THE WICKET GATE
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God." Ephesians 6. 13.
IF the previous pages have been taken seriously the new disciple will have to face the fact of conflict. God has proved Himself to be on our side by all the revelation we have known in Jesus Christ but we must not forget certain explicit facts to be found in the Scriptures. When we were the children of disobedience we were in the power of the Prince of the air the spirit now working in the children of disobedience. Our redemption has meant that whereas we were his blind slaves now we have become the sons of the living God. The foul prince to whom we have been subject will not lightly regard our departure from him. He has many devices and one or other will be used against us but let us be quite sure he will struggle hard to regain his mastery over us.
Hence it often happens that the young disciple is at first walking on air and rejoicing in the Lord until after the lapse of a little time the emotions cannot be keyed up to such a high pitch perpetually, and then Satan has his opportunity. If we carefully read the Word we shall be warned against him and in the power of the Spirit shall be able to resist him. Let us note some of the devices adopted.
First, before we were converted, the god of this world was blinding our minds. Those minds worked quite satisfactorily in examinations and the practical matters of every day, but there was a remarkable prejudice against anything to do with Jesus. Then by the grace of God our eyes were opened and we wondered how it was we did not see the beauty of Jesus before. How glad we were to be born again of the Spirit. We ought to have been more delighted than we were.
The powers of darkness will not, however leave us alone. If our feelings subside the mind will be thronged with suggestions that our decision for Christ was made in excitement and it was not, therefore, real. If we have in the least degree relied upon our feelings we may be overcome at the start. Of course, our answer is not in how we feel, but in what Christ has done for us.
Then the enemy will seek to entrap us in some sin from which we thought we had been delivered. In an unguarded moment, when we forget our resources in Christ, we may fall and immediately, blackmailer as he is, the enemy tells us that all our confidence is a sham, that if the Christians we know knew what we had done they would be ashamed of us. We may forget that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1. 9) and so we are tempted to give it all up.
Of course he is eager to bring us down in our daily contacts and will make us ashamed of the name of Jesus if he can. When one reads of what martyrs have suffered it is amazing that Christians find it very difficult to endure the jests of unbelievers, but so it is. Hence he makes us ashamed. We find ourselves hard put to it to refuse pools and sweepstakes, raffles and other things of the world. If we surrender, then every Sunday when we gather with the Lord's people, we know ourselves to be hypocrites and that may tempt us to renounce our Saviour.
Worse still we may see that other professing Christians are living this life of a saint on Sunday, and sinner on Monday, and we may conclude it is the normal experience for Christians. The devil, therefore, has us bound in his power and we are helpless because we do not step out in faith in our Lord, sure that the One within us is the Greater One. If, however, we survive these tests and persist in naming the Name of Jesus, stronger spirits from the realm of darkness will challenge us and the fight will be harder. One great and titanic conflict will be concerning bearing a witness to Jesus. The devil will not mind if we talk about the church, and the union of the churches and what the churches must do. He will, however bring the most awful pressure against us if we seek to testify to the love and power of Jesus and endeavour to encourage the faith of others.
Paul indeed told the Christians at Corinth that in order that life might come to them death worked in him! The result is that very few Christians ever bear a witness of the lip to Jesus personally, They will argue about religion, but they do not speak of Jesus as Lord and lovingly entreat others to accept Him as Saviour. Of course, a politician has no such qualms. It is only the man who wants to speak of Jesus that finds the power of the enemy so strong.
Then the enemy will be probing our minds and hearts to see what there is in us that we are holding back from the Lord. There may be a sin from which we find it hard to part. He will wait his opportunity. There may be something other than love in the heart and he will lay his plans accordingly. He will know just what circumstances to place around us to conduce to our downfall. No matter how long we live he will wait his opportunity. Indeed when once he concludes the weak point it may suit his purpose to encourage us to become prominent in Christian service, a deacon, or a minister, in order that when the blow falls upon us it will have far-reaching influences.
I once heard of a missionary (I did not know him) who stepped out for service on the mission field with a sin in his life over which he had not taken the victory. Everything went well, he was accepted and he sailed for the field, but when he got there the enemy fastened upon him, conditions were more conducive to his sin than before and finally, as a broken individual he had to return home. But what a splendid victory for the powers of darkness! There is but one way of victory and that is a complete renunciation in our hearts of everything that grieves the Lord and a definite use of the spiritual " armour " in Christ. The young believer should be wide awake to four common efforts of the powers of darkness.
1)Their effort to maintain our assurance in the state of our feelings,
2)their denial of the authority of the Scriptures,
3)blotting out from our recollection the truth of our Advocate in heaven and of the Greater One indwelling us and
4) finally breaking us down through some part of our life that is not really yielded to the Lord.
These same powers hold the unsaved man in their grip. The unsaved are helpless and are led captive by the devil at his will. He does not always bring them down to terrible sins as men call sin but he does two things. First he ravages their thought-life. A man or woman may value their good name too much to commit adultery but the films and newspapers and plays tell you that illicit sex issues are often in the thoughts of people. The devil is quite content with that. He knows he has them in his power.
Secondly, he continually assures people of how highly respectable they are and how good. He encourages them to a little benevolence and various things in order to bolster up their sense of selfrighteousness. All he is really concerned about is that they should not be delivered out of his hand through faith in Christ. Without Christ they are without hope and if actual public sins are very petty, what everybody does in fact, and they are reassured by attendance at some formal religious service, he is more than content.
He knows also how to urge you into sin quickly so do it now, "the opportunity is yours;" but when he finds us moving towards Christ, how impressively he reminds us that we ought not to take such a big step as that without careful reflection. He is hoping that as soon as we get away from the Lord's people we shall forget all that was beginning to grip our hearts. Of course, the powers of darkness not only deal with individuals but with crowds and nations. There is nothing in which they more delight than to plunge nations into war. Unsaved souls are hurled into eternity, restraints no longer have the same influence, which people have known and men and women are plunged into such circumstances as make sin easy and righteousness very hard. In every war evil increases its mastery over helpless masses, breaking them down economically, and causing unrest. Their attention is fastened on things political, material and the conscience is dulled. The powers of darkness are resolved never to let war disappear from the earth while they have the power. Not the Lord returns and the devil is cast into the abyss will there be a lull in the warlike operations of mankind.
Now all these matters to which I have so briefly referred are of the utmost importance, and the new disciple should let the warning sink right down into the heart. The Christian will fail unless he puts on the whole armour of God-not some of it, but all of it ! Now how should the new recruit take up this ghastly warfare ?
Let him never forget that he has a Great High Priest in the heavens Who has been tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. He is in Heaven to help us in every situation at every hour of the day or night. He has conquered Satan in the wilderness, He conquered him at the Cross, He went down into Hades and conquered him there and presently with His redeemed people He will bring Satan to his condign end according to the Scriptures. Satan fears Him! Blessed be God; Christ is on the side of every Christian.
Let him also remember that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. " Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." The one in the world is great, never let us despise his power but the One Who dwells within us is greater and we must never doubt that fact either.
The general position of the new disciple must be that having seen the fruit of sin in the death of the Holy One made sin for us, we can never again trifle with sin. If it meant death to One who loved us so, then sin commands our hatred. Once we know anything is sin we wish to have no more to do with it. That is the basic position which if we do not take it will mean that we are unsafe and uncertain in every temptation. Let the new convert wrestle out this matter before the Lord. It will be a fierce struggle but He who understands us will give us the increased faith to take hold of Him for this blessed and most far-reaching decision.
Once this decision is reached then power to deal with temptation will increase with exercise. When temptation comes let us take our eyes off the temptation and the tempter, and fix our faith upon our Lord in heaven, declaring that of ourselves we are as weak and helpless as ever we were, but we count upon Him. Then, because we are sons, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us-the Mightier One; and as we thus look up in faith to our Lord in heaven the Holy Spirit will work mightily within to give us the victory. Technically, if we did this every time, we should never sin again, but alas we so often fail to keep Him in view and then comes failure.
In our failure let us remember that however grievous the sin, it is a greater sin to be unwilling to confess it, to ask forgiveness and then again to take up the struggle. Our Lord is very gracious, He knows the feebleness of our frame and He will have mercy, encouraging us to fight again for victory. Victory will come, but victory will but place the next battle in some more strategic centre. Not until we get to heaven shall we be out of the enemy's reach. Every victory won will mean a fight on a subtler and more important line, but every such conflict will bring with it the mighty blessings of victory to those who overcome. Let us then press on.
In experience the young convert will be tempted to think that he can press on in the pilgrimage without really making a decision as to all sin. He will have real doubts as to whether much of his joy will not depart if he forsakes a certain sin. He will hope, in his particular case, that it will be possible for him to grow in grace and to advance as a Christian without definitely renouncing any particular sin. Furthermore he may find that in the desire at least to keep it, he has no faith for deliverance from it, and he will have a real sense of helplessness in the matter.
The answer to the problem is first one of warning. Any sin left in power in the life will grow more rapidly in the Christian than in the unbeliever, because the powers of darkness know how to act. It will also prove to be a door giving these powers entry into the region of the believer of which he is unconscious, but of which they may have knowledge, if not of its precise tendencies, certainly of its capacity. At any time, therefore, there may be a horrible spiritual tragedy in the life in which everybody will see the gravity of the sin except the one who has sinned!
There is but one way out. If we know anything to be sin and find it has a power over us, we must cry out to God making confession of the fact, pleading with the Lord that He will make us willing for its overthrow in our lives. If thus we hold on, no matter how often we are defeated, the victory will be ours. Faith will be given, and love for our Saviour will cast out the love of the sin, and we shall be delivered.
Let the new convert give this matter his most serious and prayerful thought and decision. The prince of this world will come and as he finds something in us, so he joins the battle. May we be found ready, turning every temptation into a spiritual triumph taking the victory over every appetite and lust and growing in spiritual stature as the Holy Spirit lives more and more in power within us.
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