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The Warfare of the Spirit
There is a kind of dualism in our fallen world which has accounted for most of the persecutions endured by believers since the days of Cain and Abel.
There are two spirits in the earth, the Spirit of God and the spirit of Satan, and these are at eternal enmity. The ostensible cause of religious hatred may be almost anything; the true cause is nearly always the same: the ancient animosity which Satan, since the time of his inglorious fall, has ever felt toward God and His kingdom. Satan is aflame with desire for unlimited dominion over the human family; and whenever that evil ambition is challenged by the Spirit of God, he invariably retaliates with savage fury.
The world hated Jesus without a cause. In spite of their fantastic charges against Him, Christ's contemporaries found nothing in either His doctrines or His deeds to rouse in them such unreasonable anger as they constantly displayed toward Him. They hated Him, not for anything He said or did, but for what He was.
It is possible within the provisions of redemptive grace to enter into a state of union with Christ so perfect that the world will instinctively react toward us exactly as it did toward Him in the days of His flesh.
It is a great reproach to us as Christians that we excite in the hearts of the unbelieving masses little more than plain boredom. They meet us with smiling toleration or ignore us altogether, and their silence is a portent and a sign. Well might it cause us nights of tears and hours of prayerful self-examination.
It is the Spirit of Christ in us that will draw Satan's fire. The people of the world will not much care what we believe and they will stare vacantly at our religious forms, but there is one thing they will never forgive us—the presence of God's Spirit in our hearts. They may not know the cause of that strange feeling of antagonism which rises within them, but it will be nonetheless real and dangerous. Satan will never cease to make war on the Manchild, and the soul in which dwells the Spirit of Christ will continue to be the target for his attacks.CHAPTER 2
The Money Question Needs Prayerful Restudy—Part I
The question of money and its place in the church is calling for a prayerful restudy in the light of the Holy Scriptures. The whole matter should be reappraised and adjusted to conform to the teachings of Christ.
If the New Testament is, as we claim it to be, the source of all we are to believe about spiritual things, then there is real reason to be disturbed over the present financial practices among evangelical churches. For the moment I am thinking not about the use the individual Christian makes of his money, but about the place money holds in the thought and practices of organized Christian churches and societies.
Christian truth is to be found not in the letter only, but in the mood and spirit of the New Testament as well. Our Lord's life on earth was as revealing as His words. How he felt about things, the values He placed upon them, His sympathies, His antipathies, sometimes tell us as much as His more formal teachings.
One truth we may learn from His life as well as from His doctrine is that earthly riches cannot procure human happiness. It is hard for a rich church to understand that her Lord was a poor man. Were He to appear today on our city streets as He appeared in Jerusalem, He would in all probability be picked up for vagrancy. Were He to teach here what He taught the multitudes about money, He would be blacklisted by churches, Bible conferences and missionary societies everywhere as unrealistic, fanatical and dangerous to organized religion.
Our Lord simply did not think about money the way His professed followers do today; and more particularly He did not give it the place our religious leaders give it. To them it is necessary; to Him it was not. He had nowhere to lay His head, and we have made poetry out of His poverty while being extremely careful not to share it. We have explained away His clear declaration that it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. We have commingled the teaching of Christ with the teachings of Benjamin Franklin and the dollar-sign philosophers which America has produced in such abundance, and Christ's teachings have lost their meaning for us.
Church finances are a good and proper part of church life, but there is an ever-present danger that they will grow too important in the thinking of the church officers and slowly crowd out more vital things. In our local assemblies and other evangelical organizations there are signs that should disturb us greatly, signs of degeneration and decay that can only lead to spiritual death if the infection is not discovered and checked.
To be specific, some of our religious leaders appear to have developed mercantile minds and have come to judge all things by their effect upon the church finances. What a church can or cannot do is decided by the state of the treasury. Its spiritual outgo is determined by its financial income, with no margin for miracle and no recognition of a spiritual ministry unrelated to money. Such evil practice results from an erroneous attitude toward the whole financial question as it relates to religion.
It is an ominous thing in any church when the treasurer begins to exercise power. Since he may be presumed to be a man of God he should have a place equal to that of any other member, and if he is a man of gifts and virtues he will naturally have certain influences among the brethren. This is right and normal as long as he exercises his influences as a man of God and not as a treasurer. The moment he becomes important because he is treasurer, the Spirit will be grieved and His manifestations will begin to diminish. Then will follow coldness and spiritual sterility which we will try desperately to cure by wild appeals to God for revival. That the revival never comes is due altogether to the fact that we are violating the laws of God and forcing the Spirit to withdraw His power from us.
Again, it is a sign and a portent when a member is cultivated for his generosity and given a place of eminence in the church out of proportion to his spiritual gifts and graces. To court a Christian for his financial contributions is as evil a thing as to marry a man for his money. To flatter a man for any reason whatever is to degrade ourselves and imperil his soul. To flatter a man because he is a heavy giver is to offer him a concealed affront as well, for back of the purring and the smirking is the hidden opinion that the man's money is more important than the man and more to be esteemed.
The Bible has much to say about money and its place in the work and worship of the church. It is possible to bring our thinking and practice into accord with the will of God in this matter as in all others.CHAPTER 3
The Money Question Needs Prayerful Restudy—Part II
Christ likened His followers to children and sheep and pointed to birds and lilies as having valuable lessons for us.
These four little creatures differ widely from each other, but have one thing in common: their complete freedom from worry. They have no financial troubles. They live spontaneously, simply, without strain, and God takes care of them. This is what our Lord wants us to learn to do as individual Christians, and the same spirit should characterize every church and every Christian institution of whatever sort it may be.
We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.
A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped. People simply run true to their nature; and after all the church is composed of people.
It is a well-known fact that authority requires money to maintain itself in power, and it is not otherwise when that authority is ecclesiastical. The economic squeeze is not unknown in religious circles and has always been the devil's own device whether used by a church board to bring a bold pastor to time or by denominational leaders to force a local church into line. Such abuses are possible only because we have allowed ourselves to get entangled in unscriptural methods of church financing.
The point I am trying to make here is that while money has a proper place in the total life of the church militant, the tendency is to attach to it an importance that is far greater than is biblically sound or morally right. The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it as it could run on for years on its own momentum. And the same is true of schools, Bible conferences and missionary societies.
It is particularly regrettable that the activities of churches and societies must be cut back to agree with actual or anticipated income. Think back to the roots of this practice and you will see that it makes the power of the Spirit of God depend upon the state of the national economy or the varying wage levels in different localities. Should the members of a local church withhold their tithes and offerings that church will accomplish less statistically, it is true, but always its accomplishments will depend upon its spiritual condition and not upon its treasury. The treasury will be full if the people are holy; or if the people are generous but poor, then the Holy Spirit will give them fruit out of all proportion to their financial report. The fruit of the church agrees with its basic spirituality, never upon the state of its exchequer.
The history of churches and denominations follows pretty closely a rather uniform pattern: It is to begin in poverty and power; get established to a degree that removes all hazard and gives financial security; become accepted by society; outgrow the need for divine intervention; keep Christ as a figurehead, ignore His Lordship and carry on after the traditions of the elders; offer the clergy a reward for staying in line in the form of an old age pension; put enough persons in places of power who profit financially by the prosperity of the group. After that it's requiescat in pace, [a prayer for the peaceful repose of a dead person] and the tragic thing about it all is that no one knows he is dead.
No church or denomination need go that way if the members detect the trend before it is too late. But I wonder. So bound are we to the treasurer's report that we habitually forget who we are and what we are called to do. Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible. If we could rise in faith like Samson and break the ropes that bind us we might see again that a church's outgo can be greater than its income, as much greater as God is greater than circumstances. We might have demonstrated before our eyes how God works wonders when His people leave a margin for miracles.CHAPTER 4
Are We Evangelicals Social Climbing?
Traditionally Christianity has been the religion of the common people. Whenever the upper classes have adopted it in numbers, it has died. Respectability has almost always proved fatal to it.
The reasons back of this are two, one human and the other divine.
Schleiermacher has pointed out that at the bottom of all religion there lies a feeling of dependence, a sense of creature helplessness. The simple man who lives close to the earth lives also close to death and knows that he must look for help beyond himself; he knows that there is but a step between him and catastrophe. As he rises in the social and economic scale, he surrounds himself with more and more protective devices and pushes danger (so he thinks) farther and farther from him. Self-confidence displaces the feeling of dependence he once knew and God becomes less necessary to him. Should he stop to think this through he would know better than to place his confidence in things and people; but so badly are we injured by our moral fall that we are capable of deceiving ourselves completely and, if conditions favor it, to keep up the deception for a lifetime.
Along with the feeling of security that wealth and position bring comes an arrogant pride that shuts tightly the door of the heart to the waiting Savior. Our Very Important Man may indeed honor a church by joining it, but there is no life in his act. His religion is external and his faith nominal. Conscious respectability has destroyed him.
The second reason Christianity tends to decline as its devotees move up the social scale is that God will not respect persons nor share His glory with another. Paul sets this forth plainly enough in his First Corinthians epistle:
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:25-29)
When God sent His Son to redeem mankind He sent Him to the home of a working man and He grew up to be what we now call a peasant. When He presented Himself to Israel and launched into His earthly ministry, He was rejected by the respectable religionists and had to look for followers almost exclusively from among the poor, plain people. When the Spirit came and the church was founded, its first members were the socially unacceptable. For generations the church drew her numbers from among the lower classes, individual exceptions occurring now and again, of which Saul of Tarsus was the most noteworthy.
During the centuries since Pentecost the path of true Christianity has paralleled pretty closely the path Jesus walked when He was here on earth: it was to be rejected by the great and accepted by the lowly. The institutionalized church has certainly not been poor, nor has she lacked for great and mighty men to swell her membership. But this great church has had no power. Almost always the approval of God has rested upon small and marginal groups whose members were scorned while they lived and managed to gain acceptance only after they had been safely dead several score years.
Today we evangelicals are showing signs that we are becoming too rich and too prominent for our own good. With a curious disregard for the lessons of history we are busy fighting for recognition by the world and acceptance by society. And we are winning both. The great and the mighty are now looking our way. The world seems about to come over and join us. Of course we must make some concessions, but these have almost all been made already except for a bit of compromising here and there on such matters as verbal inspiration, special creation, separation and religious tolerance.
Evangelical Christianity is fast becoming the religion of the bourgeoisie. The well-to-do, the upper middle classes, the politically prominent, the celebrities are accepting our religion by the thousands and parking their expensive cars outside our church doors, to the uncontrollable glee of our religious leaders who seem completely blind to the fact that the vast majority of these new patrons of the Lord of glory have not altered their moral habits in the slightest nor given any evidence of true conversion that would have been accepted by the saintly fathers who built the churches.
Yes, history is a great teacher, but she cannot teach those who do not want to learn. And apparently we do not.CHAPTER 5
Crowning the Court Fool
In olden days they crowned the king and tied a cap and bell on the court fool; today we crown the fool and tie a tin can on the king.
The court fool, as every reader of history knows, was a professional jester or comedian retained at court to provide the king some comic relief from the serious and sometimes dangerous business of ruling the country.
This ancient jester, or fool, occupied a unique position which he won by his quick wit and his talent for amusing people. He was loved for his ability to convulse a dignified assembly with his sidesplitting humor, sometimes aimed at one of the great men present or even at the king himself, though it was a bit risky to make the king the butt of a joke, for the jester never knew whether his majesty would accept it good-naturedly and laugh with the rest or have him whipped and thrown into prison for his impertinence. At best he was treated with the affection shown to a house pet; at worst he was kicked and cuffed about, either because his wit was too pointed or because he couldn't think of anything funny when his royal boss called for it.
Excerpted from The Warfare of the Spirit by A.W. Tozer. Copyright © 1993 Zur Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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