God conscripted His chosen people in both the Old and New Testaments to be soldiers in His army. “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt,” wrote Moses (Exodus 12:41; New King James Version). God took the nation of Israel, a ragtag bunch of dirty, faithless, weak-willed, whining slaves, and made it His army.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” the Apostle Paul wrote his beloved son-in-the-faith, Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul recognized that the Christian life is a fight—at times full of exhausting battles. He expected all Church members to follow his example (1 Corinthians 11:1). No matter how hard the battle gets, we must never, never, never, never give in. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” he admonished Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3).
Our Military Commission
God commissioned ancient Israel, as soldiers, to take back and cleanse the land promised to our founding father Abraham. Demon-inspired, idolatrous people—who cared little to know or understand the true God—squatted on that good ground and defiled God’s chosen land with their immoral lives and pagan practices. God had given those Gentiles an opportunity to observe His way of life and embrace it. Centuries before Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had walked among them and had shown them God’s ways. Yet they wanted no part of it.
God’s New Testament Church’s commission is the same, only spiritual and universal in scope. God wants us to take back the entire Earth from Satan and his evil demons and cleanse it for 1,000 years—all in preparation to renew and rule the universe under Jesus Christ. That is great news. But we are not there yet. We are in a fight, individually and collectively—it’s the most colossal battle in history. Do we have the passion to win this war?
Keep Your Outpost Safe
It takes deep thought to view living the Christian life in military terms. Truthfully, it is the only way to make the Christian way of life work. Notice, Jesus Christ used military terms to describe His own life on Earth. “I have told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world,” He told the disciples just before His crucifixion (John 16:33; Easy-to-Read Version). Jesus Christ succeeded in living God’s way of life to the very end. If we do not follow Christ’s sterling example, we will suffer tragic defeat.
When I first came into God’s Church in 1975, I did not understand the concept of being a good soldier for Jesus Christ. I had been raised as a Roman Catholic. For 18 years of my life, I was taught that because I was Catholic, I had it made. I didn’t have to overcome sin—just make it to confession before I die. It has been hard to get that satanic thinking out of my mind. Real conversion is a difficult endeavor; it is a raging war at times. To become truly converted requires the heart and discipline of a battle-hardened soldier.
I remember hearing God’s ministers compare regional offices to outposts, which is a military term. “Will you pray earnestly that God will stop the hand of Satan and his persecutors in that area?” one writer pleaded in the Good News. “Will you ask God’s blessing and guidance for … the men and women who are assisting … in this ‘outpost’ of God’s Work?” (May 1960). It was not until I came into the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg) that I began to understand what that term really meant. Because of the massive Laodicean defection from God, those few who remained loyal to Christ had to work feverishly to establish new outposts for God’s Work around the Earth. This involved more than just establishing regional offices—it also meant building solid field congregations.
Do you realize that every pcg congregation, whether big or small, is one of Christ’s outposts? And if you are one of God’s scattered sons—“one from a city” or even a nation—you are an outpost for Christ.
Be assured, Satan hates each outpost and you! We cannot afford to be naive: Satan wants to shut down your outpost—literally wipe it off the map. Are you doing everything to keep your outpost safe from vicious attack?
Satan’s Weapon of Choice: Human Sin
To survive and win wars, good soldiers made it their practice to study and know the enemy. Are you doing that? “We must know how the human spirit is used and how God’s Spirit is used. Frankly, we also have to learn a lot about Satan’s spirit. He is the one deceiving God’s people,” writes Gerald Flurry in our personal field manual, How to Be an Overcomer (emphasis added). We learn during the Days of Unleavened Bread that once we see our sin, we must put it out of our lives, like we put physical leaven out of our homes. However, we simply cannot do this effectively if we do not know how Satan uses his spirit against us.
Why was Christ able to defeat Satan at the place of the skull? “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me,” He told His disciples just before His crucifixion (John 14:30). Even though Christ was shaken thinking about what He had to endure in sacrifice for us, He met the suffering with confidence because He knew the devil had nothing in Him. For 33½ years, Christ lived a perfect life without even one sin. Satan could not make any military advances into Christ’s life because He was so close to His Father through His faith, prayer, study and fasting.
Sadly, we cannot make the same claim. Satan still has a lot in us—often a real hold on us in some areas. Let’s look at three sins that Satan uses to keep his hold on us.
Above all sins, Satan’s favorite is lying. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires,” Jesus Christ told the religious people of His day. “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 according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44; Revised Standard Version). This was not only a condemnation of the devil, Christ was condemning the religious people present for wanting to kill Him. The point is, religious people can also be proficient liars.
Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. This means that Satan was the first liar in the history of the universe. God and Christ want us to recognize that the devil has children—children of lies. Of course, God does not want us to be in that number. But are we? The answer is yes, to some degree or another. When we lie, Satan has something in us. If we don’t repent of lying, he will dig in even deeper.
Satan hates the truth. Guess what? Human nature hates the truth too. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Paul warned (Romans 8:6‑7). The word enmity means hatred. This is a stark spiritual reality. The carnal mind hates God and His law, so it is only natural that we hate the truth too. We have the Laodicean rebellion as solid proof that even very religious people hate God’s truth. Ninety-five percent of God’s people no longer love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). According to God, they hate it!
Hopefully, most of God’s people resist telling bald-faced lies, purely false statements. Yet how many of us are willing to slant the truth when it suits our purpose? Be honest—we are guilty of that! Whenever we slant the truth to make ourselves look better, we are liars. If we slant the truth to make someone else look bad, that is gossip and a false witness! Even when we tell the truth about someone else’s private matters, God considers it a violation of the Ninth Commandment because we are harming their reputation. We have the responsibility to protect every member’s privacy.
Satan loves it when we embrace lying. There is no such thing as a tiny white lie, slanted truths or half-truths—all are deceits. It is more natural for us to lie than to be totally truthful (Jeremiah 17:9). Let’s not deceive ourselves about our lying nature.
“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices,” Paul wrote the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; nkjv). What was Paul talking about here? He was referring to an event recorded in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
The Corinthians had become tolerant of sin. A member of their congregation was openly living a sexually immoral life of the worst kind. Yet the church, instead of putting this man out of their congregation until he repented, had tolerated his sordid lifestyle. In truth, they had been proud of their supposed big-mindedness.
Paul was unimpressed. He severely corrected the Corinthians for their ungodly thinking. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” Paul rebuked them (1 Corinthians 5:6; nkjv).
This is the vital lesson we must learn from the Days of Unleavened Bread. If we tolerate sin, it will grow exponentially like a cancer and consume our life—individually or collectively as a church. Sin is a dangerous threat to our eternal lives. Satan knows this so much better than we do!
The Corinthians obeyed Paul; putting the member out of their midst. However, they then swung to the opposite extreme. In time, the man repented of his sin and Paul invited him back to services. But the brethren in Corinth refused to forgive him! This is the typical behavior of a carnal mind. The Corinthians had taken on another type of self-righteousness. So Paul had to teach them another lesson: Satan loves it when we are unforgiving toward our brethren. Why? It opens wide the door for him to prowl in and set up camp.
Tolerating sin and being unforgiving when another repents of sin are both wrong. As Paul shows clearly, these two conditions give Satan the advantage over us. When a sinner repents and returns to God’s flock, members must do everything possible to welcome him back into the fold. If we don’t, we could greatly discourage him and actually cause him to give up (2 Corinthians 2:6-7). Any member who returns to services after having been out needs to feel a strong connection with God’s people immediately upon return.
We must strive to be like God. He does not tolerate sin. He will never compromise with His law (1 John 2:3-4). Yet, when any individual repents of sin, God is willing to forgive him quickly and forget it (Psalm 103:10-12). How about us? Holding a grudge against someone is an unforgiving attitude and is sin. Passing gossip about someone’s sin shows an unforgiving attitude and is sin. We are to hide what we know about another’s sins (1 Peter 4:8)—unless it is a 1 Corinthians 5 situation.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” Jesus taught the disciples (Matthew 6:14-15). While hanging on the stake, Christ set us a perfect example of forgiveness. He forgave those who wrongfully executed Him (Luke 23:34). Let’s not give Satan the advantage over us. Let us become forgiving as God and Christ are forgiving.
One of the fastest ways we can open up ourselves to Satan’s influence is by judging others. Are we guilty of keeping a list of other people’s sins and faults? Are we upset when a sinning member of God’s Church obtains an opportunity to serve and we are left on the sidelines? Do we think our status rises when another member falls into sin? Do we eagerly anticipate someone “getting it” from the local minister? Satan loves it when we think this way.
The Apostle John called Satan “the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). Let’s never forget that Satan not only takes great pleasure in drawing us into sin; immediately after doing so, he desires to indict us before God. (Study Job 1:6-12 as an example of how Satan criticized Job.) Even more, Satan loves to falsely accuse us. Thankfully God no longer allows him access to heaven (Revelation 12:8-9). Yet that hasn’t changed Satan’s thinking on the blame game. Satan’s goal in life is to castigate all of God’s people—God’s Family. Criticizing, blaming and condemning others are serious matters that can greatly disturb the peace of field congregations. We must not allow Satan to work through us this way.
When we judge others, we automatically condemn ourselves. Judging others is a spiritually dangerous way to live. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Jesus Christ admonished the disciples (Matthew 7:1-2). Sometimes people have heard so much Protestant preaching and discussion about the Sermon on the Mount that they assume it is full of pretty platitudes. Yet there is real bite to what Christ taught.
Paul also had some teeth in his warning to the congregation at Rome: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3; rsv). All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). All of us will sin again in the future. So instead of condemning members of God’s Family, we should have compassion on our brothers and sisters who slip and sin.
Let’s not forget that Satan searches for any trick to use against us. We can be sure that if we engage our mind in judging others, he will provide opportunities for us to find additional dirt on others. If we continue on that path, Satan will hook us on judging—like an addict on heroin. When that happens, he has greater control over our minds, and we face harsh judgment for our hard-heartedness.
Of course, Satan has other tactics he can use on us: discouragement, self-righteousness and a ho-hum attitude about God’s Work. Mr. Flurry discusses Satan’s tactics in How to Be an Overcomer. We need to review this booklet often. Let’s truly work hard to know our enemy and prevent him from wrecking our personal lives and our local congregations. Christ has given all of us the responsibility to keep our outpost safe.