Relentless Spiritual Warfare (1) I am tempted to believe that I have no share in the inheritance offered by Christ (2 Samuel 20 v 1-3)

In my sermon on Sunday I identified 4 types of temptation that we face. The context was that we were looking at 2 Samuel 20 and we saw that David faced relentless trouble and op position in the later years of his reign following his sin with Bathsheba. We live in a fallen world and this means that spiritual warfare is an ongoing, persistent and seemingly relentless aspect of the Christian life. 

In the next few articles, I would like to look at those temptations in a little bit more detail and think about how we resist and respond to them. The first temptation is the key to the others. It’s the belief that I have no share in Christ’s inheritance.

In 2 Samuel 20, the root cause of Sheba’s rebellion is that he sees no benefit for the Israelites in following David. He says:

“We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!”[1]

Sheba is encouraging the northern tribes to cede from union with Judah and form their own country. A future rebel, Jeroboam will succeed with a similar plea. Sheba’s argument is that David isn’t a true king, Saul’s descendants are the rightful heirs, David is the usurper. Implicit is that there is no benefit from loyalty to David – where will it get you.

Sheba’s attack echoes the oldest lie in the Bible. In Genesis 3, Satan in effect says “We have no inheritance in God.”  We are invited to doubt God’s truth, goodness and love. There’s no benefit to trusting God because he offers nothing in return for our loyalty, in fact, God selfishly keeps us suppressed and subservient.

This matters because the starting question is whether or not we do have a share in Christ. In other words, do you belong to him? Have you trusted him for salvation? Have you received forgiveness? Does the Holy Spirit indwell you? It is only when we belong to Christ and have received his forgiveness that we can know the benefits of salvation. So, the first way that the devil encourages this lie is by trying to stop people from believing in the Gospel.

However, there is also a danger for believers, for those who have professed faith. The devil wants us to believe the lie that there is no benefit in belonging to Christ or that we don’t really belong to him.

This means that sometimes the devil attacks by saying “Give up! Why are you trying to live as a Christian, why are you trying to do things the ‘right way’. Where has that got you so far? Others are doing far better in life, getting promotions, living comfortably by their own means.” The promise is that if you ease off on the religion a little, then you’ll be just fine. You’ll have more time and energy, you’ll get on better with your colleagues, you’ll be happy and guilt free.

His other approach is to get us to give up because we start to believe that we don’t belong to Christ because God does not really love us. This might be because God himself is not really good. He is self-interested and only after what he can get out of us (often we see the word ‘God’ replaced with the word ‘church’ in that sentence. Alternatively, we may see God as good but also as a hard task master who rejects us. The problem is that we are unlovable and so God does not want to know us. This is a classic example of the half-truth. It is true that we don’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness. However, God has chosen to deal with sin without depending on our efforts and sacrifices which always fall short.

I find the remedy for this in Romans 8. There, Paul has much to say about spiritual warfare but he wraps it up in two vital statements

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

“We are more than conquerors…”

The message in Romans is that we do have a share in Christ’s inheritance. This is because

God is good. His purpose towards us is good. God acts in love. We may have to go through trials and struggles but God works all things together for the good of those who love him.

We are loved and forgiven. The remedy is the Doctrine of justification. The half-truth is deadly, we did not deserve God’s love. We need the whole truth which is that we have received what we did not deserve, grace and mercy.

God is sovereign. We can look forward in hope. We are secure in him. Here, Christ differs from David. The Old Testament king had to keep on fighting his enemies because of his sin. The true king has fully defeated the enemy.

These points reflect past grace (what Christ has already done for us) and future grace, the promise of eternal blessings.

It is important that we learn to rest in those truths. This is how we will find strength to face today’s battles. Those battles may seen relentless but they are temporary. Some things that can help practically include:

–          Taking time to read, memorise and understand Scripture. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

–          Giving yourself to prayer. This is where we show that we are hid and secure in Christ. Go to him with your trials and temptations

–          Enjoy praise. Singing Biblical words including use of Psalms and songs that are rich in Scripture reminds us daily that though things may seem dark and impossible, we have a heavenly father and an eternal king who has loved us and saved us.

We can face day to day battles when we remember that Christ has won the victory and we are safe and secure in him.

[1] 2 Samuel 20:1 (ESV).

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