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Friendly Fire

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(9/15) On the evening of May 2nd, 1863, General Thomas Jackson and his staff were returning to their camp after dark following a victory over Union Forces in Va. When a N.C. infantry regiment mistook them for Union Calvary and opened fire. Jackson was wounded and several of his staff were killed. His arm had to be amputated and unknown to the Drs. Pneumonia set in and 8 days later on May 10th, 1863, one of the greatest Military leaders and strategists, General Thomas Stonewall Jackson died.

In June of 2002, Professional football player Pat Tillman along with his brother Kevin, wanting to serve their country in the fight against terrorism, joined the U.S. Army and wanted to be Rangers. Deployed first to Iraq and later Pat Tillman was re-deployed to Afghanistan. On April 22nd, 2004, Pat Tillman and several Afghans were killed when another American unit mistook Tillmanís unit as enemy combatants and opened fire.

Stonewall Jackson and Pat Tillman are just two examples of a tragedy of war that occurs too often known as, "Friendly Fire." In brief, Friendly Fire is when soldiers, and allies engaged in fighting the same enemy mistake each other for the enemy and open fire on each other and casualties result.

This tragedy of war is not confined however to combat. It occurs far too often in other places like in families and in churches. By virtue of our faith in Jesus we become soldiers in an army, and as allies, we join in a war against evil. Together we are to fight against the one who has usurped Godís authority over this world (1 John 5:19 says, "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one," cp. Eph. 2:1-3). At stake are the souls of the inhabitants of the world; from your children, to your family, to your neighbors, to the farthest regions of the world. It is a war of light against darkness, truth against errors and lies, holiness against un-holiness, heaven against hell, love against selfishness, Christ against the devil. I donít know who originally said it, but I know that it is true, "The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battlefield." Much like the football games that will take place today as I told you last week and in Fridayís email. "like each team that takes to the football field today. Forty to fifty men on each team of different sizes, different shapes, different colors, different salaries, different skills, different assignments, yet all have the same goal of working together as a team to advance to the Super Bowl. The same is true of the Church, our unity is to be based on our purposes and our common faith in Jesus Christ."

We have an adversary, his name is Satan. By the way, the name, Satan, means adversary (cp. 1 Peter 5:8-9; Eph. 6:10ff and many more). Satanís mission is to destroy. His original goal was to be #1. He was created, according to Ezekiel, as #2. He was heavenís chief angel; the most beautiful, powerful, talented angel in creation. He was #2 in Heaven. But who wants to be #2? The great conductor, Leonard Bernstein was once asked, "what was the most difficult instrument to play?" His response was, "second fiddle." Persuading 1/3 of heavenís angels to rebel against their creator, a war began. The earth and its inhabitants were the prize. Now listen, whatever the Lord says is good and whatever the Lord is committed to building, Satan, the adversary is committed to destroying. Jesus our Lord is committed to building His church. Satan is just as committed to destroying it. Cp. The Church where I pastured in the 80ís and 90ís, before me someone threw a hymn book at the pastor. Charles Stanley tells of his experience when he came to 1st Baptist Church Atlanta, when several hundred people opposed him coming to be their pastor and someone threw a Bible at him. Chuck Swindoll tells in his book, The Church Awakening, that recently he became so discouraged after 50 years of ministry, that lying in bed and crying, he told his wife, "I quit. I am going in tomorrow and giving my resignation," and like a wise wife she said, Ďno you are not." Discouragement, doubt, depression, and more are tools Satan uses to destroy what Jesus is determined to build. Let me tell you how he does it.

ē By convincing us that the way of the world is equal to or better than the way of the Bible.

ē By causing us to focus on what we want more than what God wants

ē By convincing us that our traditions are equal to Godís will

ē By causing us to doubt Godís Word

ē By causing us to think that our fellow-soldiers are the enemy and we open fire

Now there are many other ways, like direct assaults and persecution from a world where Satan dominates. But one of his favorite means is to infiltrate the minds of the people in the pews. The result then is that good people listen to wrong voices or the wrong wisdom (repeat that). Let me show you two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New.

ē 1 Chronicles 21:1; David Ė against advice, against God, he listened to the voice of Satan, perhaps to elevate his pride, I donít know.

ē Matthew 16:23; Peter had his own idea of how to do the Lordís business. But our Lord made it clear that Peter, who had just listened to the voice of God in verses 16-17 was now listening to the wrong voice.

James, the Lordís brother, picks up on this in his short epistle. Turn with me to James 1:

ē Trials need Godís Wisdom (1:1-8)

ē Temptations need to be dealt with Godís way or death will result (1:12-27)

ē Chapter 2 is about living out the new Commandment Ė Loving as Jesus loves us. James calls it the Royal law in 2:8

ē Chapters 3-4 are about division in the church

ē 3:1-12 is about the power of our words. We can use words to teach truth and build each other up, or we can use words to destroy. Thatís why James warns us to not be overly anxious to teach. Teachers have power in words and therefore are held to a higher accountability.

ē 3:13-18 is about discerning where your wisdom is coming from.

ē 4:1-12 is about resolving conflict in the church

The folks that James was writing to were experiencing the casualties of friendly fire. A war of words had begun (4:1-4). Sides were being chosen. Some were listening to the wrong voices, and getting their wisdom, not from God, but from 1 or 3 other sources (3:13ff):

1. earthly Ė that is, it is of this world which often is opposed to God (1 Cor. 1-4)

2. sensual Ė that is, it is of your own feelings, desires, wants, emotions, etc. "I feelÖ"

3. demonic Ė that is, its origin is of Satan.

How can I tell if I am listening to the wrong voices? James tells us that there are 7 characteristics of demonic or worldly wisdom.

1. Am I verbally assaulting others in my church? (3:8-11)

2. Look at 3:14; Is there envy? Am I angry that someone else is now doing what I once did? Am I angry that someone else is now receiving the attention I once received?

3. Am I self-seeking? Is getting my way or our way, or is getting ahead my ambition, no matter what the costs? (Like the apostles wanting to be #1)

4. Is Confusion and evil resulting? (v. 16)

5. Are we warring and fighting with each other, murdering in our minds and words (4:1)?

6. Is what I am proposing or fighting for coming from what I want or clearly what The Bible says God wants (4:1b-3)?

7. My position and what I fighting for, is it from what everyone else is doing and what the world says is best or again does this come directly from Godís word? (4:4-5)

Notice verse 7 how James reminds us just as Peter and Paul do and even our Lord Jesus that we must resist Satan and not destroy each other.

If these 7 characteristics exist, there is a better than good chance we are listening to the wrong voices. Would you agree with this or not? However:

We know THIS IS Godís will or that it is from above or Godly wisdom and therefore right if what results are (3:17-18):

1. Purity Ė no trace of evil, or corruption. We donít have to put others down to build ourselves up. There is no hidden agenda

2. Peace Ė promoting harmony in the church and allowing you to sleep at night.

3. Gentle ĖThis word means forbearing, kind, respecting the feelings of others.

4. Willing to Yield Ė Like Paul says in Phil. 2:1-5 and 1 Cor. 13. This seeks that others receive recognition and have their needs meet above my own. Our motives are to bless others because that is what Jesus did. This speaks of cooperation and a willingness to learn from others.

5. Full of Mercy and Good Fruits. This is compassion and the desire to reach out to those who disagree and to seek the best for them, especially in their needs. This is to not give people what they deserve but rather what they need.

6. Without Partiality Ė this phrase simply means not divisive. Godís wisdom is always to bring unity as our Lord prayed for in John 17 and Paul spoke of in Ephesians 4. It also speaks of having firm resolve and not wavering especially for convenience.

7. Without Hypocrisy Ė We donít have to wear masks or pretend with each other. It is to be Free of pretense.

If these 7 traits are not evident in what we are doing, there is a good chance this is not Godís wisdom nor is it His voice that we are listening to. Would you agree with this statement or not? If you agree would you say, "Amen?"

Chapter 4 begins by talking about church conflicts. These are not personal internal struggles but struggles in Church, when people want their own way, or the way of the world over Godís way. The result is spiritual adultery. It shows that we love the world and ourselves more than we love God. We position ourselves with His enemies rather than with His family and allies. Yet God longs for us, He yearns for us and He is anxious to break open a bottle of Grace and pour it over us (Vv.5-6). Then James gives us 7 things to do that will lead us back to the right track and result in the unity and place that God wants us to be. So here we go.

1. Submit to God (v.7a). This word submit fits our analogy because it is as we have been stating in 1st Peter, a military term. It means to place oneís self under in rank. It means to pledge to God that whatever He says, we will do; Exclamation Point! Period. As Steven Curtis Chapman says, "God is God and I am not." I pledge to God my allegiance, my fortune, my obedience, my life." Can you say that right now? Lord, you are Lord, and God, and I place myself under your command right now. My Life is completely yours.

2. Resist the Devil (v.7b). This is also a military term meaning to stand strong against. Peter uses a similar term in 1st Peter 5:8-9. You see, Satan is the real enemy. People are not. Paul says this in Ephesians 6. We arenít wrestling with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers who just happen to work through people who are not resisting the devil but are listening to his subtle deceits just as Eve did and David did and Peter did. And folks, there is no middle ground. You either are with God or you are with the Devil. Our Lord Jesus said this. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters" (Luke 11:23). So, how do we submit to God and Resist the devil so that he flees from us? By consciously doing these next 5 things.

3. Draw Near to God and He will draw near to you (v.8a) Drawing near to God is a theme of the book of Hebrews. Heb. 4:16; 7:19, 10:19-22. You see when we listen to the voices of this world, or our own desires, or the devilís, we are distancing ourselves from God. Drawing near means to pursue communion or intimacy with God. How do we do that?

a. by expressing sincere worship

b. by prayer. Prayer is the place to begin. Individual prayer is essential and so is corporate prayer. To kneel with your family, your allies in the struggle against the real enemy. Will you meet me here at the alter to pray for each other and against our real enemy when this service concludes? Will you join me to pray on Wed.s evenings for our church and our pursuit of our 3 primary objectives?

c. By reading and studying His word. You see James has told us that God wants to give us wisdom. Solomon tells us that this wisdom comes from Godís mouth. Jesus asked that we be set apart by His truth and His word is truth. Peter says that we should desire the sincere milk of Godís word so we can grow. Paul told Timothy that no matter what happens, stay in the word, it is Godís word and it is profitable and he should use it to teach, preach, warn etc. because the days are coming when people wonít want to hear Godís word, but will pursue teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4). The issues that are dividing us are all addressed in the Bible. Here is my encouragement and challenge. Letís use Wed.s evenings to systematically study the issues together. I could teach you, or our D.O.M. Joel Rainey could teach you. Or Dr. Lee or a member of His staff could teach us. A systematic study is to take a topic and trace it through the Bible. What does the Bible say though out about:

ē Church Government

ē A Pastorís role

ē A Deaconís role

ē A Womenís role in church

ē Faith and Giving

The Lord will use His word to guide us. Our obedience will be our submission, and we will walk close with Him. Will you commit to studying these issues with me in a systematic fashion and as allies, not as enemies we will draw close to God together? We can start Weds. or I would be glad to use the Sunday School hour and for a while do one class for all interested at the church. Will you join me? Remember there is no middle ground, we are either going to walk with Jesus or against Him. Letís draw near together.

4. Letís cleanse our hands and purify our hearts (v.8b). This is a hard one because it means agreeing with God that I have been listening to the wrong voices and as a result I have some or all of those first 7 things. I have been against God, slandering others, envious self seeking, and nothing good is resulting. There is good news, Grace is waiting and available. There is 1st John 1:9. Do you want to boot Satanís butt out the door? Nothing does that faster than true repentance and cleansing in the blood of Jesus. Will you be honest to God and repent?

5. Lament, Mourn and Weep (v.9). The presence and consequences of sin should break our hearts as it did our Lordís when he weep uncontrollably over Jerusalem, and at the grave of Lararus. Look at the horrible results when we choose what we want over what God wants. Ask Eve, Esau, David, or Peter.

6. Humble Yourselves (v.10) in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. To humble oneís self is to make oneís self low. James is summarizing what Paul said in Phil. 2:1-11. This church isnít about what I want, or our traditions, it is about what God wants and as a result what is best for others in accordance with Godís word. Peter will also talk about this 1 Peter 5. You see a mark of listening to the wrong voices is pride or exalting oneís self like the Apostles wanted to do in being first in Jesusí cabinet in the Kingdom. A mark of following Jesus and drawing near to God is humility and bowing low and considering others as more important than myself. Just like He did with Jesus, God will one day exalt the humble. Can you humble yourself today?

7. (last one) Determine to only speak well of your Church family (vv.11-12). They are not your enemy, they may be victims of the enemy as Edmond was in the Chronicles of Narnia, but hey are not your enemy. Jesus died for them, He loves them, and they reflect His image (3:9-10). Paul tells us in Eph. 4:29, that our words should only be building up and not tearing down. Do you know that there is a great big recording angel up there writing down every thing we say. I hope he doesnít cry when he writes what we say about each other.

My Brothers and Sisters, James tells us our problems, the results and how to get back on track. As one popular Christian song says, "This is where the healing begins. This is where the healing starts." To submit to God, and resist Satan, so that He flees, we have to draw near to God and each other. We must repent, and mourn over the results of sin in our church, we must pray together, we must study Godís word together and draw our conclusions from the Book, and nothing else. Humility is hard, but there will be no peace in your life or in this church until you do.

I am not going to the door this morning. Who will join hands in a circle up here and pray with me and walk through this process with me?

Maybe some of you really donít know Jesus as your Savior. Just as I am.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman