Holiness, Pt. 1

An article from Smithsonian.com titled, World War I: 100 years later, The Last Doughboy of World War I is about our country’s last WWI veteran. This is the story of Frank Buckles who died on a Sunday, February 27, 2011 of natural causes. He was 110 years old and the last surviving American veteran of World War I. Frank Woodruff Buckles was visiting the Kansas State Fair in Wichita one day in the summer of 1917 when, seeing a Marine Corps recruiting booth, he decided to enlist.

  • The nation had just entered World War I.
  • Buckles was only 16, but he told the recruiting sergeant he was 18.
  • The recruiter, perhaps suspecting the boy's real age, offered a fib of his own: he told Buckles he had to be at least 21 to become a United States Marine.
  • Undaunted, Buckles passed another booth and tried his luck with a Navy recruiter.
  • He, too, turned Buckles down, saying he had flat feet, which he didn't.

But Buckles wouldn't give up. The Great War, which had started in 1914, was "an important event," he explains. "The world was interested in it. I was interested."

  • So he traveled south to try his luck with recruiters in Oklahoma City.
  • Again, the Marines turned him down. So did the Navy.
  • But an Army sergeant passed him on to a captain, who asked him for a birth certificate.

"I explained that when I was born in Missouri, birth certificates were not a public record," Buckles recalls. "It would be in the family Bible. And I said, 'You wouldn't want me to bring the family Bible down here, would you?' He said, 'Go on, we'll take you.'" And so it was that in August of 1917, Frank Buckles joined 4.7 million Americans recruited or conscripted for the New American Expeditionary Forces.

They are all gone now [this article written 2011]—all except Buckles, who turned 107 this past February. He is the last living American veteran of the Great War. After basic training, Buckles joined the First Fort Riley Casual Detachment and shipped out for England in December 1917.

  • To Buckles' dismay, his unit was held in reserve there, while others, under the command of John J. Pershing [“Jack Black” Commander of the Western Front], were in France fighting the Germans.
    • Buckles spent most of his time in England on a motorcycle with a sidecar, shuttling officers, delivering dispatches, driving the occasional ambulance and trying to get to the action.
    • "I let any person who had any influence at all know that I wanted to go to France," he says.
  • Finally, after six months in England, Buckles managed to get himself sent to France, where he was assigned to escort an American lieutenant—a dentist—to Bordeaux.
  • He was in the right country, but still miles from the fighting.
  • As the war wound down, he continued to chafe behind the lines.

Buckles was still there when the shooting stopped on November 11, 1918, having claimed 8.5 million lives.

  • "I wasn't disappointed that the war ended," he recalls.
  • "I would have liked to accomplish what I had started out for."

Buckles, [a Centenarian]…was invited to the White House..March [2008].

  • President Bush recognized his World War I
  • "That was interesting," [Buckles] says.
  • "I went to the White House and sat in the Oval Room, and here came President Bush...and he asked me, 'Where were you born?'
  • And I said, 'That's exactly the words that General Pershing used,''' when Corporal Buckles met him after the war.

Asking Buckles origin questions track his uniqueness.  Buckles never actually saw the theater of war but he had the mentality of a fighter.  His mentality was his honor! Attaining a Fighter Mentality is the key to Winning the War Within!

  • Nobility and commitment to join the cause is uncommon and noteworthy.
  • True Christians, make no less a commitment to their Cause.
  • No one else has a “Why” like a True Christian.
  • Christians with like-passion enlist for War.

Over and over again, the New Testament describes and in essence defines the Christian life someone participating in a War.

This sermon is a preamble to a series.

  • I want to drive down some nails regarding this Fighter Mentality.
  • Specifically in terms of fighting for personal purity.
  • Today’s largest battleground is our ever-increasing world and culture of perversion.

I want to make the case that according to God’s Word, personal holiness must be dealt with in terms of its parts and the whole.  Yes, cut tumors out but likewise kill all the cancer in your body with biblical chemotherapy.

The foundation for this begins by recognizing that for all of life, you are at war.  And, the Christian’s war, meaning every Christian is a fighter.  Either a good fighter or bad fighter.

  • The key to killing sin is gaining the mentality of a fighter.

2 Timothy 2 makes this point like nowhere else!

Verses 1-2 describes the Christian mission.

  • This all built on integrity, “faithful men!”
  • Advancement based on glory-less teaching.
  • Invisible, faceless teaching with exponential and incalculable results.

Mentality captured in three different work identities, all same mindset.

  • All cast under a hard life filled with “suffering.”
  • “Share in suffering” (v. 3).

How?  In a word, “Discipline.”

First, a soldier’s focus is solely on the mission.

  • “Civilian pursuits” do not matter - immaterial.
  • Focus is vertical - Pleasing his Superior.

Second, the athlete’s goal is to win through integrity.

  • Plays by the rules.
  • Christian discipline is obedience to God’s Word.

Focus. Integrity. And, Hard Work.

Third, the hard-working farmer’s plods and plows!

  • Consumed by his work.
  • Forced to reap what he sows.

Soldier, Athlete, Farmer.  Discipline equals: Focus, Integrity, Work.  Hard men and women, for a hard mission.

“Does it really take this level of focus just to be a Christian?”

  • This question is asked when you haven’t considered what you are up against.

The best book written on Sanctification is still Holiness by J.C. Ryle.

  • Ryle was a Victorian evangelical of the late 1800’s.
  • Bishop of Liverpool battled the trending fad called: Keswick doctrine, the “Let go and let God”
    • Same song new line called Hyper-grace.
    • Gospel only movements are unbiblical lacking accountability.

Ryle’s successor at Liverpool called him “the man of granite, with the heart of a child.”

  • Standing at 6’4”, a natural athlete, and Oxford’s cricket captain, and one of their top scholars in his field.
  • Serving 39 years in country parishes and 20 more as Liverpool’s first bishop.
  • Living to 1900 to age 83, known as the oldest man on the bench.
    • Energy, brains, vision, drive, clear headed and kind hearted described him.
    • No inhibitions and personal aloofness with salty speech, and hammer-blow rhetoric.
    • The best book for young men is still, Thoughts for Young Men.

I want to key off what he wrote in his chapter called, The fight.

  • People are always fascinated by wars.
  • They are intriguing, determinative, sacrificial, and in most cases ultimate.
  • The Civil War, 75 years since D-Day, Nuclear armament/disarmament, Modern drone warfare, etc --- all fascinate!

Spiritual warfare have to intrigue more!

  • The consequences of this war are unchangeable and eternal.
    • When Paul said, “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold of eternal life” he was talking about personal holiness.

“He that would understand the nature of true holiness must know that the Christian is ‘a man of war’.  If we would be holy, we must fight!”  [Ryle]

1. True Christianity is a fight

Paul exhorts Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).

  • A true Christian is a fighter and this is not next level Christianity.

“From the moment of conversion to the moment you die, we are at war.”  [Ryle]

  • We have serious enemies that you cannot sleep on: “The world, the flesh, and the devil.”
  • John Owen’s saying comes to mind: “You be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
  • The modern phrase is: “Kill or be killed.”

[Appl] Allow me to make this practical.

  • To the men! Discernment for all of life-choices flows right out of first “winning the war within!”  Clarity is lost without a clear conscience.
  • For the women! Never settle for passive resignation to these temptations.  Never feed these temptations.  Settle for nothing less than what is true.

Three enemies of the soul!

Ephesians 2:1 - "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Eph 2:1-3 ESV).

  • Same temptations in the Garden.
  • Same temptations in the Wilderness.

He must fight the flesh.

  • We have a corrupt heart a busy devil and world mingling with us all the time.

“Our hearts are as unstable as water.” [Ryle]

  • While alive, you will never be free from this inside and outside battle.
  • Delusional to expect otherwise.

Secret to joy as a Christian is accepting this War.

A fellow high school wrestler became a Navy Seal.  Retired now motivational speaker.  In an interview, he defined himself as someone who willingly put himself miserable circumstances while loving every minute of it.

  • Your life commitment is to kill this enemy within called, “your flesh.”

Mark 14:38 - Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mar 14:38 ESV)

1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1Co 9:27 ESV)

Romans 7:23 - but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom 7:23 ESV)

Galatians 5:24 - And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24 ESV)

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5 ESV)

He must fight the world.

  • Our world is in our face, but it is also stealth! Insidious and a subtle influencer.
  • Takes daily resistance.

“The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes – all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered” [Ryle]

  • You need the running subtext in your heart. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God” subtext!

James 4:4 - You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jam 4:4 ESV)

1 John 2:15 - Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1Jo 2:15 ESV)

Galatians 6:14 - But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14 ESV)

1 John 5:4 - For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. (1 Jo 5:4 ESV)

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2 ESV)

He must fight the devil.

  • “The old enemy of mankind is not dead.” [Ryle]
  • He walks “to and fro in the earth, walking up and down in it.”
    • His one goal is to ruin your soul.
    • A lion, stalking and spying you like prey.
    • A murderer and liar wishing you were in Hell or on the way there.
    • Making superstitions and infidelity

Job 1:7 - The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." (Job 1:7 ESV)

Luke 22:31 - "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, (Luk 22:31 ESV)

 John 8:44 - You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (Joh 8:44 ESV)

Ephesians 6:11-13 - Put on he whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:11-13 ESV)

James 4:7 - Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jam 4:7 ESV)

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1Pe 5:8 ESV)

  • The effective battle is a daily battle. Keeping Satan from infiltrating your heart!
  • Assume he is constantly attempting to break and enter.
  • You have to be alert as an armed “strong man” armed to keep him out.

When we first moved into a house we had built in Little Rock, we did not have downstairs blinds up yet.  Saving money.  The house appeared vulnerable. At midnight, the doorbell rang “Ding dong, Ding dong!”  Lady peering through the side window, I thought she was someone I knew who was in crisis and sent Judy down!  It was instead someone stoned on drugs.  We had to command to leave.  An hour later, I shook awake to find her casing the home across the street with her cell phone light.  I called the police and they caught in the shadows!

[Point] Satan stalks your home!  Especially when left vulnerable.  When you are easy prey by ignoring the War!

Easy to underestimate our Enemy and believe he is not there.

  • “He is esoteric.”
  • “He’s not going to determine anything in your life.

A General in England (in Ryle’s day), the Duke of Wellington, said, “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.”

 2 Timothy 2:3 - Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2Ti 2:3 ESV)

Jesus said: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Mat 10:34 ESV)

“War a good warfare”

1 Timothy 6:12 - Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1Ti 6:12 ESV)

These verses speak clearly.  All say one thing.

True Christianity is a struggle, a Fight and War.

  • The trend of the church has been to cancel out the hard work of Christianity and gloss it with “hyper-grace” is selling something!
  • An easy sell but a false gospel.

If you watch postgame interviews when athletes win a championship (i.e Kawai Leonard, winning NBA finals). When asked, (nine times out of ten) they attribute success with two words: “Hard Work.”  - This is not cliché. At some point, all successful athletes decide to endure hardship for a specific cause!  This is same thing as living in a wartime mindset. Why Native Americans called Sports – “The Little Brother of War!”

Are you a fighter?  This is an important question to answer.  True Christians are fighters.

  • Do you sense any kind of spiritual conflict in your soul?
  • Between your flesh and spirit?

James 4:4-6 - You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jam 4:4-6 ESV)

  • If you feel any war in the inner man. Something contending for mastery?  Thank God you have a pulse.
    • This is evidence you are a true Christian!
    • Anything is better than indifference!
  • People in stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and then finally stage 4 discipline are usually stuck within a holding cell called, indifference.
  • Christians are known by two things: Inward warfare and Inward peace.

There is one other main battlefront in this war.  The battle of the mind.

  • The overt arena Satan attacks are a person’s appetites.

Like when Satan asked Eve: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:1-6 ESV)

  • Satan’s accusation is simple. “Eve, God is holding out on you!”
  • Eve’s flesh was incited and she saw:

Satan’s lie overtly snared the appetites!  The lust of the flesh, eyes, and boastful pride of life! What’s always met with doom! This temptation is straightforward but Satan has a second tact.

  • If you won’t budge on appetites, Satan goes after how you think!
    • If Satan can tap your pride while watering down Truth, he knows compromise is coming!
    • These are “doctrines of demons” where Satan comes as an “angel of light.”
  • A Cotton candy Gospel. No suffering and all prosperity.
  • Hucksters – “door to door salesmen” promising pain free living in the name of “the abundant life.”

Real Faith in the Real Jesus swapped for Plain Old Make-Believe.

  • People, in their mind’s eye, are entranced by the persecution-free, suffering-free, worry-free Christian life.
    • With enough will-power (called “faith”), positive thinking, and money offerings, Jesus gives this to you!
    • Placebo-effect preaching!

A watered down gospel is meant to crack to door for sin addictive habits.  Unchecked immoraltities!

2 Peter 2:14…18-19 - They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!...For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2Pe 2:18-19 ESV)

2 Corinthians was promoting this same false-gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:17 - For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2Co 2:17 ESV)

The “so many, peddlers of God’s word” were false teachers mentioned intermittently throughout this letter.

  • The subtext of everything else that is positive in the letter.
    • There is always a war dynamic.
    • Their main tactic, Satan’s tactic was to disqualify Paul as an Apostle.
  • I never picture Paul as a “man’s man” or “personality preacher!” Why I relate to him.

 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 - I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!--I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2Co 10:1-6 ESV)

  • He was meek but he was bold in truth. This is warfare.

Warfare in New Testament days was the absolute opposite of Nuclear or Drone warfare.

A tank gunner from desert storm told me during desert storm he would fire heat seeking shells that would find the target.  He would drive by the wreckage miles away later.

  • New Testament warfare was hand-to-hand. Swords and daggers.
  • This had to be Paul’s picture of battling for truth!

Battling for truth is played out in 2 Corinthians 11.

  • Paul dismantling “angel of light” false apostles. Peddling a false Jesus’s and false gospels.
  • Paul’s gospel saves but does not exempt war and suffering.

Christianity is real commitment to being a Soldier with a wartime mind!  Knowing the stakes are always high risk!

Conclusion:  Last week we had a family camping trip on the Homer Spit.

  • I drove my Bronco and when I drove literally to, “The end of the road” where my Bronco decided to die.
    • It wouldn’t shift into gear.
    • So, through a family I know in Homer, I was steered to a mobile mechanic.
  • Crawling under my Bronco on the spit, we struck up conversation.

Steve, who grew up in Homer, told me his High-Risk, High-Stakes story.

  • Steve who knows “every tree every trail” in Homer ventured out in his snow machine into fresh snow.
  • Without warning, the weather shifted and he was in the middle of a white out.
    • When you know “every tree and trail” you are faced with a real decision and temptation.
    • You either hunker down leeward to your snow machine and dig a hole to wait out the white out.
    • Or, you immediately retrace your path, walking or driving back!
    • He did neither.
    • He left his machine and tried to scout around to get his bearings.

By the time, he circled back to where he thought his machine was supposed to be, it was buried.

  • For the next three days, Steve was “Stomping snow.”
    • By day three, he was delirious.
    • He did what you never do, he ate snow. So, he was nearing the end!
  • The search and rescue pilot on the final lap, going outside of his normal flight pattern and spotted him.
  • Dispatching the supplies and radioing the helicopter.
  • A happy conclusion for what he knew went really wrong. Listening to him, I could tell he did not truly understand the real reason why things went wrong!

My Homer friend, who put me in touch with Steve, explained that last winter he had faced the exact situation.

  • Snow machining into a white out, he thought, “I know every tree and trail” but re-crossing his own track, he suddenly knew his only chance was to humble himself and follow the same path he came road in on.
    • This became symbolic for his own well-being!
    • A personal reset in his work life and home life priorities.

Facing wartime temptations, one wrong turn and one bad decision can cost you everything.

Prevention begins with your mind!  Winning the War Within!

  • No fighting, no holiness, while we live!
  • So commit to fight for holiness and fight for joy.

Matthew 11:12 - From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Mat 11:12 ESV)

“It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.  A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God” [Robert Murray M’Cheyne]