To War, to Christ, to Glory

What assassin better cloaks himself than Satan? He is a rumor whispered, a rustling of the bush, a cutthroat who leaves no witnesses. Everywhere he devastates, yet, seldom perceived, he attacks by submarine. Out of sight, out of mind, he burrows to the roots; we only see the forest dying.

In the West, a shy assassin, he conceals himself within a joke — a horned Halloweener dressed in red, brandishing a plastic pitchfork. He chuckles along with freethinking societies, nodding that his existence is but a ploy to maintain religious power or a fairy tale to parent naughty children. As Master of the air, this Pied Piper plays his music, his hiss, full of sweetness and song, suggesting softly of fruit able to make one wise.

Scripture unearths and names him. Slanderer. Accuser. Adversary. Tempter. Deceiver. Evil One. Prince of Demons. Great Dragon. His arrows, venomed, sink to the heart. His chariot wheels, when meant to be heard, quake the brave. His crimson fingers colored a third of heaven’s host. Great was their war; great is their war. Their skirmish toppled heaven; the serpent spoke on earth.

If the lights turned on, if we could see with physical eyes the god of this world and his troops arrayed about us, fetal would be man’s position. Staring at the beautiful face, hearing the capturing voice, would we be tempted to worship? Would most kneel, trembling, or try to crown him king? Though he remains absent from news channels, dire is our station; extreme, our contest; savage, our enemy.

“Stand upright, men of God; grip the hilt firmly. Your God is with you.”

Yet forward, Christ calls us; to a bloody victory we march. Onward, to a clash forbidding cliché. Advancing, for as Bunyan reminds us, we have no armor for our backs. But what can stir our blood and steel our mettle before such a terror? As great generals of the earth ride up and down the battlefront to rouse great deeds, men of God reached for words.

A Summons

Overhear Paul’s call to battle as he writes Christ’s troops in Ephesus. To begin, he does not undersell their foe. They cannot meet the like on earth.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces, bodiless battalions. Not against a race of slaves or inferior beings, but against rulers and authorities and cosmic powers. Not against fortresses of stone, but against towers in the heavenlies. We are not outmanned but outspecied. Do trees array for battle against the forest fire? Do sheep march on a pack of wolves? Does wheat charge the sifter? Does flesh dare ascend the hill to demonic spirits? If words hold heat to waken courage, what words can help us keep rank against such terror?

To War

As if he can see the uncertainty in our eyes, the apostle cries, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Mount no steed of your own strength. Paul rides to the front lines as the Levites did the Israelite armies of old: “Let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory” (Deuteronomy 20:3–4). Stand! Stand! Stand! in the Lord (Ephesians 6:11, 13–14).

Stand upright, men of God; grip the hilt firmly. Your God is with you. Let not unbelief unhorse you now. As the fiends drum and hell hollers, one is with you higher than they, who greets their joint armies with a laugh. Stand firm. Withstand in this evil day. Take not one step back.

He goes forth with his people and clads us in his own armor. David required no great armor of the king, but we need the armor of the greater King David. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Charge not forth in the chain mail of pride. You face battering rams beyond your defenses, strategies beyond your devising, weapons beyond your shielding. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

Spare not one piece: “Put on the whole armor of God.” Fasten on the belt of truth. Clasp the breastplate of righteousness. Shod your feet with the gospel of peace and its readiness. Forget the shield of faith to your own peril. Step not within bow range without your helmet. Go nowhere without his word, God’s two-edged sword. Pray for yourself; pray for each other. Watch over yourself; watch over others. Have each other’s back, left, and right. To war we ride.

To Christ

We dress not only in God’s armor, but go forth with God’s own Son, our own brother in the flesh. “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep,” Alexander the Great once remarked. “I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Oh, the enemy has much to fear. Though we be regarded as sheep and are killed all the day long, what lion stands among us, before us, beside us. Weep no more, you troubled saint; the Lion of Judah has conquered. Though the giant barks loudly, we have one Man of War among us who does not need all five smooth stones. Though we still must fight if we would reign, he returns with the head of our foe.

“War has never seen the like before: conquest through crucifixion, dominion through death.”

What Brother is better born for the day of adversity than he who was born to bear our adversity? Having refused Saul’s armor, the greater David did not refuse Saul’s flesh. Born in the form of a slave, the eternal Son did not unsheathe weapons of divinity to win the war. See him stand fast, as man, for men. Tempted in the wilderness as man. Mocked, bleeding, dying as man. He wore the peasant’s weakness over his robes of eternity that he might win our salvation through the gory affair.

And how he conquered. He took on flesh to have it torn, a body to have it broken, blood to have it spilled upon the altar — for us. War has never seen the like before: conquest through crucifixion, dominion through death. Men twisted thorns, but crowned him; he hung under the name of “King.” Alexander’s Lion is also the Lamb, slaughtered, risen, reigning.

Will we not say, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16)? What safer place exists than on mission with Jesus? Demons fall distraught before him: “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29). He holds the keys to Death and Hades. A sword protrudes from his mouth — one little word shall fell the ancient foe, as Luther put. An iron scepter is in his hands. On his blood-dipped robe he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. His eyes flame with fire. On his head rest many crowns. The armies of heaven follow behind on white horses (Revelation 1:12–16; 19:11–16).

He is our brother, our Savior, our friend. No safer place in all the world than beside him in his conflict. “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13–14).

To Glory

Do not fail to look to the time beyond. Feed your warring spirit thoughts of coming peace. The end has been proclaimed from the beginning. Soon and very soon it shall be asked, Where now are his foes? Where now the boasts of men? Where now those mighty authorities and cosmic powers? Sunk to the bottom of the sea like a stone.

Mighty ones of the earth, show yourselves! Nations gathered against his Anointed, come forth! Shattered they soon shall lie, dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Soon it will be asked, Where now is your taunt, you who refused to kiss the Son? Soon it will be commanded, “As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27).

So come, my brothers and sisters, heirs of the kingdom, sons of Abraham by faith, mighty men of heaven, precious daughters of the King — while as yet despised of earth and beleaguered. Come, citizens of the unseen world, rulers of the age to come, judges of angels. Rise up, you men of the cross, sisters of the crown, soldiers of Christ endowed with his very Spirit. Come and speak. Come and die. Come and serve. Come and overcome. Come and stand firm. Crawl not after the same grass that entertains the cattle of the earth. Rise up! Partake of the heavenly bread, the heavenly conflict, the heavenly reward.

Do not mind you are outnumbered: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Pay no heed to man, in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? Do you suffer? Think it not strange or worth mentioning compared to the glory that is to be revealed. Grumble not about those scars — very soon, they shall shine in heaven as your crest of glory. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” march on. Make good your fealty of faith. For glory. For honor. For immortality. For the King, with the King, in the King’s power. Onward against the foe, brothers and sisters: to war, to Christ, to glory.