The Cold War and Spiritual Warfare
by Tom Stewart
September 10, 2000
Most likely, an American Baby Boomer (1946-1964) has recollections
of life under the threat of nuclear war, especially that drill in the public schools,
which conditioned our young minds to accept the hope that sheltering ourselves under
our desks would insure our safety during a thermonuclear exchange between the USA
and the former USSR (Russia). "The horse
is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD" (Proverbs 21:31). Statements such as those of Soviet
Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who promoted "peaceful
coexistence" with the West, characterized the mentality
of the Cold War days: "In a nuclear war--
the living will envy the dead." "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill
the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell" (Matthew 10:28). We were molded as clay on a potter's
wheel with images of mushroom clouds from atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb testing,
to accept the new realities of the Cold War (post-WW2 to 1991), that anything that
prevented an exchange of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) with their nuclear
warheads, is acceptable. "For they have
healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when
there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11).
This brought into the collective consciousness of America the idea that war can and must be waged only in a limited fashion, or suffer the consequences of total nuclear annihilation. "He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30). Undoubtedly, the capacity of modern Russia and America to jointly destroy life on this planet, is more than propaganda, because the Scriptures authoritatively measure that capability with the words, "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matthew 24:22); but, how does the modern Christian live with the spiritual implications of the Cold War? "How should we then live?" (Ezekiel 33:10).
The Internet Generation-- Netscape Navigator's predecessor, Mosaic, with the first graphical user interface (GUI) for the World Wide Web (WWW) only emerged in 1993-- has no firsthand knowledge of the Cold War, and may have only seen archival footage of the end of the Cold War, with the demolition of the Berlin Wall, which began on November 9th 1989. Like a bad dream, the Cold War ceased, only to be replaced by the threat of nuclear terrorism. "There is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). However, to the Christian, what is the legacy of the Cold War? The apocalyptic notions of a world ending war has been clearly inscribed on our minds. But, of greater importance, the concept that war must be conducted in a limited fashion in light of greater consequences, e.g., American military involvement in the Vietnam War (from the early 1960s to the spring of 1975) was never allowed by the politicians to escalate into a nuclear war with North Vietnam's allies (the People's Republic of China or the former Soviet Union), may have persuaded Christians that our warfare against sin, as valiant a fight as it is, can never reach the scale of the total warfare that achieves ultimate victory, until we get to Heaven. "19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do... 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:19, 24).
However, what else can the Scriptures mean, but total victory over sin? To be kept "unspotted from the world", must mean a Christian can have total victory over sin. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). The faith wrought in our hearts by the "power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13), is more than sufficient to overcome the sin in this world. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1John 5:4). Since the Father's commandments are "not grievous" (5:3), then Christ's command, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), can only mean that total victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil is achievable in this life. If we lower our expectation to anything less than total victory over sin, then we ensure our failure. "According to your faith be it unto you" (9:29). Our confidence that we can have total victory over sin by abiding in Christ, gives us great assurance that we will be ready to meet the LORD Jesus when He returns for us. "And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His Coming" (1John 2:28).
In the modern era, the Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in his famous March to the Sea (1864-1865) during the American Civil War, was the first to make secular employment of the concept of total warfare. "43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19:43-44). Of greater importance, spiritual warfare for the Christian is and must be total warfare. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). The Christian is called upon to engage in a total warfare against sin with the total expectation of victory, while still living in this world. "5 This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth: 7 but if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1John 1:5-7).
We may recall and agree with the words of General Douglas MacArthur, "In war there is no substitute for victory"-- after which President Harry Truman relieved him of his command on April 11th 1951 for insubordination and unwillingness to conduct a limited war in Korea-- but, we may still feel reluctant to claim such an attitude over vanquishing sin and sinning in our own lives. "What saith the Scripture?" (Romans 4:3). The Apostle Paul taught the possibility of total victory over sin, which men such as American evangelist Charles G. Finney ---New Window (1792-1875) called Entire Sanctification [See Finney's lectures on "Sanctification" ---New Window]. "And the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:23). Unlike some positions of theology that may merely dismiss the capability of sinning, Finney taught the necessity of the Holy Spirit to make us "willing in the day of [His] power" (Psalm 110:3), making the overcoming of sin, and its consequential holiness, a moral choice made possible by the New Covenant. "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27). This total victory over sin is made possible "through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the Promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14). And, the methodology of the Holy Spirit to teach us "to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13) is to use our circumstances and consequent sufferings to teach us entire obedience. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). The crowning jewel of our total victory over sin, is that we have been given "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4). [See our article, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window, to further explore the sanctifying possibilities of the Promises.]
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