Offensive War

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The “rock” probably refers to faith in Christ as the Messiah, and “Hades” (translated “hell” in many versions) to the forces of death and evil.

We frequently picture this verse as meaning, “Don’t worry, the powers of hell won’t be able to get past your defenses”–in other words, we’ll be besieged but not conquered. However, this isn’t the image evoked on close examination of the text. “Gates” don’t generally go out and attack anyone; they stand there and try to keep the enemy out. So if the “gates” here belong to Hades, we must be the attackers. The Christian life is not merely a defensive war–a matter of standing our ground against temptation. It’s equally an offensive war–a matter of gaining ground toward our ultimate destiny.

Missionaries and Christian social activists understand this; they talk about “taking back our territory” or “invading the devil’s territory” all the time. The content-with-the-status-quo Christian, however, would rather relax in his own castle and hope he can trust God to keep the enemy from breaking in and spoiling his comfort. Such an attitude is not only a road to spiritual flabbiness, it actually lowers the drawbridge for the enemy. The more we love our lives the way they are, the more quickly we panic when we see a threat at the door. The devil has a field day with us once he catches us giving more attention to worries about losing what we have, than to considerations of what God wants to give us. What He wants to give us is a joy that transcends all circumstances, a peace of mind no earthly treasure can buy, and a confidence in Him that will enable us to march forward to greater victories than we imagined.

When we feel stressed and depressed, it’s frequently because we’re thinking entirely in defensive terms. Ask God to show you where He would have you take the offense.

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