When was last time you asked yourself: “What is my purpose in coming to church this morning? What do I hope to experience or gain? What will my presence add to the service? Will I be a blessing to someone? Will I be blessed?” A related question might be: “What is the objective that our church has for meeting together this morning?”
There may be as many answers as there are religious high places calling themselves “houses of God.” There aren’t nearly as many excuses that people offer have tor NOT going to church. But there are still dozens for actually attending. In churches like ours perhaps one of the foremost true explanations might be habit. “I’ve spent my Sunday mornings listening to the Bible for so many years, I can’t picture myself anywhere else.” In another church, some people attend hoping to make business contacts or looking for a mate. Some churches appear to be filled with people attempting to show off in one fashion or another. Some people attend with a desire to find things to criticize and to find targets to shoot. Pride is one reason to go to church and so is a need to unload burdens and find comfort. The list could go on and on, and some of them aren’t really that bad. And specific reasons vary each week – one thing stands out one week, but not the next. Oldfield is preaching “live and in person” this Sunday; let’s see if he’s really as heavy as he looks on TV.
Let’s considered II Corinthians 10 as a reason to attend this little ecclesia here in Finley. Without implying that any pastor today is on a parr with the Apostle Paul, I wonder how many filling pulpits in the Tri-cities today, have ever pictured themselves within these verses? I have had a few detractors during my ministry, just as Paul did in Corinth. And your pastor has had a few throughout the years as well. Nearly every pastor has had people who accused him of serving God in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. “If he was truly in the Spirit, he wouldn’t have said those things about me last week. If he was really a man of God our church would be growing and souls would be crying out for salvation.” Every pastor has had people who said that it was a waste of time to attend that church. And if they didn’t verbalize it, they said it through their inconsistent attendance. Paul says, “There I am, semi-bold in the pulpit and strong in my letters, but timid face to face.” After all these years, some of you are getting to know exactly how human I really am. I live in the same flesh as everyone else. And that flesh can get to be pretty week and stupid sometimes. Its weakness is seen in sickness, but those sicknesses, illustrate deeper problems. For every physical ailment there are probably ten spiritual diseases and maladies which do us harm. Yet I remind you that despite walking in the flesh out of necessity, our warfare is not after flesh. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to pulling down of strongholds.” And there definitely IS a warfare.
And this is what we are about this morning, in fact we are in battle in every church service. They are battles that we very seldom clearly and decisively win. People sit, listen and even “amen,” then 15 minutes later, not only forget what God had taught them, but often actually act contrary to that instruction. In Post Falls, for the last few months we have been reviewing an outline written by another of our missionaries. The subject is “Soteriology” – the doctrine of salvation. Some leave our class joyful over the things discussed and others leave thinking that we have wasted our time. Which of two have experienced a victory, and who has been more victorious – the Lord or the Devil?
Last Sunday, here in this building, there was a spiritual battle fought. Oh, it may not have been on the level of Shilo, Midway or the Battle of the Bulge, but there was at least a spiritual skirmish. How many victories were won and how many casualties were there? It grieves my heart to see the way the way that many Christian’s behave. Last week, in succession I read biographies of C.D. Cole and A.W. Pink – Baptist preachers and theologians. Pink wrote a masterpiece on the “Sovereignty of God” as well as several other excellent books. But the biographical article on that man surprised and disturbed me. For a time he was a member of the church which Claude Cole pastored in Kentucky. But he left saying there were less than a dozen members who were saved, and the pastor was not one of them. A.W. Pink got along with no one and died nearly alone on an island in the Outer Hebrides. It grieved me to see Bro. Pink become a victim in the spiritual battles of his day. But it disturbs me even more to see the way that my own heart and flesh fall victims in today’s strife.
Each and every child of God is in a battle. Yes, Bible doctrine is a part of that battle, but it is only a segment of the whole. There is a battle against a wicked society, or segments of that society. But more often it is fought inside our own hearts than it is out in the streets. And then again, today the Devil might be more focused on the heart and soul of your neighbor. For us, if we are not spiritually victorious, then we will never be honored by the Lord with Jehovah’s Medal Honor. If David had not been self-discipline and steeped in true faith in God early in his life… If David had not honed his skills with the sling-shot, and picked up good stones to sling… If he had not already defeated the lion and bear, then there never would have been victory over Goliath. If David hadn’t already won a few spiritual victories, he would have been a part of the impotent crowd back in the camp of the Army of Israel. The unproductive Christianity of the 21st century can be traced to the lost battles of the 20th century.
Let’s think about our enemy.
As I read and re-read these verses, I don’t believe that Paul is thinking of any one person or enemy. Now some of people in Corinth may have disliked the Apostle for one reason or another. I know that some professing Christians elsewhere rejoiced when they heard he was imprisoned. Some may have wished him silenced or perhaps even dead. But Paul did not reciprocate their hatred. To do so would have been unchristian; un-Christ-like. To do so would have been to join them in their tactics and attitudes. And just like Paul, there should not be anyone whom you hate, and/or that you wish were dead. It doesn’t matter what they might have done to you in the past. Since they haven’t stolen your salvation or your soul, you have little reason even to dislike them. And if the Lord doesn’t hate us for our former rebellion, blasphemy and attempted deicide, then we have no right to hate some other human-being. And by simply raising of this subject, there may have begun a battle in a few hearts here this morning. There may be a battle within you, because there is someone in this world whom you cannot love. And you are struggling to justify your hatred, while the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin. These spiritual battles can take so many forms. How many times do we hear a message from the Word of God, and our hearts raise unimportant questions in an effort to evade what we have just heard? How often have we come to the House of God seeking a blessing, but we can’t keep our mind on the message?
We can justly call Satan our enemy. We are told to be sober and vigilant; because “our adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” I will not deny that Satan wants to silence this little mission and us personally. But I don’t read of him or his wickedness in the context of these words.
In addition to Scriptural warnings about Satan, we have warnings about many other things. For example, the Saviour says, “take heed and beware of covetousness.” We are warned about the leaven of the Pharisees. We are forewarned about false prophets, the scribes and Sadducees. Paul said, “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit.” The context seems to say that as a church and as Christians, our enemy is sin and spiritual error. Spiritual error can be false doctrine; a plague worse than heart disease or homosexuality. But spiritual defeat can also include a multitude of other kinds of sins. Things like pride, hatred, vengeance, jealousy, evil imaginations and greed.
I’ve met some Christians who are intent on battling only other Christians. They have 20/20 vision when it comes to eyeing the sins of others, but not in themselves. They are trying to take motes out from other peoples’ eyes using canoe paddles. But they are blind to the I-beams and 2×4 in their own eyes. Our enemy is not other people, it is spiritual, and our greatest enemy often lays in our own hearts.
A pseudo-Christianity of amiability and gushy/mushy love is not true Christianity. But then neither is a Christianity of unloving, naked doctrine along with the condemnation of everyone who doesn’t fully agree with us. Gospel Christianity means a circumspect battle of “casting down imaginations and bringing hearts into captivity.” But when the battle isn’t motivated by our love for Christ, it becomes just another Pharisaic religion.
So then where is our battlefield?
It is right here in our own hearts; each and every heart and soul in this room. Our battlefield is not the flesh, although it may sound that way in our preaching sometimes. A message on adultery, tobacco, lying or cursing certainly touches upon the outward flesh.. But the fact is, these are all symptoms of spiritual corruption. Our battlefield is in our hearts and souls, and then sometimes the mind, when first two spill over there. That is long before we can deal with our wicked words, our wandering eyes and our wayward feet.
And again, about whose hearts and souls am I referring? You and me – everyone in here. This battle is ours; we are in it – like it or not. I John 3:8 – “For this purpose the Son of God manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.” And exactly where do we find those works of the devil? You can point to Washington DC, Boise or Olympia, but that maybe Satanic misdirection. The real battle is in the human heart – the lost man’s and also in my own breast and mind – and in yours.
Our battlefield is in the area of misconceptions and false-faiths. It includes our prejudices, our passions and our pride. Right at the heart of this fight is self-sufficiency, general culture and deadly pseudo-intelligence. Sometimes the fight is in the valley of simple ignorance. This battle includes “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
And what are our Weapons in this warfare?
First of all they are not carnal. This is the way that Muslims do battle against their perceived heresies – Jehad. This has been, and still is, the tactic of Rome and other man-made religions. And it is the tool of choice by so many fleshly Baptists as well. But how can someone use a sword or rifle to kill an error, false doctrine or ungodly attitude? How can a system of logic bring life to a sin-deadened heart? “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” Therefore we do not pay or bribe the unsaved and lost to attend our services. As much as I’d like to see our church filled with kids, we will not give them ice cream to attend. The weapons of our warfare are not crafty. We do not use the carrot of good health and nutrition to draw in the gullible. We will not lie and imply that attendance at our church guarantees a beautiful home-life. We do not imply that the end of financial woes can be found at Calvary Baptist. We will not emphasize one doctrine while hiding to the last minute some others. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal nor coercive. I will not force anyone to agree with my doctrinal or convictional stand. I will try to teach those who disagree, but I will not impeach them. If you are correct in your faith, then let the Word and Spirit of God prove them to be wrong.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but Spiritual.” This does not mean that they are miraculous necessarily. In Biblical history there have been some very earthly but miraculous weapons. There been things like fire from heaven and volcanos and fissures in the earth. But rarely did they result in conversions. And what can be a spiritual weapon in one case can be completely worldly in another. Take a sermon as an illustration. “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” But what is a sermon? It is just a bunch of words strung together by a man who happens to abide in a fleshly body. It might be no different from a speech of a secular politician when talking about a social problem. But it becomes a spiritual weapon and takes on spiritual power, when empowered by Holy Spirit. And this is where we all enter in that particular battle – we can pray for God’s blessings whether we are preaching or hearing.
The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, so they are mighty in the Lord. A Bible-based lesson can be a powerful spear in the hand of any teacher. Our prayers can be as mighty as Israel’s march around the walls of Jericho. Some compassion and love expressed and demonstrated can be used to win to a sinner to Christ. Faith can also be a weapon, moving even mountains out of our way. Paul said, “I beseech you, I beseech you.” Do those sound like fighting words? Absolutely, if our warfare is of the right kind Our weapons are produced in the factory of Lord, not by Colt, Winchester or Remington. Far, far too often, we reach into the flesh for a figurative knife or revolver with which to straighten out a perceived problem in someone. We are at fault if our weapons come from the wrong source, and we are doomed to defeat.
And what about Our Victories?
Let me but summarize some of them – Our victories include imaginations brought into the light of the facts. Evolution slain by the truths of creation. The universal church rased by the Bible’s teaching about the Lord’s assembly. Man-made salvation brought into submission by the words of Christ and Paul. Our victories include the abasement of pride, a problem with which every Christian has to struggle.
What are our victories? – the destruction of mental strongholds, and societal citadels and air castles. They include a spirit-driven desire to give up this sin, or that sin, in our lives. They include a dedication to begin some new service for the glory of the Lord. They might be a desire to witness of Christ in a more positive and effective manner.
For what should we seek every time we attend the house of God? A reaffirmation of our own personal surrender to the will of Christ. Which Christ? The meek and gentle Christ which we find back in verse one. That meekness and gentleness speak of something internal but which expresses itself externally. It talks about a heart that is right with God followed by outward actions which glorify Him.
We need to learn from Daniel, Paul, Joseph and others, to be willing to face the enemy. We need to learn how to be ready for battle. Yes, we are getting physically old and tired, but the Holy Spirit is forever young and omnipotent. Victory is always near at hand when we are surrendered to Him.
But it is possible that you are not willing to be in this fight because you are still allied with the enemy. It might be said of you, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” You may not be willing to fight for Christ, because you don’t know the Lord. And if so, I’d be pleased to introduce you. Let’s go to Calvary, willing to admit that we are victims of sin – casualties in this conflict. In Christ Jesus there is life – eternal life – and victory. But you must be willing to surrender to His grace – repenting before God, confessing to your rebellion. You must throw down the weapons which you have been trying to use against the Lord. You must trust in the sacrifice which Christ has made in this battle for the sinner’s salvation. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”