There is an excellent article titled, Culture is a Garden, Not a Battlefield. It addresses the danger that we face as Watchmen, that we begin to view the sinful culture around us as a battlefield and the people in the world as enemies.
As Christians, we can become so focused on “winning the war on sin” or on “fighting the good fight” or “defeating the spirit of antichrist” or overcoming or resisting or blah, blah. We spend so much time fighting evil that we begin to view the missionfield as a battlefield.
Jesus did not see the unbelieving world and say, “The field is white unto harvest, silence it with your superior apologetics, cut it down with barbed tweets, stomp it on Facebook, and expose it on YouTube!” He wept over Jerusalem and grieved that they rejected their Messiah. Jesus saw the people not as problems or enemies but as lost sheep.
We are called to be battle-ready (Ephesians 6:10-24), but Jesus didn’t beat the Gospel into people with a sword. Paul and others confronted sin, but mostly in Christians, not the world. Paul didn’t plant churches to defeat the overtly evil pagan Roman culture. He planted churches to win the world to Christ and show them how to live in the place and time where God put them.
The Church was established to affect and change the people in the world, not condemn and conquer the culture they lived in. The wicked culture is the result of sinful people, sinful thinking, and sinful deeds. Laws and wars don’t fix that. Salvation does.
We can see the ailing culture as a battlefield and the sinful participants as enemies, or we can see the culture as a weedy garden to be cleaned and cultivated so we can sow the Gospel and reap the harvest of souls.
WIN THE WAR – KILL THE INFIDELS!
We cannot adopt the attitudes and practices of false religions who believe the key to peace is to wipe out their enemies, “Kill the infidels! Crush the great satan! Win the war for god!” That is not the message or the method God gave us, but it’s easy to slip into that fight-fire-with-fire mentality.
We dare not view the unsaved world as the enemy. We have an enemy; it’s a him, not a them (1 Peter 5:8). It’s not the fallen world or the wicked culture that’s the problem; it’s the sin driving them.
When we begin to see the opposing arguments as wars and the people holding them as enemy combatants, we risk fighting the very people we are called to win to Christ.
When only winning is sufficient, we are ineffective at best. The unbelieving world does not and, in many cases, cannot agree with us. They have a view of how the world should be that is colored by all the things we know are wrong from Scripture. We must understand they may never understand, so reasoning with them may or may not work.
Paul wrote, “the natural man (person who does not know Christ) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, indeed he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
We cannot demand that the world acts like Christians while they do not know Christ. We cannot demand they live by our values and abide by our beliefs because they are right and clear from God’s Word. That is sufficient for us, but not for someone who does not know Christ. That is just as ridiculous as the world expecting us to accept what they believe because they are in power, and we should accept it; you lost, get over it.
We cannot beat people into submission instead of calling them to salvation. I know I’ve been guilty of that. It’s way too easy to slide into that warrior mentality on social media and elsewhere. When my unsaved friends point it out to me, I realize how combative I’ve become. They aren’t won to Christ by that. Repulsed? Yes. Won to repentance and forgiveness? Rarely.
If we win the arguments and lose the people, we win the temporary and lose the eternal. There will be another argument and another outrageous policy or agenda or curriculum tomorrow. That soul will spend eternity somewhere. As a watchman, I’m responsible for influencing people and policy, but always people first.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WINS
Winners and losers define the sports world. I was a coach for two decades in three sports, and I understand. You don’t get to the state finals by feeling good about how hard you tried. You don’t make the Final Four because you had a cohesive team culture in the locker room. You don’t hoist the Lombardi Trophy because of your lovely uniforms and catchy team slogan.
To take the podium and garner the rewards in sports, you have to win. What about in the world of human relations and politics and discussions of truth? Have we gotten so good at winning the spiritual arguments – owning our opponent – that we are willing to lose the friend to win the argument?
We are living in a time that is all about the W—the Win. This generation would say, the ‘dubs.’ So much of the last 12 months have been filled with that language: win the elections, kill the virus, defy cancel culture, dominate the worldview discussion with irrefutable arguments, defeat the flawed legislation, defend the faith.
That’s the language of winning or losing, and unfortunately, our attitudes have begun to reflect the fallen concept that because we are right, we must always win. What happens when our candidate isn’t elected? What should we do when SCOTUS defies logic and the Constitution and rules against truth? What happens when we lose?
You’ve heard the phrase describing the spiritual warfare, “I read the back of the Book. We win.” It’s true. God wins. Evil loses. Death and Hell and our spiritual enemy are cast into eternal fire (Revelation 20:14). That sounds like a pretty sound victory. That is in eternity. What about now?
We teach Bible Prophecy and Apologetics on our radio show, A View From the Wall. We have hosted great Bible teachers like Francis Chan, noted apologists like Alex McFarland, outspoken public policy leaders like Dr. Ralph Read, bestselling Christian authors like Joel Rosenberg, and Christians in politics like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. God has opened doors to reach many with the Gospel and proclaim the coming Rapture of the Church. We are humbled at how God used us to encourage Watchmen around the world in these last days.
We have succeeded in proclaiming the Gospel, defending the truth, exposing evil, and opposing the enemy. While we continue that battle, we must also constantly guard our motives and attitudes. The devil is the enemy, not unbelieving politicians, unsaved protesters, or lost abortionists.
Amid all our ‘wins’ fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), we must not let winning become our goal unless you mean winning the lost.
WIN? MAYBE. FINISH WELL? DEFINITELY.
When Paul said he wanted to finish well, he did not mean he wanted to win the arguments, dismantle his opponent, embarrass the heretic, or ‘own’ the liberal. He wanted to win the lost and build the church.
Paul knew that building this new Church would not be well-received by either religious or political leaders. The religious leaders forbid this new Christian teaching as heresy. The political leaders saw an uprising and murdered the Christians before their spiritual counter-culture beliefs could become a cultural revolution that threatened their civil society.
It was a time much like now – Christians are not at home here.
Paul saw his time coming to an end and wrote this amazing goodbye letter to Timothy: “I am ready to be poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not to me only, but to all who love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
We see events that indicate the end of all things is near prophetically. Social movements are becoming more violent and anti-Christian. Governments are silencing dissenting voices, especially those who claim to serve a “higher authority.” How do we win in conditions like that?
It is worth noting that Paul did not say, “win the race,” he said, “finish the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul knew what it felt like to lose. He went to prison several times. He lost court appeals when he was right. He was beaten for crimes that were not crimes. He was mistreated, misquoted, misjudged, and sometimes just plain miserable. He lost, even when his accusers admitted he was right.
Do we win sometimes? Thankfully, yes. Some Supreme Court decisions support religious freedoms, condemn rioting, and uphold the rights of all people to live peaceful lives. We rejoice when that happens, and we mourn when it does not.
We could spend our last days on earth bemoaning the defeats. We could spend hours on Facebook arguing points of doctrine that have been disputed for centuries. Or, we could ask the most important question anyone who believes the Bible and especially believes in the Rapture asks:
Why are we still here? Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet?
Are we here to defeat the world? Are we still here because we need to win the majority in the House and Senate? Is Jesus waiting for all the trash to disappear from TV? Is God waiting for liberal ideas to disappear from all the textbooks? Will Jesus return right after we restore sanity and civility in cities and everyone treats each other with respect?
There is nothing wrong with those ideas, but is that our goal as Christians? Was that the message of the Great Commission – “Go into all the world and legislate, mediate, and dominate?”
Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Matthew 28:16-20). We do our part to influence those other important areas. I vote, and so should you. I discuss ideas from a Christian worldview with people who don’t agree, just as Jesus did with the people of His time.
We must be salt and light (Luke 14:34; Philippians 2:15). We have a calling to sow seeds of the Gospel and God’s love and cultivate an eternal harvest. Our message, however, isn’t meant to win the stage or statehouse. It’s not built to silence opposing voices and humiliate them until they turn to Jesus.
The Gospel is meant to change the masses by changing individuals. I fear we sometimes forget that changing the law does not guarantee changed human behavior. Sometimes laws change the world system and surrounding culture, but not always. Jesus has a 100% track record.
DEFEAT THE ENEMY, AND ALL IS WELL
Jesus did not come to defeat Israel’s enemies or protest the evils of Roman occupation. Many, including His disciples, thought that was why the Messiah would come. They expected Jesus to declare Himself King and establish an earthly reign and restore the nation of Israel to its glory days. Acts 1:6 records the disciples asking Jesus this very question: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The underlined context is crucial. The disciples asked this question after the Resurrection. This conversation would be the last they had before Jesus rose in a cloud and ascended into heaven before their eyes. They had seen Him die, yet now He was alive, risen from the dead, just as He promised.
They all finally realized Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. There is no doubt because He’s defeated death itself! The disciples must have been thinking, “Nothing can stop this guy!” That’s why they asked, “…will You at this time…” now that You’ve resurrected?
They naturally calculated this must be when Israel would defeat its enemies, overthrow Rome, and take back their territory. They expected Christ to rule the land in power and peace. After all, what army could stop a guy who won’t stay dead? I can understand how they would think that with God on their side, nothing could ever go wrong again.
I’ve had similar thoughts – so have you. If we could have a Godly President or Prime Minister and more Christians on school boards, government would improve. I’ve thought that if people who know the Word and defend the faith and know Bible prophecy occupied more church pulpits, ministries would improve, and the whole truth would reach Christians.
I’ve prayed and hoped my kids could openly pray at school and enjoy safe streets because I want them grounded in faith and safe to live their lives. I pray for those things and many others because the Bible commands me to pray for those things. But I understand we cannot legislate or dominate or castigate that world into existence. For a Christian, it is not about defeating and killing, and winning.
We must be cautious in these last days. We must see the world as God sees them. He is not trying to defeat His enemies and ours. We cannot afford to see unbelievers as opponents to overcome or enemies to defeat. Their eternity is at stake. We cannot win the fight and lose the souls.
WHAT IS THE MISSION?
Satan lost when Jesus rose from the dead. Fine point of theology – Jesus didn’t come to defeat Satan; He came to save you and me from our sins. Defeating Satan was merely a fringe benefit. We were the goal. He came because He loves the world. Love must be our motivation as well.
When God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden, He didn’t give them a sword and instructions for military domination. He did not warn them they’d have to sweat in armor and be in pain on the battlefield.
No, God gave the flaming sword to an angel. He told Adam to cultivate the soil and grow things amid weeds and thorns. He told Eve to love life and build a family but warned both of them it would be painful and hard.
When my unsaved friends say, “All you ever do is argue,” I realize how combative I’ve become. We have a mission, a great mission, a Great Commission: Go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Jesus added in John 17 that we must also love each other and the world because that love, not polished arguments or flawless eschatology, will win the lost.
Just as in the days of Rome, truth is unwelcome. Christ is not welcome. The Gospel is not welcome. Christians are a threat to the stability of culture and the peace and safety society demands. We are nearing the end.
And things are exactly where God wants them.
Paul said, “I have become all things to all people that I might by all means, win some.” It’s a good challenge to be more ‘winsome’ and less war-some. He was not saying we should look the other way and not speak out when we see evil. We should vote for the people who oppose abortion and rally for prayer and against bad legislation.
We should be active but not destructive; bold, but not belligerent. Hate sin, but love sinners. It’s more difficult now because it’s more important than ever.
In these last days, Watchmen are on the front lines of a conflict, but we must be the most balanced of warriors: a sword in one hand – to fight, and a trowel in the other – to build (Nehemiah 4:17).