September 2008 Camp Meeting Sermon
By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr.
Christ, in His messages of exhortation to His followers, does not paint a rosy picture of discipleship in Him. He describes a life of self-denial and of an enduring struggle to overcome (Luke 14:26; Matt. 7:24-25 – struggle to build on the Rock).
Just before His death, He told His disciples, "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
He spoke of victory, and at the same time He spoke of tribulation. Nothing here suggests victory will be won easily. There is a cross to carry as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ: "Then said Jesus unto His disciples, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
A cross symbolizes responsibility, something you are duty-bound to do. It's a life of endurance, for in this world "ye shall have tribulation".
Therefore, the Word admonishes, "be strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus. Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier ol Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:1, 3).
Our Master lived and prevailed by dint of discipline and unvarnished spirituality (1 Pet. 4:1). And He expects His followers to do the same—especially now that He's physically not with us.
When asked why His disciples didn't fast, Christ replied:
"Can the children of the bride chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long
as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
''But the days wilt come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then shall
they fast in those days" (Mark 2:18-20;.
The disciples will now have to live the kind of life Christ lived; they will now have to learn how to fast often (as Hs did, once fasting forty days and forty nights – Matt. 4:2). Though exhausted by a tiring trek to Samaria, He would not eat when offered food by His disciples (John 4-6-8, 31-34). The disciples at this stage could not endure fasting. Prayer was another weak area, so much so that Jesus complained bitterly in the Garden of Gethsemane: "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" (Matt. 26:41).
All that changed, however, after His death and resurrection. Acts 1:14 reports: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren."
The disciples had come of age spiritually. From Christ they had learnt how to prevail in this world. It was not by living in the flesh but in the Spirit. Christ conquered the world and demonic forces because He came and lived as a "quickening Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).
To achieve this same victory, believers need to be Christ-like; we need to put on Christ, our Strength (Ps. 27:1; Philipp. 4:13; 2 Sam. 22:33).
Isaiah 52:1-2 stirs us to strength:
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city …
"Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion."
Unless we put on our Strength—the victorious life of Christ—we will remain in the dust, shackled in poverty, disease and spiritual oppression.
The reference to the 'captive daughter of Zion' evokes images of war; it speaks of our defeat in war! To regain our freedom, we must fight back! Which brings us back to the need to put on the victory life of Christ.
The apostle Paul prefers to phrase it 4iput on the whole armour of God" (Eph. 6:11; 2 Cor. 6:7). We are warriors like our Lord Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation, who came to set captives free (Heb. 2:10; Luke 4:18). We fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).
To win, we must be in the right military gear! Paul, employing the standard Roman armour of his day, lists each article of armour and gives its spiritual equivalent in the invisible but ongoing spiritual war! (Eph. 6:12-17).
The Girdle about the waist is Truth against which nothing can be done (2 Cor. 13:8). The Breastplate represents Righteousness (Rom. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:24). The Shoes/Boots symbolize the preaching of the gospel of peace, including the sponsorship of it (Isai. 52:7/'Rom. 10:15; Luke 8:1-3). With the shoes, we march to the territory of Satan to wage war for souls.
The Shield represents Faith used to quench the fiery darts of the devil. With faith, we face satanic problems and temptations head-on and prevail. It's by faith that we are able to say in the midst of problems 'As the LORD liveth victory is sure', unperturbed by the bad news, our hearts fixed in His hope (Ps. 112:7).
The Helmet represents Salvation, the Crown, "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philipp. 3:14).
The Sword stands for the Word of God which is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). It is the weapon with which we defend our salvation in Christ (as the Lord exemplified in His encounter with the devil in the wilderness, "it's written …'). Being armed with this veritable spiritual weapon means victory over the devil, regardless of whatever devices he employs against us both physically and spiritually (Col. 3:16).
These are the spiritual weapons of our spiritual warfare mighty (effective) in pulling down the strongholds of Satan and bringing into captivity every thought and act that opposes the knowledge (plans, purposes, etc) of God to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5)! To what end? So that the counsel of Yahweh might stand (Prov. 19:21, 21:30)1
The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary describes the typical Roman soldier as wearing a helmet, a breastplate of brass/chain of mail to cover especially the heart. In addition, he "carries a javelin, a sword hanging from the waist, and a shield, either one circular and about 3 feet in diameter."
To be victorious, we must be arrayed in every one of these pieces of armour. And we must be vigilant by praying always in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). Yes, we must keep wake on a constant alert, or we fall by enemy fire (1 Pet. 5:8)! A soldier who sleeps on the job, when he should be watching out for enemy movements and activities, only courts death!
Soldiers of the Cross of Jesus Christ, like the average soldier, must necessarily oftentimes go without life's usual comforts, such as wining and dining, and instead live an austere spiritual life of fasting-prayer, Vigil and self-denial to please Him that enlisted him into His army (2 Tim. 2:3-4; Amos 6:1,4-6).
Enduring hardness as good soldiers (through righteousness and a life of prayer and fasting) is the only way to victory; this is the cross we must endure for joy and victory tomorrow. As a spiritual warrior, Paul frequently fasted (2 Cor. 11:27). But above all, the Lord Jesus is our Chief Example (Heb. 12:2).
It is an unchanging truth. Victory is never won without a fight nor a champion proclaimed without sterling performance in battle! Angels ministered unto Christ after His 40-day fast (Matt. 4:11). And after an all-night prayer session, He was filled with power, "for there went virtue out of Him, and He healed them all" (Luke 6:12, 19).
When we go the Christ way, His victory power becomes ours too! So the saints of old lived and overcame (Rev. 12:11).