Marks Of A Soldier
You don't have to look at the world very long before you realize it is drowning in a sea of violence, corruption, perversion and death. Multitudes lead dead-end lives, trapped in the relentlessly brutal struggle for survival. The future holds no hope. All this because man has walked away from His creator and tried to run the show himself. So what can we do? As disciples of Jesus we can do a lot. We can get fighting mad and determine to wage a relentless war against the kingdom of darkness. For it is this kingdom, and the Satanic forces that control it, which hold the vast majority of the world's population in captivity to the forces of sin, sickness and death. But to fight a war and win you need soldiers. And more than that, you need to group them together into an army. That's what Ekklesia Living is about: life as a Spirit soldier in God's Army.
In part 8 we look at how God’s Spirit soldiers who live in an ekklesia bear many of the same characteristics found in the soldiers belonging to the armies of the world. The purpose and goals of God's army have already been covered and found to be radically different than those of the world's military organizations. Yet the marks that define a true soldier are universal. This shouldn't shock the Christian, for the concepts of soldiering and spiritual warfare can be found throughout the Word of God. Jesus is in the business of making disciples, and every disciple is going to be a soldier.
In our last segment we found that the ekklesia is supposed to function like an army. Living under military instruction and discipline, ekklesians see themselves as soldiers under command. They realize there's a war on and they're in the middle of it. But how does life as a soldier work out in everyday living? How can you tell a soldier from a civilian? This is what we need to examine.
You might be asking, "Why do we even care?" At the beginning of this series we stated our intention was to explain and expound on the many different aspects of Ekklesia Living. In order to do this effectively we looked at the different forms the ekklesia resembles. First we compared it to the human body, and what an amazing comparison that was. Next we are comparing it to an army, and the similarities shouldn't surprise us, for ever since Moses led God's people out of Egypt they have been a militant people, fighting against the enemies of God's Kingdom. The truth is God's people are meant to be formed into an aggressive fighting machine—an army—honed to a keen edge in order to cut through the demonic chains that hold people captive.
Being soldiers of love, serving under our Commander the Lord Jesus Christ who is the very definition of love, our hearts ache as we see the vast majority of humanity enslaved by sin. It is sad to see so many separated from their Creator and being controlled by forces bent on their destruction. All the while we hold the key to their freedom. There's only one problem: the lock is in enemy territory, guarded by an army of ruthless, brutal killers. We are also greatly saddened by the realization that the final destination of captivity to sin is eternal separation from God in a burning Hell. What a horrible thought! This makes us more determined than ever to fight, attacking and scattering the enemy. With God's help we’ll bring them the answer. We’ll give them hope, lifting up Jesus in their sight that they too can experience the overwhelming joy and peace that only He can give. For this we live and are willing to die. One of the greatest privileges in life is to lay down our lives in order to liberate those held captive by sin. It is our prayer that others will catch this vision and join us in the war.
When putting an army and an ekklesia side by side you'll notice the similarities fall into two main categories: spiritual and physical. The spiritual side has to do with more abstract, mental and emotional concepts like attitude, purpose, goals, trust, obedience, and loyalty. Spiritual concepts like these can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye. Whereas the physical similarities are easy to spot. They deal with the nuts and bolts of daily life like the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, as well as the structuring of daily routines and economic policies. Both groups are important, influencing and affecting each other in many ways.
The combined effect of all the aspects involved in army life accomplish an exacting task. A group of otherwise disjointed, dysfunctional, and often sincerely disillusioned disciples are changed into a fine-tuned, highly effective fighting machine. Once we were lost, wandering in a spiritual wilderness littered with the rotting carcasses of dead churches. Now we rally under the blood-stained banner of the Lord Jesus Christ, joining forces and combining our strength to attack, overthrow, and destroy the kingdom of darkness both in and around us. As God's soldiers, our great reward is knowing that we've obeyed and pleased our Captain, the Lord Jesus. We also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing we have played a real part in tearing down Satan's kingdom and establishing God's Kingdom in the lives of others. An added benefit is the joy of training new generations, and then watching them mature in God’s wisdom and choose to serve the Lord in the power of a holy life. Praise God!
As we discuss these characteristics, or traits of army life, be aware that they apply to soldiers everywhere, whether they belong to God's army or one of the world's many military organizations. Granted, the soldiers may not be living up to the standards expected of them, but theoretically that is their goal. Unfortunately, this is just as true for God's soldiers as it is for those of the world's armies. The vast majority of those calling themselves God's people know nothing about soldiering. In fact they are embracing the world and holding hands with God's enemies more than ever before. Nevertheless, God will have a true people, a remnant, be it ever so small, that will stand and fight valiantly to uphold the truth and rescue lost souls from eternal damnation. Considering this we must remember that we are not looking at flesh in all of its human frailty, but instead we have a higher vision, we are looking to the example God desires us to attain. We look to Jesus.
THE MARKS OF A SOLDIER
Let's start by looking at the spiritual side of army life, or the more abstract ideas of what life as a soldier involves. Each of these characteristics, or marks, could be expanded upon and fill an entire article in themselves. Yet as you read through this brief overview it should become clear that there is much more to being a soldier than just wearing a uniform. True soldiering in the Lord's Spirit army is demanding, yet very rewarding. In order to make the sacrifices real soldiering requires your commitment must come from the heart. It must be based upon a deep loyalty fueled by the love Jesus demonstrated as He went to the cross to secure our redemption. Anything less than this won’t stand the test of battle. The following points will be briefly covered.
1. Commitment - Conditions of Enlistment
2. Submission - Chain of Command
3. Accountability - Duty
4. Separation - Consecration
5. Military Code of Conduct
7. Sacrifice - Suffering
8. Militant Attitude
9. Teaching - Training - Equipping1. COMMITMENT - CONDITIONS OF ENLISTMENT
Soldiers everywhere understand that when they joined the army they left civilian life behind. They realize they have made a commitment which the army takes seriously. This means they belong to the army and their lives will be governed by the rules and regulations that make up army life. From the onset they are made aware that they may be called to fight in a war. They must be ready at a moments notice to go into battle if the need arises. Soldiers don't enlist with the idea that they are going to get rich and enjoy the "good things" life has to offer. On the contrary, they understand that financial gain is not what being a soldier is about. Most definitely they will be called upon to endure hardness, sacrifice creature comforts, and maybe even die in the line of duty. If they can't deal with these realities they might as well not bother signing up.
Enlistment is not to be taken lightly. Right from the start the new recruits are made aware that there are penalties and punishments for defectors. Once your enlistment is final, any attempt to defect or go AWOL (absent without official leave) is considered a serious offense and punished accordingly. In the Christian camp this type of behavior is tantamount to backsliding. Although commitment as a soldier is always taken seriously, the length of service differs greatly between God's army and those of the world. Instead of only a couple years like the world's armies want, enlistment in God's army is for life. It’s this difference that puts God's soldiers in a class by themselves.
Like soldiers everywhere the Christian must count the cost, entering army life with both eyes open, fully understanding the importance of the decision he is making. His life now belongs to the army. He is no longer his own boss. Once the prospective soldier has weighed these requirements and fully agrees with them he is ready to publicly acknowledge his decision to join the army. In a brief but serious ceremony the soldier commits himself, pledging allegiance to the army along with his willingness to defend the government to which the army belongs. In God's Kingdom this is equivalent to surrendering yourself totally to the Lordship of Christ—a serious decision which radically changes the course of your entire life. Many people are born-again believers, yet they never fully surrender their lives to Christ. Although they claim to be God's people, God never totally controls them. These types spend their days playing church, never experiencing what true soldiering for the Lord is all about. What a shame.
2. SUBMISSION - CHAIN OF COMMAND
Upon entering the army the new soldier is given a rank and introduced to the chain of command. He learns how the chain of command works, about promotion, and where he fits in the chain at present. He learns that he is expected to respect those above him in the chain of command, responding to orders in a spirit of obedience. As time passes hopefully he climbs up in rank. As he does he too will be expected to give orders to those under him. In short, he must realize when it comes to army life he is not the boss. In God's army the soldier learns that Jesus is at the top of the chain of command. Ultimately all orders can be traced back to Him. This assurance gives the soldier great peace of mind and heart. He can obey with the confidence of knowing that God is in control. When it comes to decisions of importance God is the one who calls the shots. Along with seeking the Lord, spirit soldiers are expected to look to those above them in the chain of command for guidance and direction. God has instituted this system for good reason. Why? Unfortunately we are never as spiritual as we think we are. Whether we like it or not the truth is we need other Christians to watch and pray over us, making sure we don’t get funny ideas that separate us from God. The chain of command has stood the test of time. As you submit to it you soon come to value the tremendous protection it offers. Initially the new recruit may kick against the discipline and restraints that are part of army life. Yet as time goes by he comes to appreciate the peace and security of knowing that others who truly care are watching over his life.
Sooner or later every soldier comes to understand that they are responsible for their actions, or lack of them. Because they are part of a team their cooperation and willingness to go with the program affects the other members. This means that every soldier who has agreed to abide by the rules is accountable to the other team members. A strong sense of duty is also instilled in the soldiers, causing them to finish their tasks if at all possible, no matter how they feel or what the circumstances may be. Because they affect the entire army, failure to obey commands or neglect of duty are serious offenses which bringing quick correction and possibly punishment. Those who belong to God's army feel the same accountability and sense of duty towards their fellow soldiers. Yet unlike the armies of the world, their feelings are based on the love Jesus has instilled in their lives. In God’s army our teammates are more than just casual acquaintances we trained with. We are family in a very real sense. Above all we obey Jesus, doing our duties and submitting to His divine chain of command, simply because we love Him. This is a major difference between soldiers of the cross and the armies of this world who often obey out of fear and pride. Seldom is love for their commanders the motivation behind obedience. As for us, army life becomes a joy because we are personal friends with our Commander. Plus, knowing that He actually laid down His life for us and has nothing but our good in mind fills us with gratitude that manifests in loving obedience.
Every commander works to instill in his troops dedication to the cause and loyalty to the army and its leaders. The troops are made to understand that their leaders are loyal to them and have their well-being in mind. This mutual feeling of loyalty builds trust both up and down the chain of command, allowing the soldiers to work with confidence because they know their fellow soldiers are one with them in the cause. A high level of dedication does not come automatically but must be cultivated by each soldier over time. In God's army another term for this type of dedication is consecration. Every disciple/soldier of the cross is meant to be 100% consecrated unto God. His life becomes God's life. His ambitions and desires are adjusted so they agree with those of the Lord. He determines within himself to be set aside for the purposes of God. His vision is single and he is full of the life and light of God. The blessings are obvious.
The more you dedicate yourself to the purposes of God, the more hopeless, repulsive and disgusting the world appears. When we talk about the world we mean those sinful, carnal characteristics that make up the world: the lust of the flesh; the lust of the eyes; the pride of life. Just as the carnal soldier understands that as long as he’s enlisted he belongs to the army, every true Spirit soldier comes to realize they no longer belong to the world like they once did. The world has now become something the enemy uses against us, something we can’t afford to become entangled with.
The soldier of the cross also understands that he is no longer sold under sin, being a perpetual slave to his carnality. He has been liberated and given the privilege of serving a new Master—the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, God's Spirit soldiers are not meant to be unequally yoked together with the unsaved. Taking into consideration unavoidable business transactions, the main interaction the Christian soldier has with the world is based on the desire to share the gospel with them. Although they may cultivate friendships with the unsaved, they do it in hopes of leading the lost into God's Kingdom. Otherwise, soldiers are meant to identify with the army, seeking their true fellowship and friendship within the family of born-again believers—not the world. Although we continually deal with the world, an attitude of separation must be strictly maintained. This separation is primarily in the mental realm. It is unavoidable that we mix and mingle with the world to a certain degree, yet the Spirit soldier understands he no longer belongs to this world, no matter how much he’s forced to be around it. This desire to maintain a high level of consecration and separation from the world eventually translates into the physical realm. God puts the desire in His soldiers to live exclusively with each other and another ekklesia is born.
5. MILITARY CODE OF CONDUCT
Another important fact every new soldier is soon made aware of is that the army has its own code of conduct; its own set of rules and standards by which the soldier must now live. More than likely this new standard will be quite different from the way the soldier was living. Yet he must learn to quickly adapt or "get with the program" as they say. Of course there’s a grace period given to new recruits. Sometimes the changes are quite radical, and much self-control must be exercised as the soldier learns to conform to the army way of life. The soldier is urged to adjust quickly, being made aware that those who violate the code will suffer the consequences.
Operating by the principles of true love, God's soldiers try their best to be patient, forgiving, and understanding towards their fellow soldiers, especially new recruits. Nevertheless, sanctions, discipline, and corrective measures are readily used to bring offenders back into line. Compared to civilian life, military standards are much stricter and very demanding. Yet they must be enforced, for without them the army ceases to be an army. Left to themselves, humanity quickly degenerates into selfishness. It’s every man for himself, doing what’s right in his own eyes. An effective, victorious fighting machine can never operate that way.
In the ekklesia it's up to the leaders, under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit, to enforce the code of conduct and continually monitor behavior throughout the camp. Compared to worldly militaries, God's standards are much higher. Along with outward physical conformity the Lord demands inward holiness as well. Carnal soldiers can be highly disciplined and in excellent physical shape, yet when it comes to living by God's moral laws most fail miserably. In our humanity we are all subject to the laws of sin and death. Our only hope of escape is being born-again and seeking God's help to make us into new creatures in Christ. Yet even with all good intentions, it soon becomes obvious we need help. We learn to rely on the assistance of God's Holy Spirit. With the Spirit’s help we can keep the high and holy standard God desires.
As soon as the soldier enlists he is taught that he is part of a team. In every military the principles of teamwork are constantly emphasized. Every army must maintain high levels of unity and cooperation if they intend to be victorious in their campaigns and successfully counter enemy assaults. A major component of teamwork is the understanding that every soldier is mutually accountable for their actions. He is expected to carry his share of the workload without complaining. Soldiers try hard to maintain a good attitude. This is important, for a good attitude naturally translates into a willingness to work with their fellow soldiers. Petty problems and discrepancies must not be allowed to fester and grow if teamwork is to be maintained. If someone has a problem getting along with others it soon shows up. These situations must be quickly dealt with, for the friction from bad attitudes and lack of cooperation won't be tolerated. If the problem is not corrected the soldier will soon find himself at odds with the rest of the army. Eventually, the offender faces dismissal if they can’t make things right.
Soldiers in God's army have a definite advantage. Why? Because essentially they are soldiers of love and mercy, serving under their King who is love and mercy. This makes serving their fellow soldiers a pleasure. Under God's anointed leadership Spirit soldiers experience high levels of teamwork and cooperation unmatched by the world. God's soldiers serve each other in a spirit of love, not a spirit of dead regulation or fear of punishment. How much more pleasant and enjoyable it makes army life when love and caring concern for one another underlie all our activities.
The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:3 that we must learn to endure hardness as good soldiers. We are also admonished to submit our lives to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The overall idea is that the needs and demands of the army must come first. If our actions in the line of duty entail a degree of denial concerning our creature comforts we must be ready and willing to embrace it. Remember what our Captain went through for us. We must be willing to be hard on ourselves, forcing our desires and ambitions into submission to the will of God. In I Corinthians 9:27 Paul likens himself to an athlete, punishing his body and treating it roughly (Living Bible). He does this willingly because he’s afraid of being disqualified or thrown out of the race. His goal is to finish the course set before him victoriously, no matter what it takes.
Virtually all militaries in the world pride themselves on how tough their soldiers are and how much punishment they can endure in order to win. Many heroic tales are recorded in the annals of warfare history describing the incredible suffering and sacrifice soldiers have endured. And all for what? For nations of the world that will ultimately pass away. How much more should we be willing to lay our lives down for the advancement of the cause of Christ? In the end the majority of carnal soldiers face eternal separation from God. How tragic. Yet we have the promise of eternal life when we finally pass beyond this life. How much more should we be willing to endure to win such a prize? What could be better than laying your life down for the King of Kings?
8. MILITANT ATTITUDE
Because he belongs to the army the thoughts and attitudes of a serious soldier will be influenced by militant principles. Passivity, rebellion, laziness, selfishness, and irresponsibility have no place in army life. The wise soldier will strive to remain alert and attentive. At the same time they learn to cultivate a militant and aggressive attitude against the enemy. In addition, it is very important that soldiers have a clear understanding of who the enemy is and what to expect when the enemy is confronted. They must be on guard, prepared, and ready to fight whenever the need arises.
Some of the greatest dangers facing the spirit soldier are complacency and compromise. The soldier of the cross is on dangerous ground as soon as he begins taking it easy on himself, feeling sorry for himself, or catering to the demands and desires of the flesh. As Spirit soldiers following our Crucified Captain we soon find that our deadliest enemy is our own self. This revelation can be shocking. God expects His soldiers to aggressively bring themselves into submission, subordinating their ambitions, their desires, as well as any physical lusts or cravings, to the guidance and control of the Spirit of God. Our carnal nature (the beast inside) and the Spirit of God are struggling for control. Ultimately only one will prevail. Again it’s back on us, for our choices determine the winner. We must choose to obey God and at the same time adopt a militant, aggressive attitude against our carnal nature. We call this dying to ourselves and it is the key to victory.
9. TEACHING - TRAINING - EQUIPPING
Upon entering into army life, the soldier finds himself part of a machine—a war machine! Most machines are made up of many different parts with each one doing its job. This way the machine functions properly as a whole. Right away the capabilities, or potential capabilities, of the new soldier are evaluated by the leadership and training begins. Taking many factors into consideration, the leadership does their best to place the soldier where he will be most useful to the army. Often soldiers are needed to fill positions and do jobs in which they have no experience. Naturally, this requires teaching, training, and equipping. From the very beginning, each soldier is made to understand they will undergo training as needed to increase their usefulness to the army. This specialized training is given in addition to instruction in the basic principles of warfare that all soldiers must master in order to survive.
This principle of teaching and training is also found in God's Spirit army. Truthfully, God wants each of His people to grow and mature in the Spirit, eventually reaching their full potential and optimum usefulness in His Kingdom. God is in the recycling business. Nothing delights the Lord more than turning human garbage into the golden character of true discipleship. As we cooperate with God's training program, receiving instruction in humility and meekness, our value in God’s Kingdom increases. A miracle gradually takes place. Where we once reeked with the rottenness of sin, selfishness, and stubbornness, now we bring forth the sweet smell of loving obedience to the Lord. And all this because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The best way we can show our appreciation for this wonderful love is by sacrificing our lives in its service.
These are the characteristics which define a soldier and the way a soldier lives. It becomes obvious that true disciples of Jesus, no matter where they are in the world, are supposed to be militant, aggressive soldiers, not just churchgoing civilians. The body of Christ is supposed to be an army, not a social club. Its local detachments called ekklesias are actually military bases where soldiers of the cross live, work, and wage war, spreading the gospel of God's Kingdom throughout the world.
You may be asking yourself, "But what about all these churches?" If you compare the average churchgoer against the characteristics mentioned above you’ll find the vast majority bear no resemblance to the life of a soldier. In fact, when it comes to the conflict that is raging between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, church folks are basically civilians—passive spectators whose primary goal is to enjoy life and avoid any kind of conflict that might involve suffering, sacrifice, or shame.
The call of true discipleship is serious business, not something to be taken lightly. It’s the call to a life of soldiering. You can’t pick it up, play with it, and then put down when the novelty wears off. Real disciples of Christ, real soldiers of the cross, don't need to go to church—they go to God. They can’t “forsake the fellowshipping of the saints” because they live with them all day long. They don't waste their time playing religious games trying to appease and pacify the flesh. They are walking on a higher road, the road that leads to the cross. They are following the One who went before them and paid the ultimate price. It is the way of crucifixion to the flesh, of death to self, to carnal desires and vain ambitions. It’s the narrow way traveled by few. True disciples live life under command, ready to give all in the service of Jesus their Commander—the One who died yet lives! It’s this company who knows the joy of the Lord in its fullest measure, who experiences the peace that passes all understanding. Why not leave dead church life behind and make up your mind to become a sold-out soldier of Jesus today? You'll be glad you did—we promise!