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in the Church and America
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Epiphany III - 1/23/11 I Sam. 3:1-4:1a; Ps. 16; Rom. 12:16-21; Jn. 2:1-11
Last week I preached on "Reason & Revelation Welded back to back - on the Offensive." Today I am preaching on spiritual warfare as part of an answer to issues raised by that sermon.
Our problem at St. Luke's is not primarily "our parish future", but rather - How do we participate in the spiritual renewal of Orange County, Southern California, America, and the world? How do we serve the Lord?
I believe that our parish problems will be resolved when we find our place in the ranks of the Lord's army for the spiritual battle which smolders all throughout America. The Lord is saying to us, "You fill my Kingdom, and I will fill your church." We are not ourselves going to fill the church and then go out and serve God. We must first learn how to serve God in the middle of our current cultural situation, with all the odds seemingly against us, and then our church will grow as God intends.
I have spent my whole life discovering over and over what I said last week, that God holds the intellectual, moral, and spiritual high ground. He is inviting us to stand there with Him. That high ground is the Kingdom, the best of all possible worlds.
The evidence in favor of Biblical religion is overwhelming. Neither secularism nor paganism can hold a candle to Biblical Christianity on any serious point. But very few Christians are intellectually, morally, or spiritually equipped to put that case out in public -- neither by speaking it or by living it. That is what we must learn to do, starting with whatever strengths and spiritual gifts we have. I think they are considerable. But there is always more.
And mostly, we must get our priorities straight -- we must first become obedient servants of God, learn our mission, our purpose under God, how to reach out to the world around us -- before we can expect to resolve issues we have here among ourselves.
Early this last week I received the email I sent to those who have email addresses, because I thought it made a good follow up to my sermon last Sunday (available appended to last Sunday's sermon in the tract rack).
It is the story of two marines in Iraq who were posted at the gate to a military compound. A large blue truck pulled into the alley leading to the compound and began speeding up, racing toward the gate. The two immediately raised their rifles and opened fire. They killed the driver and the speeding truck came to a stop six feet in front of them. They never moved from their spot, and then the truck, with some 2000 pounds of TNT, exploded, killing the marines. Because two marines stood their ground, the lives of 150 soldiers were saved.
There is a big difference between military and spiritual warfare, but we need the same kind of courage and fortitude in spiritual war as those two showed in Iraq. We need to know how quickly to identify the enemy, and to respond with the appropriate measures.
The weapon of spiritual warfare is truth. So, St. Paul tells us to arm ourselves for spiritual war with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
In the Book of Revelation, we read that John saw, "one like a son of man.... from His mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword..." The theme of Jesus destroying His enemies with the sword of truth issuing from His mouth occurs three or four times though the Book of Revelation.
The dark side is dark by choice because it cannot stand in the light of truth. Truth is too threatening to the dark side because such persons rest their identity and their dependency on falsehoods. They know that truth will expose their deceits, and that they will no longer be seen as the "Somebodies" they can only pretended to be.
So we Christians must learn the truth or we cannot speak it, nor can we expose the falsehoods. We must learn how indeed the Christian faith makes more sense than any form of paganism or secularism, and by a wide margin. We must learn how to expose the deceits which are constantly bandied about with the express purpose of destroying any sign of the presence of God among us.
The dark side begins with cleaning us from the public arena, but they then attack us in our churches and our homes -- as we see in the totalitarian nations of the last two centuries. They understand that this is an either/or battle, with no hope of both/and. One of us will die and the other live. But they have persuaded many Christians to treat truth as relative, and so we seldom insist on a showdown based on the facts of the issue. We perhaps doubt that we could win the showdown.
How does one know when we are in spiritual warfare? As I was writing my book on the homosexual issues, I began to wonder, given the enormous confusion about us on moral issues, how do we even tell any more what truth and morality are, or when they are being violated? How can we know when we are in spiritual warfare -- and when we are just having an honest, even if difficult, discussion?
The answer is clear: we are in spiritual warfare whenever we see that truth is being systematically subverted (Romans 1:18 ff.). Such as when truth is declared to be "relative". Or when facts and logic are being deliberately hidden or twisted. Or when education is subverted so that students cannot possibly learn the processes of truth-seeking. Our public schools do that as a matter of course today.
We Western Christians have allowed ourselves to be schooled and taught by persons who want us neutralized, who want any serious Judeo-Christian faith neutralized and destroyed.
Large numbers of our children graduate with no capacity to think reasonably or scientifically, especially about religion, politics, or morality -- the things that count the most. So the level of public debate is debased and leads only to further confusion, gladly orchestrated by those at the top levels of political and financial control.
We are at war here in America just as surely as in Iraq, with the stakes being even greater. The enemy has infiltrated to the highest offices in the land, some of them in churches.
In the 1950's when I was attending General Seminary in New York City, I ran into a cassette tape by an army psychiatrist, a Major Moyer. He had been one of those who interviewed the American soldiers returning from North Korean prisoner of war camps. Americans had been captured after the Chinese swarmed across the Yalu River dividing China from North Korea. North Korea, which had invaded South Korea, had been almost defeated, and the Chinese felt threatened, so they entered the war with their massive army.
American prisoners were kept in camps where they were subjected to intense brainwashing processes, learned from the Russian Communists. They had all the usual discomforts of any war time prison, poor, and not much, food. Crowded cells, which got terribly cold in the winter. Little or no toilet facilities. Those are common in prisoner of war camps.
But there was more. The brainwashing was meant to take the spirit out of the men, to make them hopeless, and to discourage them from working with each other, and thus prevent an escape. The Chinese were able to persuade some of them to write messages of defeat and approving the Communist regime, which would be read, sometimes by the prisoner himself, over the airwaves. The Chinese were so successful that they often had only one or two armed guards per hundred prisoners, where normally they would have had 100 fully armed-to-the-teeth guards per 100 prisoners. The prisoners had become passive.
It was the first war in American history in which there was not one successfully planned and executed escape from a prisoner of war camp. When they got home and were waiting to be debriefed at Major Moyer's army base, they would sit around the common room, almost absolutely silent. They did not talk with one another. They had isolated themselves from one another with internal emotional and spiritual walls. The brainwashing had done its job.
So the army wanted to find out why this was so. What had happened to these American fighting men? The American military had never run into this before. What could the Chinese have possibly done to them to so emotionally and spiritually neutralize and paralyze them?
It is a long story, worth pursuing, but briefly, it involves finding ways to emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually isolate people from their normal resources of personhood and moral direction. Does that ring a bell???
Personhood and moral direction are the two basic foundations of all of us, which in the end only God can supply. But in the world, in life, as we say, "in the flesh", the world supplies those stabilities, not God. We look to the world to provide us with our sense of being and our sense of direction. That means that the world, the flesh, and the devil can manipulate those two stabilities to control us. We are puppets on their strings.
It is no accident that the brainwashers gave up on those who (1) had a strong religious conviction (revelation) or who (2) knew how to think logically and factually (reason). They could not be brainwashed. If they had both (reason and revelation - welded back to back -- the Sword of the Spirit) they were all the more strong.
Major Moyer said that these men needed a different kind of weapon to win the new kind of war, not the military kind. Those weapons are not issued, he said, in any military base in America. They are issued in the homes, churches, and schools of America -- honesty, loyalty to one's fellows, a strong ethical stance, and a faith in God. Without these, we cannot win the spiritual war which underlies all military war. He may not have known it, but Moyer was talking about spiritual warfare -- the fight to counter the systematic subversion of truth.
A psychiatrist named Charles Socarides [clinical
professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NYC], who worked
with homosexual persons to help them out of that lifestyle, noticed the
strategies which the homosexualists were quite openly using to change how
America thinks about homosexuality [detailed in After the
Ball by Marshall Kirk & Hunter Madsen]. He said, they are
point for point the same strategies which Mao Tse Tung used to control his
Chinese people. I looked at his list of strategies, and said to myself: those
are the strategies being used in our public schools to separate children from
their parents. Can this be an accident?
[Go to http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/22SxSo/PnSx/HSx/SocrdsHowAmerGay.htm ]
We are at war at the deepest levels of our Western culture. It is a spiritual war going on around us of which most are only vaguely aware. You will not hear it on the news. All the things I have described here can be shown to be the case, but they are ignored by Christians as though they did not matter.
We have been effectively neutralized, brainwashed not to care. We continue so at our peril.
Christians react, "O, that's just politics! That's just culture! We are concerned about spiritual things." Not so, that is a heresy akin to Gnosticism. We are not a spiritual community, we are a sacramental community, where our spiritual values are meant to be expressed through culture and politics. God owns the whole world, not just the spiritual part of it. The struggle is not just about personal religion, it is about culture, politics, and the whole public arena.
But - only a saved people can withstand the forces of a hostile culture and an enemy government. We must get our personal lives in line with God in order to take on the world, the flesh, and the devil in the public arena.
The story of Samuel and Eli this morning gives us the principle by which we can understand the solution to our present dilemma. Eli was the priest at the sanctuary at Shiloh before Jerusalem had become the center of Israelite worship. But Eli had apparently been a poor father to his two sons who became corrupt priests. Eli did not discipline them. The young lad, Samuel, who, we are told, did not yet know the Lord, had a visitation from the Lord with a message of punishment for Eli and his sons. A tough message for a young lad's first experience as a prophet.
Eli and his sons were men who did not put their trust in the Lord, but in worldly things. So they were vulnerable to the ups and downs of the world. Eli and his sons valued the opinion of men rather than of God. That left them vulnerable to those opinions and thus to the chaos of the world.
But the spirit of Samuel was open to the presence of the Lord and grew in understanding and faithfulness to God. Samuel did not trust in the things of this world, but in the creator and sovereign over those things. That means that Samuel had a personal stability, and a moral stability and direction which the world could not touch.
Here is the principle we can learn: God comes to us from a depth that is beyond the reach of the world. The world could not pull the rug out from under Samuel because he got his personal and moral stability from God, and thus he could wield authority with power and effectiveness. He brought a spiritual and moral unity to Israel and thereby united Israel against their enemies. There is no other way for that kind of unity.
God is clear in the Bible that our relationship to Him is foundational to our success with both our personal and political neighbors. If we are faithful to God, we will have the stability and moral direction to be successful in the world. Because we are not "of" the world, but "of" God, we can be fully and successfully in the world.
That points to a seeming paradox, that those who are of God can be more fully in the world than can those who are of the world. Those who are of God can be open and free to operate according to the purposes of God, which gives us the way to make the world itself work for God and for us. Those who are of the world are dependent upon the shifting sands of uncaring circumstance, not on an unchanging, reliable, and loving God, and thus too defensive, too walled off, to be really in the world. The seal themselves off and can only pretend to be "worldly". The true word is "sinful", not "worldly".
That is just a true today as it was 1100 or so BC with Samuel. The Grand Illusion of secularism that it knows how to make the world run right is just that, an illusion. It always fails. It cannot form a deeply united people for very long, and then when that unity wears thin, they have to create a crisis to get the people focused again -- a reason for many wars. The Lord has a moral order and the best of all possible worlds to get people focused.
So, the degree to which we at St. Luke's put our trust in the Lord, for our personal and moral stability, to that degree we will find ourselves being effective for the Lord in the world, drawing people to Him, and effectively confronting the evils of the world struggling to live without God.
It will not be painless for Christians any more than being faithful to their duty was painless for those two marines. But we must nevertheless learn how to identify the enemy, confront him face to face, and stand our ground with the two-edged sword of God -- all the way down from Satan himself to his lowliest lackeys.
The Way of the Cross is the way to victory.
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