He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Real Enemy in Urban Ministry

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Eph. 6:10-17

"The war we are in is not a war with flesh and blood but with supernatural evil powers. What amazes me about Paul's words here is not what he affirms but what he denies. I'm not surprised to hear him say that we wrestle with evil angelic, demonic, supernatural powers. What surprises me is that he says (in v. 12) we do NOT wrestle with flesh and blood.
I want to say to Paul, "You've been stoned and beaten and imprisoned and run out of town and shipwrecked. Your flesh has been torn and your blood has been spilt and that has hindered your ministry again and again. The flesh of others has torn your flesh and the blood of others has boiled against your blood. What do you mean you don't wrestle against flesh and blood? It's people with their hands and their stones and rods and chains that have cost you dearly and tested your faith almost to the limit."
I think Paul would answer. "You're right. Flesh and blood is real and it can be very evil. But what I mean is this. Whenever someone's flesh attacks me, or someone's blood boils against me, or my way is hindered by man, something else is also going on, something deeper, bigger, more terrible, more sinister, more destructive than meets the eye. I don't mean that flesh and blood can't hurt or hinder the cause of Christ. I mean that the prince of the power of the air is more dangerous than any of his subjects and that he must be overcome in every instance of conflict, or the battle is lost."
-John Piper Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20

My hope: Romans 16:17-20 
(specifically in verse 20)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

To use the words of Martin Luther, “His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure.”

What comfort this reminder brings.