A friend said we were in battle, both spiritually and physically, and we needed to fight harder. Paraphrasing Jesus’ words, he said, “The kingdom of heaven must be taken by force.” Is he right?
Jesus told Pilate, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight.” After telling his disciples they needed swords, he reprimanded Peter for using one. Apparently, the battle is more spiritual than physical.
The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that we wrestle against a spiritual opponent, against “principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness.” On the other hand, Jesus did make a whip and drive the merchants out of the Temple, saying they had made the house of prayer into a playhouse for thieves. Who are we fighting, anyway?
The enemy is the devil, right? Maybe not so much. My greatest enemy is my self-serving desire that opposes whatever God wants to do in my life. As James writes, the fight isn’t with Satan but with our desires that would lead us astray.
In the heat of the battle, if I feel like I’m losing, my first thought might be to pick up the sword and fight harder. The problem is, I’ll never win that way. True, James said we can resist the devil and he’ll flee from us, but I dare not miss the condition under which that is true: I must first submit everything to the Lord.
Strangely, I’m finding that the kingdom of heaven is taken by increasing my surrender to the Lord, not fighting harder.
I surrender my body, making myself a captive to Christ, lest I should miss the truth of my own preaching. — 1 Corinthians 9:27
Reference: Matthew 11:12, 21:13; Luke 22:36; John 18:11, 36; Ephesians 6:12; James 1:14, 4:7