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A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory



Is there a war going on inside of each Christian?

     There are many places in the New Testament that teach us that there are two entirely different sets of desires residing within each of us who are Christians.  First of all, we still have the selfish and prideful desires coming to us from our human flesh, Satan, and the world ruled by him.  We also have the selfless love of God coming to us from God's Spirit within us.  Within each of us who are Christians, then, there is a battlefield where a war is being waged.  The battle is being waged over whether we will choose to be motivated by selfishness and arrogance empowered by the flesh and by Satan or we will be motivated by the selfless love and humility that is empowered by God's Spirit?
     Both our experience as Christians and the New Testament support the view that there is a constant battle going on inside of each of us who are Christians.  We can, in pride, ignore this reality or, in humility, we can acknowledge that it is true.
     Here are some places in the New Testament that teach us about this war.  I will start with what is taught in the book of James:  "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. . . ." (James 4:1-2a)  James, the half-brother of Jesus, recognized that there is a battle taking place within each of us who are Christians.
     Next, we will look at the teaching of Paul on this subject.  "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)  "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it."
(Romans 8:12) (see also I Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. 5:15-26; Eph. 4:17-19)
     Certainly, every Christian knows about this Romans 7 experience.  We know that our flesh resists and fights against what God's Spirit desires to do in us and through us —the godly fruit of the Spirit. (see also I Pet. 4:1-6; I Jn.2:15-17, 2:28; Heb. 12:1-2,4,14-16)
     So, the New Testament teaches us that, as Christians, we can choose to be worldly and fleshly or we can choose to be godly and Spirit-empowered.  Satan would love to have each of us on his team.  God's Son died on the cross so that we will be on His team.  Even though we are Christians, we need to choose on a moment-by-moment basis which side we will be on.  Paul urges us to choose to be filled with the Spirit each moment.  "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)  "Filled" is a present tense verb in the Greek text.  It means, be continually filled.  We are commanded to be continually filled, for if we do not choose to be continually filled by God's Spirit, we will be controlled by our flesh.  A definition of the flesh is that it is what we are when we are not filled by the Spirit.
     J. C. Ryle puts it this way: "Sanctification, again, is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.  By conflict I mean a struggle within the heart between the old nature and the new, the flesh and the spirit, which are to be found together in every believer (Gal. 5:17).  A deep sense of that struggle, and a vast amount of mental discomfort from it, are no proof that a man is not sanctified.  Nay, rather, I believe they are healthy symptoms of our condition, and prove that we are not dead, but alive.  A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.  He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace.  In saying this, I do not forget that I am contradicting the views of some well-meaning Christians, who hold the doctrine called 'sinless perfection.'  I cannot help that. I believe that what I say is confirmed by the language of St. Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans.  That chapter I commend to the careful study of all my readers.  I am quite satisfied that it does not describe the experience of an unconverted man, or of a young and unestablished Christian; but of an old experienced saint in close communion with God.  None but such a man could say, 'I delight in the law of God after the inward man.' (Rom. 7:22)  I believe, furthermore, that what I say is proved by the experience of all the most eminent servants of Christ that have ever lived.  The full proof is to be seen in their journals, their autobiographies, and their lives.  Believing all this, I shall never hesitate to tell people that inward conflict is no proof that a man is not holy, and that they must not think that are not sanctified because they do not feel entirely free from inward struggle.  Such freedom we shall doubtless have in heaven; but we shall never enjoy it in this world.  The heart of the best Christian, even at his best, is a field occupied by two rival camps, and the 'company of two armies' (Song 6:13)." (J. C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 33, Mount Zion Publications, 2002)

A description of the war inside each of us who are Christians:

     Once more, I will quote James 4:1-2a: "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You  quarrel and fight. . . ."
     These types of battles started with us at a very early age.  Do children quarrel because another child does not have a toy to play with?  Rather, I most certainly fought because I did not have a toy to play with.  So, I took another child's toy (if he or she was smaller than me and did not bite).  This pattern of conflict did not stop in our childhood. 
     "What causes fights and quarrels among you?"  We could ask the same question today, "What causes the fights and quarrels in our homes, businesses, country, and world?"  James immediately answers his own question:  "Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something, but don't get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight."  "Quarrels" are chronic or long periods of strife (the wars).  "Quarrels" are church fights that go on for months or even years.  "Conflicts" are the shorter outbursts of anger that can erupt between people (the short battles).
     What causes these wars and battles within even our churches?  It is the war that is going on inside each one of us that causes the war on the outside of us!  We cannot have peace in our world because there is not peace on the inside of us.  Inside of us are our desires.  We are not satisfied and content with what we have, and so we desire to have more, more, and more.  We desire more prestige, more recognition, more money, more acceptance, more power, and still more.  And because we do not get all that we desire, we slander; we lie; we hate; we quarrel; and we even kill.  Maybe we do not actually murder someone, but we destroy others with our words and our actions.  "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (I John 3:15) (see also Matt. 5:21-22)
     There is a tiny rodent in some parts of the world called the shrew.  Because of its high metabolism, it needs to eat more than its weight each day to live.  On the island of Guam, they can be heard at night scurrying around to find food.  What if you put five shrews in a cage with only enough food for one shrew?  What would be the ugly result?  Fights and quarreling!  It is our shrew-like desires that produce the fights inside of churches and outside of churches.
     We may say, after reading these words, "I am not like this."  Or, we might say, "I am now a Christian and I am not like that."  If we are honest, though, about ourselves; we will acknowledge the depth of sinfulness that we were all born into.  And we will also acknowledge that pride and selfishness still come easier to us than humility, love, and selflessness.  Our natural bent is toward selfishness and evil.  Only God can enable us to be selfless and genuinely loving.

When humble peacemakers fill the church: How can we recognize the selfishness within us and change it to selflessness?

     We can tell on which side we are on in the silent war by how we look at others.  Do we look at others with Spirit-empowered humility and compassion; or do we look at others with arrogance, resentment, and selfishness?  Are we peacemakers or are we war-makers?
     There is a verse in James that has always intrigued me.  "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:18)  Jesus also spoke of these peacemakers.  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)  When Christians are winning the silent war, there will be peace in God's church as God's people act like "sons of God."  What enables each of us to be one of these "peacemakers"?  The rest of the Beatitudes give the attitudes that lead to peacemaking.  I will, for now, focus on just two of them.  "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:7-8)  To be "pure in heart," we need to purify ourselves of selfishness.  When we are merciful and pure in heart, we will be "peacemakers."
     What is it like when "peacemakers" fill the church?  It starts out with a realization in each of us of how desperately we needed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We are all sinful people.  We all needed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  Without the cross, each of us was heading toward eternal damnation.  We can only be "peacemakers," as we humbly remember the cross.  This, then, will profoundly alter the way we look at each other.  We and they are all fallen sinners saved by the grace of God.  We are not superior to anyone!  None of us are above anyone.
     "Here's looking at you" is a famous line from the movie, "Casablanca."  How do we look at others in God's church?  There is a way of looking at each other that is empowered by the evil one from below and there is a way of looking at each other that is empowered by the Holy One from above.  There is peace in the church when there is peace in each of our hearts; and there is peace in the church when that peacefulness empowers how we look at each other.
     The church is sick when the way we look at each other is empowered by the evil one.  The church body can become like a person with some type of infection.  The church heals as each person no longer looks at each other in an evil and distorted way.  The church is completely healed, only as each person begins to look at each other empowered by the Holy One from above.
     What is it like when we are empowered by the evil one and then look at others?  We all know what it is like.  These attitudes are very human, and we all are very human.  Here are some examples: 1) When we look at someone, we focus on what he or she is doing or not doing for us.  We focus, then, on our selfish expectations of them and on how well they are meeting our expectations.  Does not this come from the evil one?  James, once again, has the answer.  "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." (James 3:14-15)  2) We also can look at certain individuals, and all we see is how that person has wronged us.  We see no good in them at all and have no compassion for them at all.  Paul tells us, "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)  3) We can focus on the other persons' weaknesses.  This can cause us to look on them from a position of superiority.  This also comes from the evil one.  "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.''" (Luke 18:9-12)
     If we are honest, we will see that we are very capable of looking at each other in these ugly ways.  We need God's forgiveness for this and we need to purify our hearts so we can see each other through Jesus' eyes.
     Do you want to be a humble peacemaker in a church full of peacemakers?  I do!  Now, we'll look at how Jesus wants to transform the way we look at each other.  When we look at each other through Jesus' eyes, we will see the very same person, but we will see them much differently. 
     What is it like, then, when we are empowered from above and look at each other?  1) We see they are God's creation and unique.  We see their potential.  Jesus saw Peter's weaknesses, but He also saw that a Spirit-empowered Peter would become a rock.  2) We see what they have done for us, and we appreciate what they have done, no matter how small it is.  We may appreciate their faithfulness in attending church each Sunday.  We may appreciate some area of service that they have done in the church.  We are to be thankful for them.  3) We see their needs and where we can be of help and encouragement to them.  We empathize with them.  Jesus looked on the crowds and was compassionate.  If we see through His eyes, we will also be compassionate.  4) We see them as fellow teammates, not as enemy combatants.  5) When we see that a person has chosen to sin in some area, we are grieved as Jesus was grieved at the Pharisees' sin.  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)  6) If the person that we are looking at has wronged us, we will forgive them, no matter how greatly they have wronged us.  Jesus forgave those who put Him on the cross, and those who were mocking Him while He hung on the cross.  "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing . . . ." (Luke 23:34a)  If we look at those who have wronged us through Jesus' eyes, we will also forgive those who have wronged us.  Love "keeps no record of wrongs." (I Corinthians 13:5)  7) We will look at no one as a greater sinner than ourselves.  Paul saw himself as the greatest of sinners.  The more we see the truth about our own sinfulness, the less we will look down on others.
     Again, I ask, "Do you want to be a humble peacemaker in a church full of peacemakers?"  It will require a willingness to repent whenever we begin to look at someone differently than Jesus looks at them.
     Now let's look at how it will affect how a pastor looks at his flock.  The pastor's role is to be a servant of his flock.  His goal should be to do all he can to lovingly serve them.  The best he can do for them is to help them draw closer to God, grow in their Christian life, and grow in loving relationships with others.  When he looks at them, he should not see them as a group of people who are helping him to be successful in a worldly way nor should he see any of them as preventing him from being successful in this way.  For the pastor, it is even more important that "self" and selfish ambition be left behind.  He should see his flock as individuals with individual needs.  His success should be measured by the degree to which they are experiencing God's love and walking with Him.  All that has been mentioned above, should affect how he looks at the people in the church.  He needs to be thankful for what they are doing, not have selfish expectations of them, forgive them when they wrong him, see their potential in the Lord, and patiently and lovingly guide them to that goal.  He cannot do this unless he is empowered from above with Jesus' love for His sheep—empowered by the Holy Spirit to love them.
     Peter gives this exhortation to pastors.  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.'" (I Peter 5:1-3)
     Now let's look at how being filled with God's Spirit will affect how a church looks at their pastor.   All that was mentioned above is how we can look at him.  We can have selfish expectations of him, we can focus on his weaknesses, we can hold a grudge when he has wronged us, and, also, we can see him as being in the way of some selfish goals that we have.  In other words, we can be empowered by the evil one as we look at him.  But that obviously, is very harmful to us, to him, and to the church.
     What should our attitude be toward him?  All that was mentioned above about how we should look at others applies to how we should look at the pastor.  1) He is a creature of God called into the ministry.  We should want him to be as effective as he can be.  We should pray for him, encourage him, cooperate with him, and do all we can to make his job easier.  "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (I Timothy 5:17)  "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17)  2) We should appreciate all that he does for us and others.  "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other."   (I Thessalonians 5:12-13)  3) We should see his needs and see where we can be of help and an encouragement to him.  Pastors are human; so, like us, they have faults.  In our selfish expectations of them, we can expect them to be perfect, to meet every person's needs in the church, and to do everything that needs to be done in the church.  We can expect them to do what we are all supposed to be doing together.  "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 4:11-12)  4) If the pastor has wronged us, we will forgive him.  In any close relationship, we will wrong each other.  So forgiveness is essential in a church.  And, pastors also need forgiveness.  Paul, Mark, and Barnabas had a conflict.  But, we can tell from the letters to the churches recorded in the New Testament that they reconciled and forgave each other.  Marriages without forgiveness are bad marriages.  Churches where pastors are not forgiven are poor churches.
     So what does a church full of humble peacemakers look like?  It looks like a family that is not focused on interpersonal struggles, but on our task to love each other and to reach our world with the gospel.  It looks like members of an eternal family who work diligently to keep the peace and do not see each other as disposable.  It is a loving family that demonstrates to others both in the church and outside the church how good and loving God is.  People see us and want what we have.
     So, again, I ask, "Do you want to be a humble peacemaker in a church full of peacemakers?" I do!   Once more I will quote the verses that I began with.  "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:18)  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)


     How well we do as Christians at choosing the Holy Spirit's rule in our lives will lead to either war or peace within the churches of which we are a part.  As each of us who are Christians walk in the Spirit, we will look at our fellow Christians through His eyes.  As a result, our words and our actions will be motivated by His love.  We will, then, be a part of those who are peacemakers and not part of those who are war-makers.  Then, we will be winning the war that takes place within each of us who are Christians.
          Just as a marriage is good or bad depending on what is in the hearts of the husband and wife toward each other, so a church is good or bad depending on what is in the hearts of each person in the church toward each other.  The church is the accumulated heart attitudes of the people of the church.  These heart attitudes can please God or please the devil.  These heart attitudes can either draw people to the church or repulse people and accomplish Satan's goals.  The type of church that each church becomes is the choice of each Christian in the church.

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 Part 19
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Part 20
Conclusion Conclusion
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" "The Onlys"
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman A Pastor's Authority
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Galatians 6:1-3
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral George Whitefield