Sunday, November 16, 2014

Analysis of Christianity Part 5 - "Onward, Christian Soldiers"

It has been more than two years (!) since I last wrote an installment.  I think it’s time to pick this series up once again…

“Onward, Christian Soldiers” was one of my fondest hymns when I was a kid.  The analogy of a Christian as a soldier excited me.  However, I never really understood what it really signifies.   It merely appealed to me in a romantic sense then.    

Nonetheless, the message of the hymn is a truth: We Christians are soldiers, and we are at war.  The Bible has several times made allusions of Christian life to being soldiers in a war (the most famous one is probably when Paul urged the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God… to stand firm”).

* * *
It is a dangerous misconception to think that once someone becomes a Christian, he or she would be free from problems and turmoil.    In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The world is likely to be hostile to someone who doesn’t conform to its philosophies.  A Christian’s life is a constant war zone. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Surrendering one’s life to Jesus will surely bring peace.  But that kind of peace isn’t due to being exempted from life’s hardships.  A Gospel who teaches that believing in Jesus would make all financial, relationship, and health troubles disappear is a false Gospel. 

The peace that a Christian possesses in his or her heart is not due to whatever the condition around him or her is.  A Christian has peace regardless of the bad things happening to him or her because his or her peace is grounded in God – a God whom he or she knows is in control no matter what, who only mean the best for His children. 

Besides, what better “peace” is out there than the knowledge that you are saved from the terrifying fate of the pouring out of the wrath that God has reserved for sinners.  A Christian enjoys the best peace there is, even though he or she is in a battle-filled life. 

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So what is this war all about? 

I can think of three main “fronts” that we Christian soldiers are fighting in.  The first “front” is our internal, moral and spiritual struggles wherein we have to discern and do the right thing, and avoid sin.  The second “front” is evangelism, or the sharing of the Gospel.  And the third “front” is fighting for our faith and the truth; to demolish the shallow, erroneous philosophies of the world as well as the harmful false doctrines that can arise from our own ranks.  

I will have a more elaborate discussion of these three “fronts” in three separate installments in some future time.  For now, just let me state that these three “fronts” are, in a way, actually interconnected with and affects each other – belonging to the same “theater” in the war, if you will.      

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Actually, this war is sort of paradoxical since the war is actually won already.  Regardless of the battles we have fought, won, and lost in our lifetimes, the victory is already assured by Jesus when he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  It only happens that the victory party is yet to come, which would be on Jesus’ Second Coming. 

The battles that we have in our lifetimes, even though victory is guaranteed, are nonetheless important.  It is part of the Christian sanctification process.  To test our faith, like Job – akin to gold being purified with fire (1 Peter 1:7).  And through these battles, we can please God when we show tenacity, grit, focus, and faithfulness for his honor (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

Furthermore, think of these battles as opportunities for us to earn medals, which will be awarded to us in the Second Coming.  Picture Jesus pinning these medals on us as he deliver these words of commendation: “Well done, good and faithful soldier!”               

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The Devil – master deceiver that he is – tricks us Christians into believing that we are living in “peace time”, which prompts us to become passive, smug, and lazy.  Then when the Devil goes on an offensive, we are caught off-guard and hardly put up a fight – easily succumbing to discouragement and/or sin.      

Therefore, it is important that we be ready for battle always.  To be like the Minutemen of the American Revolutionary War, ready for combat at a minute’s notice.  Hence, like soldiers, we need to prepare and toughen up.  We should embrace willingly whatever training God will put us into.  We should always put on the “full armor of God”, as what the Apostle Paul coined it (Ephesians 6:13-17), with no complains of its weight.  And, most importantly, we should always heed the battle instructions from our Commander – who has already given us victory and is worthy of our absolute obedience – which we can receive by regular Bible meditation and prayer. 
(Prayer is pretty invaluable in a Christian’s battles.  While we are in the trenches and foxholes, and the Enemy is pounding us with a battery of temptations, deceptions, difficulties, and doubts, prayer serves as our radio to the Command Center.  Through it, we receive intelligence and encouragement.  And also through it, we can ask for air support.  So, prayer shall be the topic of the next installment: “Part 6 – Livin’ on Prayer”)       

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