Question: If the devil wanted to destroy the Church, how would he do it? Answer: Divide and conquer.
DIVIDE and conquer is one of the fundamental rules of warfare. And we are in a war! As Paul said: "... Our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil" (Eph. 6:12, Phillips translation). As true Christians we are in a battle for eternal survival against a powerful and insidiously evil enemy — Satan the devil. And the devil's existence is fact — not superstition! (Read our free booklet Did God Create a Devil? This publication will document the devil's existence by many scriptures.) The Apostle Peter warned the Church: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). Satan is the avowed enemy of the Body of Christ. He hates this Church and wishes to destroy it. He will stop at nothing to hurt, damage, vilify and utterly destroy the Church of God. His wicked devices are many. He uses every tool at his disposal to attack, decimate and divide the Body of Christ. How well he knows that a house divided against itself cannot, in the long run, stand.
The Devil's Devices
Satan is likened to a hunting lion prowling around looking for a kill. Have you ever thought about how a lion operates? Usually it is the female who does the hunting while the male does the roaring. The devil embodies both characteristics. He hunts and stalks his prey with incredible persistence. But what kind of prey does a lion usually go after? He goes after the weakest members of the flock or herd. He stalks the stragglers and the wounded. He goes after the young, the lame or the old and tired. And when he catches them, where does he strike? Remember the television commercial for Simba — the drink that "quenches the African thirst"? It goes for the throat — the weakest spot of the anatomy of both animals and humans. Satan is no different! He stalks the weaker members of the Church — those who are more vulnerable. And he preys on the weak points of even strong members! None of us are entirely free from weakness. Christ said "the flesh is weak"! And we are all flesh. We all have areas of vulnerability. It is those areas that we must shore up if we are to be able to resist the devil. One of the most fundamental weaknesses of virtually all human beings is the urge to gossip.
The Gospel of Gossip
Being able to give a person a juicy piece of "information" is a position we all like to be in from time to time. Everyone wants to be informed — "in the know." Knowing something that someone else does not gives us a momentary psychological advantage over them. We all have "bargained" for information. "I'll tell you about so-and-so if you'll tell me what you know about...." Sound familiar? We've all done it! As natural human beings we thrive on scandal. Whole national magazines are devoted to nothing but digging up dirt about people. They sell like hotcakes. We've all done our share of dirt-digging and we've all exchanged shovelfuls with others. It comes naturally to most of us. But just because it's natural and easy does not mean it is right! Have you ever stopped to consider the fruits, or results, of gossip-mongering? Does exchanging dirt and scandalous "information" produce unity in God's Church? "An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man [habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition — Webster's Eighth New Collegiate Dictionary] soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends" (Prov. 16:27-28). Rather than producing unity and harmony in the Church, digging up evil generates strife and disharmony. Long-standing friendships are destroyed or seriously damaged. People lose the desire to work together as a team. Cooperation and organization disintegrate. A team effort loses its momentum and ultimately dies. AND GOD'S WORK IS A TEAM EFFORT!
But What if the Gossip Is True?
Speaking of the end time, Jesus prophesied: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:12). The chances of being able to find evil, sin or iniquity in any given individual are pretty great in these perilous times! We live in an evil day and age. If looking for sin and weakness in people — and then exposing them — is your "bag," then you can have a field day. Sin is everywhere and in everyone (I John 1:8, 10; Rom. 5:12; I Kings 8:46; Rom. 3:23, etc.). But you know the old cliché — "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The fruit of trafficking in others' sins is always evil and bitter. It is divisive and defeating. Just because something is true does not mean that it should be broadcast to the whole world. Love covers sins — it does not expose them. Love protects — it does not reveal the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. That does not mean that love condones sin! Nor does it mean that love permits or provides for sin. "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide [Greek — cover up or remove from sight] a multitude of sins" (James 5:20). Notice! It does not say "he that exposes the sins of others shall save him...." The help is directed toward the sinner. Love seeks to help, not expose, the guilty one. There is no more effective way for Satan the devil to divide and conquer than to get everyone exposing each others' sins and shortcomings.
The Quality of Mercy
"...If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:15). If you expect to be granted forgiveness by God, you will have to be willing to forgive the sins of others. A vindictive and unforgiving spirit is not of God! When a sinner repents before God, he is forgiven instantly. God removes the guilt and the stain of sin. The record is wiped clean by the blood of Christ (I John 1:7, 9; Rom. 3:25). God will never again bring up that sin to the transgressor. It is as though it had never happened — the guilt is completely removed. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12). Then who is mere man to come along and fling that sin back in the face of the person who committed it? It is godly to forgive — but it is satanic to dig up a person's sins and tell others about them. Satan is the chief advocate of spiritual grave digging (Prov. 16:27). Because his guilt is ever before him, he wants others to feel the same way. The devil likes to rub our noses in the dung of our own sins long after God has forgiven and forgotten! And all those who dig up other people's sins and "noise them abroad" are (unless and until they really repent) serving their father the devil!
God Staffs for Strength
God has called us all to have a part in His great Work. "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him" (I Cor. 12:18). God knew what He was doing when He called you and me to do His Work. He was pleased to give us a part in what He is doing on the earth at this time. He called us, not because of our sins and weaknesses, but in spite of them! There is no one in this Work who does not have human failings. But, by the same token, there is no one who does not have something to contribute! God is able to amplify, by means of the Holy Spirit — which is God's power — whatever natural talents and abilities we may have and use them in His service. When God places us in His Work — in whatever capacity — He utilizes our strengths. Yet, He does not remove our weaknesses (though He does help us rule over them and control them). Nor does He prevent others from knowing that we have weaknesses. But God does not encourage us to
"... If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." Mark 3:24, 25
prey on each other's shortcomings. He nowhere tells us to dig up scandal and evil about each other and trade stories like baseball cards! Rather, He commands us to look to the work others are doing and respect them for that! "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (I Thes. 5:12-13). God instructs us to look to a person's works — to the fruit that is borne rather than to their sins and shortcomings. Satan would like us to do just the opposite — ignore the works and focus on the sins. Will you be his pawn?
Will We Turn Inward?
Brethren, there's a whole world of suffering humanity out there waiting to be served. Will we allow the devil to turn us inward and away from our collective responsibility? Will we become spiritual isolationists, divided, bickering and fighting among ourselves? Will we allow Satan to gain an advantage over us by capitalizing on our natural weaknesses? We cannot afford to allow that to happen! We must not allow the evil one to divide us over anything! We must not allow ourselves to be diverted from doing the Work by petty internal squabbles and disruptions. The preaching of the gospel is our first responsibility. We are duty bound to get that message of hope and salvation to as many as we can before the end of this mind-shattering age! We have a Work to do!
About four and a half centuries before Christ, God raised up a man to do a great work. It was Nehemiah's job to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem and to at least partially restore the battle-scarred Jewish capital to a semblance of order. It was a big job and Nehemiah had his enemies. They badgered, threatened, intimidated and ridiculed him with relentless ferocity. But Nehemiah was determined to do the work. He would not allow himself to be deterred. Notice his shining example: "Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein.... That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I AM DOING A GREAT WORK, SO THAT I CANNOT COME DOWN: WHY SHOULD THE WORK CEASE, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" (Neh. 6:1-3.) Should we cease, today, from doing the Work of God and spend our time digging up dirt about each other, criticizing and judging each other, and generally wasting precious time? Should we fiddle while the world burns? God forbid! Let's get on with the Work we have been commissioned to do. Let's plunge into it with a greater zeal than ever before. Let's develop and maintain a sense of urgency about helping that suffering world out there instead of picking at each other like monkeys in a zoo! Nehemiah did the work! He finished his job. And notice the inspiring and moving results: "So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: FOR THEY PERCEIVED THAT THIS WORK WAS WROUGHT OF OUR GOD" (verses 15-16). Satan knows this Work is of God — that is why he wants to stop it. That is why he wants to divide and conquer us and divert us from doing the Work, as did the enemies of Nehemiah!
God's End-Time Message to His Work
Your Bible contains a very specific message for the Work of God in this closing chapter of this age. It is pointed directly at those who would be God's servants just before the return of Jesus Christ to set up His Kingdom. And it explicitly warns about the possibility of those of us in God's own Work turning on each other in anger and animosity. Let's read it in Matthew 24, beginning in verse 42. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." This indicates the time element of the message — the return of Christ. We do not know precisely when Christ will return. But we do know we should be ready at all times. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant [those doing the Work of God], whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (verses 44-46). God's ministers should be feeding the Church the right kind of strong spiritual food at the most appropriate time — when it is needed. "But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming: and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of' (verses 48-50). Those are powerful and timely words! They are pointed directly at you and me as we plunge into the searing seventies in an age gone mad! God warns us that we must not begin fighting among ourselves. We must not allow Satan to divide us over any issue whatsoever. No matter what gossip or slander you may hear about anyone in God's Work no matter whether that gossip is true or false — you must not let it undermine your faith. No doctrinal "problem" — real or imagined — should ever separate us from the love of those brethren who have been called to share in the Work of God. Jesus Christ, the Head of this Church, can deal with any and all problems. He can punish sinners, forgive sinners, and help sinners overcome sin. He can lead us into all truth on any doctrine or belief. He can manage the Church which He Himself has staffed and built. And He can stop Satan the devil from dividing the people of God!
It is our job to help protect the Church from disunity whenever we can. If we fail to do so, we are irresponsible! We each have a part to play. It is our urgent duty to resist the divisive tactics of the Adversary. We should fight against the urge to participate in gossip, slander or
"An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends." Proverbs 16:27, 28
character defamation. We should not pass on evil about others — nor should we desire to hear it. Forgive those who have repented of their past sins, and forget those sins — God does! Give the leaders in God's Work the benefit of the doubt (if you have any). Think about the profound truths you have learned from them. Think about the wonderful changes that have taken place in the lives of so many with whom God is dealing through this Work. Look at the fruits and the good works — not at the shortcomings, of which we are all partakers. If you have doctrinal questions, take them to the ministry — and leave them there! Do not create doubts in the minds of those "little ones" God is calling by airing your theological questions in open "bull sessions." Why would anyone want to spread doubt and confusion among the people of God anyway? It is a grievous sin to shake or damage the faith of one who is already on somewhat shaky ground. Yet some have done just that! God warns the ministry: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost [Spirit] hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:28-30). Such men are willing weapons in the hands of the devil. They can be used as instruments of war to divide and mercilessly conquer the sheep of God. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by such men. Do not be shaken by their words. Be stable, sound, and solid in the faith of Jesus Christ. If you are troubled by doubts and questions, lay them on the shoulders of the One who can best bear them — the living Christ! "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). And, "Casting all your care upon him [Christ]; for he careth for you" (I Peter 5:7). Look to Christ as the loving, competent, concerned Head of His Church. Don't limit the Holy One of Israel by allowing yourself to think He is no longer running His own Body! God has not forsaken His people — He never will. Let patience have its perfect work. Resist the divisive tactics of the devil and keep the faith!