We’ve been talking about walking closer with God and some of the habits we need to develop, and the things we need to work on, and some of the resources we need in our lives to make that a reality.
But I’m afraid that the picture many of us have of that walk is me and God hiking off alone. Like the song: “My God and I go through the fields together…” And I don’t want to shoot down that picture of closeness and intimacy that God invites us to experience. But neither do I want us to have this isolated, self-sufficient, individualistic idea of our walk with God.
God didn’t create us or intend for us to walk alone. He put us in his church to share our lives and have companions on the journey.
There is an incredible camaraderie that exists between people who go through difficult circumstances together.
You see it in military situations where soldiers literally put their lives in each other’s hands.
You see it in ICU waiting rooms as families hope and pray and anguish together over life and death struggles.
You see it in the church… In the church? There’s no life and death struggle bringing people together. There’s no mortal combat forcing us to depend on each other. Or is there? If all you can see is with your eyes, you might not think so. If your reality is wrapped in the physical earthly existence that can be snuffed out with a bullet or ravaged with cancer, you might wonder.
But if you listen to Paul you might see it – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
James certainly sees the eternal implications – “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
If Peter gets a say, you might be convinced – “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
When you look at it from that perspective, you realize that we are in a war far more deadly, far more consequential, against far greater foes than any earthly battle. We may not see the bloodshed, the casualties aren’t lined up in a morgue, but Jesus himself helps us see just how significant the outcome of the battle is: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).
It is, in fact, a pretty startling realization that what we consider real danger – that is danger to our physical bodies and lives – is a mere shadow when compared to the real danger to our souls in eternal death. Chew on that for a while.
A battle is raging around us – Satan and Christ – in combat for our souls. And we walk blissfully along, unaware either of the battle being fought, or the consequences of it. And in our blissful ignorance, not only do we fail to be involved in the battle, but we unwittingly end up aiding and abetting the enemy in his attempt to throw us into hell.
And I’m going to try to convince you this morning that in your fight against Satan, one of your most effective weapons against Satan is each other. That just as the GI’s lean on each other, and the families of critically ill patients rally to each other’s sides, we have the same powerful ability to support and strengthen one another in our spiritual battles and on our spiritual walk with God.
Listen to the words of the writer to the Hebrews – “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Heb. 3:12-14)
He’s not minimizing the place of scripture or prayer, but when sin comes knocking on my door, I want someone who knows what’s going on in my life and will encourage me when I’m down and get in my face when I’m heading down the wrong path. “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” We’re in this together. You lean against me, and I’ll lean against you. We’ll keep each other from lying in the mud.
That’s what the church is about. Knowing there are brothers and sisters who love you too much to let Satan have his way with you without a fight.
Do you have Christian friends who know you that well and love you that much? Some of you will protest – “That’s just not my personality. I’m a very private person. I don’t want anyone knowing my personal life.” Let me be as frank as possible. If you don’t have someone in your life who knows you well enough to talk straight to you, Satan has a huge bull’s-eye painted on your back, and you are an easy target for him to tempt and to entangle in sin.
And what’s ironic is that you may be exactly the opposite – an extrovert, and everybody’s friend and never met a stranger, but your relationships are all frying pan shallow. And though everybody knows you, nobody knows you very well. You’ve never let anyone get close enough to see the real you. You are in just as much danger, because Satan knows how important your image is and how hard you will fight to keep anyone from seeing beneath the surface.
You’ve heard Solomon’s words on friendship before from Eccl. 4 – “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12)
When you listen to them from a spiritual perspective, they make a powerful statement about our need for spiritual companions.
· What if David had had a friend like Nathan at his side before that night with Bathsheba?
· What if Elijah had had an Elisha by his side the day after Mt. Carmel?
· On the day before Jesus’ arrest, what if one of the other disciples had said, “Judas, it looks like something really has you worried”?
You’ve probably said it, or had somebody say it to you – “I’m there for you,” or “You can count on me.” I love the picture it paints when someone says, “I’ve got your back.” In battle, two soldiers back to back, defending each other’s blind spots and weaknesses against attacking enemies – sometimes leaning against each other just so they don’t have to lay in the mud. Two people committed to each other – defending each other, protecting each other, providing for each other.
I need somebody to get my back. I’ve got too many blind spots – I’m vulnerable to attack on too many fronts to be a one-man army. And you are too. I don’t care how strong you are, how spiritual you are, how self-sufficient you think you are.
· There are battles in our lives we can’t win alone.
· There are sins in our lives we can’t overcome alone.
· There are storms we face that we can’t weather alone.
· There are joys in our lives we can’t celebrate alone.
God does this in the church. In Ephesians 4, Paul paints a picture of growing up in Christ. He describes the immature Christian as a cork bobbing alone on the ocean – “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” And as we mature in Christ, it is as we grow as a body, “joined and held together by every supporting ligament.” (Eph. 4:14,16)
God puts us in a family. And you’re not an only child. You’re surrounded by brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins and nieces and nephews – all of whom are committed to “getting your back.” When we talk about “growing in God’s family” we’re talking about learning to depend more and more on each other. Developing the kind of relationships that are deep enough and strong enough to lean on when things get rough.
It’s the kind of relationship Paul talks about in Galatians 6, when he counsels us: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1-2)
Let me make sure we know one thing for certain. When it comes to having someone watch your back, there is no one like Jesus. All the friends in the world won’t make a bit of difference if you don’t have Jesus. All of us together aren’t a match for Satan if Jesus isn’t our redeemer and our Lord.
When Peter tells us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” the only way Satan will take you seriously is if he looks at you and sees Jesus towering behind you like a bodyguard.
And that is the promise of scripture. Not that Jesus will watch from his throne in heaven, untouched and uninvolved, but that Jesus comes alongside, he sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within. He is my strength when I am weak, he is my refuge to which I flee, he is my rock and my fortress, he is my counselor and my high priest. Jesus is the mighty warrior, prince of peace and lion of Judah. When he speaks the demons tremble, and Satan is bound. Jesus is the one who promises he will be with me wherever I go, and through whatever I face. And I will not fear when he’s got my back.
Posted on Sun, April 3, 2016
by John Roberts