Complimentary StoryEditor’s note: Following is a letter to Matt, a Spec Ops veteran, from the author. Due to the crucial, urgent nature of its subject matter, despite its length, it is repeated here in its entirety.
Matt! O Mighty Man of Valour!
Amy asked for a copy of my book Nehemiah Strong for you; she and her husband thought it would be a blessing to you. Amy also mentioned that they were very fond of you, and that they had been striving to bring you to faith – but, they had the impression that as a long-time soldier and special operator you might believe yourself to be ‘beyond salvation.’
Although we’ve never met, and I’ve never served, I have in recent years grown quite close to many men with whom I’ve trained with backgrounds not unlike yours. So, I felt compelled to write this note to you.
Following are some Biblically-based observations that may apply to you, and may serve to put your past in context. Use what applies; discard the rest. Perhaps they’ll give you a new perspective of both your broken state, and of the Lord’s capacity to save.
What riches of kindness, He lavished on us
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost
We stood 'neath a debt, we could never afford
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more
Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more
– From His Mercy is More by Matt Papa
1). You have a magnified comparative view of your sins. I suspect your sleep has been haunted by images of your travels and deeds as a warrior that I as a civilian (thankfully) cannot imagine. For that, I’m truly sorry. So, I’m not suggesting that, perhaps, you don’t actually have a truckload of iniquity to be forgiven of. I am suggesting, however, that your neighbors are guilty of so much more iniquity than you (or they!) are giving them credit for!
Consider that “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). In the eyes of a perfectly righteous God your washed-clean civilian neighbors are guilty of committing the very sins you’re beset by!
Also consider that, according to Jesus Himself, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). So, while, perhaps, some act(s) you committed would rightly be judged as murder (although perhaps, in the conduct of war, not), we’re all guilty of murder in our hearts! The Lord is righteous beyond our capacity to understand; His standard is perfection; not through our strength, of course, but through His. And, since the fall, we’re all equally, and wholly, guilty, one no more than another, of transgressing against the entirety of His law. As Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10,23).
The fact that you’re repentant, though…now that sets you apart from your reprobate neighbors of Romans 1:18-32. And, I’m convinced it’s absolute proof you’re not beyond salvation; otherwise you wouldn’t give such matters a second thought. Your regret, and desire to be freed from sin, is something God can work with!
2). You have too small a view of Jesus’ power to save. 2700 years ago Isaiah recorded, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1). The Lord is indeed “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17)! However, in our past, “[our] iniquities have made a separation between [us and our] God, and [our] sins have hidden His face from [us] so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2). Isaiah 59 is truly worth a read; it details the unabashed depravity of mankind. After recounting Israel’s fall, it then declares, “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede.” (Isaiah 59:16(a)). What to do?
But God. The Lord Himself steps into the breach for us, as He knows we’re utterly lost and helpless without Him. “…then His own arm brought him salvation, and His righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak.” (Isaiah 59:16(b)-17). For those with eyes to see, this is a clear description of the Messiah Jesus, Whose very name means salvation! It is He who donned the warrior’s armor to avenge unrepentant evil – yet He first laid Himself down as a perfect sacrifice, shedding His own blood in our place, that we might be restored.
That’s total sacrifice – and not made tritely. And the towering magnitude of the Lord Himself sacrificing His only Son for you – that speaks directly, and powerfully, to the infinite extent to which it contains power to save – even the most unclean, if that applies to you.
3). The enemy is running a PsyOp on you. Ahh, the devil. He’ll use even your righteous regret and grieved conscience against you.
From the beginning of this awful, fallen world mess, satan began by deceiving Eve, saying, “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1). In light of this, consider – has satan said, “Did God really say…” to you too?
Did God really say He would forgive the likes of you? After all you’ve done?
You can almost hear the hissssss of the devil as you read these words.
As a warrior you understand the impact and import of PsyOps; they’ve been a cornerstone of warfare since before Sun Ztu. Well, friend, your sworn enemy the devil is running one on you— planting seeds of self-doubt, God-doubt, and self-condemnation to cause you to restrain yourself from running into the arms the One Who already paid it all, so you could be set free!
It delights me to say to you, that you are far closer to being washed clean, and laying your burdens down, and to knowing a liberty from your past you can’t yet comprehend, than you can imagine!
By all accounts you have a grieved conscience. That’s a gift God put there, that you would be blessed by your conscience. The Lord is already at work in you to restore you to Him.
So, let’s play a thought experiment for a moment. Set aside the enemy’s lies, and the chattering demons parroting scripts of condemnation; if you miss them you can always take them back up later (or not!). Consider what the Lord Himself said: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2(b)).
Is that you? Are you humbled by the weight of your sins; by the stains you will never be able to wash off? Good! You’re just who the Lord sent His Son to save! For Jesus Himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-2). Not just those with a thimble full of sin; but the worst “sinners.” If that’s you, He came for you!
And…as it pertains to the filthy lies of the father of lies (John 8:44)…self-condemnation is a debilitating, immobilizing, worthless habit. Judge the tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20); what good has it done for you? What ill? If it’s poison to you, why keep entertaining it? It is literally designed to withhold you from restoration, through the only One qualified to do so – Jesus Christ. So, I strongly encourage you to replace the enemy’s PsyOp lies with, “Get behind me satan!” (Matthew 16:23)! Then get on with healing up, and joining in the only battle that really counts – saving souls (becoming a “fisher of men” like Peter and the other disciples (Matthew 4:19)) and storming the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)!
3a). You may be applying a corrupted form of self-sacrifice. The warrior ethos demands that you put your life in the hands of your brother-in-arms, and to provide that same protection for him. Now, after years of being tormented by the memories you’ve endured, it may seem right to you to lay your life down on the funeral pyre of depression, or misery, or self-harm, thinking that somehow this penance will redeem you from your past.
This thwarts your healing and restoration through the One Who already laid His life down for you, that you “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The enemy, who “comes to steal and kill and destroy (sic)” whispers in your ear for you to sacrifice yourself instead – whether by unceasing misery, or by taking your own life.
Laying your own life down – whether day by day or all at once – does nothing but doom yourself, and compound the misery among those who love you. If you judge this tree by its fruit, it is utterly corrupt and worthless; there’s no good in it at all. There’s also a thread of deceived self-righteousness in this perversion of sacrifice – by doing so one is saying that God’s already-perfected sacrifice is insufficient; that only by substituting your sacrifice of your fallen self will the pain end. Now that’s a lie out of the pit of Hell. Notice how satan always wants everyone to die for him, an inversion of Christ’s sacrifice for us? Only Jesus Himself is up to the task; He did it to perfection, and already secured victory on your behalf – so you could truly live!
Your iniquity is guaranteed to be healed and restored if you repent and believe. He longs for you to accept His sacrifice, as yours would be a tacit rejection of His.
4). Some of the greatest heroes in Scripture were murderers – and redeemed! Moses – the unchallenged hero of the Old Testament before King David – murdered an Egyptian soldier, causing him to have to flee Egypt (Exodus 2:11-15). Clearly, though, Moses was forgiven, as he was chosen by the Lord to lead the Israelites from bondage.
David had his own faithful general Uriah killed as he had already impregnated Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). In fact, David’s reign of Israel was so bloody that the Lord would not permit him to build the first temple to the Lord (1 Chronicles 28). Yet, David was beloved by God, and was the apple of His eye (2 Samuel 22:20-22). The Lord delighted in David, and rewarded him “according to [his] righteousness; according to the cleanliness of [his] hands did He reward [him] (sic).” Wait…is that the same David? Yes — after he repented, and sought the Lord for salvation from his iniquities! In fact, David was so beloved that the Lord declared that the Messiah would be of his lineage (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Now that’s honor and restoration in the wake of iniquity!
David stands as an indisputable example to men like you, that you have not strayed too far for the Lord’s mighty right hand of Salvation. (Read 2 Samuel 22 – an amazing message of gratitude and glory from a renewed warrior king to the One True God.)
Then there’s Paul. Paul was a zealot and a “Pharisee among Pharisees” (Acts 26:5). So much so that he tended to the cloaks of the mob as they stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:1) and subsequently was sent with official papers to crush the Christians in Damascus (Acts 9). Yet it was on that very road to Damascus that the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul, saying “Why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4) Although he was “chief sinner” (1 Timothy 1:13-15), the Lord turned His greatest foe of the era to His greatest advocate, and unleashed the most devastatingly effective warrior for Christ to bring light into the world.
That same power – that dunemis – the Lord wants to unleash in you too – that you might be a mighty warrior for him, assailing the gates of hell and unleashing the power of the Gospel through you, in His strength!
5). God has a special heart for warriors. Repeatedly in Scripture the Lord singles out warriors for salvation who undoubtedly walked blood-stained roads. In Luke 7:1-10 a Roman centurion characterized by faith, compassion, and humility sought the Lord Jesus to heal a dying servant; Jesus “…marvelled…at his great faith” (Luke 7:9), and the servant was healed that very day. In fact, that centurion – a Gentile at that! – was one of only two individuals in all of the New Testament noted by Jesus for having great faith.
At Jesus’ crucifixion, (likely) another centurion and other guards witnessing His death, the subsequent earthquake, and other natural signs, exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)! As was the case with Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ divinity earlier (Matthew 16:16-17), surely the Lord gave them this understanding so they might also have eyes to see and be saved.
In Acts 10 the Lord sent angels and visions to both Cornelius, a righteous, God-fearing Roman centurion, and to Peter, and orchestrated a divine appointment between the men, that Cornelius might know the Gospel of Jesus as the risen Messiah. Cornelius’s entire household was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized by Peter himself that very day. That’s how far the Lord will go to rescue a warrior!
Without belaboring the point, I would be remiss not to mention Joshua, Caleb, King David and his mighty men, Samson, etc. All knew transgression; all knew war, and had spilt blood; and yet all were saved, often miraculously by the Lord’s generous hand, straining forward into their lives to bring salvation, healing, and restoration.
6). The Lord is Himself a warrior. Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, means ‘he who brings salvation.’ Yet, it was Joshua of the Old Testament – also Yeshua in Hebrew! – who led the mighty Israelite army into bloody battle after battle after entering the Promised Land against the demonic hordes of giants (a whole other story). Later, when Joshua was about to destroy the city of Jericho, Jesus declared Himself to be “the commander of the armies of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15). So, Jesus’ own archetype in the Old Testament was the commander of the Israelite armies – as Jesus was the same in Heaven!
And yet there’s more. When Jesus came the first time – to pay the price we could never pay for our sins so that we might live – He declared that “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34-36). When He returns at Armageddon, He will come to “judge and make war” (Revelation 19:11). He will “consume [His enemies] with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). In the Day of the Lord, when wicked Babylon is judged by Jesus, the destruction of the wicked will produce a river of blood to the depth of a horse’s bridle running 1600 furlongs (Revelation 14:20).
Finally, consider this – by the Lord’s own Word, we know that “The Lord is a man of war (JEHOVAH 'ÎYSH MILCHÂMÂH): JEHOVAH is His name.” (Exodus 15:3). And, “Who is this King of Glory? The Lord Strong and Mighty (JEHOVAH ‛IZZÛZ GIBBÔR), the Lord Mighty in Battle (JEHOVAH GIBBÔR MILCHÂMÂH).” (Psalm 24:8). Therefore don’t be surprised at His astounding, longsuffering, striving desire to redeem His warrior children!
Your warrior instincts are a type of your Father, in Whose image you were created – including His righteous warrior spirit against evil and the unrepentant wicked.
So…whenever you begin to think that the Lord wouldn’t understand the heart or deeds of a warrior, think again. He truly is the Lord of (righteous!) War.
7). The Lord needs warrior-hearted men to storm the gates of Hell. He who is forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:36-50). God bless those righteous believers who have been saved since their youth! What a blessing! But, truly the Lord needs in His earthly armies — those others of us who, like Paul, will journey to the ends of the earth for His glory, fueled by our gratitude for the mountain of iniquity for which we’ve been forgiven.
God needs heavily forgiven, adopted children-warriors such as you, who will truly go ‘above and beyond’ to reach the truly lost, and to storm the gates of Hell.
Those who have been saved from their youth either won’t or can’t carry the load you’ll carry, or go to the lengths you’ll go, or brave the fortified camp of the enemy as you will, to complete those missions of the Lord reserved for the lion-hearted among His earthly host. Perhaps because you so much more richly appreciate the weight of the burden Christ carried for you, and the awful, astounding price He paid so you could be set free, it is believers like you who the Lord assigns the boldest, most fearsome, most audacious missions to further His kingdom and bring Him glory.
I think it no coincidence that Jesus selected Paul – of all people! – to be His apostle to the world beyond Israel. He knew – both because of Paul’s zeal but also of the heavy burden of iniquity He freed Paul from – how far Paul would go in delivering the Gospel, because they both knew how much he had been forgiven of. The Lord can use that in your life too – if you’ll accept His free gift, and bend a knee to and serve Him who “came to set the captives free." (Isaiah 42:7).
8). The Lord delights in saving those most lost and beyond salvation! Read (and reread!) the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The younger son – that’s you. When he asked his father for his inheritance, he was essentially saying, “You’re dead to me. Let me live as I wish.” The father – a type of the Lord, of course – believing in freewill, gave him what he wished. The son proceeded to wander far away in his debauchery, literally and figuratively, until he found himself where all sin leads, standing in the mire, utterly ruined.
And yet…note the father’s response as the son returned, destitute as all we who wander far from Him, planning to be a hireling in his house… “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v. 20). All these years, while the son reveled and squandered his father’s blessings, the father was scanning the horizon, unceasingly, longing for his wicked son’s repentance and return. And too, he had stored up for him not a hireling’s position, devoid of station, love, or relationship. He felt compassion for him; he ran to him; he embraced him; he kissed him. That’s what your Heavenly Father has in store for you! Though He was dead to you in your heart; though you (like me) wandered far from Him; though you squandered gifts and years wallowing in the mire, He searches the horizon for you as you read this, longing for you to choose to return to Him, that He might honor you greatly (v. 22-24). “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’’ (v.24). That is the desire of God’s heart for your life; He’s not deterred by what you’ve done.
9). Once redeemed, the Lord has a mission for you. Given what you’ve learned; given where you’ve been; given how much you know that you’ve been redeemed from…boy, will God have a mission for you, once you’re “mission qualified!”
It’s my conviction that the Lord will have a special, front line or deep-behind-enemy-lines mission for born-again warriors like you. Only His adopted sons who have been tempered in the fire of salvation from the edge of the abyss have the mettle to execute His boldest, most audacious assignments! He knows He can count on redeemed warriors such as you to serve as astoundingly devastating ‘Spec Ops warriors’ under His command – storming the gates of Hell itself with the Gospel and in His righteousness, that even “the gates of Hell” (Matthew 16:18) will not withstand your assault!
Perhaps that mission will even pertain to your fellow wounded warriors who, like you, struggle with the guilt and horror from their service – wounds that only someone like yourself has the testimony to credibly speak to, and minister, and heal in Jesus’ name and power.
I am utterly convinced that satan himself is terrified of the very thought of warrior-hearted men like you coming to faith. He understands the devastating price you’ll make him pay on the spiritual battlefield, once you’ve aligned your spirit with JEHOVAH SABAOTH – the Lord of Hosts – both Heavenly and Earthly. There will, literally, be Hell to pay – and you, in the Lord’s strength, will see to it that that debt is paid in full, on every mission you execute as you put your boot on the neck of His enemies (Joshua 1,10; Romans 16:20).
Abba, Father, the Lord and the Author of your salvation, scans the horizon still, after all these years, for you. Where is he? He thinks to Himself. When will he return?! Is that him? Will he come back today? Day after day, He longs for your return.
The relief, the lightness of your unburdened spirit, the incomprehensible liberty of redemption; all this and more, awaits you. The next move is yours. You can turn this story of brokenness, hopelessness, sadness and pain into redemption and victory today, right now. God is not only the God of second chances, but of miraculous rescues – rescues of desperately lost souls like yours. The Lord – Who has already paid the price and won the victory on the cross – longs to “remove (your) sin from (you) as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12).
Like the father in the parable, if you’ll step toward Him, He’ll come running toward you! If you’ll be faithful to come humbly to Him, he’ll be faithful and wash your sins white as snow in the blood of His Son, our Risen Savior!
Jesus Himself said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Don’t let the enemy deceive you with self-condemnation and lies another day. Jesus already won the victory; accept His gift that’s free to you, but cost Him everything! Receive His gift, His only Son, so you can spend the rest of your life living in obedience to Him – laying your life down to win souls and storm the gates of Hell!
He’s standing over you, as you lay battered and broken on the battlefield of this spiritual war, His nail-scarred hand outstretched.
“Matt! Matt!!! Take my hand! TAKE MY HAND!!!”
He laid down His life for you, so you could live. Will you allow His perfect sacrifice to be in vain? It all hangs in the balance, based on how you respond.
Let today be the day of salvation for you! Don’t pass up this opportunity! Simply fall to your knees; let the pain flow out of you. Let go of the hurt, and the self-condemnation, and the guilt.
Confess out loud your sins to your Father, Abba, Daddy, your Righteous and Holy Lord. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, that He is the Messiah, the Risen Lord. Testify that you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-13). Ask Jesus to save you, and declare Him to be the Lord of your life.
Then hold on! Get ready to live life – and fight as a warrior of the King – like you never have before.
“No eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
“And the God of Peace will crush satan under your feet shortly.” – Romans 16:20
John Dyslin is the author of Nehemiah Strong: Life-Sustaining Essentials for a Season of Trial, a 480-page field manual equipping believers to stand, occupy, and overcome as the enemy comes in like a flood. Learn more at JohnDyslin.com, and use discount code WCN1 to save 10%.