Spiritual Warfare in the Church over the Word
Gary has been talking about spiritual warfare in the church. One of the issues we have today is that preachers, teachers and church-goers no longer consider the Word of God that Last word on matters of faith and practice. Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church over the authority of the Word of God in the Scriptures. He found 95 reasons that the church had put the traditions of men above the Word of God. This situation is similar to what Jesus had to deal with in the 1st C.
He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:3–9, ESV)
But today, many consider God’s Word to be a good suggestion but outdated. We are free to reinterpret to make it fit our current day. So what God said was wrong back then, isn’t necessarily wrong today. This is the problem within the church. In the unchurched culture, the problem is a bit different. They don’t believe there is any truth, much less one truth. The universe is a product of evolution by accident and there is no ultimate purpose or plan to life. No God who controls destiny or gives life meaning. I remember reading an article back in the 1980’s in Wired magazine where this woman was talking about avatars. The word Avatar comes from a noun meaning:
1 a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher; an incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea. 2 an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, Internet forums, etc.
Her point was more like the second, where people adopt characters to play games, but she was applying it to all of human life. Her point was that identity is plastic. There is no ultimate purpose to gender or identity, so we can create our own. If there is no GOD, there is no ultimate truth, there is no right or wrong, no reason we can’t decide to change our gender, no morals, no real reason that life or death matters. So religion is just an illusion or an opinion, with no basis in fact, and can safely be ignored. We call this philosophy Relativism. All truth is just a subjective perspective. Anything goes. Do your own thing. And church leaders who have yielded to this philosophy in the culture in order to be “hip” or current, have abandoned any pretense that the Bible is true. They do not believe in any fixed form of truth, but truth has evolved as we have become more “Enlightened” and more “tolerant.” We now have “science” which tells us that the old morals of the bible are wrong. They have proclaimed “tolerance” as the highest form of love and the good, and in so doing, they have implied that because of their compassion, they are more tolerant and loving than God. On a national level, we have pastors and priests who indulge sin with a false form of grace that confuses license with love. And so have endorsed sin as if the Liberty of Christ is a license for all kinds of behaviors, and if permissiveness was actually helping rather than bringing harm. Why does God give us the Law? The law of God is there to protect us, not to punish us or bring us harm. If I put up a sign that says the bridge is out up ahead, and you ignore it and speed on, the signpost didn’t judge your or punish you. You were punished by your own actions. Just so, the leaders who ignore the law and encourage sin in the name of “tolerance” are not showing love… it is actually hate, because they could be trying to protect you. Instead they encourage you to hurt yourself. Jeremiah spoke of this situation in Judea, when religion had become corrupted by idolatry and a disregard for the Word of God.
“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, ESV) “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 6:13–15, ESV)
Many pastors and whole denominations no longer preach righteousness or teach us that God requires holiness of us, but like Peter said,
“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:18–19, ESV)
Law and Grace are not enemies. Grace is not accepting sin, it is accepting people who are sinful. It is saying yes to the person but no to the sin. We cannot restore the land without being willing to stand up for righteousness and endure persecution and hatred by those who hate truth. Jesus told us this:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)
Truth is offensive and it brings a sword of division. But we are to “speak the truth in love” and love our enemies and not respond in kind, but repay abuse with kindness… This is very difficult to do. But if you know who you are in Christ Jesus and whose you are, what others think of you will not define you. And knowing God loves you, when others hate you, will allow you to look upon them with pity rather than anger. By our kindness in the face of their animosity, it may be that some will repent and come to see God in us, rather than enemies. So How do you restore those who have fallen, or bring back leaders who have turned. If they show true repentance, we open our arms, but we are not foolish. We have seen things like Jimmy Swaggart, who after falling into sexual sin, was pronounced clean by Oral Roberts after “casting out demons” and returned to ministry in three months only to be caught in the same sin a few years later.
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:19–22, ESV)
In the same way on a personal level, we need to be able to hold each other accountable without casting judgments. But we are not to endorse sinful behaviors,
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”” (1 Corinthians 5:9–13, ESV)
What? We are to judge? Yes, we are to judge behaviors inside the church as sin. There is a difference between judging with condemnation, but if we judge someone who is unrepentant in the church, we are excluding them in order to bring them to repentance and heal them.