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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 18b
WHEN THE CHURCH IS WINNING
(EPHESIANS 3:14-4:16)

Paul's vision and goal for the church at Ephesus:

     For the church to be all that God desires it to be is determined by the degree to which Jesus is at home in the heart of each Christian in the church.  "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell [be at home] in your hearts through faith. . . . " (Ephesians 3:14-17a)
     But what does it mean for Jesus to dwell or be at home in our hearts?  We can see here that it is what is necessary before we can be the church members Jesus desires us to be.  We need to experience God's power so that Jesus Christ will empower us so that we will truly want to do His will.
     Paul prayed that God the Father would strengthen the people of the church at Ephesus so that Jesus Christ would be at home in the "hearts" of the Christians of that church.  For the church to be what God wants us to be, we need God to strengthen us so that Jesus' life rules within us.  Without Christ's life ruling in our hearts, we will be fleshly and no different than any other human organization.  We will be filled with divisions, crushed by trials, and see those who are not part of our faction of the church as enemies.  So, Paul starts out by praying for what is the absolute essential for the church to win the silent war—that with God's strength, Jesus Christ will be at home in our hearts.
     What will occur when God strengthens us so that Christ rules in our hearts?  That is what Paul prays for next:  " . . . . And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
     This is the goal of God's church—to grow until we all love each other with every dimension of God's love—"together with all the saints."  What is God's goal for His church?  His goal for us is that we will experience every dimension of God's love through the love we have for each other.
     Is this a pie in the sky dream of a naive new Christian?  Listen to what Paul says next: "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)
     We are completely unable to build this type of church ourselves.  We can build church buildings.  We can utilize the best organizational techniques and skills.  But, we cannot build God's church.  To turn selfish and prideful human beings into people who express His life and His love for each other can only be done by God.  So, it is necessary that we pray continually that we would experience His power so we can then experience Jesus' life and love in us.
     What will every dimension of Jesus' love look like?  His love is "wide."  If we love with Jesus' type of love, we will love every type of person—every race, every personality type, every age group, and people with every type of need.  His love is "long."  Our love for others will persevere in spite of every type of difficulty—through personal offense and attack, resistance to our love, misunderstandings, and even hatred of us.  His love is "high" and "deep."  Our love will seek to take people from the lowest low and take them to the highest high.
     Ultimately, God's goal for His church is to fill us with His "fullness"—"that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  There is no limit to what God wants the church to experience.  His ultimate goal for us is not that we become a well-run organization (though this is good); but His goal is that we will become a God-filled group of people who grow to have the type of loving fellowship that now takes place within the Trinity.  Remember Jesus' prayer for us.  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21)
     Let us stop making organizational success our primary goal and make the fullness of God in His church our primary goal!  If we are successful in being organizationally successful, men will be glorified.  If the church is growing in being filled with God, God will receive the glory.  Paul sought after the second goal.  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:10-14)
     Now, we move to Ephesians four.  What do we find in Ephesians four that describes what the church will look like if it is victorious in the silent war?  First of all, we are to preserve our oneness in Christ.  "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)
     We who are born-again Christians are already one.  These verses tell us how we are to preserve or "keep" the unity that we who are Christians already have with all other Christians.  We are to preserve or "keep" our unity with humility and gentleness.  Humility and gentleness are "worthy of the calling" we "have received" from God.  Why?  It is because sinners worthy of hell who have been saved by the grace of God (see Eph. 2:1-10) should not be arrogant or harsh.  It is a totally inappropriate way for a Christian to act.  If we had earned our relationship with God through diligently obeying God, and others were not as diligent as us, we could look down on them.  But, we did not come to God in this way; no one can come to God in this way.  Rather, we came to God by humbling ourselves and receiving Jesus' gentle offer of grace.  It is now totally inappropriate for us to be arrogant and harsh.  Arrogance and a harsh spirit have no place in God's church—the church that was made possible through God's mercy and gentleness.  We responded to Jesus, who gave us this invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
     So, we are to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  How many church splits would have been prevented if Christian unity was the priority rather than supremacy for an individual or a group of individuals.
     We who are Christians are one.  Today, the world does not see that oneness; they see, instead, hundreds of divisions.  But, as Paul emphasizes in the next verses in Ephesians four, we are one.  "There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)
     Today's churches have many heads, but there is truly only one Head of the church.  We are all under the headship of Jesus Christ.  Also, there is only one Holy Spirit in each of us who are Christians.  If we are divided, it is coming from somewhere other than the one Holy Spirit.  Every Christian has one hope.  We believe in one Lord, and we all have one Father.  There is not a Baptist God, Pentecostal God, or a Presbyterian God; but there is one God whom we all believe in, whatever denomination we belong to.
     We are one.  God desires that we seek after this oneness.  The following verses in Ephesians four describe what God has given to the church so that we will experience our oneness.  "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:7-12)
     Jesus, after He conquered Satan and death, gave gifted men and women to the church.  The gifted people are described here: "apostles," "prophets," "evangelists," "pastors," and "teachers."  These are people gifted by God not to do the ministry, but to equip and "prepare God's people for works of service."  The goal for these gifted people becomes the goal of the church.  We need to forget our culture's description of a successful church and focus in on God's description of a successful church.  God's goal for the church is described in the coming verses.
     "to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12-13)
     First of all, we find in these verses what is the goal of the church internationally and the goal of each local church.  God's goal for His church is much different than our human goals for the church.  God's goal is not that churches become successful businesses, but that church members grow spiritually until we all experience our unity as we grow together into mature Christians.  A major problem in a church develops when leaders of a local church have different goals for that church.  For example, when some are focused primarily on a church becoming a successful business and others are focused primarily on the church becoming a loving family, they may be heading toward a church crash.
     God's goal, though, for His church is that it grow spiritually until it is filled with the life of His Son.  What, then, is God's goal for His church?  The answer is "Jesus Christ"!  A church can grow large without growing spiritually.  God, though, is not glorified by large buildings full of people; but He is glorified when the people in the church demonstrate a Spirit-empowered and Christ-like love toward each other and when they are pure in their walk with God.  This Christ-like life should be our goal, whether we are part of a large church or a small church.
     A spiritually mature church will be able to stand strong against Satan's schemes and the world's attacks on it.  "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)
     God's goal for His church is that we grow together in our understanding of the Bible.  Then, we will recognize it when false teaching and false teachers seek to draw us their way.  An essential goal of the church is that every member of the church is growing spiritually, until we are a church filled with spiritual adults—not filled with spiritual babies.  A church can be large, but filled with most who are spiritual babies or not even Christians at all.  Are we seeking after God's standard of success or man's standard of success?
     Next, Paul describes how a church grows in spiritual maturity.  "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15)
     Spiritual growth takes place in similar way to how physical growth takes place.  To grow physically, we need proper nutrition, good exercise, and a healthy environment.  So, what do we learn here about what is needed for us to grow spiritually?  Christians grow in an environment of truth and love.
     First of all, we need "truth."  "Truth" is another way of saying reality.  For Christians to grow, we need to be growing in our knowledge of reality.  Our cultures, outside of the church, are cultures of darkness.  They blind us to reality, rather than help us to see reality.  To them, God is a fantasy, morality is decided by a popular vote, and it is politically incorrect to say that there is anything wrong with any of this.  In the church, though, we are to be so influenced by God's truth that it becomes our united view of reality—God's view of reality becomes our view of reality.
     We also need to be in an environment of love to grow spiritually.  It is obvious that a church that is full of arrogance and selfishness will not produce spiritual growth.  Why, though, will a church full of love produce spiritual growth?  Love unites people with each other in caring relationships; whereas selfishness divides people from each other.  Love in a church results in us not going through life all by ourselves.  We will, instead, share life together.  We will be with each other in the bad times—we will mourn with each other—and we will be with each other in the good times—we will rejoice with each other.  We will encourage each other, support each other, pray for each other, teach each other, correct each other, listen to each other, and forgive each other.  Is not this a great environment for us to grow as Christians?  Incidentally, this type of growth in relationships takes place best in a small group environment where Christians fellowship around the Word.
     Churches, though, where there are people who are primarily focused on winning a political battle can be the very opposite of loving.  Instead of caring and loving people during difficult times in their lives, they can even use these trials to gain an advantage over those whom they are seeking to defeat.
     Next, Paul describes what this will look like in the church.  "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16)
     Like ligaments unite the bones of the body together with other bones in the body, love and agreement on what is true, unites us in the church.  How are we connected to each other within the church?  We are connected to each other as each of us ministers in love to each other.  We are connected to each other by our common view of reality.  We are connected to each other because we submit to the same Head.
     Is what is described about the early church in Jerusalem and by Paul in Ephesians 3:14-4:16, the primary goal of the American church and the primary goal of the Body of Christ around the world?  If the church and local churches will make discipleship, spiritual growth, a loving community, and effectively reaching the lost their primary goal; they will also be experiencing victory in the silent war in the church.  When the church, in God's strength, is growing closer to God and to each other, we are able to better focus on reaching the lost.  We then have, in our selfish world, something that they won't find anywhere else—genuine love and the life of God!


STEPS THAT LEAD TO MATURITY IN CHRIST'S BODY:

Pray for God's power     
We are filled with God's love and strength     
Christ is at home in our hearts     
Preserve our oneness with humility and gentleness     
Gifted men equip the saints     
Grow into maturity through loving relationships     

Function as the mature Body of Christ!

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