True Christianity is a fight!
(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness")
"Fight the good fight of faith!" 1 Timothy 6:12
True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a "profession" of faith in Christ. Their names are on the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.
But you never see any "fight" about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self-denial and watching and warring — they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable — but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. 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 pious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment, that he can sleep and doze along the way to Heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the people of this world, he may be content with such vain notions — but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must fight!
The principal fight of the Christian is with . . .
and the devil.
These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature — the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world, he must either fight — or be lost.
He must fight the WORLD. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted — and without a daily battle, it can never be overcome.
The love of the world's good things,
the fear of the world's laughter or blame,
the secret desire to keep in with the world,
the secret wish to do as others in the world do —
all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to Heaven, and must be conquered.
"If any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15
"The world is crucified to me — and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14
"Whoever is born of God, overcomes the world." 1 John 5:4
"Do not be conformed to this world." Romans 12:2
"Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God." James 4:4
He must fight the FLESH. Even after conversion, he carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart as weak and unstable as water! That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it.
He must fight the DEVIL. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, he has been "going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it," and striving to compass one great end — the ruin of man's soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping — he is always going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways! A murderer and a liar from the beginning — he labors night and day to cast us down to Hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another — he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved.
Some may think these statements too strong. You imagine that I am going too far, and laying on the colors too thickly. But the Christian warfare is no light matter! What do the Scriptures say?
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life."
"Endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes!"
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong!"
Words such as these appear to me as 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!