Christians are in a battle with the world, a battle that rages continually as we are confronted with promises of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction at every turn. These messages are often subtle, chipping away at our defenses little by little. A billboard on our commute to work, prompting us to book a bliss filled spur of the moment weekend getaway. A commercial as we relax after a hard days work, telling us to treat ourselves to luxury by driving their latest release.
Bit by bit, the world chips away at our defenses until one day it breaks through, capturing and stealing us away from God. I know this to be true because it has happened in my own life.
When I was in college, the world captured me for a time. Instead of living for God, I lived for the promises of the world. I am sure many of you have experienced the same.
The battle we fight and the captivity we endure as Christians is real. If that is true, how do we guard ourselves and break free?
Love, the Greatest Commandment
If you remember, in the book of Matthew, the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus in order to discount Him with the people, so they could rise to prominence once again. One of the Pharisees — a lawyer — asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds by saying:
“You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Then comes the second greatest commandment.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments [He tells us] hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
Jesus' commands tell us our heart is the place from which our affections and our love for God and others arise. When we love ourselves, or the things of the world, more than God, we won’t sacrifice our desires for God’s. Instead we sacrifice God's desires for own, resulting in us sinning against Him. When we love ourselves more than others, we won't be able to sacrifice our desires, rights, freedoms, and resources for others either, which could result in us sinning against them, or using them for our own gain or pleasure. So our hearts are the castle we must guard and the key to the cell in which we sit.
How Do We Guard Our Hearts and Escape Captivity?
I have been reading and studying the book of Colossians lately during my devotional time. It is fast becoming one of my favorite books in the Bible. One of the things I have noticed throughout the book is Paul's gospel-centered nature. I understand Paul is gospel-centered throughout his writings, but it seems it is more apparent and condensed in the book of Colossians.
Time and time again he comes back to Christ as a way to motivate the Colossians to resist false teachers, press on in their Christian faith, and love one another. In the same way that Paul uses the gospel to motivate the Colossians to action, we should use the gospel to guard our hearts from the attacks of the world. We do that by preaching the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves of God's love and sacrifice for us. As we preach the gospel to ourselves, our love for God should increase, while at the same time, our love for the world should decrease.
So the gospel is our God-given battle strategy against the world's constant barrage of attacks, and our escape route from captivity. Preaching the gospel to ourselves, then, not only fortifies our heart against the world's attacks, but it also forges a key to the cell in which we sit.
Christian, do not underestimate the gospel. It not only has the power to save and sanctify, but also to protect and release. Preach it to yourselves often.