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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 14
THE SILENT WAR ALWAYS RESULTS IN PERSECUTION
(Why is it that everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted?)

     In II Timothy 3:12, Paul says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . "  He does not say that some or most who want "to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"; but he says that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 
     We would think that if someone sought to do that which is good and loving, that they would be appreciated and loved by all because of it.  In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit.  At the end of this list of Holy Spirit-empowered qualities, Paul says: " . . . Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:23)  Why will doing that which is good and doing that which breaks "no law" end up leading to a person being "persecuted"?  Who is it, then, who will persecute those who seek to "live a godly life"?  All through the Bible we learn of godly men who were persecuted because of their godliness.  Here are some of the names of those who were "persecuted" because they were seeking to be godly men and were seeking to pursue godly goals: Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen, Peter, James, John, Paul, and more.  Why were they persecuted and what were the people like who persecuted them?
     First of all, who were those who "persecuted" these "godly" men?  They were not men or women who were loving them and seeking their best in the way that is described in I Corinthians 13:4-5: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."  Rather, if we persecute the godly we show by our persecution of them that our motives are prideful and selfish.  We have some type of selfish motive; and the godly person whom we are persecuting is in some way a threat to our selfish goals.  Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees and priests; David was a threat to Saul; Daniel was a threat to those who connived to put him in a lions' den; and John the Baptist was a threat to Herod and his wife.
     Why will those who seek to live a godly life always be a threat to some people?  The persecutors of godly people in the Bible have some common personal characteristics.  First of all, they are those of us who have not chosen to yield ownership of their lives to God.  Part of seeking to live a godly life requires that we yield ownership of our life to Jesus Christ.  This is a very unpopular message to those of us who believe that our life is not God's life, but it belongs to us.
     Secondly, the persecutors of godly people in the past were often those who were in positions of power in the societies of their time, and they saw the godly as a threat to their positions of power.  Why were the godly a threat to these power brokers?  It was not the godly themselves that were the threat, but the One that the godly represented who was a threat to them.  The godly are those who say and believe that God is the Ruler of all.  Anyone who thinks that he or she is the ruler is threatened by those who say and believe that God is the Ruler.  For Example, the baby Jesus was a threat to Herod's rule.  This pattern did not stop when Bible times came to an end. 
     A third characteristic of those of us who are threatened by the godly is when we are living an ungodly life, but we want people to believe that we are living a godly life.  The Pharisees of Jesus' time and Paul's time wanted to be seen as godly; but they actually were using their positions of religious leadership to get rich, have power over people, and to gain prestige in their society.  Jesus lived a truly godly life before them and His pure life exposed their ungodliness.  As a result, they persecuted Him and eventually murdered Him; and they did this so that they could continue to give the false impression that they were the godly people and He was ungodly.
     Godly men and women pose this same type of threat to us today if we want to rule people rather than serve people.  If we are godly and loving Christians, we will respect and appreciate those who are pursuing after godliness.  If we are religious self-seekers, however, we will resent them and see them as a threat to our place of power, control, and prestige.
     A fourth reason that those who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted is that they will be a threat to those of us who are lukewarm or double-minded in our walk with God.  We, if we are lukewarm in our walk with God, can resent those who are red hot in their walk with God.  Pride is one of the primary sins that we all struggle with.  When someone excels in any area more than us, it is quite human for us to be jealous of their success.  When someone is wholeheartedly seeking to be godly, some of us can feel good that they are seeking so zealously to do what is right; but others of us can be jealous and resentful of those who are outshining us.  The same good inclination in those seeking after godliness can be seen in these two very different ways by those of us who observe them.  Some of us will love them for it and others of us will hate them for it.
     Those of us who are pursuing God will see those who are also wholeheartedly pursuing God as being good examples to us.  But, those of us who see them as a threat can seek to focus on their faults.  We can seek to bring them down in the eyes of people to take the focus off of our own lack of Christian zeal.
     A fifth reason those who seek to be godly will be persecuted is that most in this world are not seeking to live a godly life.  The verse that follows II Timothy 3:12 (the theme verse for this chapter) is as follows: "while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (II Timothy 3:13)  This third chapter of II Timothy starts out with these words:  "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them." (II Timothy 3:1-5)  Those inside and outside of the church who are living in this worldly way resent those who by their words or actions expose the ungodliness of their lifestyle.
     Those who seek to live a godly life will be swimming upstream against the current of the world that is going very strongly in the opposite direction.  They will be driving the opposite way on a one-way street.  Their godly way of living will expose the sin in the world as turning on a light switch can expose a dirty and messy room.  They yell, "Turn out that light!"
     A sixth reason that those who seek to live a godly life can expect to be persecuted is that by seeking to live a godly life, they are going in the very opposite direction that our enemy the devil wants us to go.  Those who wholeheartedly seek after godliness, will be high on his list of enemies.
     Paul says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . "  So, if we choose to live a godly life, we will be "persecuted."  Jesus was persecuted and He promised that we will be "persecuted" also.  Jesus made the following promise to us:  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . .'" (John 15:18-20a)
     Peter experienced being hated by the world and said the following:  "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."      (I Peter 4:12-13)
     Jesus included this persecution as being part of what happens to those who are truly part of His kingdom.  "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12)
     How can we be joyous even when we are being persecuted?  We cannot be joyous if we are wallowing in self-pity.  But we can be joyous if we are confident God will greatly reward us for being faithful to Him even in the midst of persecution.  Our ability to be joyous in the midst of suffering is a test of our faith.  Do we really believe that persecution here means great reward in heaven?
     And, so, let us seek to live a "godly" life, even though we know that we will be "persecuted."  Peter gave us this exhortation: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." (I Peter 4:1)  We need to prepare for the battle by arming ourselves with the attitude that it will be rough for us.  For Jesus was "persecuted" and every believer who seeks to be "godly" will also be "persecuted."  E.V. Hill said that when we face unexpected opposition in the Christian life, we need to reread the contract.  In the contract, Jesus said that those who seek to follow Him will be persecuted.

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 Part 11
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Part 12
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Part 13
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Part 14
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Part 15
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Part 16
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Part 17
When the Church is Winning - Part 1 Part 18a
When the Church is Winning - Part 2 Part 18a
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War 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