The Old Paths

The Old Paths

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

In almost every major war preceding World War I, men met face-to-face on the battlefield. The weapons used by soldiers had not changed much in thousands of years, so engagement distances were limited to 100 or so meters at most. By World War I, the bolt-action rifle had been perfected, machine guns were everywhere, some artillery pieces had a range of 80 miles, people fought in the skies for the first time, and some soldiers even had portable machine guns.

Commanding officers didn’t care, though. Soldiers always charged into battle; that was a thing. This was how they had fought for thousands of years, so why change now? They threw soldiers’ lives away over and over again, each charge being erased by the enormous volume of bullets. Why hadn’t they changed tactics after the first couple of failed charges? 9.7 million soldiers died in World War I (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/reperes112018.pdf). A hefty percentage of them would have survived if the commanding officers had just changed tactics.

Christianity is warfare (Eph 6.12; II Cor 10.3-6; II Tim 2.3ff). We fight our own nature, the influence of evil, and the involvement of the enemy (satan). Christianity is also a rescue operation – we’re trying to save people! Just as with any war, the enemy is always trying to stay one step ahead. Ours is the most advanced threat anyone could face! No stakes are higher, no enemy more powerful, and he’s primarily concerned with causing as much damage as possible. He knows he’s doomed (cf Matt 8.29), which makes him an enemy with nothing to lose. We KNOW he’s used evolving tactics over the millennia.

The message Jesus gave us is timeless and can never be changed. The way Jesus wants his church to operate is timeless. Doctrine cannot be changed. But this gospel is not confined by an era or aesthetic. The message is relevant across time, culture, and understanding. If we confine Christianity to a form that hasn’t been in common use for a long time, do we not demonstrate a lack of faith in his timeless message? Worse yet, it would mean our rescue operation is several steps behind the enemy’s offensive.

We have the most powerful entity as our ally, but this mission is ours. What God wants to accomplish will be accomplished. Since this mission is ours, we must execute it as effectively as possible! How? The message is timeless, so it works in any culture and time. Match it to our culture and time in every way that doesn’t compromise (I Cor 9.19-23), and let God’s power do the rest.

“Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting powers of darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6.12).

via National WWI Museum and Memorial.
“I’m Armed”

“I’m Armed”

Neal Pollard

God’s people around our nation are praying for our brethren at the West Freeway church of Christ outside Fort Worth, Texas. Most congregations I know have long since devised church security solutions, including security cameras, personnel to watch at entrances, and procedures for handling potential threats. In likely every congregation, there are a number of individuals both with concealed and visible firearms. Though this is a politically divisive issue, the fact that a gunman disrupted the most sacred moment of worship makes this preeminently relevant. You likely feel very strongly about this matter, regardless of where you stand on it.

Whatever your position on the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, did you know that the Bible commands us to be armed? Consider what the Holy Spirit through various writers has to say regarding something that transcends time and earth. Wherever we go, we must not be without these weapons for our spiritual warfare.

–“Be armed with the purpose of suffering” (1 Peter 4:1). This word means to take up arms. It is in the context of suffering righteously for Christ’s sake. In a world filled with people who are aimless, Christians have the ultimate purpose. In fulfilling that purpose, we will be opposed, threatened, and tempted to quit. Only by preparing ourselves for the Christ-life will we survive whoever or whatever attempts to destroy our faith.

–“Be armed with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). Paul did not want Corinth to receive the grace of God in vain. That is, He wanted the sacrifice of Jesus and the hope of heaven to benefit these Christians. Part of that required them to live lives which didn’t discredit their ministry (3) and commended themselves as servants of God (4). One of several ways they could do that was by being armed with the weapons of righteousness. What are these? Well, Paul will address that in 2 Corinthians 10:1ff as well as in his writing to the church at Ephesus (6:10ff). In simplest terms, righteousness itself is a powerful weapon. We are made right (5:21) to do right (6:7). In a world of darkness, light stands out. In a world going wrong, doing right and being right is powerful!

–“Be armed with divinely powerful weapons for the destruction of fortresses … against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Paul contrasts the flesh and spirit, identifying this as the ultimate battlefield. How do you win against such frightening foes and forces? Arm yourself with the only weapon that is divine and destructive. What it destroys is what stands against God. Don’t think fleshly (or bodily). This goes beyond that.

I fear that the gun rights-gun control debate will rage on in the culture of politics and the politics of culture. But, do not be distracted! There is an eternal war going on which requires every one of us to be equipped. Do not dare be unarmed for that fight!

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Giving Up Ground To the Enemy

Giving Up Ground To the Enemy

Neal Pollard

On at least three fronts, there are major battles occurring—ISIS and the existing governments in a handful of Middle Eastern countries, Israel and the Palestinians, and Ukraine and Russian-led rebels. In each of these conflicts, both sides are trying to gain ground or at least hold onto what they already have. They are trying not only to win the actual battles they are fighting, but they also seek to win the battle of public opinion.  With the money and lives invested, neither side in any of the conflicts can bear the thought of losing.

While “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12) and “we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3), we face a deadly adversary (1 Pet. 5:8).  He is the enemy, though he has a great many who have “been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:26). They are fighting his battles for him of their own free will (Js. 1:13-15), and they are more than willing to engage those of us who would steadfastly resist him (1 Pet. 5:9).

In this media age, the devil’s soldiers have used means previous generations did not have at their disposal to spread his ideas across the nation and all over the globe.  But because there have been people willing to battle him, he has not gained ground all at once. The moral erosion has happened slowly over time, attitudes about foul language, alcohol, modesty, sex outside of marriage and living together, adultery, homosexuality, and much more.  Doctrinal erosion also occurs subtly and gradually, but denominationalism has given way to modernism, post-modernism, and emergent theologies.  The Lord’s church is impacted by assaults on its distinctiveness, and elderships, pulpits, classrooms, and memberships can gradually lose their militancy, courage, and resolve to stand up for God’s revealed will.  It is easy to be cowered by charges of extremism, hatred, or sanctimoniousness, especially when there are examples of such to be found.

Yet, we cannot forget that we are in a battle.  God needs us to stand in the gap and continue fighting for His truth, even in the face of opposition and resistance.  Paul reminds us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4). The weapons in our left and right hands is righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7).  We press on in spiritual armor (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 6:11ff).  When each of us as soldiers in the Lord’s Army arrive at the time when we must lay down our armor, may it be said that we gained ground and served the Lord’s cause successfully. May it never be that we gave up ground to the enemy!