Worship has historically been one of the chief instruments of God for defeating His enemies. The psalms and the Old Testament prophets recount the stories of God responding in power to faithful worship. Remember Jericho, the city delivered into the hands of God’s people through trumpets and a battle cry. After obeying the Lord’s orders to march around the city for seven days, Joshua said, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” and the walls came down, and all that was promised was given to them (Joshua 6:16-21).
King Jehosaphat was another who recognized the necessity of worship in the Christian fight. 2 Chronicles 20 describes Judah’s victory over the armies from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. When he heard that these numerous enemies were approaching, Jehosaphat’s response was to call a fast for all of Judah to seek the Lord. Recognizing his complete reliance on God, Jehosaphat prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (20:12). In response, the Lord used the prophet Jahaziel to tell the king “the battle is not yours but God’s” (20:15-17), recalling the words of Moses with his instructions to “stand and see the salvation of the Lord” (Ex. 14:13).
Jehosaphat trusted and believed his God, and he led his people in humble worship to the Lord (20:19,21). While the army of Judah went out, singers in the lead, the Lord set ambushes for the Ammonites and the Moabites, causing them to turn and fight amongst themselves (20:22-23). Judah went to see the outcome, and they found a valley full of corpses and enough goods to plunder for three days (20:24-26; see Ex. 12:35-36). The Moabites and the Ammonites had come to pillage Judah, but the sinner’s wealth was laid up for the righteous (Proverbs 13:22).
In both of these accounts, the people of God only had to glorify His name and then step back to let Him fight. Worship is warfare, a crucial weapon in the persisting Christian battle. But today, in our world divided into essentials and non-essentials, we’ve placed corporate worship as a body in the latter category.
You would be hard-pressed to find a genuine believer to tell you that this is right, and who would deny the necessity of worship. But our actions speak louder than words, and the world has noticed that, despite our claims, almost every church closed its doors immediately following the pandemic.
The hard truth is that we determined a long time ago that gathering to worship is a non-essential practice. In their desire to increase their numbers, pastors have turned the covenant renewal service of corporate worship into a weekly campaign rally for Christianity. The purpose of Sunday morning has become to sell Jesus. And the people have purchased what we have been selling. They bought the Jesus who saves them from Hell but requires nothing of them here on Earth. Now there is no reason for them to keep coming back week after week. This COVID season has exposed the Church and revealed that we are in desperate need of a reformation.
The powerful, world-changing worship that took place in the Old Testament still exists and is relevant for us today as New Covenant believers. Ephesians 2:6 says that, in Christ, we have been seated in the heavenly places. The phrase “in Christ” is one of the most important expressions in the Bible. It symbolizes our union: we are in Christ, and Christ is in us. He currently sits at the right hand of Father in Heaven, and by faith, we join Him there. By faith, we have been crucified and buried with Him, have been resurrected with Him by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, have ascended into Heaven with Him, and can join Him there for worship. That is how we bring Heaven down to Earth.
Doug Wilson said, “The church is the ‘worshiping assembly’, and her mission is to call the nations to worship God. But worship is not only our goal; it is also one of the chief means assigned to achieving that goal. Worship is not a retreat from the church’s work of conquest. Worship is a fundamental ‘strategy’ of the church militant. Worship is not a retreat from cultural engagement; rather, worship is the driving engine of all true cultural engagement.” For too long, we have treated worship as a supplement to the Christian faith when it is our greatest weapon. Our prayers and praises ascend before God, and He thunders from the heavens, shakes the earth, and scatters our enemies before us (Rev. 8:1-5). The Lord of Hosts was with His people back in the Old Testament, and He’s still with His saints today, wielding the same power and might.
It is never a matter of if we worship but who we worship. Every week is our opportunity to declare that our praise belongs to God. The most essential thing we as Christians can do is to weekly, publicly, and corporately worship the Lord. Our children, the lost and unbelieving, and even our brothers and sisters need to see us worship Him in Spirit and truth. King Jehosaphat responded to the looming threat of war by praising God. It should be no different for us. When we bring to the house of God glory, laud, and honor, He will respond by striking down our enemies.
“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. “
Spiritual warfare is generally overlooked and misunderstood. We journey through our Christian lives without giving intentional thought to our enemy, who is always prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We rarely recognize spiritual warfare for what it is until we find ourselves entangled in it, and by that time, it is often too late to arm ourselves for the fight. John Piper summed it up well when he said, "The Church has been deceived into believing that we are in a time of peace while our enemy is on assault."
Though we may be ignorant of him, Satan is not ignorant of us. He takes the saints and our plans into careful consideration. And when we make strides to accomplish the things that he hates—expanding the Kingdom, mortifying our sin, preaching the gospel—he will come for us. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “The Christian faith is a lifelong street fight.” The spiritual battle is real, and it is always occurring. But we have put our weapons down and exchanged them for a false sense of peace. Imagine being in a physical war where all your comrades are too busy scrolling and streaming to help you fight. The Church needs to remember who our enemy is, understand how he considers us, and put our armor back on.
Some believe Satan and his hosts are nothing more than a fairytale, while others see demons around every corner. Even those who fall somewhere in the middle either over or underestimate our foe, thinking Satan is unintelligent and ineffective or finding him to be overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive. These inaccurate pictures of our opponent hinder our ability to stand against him.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul identified the Christian adversary. He said that the fight is not against flesh and blood but spiritual and cosmic powers of darkness (Eph. 6:11-12). In other words, our battle is not with our fellow man, but with Satan. Satan himself is called a roaring lion, the tempter, the evil one, the father of lies, the deceiver of the whole world, and the accuser of God’s people (1 Peter 5:8, Matt. 4:3, Matt. 13:19, John 8:44, Rev. 12:9, Rev. 12:10). Paul calls him a schemer––one who is involved in making secret, deceitful plans (Eph. 6:11).
Paul also mentions what I believe is the hierarchy of Satan’s army: rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil. These are the angels who were cast down from Heaven with him following his rebellion (Rev. 12:9). Some of these demons are soldiers who use brute force to bring about destruction. Others specialize in manipulation and lies, creating false gods and religions to lead many astray. Collectively their sole purpose is to cause chaos and ruin.
Our adversary is cunning, deceitful, wicked, and ruthless. As the declared enemy of God, Satan desires the corruption of all that God has made good. And so he considers us as saints and believers, objects of God's undeserved mercy.
We get a picture of how Satan thinks of us in the book of Job. The book opens with Satan boasting to God that he had dominion over the earth. In response, God pointed him towards one place in which Satan did not have a stronghold: His faithful servant Job (Job 1:8).
Satan just scoffed:
“Then Satan answered the Lord and said, 'Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.'” (Job 1:9-11).
The devil had considered Job, but he did so malevolently. He concluded that Job was only so faithful because God coddled him, not because Job loved his Creator. Satan was wise enough to recognize that Job’s immense blessings were likely his weakness. So when he was permitted to attack, he went for the place he knew it would hurt the most.
Not all of us are overflowing with material blessings like Job was, but we are just as susceptible to Satan's temptations and schemes. In his book, Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare, Charles Spurgeon described how the enemy deals with us:
— He sizes us up. With a carefully trained eye, he looks us up and down, examines each of our infirmities, and notes every single one of our weak spots. What you can conceal from your closest friend, you cannot hide from the enemy.
— He takes into account our state of mind. We are more vulnerable to temptation and sin when we are distressed or despondent. On those days, our weak points grow weaker still, and we are easier to take hold of.
— He regards our condition and place in the world. He looks at a man of wealth like Job and strikes there. For the poor man, his poverty is where Satan can cast his net. Our position, our capabilities, our education, our standing in society, our calling—these are all doors through which he may attack us. Our greatest strengths are also our greatest weakness.
— He looks at our relationships. God loves unity between believers, so Satan craves disunity and dysfunction. He delights in the destruction of marriages, friendships, partnerships, and any other bond that he can get his hands on. He loves to separate members of the body from one another.
One of the clearest examples of how Satan works is recorded in the crucifixion of Jesus. The enemy corrupted Christ's inner circle of friends, turning one of them into a traitor. He used the hatred and self-righteousness of the Pharisees, and Pontius Pilate's fear of man to deliver Jesus into the hands of the hostile mob. He even caused the ever-faithful Peter to deny his Savior three times. Satan considered these people and then preyed upon them to bring about a terrible end.
Our adversary is far more cunning, intelligent, and dangerous than we think him to be. Many have fallen victim to his schemes, and all who do so pay the price in full. He and his armies do not rest, and we will be warring against them for as long as we live on this earth.
However, while we face a terrible and wretched enemy, let us not forget who it is that we serve. As Satan considered how to destroy Job, God considered how to sustain him. And the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the Sovereign Lord's glorious plan of redemption from the beginning. For our good and merciful God has much higher considerations for us than our adversary does. He has promised to complete the good work that He began in us (Phil. 1:6), and He faithfully provides us a way out when we face temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). True to His word, He defends and preserves those who belong to Him.
Therefore He has not left us defenseless in this fight and has equipped us with what we need to stand against the devil's schemes. Paul labels these tools as the full armor of God, and he describes six of them in his letter to Ephesus: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The belt is our readiness to defend the faith that we stand on. The breastplate of righteousness is the genuine holiness of the believer whose every thought is captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and whose mind is set “on things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). The shoes of the gospel of peace bring the good news of our reconciliation to God through Christ, and the shield protects us from the flaming arrows of temptation. The helmet of salvation defends us from doubts meant to make us distrust our Father. Lastly, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, our chief weapon above all others. When tempted in the wilderness, Jesus used accurate and applicable Scriptures to defend himself from his enemy's attack (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). We cannot underestimate the importance of Scripture and its use in our daily fight as Christians. For the Word is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Satan’s goal is to slander God. Because our redeemed lives are reflections of Christ, every act of sin we commit is another opportunity for the enemy to destroy the image of God. This is why we should not take Satan, his hosts, or his schemes lightly. We, the body of Christ, need to awaken to the real and persistent war happening around us, fight faithfully for the Kingdom, and be competent witnesses. For though the battle is severe, we know that our Savior has already overcome.
I have come to the conclusion that the phrase Semper Reformanda is a term we protestants, in particular reformed protestants, like to act as if we believe in it without actually applying it. The more accurate slogan is Semper Protestando which means “always protesting.” This was a movement that I wholeheartedly signed up for. I was a protestor of protestors. I was of the stock of Luther, the tribe of Calvin, a reformer of the reformed. I read the right books, attended the right conferences, and named dropped all of the right names. I could tell you who all of the insiders were and who all of the outsiders were. I believed in all things charity to those who believed just like me. I believed all Christians were equal, but some were more equal than others. I faithfully joined the campaign team to keep the perpetual protest going. I continue to maunder on this point because it is an article saying that the emperor has no clothes and the chief emperor is me. This is not going to be a nice snuggery article. It is an article based on my confessions as a recovering sectarian.
The School of Sectarianism
The word sectarian means belonging to a particular sect attached to the tenets and interests of a denomination; as, sectarian principles or prejudices. The word has its genesis in the Greek word “hairetikos” which simply can mean “causing division.” I was reared and cut my teeth in the “Sectarian School of Ministry.” The church I came to faith in and eventually became a pastor at had a very eclectic group of philosophies and distinctives. The senior pastor was a reformed baptist, with a postmillennial eschatology, who still wore the cloak of the fundamental baptist church culture. We were optimistically paranoid about everyone and everything. A few years into the ministry his best friend and now retired pastor joined the church. He is a brilliant man. He was a champion of this Sectarian school and in fact offered additional courses. He embraced all the same tenets I previously mentioned and added own sectarian pillars as well. It was a very precise culture. At the end of the day, the cultural assumption was that we are optimistic that God has a remnant of believers today and that remnant is us. When anyone left the church we pulled out our verse, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Eventually, I started to think for myself a little bit more and realized I needed to find another school to attend. This earned me the badge as yet another heretic who dropped out of school. At the same time, I think I may have taken some of the baggage with me. It is now time to leave the baggage at the door.
The sectarianism of the protestant church is equally as appalling to the gross idolatry of the catholic church. I have finally realized that protestants continue to protest catholics and in reality, we are not doing much better. As I am writing this post I am planning to head out on vacation in two days. As is customary for me to do when going on vacation on a Sunday I research and find a church to attend. I don’t ever take vacations from the blessings of the Lord’s Day. It has been maddening how difficult it is to find a church with sound teaching, Biblical fellowship, the Lord’s Table, and is not closed due to COVID-19. If I was Catholic I would go to a Catholic church and know exactly what to expect. Not so with protestants. We are always protesting and always dividing. We are forever sectarians. This leaves us with little to no unity.
While this could be discouraging I am not going to allow that seed to take root. I have realized it is time to actually apply Semper Reformanda rather than just pretending to believe in it. The aim is to reform and purify the church, not protest it.
This begins by loving the church like Jesus loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus is Solomon and the church is the Shulamite woman. Jesus sought after His bride and through His death resurrected her. God gave the first Adam a bride named Eve. He put Adam into a deep sleep and from his side made Eve for him (Gen. 2:21-25). She was designed to be his helper and the mother to his children. God sent the final Adam Christ into a deep sleep on the cross. As the spear was thrust into His side water and blood flowed out. The water and blood are what gave life to the church. Out of His side the final Eve, the church was made to be His bride. In the resurrection, Jesus woke up from His deep sleep to be united to his Eve, the church. The church is the bride of Christ. Jesus loves His bride and will certainly not tolerate people bemoaning her. If everywhere I went people said terrible things about my wife it would not be long until the hammer was dropped. Jesus certainly must feel the same. It is time to stop abusing Christ’s bride. It is time to stop protesting Christ’s bride. Our aim is to continue to reform and purify her.
The work of reformation and purification is hard work. It begins with us in our individual lives and in the lives of our church. The final stanza of one of my favorite hymns says:
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
We long for revival. We long for reformation. We long for purity. Let us all start with living limpid lives. That means free and clear of anything that darkens.
Should all wealthy Christians feel guilty that they are wealthy? William E. Diehl, a professed Christian economist, says “Yes.” Many of today’s Christians believe the same thing. Consider a statement he made in the book Wealth and Poverty:
"In this age of hedonism, crass materialism, and excessive consumption, Christians can make a theological statement that, as God’s stewards, we are to use for ourselves what is necessary. We will conserve resources whenever possible and care for the environment around us. We will be modest in the selection of the homes we live in, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear and the food we eat. Of course, we can enjoy good restaurants, good music, the arts, travel, and vacation. But for all these things, moderation and modesty should prevail. We live this style not because others have less than we do, but because as stewards of God’s creation we should take only what we need."
This sounds like a very noble and spiritual statement doesn't it? Surely this statement is pleasing to God because “money is the root of all evil” (they always forget to to add the “love” of money) and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” Right? This type of thinking has dominated the mainstream Christian church for far to long. It is flawed in so many ways. Let’s take some time to diagnose the problem with this belief system.
The central questions of the “theology of enough” or “principles of modesty” is who is it that gets to decide what is enough or what is modest? Diehl seems to quickly insert that this theology does not apply to certain things in his life. He was most likely a cultured man who liked good food, the arts, and to travel based on his statement, “Of course, we can enjoy good restaurants, good music, the arts, travel, and vacation.” For him they were still in play because he enjoyed doing them. That’s the problem: Who gets to decide what is enough as it relates to the money a Christian earns and how they spend that money? Many Christians say that it is excessive to eat at restaurants, enjoy the arts, or take vacations because of how expensive those things are. Who is right? Both parties are arguing for modesty, but no one can agree on what is truly modest enough. Another part of the book Diehl provides this same muddled type of thinking:
"If we are to follow a theology of enough, it will mean that in whatever capacity we serve, our lifestyle will be a modest one. This does not mean that Christians who are bankers will walk around in worn-out blue jeans, that physicians will have antiquated equipment in their examining rooms, that homemakers will do laundry of scrubbing boards, or that lawyers will use orange crates for desks. In order to serve God in our roles in society we do need adequate tools to be effective. The banker must dress well enough to secure customer confidence, but that does not mean a wardrobe of fifteen hand-tailored suits and nine pair of shoes. The physician must keep his or her office and equipment up-to-date enough to assure patients will have adequate treatment. But that does not mean a large, fully carpeted suite of rooms with expensive furniture and redundant equipment. If order to assure that time can be spent with family, the homemaker will have enough labor-saving equipment to handles household chores efficiently. But that does not mean top-of-the-line appliances with elaborate controls and capabilities which are really not needed. Lawyers need adequate desks, chairs, and office equipment to carry out their work. But that does not mean that major law firms need huge, oak-paneled rooms with antique furniture, rare art, expensive desks, and elegant private bathrooms with showers. By living modestly, as a banker, physician, homemaker, or lawyer, as an electrician, assembler, bus driver or waitress, we will be demonstrating how Christians can live a theology of enough."
Do you see the problem? So exactly how many suits can a banker own? What is the maximum amount he can spend on those suits? Who gets to decide how many suits and at what price? How does the physician know when his equipment is outdated and what the up-date-equipment is that is not considered luxurious? Again who gets to decide this? The problem is that this theology does not have a just standard to operate by. It has a fiat standard that is very fluid from person to person and opinion to opinion. The questions then linger, “What is enough?” and “Who gets to decide when enough is enough?”
The Root of the Problem
After identifying the problem it is time to consider the root of the problem. Diehl and the vast majority of evangelicals who agree with him are essentially antinomians as it relates to how they view economics. The word antinomian means “against the law.” Diehl and others like him do not like what God’s Law says and they build their entire worldview on the notion that God’s Law does not apply anymore. He, as well as others, are much craftier in their anti-law rhetoric though. They says things like this:
"The fact that our Scriptures can be used to support or condemn any economic philosophy suggests that the Bible is not intended to lay out an economic plan which will apply for all times and places. If we are to examine economic structures in light of Christian teachings, we will have to do it another way.
There is no economic system which is inherently Christian."
Certainly as it relates to his view of economics and wealth he employs antinomian thinking as was evidenced by the previous statements. The problem does not stop here though. It gets worse.
Antinomians don’t have the ability to just be against God’s Law; they must also replace it with another law. The ability to remain neutral is a myth. As it relates to wealth and economics if God’s Law is rejected then a substitute law must be made to replace it. This always leads to legalism. A legalist is someone that binds others consciences with man made laws either for the purpose of obtaining salvation or spiritual growth. All antinomians become legalists. They attempt to bind Christians consciences with fiat laws. For Diehl, a Christian is a person who believes in Jesus and who embraces a lifestyle of modesty (whatever that is). Do you see how this is bondage? Every single purchase leaves you wondering if the item purchased is modest enough. True freedom is always lost when God’s Law is rejected and it is always found when God’s Law is obeyed.
The Freedom of God’s Law
The freedom the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to Christians is not freedom from God’s Law, but freedom in God’s Law. Man cannot receive Christ for salvation and then live out his Christianity in autonomy. Christ becomes not only savior, but Lord. God lays out very clear stipulations in His word as it relates to personal wealth. He has clear commands for Christians to follow concerning their finances and possessions. Here are several questions that you should ask yourself if you are a Christian blessed with wealth:
Time to drive this point home! If you are obedient to God in what His Law clearly outlines then you can enjoy the wealth that God has given you. God has given you this wealth so that you can richly enjoy it (1 Tim. 6:17). Don’t allow someone to bind your conscience with man’s law. If you are obeying God in these areas then don’t feel guilty about the food that you eat, the clothes that you wear, the car or cars that you drive, the home or homes that you live in, or the vacations that you take. If you are obeying God’s requirements then He blesses you with great freedom to enjoy the excess that you have. If you are a productive Christian who is obedient to God then don’t allow the guilt manipulators to manipulate you into bondage but find your rest in Christ and in His word.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
God Owns the Tithe
God has a monopoly on all of our money, all of our goods. This was the contention that God had with the Israelites that we read about in the book of Malachi. God brought a serious accusation against them as He accused them of theft. He accused them of violating the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” In their sinfulness when God brought this charge against them they did not know what for. Then God stated,
One of the best pieces of evidence proving for whether or not people in are submission to God’s ownership over their wealth and possessions is found in the tithe. Today there is massive confusion as it relates to the tithe though and yet I am going to be another voice in that fray. Lord willing what I share will not add to the confusion, but bring more biblical clarity to it. The primary reason there is so much confusion as it relates to the tithe is that there are typically only two views that are taught.
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