The Battleground

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The sun had not yet edged its way into the horizon yet the birds were already stirring in the trees. But there was something wrong … what was it? There didn’t seem to be a breath of air moving and the smallest sounds echoed loudly. That was it!  The birds weren’t making any sounds, only the rustling of their feathers as they winged their way into the early darkness. Anticipation hung thickly in the air and it seemed as if the whole scene would explode any minute. Yet the stillness seemed even more overpowering.

The scene moved into focus as the sun slowly inched its way upward bringing with it a new day. There were the vivid greens of the landscape, contrasting the clear dark water of the stream that sliced through the meadow. How peaceful it seemed yet how foreboding was the atmosphere. Something was different about today.  There was something lurking in the tall grass … something that hadn’t been there yesterday. It couldn’t be seen or heard really, just somehow felt, anticipated and feared.

Almost as if on cue there came another sound of something stirring in the tree line.  It wasn’t loud or clamoring but just the sound of something moving about. It never grew louder but somehow it became larger.  And oddly it was a soothing sound. Then somewhere across the stream in the tall grass there erupted sounds that began to increase in both volume and number until it seemed as if the whole meadow would explode all at once. They became so loud the sounds in the tree line were completely drowned out.  No matter how hard the observer listened they simply could not be heard. Now it seemed as if one loud voice commanded the entire scene.  It was a voice filled with frustration … confusion … fear … anger … somewhere just out of sight.

It seemed like just a moment but it must have been an hour or more as the sun was now rising quickly in the sky. The ground began to shake and tremble as the noise from the tall grass began to move toward the edge of the stream. It seemed to encompass everything in its path.  Nothing else seemed to exist except it. The quiet and serene meadow was slowly evolving into a scene of confusion and chaos. There appeared to be nothing to stop it … it just kept coming.

Strange … if the observer covered his ears the scene returned to one of a peaceful meadow with a babbling brook running through it. Yet while the roaring noise emanating from the meadow was silenced he could still hear the sounds from the tree line. They were steady and consistent yet there was something almost melodic to them.  They almost compelled the observer to listen while the sounds from the meadow demanded to be heard. The thought of uncovering his ears was almost frightful.  The contrast between the sounds in the tree line and the meadow was like a deep crevasse. Standing there in the middle of that green valley was like standing in the middle of a … battleground.

The anticipation of confrontation grew with each passing moment. On the one side was the roar of total confusion and on the other was the quiet persistence of that soothing sound. That little green valley was about to be torn apart with the clash of these two enemies and it seemed as if everything in their path would be destroyed. It was as if all peace and tranquility left on the wings of the birds.  Yet it was odd … very odd. Simply focusing attention on the sounds coming from the tree line seemed to drown out all the chaos and confusion just as if ones ears were covered. What a dichotomy.  It was as if the ebb and flow of the battle would be placed in the hands of the observer. No … in the hands of the battleground itself! It was as if the contestants were really only participants in something on a much grander scale … life and death.

At the time of the 1st century church it was thought that the mind was either good or evil. On the evil side it could be hardened (2Cor 3:14), blinded (2Cor 4:4), corrupted (2Tim 3:8) or debased (Rom 1:28). On the positive side the mind could be renewed (Rom 12:42) and pure (2Ptr 3:1). The Christian’s mind is capable of loving God (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) and incorporating the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16). Unfortunately most Christians today view the mind as morally neutral and focus only on the flesh, which is in direct opposition to the Word of God.

Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

These verses are just two examples that make this point.  It is foundational that God has given man a mind that can reason. He has been endowed with intelligence, which is used in making choices. It’s that very intelligence that Paul had in mind in his letter to the Romans.

Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

At the moment we were born again our spirit man was given new life and our personal relationship with God, which was lost in the Garden of Eden, was restored. When the Holy Spirit took up habitation within us our spirit became one with God. But, as Paul notes in verse 2, there is work to be done with our mind … it was not changed at the moment of salvation. 

As we look at verse 2 we first must note that in verse 1 Paul tells us that we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice … which is your reasonable service. This represents a choice on our part and that choice, while influenced by the spirit, is an action of the mind … of the will.  It is an action that our old nature does not want to take. Therefore we are charged with making this transformation by renewing or changing the qualities of our mind.

The mind is our ruling authority and God has taken the position of never violating our free will. It follows then that we are solely responsible for initiating and continuing this process. It is our conscious decision to choose to be transformed. Transformed (metamorphousthe) is an interesting word.  It carries with it the meaning of being changed like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. But we do not have the power on our own to accomplish this. That’s just one of the reasons that God made the Holy Spirit an integral part of salvation.

Take a moment and picture Jesus as He was revealed to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Matt 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

That is our ultimate reward! Our life here on earth is a journey toward that goal. That is another of the reasons that Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit. He is the earnest or promise of our new heavenly body.

Eph 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

That is why we progress through this life in stages … from glory to glory.

2Cor 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

One day we will have the same image as Jesus, that same representation or resemblance. We will have the same moral character that He has and we will be like Him.

Now the last part of verse 18 gives us the answer as to how that occurs but it doesn’t tell us when the “glories” occur.  The when is up to us and is determined by the choices we make. It is determined by the renewing of our mind.

Let’s revisit Rom 12:1 for a moment and consider that expression … which is your reasonable service. This is not some duty that we can perform on our own; if we try we will never succeed. This is God’s work and that means we are to use what He has given us to accomplish the task. As Matthew Henry wrote … lay your souls under the changing transforming influences of the blessed Spirit, seek unto God for all grace in the use of all the means of grace. Though the new man be created of God, yet we must put it on (Eph 6:24), and pressing forward towards perfection.

So why can’t we do this on our own?

The enemy that opposes the renewing of our mind is our flesh and it is supported on all sides by the world’s system and it’s influences. That is why Paul admonishes us to be not conformed to this world. The lusts of this world are advanced by the men of this world and result in ungodliness. The word used for world in this context is kosmos from which we derive our word cosmos; the material universe. It represents the age in which we live.  It is a set of standards for living that are opposed to the standards locked inside us, which we received from the Holy Spirit.  He is the one we need to turn to renew our mind.

The process is a slow one that will take a lifetime. We call it sanctification and it forms the foundation of our Walk With God. Before we were born again our mind wore a specific set of worldly clothing.  As we transform our habits we are slowly exchanging this mind suit for the mind of Christ. The end result is that as our mind changes our whole man reflects the change. It is the process of cultivating a spirit that is attached to God’s Kingdom and not the kingdom of this world. But it isn’t an easy process … is it?

Just because the enemy has lost the battle for our soul he is not about to give up the fight. His plans do not change and they always have the same target; the Word of God.  That is what he is after in you and me. As a new man in Christ you are a carrier of the Word. Jesus, the very Word of God, lives in you by His Spirit. Each and every day that you wake up and put one foot on the floor you are a challenge to the god of this world … and he doesn’t like it. Each and every day he wages a battle for your mind because if he can get you to give him control of that he has inhibited the work of your spirit. That’s why Paul tells Timothy to follow after the things of God and not the world.

1Tim 6:11-12 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

This daily battle is fought in that fertile little valley each and every day. It is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh and the spirit doesn’t always win. That’s why Paul calls it what it is … the good fight of faith. We must choose to move onto that battlefield and take up the fight. We must choose to follow after the Word of God to wash our mind and renew our nature. We must never forget that we have eternal life and what we do with that life here on earth has a profound and eternal impact. How we choose to live our life is directly reflected in what our mind is focused upon … the world or the Word.

Col 3:8-10 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him

As the sun continues to rise on the battleground our ears are confronted with the chaos and confusing noise coming from just the other side of the stream in the tall grass. Does it overwhelm us or do we cover our ears and listen for the steady and peaceful sound coming from just inside the tree line? That battleground is our mind and it’s our choice … the world or The Spirit? Just remember … the one observing from the edge of the battleground … is our very own soul.

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