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A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory



     Two of God's beautiful goals for mankind are a loving marriage and a loving church.  Also, two of the greatest tragedies are when marriages and churches end up being causes of great pain.  Much has been written to help marriages be all that they can be; less is written to help churches be all that they can be.  In both cases, the problem is within each of us—selfishness and disunity come to us much more easily than love and unity.
     What is God's goal for the church?  Mankind and each of us is broken.  Particularly, our relationships with God and with each other are broken.  God's plan for mankind is to restore our relationships with Him and with each other.  He has, by His grace, provided all that is needed for us to fulfill His plan for the church.  Our success or failure depends on how well we seek to understand His plan, trust in His strength so we can do it, and regularly choose to do what He desires that we do.
     Here is Jesus' vision for the church.  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) (emphasis added)  Loving each other is not an option in the church, for our Lord has commanded us to love each other.  If we are not loving each other, we are disobeying the Lord.  We are truly His disciples and obedient to Him only if we are loving each other.  It is part of His great plan to restore mankind to loving relationships with Him and with each other. 
     Jesus started this restoration plan by dying on a cross for us.  When we put our faith in Him and what He did for us on the cross, we were born again by God's Holy Spirit.  Now, the Holy Spirit, God Himself, indwells us.  Does Jesus' plan stop there?  Is it Jesus' plan that a church be a group of people who are forgiven from their sins, born again, and indwelt by God Himself who regularly sit together in the same building on Sunday mornings and that is about as far as it goes? (I call this bus depot Christianity—we sit in the same building but make little or no attempt to get to know each other or love each other.)  No! Jesus' plan is that His church obey Him by building loving, sacrificial, and holy relationships with each other and with Him, so that we will reveal to our world the full riches of His love and holiness, and be united in our efforts to reach our world with the gospel.  There should not be a person in our churches who does not know that he or she is loved.  Jesus showed His love for us by dying for us.  We are now to show our love for Him by loving each other.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commands and fulfill His plan for us. See John 14:15  God's desire for us is that our relationships with each other be like the relationships within the Trinity—that we be one with one another, just as the Father and the Son are one with each other.  Love and unity are God's will for the church.  Is this just religious talk, or is it a realistic goal that we in the church, in submission to our Lord and in a growing dependence on God's Spirit, are to actively and wholeheartedly seek to achieve? See also Ephesians 3:14-19
     God's will and ultimate goal for His church can be summarized, then, in one word; and that word is love.  In a world filled with people just like us that are permeated by selfishness that comes from our fallen state; the church is, primarily, not to be another group of selfish people.  "God is love" (I John 4:8) and He has given us His Spirit so that we can be like Him. We are to mature in our spiritual relationship with God until we are both united with each other and until our love for each other is genuine.  Once more, a church is successful to the degree that there is an absence of selfishness and the presence of growing genuine loving relationships among its members.  In a world of selfish people, we in God's Spirit-indwelt church are to stand out because of our God-empowered selflessness and love.
     Godly and loving relationships between us will result in the church functioning like a human body functions.  This joyful working together with each other is what God designed us to be like.  We are to function like a good team.  But even more than that, we are to function together like the human bodyfunctions.  We are to be one body, working in cooperation with each other toward a common goal.  "The body [the church body] is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many." (I Corinthians 12:12-14)  We can only function as a body as we grow to love and serve each other.  The degree to which we love and serve each other is the degree to which we are united to each other as one body.
     A marriage that leads to oneness can bring heaven down to earth.  Our marriage of 47 years (at the time of this writing) has brought this type of joy and love into our lives.   Our mutual growth in our relationships with God have led to this growth in love toward each other.  We started out much more selfish than we have ended up.  We are not the finished product nor will we get there in this life, but our growth in our relationships with God has greatly sweetened our lives and our relationships with each other.  We very much enjoy loving and serving each other.  It, though, is much more difficult for the church and churches to attain to this goal.  There are so many more people and so many more relationships involved.
     At weddings, I Corinthians 13—the love chapter—is often quoted.  It is the kind of love a married couple should have for each other.  It is a nice goal, but most people do not believe that this type of love can actually be experienced between the two selfish people who are getting married.  Let us, though, look at this marriage in another way.  What if the husband and the wife are both growing closer to God, are both seeking to be obedient to Him, and are both seeking to live Spirit-filled lives?  Then, they will be growing in the type of love for each other that is described in I Corinthians 13.  That is what Shirley and I have been experiencing together.  We have each grown closer in our relationship with God and we have grown closer in our relationship with each other.
     Our marriage is not perfect, but when our selfishness raises its ugly head, we typically confess our sins to each other.  And when there are issues between us, we seek to resolve them.  We do not want anything to get in the way of our love for each other. 
     Many look at God's goals for the church in a similar way.  They are nice ideals, but let's be realistic, the church is always going to be full of problems, for the church is always going to be full of us selfish people.  But what if we in the church are each committed to growing closer to God, to being more obedient to Him, and to living Spirit-filled lives?  What if we in the church are growing toward experiencing the "fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19)?
     Again, it is harder for it to happen in the church, but is it possible?  It is possible because it is God's will for His church to be filled and empowered with His life and love.  And He is able to do in us what He wants us to experience.  The church is man's best hope for genuine loving relationships.  Should we not each wholeheartedly pursue that which is God's best for us?  Yes!  And, because God's goal for the church is an absolutely essential part of His plan to lead us and others to Himself, we need to give it that type of priority in our lives.  The greatest need in our society is for genuinely loving relationships.  If we cannot find them in the church, where can we find them?
     In the early part of my Christian life, I was influenced by two churches that both put a great emphasis on the church as the Body of Christ.  Ray Stedman, my first pastor, wrote a popular book titled, Body Life; and John MacArthur, who was the pastor of a church where I had a one-year internship, wrote a book titled, The Church: the Body of Christ.
     As a young Christian, I thought that becoming a church that functioned in this way was easily attainable.  But I have found that becoming this type of church is much more difficult than I once thought it would be.  I have found out, by experience, that there are forces inside each of us, within the church, and outside of the church that are strongly working against God's goal for the Spirit-indwelt Body of Christ.  I realize now that the Bible predicts and describes the types of opposition we will face as we seek after God's goals for His church—I just had not focused in on what is taught there.  Again, I call it "The Silent War in the Church."  This series of chapters is about that war.  In these chapters you will find an in-depth and detailed description of what the Bible has to say about this war and you will also find out what the Scriptures have to say about how we can be victorious 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 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