Christianity is war.
I needed to be reminded of this truth and my old friend J.C. Ryle was there to jam it into my soul once again. I find myself referring young Christians to this sermon often; especially when they begin to feel the effects of the battle they have found themselves in as Christians.
I think you’ll see why…
The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such thinking, but he will find no agreement in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”
What do the Scriptures say? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12).… Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:8). “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:11-13). “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). “Labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life” (Luke 13:24). “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:84). “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:18). “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. 1:18-19). Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare.
Reader, consider well what I have been saying. Take care that your own personal religion is real, genuine, and true. The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once every week. But of the great spiritual warfare—its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests—of all this they appear to know nothing at all. Take care that this case is not your own. The worst state of soul is when the “strong man armed keeps his palace, and his goods are at peace,” when he leads men and women “captive at his will,” and they make no resistance. The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner. (Luke 11:21; 2 Tim. 2:26).
Reader, take comfort about your soul, if you know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do you find in your heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do you feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that you cannot do the things you would? (Gal. 5:17). Are you conscious of two principles within you, contending for the mastery? Do you see anything of war in your inward man? Well, thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is evidence not to be despised. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. You are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. You are evidently no friend of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults you, should fill your mind with hope. Reader, I say again, take comfort, the child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two you have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.
I encourage you to read the whole sermon from which these excerpts are pulled. I also encourage you to read Ryle’s other writings; some of which you can access online for free here. If you are going to read one book from Ryle, make sure it is this one. You won’t regret it. I guarantee it.