(2 Corinthians 10:5 – ESV)
The church house is a war zone. It is a spiritual battleground. Now, when people talk of spiritual warfare, it conjures up all sorts of images, depending on what you have been taught about it or how you are used to practicing it. However, many have not considered the truth that preaching and listening to the preached word of God is not only one of God’s primary vehicles for growing us up, but that it is spiritual warfare. Preaching is spiritual warfare of the first order.
The sermon is a skirmish in the heavenly realm, which will play itself out in the physical world. The most intense place of spiritual warfare is in proclaiming God's Word. We as people in the pews are also involved in this warfare. When we are at church, listening prayerfully to the Word of God being expounded upon, we are in a battle the likes of which many never realize.
They ought to. The preacher is battling long held notions and wrong-headed thoughts. He is trying to exalt God and His Word and Christ and His authority in the lives of believers. He is trying to foster correct doctrine and put down incorrect doctrine and it is a battle for the listener as well. We are combating things, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 – ESV).
Oh, how we need to pray that we may have ears that were as Jesus said, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” We need to pray that we won’t be distracted, that we won’t be apathetic, and that we won’t be thinking about what we are doing afterward. We pray that we might put into practice tomorrow some of the pursuits the preacher will be discussing today.
Even when we are listening, and we want to apply what we have heard, we have this “get it all done right now” attitude. The Enemy convinces us that all we have to do is make a decision, but it isn’t just your decision to start it is your determination to stay that counts. The warfare has just begun when we leave the church. It is as Jesus told us in Mark 4:15, the Enemy immediately tries to take away the Word that was sown. If you do not attach concrete action to your decision, and a decision is needed, but if you do not act in accordance with that decision it will only lead you into a boom and bust cycle of frustration. Again, in Mark 4:16-17, Jesus tells us of those who receive the Word with joy, but they have no root, so they fall away.
As well, get on your knees and pray for your pastor since he engages in spiritual warfare against the invisible forces of evil every time he steps into the pulpit and dares to faithfully wield the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18-20). Pray that his preparation is such that he does not set sail into the soil of his own imagination but he stays in touch with the text.
The church is ground zero in the war zone. Of course, those that don’t go to church are like troops that have gone AWOL. They aren’t helping anyone else in the war, and they certainly aren’t receiving any help either. Guns all around and no ammunition is a sad state of affairs for a soldier to be in. Won’t you take up arms and join in the sermon skirmish?