Observations and Affirmations #7

    We are involved in spiritual warfare. If so, then what does praying for “unity” in the PCC mean? Our brothers and sisters are not the enemy. We must first pray against all the deceptions of the Evil One.

A small but enticing recruitment ad for MI6 once appeared on a back page of the staid and elitist Economist magazine. At the bottom was a warning, “You should not tell anyone about your application.” Given the secretive nature of MI6, failure to obey these words would invariably put any relationship at risk! No one asks why a country needs an MI6, a CIA, or a CSIS, or for that matter, any form of protecting. Sin and evil are part of human life. Not so God’s lesser creatures. They find their life within the predictable boundaries of how God made them. They instinctively obey their Creator – man does not. The misuse of our free will tempts us to step outside the boundaries of the image of God in us. Man is therefore the only truly wild animal.

Security organisations, such as CSIS, have been waking up recently and expanding efforts to combat a new national threat: cyberwarfare. The church needs to wake up to its old enemy. The sin in our lives is not news, but we do need to wake up to the methodologies of the one who tempts us to misuse our free will. Peter tells us, “Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Be firm in your faith and resist him…” (1 Peter 5:8 GNB). Like the warning embedded in the MI6 ad, this grave warning also implies that, if unheeded, something is at risk.

It has been said, “The task of the shepherd is to teach the sheep what the wolf looks like.” While it is wise to not focus on the Prince of Darkness, and thus deny Satan the attention he relishes, it leaves the church vulnerable. But, at the least, we dare not overlook his presence in the biblical narratives: In the Garden, Satan tempted Eve to not trust that God’s Word was for her good. The book of Job opens with conversations between God and Satan – in heaven! The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan’s misuse of Scripture, and Satan tempts Jesus again at Caesarea Philippi through Peter. The gospels record Jesus’ many encounters with the demonic. Satan enters Judas and Ananias (Luke 22:3, Acts 5:3) and Satan received permission to test all the disciples in Gethsemane (Luke 22:31). Revelation 12:10b affirms that Satan has God’s ear: “For the one who stood before our God and accused believers night and day and night has been thrown out of heaven” (GNB). These are some of the Biblical realities.

Scripture declares and defines reality. The task of the church is also to declare and define it. Peter’s warning about Satan’s prowling around us reflects a reality. That Satan is the author of the disunity in the PCC also reflects a reality. He has been given permission to tempt and sift each one of us. His chief weapon is deception – half truth. Deception bends our perception of reality. And so, in the Garden, “this father of lies” (John 8:44) deceived Eve so slyly by tempting her to think she did not have to obey God’s words when he murmured, “Did God really say…?” Merrill Unger writes, “Since truth unites and error divides, Satanic strategy launches its most fearful assaults on the Word of truth, the Holy Scriptures.” (Biblical Demonology, p. 174*). The reality is that the fight in the PCC is over Scripture. If deception is the weapon of our enemy, then truth becomes, as well as fervent prayer, our chief weapon. But what has happened to the concept of truth? Again, it has become the first casualty of war. “The death of truth has been the single greatest casualty of our time.” (Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver, p.104) Our society has been deceived into denying the possibility of truth.

There is a war on in the church over God’s Word and, as in the MI6 ad, there is also a grave warning embedded in the back page of our Bibles, “…to not add to… or take away anything from the prophetic words of this book…” (Revelation 22:18-19). Can such a clear warning be ignored and not put the relationship at risk? Therefore we must all pray across what presently divides us in the PCC – that not one of us be deceived by the enemy into “cutting and pasting” God’s Word!

* This exhaustive survey written in 1963 remains a standard reference work.