20 October 2010

Vigilance: It Cannnot Be Done While Sitting

I Peter 5:8-9

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.

So much is said throughout scripture. Some of it is heavy on theology defining Christianity, its beliefs, standards and God’s character. The gospel message of The Savior Jesus Christ permeates the bible from beginning to end. But the overwhelming majority of scripture is simply stories, parables and other telling that either directly show us, or intimate to us a practical, Godly way to live.

In the passage that I was taken to today in I Peter, Peter is speaking specifically to church elders or leaders. Peter however, was a man who had experienced much with regards to the joy of walking with Jesus, to the utter failure of falling away at the moment that Jesus needed him most going so far as to deny Jesus with anathema. Yet, despite the prototypical roller-coaster life Peter lived – after finding his real faith at the sea-side breakfast prepared by Jesus Himself, he stayed faithful to the bitter end. And remember, the end was bitter for Peter, as church history credits Peter dying a martyr’s death, crucified upside down on an “X” shaped cross. Peter, knew love, he knew the wiles of the enemy, and more than any man that walked in those days, Peter knew Grace.

Knowing Grace, Peter applied it will liberality, and skill. But he also knew that after knowing your salvation is assured, that there was still much work to be done, and that resting on one’s laurels was simply not possible, if for no other reason than for self preservation.

Leadership is critical in any organization. Perhaps more so in an organization that deals with the solving of conflicts and problems, or one that is responsible for the proper dispersal of benefits. Take government, any government as an example. Poor leadership leads to corruption, and corruption eventually leads to collapse. Look at the CEO’s of major corporations. They must have solid control if their profits are to continue to grow, or the business collapses. Peter knew that because of the Grace gifted to us by God, that leadership was critical. He also knew that while Grace is an indispensible element of the Christian walk, applying it so liberally that sin is overlooked, or that poor leadership is allowed to continue, not only endangers the individual, but the church as a whole. If there’s an infection in the brain, the whole body suffers.

Peter understood that self control, in conjunction with an ever vigilant attitude and posture against the injection of sin, corruption, and apathy was a necessary posture for all believers. He warns us that in spite of our ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling associated with our salvation, that we cannot allow that peace that surpasses all understanding to hypnotize us into a position of lethargy that opens us up to an enemy that is constantly seeking to stumble or steal you.

Peter tells his readers that self control and vigilance are staples to a Christian character. If we are celebrating our Christianity in such as way that we are not practicing self control from the sin that seeks us, and being vigilant to always be looking for the enemy trying to find his way into our lives and walks, that we could be in trouble.

His continued encouragement in verse 9 tells us, like James did as well, that faith without works is dead, that faith requires work, and that we will be required to not simply stand, but resist! As Paul tells us in I Timothy 6, we must not just flee the things of sin, but seek righteousness! Sometimes fleeing is not enough, and we need to seek God in the midst of our resistance in order to replace what the enemy is trying to corrupt, with the incorruptible God.

And here’s where a little Peter style Grace comes into play. He gives us a reminder of something that Peter himself could have used in his time of trouble. None of us are alone in our struggle. None of us.

I Corinthians 10:13 is the key:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We are not alone – at any time. Firstly we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, rely on Him. Secondly, we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses that the author of Hebrews tells us enables us to lay aside even the heaviest weight – bearing each other’s burdens of course.

As a combat veteran of the United States Infantry, we used to have a saying (well we had many, but this one I can share): “Peace – Through Superior Firepower”. As Christians we have peace, through superior Faith Power, through superior Prayer Power, through Superior Fellowship Power, and because of Superior Grace. In our freedom, joy and peace, let us never rest on our hind-quarters. We do not battle against man, but against powers that seek to devour and destroy us. Like Nehemiah, let us be watchmen on the wall, standing guard in faith. Faith that we have peace in Christ, and faith that when we do hit those fiery trials, that Jesus is always there to put out the fires.