I guess you know, this means war.
How many times did Bugs Bunny utter those words to one of his antagonists in the cartoons of my youth? I believe the words are apt today. We are at war. The Southern Baptist Convention, its entities, its churches, and its people are at war. It is a long and brutal war and it will not end until the day we see Jesus face to face.
A state of war exists in the SBC, but it is a war that we are fighting badly. We are fighting the wrong war against the wrong enemies using the wrong weapons. Paul warned the Corinthians of just such a problem when he gave them this rebuke in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4.
For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds.
There is a war to be waged but it is not a battle that can be fought in the power of the flesh. We have powerful weapons to fight this war, but these are not fleshly weapons – the weapons of choice among God’s people far too often. We have other weapons, spiritual weapons, that are powerful and able to tear down the strongholds of the enemy.
Fighting the Wrong War
And we continue to fight the wrong battle with the wrong weapons against the wrong enemy.
1) We fight the wrong battles
Paul could not have been more clear in Ephesians 6 when he said that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers. Ephesians 6:12-13 says,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
Liberals are not the enemy. “Progressives” are not the enemy. “Fundamentalists” are not the enemy. Calvinists are not the enemy. Traditionalists are not the enemy. Muslims are not the enemy. The enemy is the spiritual power that deceives and tempts and leads people astray. Can Paul state it any more plainly? People are not our enemy.
- We are fighting the wicked world.
Sinners are not our enemy, they are the prize for which we fight against the forces of darkness. Muslims are not the enemy. We fight the forces of darkness to win Muslims. Liberals are not the enemy. We fight the lies of the enemy to proclaim truth to those who have abandoned it. Homosexuals are not the enemy but have been deceived by the enemy. Our duty is to preach the love of God to those our enemy have captured, not to treat them as the enemy.
- We are fighting one another.
We are treating each other as if our brothers and sisters are the enemies instead of the allies. It is wicked and it is destructive.
“He is unregenerate.” How many times have I heard that accusation tossed at a believer who says something sinful or one who simply disagrees? It is used as an excuse to bite and devour, to treat someone with no trace of decency. Those who do not agree with cherished political views are cast into outer darkness as “radical progressives” or “SJWs” and it is true that in the election cycle some of us who find Trump morally reprehensible used immoderate language about those who supported him.
We cannot fight each other, we cannot BE a cancer in the Body of Christ and then ask God to bless us. We cannot bite and devour and say, “Lord, bring a revival.” We cannot fight a war against the Body of Christ and ask God to grant us victory.
Note: Yes, there are those who are false brethren. False brethren are those who deny Christ or deny the gospel. They are not those who disagree about politics or disagree with you on some issue. It is sin to set yourself up as the arbiter of truth and to label those who disagree with you as false brethren. We are also commanded by scripture to have nothing to do with those who actively and continually sow discord. Again, disagreement is not discord. But there are those who actively sow discord, who bite and devour, who create and foster schism. And Titus 3:10 commands us to have nothing to do with them. It is part of seeking unity to cut off those who seek division. That is a hard thing, knowing when to separate and when not to. This should be a last resort, not a first response.
2) We fight with the wrong weapons.
The weapons of the flesh will never win the great war of the Spirit.
In addition to sexual immorality and other lifestyle misdeeds, Paul describes the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:20-21. Unfortunately, it sounds like a description of Christian social media behavior all too often.
…hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy…
These are the weapons of the flesh that we use in our vain efforts to fight the cosmic battle. Strife and anger. Factions – us against them. Selfish ambitions – trying to build our platform instead of seeking to glorify God.
If we keep fighting the wrong battle against the wrong enemy with the wrong weapons we are destined to continue to get the wrong results. This cannot continue.
Who is the Real Enemy?
We are at war. But if we are going to win the war we have to know our enemy and fight the enemy with the proper weapons.
1) We fight the flesh.
We have met the enemy and he is us. (Pogo)
Every time I log onto any form of social media my greatest enemy is my own anger, selfishness, and fleshly partisanship. The flesh is my enemy and I must never give in to it. I must fight against my own nature.
How? Galatians 5 makes that clear – the fruit of the Spirit. The work of the Spirit of God inside me overpowers and nullifies the work of the flesh. His love overcomes my selfishness. His joy and peace patience put the stop to my anger. His goodness and faithfulness countermand my inner sinfulness. His gentleness and self-control can help me when my temper rises.
I must never trust myself when I go to battle. I must rely on God’s spirit. I battle daily against myself.
2) We fight the Darkness.
Our greater battle, the cosmic battle of the ages, is against the deceiver, not against the deceived. Our battle is against the tempter, not the tempted. We fight against the evil on behalf of the evil. The people we so often treat as enemies are actually the prize. We fight FOR sinners. We fight for those who have rejected Christ and blasphemed him. We fight against the darkness to shine the light of God.
3) We have powerful weapons.
In 2 Corinthians 10, we are told that we have powerful weapons that can pull down strongholds. Anger will never do that. Schism will never break down strongholds. The weapons of the flesh have no power in the war against darkness. But we do have mighty weapons.
- We have the weapon of truth.
We can proclaim truth to the world. God’s word is truth even to those who do not believe it. We can speak the mighty truth of God to the world and the Spirit of God uses the word of God to do the work of God in this world.
- We have the weapon of love.
Kumbaya? Right. It is amazing that today, even many Christians ridicule Christian love, but it is the love of Christ that drives us. Yes, God is a Holy God of wrath, but we preach Christ crucified – he died because of his love for humanity.
God is love and it is his love that binds us together and drives the church.
- We have the weapon of holiness.
When the church walks in spiritual holiness, we show the world the power of the living God. Our holiness reflects the character of God and demonstrates his glory to the world. The church that continues to show the flesh to the world will never pull down strongholds.
This is hardly an exhaustive list.
But the truth is that God has given us powerful weapons to fight a war that needs to be fought.
Southern Baptists we are at war – a war that must be fought. But it is not a war against each other and that must cease. We battle the darkness, we come against lies, against sin. We have done it horribly, shamefully, powerlessly. We have fought the wrong enemies with the wrong weapons. But this is no time for peace. This is no time to retreat to the sidelines.
This is a call to war. Pick up your weapons of warfare, my friends. Join the battle. Walk in the Spirit and proclaim the gospel of Christ. Walk in holiness and demonstrate the power of God to the world. Proclaim God’s truth to this world and blast the lies of the enemy back to hell where they belong. Let us walk in love in this world of hate. This will be no easy war but it must be fought. It calls for men and women of obedience, of courage, of perseverance – willing to sacrifice all for the cause of Christ.
Are you discouraged about the war right now? If you aren’t, you aren’t paying attention. But it is a long war and it must be fought and we must not give up. And there’s something else we must remember.
God wins – the end is written. I don’t know the future of the SBC, but Jesus will stand supreme. Never think we are on the losing side. Hell loses. Death is defeated. Jesus has triumphed over Satan. The final outcome of this horrible war is already fixed.
So let us pick up the weapons of our warfare, given to us by God himself. Let us lay down the ineffective and destructive weapons of the flesh and march boldly into battle against the darkness all around. This is no time for retreat, for peace. This is a time for war.
What we are doing has to stop not because it is hurting us but because it is keeping us from fighting the war that needs to be fought.
I guess you know, this means war!