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I wrote an article not long ago entitled “Divide & Conquer”. In it I discussed how useful it could be to think of different life situations in the context of this military-oriented strategy. To strategically apply the concept in real life scenarios could increase our effectiveness in coping with real problems. You can explore that one for yourself here if you so desire: http://fatherspiritson.com/2014/05/divide-and-conquer/.
In this piece I want to think about what happens when this strategy is applied against us. When we are divided and unity is lacking in the Church, we know based on scripture that there is no hope for us to remain standing. (V*1). We need to recognize that being unified under God’s hand together, in the structure that He has ordered, with everyone respecting each other’s roles is of paramount importance. These verses in Mark do not mince words, and as a result of this warning we should be vigilant. We should see how this applies to the Church. That way we can prepare ourselves for the future and make unity a higher priority.
In order to avoid a divided kingdom we need to see what causes a divided kingdom, and I believe we can begin to unravel the answer from Galatians 5:16-26. (V*2). This set of verses revolves around walking in the Holy Spirit. The flesh is against the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh. When we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, we aren’t under the law because the consequences of sin and death won’t have to be dealt with when we walk in freedom. If we walk in the flesh on the other hand we yield to its deadly desires, and wage death. (V*3) We will observe a couple of examples of works of the flesh that lead to a kingdom divided against itself as Mark 3 points out.
The list of fleshly works begins in verse 19 and continues into verse 21. The first two are adultery and fornication. If any of us has sex with another man’s wife, or a woman with another woman’s husband, we are legally committing adultery. If we look closely at the words of Jesus Christ however, we observe that even if we look at a woman “to lust after her” we have already committed adultery in our hearts. (V*4). This causes division in the lives of others for obvious reasons. We cannot expect to have sexual relations reserved for marriage outside of it, particularly with someone who is already married, without seeing some drastic division. If that husband or wife is alerted to that person’s misconduct, that person’s life may even be jeopardized on a physical level by the spouse in question. Who is to say that the husband or the wife will not be extremely upset, but furthermore possibly even hurt them in their rage? (V*5). These verses in Proverbs present a clear picture of a variety of consequences that the adulterers face. One’s own soul is destroyed, dishonor is obtained, and physical wounds are opened the door to. A husband’s vengeance (or in other cases perhaps a woman’s vengeance) “will not spare in the day of vengeance”. In other words when they are seeking their revenge in fury, they will not be easily forgiving, and quite possibly could endanger the adulterer’s life.
Apart from sinning against one’s own soul we haven’t even considered the eternal and other Spiritual ramifications of this behavior. It also goes without saying that if the parties in question were once friends, or even acquaintances, that those parties trusts have been completely compromised. That small kingdom has been divided against itself if you would, nobody wins. The likelihood of restoration of trust and continued friendship has likely hit rock bottom. There are probably not many cases where such repairs are sought, and even fewer where success was eventually obtained. When it is I am sure it’s a long, painful process. It’s hard enough for a couple to fight for their marriage back after a bout with something as serious as infidelity. To imagine a scenario where the other parties involved still remain at peace with one another, they really need to reach a place of true forgiveness. Of course truly forgiving someone doesn’t mean you allow them an opportunity to wrong you again. You can forgive that person and it is still totally understandable if you’d wish not to remain close friends. Who wants to open a foothold for this kind of instance to potentially reoccur? Even if the grudges are not dwelled on, and they’ve moved on from the event, there’s no reason to re-open the foothold that was already once established. It just wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense on a practical level unless this person was a close family member. Even then it would still be prudent to create barriers to such an event reoccuring. Simple actions like being present when this family member is in the vicinity of your spouse, or even avoiding family gatherings where this person is in attendance if need be.
Uncleanness is a broad term, but if we think about perverse language, we can see that to some degree it could cause division. Many people are made uncomfortable or don’t view such language as constructive. Someone who isn’t particularly fond of unwholesome talk, which should be all of us who call ourselves Christian, would do themselves a service to minimize their exposure to it. Of course we are in the world, but not of the world. As believers we know that if we were to avoid it entirely we’d probably have to wrap ourselves in a bubble and stay indoors. In our day-to-day interactions though, we can choose what friends we spend the bulk of our time with. We can be careful that negative influences don’t serve to hinder our walk with Christ. If you’re in a situation where you’re being negatively influenced, it’s only a matter of time before your positive influence is nullified and you have compromised yourself. If you have a positive influence, while simultaneously by God’s grace have not allowed the surrounding environment to hinder your walk, then you have the opportunity to be a light in the dark. In order to remain a light in the dark, and continue to shine brightly, you’ll need to ensure that you’re feeding yourself the Word continuously. (V*6).
With continuous prayer in our minds we pursue it only to the point where we can remain bright. We cannot expect to endure these tumultuous environments of the world without being influenced. Even subtle influences can add up, so we need to distance ourselves enough from them regularly so that we ourselves don’t grow calloused, apathetic, or hardened in heart or conscience. If it does occur, we can be certain that we weren’t prepared to cope with it, and we desperately need to extricate ourselves from the toxic environment in question. It’s true that Jesus Christ was able to spend time with sinners and bless them greatly. That doesn’t mean that we can always do the same. We need to tread with serious caution, and recognize what our weaknesses are to avoid trouble. If I had trouble with alcoholism, I wouldn’t hang out at a bar trying to evangelize. It just wouldn’t make sense logically, as I would be exposing myself to one of my biggest weaknesses. I would be in one of the environments I would best off avoid, and any positive influence I could have might even be wiped away by the negative example I might set if I was to partake in drunkenness or carrousing. (V*7).
Giving in to our surroundings may cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. It can weaken our testimony as we’re not obeying God’s commands, and may cause divisiveness within the Kingdom of God as a result. It’s really a no win scenario, so we need to be firm in the faith. We need to wear the full armor of God, and stand firmly against the schemes of the devil. (V*8). God has given us a tremendous amount of provisions in order to help in obeying Him. We should take advantage of each and every one of them. The lead of the Holy Spirit and the Full Armor of God are pivotal and irreplaceable components of these provisions. Continuous prayer and the grace of God [unmerited favor] are also integral components of His provisions that we cannot get by without.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 sugarcoats nothing, these are all clearly behaviors that we need to avoid like the plague and filth they are. There’s no need to rationalize ungodly behavior, we need to take this warning seriously as believers. We’re called to a higher standard, and while imperfect we can still rely on God to help us avoid these shortcomings. There’s no other way, and God would have no other way, other than for us to rely on Him. The minute we think we have it all figured out on our own is a minute where we’re closer to sin, and as a byproduct closer to dividing the Kingdom’s unity. We’ve been justified by Jesus Christ, He has forgiven us of our sins if we’ve sought it in faith and humility. This humility doesn’t stop at the moment we’ve been forgiven. We need to submit ourselves to God to resist the devil’s schemes, and to delight God as His children. (V*9). We draw nearer to God as He draws nearer to us by submitting to Him. Submitting all areas to Him, whether convenient or inconvenient, easy or difficult, short-term or long-term. All we have, what we are capable of doing, what we have done, what we can do, what we will do – whether we know it or not it is His. So if we willingly yield it all to Him, and honor Him with it as He deserves, we open the door for Him to cleanse us. He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness if we would confess our sins. (V*10).
Let us not be double-minded both yielding to the flesh and following the Holy Spirit back and forth. Such behavior is lukewarm, and in seasons of habitual sin I have fallen short myself to such patterns. Instead we need to starve the flesh, follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, and make it perfectly clear both in us and through us that we’re on fire for God. Let there be no doubt who we serve, and let our example both in the sight of man and in the most secret parts of our lives reflect that we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Remember that God is everywhere and He sees everything. Even when we fall short we’d be doubly foolish to think that such actions weren’t perfectly understood and seen by God. That should ignite a desire in us to obey Him, knowing that we grieve the Holy Spirit when we deliberately sin against Him. This is a key part of maintaining unity in the Kingdom of God, and ensuring that we remain led by the Holy Spirit. Also being certain to let go of any grudges or contentions, forgiving those who have wronged us. We know that God forgave the worst sin in us, who are we to withhold the same forgiveness from our brothers and sisters in Christ? We are commanded to love even our enemies, how can we hope to do that if we cannot even adequately love our friends at times? (V*11).
We, being imperfect, must continually rely on the lead of the Holy Spirit and starve our flesh, in order to avoid giving in to our surroundings. If we are to stand firm in edifying the Church, as well as the non-believers who need to hear the Gospel and are thirsty for the truth, we need to repent of our sins. This encourages unity within the Church, while also making it clear that non-believers are welcome to receive the Gospel as God prompts them to in their hearts. We need to distance our mouths from perverse speech, and disentangle ourselves by God’s grace from the tangling mess of ungodly influences in our lives. Whether those be media, people, circumstances, or environments. Ask God to provide a way of escape, and in His time to provide a means to disentangle ourselves from those things that tie us down to old habits. Old habits that take us dangerously close to stepping into the old man, and reinforce bad behavior. We need to remember that we are a new creation having stepped fully into the new man, in need of focusing our sights on the things above that God would have us. (V*12).
In order to be ambassadors of Christ we need to be reconciled to God. To be reconciled to God we must submit to Him in all areas big and small. To submit to Him we need to humble ourselves and repent of sin, turning away from giving in to the insatiable appetites of the flesh. To turn away from the appetites of the flesh, we need to rely on God and the lead of the Holy Spirit. Continuously we must pray without ceasing, and more specifically ask for the strength, discretion, prudence, and wisdom to execute His will. We need to be armed with patience for each season, and maximize what we can now, for the glory of God. Not waiting for tomorrow, for not even one more day is promised. We don’t know what a day could bring. (V*13). We operate under the assumption that we’ll be here tomorrow, but we need to live today as if it were all we had. That way we would redeem the time for God, not allowing ourselves to become distracted by the patterns of the world. (V*14 & V*15). We don’t want to succeed at something that God didn’t call us to succeed in, we want to prayerfully seek what God wants us to do and focus on that. If we succeed at something other than our true calling, we only serve to divide the Kingdom further, although it may be in a more subtle manner. The world might applaude our success, but the only approval that counts at the end of the day is God’s. Don’t rest your satisfaction in the applause of man, nor allow the criticism of man to hit you too harshly. Rather focus on the will of God, and let those who would praise or criticize your work do so at their discretion. Likewise don’t dismiss the heartfelt rebuke or constructive criticism of loving brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who have your best interests at heart, and provide you with meaningful lessons. (V*16). Better to hear criticism from a true friend than to be flattered by your enemies.
Giving in to sin is never the optimal choice, it is always inferior to choosing to obey God in faith. It doesn’t matter if the temptation appears insurmountable or painful, God will provide us a way of escape so that we may obey Him. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we could bear. (V*17). Let us remember that our sin also has consequences beyond us personally. We also impact our loved ones around us a great deal. We have more than enough reasons to obey God simply by acknowleding His sovereignty, fearing Him in reverence, and praying that God would give us the ability to see sin as He sees it. When we understand how depraved we are, and how abominable sin is in His sight, we should be compelled to turn away from it. There’s no greater reason for repentance. Knowing that we are destroying unity in a portion of God’s Kingdom or risking such severe consequences should also serve as more reasons for us to avoid sin at all costs. (V*18). God views sin as a serious offense, and as His children we should too. Let His word convict us, so that we may not be disqualified in running the race as believers in Jesus Christ. Knowing full well that the present sacrifices of this world pale in comparison to the rewards that we will experience in Heaven. (V*19 & V*20).
V*1- “24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.” Mark 3:24-27 (NKJV).
V*2- “16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:16-26 (NKJV).
V*3- “23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NKJV).
V*4- 27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old,[a] ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV).
V*5- “32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy is a husband’s fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” Proverbs 6:32-34 (NKJV).
V*6- 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (NKJV).
V*7- “9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NKJV).
V*8- “10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV).
V*9- 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 (NKJV).
V*10- 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV).
V*11- 25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[a] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[b] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:25-32 (NKJV).
V*12- “12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:12-21 (NKJV).
V*13- “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1 (NKJV).
V*14- “15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV).
V*15- “2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV).
V*16- “6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6 (NKJV).
V*17- “13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV).
V*18- “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:29-31 (NKJV).
V*19- “4 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV).
V*20- “18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (NKJV).