Monday, October 5, 2009

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail . . .

One of my favorite stories from World War II is one told about General Patton (see picture of him conferring over strategy). I can't confirm if it is true, or not, but knowing his hard charging, no nonsense, get the job done attitude that made him loved in war (and, I have heard, hated in peacetime) it fits. It is said that one time he had the enemy running backwards hard. His tanks were rushing forward so fast that they were outrunning their fuel supply of trucks. He was faced with stopping his advance until the trucks could catch up. Knowing that this would give the enemy time to rest and dig in and fortify he made the decision, instead, to stop half of his tanks and transfer their fuel to the other half, choosing to remain on the offensive at half strength rather than simply hold ground at full strength—the proverbial, "The best defense is a good offense." Unfortunately, the enemy, in this spiritual war we are in, has convinced Christians that we are supposed to hunker down and dig in and simply hold ground and hold on until He comes back instead of being a mighty army advancing in the authority of Christ Himself.

The Bible says we are to pray for His Kingdom (the domain of His rule) to come to earth as it is in Heaven, and it says of His government (rule) there shall be no end. He is a God at war, and a Lord of armies. He has already defeated the devil—we are to collect the spoils of victory. Yes, in the big picture, the world is heading toward catastrophe, and yes we lose some battles, but in the realm we are given, each of us and the church as a whole, there should be some tremendous victory simply because of who we are in Christ and what He has already done.

I know that this is not always a popular position, and I could never explain the full basis for it here, but suffice to say that when a Christian comes in to a room (as I believe Bill Johnson says) the entire equation changes because the Holy Spirit of God comes in with Him. We should, I believe, be more surprised when darkness and its work doesn't fall than we should be when it does. We have the God on our side who breathes out stars so big that, as Loui Giglio says, if the earth were the size of a golfball, one of those stars would be as far across as Mount Everest is high! That is our God—the God of David and Elijah and Moses!

But, we are becoming a church in retreat. A church trying to simply hold on to the ground it has rather than trying to aggressively expand and take more ground. We often act and think like the devil is bigger than God! I have been having this offensive, high expectation attitude build in me more and more over the years, but it was really rekindled for me reading Derek Prince's book War in Heaven. In that book he points out a verse which has often confused me, and shouldn't have because of my military training and background. I think I probably missed it because I had been buying in to this defensive church mentality so I was trying to interpret the verse from that perspective.

In that book Derek talks about Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus says: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We, the body of Christ, are the church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Now, until last night, I've never really understood that verse. I've used it, and held to it, knowing somehow it meant that the devil wasn't going to win, but I never "got" what it was saying (it's great that a gate of hell won't overcome me, but how does a "gate" attack, anyway?) Well, I should have thought more about it. This is an offensive, not a defensive verse for US, not the devil! As Derek points out, the gate of a city is its weak point—it is the point an ATTACKING army focuses on. For it to say that the gates of hell won't prevail against us is to mean that as we attack the devil's strongholds HIS gate won't hold out against us! We will break through his gate! But, for this to work, we have to march to where he is and carry the attack to him! This is the only way the verse makes sense—that it is in the context of our offensive—because gates don't attack, they ARE attacked!

Where has the enemy built strongholds in your life or the lives God has placed you around? Do you expect victory or defeat in those areas? Have you taken your thoughts and expectations and faith captive to the truth of our victory in Christ and the authority we exercise in Christ as His children? I want to encourage you, as I need encouraging as well, to go on the offensive. Expect that marriage to not just survive, but to prosper. Expect that physical ailment to be defeated. Expect that addiction to be defeated. We may not see every victory, but we can't water down our expectations to protect ourselves. Faith is, ultimately, the expression of the trust we have in God's love, Word, promises, goodness, and character. He has showed us His perfect heart and will in the Garden before the fall, in Jesus while on earth, and in Heaven. In all places it is good. Really good! We have a mighty God who will never leave us and who has left us to show Him to the world, as Jesus showed Him to the world when He walked here, and as He now walks here in us.

Photo Credits: National Archives

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