Christians are described in many ways in the Bible. We are Believers in Jesus, Children of God, the Bride of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, Worshipers, Disciples, Students, Sheep, and even Slaves of God. Rev. Singleton chose today, Veteran's Day, to focus on our identity as Soldiers of Jesus Christ.
The text for the day was 2 Timothy 2:1-7. The verse she concentrated on was verse 3: "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." She pointed out that, just like soldiers in our country's military, we have specific duties, and a specific commanding officer. Of course, our leader is none other than Jesus Christ himself. But what are the things that he is expecting of his soldiers?
1. Every soldier in Jesus' army is a volunteer. There is no "Christian draft." Joshua 24:15 starts: "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve." We all have a choice that needs to be made. Are we all in, or all out? Revelation 3:16 warns about lukewarm Christians. Just like lukewarm coffee, if we are lukewarm, God will spit us out of his mouth. This is serious! Rev. Singleton put it like this: either be obedient, or walk away. Romans 6:6-7 tells us that our old, sinful natures are dead in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin. As soldiers of Jesus, we are called to obey him.
2. A soldier of Jesus Christ should always be in uniform, and equipped to fight. We are always to be in battle mode. Since our old natures are dead, we clothe ourselves with the new man. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! " What does this new man look like? He has the attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ himself: Righteousness, truth, love, forbearing, patience, and steadfastness. We are essentially to wear Jesus.
If we are wearing Jesus, if people know that we are Christians, we need to act like Jesus. Our protection depends on it. Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with part of his equipment missing? What if he forgot his helmet, boots, or gun? A soldier like that would be easily picked off by the enemy. And so will we. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul cautions us to not "give the devil a foothold." Those small sins, the ones that we think don't matter that much, are big enough for Satan to get a foothold in. And once he's in, he expands his hold on you. We need to be clothed in righteousness; equipped to fight. Ephesians 6:10-20 explains about the armor of God, and ends by asking for prayer for fellow believers. We are stronger together.
3. A soldier of Jesus Christ needs to always be at the appointed place, at the appointed time. God needs you to show up. It is so easy to get distracted. There are so many demands on our time and our energy. A soldier needs to be single-minded. Charles T. Studd's poem "Only One Life" ends every stanza with: "Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last." Don't let yourself wander away from your divine appointment!
4. A soldier needs to obey his commanding officer. What is Jesus' commandment for us? He gave us the command in John 13:34 to love one another. This command was echoed in many of the letters of the New Testament. This is sometimes hard to do, but it is the only thing that matters. 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the "love chapter." It is a great source to understand what it means to love others, and also how good deeds, when done without love, are of very little value. The good news is that after we really accept Jesus, this command becomes a whole lot easier!
5. A soldier is faithful even unto death. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says that we were "bought at a price." The price paid for us was Jesus Christ, himself. His death made a way for all of us to come to God. We were more important to him than his own life. Can we say the same? Are we willing to endure anything, rather than give up our savior? I know that as an American, I am not too used to suffering for my beliefs. I am privileged to be in a country where freedom of religion is still a protected right. It is hard to imagine a situation where I would have to die for Jesus. However, all around the world there are Christians who are forced to make this choice every day. If you go to the website of The Voice of the Martyrs, you will see stories of persecuted Christians. The question is, if you find it hard or inconvenient to live for him now, what will you do when things really get hard?
Today is Veteran's Day. We honor those who made a commitment to fight for our country. What will you commit to fight for? I'm not talking about waving a flag, or attending a church, or wearing a cross. This is a battle. It is a battle for your family; for your community; for everyone you care about. We watched the movie "War Room" last night. God works in mysterious ways, because the sermon today dovetailed right in with it. We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). We need spiritual weapons. Our war is fought through prayer. Know your enemy, and commit to fight.