(This is the second in a 10 part series. Number 8 will be released tomorrow. If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first and then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship before reading this one)
I remember when our Tribe released its new “Official Hymnal” back in 1989. It had been 25 years since the previous “Official Hymnal” had been release after 4 years of work. My Tribe is not known for being among the fastest to embrace anything new. And now, 27 years later, the process has started for another new “Official Hymnal” for our Tribe. One thing I remember about the process that produced our current “Official Hymnal” is a controversy around one single hymn: “Onward Christian Soldiers”.
There was a group of people who became very vocal in their opposition to this ancient classic being included in this new “Official Hymnal”. Their opposition was not based on the tune or range of musical notes, meaning, “It’s a hard hymn for ordinary people to sing.” No! Their opposition to the hymn was that it was too militaristic; that the image of being soldiers, moving forward, and fighting a “war”, well that just offended them. They said that the church is NOT an army and should not be singing about being one. As a footnote, they lost that battle and it was included in our current “Official Hymnal”. My best guess estimate is that they don’t sing it when it is listed in their bulletin.
They were and others continue to be offended at the idea that the Body of Christ, the church, their local church are to be an army engaged in a war. I am offended that they are offended! And the failure to recognize this “war” is literally killing the western church because the Enemy is winning more battles because soldiers are M.I.A. from their posts. Allow me a moment to explain why I believe this made my list at #9.
When I discovered the New Living Translation, I experienced a profound appreciation for both its simplicity in understanding, and its depth in translating the ancient texts. One of the earliest differences I discovered was how it rendered the Old Testament phrase Yĕhovah tsaba’. Other translations coined it as “the Lord of Hosts” or “the Lord Almighty“. The New Living Translation put it like this: The Lord of Heaven’s Army. Then I noticed that Eugene Peterson and his translators put it like this: The God of the Angel Armies. So I just had to check Strong’s work and, lo and behold, that word tsaba’ actually means “an army”. (As a footnote for any purists that might accidentally be reading my blog who insist that the KJV is the only translation that accurately renders the original Hebrew and Greek texts, you need to find another argument.)
The origins of this war goes back prior to the Creation work of God. The prophet Isaiah in chapter 14 verse 12 introduces us to one named Lucifer. Some call him the Devil and others call him Satan or the Evil One. I prefer the term “the Enemy” and I do so because I recognize the war that is going on around us. Lucifer was once a high ranking officer in the Lord of Heaven’s Army but he lost that position when he tried to claim the position of God, himself. He lost that battle and when God created this universe and put His image on Adam and Eve, the Enemy turned his efforts against the image bearers. Ever since the Enemy won that battle, the war has been on. The Enemy knows he cannot defeat God (already tried and lost), so he turns his attention on us.
Now Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11-13 (NLT)
11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
That word “fighting” or “wrestle” is an interest Greek word, palē. It literally means “wrestling; a contest between two in which each endeavours to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck.” Hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck? That sound pretty serious to me. And I am just wondering, when was the last time I had thrown the Enemy down and had my hand around his neck? When was the last time YOU have thrown the Enemy down and had YOUR hand around his neck?
Now I add this point to my 10 Top List knowing that there are some local Tribes (otherwise known as local churches) and a few renegades who left the reservation, that are fighting a war, but against the wrong ones. They are fighting against Target, Lowes, the F.C.C. and F.T.C. Heck, they even fight within their own local Tribe, attacking those who do not agree with them. In short, many are fighting the wrong enemy. And the Enemy is laughing so hard that he peed in his pants (as opposed to peeing in his pants out of fear of us, the church).
Why are there so many in the church, particularly in the realm of what we call the “Western” church (no, this isn’t about those wild west movies) believing that we are not in a war and oppose that very idea? My personal observation is that too many are following what I call the “Faux Jesus”, which was born in the imagination of the Enemy. Here are some of the key characteristics of Faux Jesus:
1. He is more meek than anything else
Think about the pictures drawn by the Masters from the Renaissance. He is mild looking, thin, almost emaciated looking. Does this picture look like the Son of the God described in Exodus 15:3 (NLT)?
The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!
People want the meek Jesus because then they believe He does not want to rule over us. The meek Faux Jesus doesn’t make any demands from us.
2. He is always gentle
The gentle Faux Jesus is preferred because it makes it easier for them to focus on the gentleness and overlook the rest. Jesus was the object of some mean people’s anger. A gentle Faux Jesus means we are to be gentle and kind and that is all. I mean, Faux Jesus can be gentle, but real Jesus? Yes he showed gentleness in dealing with sinners, but He also made a whip and used it to drive out the money changers in the Temple. And when the crowds around him built up, He was always saying hard and harsh things that caused many to quit follower Him around. Faux Jesus is always gentle but the real Jesus is a force to be reckoned with.
3. He just wants us to love each other like He loves us.
Now, the Real Jesus does want us to do that. But followers of the Faux Jesus take it to the extreme. They want us to love and let live. Moral integrity and spiritual holiness of heart, mind and action are old fashion and out of date. Faux Jesus followers say that we just love others, that’s all. Loving others being defined as simply approving of their lifestyle and life choices.
I could go on listing other attributes of Faux Jesus, let’s just say that Faux Jesus doesn’t want us to realize we are in a battle and the hearts, minds, future and eternity of others are at stake. When we fight the wrong enemy, when we refuse to fight, the real Enemy wins and maintains his control over a realm he stole from God in the Garden of Eden.
The church that is not throwing the enemy down to the ground and wrapping their hands around his neck are only being instruments for the Enemy to work his mayhem within this world, and in the lives of those around us. Living as if there was not war going on is shameful and disgusting. The church in the Western world will continue in its decline until we start acting like we are at war, because the war is going on whether you are engaged in it or not.
Don’t follow Faux Jesus! Enlist with the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Heaven’s Army. Army means we fight, fight all the way to the end! Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!