“It is our deepest need, as human beings, to learn to live intimately with God.”
John Eldredge has been writing about walking with God for over ten years, since the publication of The Sacred Romance in 1997. His latest book, Walking with God, is his most deeply personal & may become his most controversial as well.
Walking with God is not structured as a typical book at all: instead, it is a written retelling and explanation of his own walk with God over the course of a year. It has no specific goal or direction; it is simply his life day by day, and how he saw God guiding and teaching him.
Interspersed with these personal experiences are explanations of his own worldview and approach to walking with God. Two core issues he spends a lot of time with are spiritual warfare and conversational intimacy with God.
Eldredge’s view of spiritual warfare is that demonic attacks, both in the form of physical ailments and mental and spiritual clouding, are very real and very common, almost an everyday occurrence, and that it takes concentrated, specific prayer to overcome them. Eldredge’s view of “conversational intimacy” is that God really can speak to us, to enlighten and guide us, and that we can learn to listen to His voice.
These paradigms are very foreign and even antithetical to most evangelical Christians. Eldredge fully realizes this, but does not try to build an elaborate structured case for his theology. After all, Eldredge is not a theologian at heart, but a storyteller. Consequently, I think he realized that he could be most effective in teaching his way of walking with God by telling stories, and not by trying to write a theological tome.
I actually am both theologian and storyteller. The theologian in me has always bristled at some aspects of Eldredge’s theology, and yet the storyteller in me sees much truth and much goodness in it as well. Did I agree with all the theology in this book? No, I did not. Did I take page after page of detailed notes, being struck again and again by his honesty and insight? Yes I did.
Walking with God is a profoundly challenging book, one that I will re-read, meditate and pray over. I believe John wanted to create a book that would make people take a hard look at their definition of what it means to truly walk with God, and then show them a path to a richer and fuller life.
More information about the book from Amazon.com is available here.
That’s the question that kept repeating in my mind as I read Chapter Four of Holiness by J. C. Ryle entitled “The Fight.”
There are two parallel dimensions to the question: the first is to give a defense of expending energy: you could rephrase the question “Why am I fighting?” “What’s the purpose of seeing the Christian life as warfare and plowing your energies daily into it?
Ryle emphatically answers that “everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul” and that,
True Christianity is “a fight.” The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.
He brings to bear the many verses that link striving and labor and warfare to our salvation such as 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 2:3, Ephesians 6:11-13, Luke 13:24, John 6:27, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:36, 1 Corinthians 16:13, and 1 Timothy 1:18-19. He notes:
Words such as these appear to me clear, plain, and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare…
Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s epistles to the seven churches, except to those who “overcome.” … There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.
Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! …All true saints are soldiers. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. He may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace.
Ryle’s repeated attempts at showing us the reality of spiritual warfare remind me of two other quotes from totally different sources. The first is from Aragorn from Lord of the Rings:
Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.
The second is from John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead:
I need to study the Word of God with all the intensity of the men who studied the maps of the Normandy coastline before they hit the beaches on D-Day.
The other meaning that kept ringing in my mind of “What Am I Fighting For?” while reading the chapter was, “What am I really expending my energy, my emotions, my time, my dreams for?” If I examine my life, my actions, my heart, what am I really fighting for? Would someone look at my life and say, “He is a soldier, and it is clear he is fighting for holiness in his life.” I honestly think not. That is a very humbling question for me to consider, and in prayer to ask God to show me where I need to change in my heart, my priorities and plans, and in my actions to become a soldier for holiness in my life.
(This post is in reaction to a read through the book project that multiple bloggers are following with Tim Challies. His original post for chapter four is here.)
A great spiritual warfare prayer that my pastor passed along to me…
I want to thank You for assuring me of victory today if I will but follow Your battle plan.
So by faith I claim victory over (list whatever sins you battle with most).
By faith I put on the belt of truth.
The truth about You, Lord—that You know everything about me.
You know my strengths and weaknesses.
You know my breaking point and what I am able to bear.
The truth about me is that I am a new creature in Christ and I have been set free from the power of sin.
The truth is You have a purpose for me this day—someone to encourage, to share with someone to love.
By faith I put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Through this I guard my heart and emotions.
I will not allow my heart to attach itself to anything that is impure.
I will not allow my emotions to rule in my decisions.
I will live today by what is true, by what is in Your word, not by the way I feel.
I put on the sandals of the gospel of peace.
I am available to You.
Send me where You will.
Guide me to those who are in need.
Use me to solve conflicts wherever they may arise.
Make me a calming presence in every circumstance in which You place me.
Help me to leave footprints of Your peace everywhere I go.
I now take up the shield of faith.
My faith is in You and You alone.
Apart from You I can do nothing.
With You I can do all things.
No temptaion that comes my way can penetrate Your protecting hand.
I will not be afraid.
When I am tempted I will claim my victory ahead of time.
I know there are fiery darts headed my way even as I pray.
You already know what they are and have provided the way of escape.
Help my faith to become great faith.
I also put on the helmet of Salvation.
Satan bombards my mind day and night with evil thoughts, doubt and discouragement.
I choose to dwell on thoughts of You and Your wonderful gift to me.
Help me to think of the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and the things which are virtuous.
Lastly, I take up the sword to the Spirit.
It is strong and powerful and able to defeat the devil even in his strongest attack.
So I take up the sword that is able to defend me in time of attack, comfort me in time of sorrow, teach me in time of meditation, and prevail against the power of the enemy.
So Lord I go now rejoicing that You have chosen me to represent You to this lost and dying world. May others see Jesus in me, and may Satan and his hosts shudder as Your power is made manifest in me.
In Jesus name I pray—Amen.
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5 ESV)
I really like the way the ESV translates this verse. The original Hebrew says the word of God has been smelted or refined. Some English versions translate the Hebrew as “pure” or “flawless” referring to the purity of smelted metal. But the ESV editors took into account the most common rendering of the word as well as how the word is used in the parallel passages of 2 Samuel 22:31 and Psalm 18:30.
In all three passages the writers are describing life in terms of warfare. In the days of hand-crafted weapons, when you went out to battle you wanted to make sure that your buckler (the Hebrew indicates a small handheld shield) was proven, that it had been tested and found to be sturdy and reliable.
In our lives every word of God proves true; if we will use God’s promises and commands and instructions as a shield, as our means of protection & refuge, we will find that every time His words will prove true in our lives.
What are God’s words a shield against? Our foes are many: we have fear, anxiety, and insecurity, we have temptations of anger, greed and lust, we have spiritual warfare against our enemy.
Are you using God’s words today? Do you have them, like a buckler, strapped to your arm to shield you? Or are you seeking refuge in other shields like your posessions, power, or personality? All of these will not prove true; at some point they will fail you.
Or are you selective, willing to take up some of God’s promises and commands, but unwilling to use others, uncertain as to whether they are really reliable in the face of your trials and temptations? Be assured that every word of God proves true. Use every one, hold fast to them & witness the victories that God will bring about in your life.