My wife Stacy and I recently welcomed a baby girl into our family. We spent a couple of days in the hospital and the longer we were there the more the security stood out. This hospital had a building specifically for the maternity ward with security that felt like entering a prison. You had to check-in with a security guard at the front desk who would scan your ID and give you a nametag. After passing the first test, you go up the elevator to the actual rooms only to find locked doors with an adjacent telephone. To enter, you had to call the nurse’s station to state your official business. Then for me to hold my pride and joy, I had to prove parenthood by having the appropriate wristband with the correct numbers.
This process grew exhausting, especially leaving and returning several times in a day. While it often felt like I was attempting to cross the border from North to South Korea, I felt safe. I had confidence that our daughter would be safe. While the measures taken at times seemed extreme, it got the job done.
The church faces consistent threats and challenges. Since we are under constant attack, we must always be diligent to protect ourselves and each other. Sometimes these measures are tiring and extreme, but they get the job done. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, provides a blueprint so no soul is left behind.
Know Your Enemy. Our enemy plays by no rules and possesses no empathy. The devil is not looking out for our interests, growth, safety, or wellbeing. His goal is to devour us (1 Peter 5:8) and to enslave us to sin (1 John 3:4-10). The stakes are real and they are high. He wants each of us to fail. We have done ourselves a disservice by creating images of the devil as red, horned, and with a menacing goatee. If that was the case, it would be easy to avoid his traps. Both Jesus (Matt. 7:15) and Paul (Acts 20) warn us of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The lesson is we must be suspicious. The devil will try any method to bring us down. We must test the things of the world against the truth of God’s word. We cannot afford to be lax in our defenses, but must strengthen ourselves and make sure the sheep around us (people, things, ideology) also seek the will of God.
Keep Your Friends Close. The previous point puts me on edge. That is a large task with a lot of room for error. Yet, the Lord knows what we need to be successful. The Hebrew writer gives two practical ways to assist other Christians (Hebrews 10:23-25): first, we must be vocal in encouraging good works and righteousness. This would include both the exhorting to good works and the discipline against the works of the devil. Secondly, we must spend time together. This passage is mostly used to encourage attendance to worship services. I think that is appropriate and we weaken ourselves by missing the time together. However, I think this passage can be extended in a larger context to being with one another away from services as well.
As Christians, we share the same moral code and goals. By being together, we can keep an eye out for the roaring lion and his traps, while pushing each other to grow in righteousness. Solomon explains that two is better than one because more can be accomplished and resistance to the devil is easier (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). There is truly strength in numbers.
Support the Shepherds. While it is every Christian’s responsibility to encourage and defend the flock, our elders/overseers/shepherds are specifically entrusted with the souls of their congregation. This does not absolve us of responsibility, but instead gives us new direction to support these men. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
The Lord put certain protections in place to keep a congregation together and prevent the devil from picking off souls. The eldership is one of those protections. We hurt ourselves by making their work more challenging than it needs to be. We resist their direction, we create needless conflicts, and we act more like sheep than humans. Sheep do not strike me as possessing a superior intellect. While our attitude is to be subservient like sheep, we possess the rational thought to make wise decisions. The more support we provide for our shepherds the more joyous their job will be. The more joyous their job the more protection the flock will enjoy from the enemy.
People do not have to fall away. The Lord blessed us with the church to love and protect one another as we strive to reach heaven. If each individual Christian takes on the task of seeing that not one soul is lost, we will fortify our position against the attacks of the devil.