Friday, April 20, 2007

The Verge of Battle

"Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies"
Deuteronomy 20:3

O my soul. Listen to this proclamation of the priest to the people as they prepared to engage their enemies. Such is the nature of the Christian life, that this slogan should, in a sense, meet us every morning. Sin is the great enemy of our soul. And surely there is sufficient sin in the heart of every saint to warrant this weighty warning as oft I wake from sleep. When once the alarm awakens, behold, I am on the brink of battle! Sleepless soldiers of sin are armed to attack, ready to rush, waiting for war.

This text today reminds me to be ready. But it also provides an armory of advice, a storehouse of suggestions, a repository of recommendations for this holy war.

First, learn to choose thy weapons well. Not every hole will sink a ship, nor every tool sink the nail. There are those which are not fit to fight. Hence we read "What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house...." Not every citizen is a soldier. The Christian must make wise employment of the means afforded him for the slaying of sin. The disciples thought that any word would do, then found they were to weak. Jesus showed them a more suitable sword when He said "Such come out only by prayer and fasting". Know your enemy O my soul! You may pluck up a flower with thy finger, but those might cedars of sin will require the Axe of the Almighty, the Sword of the Spirit. Put on the whole armor of God!

Second, be wise thy method of slaying sin. Some sins die by starvation, others by an active assault. There are transgressions and temptations, which, though they cannot be entirely eliminated, must be rendered utterly ineffective. "Placed under tribute" [20:11] if you will. When Christ recommended the "plucking of the eye" He had this in mind. There are temptations which must be utterly avoided, but there are others which are so woven into the fabric of our flesh, that they can only be "resisted". I say this to the comfort of those who wonder that they still find so many of sin's soldiers stationed within them. The Lord may be pleased to let them remain, in order to humble me and set me more upon prayer and upon crying to Christ. But although they continue, they may not control or command. Nevertheless, I must mostly be determined toward the death of sin. "But you shall utterly destroy them" [20:17].

Finally, don't pluck up the grace of God while weeding out thy wickedness. "You shall not destroy its trees..." [20:19]. Think not that you shall enjoy greater success by ignoring or avoiding God's means of grace. Maintain every habit of holiness even on the battlefield. Neglect not the company of the saints. Hear the Word preached, read well, pray without ceasing.

O my soul, hear thy Captain's cry to your soul "Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies!"

Soli Deo Gloria

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