“For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13
You don’t owe the flesh anything. You owe the Spirit of God everything. If you try to survive as a Christian in any other way than “by the Spirit,” you will not survive. You will die. The threat we face every day is real and the demand to fight is all-important.
Until you believe that life is war — that the stakes are your soul — you will probably just play at Christianity with no blood-earnestness and no vigilance and no passion and no wartime mindset. If that is where you are as you read this your position is very precarious. The enemy has lulled you into sleep or into a peacetime mentality, as if nothing serious is at stake. And God, in his mercy, has you reading this at an appointed to wake you up, and put you on a wartime footing.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
Do you want to enter the kingdom of heaven? Take it violently! But violence against whom — or against what? Listen to Jesus’ answer: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8). Do you want to enter life? Take it violently. Cut off your hand or your foot if you must to keep from stumbling.
It’s a picture of the most radical kind of assault on our own sin. Not the sins of others — our sins.
Do you want to enter into life? Do you want to live? Get violent. Get a wartime mindset. Stop making peace with ears and eyes and tongues and hands and feet that betray you like Judas, and go over to the side of the enemy and become instruments of sin and make war on your soul. Put to death the deeds of your body.
Picture your flesh—that old ego with the craving for power and reputation and self-reliance—picture it as a dragon living in some cave of your soul. One day you hear the gospel, and Jesus Christ comes to you and says, “I will make you mine and take possession of the cave and slay the dragon. Will you yield to my love? It will mean a whole new way of thinking and feeling and acting.” You say: “But that dragon is me. I will die.” Jesus says, “But you will rise to a new life, for I will make my mind and my will and my heart your own.” You say, “What must I do?”
He answers, “Trust me and do as I say. As long as you trust me, we cannot lose.” Overcome by the beauty and power of Christ you bow and swear eternal loyalty and trust.
And as you rise, he puts a great sword in your hand and says, “Follow me.” He leads you to the mouth of the cave and says, “Go in, slay the dragon.” But you look at him bewildered, “I cannot. Not without you.” He smiles. “Well said. You learn quickly.”
Gazing into your eyes Jesus says, “Never forget: my commands for you to do something are never commands to do it alone.”
Then you enter the cave together. A horrible battle follows and you feel Christ’s hand on yours. At last the dragon lies limp. You ask, “Is it dead?” His answer is this: “I have come to give you new life. This you received when you yielded to my love and swore faith and loyalty to me. And now with my sword and my hand you have felled the dragon of the flesh. It is a mortal wound. It will die. That is certain. But it has not yet bled to death, and it may yet revive with violent convulsions and do much harm.
So you must treat it as dead and seal the cave as a tomb. The Lord of darkness may cause earthquakes in your soul to shake the stones loose, but you build them up again. And have this confidence: with my sword and my hand on yours this dragon’s doom is sure, he is finished, and your new life is secure.”
Listen up! Tremble at the prospect of distrusting God.
Listen to the way Isaiah puts it. I remember when I first saw this twenty years ago or so. I was so blown away by the paradox of this. I’ve discovered this is right, and you who have walked with the Lord long enough, you know this is right. This is Isaiah talking to the people of God.
Isn’t that great? Be in dread of displeasing and distrusting God, and he will become a sanctuary.
When my son Chris Edwards was six, we went to visit a friend who had a giant German shepherd. Chris opened the door, met the dog eye to eye, and was mortified. Our friend said, “Not a problem. Just relax. He’s okay.” We sent Chris to the car to get something that we had forgotten, and he went running to the car. And the dog comes loping with a low rumble behind him, and he gets afraid of him. And my friend hollers from the door, “Oh, Chris, you better not run away from him. He doesn’t like it when people run away from him. Just walk. Put your arm around his neck.”
God does not like it when people run away from him. He lopes after them with deep rumbling sounds. The best way to make a sanctuary out of God is to turn around and be afraid of running away from him and grab him around the neck and love him and just trust Him.
Walk in Trust
Pastor Rick Edwards