Monday, August 10, 2009

Christ followers are winners, and yet we are called to fight

"The Gates of Hell”: Defeated

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Humans sometimes struggle admitting that spiritual beings even exist - beings that cannot be seen with physical eyes like the fuzz under the couch or the hair in the bathroom sink drain plug. We sometimes push them out of our mind and fail to realize that we are vulnerable to these beings if we are not resting securely in Jesus. It is only through Jesus' victory on the cross, his victory over these evil spirits, that we can fully understand Jesus' teaching in Matthew 16:18 (NKJV). “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of [hell] shall not prevail against it.” Jesus was promising Peter and the church success in the battle against the armies of hell. This is heavy stuff but an understanding of the historical context of Matthew 16:18 may clear the fog a little so we can understand the intent of the "gates of hell" metaphor.

Back in the days of walled cities and seasonal warfare kings would go out to battle at certain times of the year. The city under siege would meet their enemy in the field in hopes of defeating them there. If the city was unable to defeat their enemy in the field they would retreat into the city and fight from behind the gates and on top of their walled and towered fortress. The city had now taken a defensive posture and was safe as long as its gates prevailed. This was common knowledge in the first century and was the foundation upon which Jesus proclaims to Peter in Matthew 16:18, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against (my church)."

Here Jesus describes the church as an army advancing on the gates of hell. He states that the gates of hell don't have a chance as long as Jesus' church remains on the offensive. At the time of this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, Peter did not have the benefit of being on this side of the cross. Speaking of Christ's death on the cross, St. Paul the apostle said, "(He) disarmed principalities and powers (evil spiritual authorities), he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15 (NKJV) In plain terms it was on the cross that Jesus made idiots of Satan and his clan and we have been given the victory over Satan. We have this victory as we place our confidence in Jesus.

We have no power over the gates of hell on our own. We must rest securely in Jesus’ victory. Just as you cannot defeat the lawn without the mower we cannot defeat the gates of hell without Jesus. How silly it would be for someone to attempt to mow their lawn without partnering with the mower. It is our confidence in Jesus’ cross that gives us the victory over evil spirits. His triumph over death has given that same triumph to those of us who believe in him; triumph over our own sin nature, death, and evil spirits that desire to restrain, ensnare, or imprison us with very real but often invisible strategies.

Ephesians 6:12 and II Corinthians 10:4 clearly state that we are in a spiritual war and, as we read in Colossians above, the enemy has already been disarmed and defeated. If you are like me you might be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. This is contradictory. If we have won why are we still fighting?" If the enemy is defeated and "the gates of hell will not prevail...," what are we fighting for, who are we fighting, and why? St. Paul the apostle says, "Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life..."(1Timothy 6:12)

Christ followers are winners, and yet we are called to fight. Enjoying the victory is half the battle, but it is only half! You might make several trips a day out to your garage to admire your new mower you might sit around with friends and talk about its incredible ride, horsepower or perfect cut, but until you get on the machine and mow the lawn is still overgrown. How much longer will you let your lawn overgrow? We may be able to buy a lawnmower but the gates of hell cannot be defeated with anything you can purchase at the local store or even the at church for that matter. Our Victory over the gates of hell is in direct proportion to our faith and faith comes by hearing and obeying God's word (Romans 10:17).

Our faith is our confidence in the one who has the Keys to the Gates of Hell. Revelation 1:18 takes us to the end of time where we find Jesus speaking, “I'm Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock death's doors; they open and lock hell's gates.” Jesus is the one who has the keys of death and hell and without him we are powerless to come against the gates of hell. The Bible paints this picture for us: The Kingdom is advancing on the Gates of Hell behind Jesus our leader and when he reaches the gates he will simply get out his key and open the gates and take possession. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Kingdom so if you are a part of His Kingdom you have nothing to fear. God has given us the Victory and has told us how history ends ….. Jesus defeats the gates of hell.

The success we all seek only comes from a relationship with God and allowing his life to flow through us. He will let you do it your way until you realize how much you need Him. Without Him we are vulnerable to the enemy that he has already disarmed and defeated. It is our confidence in Jesus that gives us the victory over the gates of hell.

You can have confidence in Jesus’ victory over evil spirits and be a part of God's kingdom that is advancing upon the gates of hell or you can retreat to the security of a sensory, manageable and predictable churchianity. Believing in nothing is also an option, but why not take Jesus at His word. A man who accurately predicted his own death burial and resurrection can certainly be trusted.

If you are being overcome by forces you cannot see or would like to grow more in your faith or if you would like someone to pray with, please email or call. I would be glad to serve you in any way I can or direct you to someone who can.

Rise up Church.

Don Crain,
(507) 248-3531

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