“And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time,
the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault,
and violent men seize it by force, as a precious prize; a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion.”
Matthew 11:12 AMP
There are many puzzles in our daily walk, both as a Christ-follower and as an American. The verse quoted above has long been one of those puzzles because it seems to be contradictory to the overall message of the Gospel of Love. We get glimpses of the true sentiment from time to time … the righteous indignation of Jesus (Mt 21: 12-13) as he overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple because they had turned the “place of prayer & worship” into a mercantile or the righteous indignation of Paul as he chastised the slave girl (Acts 16: 16- 40) following him. It’s not a popular topic of either teaching or conversation.
I. The CONFLICT: As human beings, our tendency is to most highly value only that which we work to earn or possess. In Philippians, we’re told to “work out our own salvation.” (Philippians 2:12-13 Later, in the same book, we’re told to “press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” (Phil 3: 14)
SALVATION is free … It is the Gift of God. (Romans 6:23) The moment we ask, salvation is ours, BUT … it is a daily calling which we have to put on each day. It’s like buying a new, warm woolen coat. It is ours, but for it to accomplish its purpose, it must be put on. So salvation must be put on, must be wrestled with on a daily basis because it does NOT come naturally. Even when we believe, even when our motivation is love … our minds and bodies want to do their own thing. We are asked to fight for it, and take it by force, sometimes, as though someone else wants our new woolen coat. We have the coat, and no one really can take it from us, but we can lay it down and walk away without enjoying its warmth and comfort.Our nation is at a vital crossroad, and the people of America must make the choice. Either we will resign ourselves to live out our lives in the compromised civilization that we see around us, and settle for the life of dependency and lack, OR we can put on our warm, woolen coat of salvation, accept that God’s ways are better, are SUPERIOR to our ways,admit our error, and walk into the abundance God always has for His people. Do we wish to bow to those in government or to the King of Kings? Do we bow to the government of men or the government of God? God’s ways are more difficult, for sure, and sometimes more uncomfortable, but ultimately much better and healthier! We choose not just for ourselves, but for our children, our grandchildren and for our nation.
I’m not sure that’s the best way to explain it, but … Maybe John Bunyan did a better job in his amazing book, Pilgrims Progress (highly recommended book):
” Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the names of them that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter, what hurt and mischief they could.
“Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir;” the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet on his head, and rush towards the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, Matt. 11:12; Acts 14:22; he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
“Come in, come in,
Eternal glory thou shalt win.”
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled, and said, I think verily I know the meaning of this.
Now, said Christian, let me go hence…”
II. APPLICATION: Again, I say … Nothing worth having comes easy. None of us learned to walk without falling down a few times. None of us learned to love without having our hearts broken a time or two. None of us learned to stand alone on God’s grace without failing miserably AND being hurt a few times.
“To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!” (Col 1: 24-29 NCV)
Salvation, like Liberty, is an individual accomplishment. I can’t accomplish yours, and you can’t accomplish mine. All we can do for one another is facilitate the decision and encourage each other along the way.As we walk out our salvation, we walk into greater and greater Liberty. We free ourselves from the dictates of men and focus on what pleases God. We learn to revel … to play inside God’s abounding love for us, free from worrying about what others might think of us. We know that as long as we walk inside God’s grace, whatever happens is blessed, ordered of God, and ultimately permitted GOOD for us. However, we must all realize, too, that while there are plenty of peaceful and restful times, there are also numerous “battles” we must walk through to make forward progress. We cannot stand still long, so we must choose to push ahead, upward or fall backward. The way is ready, but we must walk it.
III. CONCLUSION: God does not implant His character into our lives as the weaver might set in gold or silver threads. He does not automatically remove and replace our ugly, sinful traits with holy ones. It is through our personal struggle, each of us must work our way through temptations, trials and difficulties toward our upward goals. The help of God is given in cooperation with our aspiration, perspiration and energy. While God is at work in us, we are to work out our own salvation. The struggle is between our human nature and the implanted nature of God simultaneously occupying the same space! Our base human nature, when left unchecked produces the culture we’re looking at in the news – perverted, selfish, and violent, but the Holy Spirit within us will build into us the Character of Christ, if we permit Him. IF we permit Him. Will we? This is America’s only hope. It is OUR only hope, but it is more than enough!
*Online version of Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyon