[This is a letter written from a dad to his four children. It is real and raw, and reflects the fluidity of a heartfelt conversation. It was not intended to be a theological treatise, and while it’s intent is to be Scripturally sound, it isn’t comprehensive or exhaustive to all the Bible offers, or that could, and perhaps should be said. It is an imperfect field manual …a brief, but important dispatch sent in the midst of conflict (not our family’s, but that of a grander, eternal sort). It has been redacted where appropriate, but I have maintained the parental perspective (though I only have four children of my own and a fatherly concern for the people I am privileged to serve as an under-shepherd.]
Dear Daughter ~ Dear Son ~ Dear Sister ~ Dear Brother, (conclusion)
Here is why I believe it is important that I be a fighter… because when Jesus made that offer in John 10:10, he also said this, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Your spiritual infancy and faith-beginnings have, I believe, largely kept you (personally) shielded from that reality (part parenting, part prayer, ALL GOD). But I want you to know, FOLLOWING JESUS (I mean really pressing in …like the death of self-carrying a cross-kind of following) IS NOT EASY …IT IS A FIGHT!
And while your mom and I have known this for a long time, and have been fighting that enemy on your behalf—we cannot make choices for you about your actively enrolling in Jesus’ revolution, and choosing to battle as part of His resistance against the forces of darkness. I believe I have shared around this Truth with you in varying ways, but perhaps not as clearly as now becomes necessary if you are going to seize the reins of your life and follow Jesus in victorious living (though a battle), and not be isolated, run-through, and defeated like so many—or worse, to be continually waffling and wasting away in complacency and lukewarm commitment as you serve yourself more than the Savior!
SATAN IS REAL, and he intends to do you far more harm than you have imagined …and again, it is a grace to you that we have labored to shield you from that (you are not without your issues, but you are a clean slate in Jesus). However, if you want long-haul devotion to Jesus, and all of the hope and promise that are offered you in Christ—then you are going to have to wage bloody war for it!
We can pray for you, with you, over you (we have) …we can preach to you, pour into you, and try to point you in a wise direction (we have) …we’ll fight with you and for you (we have), and if push come to shove, we would, without hesitation, die for you—but, this one thing we cannot do for you! If your life (however glorious or inglorious) is to be defined by a trajectory that reflects grace upon grace and growing deeper and deeper in Jesus, then you have got to own the daily, week-to-week, season-after-season, lifetime FIGHT TO STAY THE COURSE!
It may feel like it was easy up to a point …it wasn’t, it’s just that you were sitting on our spiritual coattails and our prayerful cries for heaven’s help on your behalf. Yet, though you’ll always be ours, and you will always be a proud part of our legacy, God has no grandchildren! I want to clear up any confusion my flawed example might have caused …or your mis-perception of things might have created. You will have to fight your sin, and your apathy, and the enemy; and it will be the battle of a lifetime. Please hear me, though, it is worth the fight because you have already won in Jesus!
Still, you will have to be broken, crushed, and emptied …you will face discouragement, despair, and sometimes the tempting desire to walk away—GET REAL SERIOUS AND REAL CLEAR ON YOUR CALLING IN CHRIST, AND DO IT NOW IF YOU WANT TO WEATHER THOSE STORMS. You have been graced much, and I have always believed God wanted to, and would, do great things in you and through you (His will). However, that will demand the very best, and even at times the well-intentioned worst, of who you are! If you thought Satan was just going to lay-down-and-roll-over while God lavishes abundance on you, then you’ve unwittingly excluded yourself from the first part of what Jesus said! Let me assure you… IT. DON’T. WORK. THAT. WAY.
Some of you have gotten knocked down of late (it happens to all of us), and doubtless you had a hand in it …as did others perhaps, or circumstance, or whatever—but the primary reason is because Satan hates you and he means to have you dead, or at leased maimed to the point you are reduced to the status of a spiritual cripple who walks with a limp of ineffectiveness!
So you get knocked down… it sucks, believe me, I know! But take a moment while you’re down there to count your blessings …see all the grace and goodness lavished on you …see the sure promise of Jesus …reflect on how great it is to be entering the fray of following Christ having been trained largely away from the field of battle (though imperfectly) before having to take up the fight for yourself. Also, while you’re down there, remind yourself that you’ve already gotten far more and better than you deserved, and that Jesus is infinitely worthy of every ounce of devotion you can muster. THEN, cry for help, crawl, scrape …do whatever you have to, but GET UP, DUST YOURSELF OFF, and for God-sake …for Christ sake …for your sake and the sake of those you love, don’t just stand there… FIGHT!
A lot is wrong with you, but probably not the stuff you dwell on …mostly it’s that you’re an ‘in-the-process-of-being-redeemed’ soldier in an ‘over-your-head-but-not-His’ war of the ages. Instead of picking up your metaphorical sword and swinging with all your might to slay your enemies in Jesus name, recognize that it is your propensity as a fallen human to waste time whining because life knocked your ice cream cone out of our hand, and nobody wants to cry with you, and nobody wants to buy you another one! WAKE UP, SLEEPER, THE ENEMY IS TRYING TO KILL YOU! FIGHT!!! You’re the only one who can do that for you.
Crowns aren’t given to crybabies… Yes, we gotta cry, but let it be the tears of noble warfare waged in The Good Name of our Great God—for our souls and for the souls of others!
All my love,
Field Note to Friend-Readers:
Too many Christ-followers are living far beneath the level of their inheritance—they are weak of faith, the church is anemic as a result, and the mission of Christ to a lost and dying world suffers because of it. Like me, you have probably overlooked the problem or your own sin too often, underestimated your enemy too much, and not looked longingly enough into the atoning work of Jesus on your behalf! Too many have relegated the significance of the cross to a point of decision in their past instead of the present-tense imperative of ‘deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.’
Christian, can I just implore you to begin daily heeding the words penned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12, which says, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform 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.”
I know that my kids love Jesus, as do my wife and I …and I could guess that you do as well. Yet, here’s what Scripture says about all of us: we (like any living sacrifice would) have a real bad habit of crawling off the altar. This is why the command is in the aorist tense, it is ongoing, something that must be done daily. Also, Scripture makes it plain that we have a very real, and very powerful enemy who was the enemy of our God first. He is quite cunning in lying to us, luring us, and leveraging our flesh in order to entice us from said altar. Change your mindset. We are not to be looking for the good life in this world, but in the next. We are residing in a world that is very much at war and you are a soldier for Christ. Reveille. Fall in.
By way of the gospel,