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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 7
AN ESSENTIAL REQUIRMENT NEEDED FOR ENDING THE SILENT WAR BETWEEN CHRISTIANS—THAT'S IT! THAT'S IT!
(What is an essential requirement for ending the Silent War
between Christians?)

     My wife had just finished reading my chapter in this book that I titled: "When does the worst in the world become part of the church."  We were discussing it on a drive to a city 30 miles from our home.  I cannot recall my exact words, but the gist of it is that those who are behind the power struggles in the church will hate it when we point out how devilish and destructive their actions are.  I really did not think there was an answer, but after a period of time discussing it, she said something that led me to emote the words in the title of this chapter: "That's it! That's it!"
     What did Shirley say?  Once again, I do not recall her exact words, but again the gist of it is that we in the church need to develop a pattern of admitting it when we are acting in a fleshly and selfish way—we need to develop a pattern of calling it what it is.  The book of Proverbs states that if you correct a fool he will hate you for it, but if you correct a wise man he will love you.  "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you." (Proverbs 9:8)  If church leaders hate you for correcting them, they are also revealing what kind of persons they are.
     What Shirley and I have developed over the years is a pattern of admitting to each other when we are wrong, selfish, and fleshly.  A large reason that we have been willing to choose this pattern for our relationship is that we truly love each other and do not want to hurt each other.  Also, we wholeheartedly desire to be united as one; and we genuinely want the best for each other.
     How often do we hear the words: "I was wrong, I'm sorry, I hope you can forgive me?"  If I react in the flesh to Shirley, I can easily come up with many reasons to justify my actions.  But when I deny that I am wrong, it is confusing to her.  I appear to be treating her in an unloving way, but I come across to her like I believe that she is the one who is wrong.  After this, everything becomes confused. She is no longer sure what is right and what is wrong.  But the moment I tell her, "I was wrong, I hope you can forgive me," it changes everything.  She thought I was wrong, but my unwillingness to admit it made it unclear to her.  My admission of wrong removes that fog and makes it all clear.  It is once more clear how Christians should act and should not act toward each other.
     Can you see how this applies in the church?  How many times have we heard the words or said the words: "I was wrong, I hope you can forgive me"?  If you have said these words and heard these words many times, your church is doing what Shirley said needs to happen in the church.  You have developed a pattern of dealing appropriately with your sinful, selfish, and fleshly attitudes and actions.  If we don't say these words or don't hear these words, it is not because we are never sinful, selfish, and fleshly; it is because we don't regularly admit that our sins are sinful, selfish, and fleshly.
     Confessing our sin to one another should be quite common, for sin comes easier to us than righteousness and love.  We should not be surprised when we are thoughtless, heartless, and selfish in our actions.  That is the way we were all born.  What should surprise us is when we are loving, patient, kind, thoughtful, forgiving, and humble.  Because it is very easy for us to be fleshly and prideful, there should be a lot of confessing taking place in our churches.  At the very least, it is a practice that we should be developing.  Then, when our behavior is corrected, we are more likely to receive it in a humble way.  Also, Christians are those who have chosen to be wise and those outside the church have chosen to be foolish.  Most Christians should be receptive to correction that is true and that is said in love and humility.  When we are corrected in this way, we should be willing to admit it when we are acting like a fleshly human rather than acting like Jesus Christ.
     Is this pattern of confessing our sins to each other taught in the Bible?  It is how we became a Christian in the first place, and it should continue to be part of our Christian lives as well.  I will look at three passages that emphasize the importance of admitting or confessing our sins to each other.  The first passage is I John 1:5-10:  "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."
     True fellowship with God brings us into the presence of His holiness and love—it brings us into the light.  In that fellowship of light, we see our impurity and selfishness more clearly.  Others may not always see our sinfulness as clearly, for they cannot look into our hearts.  But we and God can see the sinfulness that is there.  What should our response be to this reality?  We should, first of all, confess our sin and sinfulness to God.  In Psalm 51, David admits his sin and sinfulness with Bathsheba to God.  It is a good example of how we are to confess our sins to God.  Also, when it is appropriate, we also should confess our sinfulness and sins to people.  "Therefore confess your sins to each other . . ." (James 5:16a)
     The reason, though, that some do not confess their sins is that they believe that God and others will not forgive their sins.  John, though, makes it clear here that if we confess our sins, we are forgiven and cleansed before Him.  "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)  Walking in the light and confessing our sins is two ways of saying the same thing.  If we walk in the light, we will clearly see when we sin and we will admit our sins to God and to others.  God promises here that He will then forgive our sin or sins.
     How do we know God forgives our sins when we confess our sins?  God says, here, that He will forgive us.  God says it is true, our part is to put our full trust in what He says is true.  If we do not feel cleansed, we are believing Satan's lie.
     As Christians, we are also to forgive others.  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)  Forgiving each other is an essential part of the Christian life that each of us who are Christians are to develop.  We are to become good forgivers. 
     In I John 1:7a, it says "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . . "  If we as Christians have a pattern of confessing our sins, we are walking in the light.  If we do not have a pattern of confessing our sins, we are walking in the darkness.  If we are walking in the light together, we will also have fellowship with each other.  Who is it easier to have genuine fellowship with, those who never admit that they are wrong or those who regularly admit it when they are wrong?
     This is what Shirley called developing a pattern of admitting it when we sin.  If this does not happen in the church, we are walking in darkness.  What is the "That's it! That's it!"?  It is choosing as the pattern of our lives to walk in the light.  And, walking in the light includes admitting to others when we have been sinning.
     The second passage is Luke 18:9-14.  Jesus' Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector gives a stark contrast between one who is unwilling to admit any fault in himself and one who readily admits his sinfulness:  "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"
     Which of the two would you have the best fellowship with—the Pharisee or the tax collector?  Which do you want, a church full of Pharisees who never admit to any sin or a church full of repentant sinners who easily admit when they sin?  What would a marriage be like if it is made up of one or two who are like this Pharisee?  This parable makes it clear what it is that prevents us from admitting our sins—our pride!  To become a Christian or a church that is developing a pattern of admitting our sins and sinfulness, we need to get rid of our pride and admit what is true, even though it is humbling for us to admit it when we sin.
     The last passage is II Corinthians 7:5-13a:  "For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged. . . . "
     Paul had sent Titus to the church of Corinth with a very strong letter, confronting them on their sinful patterns.  Here, he rejoices that they were willing to be corrected.  Again, in Proverbs, we are told: "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you." (Proverbs 9:8)  The Corinthian church responded to Paul's correction and he rejoiced.
     We hesitate to correct anyone, because none of us likes being hated.  But, as Paul did not know how the Corinthian church would respond to his strong letter, so we do not know how our fellow church members will respond when we correct them.  They may also bring us joy by the way they respond.
     What is the goal of this chapter?  It is that we will all work at what Shirley saw as essential.  We need to be developing a pattern of admitting our sins.  I believe that the reason why the Bible exposes the sins of even the heroes in the faith is that it is a God-written book that exposes our sinfulness and our sins.  The Bible turns the lights on and reveals what we are really like in our hearts and actions.  The church is to be a place where the light is turned on and where we easily see the sins of such men and women as Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, Sarah, Saul, David, Solomon, Peter, and Paul very clearly.  A church that is truly based on the Bible will be a group of people who live in the light and regularly admit their sins.
     The problem is that something quite different takes place in most churches.  We are afraid of being rejected and looked down on if we admit our sinfulness and sins.  So, we put a mask on that gives others the impression that we are without sin.  Or we put a mask because we are too prideful to admit that we ever do anything that is wrong.  We need Christians who are both humble and courageous who admit their failings in appropriate settings and at appropriate times.  None of us has it all together.  We are all going through struggles.  We are still fallen people living in a fallen world who do not always act as Christians should act.  We need to change the atmosphere so that what is really true in our lives can be easily admitted, so we can be helped in these areas.  Then, new people who come to our church gatherings, small groups, Sunday School classes, and fellowship opportunities will recognize that we are open about our failings and honest about our struggles and needs.

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