"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Sword of the Spirit

In his biography of General Douglas MacArthur, Major Courtney Whitney recounts an incident that occurred during the Korean War on the night before the Inchon landnig:

General MacArthur planned to encircle the North Korean forces that had driven south to Seoul and cut off their supply lines from the north. If successful, this stratagem might not only accelerate a drive toward victory, but more importantly, save lives of some 100,000 UN troops.

It was a daring scheme. While encircling an enemy force was not a new strategy, it had never before been accomplished by way of the sea. Furthermore, the peculiar tides and unfavorable terrain at Inchon militated against an amphibious landing of troops. Yet that also contributed to MacArthur's decision to proceed; because of these impediments, the North Koreans would be caught unprepared for such a maneuver.

On the night before the landing, Courtney Whitney, who was aboard the flagship Mount McKinley with General MacArthur, retired early in anticipation of the action at dawn. He'd been asleep only a short time when he was summoned to MacArthur's cabin. He found the General in a bathrobe and slippers, pacing the floor. Whitney was told to be seated. MacArthur, in a kind of self-debate, talked as he walked the cabin, reviewing one by one the arguments against the proposed landing in the morning. MacArthur then countered with reasons for the surprise assault.

Finally at about 2:30 AM, he concluded that his decision was a sound one. "Thanks, Court," the General said to Whitney. "Thanks for listening to me. Now let's get some sleep."

Then Courtney Whitney added these words:

General MacArthur threw off his robe, climbed into his bed and reached to the table alongside to pick up his Bible.

Why the Bible? Why not Shakespeare of Tennyson or Hemingway? Because only one book has the power of life. It strengthens, encourages, challenges and comforts us. Day by day, year by year, decade after decade, it can be read over and over again until its words become a part of life itself.

At a pivotal moment in history, the leader of the most dominant military force on earth kept the most powerful weapon in the world close at hand: The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He valued God's Word more than he valued his sleep--on the night before a decisive battle. MacArthur, though not without his personal flaws, was one of many great leaders (like Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan), to depend on  God's Word for guidance. It is no less important for you and me.

Contrast this dependency on God's Word with today's culture, where right is determined by what seems best to each individual. Universities call this philosophical relativity. The ideas is, there is no absolute truth (which is itself an absolute statement). Right and wrong are up to each of us, and can change depending on perspectives and circumstances. Like novice hikers lost in the woods without a compass, each one follows his own sense of direction. Then we are surprised when we, as a culture, are very lost, with escalating acts of violence and inverted moral values. These things are the inevitable consequence of life without the absolute standard of God's Word.

The New Testament teaches that the Word is a crucial weapon in our spiritual warfare:

"Take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17

When Jesus did battle with Satan in the wilderness he didn't rely on what seemed right to him--and he was (is) God--but he accurately quoted Scripture (correcting Satan's twisted version of it.) One thing is clear: if Jesus needed it, I need it!

Over the next several weeks, I hope to mine some gems from 1 Peter 1:17-25. In this passage we will find significant clues to what it means to be truly armed with the Sword of the Spirit, God's eternal Word.

"For you have been born again, not if perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you." 1 Peter 1: 23-25

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