The holy war can be won. But how? With clean hands and a pure heart. Psalm 24:3-4 reads, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” Habakkuk 1:13 reads, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness.” This speaks of the absolute holiness of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Do you remember these lines from “Sir Galahad” by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), “My strength is as the strength of ten, Because my heart is pure”1? Proverbs 28:1 reads, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
There are three questions to answer if we are to be properly forewarned and forearmed for this battle on three fronts known as the holy war.
First, are you renouncing the flesh?
James 4:1-3 reads, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Are you renouncing the flesh and its sinful passions? Note these terms “lust. . . murder. . . covet . . . fight and war . . . [and] ask” relate to sinful passions. In the words of Lewis EIIis Jones (1865-1936), “Would you be free from your passion and pride? / There’s power in the blood, power in the blood. . . .”2
Are you renouncing the flesh and its selfish pursuits? Note these phrases “cannot obtain. . . do not have. . . do not receive” relate to selfish pursuits. A person who is not resisting the flesh follows after “pleasure” and “pleasures” as we find in this portion of our passage. Hebrews 11:24-26 reads, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Psalm 16:11 reads, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is better to forgo passing pleasures for permanent pleasures!
Remember carnal warriors cannot win spiritual battles. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 reads, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?”
Remember carnal weapons cannot win spiritual battles. 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 reads, “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Remember carnal wisdom cannot win spiritual battles. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 reads, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (Emphasis mine) The only way to win spiritual battles is by God’s Word! James 3:13-18 reads, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Sadly, there are those who are not winning spiritual battles in the arena with the flesh. For example, 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 reads, “ For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.” Further, we read in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Know your enemy in the holy war.
Second, are you rejecting the world? James 4:4-7a reads, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’Therefore submit to God.”
Are you rejecting the world and its improper request? Reject all of the world’s overtures. 1 John 2:15-17 reads, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Are you rejecting the world and its illicit relationship? Jesus addresses seven churches in Asia Minor, one of which is “Pergamos: The Worldly Church”.3 Revelation 2:12-17 reads, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp twoedged sword: ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.’” Remember “Pergamos” means “twice married”. Hebrews 13:4 reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” The church is married to Christ. Ephesians 5:22-33 reads, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Dr. William Ashley “Billy” Sunday (1862-1935) writes, “People say: ‘She is a good woman, but a worldly Christian.’ What? Might as well speak of a heavenly devil. Might as well expect a mummy to speak and bear children as that kind to move the world God-ward. Prayer draws you nearer to God.”4
2 Timothy 4:10 reads, “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.”
Hosea 1:2-3a reads, “When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: ‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.’ So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim. . . .” Hosea 3:1-3 reads, “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.’ So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. And I said to her, ‘You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.’” Hosea 4:12-13 reads, “My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery.” Hosea 13:2 reads, “Now they sin more and more, and have made for themselves molded images, idols of their silver, according to their skill; all of it is the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” Know your enemy in the holy war.