The Never-Ending Battle

Perilous Times Primer #35

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage …” Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

It is crucial to note the contrast in this verse. We have an apparent paradox in the two phrases: “Christ has made us free,” and “stand fast … do not be entangled again.”

Jesus Christ won the ultimate battle for freedom when He conquered sin and Satan on the cross. The Greek word eleutheroo speaks of the liberation of a slave. When we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, we are forever liberated from both the source of sin (Satan) and its inevitable consequences—slavery and death. But while the eternal issues are resolved, the temporal battle to stand fast” in true spiritual liberty continues. Paul speaks of the act of liberation as a past event, but the command to “stand fast” is in the present tense, and the active voice places the responsibility on each and every believer.

In true satanic (adversarial) style, having lost the eternal battle for souls, the devil fights to ruin our current blessedness in this life. As long as we are in this life, we who believe will face either a ferocious daily struggle for freedom, or we will capitulate to spiritual slavery, thus bartering our inheritance for the “morsel” of temporary pleasure the devil offers to those willing to be chained by sin. By succumbing to “the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11), we not only forfeit the heroic role designed for us by God, but we also relinquish eternal rewards we could have won.

Christ Has Made Us Free

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free … Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:32, 36

Freedom carries with it great responsibility, for inherent in the ability to choose is the potential of opting for slavery with immediate gratification versus self-denial and the perpetual struggle required for a life of victory. For fallen mankind, already enslaved, the only real choice is to break the chains of bondage by coming to the truth. Ultimately, all truth will lead to The Truth—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Like Hansel and Gretel, all who follow the dim but unmistakable lights that shine in the darkness of this world will come to face the ultimate choice: “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” (Matt. 27:22). This confrontation is terrifying to the human soul. To claim Christ demands the rejection of all self-good—the admission of being worthy of eternal condemnation. It is the death of self. However, to turn away is to cling to the illusion of some scrap of “good” in us at the price of inevitable eternal judgment. The freedom that Christ alone brings cost Him everything and, in choosing it, we also must count everything in us as lost (Phil. 3:7–11).

Stand Fast Therefore

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth …” Ephesians 6:14

The eternal battle—won for us by our gracious Redeemer on the cross—becomes our victory by a simple, child-like act of faith, in a moment of time. At that moment, we take possession of the belt of truth, and the struggle for liberated living begins. Like Frodo (in Lord of the Rings) carrying the ring of power, we must at every moment master it or be mastered by it. That “ring of power” given to us is our liberated volition. Therefore, victory is certain only as we gird on the belt of truth, which is a daily decision. It is only by this daily girding of the mind with truth that we have the assurance of standing approved in the presence of our Lord at the judgment seat (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Pet. 1:13).

Great damage has been done throughout Church history by the teaching that our initial salvation from the lake of fire is all that matters. Because of this, many assume that having trusted in Christ, nothing else is required for liberated living. But only a dismal ignorance of God’s Word could result in such a conclusion. The two most often used figures of the spiritual life are those of the walk (journey) and the warfare. The believer is pictured as a pilgrim journeying through a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:11) and as a warrior on a field of battle (2 Tim. 2:3). Both symbols imply hardships, endurance, and active exertion toward a goal. Great reward is promised to those who, though not always victorious, never give up in the struggle (2 Tim. 2:11–13; 4:6–8). Paul’s command to “Stand fast” is a reminder that our very existence as members of the Body of Christ in the devil’s world will be contested at every step.

Do Not Be Entangled Again

“… For by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage … For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” 2 Peter 2:19–20

Peter makes it clear that it is possible to be liberated by faith in Christ and yet, in the end, become “again entangled” as “slaves of corruption.” This passage is one of the most hotly contested in all the Bible, primarily because of the multiple uses of the pronouns “they” and “them.” It is clear that the false teachers (vv. 18–19) are unsaved “false prophets … false teachers” of vv. 1–3, 10–19. However, the “they” who have “escaped … through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 20) are certainly believers, based on the use of the same phrase in 2 Peter 1:3–4, 2:18 and 20.

The “way of righteousness” which they have forsaken (2 Pet. 2:21) is the same as “the way of truth” mentioned in 2 Peter 2:2. This essentially refers to the doctrine of the spiritual life. The problem for many is how it is possible for believers that “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20b). The answer is that Peter is not talking about the eternal end, but rather the end of this life’s race. Since we all start the life of faith as winners (Rom. 8:37), it is both a tragedy and a travesty that so many are willing to end in defeat and dishonor. Consider the example of Lot, who began under Abraham’s tutelage and ended up in a cave—drunk and guilty of incest. Scripture is filled with similar examples of the dismal end of unfaithful believers.

Further, once we have believed and come under instruction in “the way of righteousness,” we become accountable for the truth that is taught. Every Bible class places upon us greater and greater accountability for what we have heard. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9) is Jesus’ way of saying, you are now accountable for implementing this truth in your life.

Since it is true that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48), and that God “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6), it inevitably follows that those who come to Christ and have little if any instruction will not be held to the standard of those who have had the benefit of much teaching. It is an affront to Jesus Christ for us to receive His liberating power, only to become enslaved again by the world. May it never be true of us that “the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2b).

Live Free!

We all have often heard the quote, “It is impossible to enslave a free people.” This is actually a mis-quote. It comes from a statement by Horace Greely, in which he actually said, “It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”

It would be well for each of us if we were to take the motto of the State of New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die,” and make it a spiritual reality in our life. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:15, “… for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.” If it is true that the believer’s boast is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:31), then we should strive to live in such a way as to not nullify that boast. Without doubt, we all fail in many ways (James 3:2), but our boasting in Christ is only enhanced when we rise up and press on to the mark (Phil. 3:14).

Today our nation faces the question whether we will be a nation of free men or of slaves. Dark and mighty forces are at work to destroy every principle of liberty for which our founders fought and died. Like it or not, you are a soldier in this battle. Your greatest contribution to enduring freedom for all succeeding generations is not political—for there is no political solution. Rather, it is in the victory of walking in the Spirit and by powerful and effective prayer, which “moves the hand that moves the world” (D.L. Moody).

May we all prove—in the highest spiritual sense—that our country is still “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Your fellow-soldier in Christ,

Gene



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