The Perpetual Battle
Adrian Reynolds says books about spiritual battles are not in vogue any more – but they should be. That’s why he was so pleased to read a new book by Simon Vibert, which draws on some classic Christian titles to remind us of the Bible’s call to put on the whole armour of God.
I once booked John White – author of The Fight – to come and speak at a University CU weekend. I was pretty pleased with my coup: he was, after all, a well-known author and speaker and I made much of the star attraction as I tried to persuade people to sign up.
Imagine my disappointment, therefore, when the speaker introduced himself on the first night with the words, “It’s great to have been invited as I don’t get asked to many things: people are always confusing me with the author John White.”
Yes, I’d booked the wrong John White! As it turned out, he was a pretty good substitute and the weekend was fine: no one asked for their money back. The real John White, it might not surprise you to know, was in great demand. At least, he was back then.
The Christian’s Fight
Today, books about fighting and battling are less in vogue and John’s book is no longer in print. We are embarrassed by war language in church and no one sings Onward Christian Soldiers any more. Yet the language of fighting is integral to the Christian life. We cannot overcome the world, the flesh and the Devil by simply fixing our eyes on good things and trusting that everything else will fade away.
No, the Scriptures call us to fight. That’s why I enjoyed reading Simon Vibert’s new book The Perpetual Battle. Simon is vicar of Christ Church Virginia Water and until recently was vice-principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He is thoughtful and well-read and writes with a pastor’s heart about the battle we all must face up to.
To do so, he draws on four books that have influenced him greatly: The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall; The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis; Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen; and The Fight by John White (hence my anecdote!).
In his book, Vibert summarises key parts of each book that are relevant to his topic and then intersperses these with Scriptures and practical suggestions (as well as a little more material from JC Ryle’s Holiness).
His approach might – to a pastor who has read these books – seem a bit hit and miss. After all, you could easily reach onto the shelf and take down each of these books and read them for yourself. But to think that way is to miss the point. Vibert is not writing for pastors (though I appreciated the book greatly for myself), but for ordinary real-life Christians who will not have the time (or, in the case of Owen, the patience) to read each of these useful volumes.
What you get, therefore, is something akin to a practical guide to the spiritual battle that Christians face. And even when I didn’t quite agree with Simon’s exegesis (Romans 7 is notoriously tricky!), I always appreciated the point he was making.
I think this book would be a great book to plug at church (if you do things like that) to get people in the church thinking and applying these extraordinary truths.
And if you don’t have a reading church, getting hold of this book yourself and working through it might well set you up for a superb sermon series on Ephesians 6 or a topical series on the spiritual battle that every Christian must engage in. As perhaps we ought to sing more often…
At the name of Jesus Satan’s legions flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, onto victory!
Hell’s foundations tremble at the shout of praise;
Christians lift your voices – loud your anthems raise:
Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war,
Looking up to Jesus, who has gone before.