God's Kingdom at War
Rev. Phillips began by reading Revelation 12:7-12.
One of the metaphors that the Bible uses for the Christian life is that of warfare. Perhaps the most famous of these passages is Ephesians 6. In Rev. Phillips' second message he dealt with this passage in detail. But the groundwork in the first message was to discuss what the Bible says God's objective is in history, and then to look at the Biblical strategy to achieve that objective.
Does the Bible present to us a clearly defined objective? If so, it is important for Christians as soldiers in this war to know what the objective is. Otherwise we will not be working toward the proper result.
So what is God's objective? Evangelical Christians would largely answer "to save sinners." But according to the Bible that is not true. Others (Roman Catholics) apparently believe it is to erect great structures and earthly empires. But according to the Bible, the great objective of God is to display the perfections of His glory.
God wants to display the glory of His grace and the glory of His power. God displays the glory of His grace in the lives of redeemed people bound to Him in love. God displays the glory of His power in the judgment of the wicked. Knowing that this is God's objective should transform our lives and our role in the world.
Rev. Phillips cited many passages to support that this is truly God's objective in history. He began with Ephesians 1:3-6 where we see God's purpose is the praise of His glorious grace. In Southern Baptist circles it used to be popular to say that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. What was meant by this was to be focused on evangelism, which was the main thing. But that's not what Ephesians 1 says. It says that God's purpose, His main thing, is His glory.
This is further reiterated in Isaiah 66:15-24. In v.18 the redeemed see God's glory. Part of this is that in v.24 they gather and look upon the torment of the damned. This image is picked up by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:22-26 where the vessels of wrath are endured to show God's glory to the vessels of mercy.
What Then Is God's Strategy?
Rev. Phillips defined strategy as application of certain resources to meet a particular objective through certain means. What is the strategy of God in His war? The cross.
God's objective is that in history and at the end of history He displays his glory. His strategic methodololgy is cross bearing disciples. To be successful in war your strategy must undermine the power of your enemy. The cross is the one strategy for which Satan has no answer. Satan is the accuser. He tempts us, then accuses us for failing to resist the temptation. But the cross covers all our failures.
Think about how God has employed this strategy in the Scriptures. God told Abraham that He would send Abraham's descendents to Egypt to be slaves for 400 years. This is not our idea of the victorious Christian life. It would only be when they were weak on oppressed, when they could not deliver themselves, that God would send a redeemer to deliver them.
Therefore, God alone gets the credit for bringing them out of Egypt and destroying Pharoah and his army. God alone provides for them in the desert. God alone protects them from those that would kill them. God is glorified through the trials of His people.
Think about where Jerusalem is located. Unlike the other major cities of the ancient middle east, Jerusalem is not on a river. The city is between the powers of the north (Assyria/Babylon) and Egypt in the south. Every invasion goes through Israel. Then God tells them they cannot have chariots. Why? So that God can display His glory in delivering them.
Isaiah records two events where this happens. The first time he comes before Ahaz (Isaiah 7), who has made an alliance with Assyria. Rather than trust God to display His glory by delivering Judah, Ahaz acts out of self-preservation. He should not have allied himself with Assyria, but waited upon God's deliverance. Years later the Assyrians invade Judah. Ahaz successor Hezekiah has to make a similar choice, but he trusts in God. Because of this, God delivers the people from the Assyrians (Isaiah 37).
Where Have We Gone Wrong?
Because we do not know God's objective and strategy, we tend to embrace one of two erroneous views of the world. The first is that of Disneyland. The world should be a place where we can be safe and frolic and have fun. If we do not see the world this way, we tend to see it as a shopping mall, where everything is supposed to be available to us. With a little hard work anything we want should be within our reach.
The first represents a view of God's objective that is common among a the posperity gospel preachers. God wants you to have your best life now. The second is more of a fundamentalist approach that says if I try hard enough, God will bless me. This latter error is illustrated by the belief of Job's counselors. Since Job was suffering, he had to have committed a major sin.
Today, the church in America defines success by numbers. How many people are we bringing in the door. Therefore, we compromised the gospel to get more people in church. This approach has progressed from Hybels, to Warren, to Osteen. By the measure of success of numbers, this approach has been successful.
Numbers are not unimportant. Numbers represent people. But when we talk numbers, numbers of what? God's objective is not to simply fill a pew. God is looking for believers who will bear a cross to glorify Him. After all, God's objective is to display His glory. God can be glorified in a large church (think Spurgeon, Macarthur, Piper, Driscoll, etc.) but He can also be glorified in a small church. Whether large or small, what is significant is that we are proclaiming the gospel and looking to Christ.
So it is not about how large your church is. How successfully we can market Christianity. God's strategy is that through the suffering of your life as you pursue holiness God will display the glory of his grace. And as the gospel is preached and rejected He will glorify His power in the judgment of the wicked. So, do you wait on Him when you are discouraged or afflicted, or do you seek alliances with Assyria. Also, do you proclaim the gospel, knowing that to some it is the aroma of life, and to others a stench of death?