Augustine, the more the settlers of St. Augustine stood open to invasion. After 107 years of being attacked by the English, French, and Portuguese (and various pirates), the Spanish military constructed this fort [Castillo de San Marcos].
The fort still stands— and if you ever visit, its walls remain in pristine condition. You see, the Spanish used a special kind of rock for the walls called coquina. Coquina is a natural, hard, dense rock formed almost entirely out of crushed (and compacted) sea-shells. The Spanish discovered this hard rock would not erode from the ocean’s salty breeze. The walls did not dry out and crumble under the hot Florida sun. The best part about this hard wall? It resisted enemy cannonballs.
Whenever enemy ships fired at the fort, those cannonballs would bounce off the walls—literally. No matter how long or how many cannons fired, nothing could demolish the fortress. At the end of the day, when darkness covered the water and the enemy ships stopped firing, Spanish soldiers would go out and patch up any wall damage. The next day, when the sun rose, the enemy had no idea where they had attacked the previous day. Three hundred-fifty years later, Castillo de San Marcos still stands because no one could destroy its walls.
Isn’t it interesting to consider the reasons for constructing a fort at all? You build a fort because you have enemies. Someone will attack you. Someone does not care about your overall welfare. Someone hopes to destroy you. If you expect enemies, then you make every effort to protect yourself.
God tells you quite plainly: Enemies will fight against you (Jeremiah 15:20)— enemies who stand opposed to Jesus, and therefore lived opposed to the teachings of Jesus you carry in your heart and practice in your life. The pressure to leave the family of God is intense. It’s tiring. It may even feel worthwhile to lay God aside. Yet, God barks out the encouragement: March On, Christian Soldier! Flesh will fight against you, but No one will overcome you.
Did you expect that? Flesh will fight against you? But you’re a Christian! People are supposed to like you! You have God’s Word in your life. It means that you imitate Jesus by being kind and forgiving, patient and generous. Why would anyone ever fight against you? Not to mention, you have God on your side. Isn’t he there to make sure you always feel happy, that you always have money, that nothing bad ever happens to you? Why should anyone ever fight against you? You have done everything God expects of you!
Just like Jeremiah. You see, God appoints Jeremiah to be his prophet. As God’s prophet, Jeremiah is sent to the nation of Judah (located in present-day southern Israel). He walks among his fellow Jews— people who knew God. People familiar with God’s miraculous Ten Plagues—plagues which pushed Pharaoh to let their ancestors leave Egypt. People who heard how God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. People who held the promise of a Savior from sin. So, Jeremiah traveled in a familiar location among people who shared much in common with him, and he preaches this message: If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray… As surely of the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him (4:1-2).
It’s a simple message: You will not die if you turn to God in faith. How do people respond? You understand, O Lord[…] think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, […] I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Jeremiah’s neighbors point a finger in his face, ordering: ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands’ (11:21). A high-ranking priest in God’s temple who heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, [and] had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the […] Lord’s temple (20:1-2). Prophets shout: “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that […] this city will be desolate and deserted?” (26:8-9). A captain of the guard had [Jeremiah] beaten and imprisoned (37:15). Government officials plead: “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people” (38:2,4). And a King answers: He is in your hands (38:5).
What has Jeremiah done wrong? The nation of Judah rejected God. God threatened destruction for their unbelief. God had Jeremiah share his message of judgment. Jeremiah did what God said— and he suffers for it! People hate him because spread the Word of God!
And God tells you—a Christian--flesh will fight against you. This idea that the life of a Christian will be easy and filled with nothing but happiness and pleasure and friendship does not pair with what God tells you to expect. Flesh will fight against you.
Flesh, that is, those who reject Jesus will reject what you have to say. You invite your son to worship so that he might find the real purpose of life in this world. Yet, he laughs at you and gives some excuse as to why he doesn’t need God now. You teach that God’s view of relationships: one man and one woman, who do not simply live together, but are bound together in marriage. Yet, your daughter replies, “Yes, mom, but this is 2017. Get with the times!” You repeat: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). That’s what makes Jesus so important. Yet, your friend’s daughter says: “Don’t be so judgmental. There’s more than one right religion.”
It hurts, does it not? It hurts when someone attacks your character and reputation. It hurts when someone avoids you— even though you are a pretty kind person. It hurts when you are called names, hung up on, shrugged off, and rejected. It feels like an unending pain or an incurable wound. Your ego stings because you repeat God’s Word— and people hate you for sharing it.
Can you imagine how easy Jeremiah’s life would have been if he just said what people wanted to hear? He could have ignored Judah’s idolatry. He could have changed God’s message from: “Destruction!” to “Peace and safety!” He could have said nothing at all. Then he would have more friends and the temple priests would not say bad things about him and the king would not threaten his life.
And if you keep your beliefs here in this church building or keep them bottled up inside of you, then your friends would not put you in that awkward spot of sharing beliefs they consider “weird.” Your co-workers would not call you judgmental. You could fit into the lifestyle of this world a little bit more. Yes, your life could be so much better if you just do not have God in it!
Don’t agree with that? Want Jesus and pleasure in this world? That’s the paradox of which Jesus speaks. You can share God’s teachings on worship, money, sex and marriage, heaven and hell. You may lose respect because others do not want to hear God’s teachings. You may lose popularity because you serve God with your life. Or…, you can change God’s standards of morality to fit the popular thinking of this world and you will win many friends, but you will not have God on your side (see Matthew 16:25-26). You will either love God so much you would rather lose the world than to lose him, or you will love the stuff in this life so much that you would rather lay aside God than to lose wealth, status, or pleasure.
God tells you what you can expect: Flesh will fight against you. People who have rejected God will reject the words of God you share. Nonbelievers are not the only ones who fight against your allegiance to Jesus, but the flesh of your own heart kicks against his teachings too.
Look at your heart; examine what it loves most. See a dead end at the end of worldly wealth and success. Listen to the Lord [who] says: “If you repent, I will restore you.” Turn away from thoughts that seek worldly wealth; find real value in Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus reveals what a heart wrapped up in worldly pleasure deserves: Separation from God. Jesus cries out: “God, why have you forsaken me? Where are you? (Psalm 22:1). No one pulls the nails out of his hands and feet. No one silences the smug soldiers taunting him. No one gives Jesus the glory owed him as God. No one gives him pleasure because he carries our disobedience. Jesus must endure shame and insult because by nature, everyone hates the perfect God stands for.
Jesus must endure shame and insult because his life matches the perfect God demands. Even though many fight him, he offers the perfect life God demands. The perfect life no other human being has ever held in this life.
All those times our hearts fight God and seek pleasure in this world, those are heaped on Jesus. He suffers, he dies, he is cut off from the sight of God, so that you never will be. He rises from the dead to show that God removed the sting of death. He appears to you in his Word and whispers: “Peace be with you; you are forgiven” (John 20:21-23).
Flesh will fight against you because you are connected to Jesus. Yet, March On, Christian Solider. March on past the name-calling. March against the pulls and tugs to find real value in the amount of money you have or your popularity or the pleasure of homes and success. March On, Christian Solider, because you are marching to the real rest Jesus holds for you. March On, Christian Solider, because nothing will overcome you
You will stand out in this world; God tells you to expect this much. You stand out— not because you (yourself) look different. You will stand out because you are a representative of God to this world.
Frightening? It can be. Explaining that marriage is between one man and one woman for life may not make you too popular. Your child may not want to hear the reality that only Jesus makes people right before God. Your friends may laugh at you when you do not indulge with them. You may feel pressured to cave in, to place God off to the side, and share a worldly view on life.
Yet, God promises: I will make you a wall[…] a fortified wall of bronze— something better than the coquina walls of St. Augustine’s fort. Imagine standing at the base of a towering wall made entirely of hazy-golden bronze. Strike it with a sledgehammer, but you cannot dent the wall. Shoot arrows; watch them ricochet off. Ram it with a tank, but the wall still holds. No one and nothing will penetrate such a defense.
God makes you a bronze wall— made strong to withstand attacks on your faith. No, not because you are so strong, courageous, and mighty. It’s because God has given you his Word upon which to stand. In verse 19, God says: Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. If you are insulted for the Bible’s teachings, then know this: they are rejecting God’s teachings, not your opinions. If your heart questions why you worship as often as you can, your heart needs to listen to God’s Third Commandment closer. If you are the last believer left on earth and you feel all alone, then know every single person left on earth must bend to you, not you to them. God’s message of forgiveness in Jesus will never change. People must change to hear the message.
You who hold to this message will never be overcome. The God who conquered death will raise you to life on the Last Day of this world’s existence. The God who makes the devil’s accusations against you fall flat, assures you: “You are forgiven.” The God who removes the consequences of your sin (and mine), will bring you into heaven. No one will stop him from doing this. His Word stands. His Word is that bronze wall. You stand behind that wall.
So, March On, Christian Soldier! Flesh will fight against you. Do not be alarmed at that. Flesh will fight against you, but No one will overcome you because God has enclosed you behind his wall. March On, to heaven Christian Soldier! No one will overcome you.