In these annual “state of the church” messages, we sometimes address our local circumstances here in Christ Church. At other times the message has addressed our national condition. This year, it is (I believe) necessary to do both together as the situations and circumstances are unusually intertwined.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty and turmoil, and in such times, men turn naturally to their gods. In the case of many Americans, jack-secularists all, they have resorted to long-neglected temples, only to find that their gods have all toppled over like Dagon. They are therefore governed by fear and anger, both right and left. As Christians, we are not in their position, as we are servants of the God who cannot topple, and so whatever we do, we must not in any way copy or imitate the devotees of the wobbly gods.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).
Summary of the Text
Although we have been born again, although we are now new creatures in Christ, and although we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, we nevertheless still have physical bodies that we walk around in. We remain embodied beings. Look at your hands. They are material, solid. But though we walk around in the flesh, we do not conduct our warfare that way. We wage war, but we do not wage war according to the flesh (v. 3). There is a stark difference between having a body and living in accordance with the flesh. The former does not necessitate the latter. They are not interchangeable.
Paul says that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but how he then contrasts this is revelatory. His first comparison is not carnal over against spiritual, but rather carnal over against mighty (v. 4). Carnal weapons are not strong enough to do what needs to be done, which is to cast down imaginations and every lofty, proud thing, and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (v. 5). In order for modern rioters to topple statues of generals from a century or two ago, all they need are some cables and a winch. In order to topple principalities and powers, you need something more. Far more, much greater.
So what Paul has in mind here is not the kind of echo chamber rhetoric that you see on hyper-partisan political web sites. “Watch so-and-so drop a bomb on old what’s-his-face. Click here to watch Sen. Taxit own the libs!” Paul is not talking about casting down devilish imaginations in his head. This outlook is not the daydreaming of the saints. He is talking about actually bringing the intellectual world to heel, bringing them to an actual obedience to the Lord Jesus. So we are not trying to win the applause of a tiny fawning claque, or the approval of a small mystery religion, or the blessing of our own choir.
Preparing for One Kind of Conflict
Now in the year 2020, Americans bought a record-high 17 million guns. This was on top of all the guns we already owned, which is somewhere between 350 and 400 million, taking care to subtract my 4. For every one hundred Americans, there are about 120 guns. And if you go out there in order to buy some 9mm ammo, good luck. The shelves reserved for 9mm ammo look like the shelves for milk and bread in a socialist country.
I only bring this up to note two things. The first is to point to the level of uncertainty in the general population. They should be ripe for hearing a sure word from the church—a word of traction for slippery times. We should make a point of speaking that word. Why isn’t the church at large speaking a certain word for such uncertain times?
After the sack of Rome in the early fifth century, there was a great deal of uncertainty. And as with the Roman Christians, there has been some confusion in our allegiances. Addressing that confusion is why Augustine sought to encourage them with his magisterial City of God. We need to be reminded in a similar way. Now of course God assigns us to live in the status quo, but He also requires us not to be spiritually invested in the status quo.
The second reason is to use it for an illustration—simply to point out that unfortunately the sons of this world are shrewder than the children of light (Luke 16:8). The worldlings do look at their resources, and they make a point to stock up on whatever those resources are. They at least know they are supposed to do something. But many Christians don’t look at their resources, don’t anticipate the costs of our spiritual warfare, and so they don’t stock up on anything.
A Christian Worldview Ammo Box
If you are concerned about the state of our nation, you ought to be. If that concern has affected you to the point of wanting to prepare yourself in order to protect your family spiritually, then you are thinking wisely. So what can you do? What kind of spiritual 9MM ammo can you stockpile? What kinds of things should you concentrate on? We don’t know what is going to happen in 2021, but I do know that if you start laying up the following things—and by this I mean dedicating yourself to them—you will be far better prepared for whatever comes, regardless of what comes.
• Worship—“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve [worship] God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). This is the central thing. Always the central thing. Worship God. Appear before Him, assemble with your family before Him every Lord’s Day.
• Honesty about sin—“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). If you are not right with God, you will have real troubles in the course of all the larger and also real troubles. Be brutally honest with yourself here. Imagine your heart as the living room where the Holy Spirit of God has come to dwell. And then imagine your thought life as you acting the part of a decorator, walking around in that room hanging pictures on the wall for Him to dwell with. One picture we can call snapping at the kids. We call this one porn. And here is the sidelong envious glance.
• Marriage—“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Eccl. 9:9). In other words, love your wife with holy abandon. Love her like you don’t care what the egalitarians think.
• Music—“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22:3). All the psalms are the arsenal and hymnal of God. We are going into battle, and the battle requires a soundtrack. Make the psalms the soundtrack of your warfare. This means learning them. Get the app. Join the choir. The psalms will be the vocabulary of the real resistance.
• Hospitality/community—“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:12–13). Notice how the fact of tribulation does not negate the need for hospitality. It is an ongoing tribulation, the kind that requires patience, and in this context, we are still to be given to hospitality. There will be a temptation to hole up, and it is a temptation. When preppers become loners, the problem is that they are not really prepping in any way that matters. You need to be a closely-knit people, and that means you need to know what the insides of one another’s homes look like.
• Christian Education—“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This is a critical component of what we are up to for decades now. It was the neglect of this that has been one of the driving engines of our culture’s current trials. Whenever you see a grown-up holding a placard with some nonsense on it, know that it is pretty likely he likely graduated from some godforsaken school.
• Debt-free—“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7; cf. Rom. 13:8). Your central encumbrance should be the encumbrance of love. Do not take this as the counsels of perfectionism, but do seek to minimize the handles that others might grab in order to steer or manipulate you.
• Joviality, cheerfulness, laughter—“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Our weapons are not carnal, but being joyful, are mighty. We are to fight, but not like thugs and churls. We are to fight, but know that if this is the case, it is a fight we were born for. So stop feeling sorry for your grandchildren. Why would we bring up a generation of dragon fighters, and then wish for no dragons? And yes, this is a version of “cheer up, it is far more dangerous than you think.”
• Family dinners/sabbath—“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7). Church is where your instruction is packed for you. The family table is where it is unpacked. Make sure you dedicate the necessary time for the unpacking.
• Study/read—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). First, read the Word. If you have a Bible reading regimen that is more rigorous than the Bible Reading Challenge, then carry on. But if you are the kind of Christian whose Bible reading is limited to a plaque of the 23rd Psalm that you have in your entryway, then dust off your Bible and get with the program. Second, read a book. Get informed. Stay informed. Read books, which is far better for your emotional equilibrium than chasing rumors on the Internet.
• Work—“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13). In context, this is talking about the work of ministry, but it is a principle that all the people are to imitate in their ministers. Dedicate yourself to things that matter, and let your metric for this be the Scriptures, and not the soft feminism of contemporary evangelicalism.
• Stories—“Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.” (Joel 1:3). Joel is talking here about a cautionary tale, but there are great, inspirational tales as well. All the stories. Tell all the stories. And while you are at it, live out some stories that will be worth the telling.
And you know there is far more than this. The world is a big place. But there is certainly not less than this. And the first item—worship of the Father, in the name of Christ, in the power of the Spirit—is the box that will hold all these bullets together. It is the safe where you keep them.