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"The Heart is a Battlefield"

It is well after dark and both sides of enemy combatants lay holed up in their trenches. The only sound they can hear is the exhaling of their own breath. It is all quite maddening. One private thinks to himself, “You know, it’s really late! I bet if I were to climb out of this trench and quietly approach the enemy, I’d find them asleep. I could catch them off guard. Yes…I bet I could take out the entire bunker on my own! ” The foolish private carefully surveys his surroundings. It seems the coast is clear. He proceeds to slowly creep out of his foxhole when suddenly... BAM! BOOM! BANG! He’s being fired upon from every direction. Out of options, he lets out a war cry, rushes toward the enemy, and starts firing at their frontline. He’s riddled with bullets and falls silently to the ground. Why did this solider make such a questionable decision? A novice in the art of war, he clearly didn’t understand the rules of engagement. In order to win the battle we must know our enemy, understand our roles and recognize our limitations.

In the war to win souls for the Kingdom of God, we tend to rush out onto the battlefield with guns a’ blazing, often with no apparent strategy or forethought. When generals prepare for their next battle there are various factors considered in developing their strategy.

First, one must know his enemy. This seems like a fairly straightforward idea. However, many times in history, a military leader has underestimated his opponent to his own peril. One of our adversaries is Satan. Peter says that he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan loves to orchestrate the demise of human beings, those precious souls made in God’s image. Satan is diligent in pursuing every avenue available to him to accomplish his wicked purpose.

Yet, quite often, Satan simply channels the iniquity that lies within us. As the brilliant philosopher Pogo Possum said (of the comic strip “Pogo” fame), “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It is indeed our own sin, and bondage to it, that ensnares us. We are surely our own worst enemy. The Apostle Paul described the war raging within himself in Romans 7:21-25

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

In addition to knowing your enemy, you must recognize your role and acknowledge your limitations in the realm of evangelism. How many times have I seen Christians passing out tracts using the tired old ice-breaker, “Hello friend! Are you saved?” Usually people smile and politely walk away. However, the occasional evangelical zealot doesn’t give up so easily. He follows this person, continuing his attempts to “share” the Gospel. The potential convert starts to feel a bit uncomfortable and picks up the pace. In turn, the evangelist matches his speed pace for pace and his tone becomes increasingly exasperated. He finally calls out “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” By this time, the person who is supposed to be ministered to is running, crying out, “Go away! You’re scaring me!” He jumps into his car, slams and locks the door and races down the road leaving smoke in the face of the evangelist. Panting and hunched over with his hands on his legs, he yells out in frustration, “You’re going to hell! I hope you know that!”

In this case study I want to analyze where our young evangelist went wrong. First, let’s consider his introductory statement, “Hello friend! Are you saved?” Most Americans have heard this opening line before. They’re fully aware of what this young man was asking. However, the statement reveals a lack of true Gospel substance. When R.C. Sproul was asked this very question he exposed the inadequacy of the inquiry by responding, “Saved from what?” Saved from murderers? Thieves? Should we dare to dream…the IRS? This is an important observation and gets right to the heart of the issue. My friends, we are not saved from some inexplicable force; we’re saved from the wrathful vengeance of God Himself. The holy God, who sovereignly reigns over all, demands that His statutes be kept with perfect obedience. This is where the Gospel message begins; sinful humanity has not kept His commandments nor even acknowledged Him.

His next statement was, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” No greater farce was ever propagated in the evangelical world. If you mean that Jesus’ “wonderful plan” for the unconverted entails eternal suffering in hell to satisfy God’s justice, then you would be right. God has too often been portrayed as a “tree hugging” pansy that “loves” everybody and wants the best (i.e., most comfortable) for everyone. Yes, God is love! But the main object of His love is Himself. Since He loves Himself above all else, and there are countless numbers of humans who defy the Lord and curse Him with their every breath, His righteous wrath will come upon them. That is, unless before the beginning of time, God choses to set His love upon them and make them a part of the inheritance He has given His Son. This is the Gospel, folks! God’s righteousness must be satisfied. Yet, in Christ, that has been accomplished. That is the great plan of God.

In conclusion, our role is to simply declare the Gospel and leave it to the Lord to work in each heart. It is the Spirit who makes the sinner alive. It is the work of God alone. Paul says it best in one of the most quoted passages in the New Testament, Ephesians 2:8-9:

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Simply preaching the gospel and leaving it to God to complete the work should take the weight off of our shoulders. We don’t have to look for an opportunity to rush out guns a’blazing. We simply call in an airstrike and wait for God to blow them off the map (just kidding). We must simply present the Gospel and let our Lord take care of the rest. So, please don’t let me hear that someone has taken out a restraining order against you for harassment and assault with a deadly tract.

- Jordan McGehee