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apostasy courage

Giving Up Ground To the Enemy

Neal Pollard

On at least three fronts, there are major battles occurring—ISIS and the existing governments in a handful of Middle Eastern countries, Israel and the Palestinians, and Ukraine and Russian-led rebels. In each of these conflicts, both sides are trying to gain ground or at least hold onto what they already have. They are trying not only to win the actual battles they are fighting, but they also seek to win the battle of public opinion.  With the money and lives invested, neither side in any of the conflicts can bear the thought of losing.

While “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12) and “we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3), we face a deadly adversary (1 Pet. 5:8).  He is the enemy, though he has a great many who have “been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:26). They are fighting his battles for him of their own free will (Js. 1:13-15), and they are more than willing to engage those of us who would steadfastly resist him (1 Pet. 5:9).

In this media age, the devil’s soldiers have used means previous generations did not have at their disposal to spread his ideas across the nation and all over the globe.  But because there have been people willing to battle him, he has not gained ground all at once. The moral erosion has happened slowly over time, attitudes about foul language, alcohol, modesty, sex outside of marriage and living together, adultery, homosexuality, and much more.  Doctrinal erosion also occurs subtly and gradually, but denominationalism has given way to modernism, post-modernism, and emergent theologies.  The Lord’s church is impacted by assaults on its distinctiveness, and elderships, pulpits, classrooms, and memberships can gradually lose their militancy, courage, and resolve to stand up for God’s revealed will.  It is easy to be cowered by charges of extremism, hatred, or sanctimoniousness, especially when there are examples of such to be found.

Yet, we cannot forget that we are in a battle.  God needs us to stand in the gap and continue fighting for His truth, even in the face of opposition and resistance.  Paul reminds us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4). The weapons in our left and right hands is righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7).  We press on in spiritual armor (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 6:11ff).  When each of us as soldiers in the Lord’s Army arrive at the time when we must lay down our armor, may it be said that we gained ground and served the Lord’s cause successfully. May it never be that we gave up ground to the enemy!

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Daily Bread

The Man Attached To That Hand

Neal Pollard

Something occurred to me that I never stopped to consider as I read about Jesus’ mistreatment in John 18.  An officer for the Sanhedrin, forever anonymous, is memorialized with only these words: “One of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand…” (22).  Was it sheer irreverence?  Was it misguided religious fervor?  Was it hotheaded impetuosity? No matter how one might rationalize it, this man slapped the Savior!  While Roman soldiers struck Him with their hands, no less an offense to Almighty God, the man in John 18 was presumably a religious man.  He expressed indignation on behalf of the High Priest, though Jesus said nothing at all offensive to Him.

What a terrible and difficult thing it is to read and consider, with an open heart, the physical pain and mistreatment Jesus suffered en route to the cross.  But how much worse would it be to be able to understand that you had a hand in it.  Several have conjectured that some of those who heard Peter preached on Pentecost may well have lent their voice to the fracas, clamoring and yelling for Jesus’ crucifixion.  What a burden of guilt to bear!  But, to be the man who slapped his own Creator in apparent contempt?  What a stigma to own!

While it would be impossible for you and me to be a part of that specific physical brutality, it is possible, as the writer of Hebrews later states, to crucify Jesus again and put Him to an open shame (6:6).  To know that my conduct, speech, attitudes, and interactions in this world might not only bring shame but outright assault on my Lord humbles and challenges me.  At the very least, it ought to make us careful about what choices we make, habits we form, entities we support, and causes we champion.  How helpful it would be if I take the time to examine my circumstances of the moment and ask, “Is this a slap in the face of my Savior?” If I know it is, I will flee it.  If I am not sure, I will think long and hard before I do it!  I don’t want to be co-immortalized with that unnamed officer!  I want those who see me to say that I am carefully, lovingly handling Christ!