14And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
Last week our exhortation was derived from a talk I gave at the CREC Council in Monroe, Louisiana. The Presiding Minister of Council Virgil Hurt asked various men to speak on the theme Fight the Good Fight from Paul’s command to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith…” (1 Tim 6:12). As God’s people we are called to fight against the enemies of God and of His people – the world, the flesh, and the devil – throughout our lives.
I was asked to speak on the topic, “Why to fight?” I derived the heart of my answer from Nehemiah’s exhortation to the people of Israel in our text today. Nehemiah declared, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah’s exhortation helps us answer the question, “Why to fight?” by directing us to the greatest commandment in the law. And what is the greatest commandment? It is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and the second is like it, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nehemiah exhorts us to fight the good fight for love of God and love of neighbor.
So today let us consider what it means to fight for love of neighbor. Nehemiah urged our fathers to “fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” We fight because those around us are worth defending – they are ours – our brethren, our sons, our daughters, our wives, our houses. But in fighting for ours, we also ultimately fight for others.
Perhaps some of you are aware of the Acton Institute, a think-tank devoted to mere Christianity and to the free market. You may recall that some years ago we went through a video series they published entitled, For the Life of the World, which answers the question, “What is our salvation for?” And the answer is, of course, for the life of the world. We fight for the love of neighbor; hence, we fight for the life of the world. The world is lost, enslaved to sin, blinded by Satan. And so, apart from Christ, the world is a dark and doleful place. And “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3). But God, in His kindness, saved us from our lost estate. When we were His enemies, Christ died for us and gave Himself for us so that He might reconcile us to God. And so “we are now ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).
Why do we fight? We fight that our neighbors may escape the snare of the devil having been held captive by him to do his will. We fight that we may demonstrate to our neighbors the beauty of the Gospel and the glory of self-sacrifice, the glory of our God who sent His only begotten Son into the world to destroy the works of the devil in order that He might rescue all the nations from sin and death and fear. And we fight because we know that we shall ultimately win. God has promised Jesus the nations as His inheritance and the ends of the earth as His possession.
So what of you? When you speak truthfully, live uprightly, give generously, pray openly, weep compassionately, work thankfully are you remembering to do it all for love of neighbor and not promotion of self or love of self? Have you remembered what your salvation is for – that God has saved you that you might shine like stars in the world, displaying the glory of our God even as our Lord Jesus did? Reminded of our call to fight the good fight of faith for love of our neighbors, let us confess that we have often failed to love them and have loved ourselves instead. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.