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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 3
THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH
WITH SATAN AND HIS DEMONS
(Who is our enemy and what is he doing in the church?)

     The Bible is clear that we who are Christians fight an unending battle with a powerful, evil, and invisible foe who wants to destroy us.  Our fellow Christians are not our enemies; rather, we are at war with a common enemy.  Peter warned the readers of his first letter about our evil and invisible enemy in I Peter 5:8-9.  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
     But, can this invisible foe penetrate into our lives and into our churches?  Again, the Bible is very clear: he can have a very destructive effect on our lives and on our churches.  He works relentlessly to get us off track so that he can  destroy his enemy's church.  But, he can only do it if we let him.  There are many verses in the New Testament that warn us that this can happen.  Here are a couple of those verses:  "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27)  Here are a few more:  "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:14-16)
     Here is one more place where Satan influenced people in the church.  "Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.'" (Acts 5:1-4)  The Bible is clear, we who are Christians can allow Satan to have an evil influence first on our lives and then, through us, he can have an evil influence in the church.
     When we tear others down, in their presence or out of their presence, we can count on it that we are being used by the evil one in his attempts to destroy God's people.  In I Peter 5, quoted earlier, the Greek word translated "devil" is diabolos.  It is the Greek word for slanderer.  When someone (or we) points out the faults of another so that others will think more lowly of that person, he or she is slandering that person.  And when it takes place, we can have no doubt about who is behind that slander.  It certainly is not God's Spirit that is behind it.  We, at that point, are being used by the devil—the slanderer.
     When we grow bitter toward a member of God's church, a root of bitterness develops within our heart.  Then, Satan is very willing to get his hold on us to help and empower us as we seek to destroy the person that we are bitter toward.  The book of Hebrews warns us not to become bitter toward others.  "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:14-15)
     We should not allow ourselves to be fooled, bitterness in our heart will be used by Satan to tear down and even destroy God's people.  Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to remove all bitterness from their hearts.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:29-32)
     Today, social media can be a place where this venom can be expressed to a much larger audience and with a much greater destructive influence than has been possible in the past.  Unleashed bitterness on public media brings delight to God's enemy, but not to God.
     When we are at war with our fellow Christians rather than being at one with them, we can be certain that in some way Satan is behind it.  Paul says the following about Satan's involvement in our struggles.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)
     The word "struggle" can be translated "wrestle."  Dwight Pentecost gives the following explanation of the meaning of "wrestle" in Paul's time.  "The Roman wrestler had one goal in mind and that was to get his hands around the throat of his adversary and to pin him to the ground by strangling him.  The objective in the Roman wrestling match was not to pin a man to the ground by his shoulders but rather by his neck.  This was a life-and-death struggle.  If a man's shoulders were pinned to the mat, he could get up after the match and walk away.  But if a man's neck was pinned to the ground with a strangle hold, it would be impossible physically for him to get up and to continue.  The Apostle is trying to show us through the figure of the wrestling match, the seriousness of the conflict in which we are engaged.  If we should fall before the adversary, we have not lost eternal life.  God forbid!  But the adversary is seeking to discredit our Christian testimony, to cause us to fall in such a way that we cannot rise and pursue the Christian walk again or manifest the resurrection life of Christ again.  We are not engaged in a Sunday School picnic softball game that we can play in until we are tired and then sit down on the bench and leave the game to the youngsters.  We are engaged in a life-and-death struggle.  Our adversary is seeking to destroy us." (Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press.)
     Satan is certainly delighted to turn us Christians against each other as he seeks to use us to destroy God's people.  Again, we go back to Peter's warning.  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8)  Satan's purpose is not to harass, disturb, or distract; his main goal is to completely "devour" and destroy his opponents.
     The New Testament describes the many ways Satan seeks to destroy Christians. First of all, he tempts us to disobey God.  Satan is called the "tempter."  "The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'" (Matthew 4:3)  "For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless." (I Thessalonians 3:5)  Satan will use all that is in this world to appeal to the fleshly side of Christians.  Many Christians give in to his temptations, and their testimony for Jesus Christ is destroyed.  Most of us Christians know more than one person who has given in to temptation to the degree that it has had a devastating effect on their Christian life.
     Then, Satan accuses and condemns those who have given in to the temptations, as he accuses and condemns all of God's people.  In Revelation 12:10, we learn that Satan accuses God's people "night and day."  Many are overcome by his accusations.  Those accusations, sadly, can come from us who are God's people.  We need, instead, to be encouraging and helping each other to remember that Jesus' blood has removed us from condemnation.

     Satan loves to use God's people to undo what Jesus did on the cross for us.  When we who are God's people are doing Satan's work of condemning and accusing, it can be very confusing for those that we are condemning.  "I must be deserving of condemnation, if it is coming from God's people."
     Satan is a sly being who concocts schemes to destroy us.  And he even uses Christians to carry out his schemes.  Paul speaks of a Christian brother who had been confronted by the church in Corinth for his sin and had repented, but the church had not forgiven him.  Paul tells them that it was a Satan-backed scheme to destroy this Christian brother.  "If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (II Corinthians 2:5-11) 
     Satan is also behind the false teaching that always threatens to destroy the church.  Paul calls these false teachings "things taught by demons." (I Timothy 4:1)  Two directions that false teachings will often take us are toward legalism or license.  Here is an example of legalism: "Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:2-5)  Here is an example of license: "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)
     The false teaching will also distort the teachings about Jesus Christ.

     As false teachings endangered the early church, so false teachings are an even greater danger to us today.  With the internet easily accessible to us at any time, we need to be extra careful that the teachings that we are following is coming from God and not from the evil one.
     Because our evil, invisible, and relentless enemy will always be at war with us; we will always be in a silent war.  Paul tells us we can stand against Satan by putting on the full armor of God.  We can battle against his lies with God's truth—the belt of truth.  We need to know the Bible so well that we are able to recognize Satan's and his people's lies.
     We need to battle against Satan's accusations with the righteousness given to us by the cross of Jesus—the breastplate of righteousness.  We need to battle against Satan's attempt to destroy the grounding and peaceful stability that is provided for us through the gospel message—the gospel of peace.  We need to battle against Satan's many attempts to destroy us —his darts—by continuing to trust God—the shield of faith.  We need to battle against Satan's attempts to take away our hope by trusting in the promises in the Bible—the helmet of salvation. We need to battle against Satan's lies, temptations, and accusations with memorized verses from God's word—the sword of the Spirit.
     We are to battle against Satan's attacks on our fellow Christians by praying for them—with all kinds of prayers.  With God's armor and using God's weapons, we will be victorious.

     We are in a silent war and while we are on this earth we will always be in a silent war.  And, Satan is also always busy seeking to recruit us to be on his side in this war.  But if we are truly God's people, we will stand with Jesus.  We need to discern Satan's schemes as he seeks to fool us into being on his side in this war.  We need to seek truth and flee lies; we need to love and not hate, we need to forgive and not become bitter; we need to trust in God and not trust in ourselves; we need to love God and not the world; and we need to seek God's holiness and not the ways of the flesh and the world.  Then, we will be on the right side in this war.

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