By James Brown Jr.
“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”1
As we begin the year 2017, it is important that we forget what is behind us and reach toward the things that are before us by pressing toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this is what Paul instructs the Church in his epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 3:13-14)
Paul notes it is important to move beyond our shortcomings with the resolve to press on to achieve the goal. In order to accomplish this we must forget the past and focus upon the things in front of us.
Forgetting the past is not the abandonment of the past. We must use the past as a measuring stick of knowledge for things unfinished and achieved. We must know what needs to be advanced or defended. The context of this forgetting is so that we are not overcome with despair in our past shortcomings, nor raised up in pride in any successes.
Although the past should be used as a scale in order to confess and repent of our failures and to hold fast to kingdom successes and advancements, our task is to keep pressing forward. Complacency or retreat should never be part of the Christians vocabulary.
The mindset of individual Christians and the strategies of the Church consist of continuous attacks against sin, lawlessness, and darkness. Complacency, timidity, and indecision are the qualities of the defeated. When we allow the gates of hell to remain unmolested, we allow evil to prevail.
As General George Patton observed, “Throughout history, campaigns and wars have been lost due to an army stopping on the wrong side of a river.”2 So too it is in spiritual warfare, when we become content with what we have achieved, we give the enemy renewed life, hope, and momentum.
This is why General Patton also observed, “War is like boxing. When you get your opponent on the ropes you must keep punching the hell out of him and not let him recover.”3
When it comes to our individual sanctification, Scripture instructs us to mortify or kill our old nature (Colossians 3:5). In any area where we do not completely cut away or radiate the cells of sin, like cancer, it grows back. Sin is more destructive and deadly than cancer and it cannot be toyed with. Its destruction must aggressively be pursued, which is why Paul said he had to die daily to his old nature.
This is not only true with our own personal sin but familial, ecclesiastical, and civil sin as well. We are commanded to tear down the strongholds of Satan. We are not to make peace treaties, cease fires, or any type of agreement that let’s sin remain.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Paul asks, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”
We cannot have any neutrality with sin. There is no such thing as neutrality. We are either defeating it or it is prevailing. For this reason we must fight to destroy it where it exists.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” –2 Corinthians 10-3-6
When Israel was redeemed out of bondage in Egypt they were told to go take the land that God had promised them. This was not an empty commission. God told them that if they went in faith that He would go before them and fight for them. This is good news because as the Israelites rightly observed, we are like grasshoppers and our enemies like giants in comparison according to the eyesight of the natural man. But what the Israelites failed to do was to see the situation in its reality. If they had been looking through the eyes of faith like Caleb and Joshua, they would have understood that all men are like grasshoppers in the eyes of the Lord. Yet, because the children of Israel lacked faith in God they did not gain the victory, not because of their enemies might, but because of the Israel’s flight.
We look down on the Hebrews because of their unbelief even though the writer of Hebrews states that we have better promises then they. In the New Covenant we have been commissioned to disciple the nations to Christ, yet, we too have allowed the enemy to prevail due to our disengagement.
The New Covenant Commission is based upon the declaration that all power and authority has been given to Christ in heaven and on earth. This is the foundation of the commission for us to go claim this world for Christ. If Jesus was not Lord and Christ there would be no reason to reconcile this world to Him. But, its not just the foundational doctrine of the commission that is so damning to our disobedience; this One who has been given all power and authority promised He would be with us and would never forsake us as we engage in this global conquest.
In better promises and in a greater degree of fulfillment we can declare with the Psalmist, “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever” (Psalm 37:29). In this same chapter David declares that not only will the righteous inherit the land, but the evildoers shall be cut off (Psalm 37:9).
Jesus repeats the promise of the meek inheriting the earth in His Sermon on the Mount, while Revelation 5:10 says that the children of God will reign upon the earth as kings and priests. The point being is that the land promise was not just specific to Israel and Canaan, but includes the whole earth unto all who have been grafted into the Israel of God.
The promise of the wicked being cut off from the earth is also included in the New Covenant, both in this world and in the one to come.
“For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” –Romans 11:21-22 [emphasis mine]
“I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” –Galatians 5:10-12 [emphasis mine]
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” –Matthew 25:41, 46
All throughout Scripture the battle between light and darkness illustrates this conflict between good and evil. Just as the children of Israel were guaranteed victory if they trusted and obeyed God, victory has been made certain by Jesus Christ unto all who have been born of Him.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” –1 John 5:4
We who have been granted saving faith have also been granted the power for its fulfillment, not just over sin, death, and hell, but also over the world (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4).
The very nature of the light and darkness analogy reveals this glorious power of Jesus Christ, for darkness cannot prevail against light. When light enters, darkness flees.
“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” –Proverbs 4:18
The Bible uses many illustrations to prove this truth. Another such analogy is made to the righteous being as lions.
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” –Proverbs 28:1
When we are as we should be, our enemies cannot stand before us. The Lord has declared to His people that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).
With promises such as these, why are we not routing the enemy? There is either a problem with the source of the promises or the instruments of the promise. If God’s Word is true, and we believe that is most certainly is, then the problem is not with the root but with the branches. In other words, the obstacle to bringing the nations into subjection to Christ has been us.
If you start at the very beginning, it is obvious that the mustard seed has grown mightily as Christ promised (Mark 4:30-32). Yet, in this growth there have been periods of increase and decrease. God miraculously advanced Christ’s kingdom during the Apostolic Church, the Ancient Church, and the Reformation Church. Unfortunately, we, the children of the Reformation, have lost ground that was advanced during the Great Reformation. Since the early to mid-1800’s we have been losing our faith and heritage. This decline has escalated into a full blown apostasy since the early 1900’s in Western Civilization.
Although our decline has brought on the rise of fatalistic theology, the decline of the West has only proved the continuing validity of the Word of God. All throughout Holy Writ we are promised blessings upon obedience and curses upon disobedience. When hearers the Word but are not engaged in the doing of the Word, God will chasten His children as a father chastens his son (Hebrews 12:4-17). The Bible declares that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17) because the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, is responsible to go take the land by faith.
In the last few decades, many works have been devoted to our disobedience outlining our transgressions. Yet, outside of the comfort of 2 Chronicles 7:14, there is not a lot of discussion on what we should do to reconstruct the Church, our families, and civil governments.
Obviously, we must first humble ourselves and seek God’s face, but 2 Chronicles 7:14 also declares we must turn from our wicked ways. This also implies turning unto the doing and establishing of righteousness. There is no such thing as a partial revival in 2 Chronicles 7:14. A true revival must contain all the elements contained therein. What we want to do is acknowledge a faith toward God without exercising our faith in God.
Although the Bible is filled with the answers to our dilemma, we are going to focus our attention on Psalm 37.
David is the author of this unusual Psalm. It was written in his old age, as he says in verse 25, “I have been young, and now am old.” David is reflecting upon the truth of God as a record of his lifelong experience.
Barton Bouchier, a 19th Century minister in the Church of England, expands upon this in his brilliant summary this chapter. He wrote, “This Psalm very much reminds one in its construction of the sententious and pithy conciseness of the Book of Proverbs. It does not contain any prayer, nor any direct allusion to David’s own circumstances of persecution or distress. It is rather the utterance of sound practical wisdom and godliness from the lips of experience and age, such as we might suppose an elder of the church or a father of a family, to let fall as he sat with his household gathered around him, and listening to his earnest and affectionate admonition.”4
God uses David to benefit the people of God by inspiring His wisdom through David. This benefit is to set forth the right course of life for the just and as a warning to avoid the pitfalls of disobedience. David’s experiences of life are used by the Holy Spirit to deliver the eternal Word of God unto the saints for our encouragement, edification, enlightenment, and enhancement.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” –Romans 15:4
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” –1 Corinthians 10:11
Within this wisdom of God we are admonished in assurance, attitude, and action so that we might saved from our enemies.
“But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.” –Psalm 37:39-40
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” –Luke 2:68-75
1. The Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, ed. Thomas Davis (Henry G. Bohn: London, 1845) p. 94-95
2. Charles M. Province, The Unknown Patton (Bonanza Books: New York, 1983) p. 199
3. Charles M. Province, The Unknown Patton (Bonanza Books: New York, 1983) p. 201
4. Barton Bouchier, cited by Charles Spurgeon in The Treasury of David Volume One (MacDonald Publishing Company: McLean, Virginia, 1988) p. 180