By its very nature, Christianity requires a life of violence. Jesus told His followers, “Strive (Gk. agonizomai) to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24) This term is where we get the English word “agonize,” but it also reflects the battle involved. For instance, Jesus told Pilate, “If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting (agonizomai)…” (John 18:36) Using the root of this word (agon), Paul later wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12)
Those who say that Christianity is for wimps (“Christians need a crutch”) are clearly clueless about what is really involved. What could be more difficult than to resist every natural inclination… to learn to replace self-trust with dependency on an invisible Being… to constantly strive to put the needs of others before your own… to resist every temptation to exalt or defend oneself… to take great care to find and live the will of God? The truth is that any wimp or coward can live for their self, but it takes great courage to live for God.
1. Against Ourselves
One of the first discoveries of a new believer is the inner turmoil that comes with his newfound faith. Paul summed up “the war within” when he wrote, “For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.” (Galatians 5:17 AMP)
What a fierce battle the Christian must wage against his lower nature! It is a lifelong war that he has entered. He even discovers that his old thinking—which still haunts him—is actually the enemy of God. (Romans 8:7) Nearly everything he so passionately pursued in the past—through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—must now be renounced and forsaken.
2. Against Satan
Not only must he battle his old nature, he discovers that the minute he accepted Christ, he pitted himself against a murderous spiritual being. The very name Satan means adversary and he will do everything within his power to resist, overcome, persecute or lure away the saint. The devil and his demonic followers will stop at nothing in their malignant desire to resist the efforts of Christians and drag people to hell.
3. Against the World
Another early discovery of the new believer is that he now must swim upstream against the current of popular thinking. Oftentimes, even his family and friends rise up against him, thinking he has gone off the “deep end.” He has made himself an outcast of this world system, the subject of my book, Intoxicated with Babylon:
“Supplied with this new evidence, I did a thorough study of the word kosmos (world) in the Scripture, reminding myself that kosmos meant ‘an ordered existence apart from God.’ What became clear to me was that, although sometimes the word refers to everyone living on the planet earth, it is primarily used to describe the corporate consciousness of the people of this world who are in rebellion to God's authority. Kosmos is what binds together the unbelieving world. It is a global mentality that remains an unspoken, yet powerful force in the lives of mankind. It molds vastly different people groups into one entity which lives out its existence on earth under the domain of Satan, unified against God.”
No wonder John wrote, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. (But) whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 3:13; 5:4)
4. For Others
Unquestionably, the Christian life is one which must be fought through from beginning to end. But there is yet more. Not only must he battle “the world, the flesh and the devil,” he must also enter the life-and-death struggle for lost souls. Unconverted people are heading right into eternal damnation. The terrifying implications of the eternal fate of unbelievers are always on the mind of the true believer. This was undoubtedly what drove the apostle Paul to fight for the lost of his day. He told the Colossians, “And for this purpose also I labor, striving (agonizomai) according to His power, which mightily works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle (agon) I have on your behalf…” (Colossians 1:29-2:1) His final words to Timothy summed up his life: “I have fought (agonizomai) the good fight (agon), I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
The First Century person who made the decision to follow Christ clearly understood that his life would henceforth require one, long battle. He did not need to be taught this; it was simply an obvious fact of life. The Redeemer had been tortured to death. Other Christian leaders had already suffered martyrdom. It was clear that the rest of his life would be a journey of “toils, dangers, and snares.”
Life is much different for those of us who live in a nation that has been Christianized. The lack of outward persecution has created a much subtler battle: lethargy. The lines have become blurred in our country. The common myth is that good people go to heaven and bad people (i.e. Hitler, Manson, etc.) go to hell. Nearly everyone considers themselves to be Christian.
Nevertheless, Scripture clearly teaches that true Christianity always equates to battle. Yes, it is very true, “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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