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Long before 9/11, a war was being waged, exec says

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Long before war came to America’s doorstep on Sept. 11, 2001, Christians were in the midst of an age-old struggle, Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said.

“It is not a battle of bombs and bullets, it is a battle of the Book and the blood,” Richards noted in an Aug. 28 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary chapel address.

“The battle is in the hearts and minds of people; this is where the warfare takes place.”

An NOBTS alumnus and former Louisiana pastor, Richards accepted the SBTC’s top post three and a half years ago.

Richards drew from 2 Timothy 2:3-4 to examine the qualities the good Christian soldier exhibits in spiritual battle.

“When we look at this passage of Scripture, I hear a challenge to myself to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” he said. “If you stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, if you use his name in prayer, if you identify with him, if you witness for him, if you carry your Bible into a public place, if you acknowledge yourself as a ‘born-again’ evangelical believer in Jesus Christ, conflict will come your way.

“As a good soldier of Jesus Christ, we must suffer the pain of conflict,” he said.

While the pages of the Bible tell Christians to expect this conflict, the battle is won through the power of Jesus Christ, Richard stated.

“As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must bring every thought into captivity under the obedience of Christ and let that battle be settled in our hearts and minds every day,” he said, citing the need for a daily “time of Bible study and prayer … a time of personal devotion and personal holiness. As we come into the presence of our Lord, then we can find the strength to go into the conflict.”

The enemy is clearly identified in Ephesians 6, Richard said, noting that Satan and his demonic forces are the ones attacking Christian soldiers. Moreover, Ephesians 6 does not stop at identifying the enemy; it also identifies the armor needed to withstand these attacks. Each piece of the armor, Richards said, points straight to Jesus.

“We are to wrap ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Richards said. “The Christian life is not a playground, it is a battlefield and God has called us to put on the armor.”

Good soldiers of Christ not only will suffer conflict, but they stay at their post of duty, Richards said; good Christian soldiers keep their focus; they will not lower their spiritual standards.

In 2 Timothy, Paul was telling Timothy, “no matter what may come your way you have an obligation to stay at your post of duty,” Richards said. “If you are not at your post of duty, you are putting yourself in harms way.”

Richards pointed out the potential dangers of a soldier who goes AWOL (absent without leave), including capture, injury or death. The Christian who is away from his post of duty faces a grave potential danger. He is susceptible to the enemy.

Staying at the post of duty involves pursuing holiness — being different from the world, Richards said. The good soldier serves his commander and chief, and he must be separated from sin and set apart for Christ.

“Timothy was challenged to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ by pleasing the one who had called him,” Richards pointed out in verse 4. “You’ve been called to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s all about Jesus…. Are you willing to follow him?”

Before Richards spoke, seminary President Chuck Kelley took a few moments to thank him and the SBTC for their generous support of NOBTS and the other Southern Baptist seminaries. Under Richards’ leadership, the SBTC has become an important partner with the SBC’s six theological schools.

Not only has the SBTC supported the seminaries through Cooperative Program giving, the SBTC held a special offering for the seminaries in 2001, from which NOBTS received $150,000.

“That $150,000 … was the last piece we needed to have enough cash to start our new student housing,” Kelley said. “We’re going to dedicate one of those apartments to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, because they are making that project possible.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: READY FOR BATTLE.