Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Battle for Souls and Glory

            I am reading a really good book right now by Tony Evans called The Battle is the Lord’s.  (I think I read it before, but it’s hitting me new all over again.)  It’s on spiritual warfare.  And something that I just read really rang out true.  He said that the spiritual battle is really about who gets the glory.  It’s a battle between good and evil to gain as much glory as possible for either the Lord or Satan.  And to gain as many souls as possible.

            And you know what?  We are the ones who contribute to this, by how we live and speak.  By how we obey or disobey God.  By how seriously we take the call to seek righteousness.  By our priorities – focusing on this life or on eternity and the souls of other people.  By whether or not we take up our armor and get into the battle.
            Because of those five months (that I wrote about in the last post), my eyes were really opened to the great importance of seeking righteousness and maintaining contact with God all throughout my day.  And I learned to take the spirit world very seriously.  I am always – always - aware that there is an invisible world working within this one.  There is an eternity out there waiting for us.  And the temporary things we do and gain on this earth are not nearly as important as the eternal things we do and gain.  For God’s Kingdom.
            How we live and what we do and if we pray really does matter.  Because it impacts the spirit world.  It determines if God gets glory or not.  If His Kingdom grows or not.  But how many of us really take this seriously?  I know many Christians who are very concerned with bringing God glory and winning souls for Christ.  But I also know many who don’t give it much thought.  They are happy playing house here on earth.  They talk like non-Christians do.  They drink like they do.  They read and watch what they do.  They build up earthly treasures like they do. 
            But, my goodness, how different would our lives be if we really took the spirit world seriously?  If we lived like everything we say and do is being watched by unseen forces, giving one side a reason to celebrate and to pat their leader on the back?  If we lived like everything we say and do affects our witness for Christ, which affects the souls of other people?  All of this earth is going to burn in the end, but only what we do for God’s Kingdom and glory remains.  But do we live like it?  
            I, for one, didn’t.  Not for a long time.  Yes, I was a “good Christian.”  I did what good Christians are supposed to do because I wanted to please God.  I wanted to have a great impact for Him.  I wanted other people to know about Him and His love and salvation.  But I still didn’t really get it. 
            I didn’t really take the spirit world seriously, the spiritual battle seriously.  It was all “out there” somewhere, while I was here on earth.  So it didn’t matter if I watched or listened to things I shouldn’t because “It won’t really sway me.” 
            But because of those five months, I really began to think about my life and the things that I let slide.  How could I ask and expect God to protect me when I was supporting things that were un-glorifying to Him?  And I realized that it wasn’t about whether or not it would sway me or influence me; it was about if it glorified God or not.  That should be the reason for all we do!  But how many “little things” do we let slide because “we can handle it, it doesn’t really affect us”?
            I believe that we can give demons access to us by how we live and act.  We roll out “welcome mats” for them when we give in to temptations, say things we shouldn’t, watch or read things we shouldn’t, give ourselves over to rage, anger, lust, fear, bitterness, jealousy, greed, etc., and when we fill our lives, homes, ears, eyes, and minds with things that are not God-glorifying.  And they are kept farther back from us when we align ourselves more with the Holy Spirit. 
            However, be forewarned that sometimes the very act of seeking righteousness aggravates them and puts them more on the attack.  They are happy to lounge around when we are not a threat, but as soon as we start taking the spiritual battle seriously, it’s like giving them a swift kick in the sides. And they get angry.  Be prepared.  And rely on prayer, God’s Word, the power of the Holy Spirit in you, and Jesus’ name.  Put on your spiritual armor; take it seriously.  It’s not just a metaphor.
            And as a side note, I also think that the command to praise God and be thankful, even when we are in pain, is partly meant for our protection from evil.  Demons are attracted to, thrive on, and fuel anger, jealousy, fear, etc.  So when we entertain and practice these kinds of negative emotions, we give evil a “foothold” in our minds and hearts.  But it drives them back when they see us praising God and being thankful, no matter our circumstances.  It is SO important for our spiritual health and protection to count our blessings daily and to thank and praise God.      
            As Christians, we need to be very cautious about what we set our minds on and what we allow into our house and what we allow on our TV and radio.  (Especially if we have children.  We, as parents, are responsible for their spiritual upbringing.  Take this job seriously!)  We need to be very careful about not tinkering with things that are inappropriate for a child of God.  That’s why I am disturbed by things like Harry Potter, yoga, Halloween, the vampire shows, and all the New Age/witch shows coming out. 
            Oh my goodness, it is disgusting how many of these things are on TV.  Even the commercials are bad.  One reason we watch little TV and why I won’t buy cable or anything like it is because it is filled with trash.  Not to mention the overtly sexual themes and images on most shows, even on basic channels in full view of children at 7 o’clock at night. 
            Christians, what are letting our world come to?  We add to the mess and the moral decay by supporting this kind of stuff, by watching it and reading it and buying it.  By not taking it seriously.  We need to take stronger stands by not partaking in things that are inappropriate for a child of God, that are un-glorifying to Him.  There is so little out there that is morally-neutral, so if it doesn’t glorify God then who does it glorify?
            Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have to avoid all things that are “Non-Christian” (we would have to be locked away in our houses to do that), but it does mean that we should have a low tolerance level for too much of this stuff in any movie, show, book or conversation.  And we should be living in such a way that we stand out, that people ask, “What’s different about them, and why?”     
            We shouldn’t have a holier-than-thou attitude and we shouldn’t condemn non-believers for the things they do and say.  But we should be living differently, with strong convictions of right and wrong that we live out with a loving, gracious, gentle firmness.  When they see us, they should see Christ.  His love and compassion and unapologetic (yet inviting) Truth.  We shouldn’t be forcing it on others, but we need to be living it.  Other people are watching us.  Lost people are looking for something to believe in, to hold onto like a life raft.  Do we live in such a way that others would notice something different about us and want what we have?
            If we do not take the spiritual battle seriously – if we are comfortably parked on the sideline bench – we will fail to battle for God’s glory and for the souls of other people.  Focusing on our “nice, little life” is the opposite of focusing on God’s glory and Kingdom.  But the people we come into contact with all day long are people with eternal souls that are headed to one of two destinations when we die or when Christ comes back again.  We need to be concerned about where they are going.  We need to be fighting for their souls in prayer, by living righteously to reflect Christ, and by telling them about the hope that we have in Him whenever they ask or provide us an opportunity.  (While still respecting their right to agree or disagree or to not want to hear about it.)
            After my eyes were opened to the spiritual battle and to other people and to how much prayer matters, it was sad to see how many opportunities for prayer I missed daily and how many people there are that I didn’t really think of as “people” -  people in need of prayer.  Instead of just thinking about the president, I could say a prayer for him and his family.  Instead of smirking at the celebrities who got themselves into trouble, I could pray that God would touch their lives and help them to find Him.  Instead of just feeling sad about a tragedy I heard on the news, or a trial someone is going through, or just watching an ambulance go by, I could pray for the people who need help. 
            Prayer matters.  We all need prayer!  The people we love and see often need prayer, and the people “out there” - outside of our little worlds - need prayer, too.  I am learning that I could be praying a lot more than I do.  If I have time to criticize someone or feel sad for them, I have time to pray.  If I’m waiting in line somewhere, I have an opportunity to pray.  If someone springs to my mind - a relative, a neighbor, a leader, a troubled person, or a celebrity - I could take a moment to pray for them. 
            Who knows which prayer will make a difference?  Our prayers matter to God, and they have an effect on the spirit world, on eternity, and on this world.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have to drop to my knees every time, but I try to remember to say a quick prayer as soon as something, someone, or some concern comes to my attention.     
            How different would we be living if we realized our incredible daily need for our spiritual armor?  If we lived like we really are a part of a battle every day?  If we really remembered that eternal souls hang in the balance?  If we lived with a constant awareness of the spirit world, an awareness of who is being glorified by what we are doing? 
            Those five months changed my life.  Of course, I do not do everything right, but it has really opened my eyes to what’s really going on in this world, what the battle is really about.  It’s about whether God is glorified or not.  Whether souls are being snatched from eternal death or not.  And how we live and if we pray and if we take the battle seriously really does matter.  Are you in the battle?  Or are you on the bench?