CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING – CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO CHURCH – WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE CHURCH
2020 VISION – WE NEED TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY – FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW
HOW IS THE CHURCH GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
PART 5: READINESS FOR WITNESS
“OUR BATTLE CRY”
We are beginning to come out of Lockdown – on the 5th July there will be a “Test” service from in the church building – where just the “Tech Guys” and the speaker will be broadcasting our Live Stream for the first time in over 100 days from the church. The following Sunday, on the 12th July we will have the joy of our first full Celebration Service back in the church building (with social distancing). Lockdown in being lifted. Doors are being opened. The church is being called to be militant again. Are you ready for battle?
Now you might say that “it is NOT a battle that we are going into – we are taking Good News to those who want to hear it! They are our friends and not our enemies!” And you will be right. The battle is not against those we are taking the Good News to – it is against those who wish to STOP us taking the Gospel to them:
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12)
Our battle is against our spiritual enemy – the devil – Satan.
And as we go out into battle against him I want to impress upon you that underpinning all we do MUST be these three things
- WORD: we MUST know His Word well
- SPIRIT: we are not only born of the Spirit, we not only have the Spirit within us, but we MUST earnestly “be being filled” with the POWER (dunamis) of the Spirit daily
- PRAYER: the powerhouse of battle – we must CONSTANTLY be coming to our Father in Heaven in prayer
As we choose to go out into all the world and be His witnesses – as we come out of Lockdown – let us remember that we must now be…
READY FOR WITNESS – READY FOR THE BATTLE
And our readiness comes from another three things (“3” is SUCH an important number in the Bible!):
THIS IS THE “WORD” – THIS IS “ENCOURAGE”
- LIEUTENANT COLONEL TIM COLLINS’ EVE-OF-BATTLE SPEECH
The speech, which was given more or less off-the-cuff to the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment (1 R IRISH) Battle Group on 19 March 2003, several days before crossing the Iraq border on Operation TELIC, became famous worldwide. It was recorded in shorthand by Sarah Oliver, a Mail on Sunday journalist. No voice or video recording of it exists and it is Sarah Oliver’s version of the speech which has been written into history.
‘We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country.
We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history.
It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
Tread lightly there.
You will see things that no man could pay to see
— and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
Allow them dignity in death.
Bury them properly and mark their graves.
It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.
If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
If you harm the Regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest — for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
(On Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons.)
It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.
As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.
Our business now is north.’
- JESUS’ MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES TO HIS DISCIPLES ON THE EVE OF BATTLE
History teaches us the power of the motivational speech given to an army on the eve of battle.
Jesus, well-aware of the nature of man, provided for His disciples the greatest motivational speech of all times. As we ready ourselves for mission, for the battle that is ahead as we come out of lock-down, let us listen again to the words of our Commander-in-chief:
MATTHEW 28: 18-20
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
MARK 16: 15-18
‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on people who are ill, and they will get well.’
ACTS 1: 4-8
‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’…
7…‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
Our Commander sends us out with words of encouragement: all great generals speak to their troops on the eve of battle – encouraging them and emboldening them – look at Shakespeare’s speech in Henry V. Our Commander sends us out with wonderful words of encouragement from the Bible – “I am with you always” “I will never leave you or forsake you” “Greater is He that is in you that he that is in the world” etc etc – let us focus on these today.
We HAVE the witness within us! Let us never be lied to – the lie is that we cannot fulfil the Lord’s mission to us. We ALL have the witness within us. All we have to do is to be available to share the Good News through what we say, what we do and what we believe
With His words always ringing in our ears let us decide this day whether we are going out to battle – a battle that will be different for each of us – for one it will be going into the streets, for another it will be talking to a neighbour, to a third it will be setting an example for our children, to a fourth it will be praying for the “front-line troops” – or whether we are going to sit back and do nothing.
THIS IS THE “SPIRIT” – THIS IS “EMPOWER”
As we draw near to coming out of Lockdown, we draw near to our battle – to answer the cry of the Lord to go, as His witnesses, into all the world. And in our battle against the enemy who wishes to stop us in our tracks we are to put on our “battle armour” the defensive and offensive weapons we use as we go forth to witness. And what is this battle armour…
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV)
We have spent so much time over the past year studying this passage and so now, as we ready ourselves for the mission to which we have been called, we look at it from another aspect (and my thanks goes to Jill for showing me this teaching from “Seeds of the Kingdom”):
Take Off YOUR Armour
The passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is well known. If we really want to be able to take our stand against our enemy the devil, then we must put on the armour of God, that is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and carrying the sword of the Spirit. As you read the title of today’s ‘Seed’, you might have been thinking, “What is he talking about?” The message this morning is to make sure you aren’t wearing your own armour instead of God’s. If you are, then you need to take it off, urgently.
You wouldn’t think of trying to put two pairs of shoes on, or two hats, or to carry two swords in your hand. It would be silly to think of doing so, and ridiculous to see anyone wearing two sets of clothes. The fact of the matter is that, when faced with two sets of ‘armour’, we have to decide which one we want to wear. We can’t wear both, because one will get in the way of the other.
When it comes to the spiritual armour of Ephesians 6, we need to think carefully if we have already put on our own armour, leaving no room for God’s. What do I mean? Well, are you already wearing your own belt of truth? Is it the truth you have chosen to believe about God and His word and what it tells you about His love for you?
Are you wearing your own breastplate of righteousness; believing that your ‘good-living’ is enough to put you right with God? Are you wearing your own shield of faith, expecting faith in your own capabilities in yourself will be enough to protect you from the devil’s attacks? Or are you carrying your own sword for protection, believing you are well able to carry the battle to the enemy by yourself.
The truth is that our own armour is woefully inadequate for the task we face as believers each day. We must take it off before we can really put on God’s. It isn’t a case of mix and match, a few bits of mine linked to some of His. Ephesians 6:11 makes that clear. Paul tells us to put on the full armour of God. All of ours needs to go, and all of His needs to take its place. Today, stop for a while and ask God what armour you might be wearing. Could there be bits of your own which have somehow replaced God’s? If so, then choose to take them off and put on God’s. His are tailor made, just for you.
THIS IS “PRAYER” – THIS IS “EMBRACE”
Before every battle it was traditional for the Padre to call the troops together for a time of prayer.
Much more than this is the power of the Battle Prayer as we ready ourselves for mission – for our battle as we come out of lock-down.
We have seen in weeks past that when Joshua was sent out to command the forces against the Amalekites that Moses, Aaron and Hur stood on the hill and victory came when Moses’ arms remained raised to God in prayer.
We are also reminded that in the passage on putting on the armour of God, Paul concludes with the following words:
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph 6:18)
Now we see, in our chosen book – the Book of Acts – of the Battle Prayer in action:
In Acts 12 we read that Herod has James put to death and Peter put in prison. Things looked dire – the battle did not appear to be going well. And then we are simply told:
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him (Acts 12:5)
The result of this Battle Prayer was that an angel was despatched and Peter miraculously freed from the jail.
And let us learn from the fact that the church didn’t even realise the power of the Battle Prayer – for when Peter turned up at the place where they were all praying we are told that Rhoda went to the door in response to his knocking and that:
When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’
15 ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’ (Acts 12: 14-15)
Let us recognise from this the POWER of the Battle Prayer – and let us be in readiness for the Battle ahead by constantly being in prayer in the Spirit – by which I mean that we might not even know what we should be praying for but are available for Him to move through us in any case and to guide us in what we pray.
And so we come to the conclusion of the matter.
We are all called to a mission – to go into all the world and spread the Good News, making disciples of all.
We MUST go out in the POWER of the Holy Spirit
We MUST go out in the UNITY of the Holy Spirit.
We MUST go out in readiness for battle – with the Battle Cry, the Battle Armour and the Battle Prayer.
And then we WILL go into our mission with Words (of eternal life) with Works (of love for all those around us) and with WONDERS (of the power of the Holy Spirit that proves the words we speak and the works that we do).
One question remains: what IS my mission? And we shall seek to answer this in our next session.
APPENDIX: ENCOURAGING BIBLE VERSES THAT ARE PART OF GOD’S BATTLE CRY TO US:
These are by no-means exhaustive but are included here to show you the verses that are scrolled on the screen in our church building during the times of individual prayer –
Josh 1:7, 9
Psalm 23:1, 4
Psalm 34: 8
Psalm 46:1-3, 7
Prov 3: 5-6
Prov 18: 10
Is 41: 10
Lam 3: 22-23
2 Cor 4:16-18
James 1: 2-3
1 Peter 2: 9-10
1 Peter 5:7
1 John 3: 1-2