Fight the Good Fight
Esther
24 May 2018
As bad as war is, it is far worse to be cast into a war unprepared. When the German army attacked France at the beginning of the Second World War, the French had significantly better equipment, a larger army, better-trained troops, and the motivating factor of defending their homeland, yet they collapsed within weeks and Hitler danced in Paris. What happened? The French were psychologically unprepared for war. They had been trained to fear war and when it broke out their troops simply ran from it with enormously damaging effects. A war may be won or lost in the heads and hearts of the people fighting it. Perhaps it is true, after all, that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," as Franklin D. Roosevelt intoned.
 
This is also true of our Christian life. It is a war. From the moment we come into the kingdom of Christ through baptism, Satan, the world, and our sinful nature are constantly attacking us, making war upon our best self, recreated after Christ. This new man will never be free from the onslaughts of the old Adam within us, until the day God declares hostilities at an end. When will that be? Death. When God stops the war raging in our hearts He will do it with the very wages of sin: death (Rm 6:23). Ironically, our greatest enemy is the one within, the death we carry within us until God calls cease. That traitor, old Adam, is seeking to overturn Christ's kingdom subverting it from within. He will never cease to wage war in our hearts until God is the ultimate victor. That means that we need to be about the struggle every day and every hour.
 
What are the weapons of that war? Old Adam's are familiar: shame, doubt, vice, weakness, unbelief, and unbridled desire. What are Christ's weapons in this war? Less familiar they are, because they are instruments of peace not weapons of conflict. He comes with the power of mercy and forgiveness for harried and troubled sinners. Jesus seeks sinners granting remission of sins through His blood. He declines to treat with the self-righteous. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:12-13). In the divine irony only those who are sinners need Christ and only sinners may be saved. This is one of the difficulties of Christianity. The insight encapsulated by Jesus and found in many places in the Bible is counter-intuitive. We presume that good people go to heaven. That presumption is just presumption and plain wrong, besides. Only sinners forgiven have heaven opened to them by the strong Lord, Christ, God's eternal Son. Into our hands He gives over the weapons of peace, a peace that surpasses human understanding (Phil 4:7), because they are counter-intuitive. No human mind could have foreseen God's gracious solution to our sin and weakness (1Co 2:9-10).
 
The Holy Spirit comes with what Jesus has conferred on Him and gives it over into our hands; freely, abundantly giving what we could never earn. The weapons of peace are conferred by the quiet gospel means of preaching, baptism, and the Lord's supper. Only in these things will we find the power to fight the good fight. But if we have them, we will have all the power needed to keep up the battle until death frees us, and Christ's life is fully experienced in us. This is the good fight.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Formula of Concord
"When a person has been converted, and is thus enlightened, and his will is renewed, then a person wants to do what is good (so far as he is regenerate or a new man). Then that person will 'delight in the law of God, in [his] inner being' (Rm 7:22) and from that time forward does good to such an extent and as long as he is moved by God's Spirit, as Paul says in Rm 8:14, 'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.' This moving by the Holy Spirit is not a coercion. The converted person does good spontaneously, as David says in Ps 110:3, 'Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.' Nevertheless, the conflict between the flesh and spirit remains in the regenerate. St. Paul wrote about this in Rm 7:21-23: 'So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.' 'So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin' (Rm 7:25). 'For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do' (Gal 5:17).
 
"From this evidence the following is certain: as soon as the Holy Spirit has begun His work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and holy Sacraments, we can and should cooperate through His power, although still in great weakness. This cooperation does not come from our fleshly natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts that the Holy Spirit has begun in us in conversion. St. Paul clearly and eagerly encourages that 'working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain' (2Co 6:1). But this is to be understood in no other way than the following: the converted person does good to such an extent and as long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him. As soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from that person, he could not for a moment keep obeying God."

Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, 2.63-66
Romans 7:18-25

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You have invited sinners like me to come to You for rest. Grant that I might treasure the instruments of peace You have given to me through Your Holy Spirit. Bless my pastor that His voice would be Your voice in keeping with Your Word. Amen.
 
For Richard Gaub, who is undergoing therapy for a heart attack, that the Lord would grant to him a full and complete recovery according to His gracious will 
 
For Lutheran schools and all educators, that they might instill the true faith and all godly virtues in the hearts of their students so that they might be faithful unto death
 
For Governor Greg Abbott of the state of Texas, that the Lord Christ would continue to strengthen him
Art: DYCK, Sir Anthony van  Pentecost  (1618-20)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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