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THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH

A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory

 

THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH
PART 8
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God
(When is the church the kingdom of man and not the kingdom of God?)
(To rule or to be ruled?)

     Do we realize that our motives for Christian service are often mixed?  I know that this has been true of me.  In stepping into a college-career ministry years ago, I was able to compare the attendance of the group before and after I took over.  I was inwardly pleased that the class was gaining attendance after I took over.  I would like to say that this type of motive has completely left me in the years since.  But if I said that I would not be telling the truth.  What does drive us in our service of God?  I heard recently that someone taught that we are driven by four goals in our lives: 1) the pursuit of fame; 2) the pursuit of fortune; 3) the pursuit of power, and 4) the pursuit of pleasure.  Are any or all of these a driving force in our Christian lives or in our Christian service?
     What is to be the driving force in our Christian lives and Christian service?  We should be driven by what comes from the heart of God.  Do we believe that there is a greater and higher goal than seeking after our fame, our fortune, our power over others, and our pleasure?  There is a pursuit that is infinitely better, but in our selfish world and with our own selfish mind-set, it is hard for us to see it as a better goal for us.  What does God offer us?  He offers us the knowledge of who He is.  He offers us His glory.  Am I overstating here?  Listen what Paul says in his book of Colossians.  "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  He offers us the opportunity to show our world who He is—to show them His love, His wisdom, and His holiness.  In other words, He gives us the opportunity to show the world His glory.  Is there a greater joy than for us to experience His love, His wisdom, and His holiness and to pass on what He has enabled us to experience to others?  What should drive us is our love for God and our love for others.  Is there a higher goal or greater joy than to love Him?  Is there a purer passion than to seek to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and strength and love others as He loves us?  We must recognize, though, that we are only able to do this because of His grace toward us and His power in us.
     The problem is that the pursuit of personal fame, fortune, power, and pleasure can be the real heart's desire of those of us who attend our churches and of those of us who lead and serve in our churches.  We can secretly desire our own glory and our own selfish desires rather than seeking wholeheartedly after God's glory.  We can want to have the biggest and best church in our city or state for selfish reasons.  If we do not have any realistic opportunity to have that, we can want to have the best church in our city—based, of course, on what we determine is the best.  It can be so subtle that we might not recognize it.  The early disciples did not recognize the impurity of their own motives.  The brothers James and John and their mother did not recognize that their motives were selfish when they desired the two seats on either side of Jesus in His kingdom.
     What should motivate us in Christ's church and in His service?  Jesus Christ died so that self and selfishness would end and so that we would desire above all else that we would know Him and experience His life in us, resulting in a life of selfless service to Him.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  If we seek His kingdom first, He will ensure that our other needs are met as well.
     The problem, though, is that it remains very possible for us to pursue our own kingdom, using Christ's church to do it.  We can want to be a part of a church that leads to our fame, fortune, power, and pleasure.
     As I mentioned in a previous chapter, in a conversation with my wife I asked, "Why can't Putin be satisfied being the ruler of Russia?"  Why does he want to rule over Ukraine also?"  He is not the first, though, that has had the goal of selfishly extending his rule and his realm beyond himself to others.  It occurred to me that this is a very common pattern in humanity.  We like to be the ruler of our own life so we can pursue whatever goal we want to pursue.  And we like to rule others so that we can get from them what we selfishly want for ourselves—fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  This creates a problem, however, for the church.  Why?  It is because of what God offers us.  He offers us the kingdom of God—which is His rule in our lives for His pure reasons!  How can we who like to rule others for our own selfish purposes want to be ruled by Jesus Christ?  The church is meant to be His rule in our lives.  Also, can this desire to rule others take place, though, in the church where Christ is to be the Ruler?  It can, and the history of the church tells us that the rule of selfish man has been in competition with Christ's pure rule from the beginning of the church.  It was even present before the church began. 
     When Jesus appeared on the scene, the religious world and the political world of Israel were ruled by religious leaders—the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  They were ruling—they were in charge of Israel.  The purpose of Israel and its religion was to bring them fame, fortune, power, and pleasure.  How did they respond when the true Ruler came to them?  He came to offer them what?  He came to offer them the kingdom of God—His pure rule in their lives.  How did they respond? They saw Him as the enemy, for He was a very direct threat to their rule of power, their fame, their fortune, and their pleasure in Israel.  They did not want Him to rule them for his pure reasons, they wanted to rule Him for their impure reasons.  So, when He would not be ruled by them, they eliminated the Son of God because he was a threat to their rule.  They murdered their promised King!
     Did this type of thing end when the church began?  Did it ever take place in the history of the church?  Have people in the church ever sought to be rulers rather than seeking to be ruled by Christ?  Have people sought to use the church to gain fame, fortune, power, and pleasure for themselves?  A resistance to God's rule is very human.  Selfishness can be defined as seeking our best no matter what it costs others.  The words of two once-popular songs say it very well:  "It's my life and I'll do what I want" and "I did it my way."  That is the very opposite of Christ's rule in our life.  Is this resistance to God's rule and the desire to rule over others ever present in the church?  Can we use our churches to seek to build our individual realms in pursuit of personal power, glory, and fortune?  Church history tells us it has been present for centuries.  The early church was eventually corrupted in this way.  It began as church leaders in larger cities got more and more power.  Eventually, they were called bishops.  Then, the bishop of Rome became the most powerful man in the church and eventually was called the Pope.  Then, the Pope gained power even over the secular world—he became the most powerful man in the world.  Also, the church became very wealthy.  Was this in God's mind?  Did He want the church to force people and even kings to follow Him using religious force?  Did He want the church to gain great political power and worldly wealth?  Had not these church leaders became like the Pharisees and the Sadducees?  From this power came the atrocities that embarrass Christians to this day.  As was mentioned in a previous chapter, Foxe's Book of Martyrs catalogues and describes how droves of Christians were murdered by this all-powerful church.  And, as was mentioned previously, among those that the church killed were William Tyndale who translated the Bible into the language of the people and John Huss who led Christians to obey what he believed the Bible taught in his native Bohemia. Many others who were a threat to the church and its selfish pursuits were also burned alive or were murdered in other ways.  They were a threat to this church, just like Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Spanish Inquisition was certainly the darkest period of all—where someone could be accused of some type of heresy or other crime against the church and be executed without a trial.  Had not the church became the very opposite of the selfless Christ-empowered church it was meant to be?  Can the desire to rule and grow wealthy take place in the church?  Church history tells us, Yes!  And many more examples could be given, and not just in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy.  The enemy is our desire to rule in and gain personally and selfishly from Christ's church, no matter what kind of church it is.
     Can this desire to rule and to accomplish our selfish purposes take place in modern-day churches?  How about in us?  Do we want to be ruled by Christ as a pattern of our lives or do we secretly want to rule and to gain personally from our Christian service?  If we want to rule over others and to gain from others, that is the "self" that Jesus tells us we need to deny to follow Him.  If we want to rule over others and personally gain prestige from our service, that is the part of us that is like the Pharisees and Sadducees.  When we want to rule for our selfish purposes, there is no room in us for the King's rule; for His rule will lead to selflessness.
     We are told the following about our natural tendencies:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that our motives are often deceptive and twisted.  What is needed today, though, are those who are seeking to be ruled by the King and not those who are seeking to rule.
     What does it take to move us from wanting to be king and ruler to wanting Jesus to be our King and Ruler?  We need to somehow come to see that doing it our way leads to a powerless, selfish, and a spiritually dead church.  And we need to see that doing it our way leads to all kinds of ugliness rather to that which is good and beautiful.  Also, when we are seeking to rule in Christ's church, we are standing as an obstacle to what God desires for His church, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees stood in Jesus' way.  Our goal should be to purify ourselves from this type of motive for Christian service and leadership.  It is only then that the church will experience His power and His purity of ministry.  And He will bring Himself glory as lives are changed for eternity.
     Often, God uses some type of pain to get our attention.  The Bible is filled with examples of what God has used to cause men and women to see that doing it their way as ruler and king of their own lives does not work.  Here are some examples: Moses' 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness; Jacob's period of time when he was being tricked and deceived by Laban; David being chased by Saul; Elijah's fear of Jezebel; Paul's sudden encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus; Peter's denials of Jesus; the disciples' terror and abandoning of Jesus when He was arrested; and many more.
     Recently I gained insight, after having been a Christian for more than 40 years, about the first church I attended as a new Christian.  A group of young men drove me about thirty miles from San Jose to Palo Alto, California to attend Peninsula Bible Church, the church where Ray Stedman was the lead pastor.  It was a truly an unusual church in many ways.  I just realized what it was about that church that caused it to stand apart in many ways from most churches I have been part of or have known of.  What was it?   It was very simple: their leadership had a shared vision.  Also, that shared vision affected many in that church, including the young men who followed me up as a new Christian—though we were thirty miles from their church building.  No matter who spoke on Sunday mornings at that church or at other meetings, the message was the same.  Furthermore, that shared vision is what I have just been talking about.  They believed that the rule of Christ in our lives is Christianity.  They also believed that Christ's rule in our lives happens only after we have died to our self life.  As I mentioned previously, Ray Stedman taught that the new resurrection life works best in a cemetery.
     How does this work?  Ray Stedman was the pastor in residence for a week at the seminary I attended.  He said that the church needs resurrection power.  We all recognized God's power in him.  But, I do not believe that we understood how to get this power.  Very simply, it comes through our death—the cemetery.  We need to realize our total inability to do God's work.  Then and only then, are we ready to seek daily to depend fully on God's power through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.  Also, we need to renounce plans of gaining personal power and prestige.  Then, we need to fully seek that He would use us for His purposes.  Whose to say how fully we accomplish this, but it is only when we see the need for this death to our selfish pursuits and self-reliance that we are ready to be a vessel that experiences the kingdom of God in power.  When we are weak, we are ready to be empowered by Him.  When we desire to seek His kingdom first, then we are ready to be empowered by Him to do His work through us.
     When we want to rule for selfish purposes and not be ruled by Christ, what effect does that have on a church—on both the church that meets in a building, the church in a city, and the church throughout the world?  Let's look at what can happen in a local church.  What happens when we are using the church to build our own realm where we rule?  Obviously, this does not just apply to pastors and church leaders.  It applies to each of us in a church or in the universal church.  We need to remember that each of us are very capable of doing it.  We all stand somewhere between our old fallen state and the person we will be in heaven.  When we are seeking to use the church to build our realm, then, there is no room in our heart for Christ's rule.  We can seek to rule in the nursery, the choir, a Sunday school class, or we can seek to rule the whole church.  We can also attend church services faithfully but still rule in our lives the minute we leave the church building—pursuing our fame, fortune, power, and pleasure.  How does this affect the church?  Our rule, then, is affecting and competing with Christ's rule in the church; whether we are seeking to rule in the church or seeking to rule in our own lives.  If we are successful, then we who are members of Christ's church are ruling in the church that Christ died for.  And if we follow Putin's pattern, we can seek to expand our rule.  We need to see that seeking to rule in God's church is totally wrong and produces only ugliness.

What is it like when Jesus Christ rules in our hearts and in His Church?

     What happens when Christ is ruling in the hearts of His people in a church?  What is needed is for us to be united in the vision that our purpose is to continually and fully obey and serve the Lord in His strength— every minute of our lives. 
     As you may have noticed, I like the book of James.  Years ago, I memorized it.  So, I refer to it once again.  James three clearly describes the difference between a church with many rulers and a church with one Ruler: "the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure [pure of selfish and prideful goals]; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."  The wisdom from above describes what it will look like when the self-life ends and Christ rules in our life—we will have the qualities described above and we will be peacemakers.
     When we seek to rule in any way in Christ's church, it obviously leads to division.  We cannot all rule!  Someone is going to have to lose out.  Probably many are going to lose out.  Sadly, many have lost out.  Also, when we as Christians seek to rule in our own lives, it divides us from Christ's rule and from those who are seeking Christ's rule in their lives.  When each of us is seeking to be ruled by Christ, the qualities listed above will lead to a united vision.  It is nothing new nor is it something recently thought up by somebody.  Rather, it is the same Christianity that turned the world upside down (or right-side up) under the early apostles.  Their time with Jesus humbled them and prepared them for Christ's rule in their lives. 
     James four tells us how we can go from wanting to rule to wanting to be ruled.  "Submit yourselves, then, to God [Christ's rule in our lives]. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:7-10)  Self-rule will only end when we are willing to humble ourselves and admit the truth about our selfishness.  If we are seeking to rule in our lives or seeking to rule in Christ's church for selfish purposes, we need to be willing to humbly admit it, purify ourselves, and seek Christ's rule in our lives.
     God will never empower us to rule in our lives or rule in His church.  He will never empower us to bring glory to our self.  But He will empower us as we seek His rule in our lives.  The church does not need millions of rulers all seeking to rule in their own lives and seeking to rule in Christ's church.  The solution is for there to be one Ruler in the church and one Ruler in our lives.  The solution is for each of us to become united in seeking His kingdom, desiring to bring an end to seeking our selfish goals and an end to using the church for our own personal goals.  The only One who has won the right to rule in the church is the One who died for it.
     The problem in the church is not that we need better programs, better evangelistic methods, or even more dynamic pastoral leadership.  What we need is more Christians in whom Christ is powerfully reigning in all that is done.  This should be our united vision: The goal is for us to seek to be controlled by Christ's strength as we together seek after His goals.  We need to be controlled by Christ in our homes, so that irritations and selfishness will not tear our homes apart.  We need to be powerfully controlled by Christ, so we are not intimidated by those outside of the church.  We need to be controlled by Christ, so we look at the world with His compassion.  We need to be controlled by Christ, so that people can see that He indwells us and so that they can learn from us what He is like.  We need to be controlled by Christ, so that His ministry expands in His people as we are led into unique and dynamic ministries.  The church does not need great programs.  Instead, we need the simple but powerful Spirit-enabled resurrection life of Christ in His people.
     We tend to think of the church as an organization, rather than as a people who are to operate as an organism.  Then, the success or failure of a church is determined by the success or failure of the organization.  Then, also, success is seen as the success of the leader or leaders; and failure is also seen as failure of the leader or leaders.  Rather, the church, from a Biblical perspective, is primarily the people; and the success or failure of a church is determined by the degree to which the people are or are not filled and controlled by God's Spirit.
     Ray Stedman described what God was doing through His people at Peninsula Bible Church was so exciting that they were getting bored with all the excitement.  That is what happens when Christ truly rules in the lives of His people.  "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)  God can powerfully do wonderful works of ministry through us, if only we will stop getting in the way of what He want to do through us.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Coming Nov 19
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Coming Nov 26
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Coming Dec 3
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Coming Dec 10
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Coming Dec 17
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Coming Dec 24
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Coming Dec 31
When the Church is Winning Coming Jan 7
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War - Part 1 Coming Jan 14
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War - Part 2 Coming Jan 21
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Coming Jan 28
Conclusion Coming Feb 4
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" Coming Feb 11
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman Coming Feb 18
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Coming Feb 25
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral Coming Mar 4