Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the previous posts in this series, you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to erode the faith of God’s people. In the same way that the children of Israel believed the negative report of the 10 spies rather than the faith-filled report of Joshua and Caleb, the enemy has eroded the faith of God’s people in our day. Collectively, we have become fearful of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Tribalists and the unreligious, believing that the message of the Gospel is not powerful enough to save or not worth the risk to ourselves and others. May God forgive us for our lack of faith.
This week we will see Satan’s strategy to destroy the spiritual vitality or energy of the church.
If Satan cannot get us to neglect our mission to the nations due to lack of faith, he successfully debilitates our witness by eroding the distinct witness of a dynamic, spiritually transformed people of God. Even in Canada, churches seem to have little energy for engaging their culture in an attractive, positive witness that would draw people to Jesus. Unbelievers may even attend our worship services and see a shallow, meaningless ritual that does not speak to their life needs and even discourages them in their search for God. The lost see Christian neighbours loading the family into their SUV for the Sunday morning pilgrimage to church but observe their squabbles, conflicts, and indulgence in a self-serving lifestyle that hides any reality of a vigorous faith.
Unfortunately, many Christians compromise their walk with the Lord by adopting the carnal values of the world. They give in to the temptation for fleshly gratification that comes from a materialistic and hedonistic lifestyle. The Holy Spirit is grieved and God is deprived of His glory when people become in bondage to internet porn, allowing infidelity to destroy a sacred marriage covenant, or engage in fraudulent business practices. Sexual innuendoes and vulgar language become such a normal part of television entertainment and the workplace environment that we dismiss it as meaningless and even participate lest we be perceived as prudish.
What we are failing to see is how the enemy of our souls is devastating the spiritual vitality of a life that has been redeemed to reflect the glory of our Lord.
Satan knows that most Christians are repulsed by the blatant disregard for God’s Word and the unrighteous values expressed by society, or at least they should be. So he subtly leads us astray in other devious ways to destroy or nullify our witness. Most churches faithfully proclaim the Word of Truth and try to nurture members in the faith, but they are unwittingly distracted from recognizing its calling to a global mission and diverted from its task of exalting God among the nations.
Israel continually fell into sin along the way to fulfilling God’s mission. Their half hearted devotion to the task, while longing for the comforts of Egypt, is reflective of the attitude of many today. Their complaints about the sacrifice required to be the people of God discouraged even Moses. Even after they got possession of the promised land, their continual attraction to the high places of pagan altars and inclination to worship the Baals compromised any hope of being the people that would exalt God among the nations and proclaim His glory to the ends of the earth. They even engaged in carnal revelry and turned from God to worship the golden calf along the way.
Here’s how the apostle Paul reflected on this incident:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea… and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now, these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians10:1,4-7)
What an indictment and powerful warning for us. The people of God were anointed for a special mission that came from none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. They were led under a covering of God’s Spirit, benefactors of the miracle-working power of Almighty God. But they were rejected and struck down because they were more interested in enjoying life, feasting, and playing, than pressing forward in obedience to fulfilling God’s mission.
Think about it; in God’s providence, what that was all about was an example and a warning to the New Testament church and God’s people today. You do not mess around with a sovereign God who has called you to a mission of glorifying Him among the nations. Our time-consuming church fellowships and expensive activity centers, built for our own enjoyment, reflect something of the values that brought judgement on Israel in the wilderness.
So Satan opposes the mission of God by opposing local churches. He has a vested interest in what is going on at your church. Satan would love to keep churches self-absorbed, blind, and inward-focused. If he can only stop us in the parking lot, then the lost in our communities will never see or hear the gospel. He would love to stop us before we get started. So he will attack the health of the local church and its members. He will attack relationships; he will draw people into sexual immorality and create a false sense of wellness, all to keep the mission of God stalled.
Healthy churches are populated by healthy believers. How can you tell when believers are healthy? You can tell they are healthy through their relationship with Jesus Christ. Healthy believers are passionate about what Jesus is passionate about. Healthy churches, in turn, are always involved in the mission of God, everywhere. They are doers of the Word, not simply hearers. They are obedient disciples of Jesus.
So, how are you doing? Are you comfortable with your little routine of going to church, hearing the Word preached and believing that’s all that’s required? Do you have the feeling that there is more to this Christian life? Or are you one of those obedient disciples who is impacting your community and your world with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you want to know more about how you can become that kind of follower and that kind of church, we have some practical steps you can take to move toward that kind of obedience. Get in touch to learn more.