“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” -Hebrews 5:14

The American G.I. Rifleman Doug Hester tumbled out of the beach landing craft with his fellow Infantry soldiers into the same path of three other soldiers killed immediately in front of them by machine gun fire. It was early in the morning on June 6, 1944. He moved across the beach and over a wall to face three German pillboxes.

Rifleman Hester lobbed a grenade into one pillbox, immediately chasing out three enemy soldiers firing their weapons. The ensuing exchange killed all three. To his surprise, Hester then found an inscribed prayer book on one of the dead soldiers. He mused, “We were the ones who carried prayer books and Bibles. Why did he have one? Aren’t we the good guys and they the bad guys? Why was he carrying a prayer book?”

Six years later in 1950, five years after the war’s end, Hester sent the prayer book to the address he found inside. He was surprised to receive a letter in response from the mother in that home. She wrote, “We lost five children. Ernst was our last. The war took all that we possessed, including five children. In this letter, you will find a photo of my son. Take this as a souvenir of a German comrade whom you saw only dead but who was, in the depth of his heart, never your foe.”

Peter Caddick-Adams, an excellent British war historian, wrote this account in his D-Day history, Sand and Steel. He personally interviewed thousands of participants in producing the story of one of the greatest battles of all time. I am just finishing reading this over-one-thousand-page novel-like exciting history. This poignant vignette is one of many he includes in his book.

War produces great contradictions and the very sad results that a greatly fallen, sin-filled world creates. America’s Civil War caused a conflict in which brothers fought brothers, and though we otherwise fought foreign nations in our many wars, they too also resulted in Christians fighting spiritual brothers mixed in among the enemy of the other side, particularly in a world war. God has his remnant in every “tribe.”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul expresses that we primarily wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the underworld of darkness, minions of Satan who also are liberally sprinkled in places of strength and influence among the nations of the world. Hitler and his fellow Nazis impressed German and other populations into its vast war machine to perpetrate catastrophic sin in the world. Many Christians were swept up into the entire evil effort.

In this new year of 2020, we are continuously faced with the challenge of spiritual discernment of good and evil, determining who is and who is not our true enemy. Is this thing of Satan or is it of Christ? The challenge is always before you. But God does not leave you without resources for discerning the one from the other.

The Spirit of God is available to every believer in Christ. The eyes of your heart are enabled by grace to fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. The sword of the Lord, the Word of God, is in your hand waiting to be transferred to your heart and mind, your mouth and your tongue.

But discriminate you must! Discern the enemy who cunningly seeks to lead you to the left or the right and not to the truth. Everywhere you look there is a stalking lion on the prowl, but there is also the Lord of Hosts. Fear the Lord, not the enemy. Ask for accurate discernment constantly, fill your mind with the Lord’s Word, trust and obey, and do not grow weary in well doing. By so doing, you add oil to your lamp’s well as you wait for the Bridegroom to return at midnight, according to your Lord’s loving invitation (Matthew 25). Be always ready!

“Rejoice, all you believers, and let your lights appear; the evening is advancing, and darker night is near. The Bridegroom is arising, and soon He draweth nigh. Up, pray, and watch, and wrestle. At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning, replenish them with oil, and wait for your salvation, the end of earthly toil. The watchers on the mountain proclaim the Bridegroom near. Go meet Him as He cometh, with alleluias clear.”

(First and second verses of Laurentius Laurenti’s hymn, “Rejoice, All Ye Believers,” 1700)

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