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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Lord, Make Me a Sledghammer of Your Will...

Roll over. Play dead. Fetch. Heel. Sit. 

You're probably thinking that the list above is a collection of doggie commands.

What if I told you that these are actually commands for Christians?

No, not commands from God. These are the commands that the world and the enemies of our soul throw at Christians every day. And every day that passes, these shouted commands become louder and louder and louder.

The sad thing is: too often, we Christians obey. We roll over for the world's whims. We play dead by behaving just like everyone else. We fetch by amusing the world with Christian infighting. We heel by compromising what we believe. And we sit on our butts when we ought to be serving. Please understand, I'm not calling you for your splinters without first wrestling with the telephone pole stuck in my own eye. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.

But it makes me wonder: How did we get here?

How did we Christians come to the place where we are outworked, outsmarted, out-faithed, out-argued, out-created, and outdated by the world? How indeed.

Like many Christian troubles, I suspect we got here because of three things: 1) We've forgotten who we are.  2) We've forgotten to fight.   3) And worst yet, we have doubted our God. 

This could easily be the subject of a multi-volume book series, but this message is so urgent that it has to be brief and to the point.

1: We have forgotten who we are. You, Christian! Yeah, you! God says you are a royal priesthood, a chosen people, Sons and Daughters of the MOST HIGH GOD. You are ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Your debt is settled. You are citizens of Heaven. Nothing can do you much relative harm, not even death! Now, don't go getting a fat head. Arrogance is just as bad (or worse) than ignorance. But soberly, SOBERLY, understand that you are not to be anyone's puppy dog. 

1 Peter 2:9
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Galatians 4:6-7
"Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

John 15:15
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

Brothers and sisters, KNOW who you are in Christ. How dare anyone treat you like something to be wiped from the bottom of their shoe! How dare the enemy or his demons tell you that you're worthless! You are God's chosen people. You may be weird, but that's okay. John the Baptist ate bugs. And Jesus spit in the mud and healed someone's sight with it. If Jesus calls you "friend," if He says you were worth dying for, then you are absolutely precious.  

2: We have forgotten to fight. Somehow, we Christians have been conned into believing a little too hard in "Blessed are the meek" and "turn the other cheek" doctrine. Have you looked at those verses in context? Are they really saying, "Followers of Christ, whenever confronted with evil, let it walk all over you?" Are we commanded to wave the white flag to the world? Does Jesus ever advise us to stick our head in the sand and pray that the big, bad evil world will go away? I don't think so.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [a]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:10-13

Have you ever looked at the Full Armor of God? You do realize that there's a SWORD included, right? And friends, that sword is not for slicing cucumbers.

FIGHT. That sword is the Sword of the Spirit. Get on your knees and pray. Jesus talked about having twelve Legions of Angels on call, but He didn't use them because He had a different mission to accomplish. But us? We are in a struggle. This is war. God doesn't mince words on this. We are in the fight of our lives, and there are eternal consequences. So surrender is NOT an option.

To fight, however, we need to recognize our enemy. Our struggle is not against people. Not really. It will FEEL that way. But it is NOT that way. If someone comes against you, against your view of Jesus, it is only because that person has been raised in a poisoned world and--like most of us currently or at one time--has been deceived. If someone tries to tell you that what is wrong is actually right, remember, this person has likely been conditioned over a lifetime to believe that lie. So what we do is actually kind of sneaky in a cool, subversive way. We pray. We ask God to vanquish the demon structure upon which the person is standing. We ask God to knock down the strongholds of evil and to use us as the sledgehammer with which He might do it.

And then, we hit below the belt.

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2Cor10:3-5

Christians don't fight with conventional weapons. We fight with love. We fight with service. We fight with encouragement. We fight with shared experience. And, don't forget this: we fight with greatness. Be GREAT for God. If you want to write: be a great writer. If you want to be an accountant, then be the best one you can be. You know why? Greatness brings glory to God. Greatness makes people ask questions. We fight with all these weapons, but we DO fight.

When the blowhard at the office scoffs at the very notion of God, you do NOT sit in silence. You do NOT walk away. And you do NOT laugh along with him. When the smart-allecky secular humanist princess in your sociology class explains in no uncertain terms that people of faith are weak; that human spirit is strength, you do NOT miss the chance to counter. When the heckler gets on your facebook page and tells you that you are an intolerant bigot, you don't bend over and say "thank you, sir, may I have another."

Do NOT succumb to the playground-name-calling tactics of the world: You are intolerant. You are a homophobe. You are judgmental. Seriously, the world uses name-calling as a "Silencing Club," to batter down the fearful so that you won't speak anymore truth. Don't let those accusations cow you. Answer them. "I am not intolerant. You are using the world incorrectly." "I am not a homophobe any more than you are a Christ-o-phobe." "I am not judgmental. I am discerning. There is a difference. Let me explain it to you." And after all this, the secret weapon: love. "Can I get you a cup of coffee?" or "I heard you need a babysitter. My daughter..." or "You need some help with your move?" Bammm, just try to stop those missiles.

Important Sidenote: There is one population, however, we need to stop fighting. Each other. When Christians fight each other, satan laughs. The world laughs too.  And mankind loses.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17: 20-23

This is serious. We Christians have become WAY too WELL-KNOWN for shooting our wounded. We argue over just about every point of doctrine you can think of. We make mountains out of molehills, major on the minors, and act like we've each cornered the market on truth. People, Jesus wants us to be one. ONE. Why? So that the world will know that God sent Jesus for them. So that the world will believe that God really loves THE WORLD. If Christians can't even seem to love other Christians, what in the world would lead anyone to believe we could love the world? If we bicker over baptisms and rock music and tv shows, and every other cotton-picking thing, who wants to be a part of that? If that's what God's all about, then who wants to know God? 

We like to get all righteous, don't we? "This is a point of doctrine I must defend because it's true." Or, "I must correct my wayward brother who has clearly erred in this bit of theology." Or worst-of-the-worst, "This poor fellow in THAT denomination may not really be a Christian because...blah blah." Excuse me? Does that sound like being one? Actually, it sounds like dividing the Body of Christ. How many of you want to get to Heaven and hear Jesus say to you, "Why did you cut up my body?"

Does that mean there are no points of doctrine upon which we must stand? No, of course not. Jesus is Lord. He died for us so that we could have eternal life. It is the gift of God, the grace of God, through faith. Are there other points? Probably, but I dare not mention any more out of fear that you'll start a fight with me. That would be funny...if it weren't so sad. 

What does God say about theological arguments and infighting? 

Romans 14:19 "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."

I Thess. 5:11 "Therefore encourage each other and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Titus 3:9-11 "But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, but these are unprofitable and useless.  Warn a divisive person once, then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; his is self-condemned."

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3: 10-16

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13: 8-13

There is no room for questioning another believer's salvation. There's no room for red-faced sweaty arguments on premillenial, amillenial, postmillenial dispensations. There's no call for bickering over styles. And there's certainly no room for judgment. See the verses up there? There's not a one of us who has it all figured least not down here on earth. We see through a smudged glass. We've each got hold of some truth, and we each know it in part. But we don't KNOW IT ALL.

Can you imagine what would happen if every Christian denomination came together to serve? Can you imagine if Christians stopped shunning those who struggle with sin? Can you imagine if Christians put aside our petty arguments and went out and did some good? The world would trample the bushes trying to get in the doors of the local church.

3: We Have Doubted Our God: Look, I hate to admit it myself. I hate to peal back the curtain or lift off the carpet to reveal the unseemly truth. But I'm also getting too old to delude myself any longer. The reality is: IF I am more afraid of the world than I am of missing service to God, I really don't believe God. Not in an eternal sense. I may well have believed that Jesus died for me. I may have crossed that line of faith into eternal life. But, in terms of day-to-day life, I looked sheepishly away and decided, "God is not powerful enough to help me here." Or, "God doesn't love me enough to sustain me through all this." Or, "God is not enough to risk the rejection I'm likely to feel if I..."

If we really believe that God is who He says He is...that He created the world, that He holds time in the palm of His hand, that He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipowerful...then, we don't roll over. We don't play dead. And surely, we don't heel.

So my prayer is that God will embolden me to fight, to love, to understand, and to server. That God would forge me into a Sledgehammer and then use me to knock down the devil's strongholds in this world. It's a dangerous prayer, I think. But honestly, aren't you a little sick of satan beating you like a pinata? Aren't you a little tired of the world using Jesus as a punchline? Aren't you searingly, achingly tired of all the hurt in this world? So, get on your knees and pray. Then, get up and fight.

Are you with me on this? Want to join the Sledgehammer Club? If so, leave a comment.