The Army at Our Back

david-and-goliath

“45 But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied! 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand! I will strike you down and cut off your head. This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God, 47 and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and He will deliver you into our hand.”  –1 Samuel 17:45-47

This epic and famous account epitomizes the courage of a mighty man of God. He was undeterred by the surrounding cowardly company (v.11), the false accusations (v.28), the insurmountable odds that stood before him (vv.4-7), and perhaps even his own previous retreat (v.24). He was confident in his past experience (v.35), his current equipment (vv.39-40), and God’s future protection (v.36). And, he was rightly motivated by the reward promised by his king (vv.24-26).

We are likewise called to ignore all cowardly company (John 21:22), their false accusations (Luke 6:22), circumstances that seem beyond us (2Corinthians 12:10), and any previous retreats (Philippians 3:13). We are called to take confidence in our God-ordained past experiences (Romans 8:28), our current equipping (2Peter 1:3), and God’s future protection (2Th 3:3). And we should be motivated by our King’s promised rewards (Romans 8:18; Luke 6:23; Hebrews 11:6, 26; Matthew 6:18; etc.).

Yet I have missed an invaluable purpose in David’s victory… and my own.

“… and He will give you into OUR hand.”

Not “my hand,” but rather “our hand.” Even though David went out to face Goliath alone, there was an army at his back that would share in the victory and give chase to the enemy (v.52) once God removed the one obstacle that paralyzed His people (v.11).

The obstacle for Israel here was not a physical giant, but rather a lack of faith. David killed Goliath and God was glorified. Then Israel’s eyes were opened to see the truth (2Kings 6:17)—that the battle was already won (v.51). And so they were filled with faith and surged forward into battle (v.52).

Goliath’s size was never an issue, and neither is the size of any mountain that stands in our way (Matthew 17:20). Because victory is not ultimately about conquering “the enemy.” The Devil is no match for our Sovereign God; Satan’s future demise is certain (Revelation 20:10). There will be a day when Jesus will annihilate His enemies with a single word (Revelation 19:21), and He could do so this very instant if He so decided.

Neither is God desperately looking for one brave volunteer so that He can strike a blow against the devil. He is in need of no individual man (Act 17:24-25). His purposes will not be thwarted (Job 42:2). They will not be hindered in our rebellion (2Ki 19:25), nor will they hinge on our obedience (1Kings 19:14-18; Esther 4:14). Ignoring His call only leads to our own destruction (Ezekiel 22:30-31).

Rather, we see that God patiently tolerates (even uses) evil and injustice in order to conquer something else—our hearts (2 Peter 3:9). THIS is why it is so important that we live in Christian community, open and vulnerable before others (v.26, 40, 48) so that they can see God’s power manifested in our lives. God’s desire is for His people to rise up in faith… TOGETHER. And that can’t be done with lone crusaders just looking to pick a fight. Instead, God purposely calls out the weak (1Corinthians 1:27) so that He is assured the glory (which rightfully belongs to Him, Romans 11:36), and so that brothers and sisters watching, and listening will have their hearts filled with faith.

Mighty men of God, we are being called forth to openly call out and lead others—both in word (v.26) and in deed (v.48). So, let us courageously rush toward giants so that true victory can be attained. Not the beheading of giants with their own sword (v.51), but the rousing of faith in the army behind us so that we all charge forward (v.52) for the sake of our King—Not Saul (or any sinful man), but Jesus Christ: “The King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).

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Relational Unity – The Goal of the Church? Part 2 of 2: Is Spiritual Unity a Reality Today?

unityGod is pretty smart (really, all knowing or omniscient).  He created us, and He knows us.  He knows that in our fleshly natural state, we are not unifying beings.  Don’t believe it? Look at the drama we create so easily.  If you don’t see that, go keep the 2 and 3-year old nursery in your church.  In our fleshly, worldly state we are not ready for unity.  But, in our spiritual state and design (in God’s image), we can become just the opposite, when the Holy Spirit comes to our spirit at the time of salvation and through the renewing of our minds a ‘new creature’ begins.  Here, we BEGIN down a path TOWARD real, achievable, and beautiful unity with Jesus, God the Father, and our brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit, in our faith and knowledge of Jesus.

Is personal Oneness with Jesus and the Father possible on earth?  Yes! (Consider Jesus the man and his relationship with God the Father while on earth; consider the apostles).  Is Unity within the Body of Christ possible today?  Poll 100 Christians and the majority will say ‘No’, but I say Yes! Is this Biblical?  Consider the Upper Room.  Consider the first church.  For me, I go to personal testimony as well, i.e. I have experienced it in relationship with surrendered, mature believers. For those that have accepted Christ as their savior and put Him on the throne of their lives, unity in the Body can be lived out today within a group and it is beautiful (not easy; requiring communication, surrender to Christ, and real love).  BUT, if your expectation is full unity and kumbaya with a large group, be ready for disappointment.  Be realistic about spiritual unity among the masses, while being persistent about Spiritual unity within the true mature Body.

Is unity in the physical church you go to on Sunday’s possible (NOTE: I am making a distinction between Sunday church, and the saved Body of Christ, and a more mature group within the saved body)?   The physical church you go to on Sunday, if like most current churches in America, is attended by a mix of people.  Some have accepted Christ, others have not.  Some say they have a relationship with Jesus, but they don’t even know Him. Some of the Christians have surrendered, others have not.  A few are selfless (God’s will not mine), many are selfish still.  So unity in the local church is a teaching and a pursuit, but you are not likely to be fully unified because you are likely not fully like-minded (or rather like-Spirited).  Can it be close or managed? Yes, but only with great church leadership.

Unity (individual Oneness in Christ and the Father and then shared with mature brothers and sisters) is often sought in the Sunday-Wednesday church by either 1) heavy handed leadership, or 2) mature leadership as described by the Apostle Paul.  A leadership that displays residual pride, restricts communication and seeking of the truth, will be heavy handed and live in fear of disunity.  This system may limit teaching (control the message), limit the teachers (deliverers of the Message), even require church contracts (versus using the Spirit as our seal and contract), or other similar methods of control.   In contrast, a leadership of humble men that is faithful enough to deal openly and Biblically with questions that arise, and seek and teach through them, will be better able to maintain unity in the Spirit even among diversity (of maturity and belief) and adversity (which always comes).  This too I can attest to and it is a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.

What contribution can you or I make to assist with unity in the Body (believers) and unity in the Sunday church (mix of believers, non-believers, mature and immature) and in a small focused group (of mature, surrendered men for instance)?  First, get in the Word and gain maturity in understanding (2 Timothy 2:15).  Then, remain broken and open to the Spirit’s ongoing education, and put Christ first in your life, surrendering the desires of self.  Then, have ‘expectations’ for the leadership and mature men in the church, all while you have ‘understanding’ for the new believers and the unsaved (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  If the church, leadership and layman, is unified in its acceptance of luke-warmness, living in fear, heavy handed in leadership, and satisfied if the people in the neighboring communities go to hell, should you unify (be silent and go along with all) with that?  If you want to be unified in a Revelation 3:16 type judgement, then that might be right for you, but I don’t think that is the goal of men that love Christ.

Don’t mistake accountability with judgement.  Paul is clear in the method of careful consideration and discussion of these matters in Ephesians 4 when he says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.  This should certainly be OUR goal, but a harder truth and a deeper teaching is that sometimes the messenger delivers GOD’s message (not ours; today and in times past), through the Spirit, in the way and tone that God desires.  In 2 Samuel 12, the Lord sent Nathan to deliver a tough and direct message to David.  He told the King of Israel that he was a great sinner and punishment was coming.  If a similar message were to go out to many of our churches today, do you know what many would say?  They would say, “That is not love; that is not humility to come to us that way.”   Rather than hear the Lord’s message, and see how far they have fallen, they would blame the issues on the world and criticize the messenger. David’s response to the Lord’s message delivered through Nathan was one of repentance, and the Lord delivered grace.  In 1 Samuel 15:16-34, Samuel delivered a tough message to Saul and the heart that received it was not the same as that of David’s.

Relational unity is a nice pursuit.  It feels really good to get along with everyone.  And we are commanded to love our neighbor.  But unity or Oneness with Jesus and the Father is the priority for God’s men.  This is by design and meant for our success.  Our creator knows that true unity with our brothers only comes through first establishing a personal surrendered relationship with Christ.

Derek Dougherty

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Relational Unity — The Goal of the Church? Part 1 of 2: Unity or Passivity?

unity

In the name of unity, the Church is often rendered ineffective (Revelation 3:1), Christians are often crushed by this world (because they live without power), and those that are ‘dead in their sin’ go to Hell (due to lack of Church activity outside its walls; Romans 10:14).  When ‘can’t we all just get along’, ‘that’s not love’, or ‘that is not humility’ removes the power from the Church and replaces it with a human understanding of unity (lack of contention and sense of relational peace), then unity (actually, passivity) is not positive.

What is unity?  By definition it is, “the state of being united or joined as a whole.”   We could be in a state of unity, and not be aligned with God.  You could be united in your desire to kill all the Jews.  Hitler had unity enough in Germany to kill millions of them.  Think this is an absurd example?  You could create a majority enough with unity (of the court, congress, voting block, church, etc.) to abort millions of babies in a country.  Seem absurd?  This has happened in America underneath the nose and the ‘power’ of the Church.  You could create enough unity of self-righteousness that you could literally damage the individual spirit of many young Christians within a church denomination for decades by not understanding grace. You could lean the other way in a unified fashion and kill the spirit of many for eternity by not preaching the seriousness of sin and its consequences. UNITY of people and even of church member relationships alone is not the goal!  And this simple-minded pursuit and satisfaction of ‘unity’ is killing the effectiveness of many individual churches.

The Spirit and the Bible, together, provide the truths for a Unity that IS the goal of Jesus’s Church (John 17:20-26) and it is achievable, in part and in areas of our walk, now.  And, when obtained, it is beautiful.  How do we understand unity then?  Let’s go to Ephesians 4:1-16 where it is defined in simple, straightforward terms.  For the sake of space it is not reprinted in full here, but take a minute and read it, and then re-read it (as the depth does not sink in fully in a casual read), and then join me back here.  People so often read this passage and come away with, ‘be humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with love’ to keep unity within the Church. Pastors may preach this passage this way to try to ‘put down’ problems or to verbally chastise those coming against them. But, this is not what is says nor what it means and if we keep with this shallow interpretation, or use it for personal means, we will continue to kill the power of the Church.

The power of the Church is not in the unity of personal relationships and treatment of each other.  The power of the Church is in the SOURCE of the commanded unity.  In verse 3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”.  In verse 13, “…until we reach the unity in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..”   Who’s unity?  Unity in what and of what?  These descriptors are key here.

The goal is not to fully get along (zero issues to work through, Beulah land today, perfect relationships) with each other, and go one way or the other together (agree on carpet colors all the time, every time). The goal is unity in One WAY!   ‘In the Spirit’, ‘in the faith’, and in the knowledge of Jesus!  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT!  There is not a Baptist spirit, and a Methodist spirit, and a Lutheran spirit.  There is not a carpet committee spirit and a building committee spirit.  There is not a Pastor Bill spirit, a Pastor John spirit, an Elder Ray spirit, or a Deacon Bob spirit that we are to unify in (people have their individual spirit, but these are not the Spirit of God that we unify in).  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT (of God)!  Similarly, there is not a faith in Pastor Jim, or Man-of-God Charles, or Bishop Jakes that saves.  THERE IS ONE JESUS.  Open your ears and hear! Gentle, loving, humble-seeming people who ignore this Truth everyday have killed and continue to kill the effectiveness of the Church.  If I can have modern day Kumbaya or Beulah Land or Jesus, give me Jesus.  If I can choose between the tightest knit Sunday social club and Jesus, give me Jesus!  Why? Because Jesus, and He alone, is Life!

Derek Dougherty

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