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A LIFE OF CONFLICT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, April 3, 2016

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).


We had a great time this morning. Our church is coming to life again. But there is a serious side to this. We will not see victory if we don’t look at what is serious, as well as what is happy.

Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “The curtain of the invisible is slightly opened here to give us a brief glimpse of the tremendous spiritual forces arrayed against the people of God. God created an ‘innumerable company of angels’ (Hebrews 12:22), and apparently at least a third of this host of created spirits followed Satan in his long war against God and His people (Revelation 12:4, 7). These [demonic forces] are organized into a great hierarchy of principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The New Defender’s Study Bible, Word Publishers, 2006; note on Ephesians 6:12).

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

That verse shows us that the Christian life is a life of conflict. But many Christians have forgotten that, some even in our own church. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “How often do we conceive of the Christian life as a battle, a warfare?....I suggest that the Christian Church has lost sight of this vital New Testament truth...I fear [many of us] have lost the sense of the Christian life as a life of conflict...if we do not fight, we shall be vanquished [defeated]; we shall fall victim to the enemy” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Miracle of Grace and Other Messages, Baker Book House, 1986, pp. 105, 106).

We have a tendency to think that conversion is all that we need. We think of the Christian life after conversion as “a passive state of relaxation” – as Dr. Lloyd-Jones put it (ibid., p. 105). Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our text tells us that we are to be in a continuing struggle with Satan and his demons!

Sometimes I am glad that I was a convert from the world. Kids raised in the church have it so easy. Everything is given to them on a silver platter. They don’t have to struggle and fight to be in the church. If I had been raised in the church, I would not have realized from the beginning that I couldn’t let down my guard, that I was in a terrible battle – and that I was far too weak to face the conflict myself! That is why my life verse quickly became, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). To me, that verse meant that I was far too weak to go through this conflict, this warfare, this battle with Satan. Only Christ could give me the strength to go through one fight after another. Somebody told me that I look for flights. That's not quite true. The fact is that I don't run away like most preachers. If you don't run away you will go through conflicts. Why? Because the Devil is real! Many times I have been so weak and helpless that I came to the very edge of failing. In those times I could only whisper the text and cling to its message with weak and feeble faith, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Only a weak man like me could see the value of that promise!

Leslie asked me to write my life story. I wrote about 150 pages – but then I stopped and put it away. I thought nobody would be interested in reading such a depressing book – because it would be a story of conflict, warfare, and near defeat – a long life of conflict, with only a few bright spots! I finally told God that I could not finish it unless our church experienced a revival – so it would have a good ending. God seemed to say to me, “OK, Robert, put it away and wait for a revival – and, if I don’t send one, you don’t have to finish writing it.”

But I am sometimes glad that I was not raised in the comfort of a gospel preaching church. Coming out of a lost and lonely world prepared me for a long war, because I knew from the start that it would be extremely difficult to live my life as a Christian, that each step I took would have to be by the strength of Christ, or I would be lost forever! That is really why I became a pastor. After I was converted I knew I had to be in the center of the fight. If I was not continually at war I would fall away from God. I have known that since I was first saved at the age of twenty. Others could live a comfortable life, but I had to be at war continually – like Jesus, like Paul, like the heroes of the faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews! I knew what Paul meant when he told young Timothy,

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called” (I Timothy 6:12).

And again, as the Apostle told that young man,

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3).

I had to endure hardness. I had to fight the good fight of faith – as a soldier of Jesus Christ! There was no other way for me to succeed as a Christian. By the way, a lot of times we think in terms of psychology rather than the Bible. If we went by the Bible we would know why the Christian has to fight.

The other night one of our young men told me that I talk a lot about myself. Then he said, “I guess you do it because this is a young people’s church.” That was a good insight. I often go back over my early life to find points that will help young people in our church. I must not stand up in this pulpit and give you a lecture on theology – or a mere exposition of a few Bible verses. I must show you how the Scriptures are vital in my own life – and in your own life. I read the text,

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Then I tell you what it means. And then I tell you how it has become a reality in my own life. I tell you, “The Christian life, from beginning to end, is a life of conflict – a life of spiritual warfare with Satan and his demons.” I hope you didn’t think your troubles were over after your conversion! That is only the beginning of your struggle and warfare!

Dr. H. L. Willmington of Liberty University said,

During the earthly ministry of Jesus there was a great outburst of demonic activity...and according to Paul [I Timothy 4:1-3] we may expect the same hellish activity just [before] our Lord’s Second Coming. Demonic influence is behind many popular movements (H. L. Willmington, D.D., Signs of the Times, Tyndale House Publishers, 1983, p. 45).

Demonic activity seems to me to be increasing more rapidly every year. It was bad enough when I was in college, but now I don’t see how a young person can attend a secular college or university without being tempted, one way or the other, by what Dr. Willmington called “demonic influence.” The purpose of Satan is to suck you into worldliness and sin. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). If we do not fight the Devil, we will soon begin to lose contact with God. The first place that becomes clear is in your prayer life. If you can’t pray as well as you did before, it is a sure sign that you are resisting God, or giving in to some temptation. Listen to Dr. A. W. Tozer. He said,

In the early days...our fathers believed in sin and the devil as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other...these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man...had to choose sides – he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he chose to [be] on God’s side, he could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here [on earth]...he never forgot what kind of world he lived in – it was a battleground, and many were wounded and slain...The evil powers are bent on destroying him, while Christ is present to save him through the power of the gospel. To obtain deliverance he must come out on God’s side in faith and obedience. That is what our fathers thought, and that, we believe, is what the Bible teaches.
      How different today...Men think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic [to have a good time and live an easy life]...This, we believe, is [what] modern man [thinks]... This idea that the world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted...by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “This World: Playground or Battleground?”).

Now, please don’t think that this means we can’t have any fun! Of course we do! Of course we have fellowship! Of course we have meals together and parties together! Of course we play games together in the park. But these are not an end in themselves. Behind every time of fun and fellowship we must always remember that there is a war going on – and the Christian life is a life of conflict and warfare! We can take a break to have some fun, but then we go back into the battle.

That is why the young people in our church spend a full hour in prayer together every week. Prayer is absolutely necessary, or Satan will defeat us!

That is why we go out to bring lost people into our church to hear the Gospel. Evangelism is absolutely necessary, or Satan will defeat us!

That is why I have to preach strong sermons from this pulpit. Strong sermons are absolutely necessary, or Satan will defeat us!

And one more thing. I have recently become aware of a weakness in my own preaching, and I have to apologize to you for not seeing it sooner! As I said, the Christian life of warfare does not end when you are converted! Oh, no! Conversion is only the beginning of the war! Jesus said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). You can come into the church, and even appear to be converted, but if you do not watch and pray you will fall into temptation and a snare. You will become worldly and lose the joy of salvation.

Some of you no longer come to the prayer meeting on Thursday night. Watch out! You have already taken a step into worldliness! The Christian life is a life of conflict with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. If you forget that you will soon fall into the snare of Satan, and be swept away – into the darkness of this present evil world. Someone says, “Don’t say it! Don’t say it! It will scare someone away!” Well, then, I guess they’ll just have to be scared away! “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). If I didn’t scare them away, something else would! None but the elect will be saved no matter what I say or don’t say in a sermon like this!

Many were swept away in the great split that nearly cost the life of our church. Do not be deceived, as they were deceived. Nothing has changed! “The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12). When once you give yourself to the world, the Devil will sear your conscience. Then nothing we say to you will convince you to return to us! We have never seen even one such person come back! Not one! “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38).

Furthermore, you are either growing in grace or backsliding! There is no neutral ground! As Dr. Tozer said, the world is “a battleground, and many are wounded and slain” (ibid.).

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Yes, there is a real Devil. If you are not saved, he puts strange thoughts into your mind. He tells you “this” or “that” to keep you from trusting Jesus. He sometimes even makes people afraid to trust Jesus. It doesn’t make sense, but they believe him – and reject Jesus. May you resist Satan’s temptations and come to Jesus now. Jesus alone can cleanse you from all sin by His precious Blood. Jesus alone can save you, and keep you safe from the evil in our nation and in our world. Please stand and sing hymn number seven.

Christian, dost thou see them On the holy ground,
   How the powers of darkness Compass thee around?
Christian, up and smite them, Counting gain but loss,
   In the strength that cometh By the holy cross.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christian, dost thou feel them, How they work within,
   Striving, tempting, luring, Goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble; Never be downcast;
   Gird thee for the battle, Watch and pray and fast.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christian, dost thou hear them, How they speak thee fair,
    “Always fast and vigil. Always watch and prayer.”
Christian, answer boldly, “While I breathe I pray.”
   Peace shall follow battle, Night shall end in day.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

“Well I know thy trouble, O my servant true.
   Thou art very weary; I was weary too.
But that toil shall make thee Some day all mine own,
   And the end of sorrow Shall be near my throne.”
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.
(“Christian, Dost Thou See Them?” translated by John M. Neale, 1818-1866;
       to the tune of and with the chorus from “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”)

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Ephesians 6:10-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Soldiers of Christ, Arise” (by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788;
to the tune of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”).