The Devil delights in false dichotomies. When he persuades us that our choices are between this foolishness and that weakness — heads, he wins; tails, the kingdom loses. When we are lukewarm in our commitment, when we think the kingdom of God is just some ethereal thing that no one can see, the Devil encourages us in just this direction. We see the kingdom as only future, and so we sit on our hands waiting. Such is not, of course, a passionate seeking of His kingdom or His righteousness.
The Devil is not afraid, however, of kingdom zealots. Those whose passion burns to make known the reign of Christ receive a whole different temptation from the Devil. These the Devil encourages to take up arms, to bear the sword. He seduces them into thinking they can make the kingdom come by force.
The first option is a denial that we are at war. The second option is a denial that our weapons are not carnal. The biblical truth is that we are at war and that our armory is stocked with potent, spiritual weapons.
Consider first the reality of the war. God promised in Genesis 3 that He would put enmity between the Serpent and the woman, between their respective seeds. Thus, we have an identifiable enemy — all those who are yet outside the kingdom of God. This enemy is, of course, actively fight ing it s war against us and our King. Thus, we are at war. We are called to tear down strongholds, to destroy every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. We are commanded not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed.
We also have an objective. Our goal is to see the reign of our Captain made manifest the world over. We are seeking His kingdom, and His promise is that a day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Indeed, He will come from His throne, we are told, when all His enemies are made a footstool. The language of warfare fills the Word, from beginning to end, despite our crafty Enemy’s attempt to cry “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
Our Enemy, we would be wise to remember, is under no self-constraint not to use carnal weapons. Indeed, everything about his warfare is carnal. It was he whose spear pierced the side of our Lord. It was he who hurled the stones at Stephen. He worked through sundry caesars, leading the early Christians to the Colosseum for sport, lining the Appian Way with hundreds of crucified disciples of our crucified Lord. He animated the lies of Islam, whose scimitar first seized Jerusalem and later reached even into Europe.
The Devil, however, rejoiced more over the counterattack on Jerusalem than he did the seizure of it. That is, the greater victory wasn’t the success of the sword on his side of the battle but the taking up of the sword on our side. He wins not by fighting with carnal weapons but by seducing us into fighting with carnal weapons. The Bible, of course, leaves room for legitimate use of force. The use of the sword in defense of our land or of our families is not only permissible but mandatory. But we do not build the kingdom with the sword. Our weapons are not carnal. The kingdom advanced far more potently through the humble martyrs’ deaths than it did through the fighting of the valiant soldiers of the Crusades. We don’t kill for the kingdom but die for it.
We, too, have barbarians at our gates. Our walls are crumbling, and it seems in the West that a new dark age is coming. The evidence, however, is found less in the rhetoric of the radical left, the cultural degradation pouring from New York and Hollywood, and the sexually confused marching in our streets, and more in the church that has lost sight of its God-given weapons. We move from defeat to defeat because we fight with coalitions, with media campaigns, with slick marketing, with compromise. We have washed away all our saltiness because we have forgotten how the kingdom comes.
We seek His kingdom as we seek His righteousness. The world is preserved, and the boundaries of the kingdom expand when we live as His children in simple, trusting obedience. The world is changed by changing diapers, by hugging wives, by doing chores diligently, and by singing joyfully. War is fought by peaceful countenances. Loyalty makes walls come tumbling down. We do not, as the crusaders did, leave our hearths and homes, our wives and children, cross land and sea, and hack and poke with sword and spear. We instead cross the room, pray blessing on our children, and dance with our wives. We sit at the table, eating the fat of the land, talking about the glory of His provision in all our days. We visit the orphan and the widow. We preach the Word in season and out. We break bread and we drink the cup. And the Serpent trembles in his bunker.
As little children, we know it is the little things that change everything. The Serpent’s kingdom is brought low when the servants of the King are lifted on high, in worship. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the gates of hell come tumbling down.