Having just celebrated the Resurrection this past Sunday, rejoicing in Christ's victory over sin, death and Satan, we might be tempted to be a little overly triumphant. Not that we shouldn't rejoice in His triumph. Not that we shouldn't rejoice in our victory in Him. But we need to not lose sight of the reality that though the victory is won, the battle rages on.
I've been preaching through Ephesians for the last year or so, and we've arrived near the end and Paul's discussion of the Christian's armor. The first question that should come up in light of this past weekend is this: If Christ is victorious, why do we need armor? And the answer is plain: because the battle rages on.
It's somewhat confusing, at least for me. How do I reconcile the message of the resurrection, the victory of Christ, with Scripture's repeated urging to "fight the good fight", "put on the whole armor of God", etc.? The war is over but the battles continue? Seems a bit odd, doesn't it? But this is the reality we live in.
Jesus has won the victory. Satan is defeated. And yet, his final defeat will not be "realized" until the end when Christ returns to establish his kingdom. In the meantime, you and I live in this land of "already, but not yet." We are already partakers with Him in life and victory. But we have not yet experienced the fullness of that. He has already won, but the enemy has not yet surrendered. And so the battle rages on.
I don't want to go into too much detail. At least one or two of our church folk read this blog and I don't want to give away the next few weeks' sermons. But in short, we need to find this balance between confidence in our victory, and vigilance in our ongoing spiritual battles. We need to beware becoming to overconfident because of the Resurrection that we overlook the enemy's ongoing war against us. Just because he's lost, doesn't mean he's given up.
Again, Scripture gives us warning after warning about this battle, and speaks often with a military motif. Be on your guard. Keep watch. Stand firm. Be of good courage. Fight that good fight. Don't ever lose sight of the reality that there is a real enemy out there, a real foe with "schemes" and "flaming darts" and everything.
Yet at the same time, remember who we are, and Whose we are. We fight day in and day out, but the battle is the Lord's. And He will win, has won. Battle on, but do so in confidence. With that in mind, here is this wonderful old hymn on spiritual warfare by Isaac Watts from 1709. It reminds us both of the ongoing battle and the absolute confidence we have because of Christ's victory.
Stand up, my soul, shake off thy fears,
And gird the Gospel armor on,
March to the gates of endless joy,
Where thy great Captain-Savior’s gone.
Hell and thy sins resist thy course,
But hell and sin are vanquished foes;
Thy Jesus nailed them to the cross,
And sung the triumph when He rose.
What though the prince of darkness rage,
And waste the fury of his spite,
Eternal chains confine him down
To fiery deeps and endless night.
What though thine inward lusts rebel,
’Tis but a struggling gasp for life;
The weapons of victorious grace
Shall slay thy sins, and end the strife.
Then let my soul march boldly on,
Press forward to the heav’nly gate;
There peace and joy eternal reign,
And glitt’ring robes for conquerors wait.
There shall I wear a starry crown,
And triumph in almighty grace,
While all the armies of the skies
Join in my glorious Leader’s praise.