Are you really on the Lord's side?

On Monday 5th June 1944, almost every soldier aboard the British Troop ship “Princess Ingrid”, gathered to take part in a Church service conducted by their padre. The next day was D-Day; hopefully the beginning of the liberation of Europe and every soldier was lost in their own thoughts. They knew that for some this would be their last day alive and of greater importance they knew that if the D-Day landings were unsuccessful, millions of innocent people would be left under the domination of Nazism for perhaps decades. The entire fate of Europe and the free world hung in the balance. They earnestly wanted the blessing and help of Almighty God. As a focal point the padre constructed a makeshift altar and placed a silver cross in the centre. Just as he was about to begin the service and plead for God’s help and blessing upon their task, something sinister happened which terrified them beyond words. In front of them all, at that moment, a gust of wind suddenly came up, struck the cloth on the altar and threw the cross to the deck with such force that the cross was broken in two. The padre and the troops were distraught at this omen and a naval telegrapher Ronald Seaborne, who witnessed it, stated that for the first time in his life he understood what the “fear of God” really meant.

Those who know their Bible will not be surprised by this strange and frightening event. Scripture warns that the human race is actually in the midst of a spiritual war which often manifests itself in a variety of physical ways. In Ephesians Ch 6 v 12 it explains that “We do not wrestle against mere flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places.” And in 1st John Ch5v19 it further adds that “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” Scripture clearly teaches that until the Second Coming of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ; this will neither be a peaceful nor a restful world because evil is trying to destroy that which is good.

Although this spiritual war often manifests itself in physical ways, the primary place of conflict is neither the battlefields of Europe past or present, nor in the Middle East. The sobering reality is that the primary place of conflict between good and evil actually takes place in our own hearts. Every time an individual has to decide between right and wrong they are involved in this conflict. Each time a person decides to be selfish or proud, jealous, envious, bitter or unforgiving; each time they neglect to obey the Ten Commandments, they side with the powers of darkness. On the other hand, each time an individual chooses to do that which is right, just and loving, they side with the Lord. In 1st John Ch 3 v7 it chillingly warns “Let no one deceive you. The person who practises righteousness is righteous…but he who sins is of the devil.” Is it any wonder the world is in such a mess? The greatest need for Mankind today is for the transformation of the human heart.

Scripture teaches that we should regularly take stock of our lives and ask ourselves where we personally stand in this spiritual conflict. Who are we really following? Who really has our heart? Are we part of the solution to the mess this world is in, or are we part of the problem? Have we been taken captive by the evils of selfishness and greed, indifference and spiritual neglect, or have we been set free from such vices by loyally following the Captain of our Salvation? If Christ were to return tomorrow would He say “well done good and faithful servant” or would He have to say “depart from Me for I never really knew you.”?

The Biblical test revealing which side a person is on is very simple. “Jesus said ‘You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and you are to love your neighbour as yourself’.” (Matthew Ch22vs37, 38). In God’s sight, those who have repented of their sins and are actively striving to obey Christ’s words is what distinguishes a Christian from a non Christian and is the deciding factor revealing which side of the conflict a person is on.

Scripture declares that it is simply not enough for an individual to believe in God and regard themselves as being a “good person” just because they haven’t “robbed a bank or murdered someone,” (a phrase I often hear). In stead what is required is active commitment to the Lord’s way, right down to the very deepest level of our being. In 1st Corinthians Ch6v20 St Paul reminds us; “we have been bought at a Price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit”. This “Price” was Jesus enduring the Cross on our behalf, for our sins. What has been done for us was most profound; it was “no small thing” and is deserving of nothing less than full and complete commitment and devotion.

In Luke Ch 14 vs15-24 Jesus told a parable about those who made excuses as to why they wouldn’t follow Him. It is sobering teaching which has relevance for our materialistic age. It is a reminder that in this conflict “a careless attitude costs souls”. He said “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many…but they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said ‘I have bought a piece of land; I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ Another said ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and I am going to try them. I ask that you have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have just got married so I cannot come.’ …When the servants reported these excuses to their Master, He became angry… and said ‘none of those people who were invited shall taste of My supper.’ ”

I am often staggered by the kind of excuses people give as to why they don’t fully and actively follow the Lord. “Oh I am too tied up with my job to have time for spiritual matters.” (But they find time to go to the gym). “Oh I haven’t time to read the Lord’s Book.” (But they find time to read their daily newspaper). “Oh I have lots of family commitments.” (But they find time to go out for morning coffee and socialise with their friends). The teaching of this parable comes to mind when I hear these things and I often wonder how they will react on that Day when they are confronted with the true reality of the Cross and all that was done for them. In 2nd Corinthians Ch9v15 it is called “an Indescribable Gift”. They are treating God’s Gift of Himself as though it were nothing, whereas in reality it is absolutely everything and beyond compare as the following touching story shows.

Many years ago a young Christian lady became terminally ill. As her illness progressed she drew great comfort from the promise in Isaiah Ch 53v5 which says “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” One day a friend commented “You are suffering a lot of pain at the moment.” “Yes” she answered “but” pointing to her hand, “there is no nail there. He had the nails; I have the peace”. Laying her hand on her brow, “there are no thorns here. He had the thorns but I have the peace”, and touching her side she added, “there is no spear there. He had the spear; I have the peace”.

Scripture teaches that a titanic spiritual battle is raging between good and evil for the hearts and souls of men and women. Salvation and deliverance has been won at the Cross, which demands and challenges individuals to decide which side of this conflict they are on. The Price paid was so great that there is no middle ground. There are no excuses. In Matthew Ch12v30 Jesus stated “he who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” If people are not actively in the Lord’s camp, then in God’s sight they are placing themselves in the camp of the enemy.

In 1st Peter Ch5vs8, 9 it warns “Be sober and vigilant because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him by being steadfast in the faith.” Some time ago a man who was giving a lecture about the Bible concluded his talk by affirming that he wasn’t afraid of the devil. A devout Christian in the audience responded by commenting, “That is hardly the point. The real question surely is this; ‘is the devil frightened of you and your faithfulness to the Saviour?’” What a challenging question! Are the powers of darkness frightened of our love and devotion to the Lord? Are they terrified by our gratitude to the Saviour, our prayer life and our faithfulness in reading the Word of God? Are they fearful of our loyal attendance at God’s House Sunday by Sunday whatever the weather? Can they see that we are firmly in the camp of the Redeemed? Or, on the other hand, do they see us as unmotivated, spiritually indifferent and full of excuses? Do they regard us as collaborators with evil and no threat at all to the darkness they are trying to bring upon the world?

In 2nd TimothyCh2vs3-4 it urges “You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…that you may please the One Who enlisted you as a soldier.” Let us regularly reaffirm our allegiance to the Saviour and firmly resolve to love and obey Him in all our ways. May we do this with heartfelt gratitude, so that whether He comes or calls, He will say “Well done good and faithful servant.”