Possessing the gates
January 15, 2021
The Church is designed for hostile environments. Its designer and builder, Jesus, said He’d build it right at the “Gates of Hell”, and those gates would not withstand it (GHPL Jan 6, 2021). He started building it under Roman occupation (notably intolerant of kingdom-minded competitors) and was continuously opposed by a firmly entrenched religious system. The Church has not, until recently, experienced a very hostile environment in Canada. It has had influence and a degree of respect in many spheres of society. In that environment, the main enemies to the mission of the Church have been within: apathy, love of comfort, self-interest, lack of vision, divisive infighting and the like. The environment is rapidly changing. The Church is moving from being influential to being marginalized to being vilified (made low) in the popular imagination.
Some responsibility for the shift rests on the Church due to sins such as sexual abuse, love of money, arrogance and division, for example. But the Kingdom of God has an enemy who is evil, intelligent, cruel and relentless. He will do everything in his power to neutralize the Church in order to extend his rule. The Church can only exist in a war zone. We are called to “fight the good fight” and “finish the race” (2 Ti 4:7). This race is a competition, not a fun run. It’s critical that we acknowledge we’re in a war, so we’ll prepare mentally and emotionally for it and won’t be demolished by losing a battle. We’ll train with our weapons so that we don’t battle like amateurs. We’ll finish as victors.
Jesus never advises or commends physical violence against people or property, nor do any of the New Testament writers. (Neither do I.) Our weapons are opposite to those used by the enemy, and they tear down his strongholds! Our arsenal is replete with everything we need, including spiritual gifts, praise, prayer, righteousness, peace, joy, generosity, truth, evangelism, the power to bless, resting in Him, God’s word, His love…. These are not just things we expect to enjoy in our Christian walk – they are the power of God to accomplish His purposes on earth to rescue souls and release them into the abundance of His Kingdom!
The Church must determine to fight the good fight,
- using the appropriate spiritual weapons
- under Jesus’ direction, in the power of His Spirit
- demonstrating His character
- in the battles He assigns us to
- for as long as He needs us to be there.
When the patriarch Jacob was returning to possess the land covenanted to him, he had a strange encounter with “a man” who wrestled him and could not overpower him. The “man”, who turned out to be God, renamed him Israel and said it was because he had “struggled with God and with men and prevailed” (Gen 32:28). Could it be that if we want to possess the gates of our spiritual enemies, we are going to have to wrestle with God until we figure out how to fight the good fight for the Kingdom in this new season and finish the race? Could it be that this new season presents the ideal conditions for the Church to flourish in mission? I think it could be. Let’s wrestle with God to discern how to fight the good fight in this hostile environment.
The end result of the clash of kingdoms was foretold by the Apostle John: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever’” (Rev 11:15).