Being Ready For War
Text: Colossians 2: 1-10
Proposition: The church needs to always be aware that it is constantly in a state of war with a dangerous adversary and to know its refuge is in Christ alone.
Introduction: I would imagine that if you lived in Afghanistan, in a country that has 34 provinces, in Kabul, a city with just over 3 million people, that you would live like a civilian who is in a theatre of war. Every day you would get up and know that you needed to be alert, to be cautious because your enemy doesn’t wear a uniform. In the dust of the streets and roadways ambush has been planned and where you walk and how you walk matters. They live in a conflict and they need to recognize that reality even as they go to market, even as their children go to school or play in the streets. In the daily routines conflict is always nearby. What if your life were like that, what if being a Christian who is part of a church is like that? In the Art of War by Sun Tzu the danger lies when you think your enemy is either smaller than they really are or are farther away than they really are. Satan uses just such tactics and our sin nature is vulnerable to them. We are in a conflict, irrespective of whether we want to be or not. Consider Colossians 2.
I. All Conflict Is Always About Principality and Power.
Let’s start with the reason behind all conflict, whether it’s political, religious or interpersonal. Conflict is always about principality and power. Have a look at verses 9 and 10 for just a minute, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” This is like a summary conclusion of the first 8 verses, it’s where Paul hopes the reader will arrive at. He simply reminds these Christians that all of who God is resides in Jesus Christ and in that reality we are considered to be under His sovereign hand. When he says, “and you are complete in Him”, he refers to not only our needs and our future but also to the very state of our identity in Christ.
When you think about any conflict you may have ever experienced what comes to mind? Well it’s usually about who’s right and not only who’s right but also who has the greater strength to defend the fact that they are right. Whether it’s the conflict of a neighborhood bully which is all about power more than truth, or the conflict of Islamic ideology where millions of people are being manipulated, where lives are lost and the knowledge of the truth of Christ is obscured. It is a conflict about who’s right and who has the greater power to defend their being right. Conflict is all about principality and power. That word principality means ‘origin, first place or magistrate’. Who’s the boss, who’s the magistrate under which others take their cue, that’s the conflict center of principality. The ability to hold that position of first place, that’s the word ‘power’. The extent or depth of any conflict will always have these two elements in varying degree. So Paul reminds us that when it comes to conflict we are complete in Christ, He is the head of all ‘first place’, all principality and all the power that is needed to uphold that truth belongs to Him. That’s the conclusion, that’s where Paul wants us to arrive this morning. The reason that he even mentions this is because we are in a conflict, we are in a war and IED’s, the Improvised Explosive Devices of temptation, accusation and deception litter where we walk as Christians. So let’s go back to verse 1.
II. Since You Are In A War, Expect Conflict.
Look at Paul’s opening statement, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh…”. Two things catch my eye, I haven’t seen his face in the flesh so I’m thinking he’s talking to me. Secondly, these people are no different from you or I, what drew them into conflict will be similar in my life.
During the Second World War the Germans had a secret service army called the SS. Today you and I have a conflict with an equally deceptive and yet even more unseen and sinister enemy called the SSS, Sin, Satan and the System. The conflict you and I are engaged in is against Sin, the sin that so easily entangles us. It’s against the System, the world’s way of doing things that woos us into agreeing with it. It’s against Satan, a very real demonic being. Like all of the angelic order he is immortal and extremely powerful and knowledgeable. We are at war with all three at once. Sin rages in us inviting us to be in first place and enticing us with the power to maintain that. Satan sees us as sleeping soldiers of an opposing army, objects of destruction that are to be kept asleep until it is too late. The world System is manipulated and influenced by both Sin and Satan. We are included in that great conflict that Paul speaks of. Look at how Paul cautions these people because if we are no different than they, these IED’s are near to you and your children. He gives a brief list in verse 2, “ …that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ.” What Paul asks for is the positive result inferring the opposite may well be what they often experience. Consider what the opposite might be of ‘being encouraged’, ‘being knit together’, ‘attaining to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding’. It’s a 3D thing:
1. Discouragement - it’s the opposite of being encouraged. It’s what takes the heart out of any army, ministry or relationship. Discouragement is why people give up, it’s why it’s such an effective weapon in Satan’s hands. When a person’s heart is encouraged they withstand all kinds of struggle, defeat and fear. Knowing where the principality and power reside will impart courage, you will do what you hadn’t dared, you will endure with greater hope. Encouraged hearts are what people who are at war need. One last thing, note that Paul prays that their hearts be encouraged, not their emotions. That’s because your heart is where your trust resides, your heart is where your belief resides. It’s also where evil attacks, where wickedness in mankind begins, where a hardened heart becomes filled with pride. And yet from an encouraged heart comes life giving truth. Remember Jesus words in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.” Be an encourager!
2. Division - the opposite of that is ‘being knit together in love’. Sometimes surgeons describe broken bones that have been set as bones that are knitting together. Comfrey is a herb, sometimes called ‘knitbone’, it’s especially valuable in healing fractures because it helps strengthen ligaments and cartilage. In the Scripture your love for one another, that thing called, ‘preferring one another in love’ is our great comfrey, our knit bone. It patches over fractures before they snap. It’s built into the body of Christ that we call the church, it’s meant to be supplied by each one of us for the holding together and building up of the body in love. Consider Eph 4:13,15,16, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; but, speaking the truth in love, (that we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share…” The perfection that Christ has in mind is the church knit together.
3. Destitution – that’s the opposite of ‘attaining to all the riches of the full assurance of the understanding… both of the Father and Christ.” That lack of assurance whether it’s regarding your assurance of salvation, your worth or your ability in Christ is a vulnerability that your enemy will exploit. We know that the word ‘destitute’ means ‘to be absolutely broke, without home, help or hope’. There will be many times that your enemy will try to convince you that you are destitute. He will say that you’re poor in terms of any power that God would use through you. He will try to convince you that your relationship to God is like that of a beggar. When Paul says that Christ is the fullness of God and that you are complete in Him, there is no room for destitution in that. You are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power. You are in a war and the enemy of your soul will seek to make you believe that your weapons against him are weak if not useless. The Word, your faith, your church, the Spirit of God in all these makes you more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.
Since you are in a war, expect conflict, whether in discouragement, division or the lie of being spiritually destitute. Stand firm in the truth of who you are in Christ.
III. Some Further Marching Orders…
When people join the military or the RCMP one of the disciplines they practice for hours is the ability to march. The first rule of thumb when it comes to marching in a company of 100 is this, listen for the commands of the Sergeant not the grumblings of the guy with sore feet. Paul puts it like this, “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” Your Commander is Jesus Christ, keep your ear alert to His call. In verse 8 he warns about listening to the politically correct voices about us. Our warfare is not against people no matter their political leaning, their religious belief, the life situation or their ethnicity. Eph. 6:12 reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” To this add the reality that you are not alone, there are many with you in spirit, thinking of you and praying with and for you. There are people in India praying for Faith Community Church, people in Uganda, people Thailand, and even people in glory. Above these, much, much more so, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is with you, strategically praying for you. Romans 8:27 says, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
The church is to be steadfast, rooted in Christ, built up in Him, abounding with thanksgiving. That’s what our marching orders say, that’s the command from the our Sergeant at Arms, it’s how we walk together in Christ and remain ready for war.