirit of God is neither grieved nor quenched.

Can you remember the last person you were instrumental in seeing brought to Christ? That will change, I assure you. You will witness more freely. Your suspicion of others’ motives will diminish as your motives improve. And you will bear fruit for the Master. 

Fourth, YOUR CONSUMMATION 

Will you be wounded along the way in this war? Yes. Is it likely that you will stumble and fall in battles? Almost certainly. Will disappointment and discouragement come your way? Of course. But a just man falls seven times, don’t you see, and rises up again, Proverbs 24.16.

You will rise up in the end because, as Paul wrote to Timothy as he approached his end here on earth, 

“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 

The child of God (that is you if you know Christ) will eventually stand before the Savior in glory. First John 3.2 declares, 

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 

It is not possible to opt-out of the spiritual war.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are a victor since Christ has already won the victory.

That said, some Christians are a bit divorced from reality in that they sometimes seem unaware that they are living in a battle zone and the conflict is raging around them. It can be ignored, but it cannot be avoided.

It is almost as if they imagine that they soldiers who can leave their post and go AWOL anytime they want, that being absent without leave results in no severe consequences for them or their loved ones.

But we are always on duty, beloved, and although the battles vary in intensity, our adversaries are unpredictable. So we must be on guard and wary.

So much of our success in the spiritual conflict is related to our presence of mind, with the Christian’s thought life being so often the battleground on which many of the fights are fought.

 Much of the enemy’s warfare strategy is deception (and both the Bible and history show that it is). Therefore we must be on guard at all times. We, on the other hand, traffic in truth.

We know the Bible is true. We know that God’s plan is for us to verify matters with two or three witnesses and that unverified accusations made by anyone are never helpful to God or God’s people.

Therefore, we must resist unverified accusations from whatever source, especially those already identified in God’s Word to be liars (which are all unsaved people). And we must expect our adversaries to try to weaken our ranks by accusing other believers of wrongdoing.

Will we wrong each other? Of course, we will. That is why we must be ready to seek forgiveness and love one another to cover a multitude of sins.

As God does, we must want to not remember the sins that have been committed against us by believers. We must also train those around us not to toss slop we cannot use our way because it is an unverified accusation we dare not respond to and cannot use.

Do I believe Christians will sin? I know they do. I know I do. But I also know that even my own unsaved family members will resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit by fabricating accusations against Christians to justify their rejection of Gospel truth.

Those God has identified as liars should have no more credibility with me than any blood bought child of God. And I do not want to remember the sins and inequities of others for no other reason than those memories are burdens God does not give anyone the grace to bear.

To conclude, how does a good soldier of Jesus Christ fight? By loving. By forgiving. By speaking the truth in love. By maintaining a disciplined thought life. And by holding up before others, always, the claims of Jesus Christ in the Bible.

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[1] Dave Grossman, On Killing: the Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society and On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace.

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