One of my favorite verses is Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” You might ask, “What might this have to do with a ‘wartime lifestyle?’ ” There is a process God conveys upon Christian believers called sanctification whereby the Holy Spirit works in hearts to change them to reflect more and more of God’s image. Instead of a self-improvement project, sanctification is a process of learning to love and serve God and others. It is a process of being rooted in the Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ. It is a process of being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.
The winter is typically the time for New Year’s resolutions and self-reflection. A new diet might be in store. A commitment to a new exercise program could be in the works. A change in focus and energy usually follows the hectic holiday season. Maybe more so in early 2022 with the prospect of a pandemic that wouldn’t seem to go away, a “Covid-19” mindset that entered almost every decision of every day…
Regardless of the attempts we make to start over or start something new in our human strength, it is a job that cannot be taken away from the Holy Spirit Who is the only One Who has the power to give us a new heart. Yet, something we can do is to assume a wartime posture and invite the Holy Spirit in to take over. When we answer the Gospel’s radical call to expose the idols of our hearts from underground we recognize the work of spiritual warfare and look to the Victor Who leads us forward.
What hinders us is a subtle drift into a peacetime mindset. This is when we sit back and ignore the silent cancers in our own hearts and adhere to the Pharisee-like externals of keeping to our confessional theology and outward duties of faith. But, at the level of what we are really living for down deep – it turns out we are living for something other than God. We are drifters. We drift into a peacetime lifestyle that makes us complacent and unaware of present dangers to our souls. If honest, we discover that all we want is comfort. Not the responsibilities of the Great Commission. Not engagement, but rather passively watching movies and clicking through social media. Not generous giving, but taking pride in our own possessions. Not soldiering, but taking pride in ease and prestige. Not building the Church, but weakening the Church.
The wartime lifestyle is a stance of repentance, not forgetfulness, not mind-numbing activity. It is an Isaiah 55:6,7 stance, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” A wartime mentality focuses on needy people who are spiritually and physically perishing. A wartime mentality focuses on missions and unreached peoples.
I don’t battle weight gain or loss, but instead for the weightlessness of Christ’s reconciliation; I don’t shed soul-blood over life’s frustrations, but instead apply my life-blood to honoring Christ and loving others; I don’t engage in combat to get to the front of the line, but instead engage in combat to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5); I don’t create conflict unless it is to further the cause of Christ to which I have been called; I don’t answer others with hostile words, but I maintain healthy hostility toward the enemy of my soul; I don’t stir up strife, but I will contend for the spread of the Gospel; I don’t strike out to inflict retribution, but I strike out to offer others the fruits of the Spirit of God.