We live in a world at war. It’s easy to pretend we’re not at war. Much like any national war, the evidence of warfare isn’t always obvious when you look around (even on deployment). When a nation is at war, it’s moderately easy for the men to hide from it somewhere comfortable. Even within the ranks of the military (church, in this spiritual metaphor). If this is you, Christian, and you don’t feel called to spiritual warfare, we have unfortunate news for you; you’re wrong. If you’re a Christian, you’ve already been called and deployed in a war zone. You might not be on consistent “behind enemy lines” offensive operations, but you are at war. You are on the front. You are most certainly a part of defensive, logistical, and strategic operations. Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians 5 make two things abundantly clear:
- We are encamped in temporary dwellings (tents, AKA ourselves) on this Earth (2 Corinthians 5). The church consists of this assembly, or camp. The Church is our spiritual base of operations.
- We are at war (Ephesians 6)
As Christians we are on a spiritual combat deployment here on Earth. Some are called to fight on the frontlines of the fiercest battles, others are called to render aid. But make no mistake, all are at war. All of us will see battle. We herein presuppose you’ve come here as a Christian convinced by the sound preaching of the Gospel of the Triune God of Scripture.
The Reformed Operator is a simple man. Simple, for him, does not mean stupid or ignorant. He does not seek glory or fame. He is no mere scholar, academic, or pontificator. He is profoundly transformed by the Word of God. He seeks more, and learns more, but he also is firmly planted in the Truth. He is never arrogant, but he is confident. As in, he lives with-faith (con-fide). He is humble, but not falsely so, and does not seek to couch Truth in palatable language. He speaks the Truth honestly, directly, and fervently. In all likelihood the Reformed Operator will live a simple and holy life, dying with little or no renown. He knows well that death is coming, his soul is prepared.
While humble and simple, the Reformed Operator also knows the Truth. He is resolutely premodern in his epistemology. Meaning, he believes that Truth is absolute, objective, and given by God in the Scriptures as contained in the 66 Books of the Old and New Testament.
The Reformed Operator is a man of peace, but he does not falsely profess peace. He does not cry “peace, peace,” when there is no peace. He is willing to stand as Phinehas did before the assembly in Numbers 25. After being appointed to cut down idolaters throughout the camp, Zimri cruises up with a Midianite woman with shady intent. Phinehas shows Zimri what a Shittim day looks like. Phinehas stands up in front of all the weeping congregants, picks up a spear, and runs the two fornicators through with one spear together. Thus the plague was quelled and Phinehas’ zeal is lauded. If only Adam had the zeal of Phinehas at this moment.
Two things to make clear about how we view Phinehas. Firstly, sin is not met with the sword now. The magistrate (government) now bears the sword against those who make a practice of evil. Secondly, we are to be zealous against idolatrous ideologies, not against people per se. We are to be bold in confronting error, but this is with reconciliation in mind. Not with the destruction of that person in mind. We want all to see Christ. But there is no place for wolves and goats in the church. Wolves and goats are many times named by name in Scripture, but they aren’t stoned. They’re removed, and in some cases, restored eventually. Praise God.
Overall, it’s safe to guess that Phinehas didn’t run around grabbing his spear every second, but he wasn’t a coward hiding from necessary confrontation either. There is far too much cowardice masquerading as kindness these days. There’s also a lot of false bravado as men pretend to be something they are not. Below you will find the markers of a Reformed Operator.
The goal is to zealously follow Christ, not to turn into Phinehas. Let’s not overly spear-itualize this… But let’s also remember Phinehas slows down as he gets older in Judges. Not necessarily a good thing. That’s why we look to Christ.
This picture illustrates the tools of the Reformed Operator. He carries his primary weapon, the Word of God. He girds himself with a belt of truth for battle. A “battle belt”, where medical supplies are found to render aid to himself and others if needed. The knife symbolizes that even found somewhere stripped of everything else and “alone”, the Reformed Operator is still dangerous. The background is a quilt on a bed. As Stonewall Jackson once said, “My religious beliefs teach me to feel as safe in battle as in bed.”
We dwell in tents, conducting our mission with a sense of purpose and duty, waiting to be redeployed home (heaven). There is a longing for this home, but there is a mission for us here and now that demands our focus. When we are not in battle, we are training or resting. We know more battles are coming.
This place is a place for those engaged in the offensive operations of the Cross. These operations are offensive both as the opposite of defensive operations, and offensive by the very nature of the Cross to the world. Perhaps you find this funny, perhaps it’s offensive, perhaps you’re confused, and perhaps you’ve gone soft, Christian.
This is the alert on the night watch. Wake up.
We are not seeking men with soft convictions. We are not seeking men who see the Bible as a cudgel. We are seeking men who are able to wield the Word as a sharp, dangerous, precise, double-edged sword. But we do not solely wield a sword. We are compassionate, but cautiously and proportionately so.
The Reformed Operator is not guaranteed money, power, or influence in this life. He is guaranteed death, and a crown of life for those whom Christ has effectually called.
He is also guaranteed universal hatred by the world.
This is The Way.
The Reformed Operator is convinced of Scripture’s authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and inspiration. He is at the bare minimum able to affirm the 5 solas of the reformation. He acknowledges, assents to, and trusts that salvation is:
Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)
Sola Fide (Through Faith Alone)
Solus Christus (In the person and work of Christ alone)
Sola Scriptura (according to scripture alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (to the Glory of God alone)
The Reformed Operator by his nature MUST BE A CHURCH MEMBER IN A VISIBLE, DEFINABLE, LOCAL, GOSPEL-PREACHING, BIBLE-TEACHING CHURCH.
There are no lone operators here.
The Operator is, by his very nature, in need of support. His mission is specialized, and he must be talented in order to perform his duties with skill. He is able to perform his duties alone, but this is not his ideal. Without support he is unable to train others, train with them, or be trained by them. He must be able to answer the summons to battle. Though he is in need of support, in the situations that find him alone physically, he is unafraid; for he is not alone. Whether it’s a mob of unbelievers at work hounding him, or standing before his family leading worship on a Tuesday night, he is not alone.
He is equipped with his primary weapon, Scripture. He knows how to use it well, for he uses it daily, and knows he is never as familiar or trained with it as he could be. He seeks daily to make it a part of him in every possible way. He is also able to provide the healing balm of the gospel well. Able to ramp up and down with proportionate and discriminate force and compassion. He is able to boldly confront an atheist at his work, and able to comfort his own wife, brother, relatives, or friends that are truly broken by loss or sin. He is able to use God’s Word for both.
Knowing that his training is never done, he is always hungry for more. He is growing in his convictions and informed of other views, able to correct and refute error, as well as defend the Truth.
Maintains the Standard
Christ is our Standard. But what is the standard, or, ensign? For a soldier, the standard (or ensign) is the flag to which he rallies. It is the assembling place when and where that flag is raised. Much the same for the Christian. We answer the assembly call every Lord’s Day. But the Operator doesn’t merely assemble to this standard. He wears it. He is defined by it, and represents that which he bears.
He doesn’t peel it off when it’s convenient to be inoffensive, or worse yet, to hide. His bearing itself evokes that same standard were he to be stripped of everything up to his very life, all would know he belongs to Christ. This also requires something else. He is
The Reformed Operator, being aware of the standard (Christ) boldly and privately confronts those who do not meet that standard, and disciples those looking for help. He knows the healing balm of the Gospel, and the correcting guidance of the staff. This helps to maintain the standard, to maintain our absolute dependence on that standard (Christ) for piety and practice. We strive for sanctification (being made holy in heart and conduct). Knowing full well our Justification came first, not by works, but by Grace through Faith in Christ. That Justification is a gift of God, not by works.
The Reformed Operator also acknowledges failure and sin “boldly” through repentance. Keeping short accounts not only in sins against him, but in his sins against others. He is not a warrior on the battlefield only to be a coward to his family and friends.
He knows that Christ is not a joke. Christ is not a guess. Christ is not a philosopher, teacher, Mr. Rogers, or Santa Claus. Christ historically existed and was crucified, buried, and raised on the third day according to the scriptures. The Reformed Operator knows Christ to be The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and is ashamed of nothing but his own sin before God. Jesus Christ is the incarnate second person of the Trinity ascended to the right hand of the Father.
The Reformed Operator readily admits and professes Christ with his voice and actions. He is no mime. He is no talk show. He is a man who spills forth Christ from the abundance of his heart.
He boldly cares, not for reputation, but for Christ who is the standard.
He hates what God hates and gives no room for it in his own heart. Idolatry always violates both tables of the Law. It corrupts the heart in every possible way, because ultimately, it is an honoring of yourself over God. The unbeliever, even in trying to do things for others, does them to honor himself ultimately. Because it’s to further HIS OWN NAME, not the name of the Triune God of Scripture.
Idolatry can be as simple as the syncretism of cultural Christianity or as subtle as believing you are right and everyone else is stupid. Idolatry is the secret place where your heart turns for freedom when you are in distress. Look at what fills your time, what you turn to, what you talk about. Time is a currency, and where is it invested? The things we love fill our time.
He turns to Christ and stops hiding idols.
A LEADER AT EVERY LEVEL
Were his Pastors, Elders, and Deacons to all die (or disappear in a hypothetical secret rapture, if you prefer) he would be able to stand firm and lead. Because he is deeply familiar with the Word of God. Not with a passing familiarity, but with the ability to give a defense for the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). He leads himself and his family in private devotions and family worship regularly (3 times a week minimum, to put a specific number on it).
An Operator is a special type of Warrior capable of doing not only his job, but the man’s next to him, above him, and below him. The Reformed Operator goes beyond this, and is also not above doing work in the home when his wife requires help (which is often). At Church, he doesn’t assume the other men have it under control. He asks hard questions, he holds people accountable. The Reformed Operator knows, and can execute, the plan as well. The Reformed Operator in the Church is concerned primarily with practicing what is being preached. He is not punching time on a clock, he is striking fear into the camp of Satan by leading himself, and his family, at the bare minimum. He does this by living to the glory of God seven days a week, with one set apart to the Worship of God as appointed in scripture. He will be a target for Satan, but not an easy one. Ready to lead, and ready to follow, he is prepared for the battles ahead.
He doesn’t expect someone else to read the Bible for him for 30 minutes a week.
He knows how to wield scripture well and doesn’t leave it as someone else’s responsibility.
HE DOES NOT FEAR THE FACE OF MAN
This is absolutely critical. This is not convenient, essential, or beneficial. It is critical. Cowardice, complacency, and apathy go all the way back to the Garden in Genesis 3. Be assured by these beneficial words.
The World will hate you because of me [Jesus]. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Beware of the light in you being darkness.
Do not give in to the temptation to “go with the flow.” The only fish going with the flow of the river are the dead ones. The soft man picks the path of least resistance, the natural line of drift right down to hell.
The Reformed Operator goes where the others will not. He prevails in Christ before the faces of mortal men with mere opinions now. For if he can’t take the opinions and mockeries of men now, how will he stand under persecution in the future? Be unshakable and resolute, rooted and grounded in love. Zealous for truth.
“Be on the Alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
He is unafraid of man.
HE IS HERE TO MAKE DISCIPLES, NOT FRIENDS
This must be reiterated. Our society demands “relational” evangelism. The equivalent of asking a Christian to build a friendship with a blind man while said blind man sets up for a nap on the train tracks. In order to get the blind man off the train tracks in this scenario, our society would say, you have to get his permission in order to be his friend and tell him these things. What a terrible error. Death is coming, and hell awaits those not found in Christ. Time is perilously short. While “relational evangelism” may occasionally work, The Way is clear.
The majority of people will hate you. Make disciples.
Work hard at your job, be beyond reproach, and speak the Truth. Remember, you bear The Standard. Get onboard with it. Enjoy it when people despise you for Christ. But make sure it’s actually that. If your being despised is actually because of Christ, pour yourself a drink (of grape juice, or whatever your conscience allows) when people persecute you. A toast! To them seeing Christ in you and hating it! We’ve come to a place where the hostilities are “Danger Close.” You will see the explosive impact splashes of the Gospel.
That being said, welcome criticism, because it’s good for you. Give criticism by speaking the truth in love. We don’t sharpen each other by feckless indirect mocking, we sharpen each other with reproof and correction.
All of this being said, fraternization is dangerous. It puts the approval of man above the approval of God. Unchecked, that’s idolatry. It undermines objectivity. People will invariably have their feelings hurt by the truth. This is no excuse to not speak it. We don’t want merely friends, we want family members in the family of Christ. Family members commit, friends often fail. Feelings are nice to consider, but the Truth is nicer. Backstabbers love the approval of man and hate those close to them secretly.
He makes disciples who are rooted in Christ. His cry is “follow me as I follow Christ.”
HE LIVES HIS LIFE TO THE GLORY OF GOD
This means Lord’s Day worship, personal devotions, family worship, household chores, and work. His vocation throughout the week. His representation of Christ is for nothing if he is terrible at his job. Or if he’s terrible at home. If he has a family he has many duties, feeling entitled to be soft and lazy on the couch, or hiding in the garage, or in front of the TV/YouTube/”smart”phone all day is not one of them. Leadership is an absolute moral imperative of the Christian man, and that means dying to yourself every single day. All day long.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun to the glory of God. We rest on the Lord’s Day, that we might work the rest of the week.
The Reformed Operator is prepared in season and out of season and is able to have fun that spills from Christian joy- always with this in his mind.
He dies to himself daily to the Glory of God.