Are Christians Willing to Engage in This Fight?
Discussion Thought of the Day:
23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. 24 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26 That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27 I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27 (TEV)
22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:22-25 (NLT)
209 In your personal prayer, whenever you experience the weakness of the flesh you should repeat: Lord, give the Cross to this poor body of mine, which gets tired and rebellious! (1)
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. (2)
As I look at my social media feeds, it seems there many Christians are calling others to join in the battle against evil. Some are targeting the recent bathrooms issues; others are targeting abortion, or homosexuality. Others are waging other battles against divorce, or perceived injustices. Some want to take on the entire community of Islam, or at least the terrorists who are creating martyrs of our brothers and sisters.
There are cries in the church, as some want Equal rights for everyone in the church, or at least equal access to roles. Others want to purify the faith, returning to eras when they think everyone was pure and without sin. They base this on a form of worship, or the use of a translation, or some other thing, overlooking the sin and division of those days.
There are many, many pleas, people begging us to join the battle, and each battle promises some form of heaven on earth, should we be faithful and win. They promise utopia, if only our side can win, and the other be crushed in defeat.
But the war which is more critical, a true war for our souls. One which we so easily overlook, one which is simple in theory to win, yet so difficult to execute and realize the victory.
The war for my soul. The war for your soul.
This is a battle for holiness, one which has faded into the background, because these other battles are easier to gather people around, they are less insidious, and we can be the heroes that are lauded and praised. We can even find theological precepts, or create them, warning people about this horror called pietism, without extolling piety. We will call people to focus on God declaring people to be righteous while ignoring the sanctification that makes the declaration true.
The personal war in our own souls, the souls which the apostle Paul describes at war, that St Josemaria describes as tired and rebellious, the soul Luther describes as requiring the Holy Spirit to cleanse and make holy. For we don’t have the ability to do it, save in our surrendering to the Spirit’s work.
What generations of the church called mortification comes from letting the Spirit purge us of sin, of bringing healing to that which is broken, to cleanse those parts of our lives that are rotting spiritually.
Or do we imagine Paul was speaking hypothetically when he talks of being disqualified?
Mortification is not about whipping your body physically; it is by no means that easy. It is not about fasting to purify yourself, but it can help you to focus and prioritize. In advocating the mortification that the Spirit controls, I am not talking about some kind of self-abuse. Then again, we have to do something about the abuse that does crush us, our tendency to sin, even though we are Christ’s. The sin that leads us to dare confess our wretchedness, and be guided to healing and strength by the Spirit.
Mortification is allowing the Spirit to guide you to take up your cross and walk with Christ. The quote from Romans 7 is preceded by that very discussion in chapter 6. We are nailed to the cross with Christ, and it is back to that cross we must go to deal with sin and temptation. If we are to find the strength to withstand the temptation this time, and the grace for those times in the past and the future when we will fail and fall.
Mortification is confessing our sins, and receiving absolution, it is found in remembering the promises that were made sure in our baptism, that we are called to know, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ. As we kneel in prayer, as we adore the God, who calls us His. These spiritual blessings, these things we call disciplines, are the place where we are reminded that spiritual warfare is the victory that comes in walking with Christ.
It prepares us for the other battles, giving us the reminder about what those battles are. They aren’t the decisive battle between good and evil, but a rescue mission for the souls of the people we engage with, knowing that God desires that they too are declared righteous, and made holy by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead. Because we need to remember that, for it is our hope when we begin to stray.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 914-916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press
Posted on May 14, 2016, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, The Forge, The Small Catechism, Theology in Practice and tagged Abiding in Christ, Christian Soldiers, Holiness, Martin Luther, mortification, sanctification, Spiritual Warfare, St. Josemaria Escriva, Theology of the Cross. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.