Wednesday, August 1, 2007

All that stands before the gates of Hades

Overheard in a devotional recently: "You church planters need to understand that you are all that stand between your community and the gates of Hades."

His intention was to remind a group of tired men and women of the importance of their task and of the wonderful and terrible responsibility laid upon us by God.

Sometimes I do feel as though I carry a heavy burden, wondering if indeed there would be anyone else to take my place if I were KIA, victim to the schemes of the one who would isolate and devour every person in our community of South Salem. Even understanding that God is a sovereign King, more than able to accomplish all those things which He determines to do, there remains a certain responsibility which He has given to me and expects of me. A heavy burden indeed.

But I think again of the words of the devotion: we are "all that stand between the community and the gates of Hades" and I realize how easy it is to misunderstand Jesus' phrasing in that text of Matthew. The picture is not one of demonic forces spilling over Hades' gate and assaulting the scattered forces of Light wherever they can be found huddling pitifully together on the plain. Rather, Jesus has in mind the forces of Light storming the gates, a called out people who take the arms of Heaven and batter down the last refuge of our enemy's strength. The image is thus: the gates will not stand against those called by God. The captives will be freed, the poor fed and clothed, the essence and joy and peace of life restored to those who are beloved of God.

And in my more honest moments, I realize that I am all that stands between my community and the gates of Hades. If I do not obey the call of God in my life, if I ignore his outstretched hand beckoning me to partner with Him in restoring a corrupt community, then I am at best a stalling force, standing between south Salem and the battle for which they are called.

God will not go without me, or so I should think if He has so entrusted the gospel to the frail, limping church. What can the Incarnation mean but that each of us, in our weaknesses, is somehow essential to the task for which God called us, gifted according to His plan for a divine purpose in announcing freedom?

So He waits for me. Perhaps others may be called to a similar task, perhaps not. Far be it from me to stand between God and those He loves, may I not be a hindrance to His plans but rather a willing instrument in His hand.

South Salem's people await the call to storm the gates of Hades. Many of them currently languish in gloomy dungeons of spiritual death, waiting to be called, chosen by God. And they wait on me to announce (even if in uncertain tones) the call to freedom! And together with God, we will take the battle to the enemy, plunder his treasured captives, and triumphantly set them free into the glorious wonder of God's New Creation. Far be it from me to stand between my community and the gates of Hades.

1 comment:

Jake Shore said...

Amen! Give me a sword!

What a powerful message. I hope you preach this some Sunday soon; definitely a message our leadership needs to hear and let stir our hearts. It makes sense. God is not a God who waits for things to happen. Christ didn't come to sit idly by and let the enemy come to him. Christ sought out the enemy and took the fight to him.

What a challenge in a world trying desperately to convince us only a meek faith which minds its own business is acceptable. No wonder the church is in trouble.

I pray God blesses us as we seek to arm the lost with faith that calls them to march boldly under God's banner, crushing the enemy's strongholds, on the way to a restored life with Him.