Spiritual Perspectives


LIFE IS A BATTLEFIELD

Gary W. Summers

     The title may remind Pat Benatar fans of her Top Five hit in the fall of 1983: “Love Is a Battlefield.”  Actu-ally, over the years there have been many “Love Is…” songs.  Just a few of them include Love Is: “A Golden Ring,” “A Hurtin’ Thing,” “A Many-Splendored Thing,” “A Rose,” “A Stranger,” “Blue” (the wonderful instrumental by Paul Mauriat), “Like A Baseball Game,” “Like a Rock,” “Like Oxygen,” “Strange,” “The Answer,” “The Tender Trap,” and “Thicker Than Water.”

 

     Although love has been compared to numerous objects musically, songs explaining what life is like are considerably fewer.  In fact, there is only one—a novelty song from 1974—“Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me).”  Although no one has done it yet, perhaps the day will come when someone composes, “Life Is a Battlefield.”  Why would we set forth life in those terms?   We do so because the doctrine comes from the Scriptures.

 

     The Christian armor is described in Ephesians 6:10-17, where we are told that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12).  What exactly is Paul saying? 

 

     Although people in the world may not realize it, conflicts have always characterized life upon this earth.  When Satan tempted Eve to sin, he did not thereafter retire.  He sought and successfully won over Cain, whose jealousy led him to murder his brother (Gen. 4: 1-8).  The devil was scarcely satisfied with these first two victories.  He next enlisted Lamech into his legion of evildoers.  On and on it went until “every intent of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).  Was Satan’s lust for destruction sated by all of those lost in the Flood?  Not even a little bit!  He started in immediately on Noah’s son Ham and grand-son Canaan to re-establish wickedness in the earth.

 

      What more proof do we need to understand that the devil’s goal is to make sure that as many souls as possible are condemned to eternal torment?  Therefore, life—every individual’s life—is a battlefield.  How does Satan fight against us?  He uses every weapon he can: he fights dirty with no holds barred.

 

     He tries to keep people away from the Truth, since it is the means of freedom (John 8:31-32).  Someone might protest, “Well, he has failed to do that.  The Bible is a perennial bestseller.”  One must consider, how-ever, three flaws with this assessment.  First, the fact that people own them does not mean that people read them.  Second, many are reading inferior versions.   Al-though there are four or five decent translations, the most popular one in use (the NIV) does not even claim to be a literal translation (and it is not); it is called a dynamic equivalent, but because of its erroneous render-ings, it would more appropriately be termed a lazy approximation.  It is especially evil to put manmade doc-trines into the Biblical text—rather than translate the Word literally, as God wrote it.  Third, in many countries the Bible is not even available, or there are penalties for becoming a Christian.  The more access people have to a legitimate translation, the more likely they are to come to a knowledge of the Truth.

 

     Another technique Satan uses, upon those who have read and studied carefully for themselves, is to try to make Christianity as confusing as possible.  The establishment of religious denominations from the 1500s to the present day is enough to stymie anyone seeking true religion.  Many of these (and older religious groups) say the Bible is not sufficient.  The Jews, for example, talk about the “Oral Law” that God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai.  They believe these teachings are as true as the Bible’s.  The Catholics will admit that all truth was taught in the first century (orally) but that it is revealed a little at a time in successive generations (though the pope).  Various cults (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Seventh-day Adventists, (et al.) have their own individual revelations from God.  All of these cults have an authoritative voice (Joseph Smith, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White).  Jews and Catholics rely upon oral tradition, which is allegedly inspired.  If the abundance of these conflicting teachings is not enough, we then are faced with the Pentecostals and charismatics who have their individual revelations.  “The Holy Spirit told me….” 

 

     If God was going to continue to inspire men to reveal His Word, then there was no need for the Bible.

 

     Jude wrote that the faith had been once for all revealed (v. 3).  Peter agreed that God had granted to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the apostles to record New Testament doctrine in the first place?  If He planned to do it again in every century, then no compelling reason for writing it down was needed.  If He intended to keep inspiring His holy Word in every country in every generation, then why bother to re-veal His Word through only eight men in units varying widely—in length—and preserve this Bible down through the ages?  Why go to the trouble of revealing it, confirming it, and preserving it for two thousand years—if He is just going to re-reveal it continually?

 

     Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to all those who claim to be hearing Him, then all of us are faced with a predicament that has no solution.  How are we to determine who is telling the Truth?  The Catholics, the Mormons, and the Pentecostals all claim miracles to prove their messages are valid, but they all contradict one another.  The pope will not acknowledge that Joseph Smith possessed any authority and vice versa.  Pentecostals deny any obligation to listen to either one of them.  The Oneness Pentecostals reject the teaching of the Trinitarian Pentecostals and vice versa—but they both purport to do miracles from God that prove they are right.

 

     It is precisely for this reason that God revealed ALL of His Word in the first century and confirmed it with signs and wonders (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:1-4).  Today, therefore, we need not participate in all of the confusion, because God has given us the Bible as our sole authority and as the means by which to measure anyone’s claim “to speak for God.”  God has not given anyone a new revelation.  The Holy Spirit does not speak outright to individuals today or give them “nudges” as to what to do.  The voices that people think that they hear from God are their own internal thoughts.  Some folks speak to themselves out loud; the rest of us carry on silent conversations with-in our minds.  Some think, if they have a bad thought, that the devil spoke to them; or if it is something positive, they imagine that “God” spoke to them.  Neither case is true. God has spoken to all of us through His Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17), which is all-sufficient. 

 

No Response?

 

     Even among those who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, however, problems exist.  The reason for the disharmony lies with man’s propensity to formulate creeds and develop traditions.  Calvinism has influenced most modern religious denominations, but each one of its tenets is false—and therefore deadly.  Its adherents are quite evangelistic (as we noted from David in last week’s article).  They want to convince everyone that salvation is by “faith only” and that no act of obedience on our part (such as repentance and baptism) can avail anything.  True Calvinists do not even believe that we can have faith on our own—unless God gives it to us (as set forth by Michael Horton in his book, Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace). 

 

     We will, until the Lord returns, be fighting this doc-trine, which affects everyone’s eternal destiny.  Calvinists seek to convince people that God does it all and that they can do nothing.  While it is true that God did everything in making salvation available; it is also true that we must respond to that salvation in order to obtain it—we must access what He has provided for us.  For that reason Jesus invites people, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

 

     What are Christians to do—simply allow this false “gospel” to permeate the entire world, thereby ensuring the eternal condemnation of millions—or do we fight against this fatal error?  Life is a battlefield.

 

Brethren

 

     Ah! but once we begin to discuss the church, the body of Christ, at last we have harmony and peace, right?  Lamentably, it is not so.  Nor has it been since about ten years after the establishment of the church.   Galatians is considered to be one of the earliest books of the New Testament written, and its purpose is to deal with a huge problem—the Judaizing teachers who insisted that the Law of Moses also be kept—in addition to New Testament teachings.  Paul taught some very “hard” doctrine (cf. John 6:60) concerning this heresy.  Among other things he told these brethren that they had turned away to a different “gospel” (Gal. 1:6-9).  He claimed they had been bewitched (3:1) and that those attempting to be justified by the Law of Moses had fallen from grace (5:4).

 

     The fact is that this false teaching had disrupted the unity which had existed in the body of Christ.  What are brethren supposed to do when someone injects false doctrine into the church?  They can do nothing and just wish that it would all go away (of course, it won’t), or they can take issue with it by presenting the Truth, which is what the inspired apostle did.  Frequently, members become disillusioned because it seems to them that the body of Christ ought to be united, since Christ shed His blood for all of us.  Many become discouraged by strife—whether brotherhood-wide or within their own congregation.  But it will occur! 

 

 

     Why?  The overriding reason is that Satan is still fighting God.  He has fought Him from the beginning of the creation of the world.  He did everything in his pow-er to keep Christ from coming into the world in order to redeem mankind.  He was defeated in that endeavor, but he is still committed to the destruction of the church and of individual Christians.

 

     He works through ungodly men who, though Chris-tians, vie for control and influence in one or over several congregations.  Sometimes, they even speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30).  Paul said to mark such men (Rom. 16: 17-18).  He even named some specific individuals who possessed this character (1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18).  Unfortunately, Satan is very successful at what he does.  Consider some of the errors of the last century:

 

The use of instrumental music into worship

The advocacy of the false premillennial doctrine

The binding upon others things God had not bound

♦ Neo-Pentecostalism

♦ Max King’s doctrine of “realized eschatology”

♦ Marriage and divorce heresies of all stripes

♦ Max Lucado/Rubel Shelly liberalism (characterized by

   fellowshipping as Christians those not in the body of        

   Christ

♦ Performance-oriented worship

♦ Grace minus our obedience

♦ “All of life is worship”

♦ The Holy Spirit operating directly on the Christian’s

   heart

 

     There are many other errors held by various brethren, such as theistic evolution, annihilation (in place of the Biblical doctrine of eternal punishment), acceptance of Calvinism, etc.  What can the church expect in the next hundred years, at the rate we are going? 

 

     Besides these doctrinal difficulties, there have been many personal problems; unfortunately, many congregations are trying to live down the stigma of a preacher who has not paid his bills or run off with the secretary (or someone else’s wife).  Some congregations have been plagued by ungodly elders who refuse to resign (one had propositioned several young ladies).

 

     Who else is there for Satan to target besides Christians?  How much time does he need to spend on those already committed to sin?  How much energy must be expended on those who, although well-intentioned, are nevertheless outside the body of Christ, having never obeyed the one Gospel?  Those en-trenched in the world or committed to false religions are of no vital importance.  The devil concerns himself with those thinking about becoming a Christian and with those who already have done so.  We may not see a bull’s-eye painted on us, but we are all candidates for his personal reclamation project.  Jesus told Peter: “Sa-tan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22: 31).  That ought to make all of us tremble and pray for strength to overcome every temptation.     

 

Personal Strife

 

     As already suggested, we may not even be at peace with ourselves.  Satan uses the same techniques on us as he did on Adam and Eve—because they work.  For example, we have already noted how that many have succumbed to adultery or fornication.  Why do we listen to Satan when he seduces us into thinking that there is another woman or another man with whom we would be happier?  And why are we so dissatisfied to begin with?  Very likely, the problem involves too much Hollywood and too little Scripture.  Satan is an expert at pro-viding options which we have no authority to exercise.

 

     The lust of the eyes also entices us to place value on the things that are essentially worthless.  If our Lord could turn down all the kingdoms of the world—which is much more than we will ever be offered—we ought to be able to refuse “small change” items.  Yet, apparently, the extent of the problems is such that two of the Ten Commandments dealt with the issue: God charged Israel not to steal and not to covet.  Even possessing the whole world would not be worth the cost of one’s soul (Mark 8:36-37).

 

     At least these first two can be seen for what they are.  Even as men pursue them, they know they are wrong in doing so.  Pride is the tricky one; it is much easier to see in another.  When someone refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing and seeks to rationalize his behavior, he may not see what he is doing, but others will.

 

     Pride keeps people out of the kingdom of heaven, because they cannot bring themselves to admit that they have been wrong or that their loved ones were wrong in their beliefs.  Rather than embrace the Truth and welcome it to their lives, they reject it because they fear their family more than God.  Some refuse to repent because they are convinced they have never behaved all that badly.  Oh, how pride blinds!

 

    Among Christians we cannot help wonder how many will ultimately be lost because they have never admitted, “I was wrong.”  Not only do they refuse to see it in the heat of passion, they cannot even do so ten or twenty years later.  Pride causes people to defend bad decisions and to refuse to apologize for hurtful things they have done (even though they may have been unintentional).  Sometimes, when people respond to the invitation, they say, “If I have offended anyone….”  Was sin involved or not?  If an action constituted sin, then God was offended whether or not any of us were.  Pride keeps people from genuine repentance.

 

     Life is a battlefield.  Whether the conflict is internal, between brethren, with false religion, or with the world, Christ has equipped us with the appropriate armor for the fight.  “But I don’t like antagonism, and I choose not to participate,” someone might protest. Then Satan has already won.  “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Pr. 24:10).  “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

 

 

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "Whatever the article name from above is (12/14/04)."

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