The Battle

The ending to Lord of the Rings is magnificent.  All the orcs vanish forever as the earth falls out underneath them.  The nazgul are ripped apart and the dragons fall from the sky.

Oh, yeah.  Victory dance time.

In my life, I try to get that same rush of exhilaration as I try to cast evil out of my life forever.

But I don’t get that rush, not for long.  Because the evil keeps coming back with fight still left in it.  And coming back.  And coming back.  And coming back.  And coming back.

I can tell you the unmistakable pattern in my life is this:

Oh, that was an awful fight with sin.  But that was the last time I have to deal with that.  Look at me.  I battled it, I conquered it, I asked forgiveness for it–and now it’s no more.  That sin is all over.  I will never be tempted by that again; I’ll never go back through that valley again; that part of my walk is over.  Check that training off; I’ve climbed that mountain; I’ve crossed that river, I’ve hiked that trail.  No more.  Goodbye.  It’s over.  Yes.  Now peace.

That’s the first part.

Here’s the second part:

Now how did that come back again?  I said I conquered that already!  I defeated that sin!  I put a flag on that mountain!  I know I rowed through this very river and I’m sure that was the trail I went down yesterday.  What am I doing here again?  WHY ISN’T THERE ANY CLOSURE?

I feel abandoned by God.  I feel like a worse failure than before.  I hate myself, I’m mad, and I feel like God slighted me.  Where is my moment of orcs falling through crumbled earth?  Where is my chance to see the nazgul rip apart?  Where is my time in the spotlight, doing my super cool victory dance?  Where is the epic moment where I get to be the winner and all my sins know it?

I actually got to a point where I would watch the last scenes in Lord of the Rings with secret sighing.  I felt like God’s plan was so . . confounding.  Why couldn’t I deal the death blow to my problems–or at least one of my problems?  Why did Christianity seem so unglamorous compared to the final battles in blockbuster movies?

. . . . . . . Oh my.  Looking back, it’s hard for me to express how little I understood about anything.  It makes me wonder, in eight more years, how much more will I realize I didn’t get?  (Or eight days.)

This was more, though, than a problem of a greenhorn status in God’s kingdom.  This was a problem of inexperience with God.  I did not understand who God was, and so I didn’t understand what His kingdom was like.  Oh, I could talk in Christian-ese, but that sometimes no more than if I’d memorized programming jargon so I could sling it around to impress my friends.

Now that I have awakened to the nature of God, I would want to go back to my old self, grab me by the shoulders, and say, “Hey, this is what you don’t understand, for starters . . .”

1.  The focus of a believer’s victory is not Armageddon or spiritual warfare between a believer and the world.  The focus of a believer’s victory is the choice of Christ.

Satan always knows what to tempt us with.  He is not clueless.  He knows that nothing excites us so much as channeling our arrogance to get power and superiority.  Why else would Eve have ever accepted the forbidden fruit, treason against God?  She wanted power and superiority equal to God, and in her arrogance she thought she could get there.

The part in me that looks with longing at epic movies and thinks, “Oh, man, I want to be that guy that kills the evil king” or “I want to be that kid who flips the switch and saves the planet” or “I want to be that hobbit who throws the ring into the molten lava and saves Middle Earth from Mount Doom” . . . that is the arrogance in me that wants to usurp what Christ has already done.

This is a fatally serious offense.  It’s something like going into the Battle for Bunker Hill as a squid.

The squid is not going to win the Battle for Bunker Hill.  The squid can’t even pick up a sword or gun.  Can you imagine a squid being plopped down in front of an army of advancing soldiers?  What is going to happen?  Sushi, that’s what.

This is how stupid I am when I think I can do something to cinch the victory for God’s Kingdom.  ME?  I haven’t even lived a day of my life without sin.  I haven’t even lived an hour of my life without sin.  How in the world do I think I could fight the father of all evil himself, when I am still, in the flesh, drawn to evil and, if not saved by God’s Spirit, hypnotized by evil, trapped by evil, destroyed by evil, and damned by evil?


It is Christ’s choice to save me that is the focus of attention.  It is Him who has the victory.  I’m the one who’s rescued.  How abominably selfish, how utterly deluded, how horrifically arrogant for me to think that I should be saved by Christ from everlasting Hell and then I should be the one who gets the credit.

2.  My sin nature isn’t going to die until I die.

As much as I want to prematurely see the end to sin, it is only when my flesh dies that the sin nature in me dies.  This is a great mystery.  Paul talks about how we are saturated in evil from our sin nature, like a donut soaked in arsenic.  We might get by with looking okay on the outside, but we are poison to ourselves and others.  If God’s image were not stamped on us, we would have no good whatsoever.  But we are guilty of poisoning the image of God!  And it’s not just our body that is poisoned.  It’s our mind, and our soul, too.  We are totally saturated with destruction.

But when a person believes in Jesus, something radical happens.  The Holy Spirit fills the person’s soul and irradiates sin.  The sin nature that was rooted in our soul shrivels up and vanishes–poof.  Like orcs in bright sunlight, sin flees from God.

The soul of a believer is clean, a perfect sanctuary washed by God with His blood so that no trace of sin can ever be found.

The body–the flesh–is still haunted by a sin nature.  This isn’t just my skin and bones, but this is the essence of my existence on earth.  My carnality.  This life on earth, where I chose, along with Adam and Eve, to disobey God forever, is doomed.  Wrecked.  Forever ruined.  There is no way to live in Eden as me, as I am here.  This part of me is trashed.

It sure would seem convenient if, as soon a person believed in Christ, (s)he would instantly die and go to Heaven.  Convenient, maybe, but what would happen to the part where we live out our faith?  What would happen to faith?  What would happen to the part where we show the world that Jesus really has changed us, that we really can fight our sin nature and, through God’s power, win?  What would happen to all the other people who would have heard about Christ through that believer?

My mission here is to do battle.  I do battle with me.

Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission (1 Corinthians 9:24-27a, WEB)

I do battle with me and I do battle with

evil rulers

authorities of the unseen world

mighty  powers in the dark world

evil spirits in the heavenly places

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, NLT)

It isn’t the final battle; it isn’t the epic battle.  It’s the battle after the war is won–yes, the battle after the war is won–where I have the chance to show just how much I care about the hero who won the war.

When everyone realizes what Jesus did on the cross . . . . . there will be no drawn swords, no raised shields, no hidden weapons that can stand a chance.  When the very breath of Jesus is breathed on evil, that’ll be it.  Jesus is the Word who has told us what He has done for us; we are without excuse.  If we refuse to hear His words, then His very breath will in the snap of an instant break all arrogance.  Then everyone–everyone–will fall on their knees before Him and acknowledge that He is Lord.

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

It will be a scene that will make Lord of the Rings look podunk.

But . . here’s the kind of God we serve.  Rather than show Himself through war against us, He would rather show Himself through love for us.  We have the choice to fall on our faces before Him now, so that He will fight for us, not against us.  We can join the ranks of the Lord’s army, justified not by our heroism, but by His.  For God would rather shelter us in His peace than destroy us in His wrath.  But He leaves the choice to us.
The power of darkness comes in like a flood

The battle belongs to the Lord

He’s raised up a standard, the power of His blood

The battle belongs to the Lord

When your enemy presses in hard do not fear

The battle belongs to the Lord

Take courage my friend, your redemption is near

The battle belongs to the Lord

–“The Battle Belongs to the Lord” by Jamie Owens-Collins
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, ESV)

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