The crux of the Christian life is to realize that all true believers are caught up in an on-going war-plus-victory. It is the replay of cross-and-empty-tomb shadows falling across history, impinging upon every disciple's life.
Now that is not readily understood when one casually peers atop a country hill to spy a tidy church complete with picturesque steeple. Or when one meanders into the massive city cathedral. There it would appear as if the Christian life is nothing but peace and rest. Yet those scenarios are but environmental illusions. The truth of Christian mission is war-plus-victory.
Check out the life of Jesus Christ—Commander-in-Chief.
He is born in a barn. But war rages all about his tiny body. His mother and foster father are peasants seeking to lead a simple life. Yet war swirls about their young heads. In the meantime, untold numbers of infants are slaughtered by an envious ruler who is crazed with the notion that he could have a competitive king seeking an earthly throne.
Therefore, even as babe, Jesus was circled by threatenings. Yet at each turn, He was delivered into victory by heaven's mercy crowning His dedicated life.
When Jesus declared Himself as Messiah, He was immediately ushered into the dark environs to wrestle with Satan and wild beasts for forty days. In other words, it was boot camp for the Son in preparation for a daily onslaught to be confronted till His ascension. Combat had its special potency when Jesus turned thirty.
When Jesus began His public ministry, war was spinning about cousin John the Baptist's ministry. John sparked it by castigating Herod in warning him that the monarch should not be sleeping with a woman not his wife. For that truth-thrust, John lost his head. What an introduction to Jesus' own truth-telling ministry!
Therefore, when Jesus began His three-and-a-half year open Messianic mission, He proclaimed that "time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark l:l5).
Those were warring words. The time was fulfilled for Messianic battle to start big time. The kingdom of God was entering upon historic scene to combat the arch demons of hell. Therefore, souls were called to war against their own sins by repenting, thus defeating Satan's hold upon their destinies. Finally, to believe in the gospel was to declare personal decision for warring against the powers of darkness in the name of the Christ.
The victory part of the war-plus-victory was likewise locked into the "gospel" in that those who cast their lots for Good News were those who would reap the final tidings of eternal life — everlasting winning with Jesus as Lord and King.
Therefore, from the beginning, Jesus warred against demons by casting them out of actual human beings bound by satanic might. By seeing through such a dramatic ministry, Jesus pronounced an early Easter victory over hell's thrones.
Further, Jesus warred against illness. For instance, at the start of His public ministry, Jesus healed Peter's mother of a fever. In that, Jesus pronounced to hell's canyons that no illness could finally stump Him. He was victor over all, as He willed it.
And so the war-plus-victory continued day and night as Jesus traipsed throughout Israel.
Jesus forgave a man of his sins. That was considered blasphemy by the religious hypocrites. War!
Jesus ate with sinners and tax-gatherers. With that, the Jerusalem temple elite concluded Jesus to be scum-mingling. War!
Jesus performed a miracle on the holy day. That was breaking the law of God. War!
Jesus meandered back to His own hometown, expecting a fine reunion with friends and neighbors. Instead, He was treated as a man who had lost His senses. War!
On other turf, Jesus cast demons into waiting pigs that slid into a nearby pond. Swine owners did not conclude such to be something marvelous in that they — Jews who were to have been repulsed by pork! — were immediately absented their means of income. Out, Jesus! War!
Jesus preached with authority in the synagogues. That irked the ire of the envious religious leadership who concluded that the son of Mary, a Nazareth nobody, should not give forth with such certainty. War!
Jesus did not castigate His disciples for not washing their hands at every turn. That was abhorrent to the legalistic scribes and Pharisees. War!
Jesus spoke forthrightly to the play-actors by telling them they worshipped heaven with their lips but their lives were far from Abraham's Father. Imagine that! In other words, WAR!
Jesus' lessons were interrupted one day by Pharisees trying to test Him with questions about signs of the end times. Jesus refused to cast prophetic pearls before conniving pigs and therefore was plotted against for His obstinacy. War!
With that, Jesus realized it was time to warn His disciples that He would be killed. Also, He warned them that as He was hated, so they would be hated, too. In fact, He tried to get the message across to the twelve that they had been called to follow Messiah to fill up the holy phalanxes for gospel's sake.
So it was that one day Jesus was transfigured atop a mountain. Cupped into that delightful scene was the Father's directive: "Listen to my Son. Do what He says." In other words, disciples were to follow their Commander-in-Chief to the letter — for life was WAR!
Jesus even told His own that if a hand got into trouble, it was better to cut off a rebellious hand than to permit it to damn the soul by misconduct. What was Jesus preaching to the choir? He was telling them they had to remain daily vigilant over their own souls' purity. In other words, they were responsible for waging their own personal wars against personal sins.
Jesus then marched into Jerusalem's temple, turning over tables, sending doves flying to the rafters. Why? Because Father's house had been turned into a five-and-dime. That simply could not be. Therefore, Jesus took visual, on-site action. In other words, war!
And so it was that one did not need to be a prophet to predict that the henchmen would soon have His neck. "As He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and scribes and elders came to Him" to plot His murder. (Mark ll:27)
"They were seeking to seize Him. . .to kill Him." (Mark l2:l2; l4:l)
"They laid hands on Him, and seized Him." (Mark l4:46)
"They all condemned Him to be deserving of death." (Mark l4:64)
"They shouted, 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'" (Mark l5:l3)
"And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves. . ." (Mark l5:24)
That was WAR!
Yet "when the Sabbath was over. . .very early on the first day of the week. . .looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. . .and entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right. . .and he said to them, 'Do not be amazed. . .He is risen. He is not here. Behold, here is the place where they laid Him.'" (Mark l6:l-6)
With that war, there came the Easter victory.
So it is with every true believer. We live out a life on this planet of war-plus-victory. So if we remain true to the Commander-in-Chief, we will come upon the final victory when confronting the last enemy — death.
The war zone will then fold into the winning span of eternal love and peace. May it be so with you — with me. Amen.
- J. Grant Swank, Jr.