As we enter this new year I am more cognizant than ever of the value of faith because the war against Satan and his followers is the most blatantly open and intense I have seen it in my lifetime. Atheism, gnosticism, humanism, secularism have been taking it to believers and winning battles. Atheists like Richard Dawkins are writing best sellers in which they say abusive, erroneous things like the following:
God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
The Internet is full of Web sites that blaspheme God and denigrate Christians and their beliefs. Everything from malignant articles and salacious cartoons and jokes to outright cursing of sacred beliefs can be found. Much of it is sheer ignorance and a lot of it stems from the desires of the natural man to have his way rather than to follow God’s will. Nevertheless, we as believers have to take some of the blame for the present situation.
Much of our blame can be traced to our divisions. Jesus said that we cannot win the world if we are not united. I have been saying for some time that we have been too “casual” in our attitude toward our divisions and realizing the magnitude of what Jesus stated. We not only have been lax in our attitude or feelings about divisions, but have even at times manifested pride in our separation from brethren in Christ.
We have been deceived. We have ignored the real enemy and have spent incredible amounts of energy, money, and time battling brethren over disputable and peripheral matters, attempting to gain preeminence for our opinions and ourselves and our party or sect. Even to the petty point of whether or not the Lord’s Supper should be before the teaching in an assembly of the saints or after the communion. Further, we have not been above deceitfulness, extortion, ignorance, and other ungodly tactics to have our way, thus resulting in more divisions or the sustaining of those already effected. An illustration of ignorance appeared recently on a cover page article of a party paper where the writer castigating those who advocate a scriptural concept of fellowship accused them of advocating the idea that “we should forget our difference” and just “love one another.” I don’t know everybody, but no one that I know who is really concerned and serious about ending divisions advocates that we should “forget our opinions”, or that believers need to or should violate their consciences. They are saying that they should be put into perspective, and love should prevent us from sacrificing brethren to an arrogant and selfish ego. They are saying: “The unity we desire can be enjoyed when we consider others better than ourselves and put their interests before ours.” (Ironically this statement appeared in an article in the next issue of the same party paper of the article to which I preciously referred.)
Our divisions and wrangling over disputable opinions play into the hands of our real enemies. They are an exhibition of the “wisdom of men”, not the “power and veracity of God” as Thomas Campbell stated in Proposition 6 in his “Declaration and Address.”
I’ve said many times over the years that life can be defined as a series or succession of problems. How we confront them, deal with them, handle them, resolve them, solve them, determines to a great extent the quality and success of our lives. As believers, our confronting and dealing with and resolving problem is a reflection upon our faith and spirituality. We have to admit that our divisions do not speak well to our spirituality.
Nevertheless, despite the above picture I enter the new year with hope and optimism based upon my faith in God through Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God is not promising that bad things will never occur in our lives, that we will never have any crises, distress, or problems. These are words of assurance and encouragement. In the long run, in the end, all things will be good, working out for those who love God. God is looking out for us even though we may have to go through some trying times during this earthy sojourn.
God uses problems to direct and shape us. They are a test of our commitment and character. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James1:2-3). In the past we have failed relative to this admonition as evidenced by our divisions. Problems that tested our faith did not produce patience because we did not deal with them according to the image of Christ. Now there are glimmers of hope as more and more brethren are awakening to the evil spirits of legalism and sectarianism. God also uses problems to correct us. Could the present onslaught of the forces of atheism. Gnosticism, humanism, and secularism be God’s ways of correcting our dysfunctional witness, causing us to repent and rise above our partyism and unite to wage war against the real enemies. Personally I think there might be something to this idea.
Whether we like it or not we are in a war against “the wiles of the devil…against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore says of those soldiers who served in the Viet Nam War: “We were the children of the 1950s and we went where we were sent because we loved our country. We were draftees, most of us, but we were proud of the opportunity to serve that country just as our fathers had served in World War II and our older brothers in Korea.” We’re the children of God and we serve Him because we love Him, regardless of the circumstances of our lives. We may not always fully understand His direction and purpose and the meaning of events, but let’s not disparage (or quit disparaging) our fellow Christian combatants as some did to their fellow Americans who served in Viet Nam.
You cannot choose your battlefield,
God does that for you;
But you can plant a standard
Where a standard never flew.
– Steven Crane
Happy New Year!
J. James Albert
P.S. Bro. Dallas Burdette’s fifth book Biblical Preaching and Teaching is available through the usual sources: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Xulon Press (the publisher), etc. It is not a usual book though; it is a “whopper”, 732 pages. If you are hungry for Biblical knowledge and insight into pertinent issues you will want to get this book. Any questions, Bro. Burdette’s e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.