How should believers respond to a call to arms in light of Jesus' words to "as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men"? Todd examines the Bible?s teaching on pacifism and the idea of being a conscientious objector or valiantly serving in your military; and reconciles the commandment to individuals not to kill with the call for government to bear the sword.
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Jesus' Response to Towers that Fall
We're going to figure out today what it is good for. What is the "something" war is good for? I'm going to tell you, it's good for something. You're going to hear me address today the issues of pacifism, conscientious objectors, just war, what the purpose of an army is, whether God cares who wins. We're going to try to answer all of those as we labor together today. One guy said one time, "The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit." Churchill said it's good for ignorant men to read books of quotes.
I'm going to quote today, and I'm going to service my lacking wit by quoting as many good men as I can. I have gone back and looked from Plato to Cicero to Clement to Origen to Ambrose to Eusebius to Tertullian to Augustine to Aquinas to the Mennonites and their leaders to the Quakers, William Penn, Luther, Calvin, Nelson, Cole, Colson, Bach… I'm going to try to service my lacking wit with learning and standing on their shoulders.
I see today a lot of what I see because men have seen much before me, so I can learn from them. I don't need to start all over. So I studied and looked and tried to understand and, certainly, looked at this book, and here's some of what the Lord allowed me to come up with. Again, I pray that what I share would honor him. Here we go. Do you want to know what war is good for? Do you want to know why war is here? Let me make it clear.
War is not what was, it is not what should be or what will be; it is what is. Let me say that in a different way. War is bad. War is not good. War is not what God intended. It is not what was. Initially, when God created humanity, there was no war. We lived in fellowship with one another. We walked with him and had peace with him and peace with one another, but when sin entered into the world and our fallen natures took over, we rebelled against him.
Now, knowing the difference between good and evil, unlike God who has always known the difference between good and evil, we were not able to choose that which is good, because we are not innately good. We are good as we live in relationship with the Good One. So, as sin entered into our lives, as we left him and rebelled against him, as we believed the lie that life was in seeking our own way, what happened was not greater peace and prosperity; what happened was enmity between one another, accusation, hatred, insecurity, and wickedness began to prevail.
It is not what was, but sin brought it about. It is not what should be, and it is not what will be. In fact, what we find out is that God has given us the right to take a life as a result of the continued slaughter of evil men. In Genesis 9:6… This is after God has judged the world through a universal flood. He has brought about judgment on the world, as he said he would through Noah, his herald of righteousness.
When Noah gets off the ark, he puts a bow in the heaven as a sign of his covenant that he will never destroy the earth again by universal flood. He didn't say there'd never be a flood again, and he did not say he would never judge the world again. He said he would never judge the world again this way.
The first flood, the first universal judgment of humankind was, in fact, a precursor to ultimate judgment that would come; that those who do not listen to the herald of righteousness (Noah means rest), those who don't accept the proclamation of truth and don't run to their ark of rest will not be lifted up from the coming flood of judgment, and they will drown in the wrath of God, even as those in that day did.
What God said to Noah is, "We're going to operate differently now as we're starting over with you and your boys, Canaan and Japheth and Ham, and their gals and your wife. Here's the way it's going to work. No longer when Cain kills Abel will we say, 'Cain, you are to be a curse, and you are to roam, and you are going to go and live in your own land and develop your own people and live with other wicked folks.' We're no longer going to exile wickedness.
As I introduced conscience to innocence, I will now introduce government to conscience. If your conscience does not allow you to choose that which is good and that which is right, then I will give you this ability." There you see it. This is now the law. "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man." No longer will we separate the Cains of the world. Now we will kill him.
War was instituted because of wickedness and the fallenness of man. Wicked men do not fear God. They don't fear their conscience. They don't fear offending you. They fear one thing, which is the sword. They fear one thing, which is the loss of their lives. So God says, "You need to introduce this." There are three kinds of people. There are the righteous folks of the world who are transformed by the Spirit of God.
Secondly, there are, if you will, unredeemed men and women who through the proclamation of word their conscience is quickened and alive and they live a basic moral life. That has been largely true of the United States of America for the better part of the last 200 years. We have been a redeemed nation who, by the grace of God, have come to understand our sin and our need for redemption and transformation in Jesus Christ.
By and large, folks who were not part of the faith were individuals who lived under what has been commonly called the Judeo-Christian ethic. There has been a morality that has run through our country that has been largely good and that has brought about blessing and minimized war and rebellion and murder on an extreme level. That is increasing to the point where we can no longer safely say we, as a country, largely subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic. No, not anymore. Wickedness is having more of its way.
The number of truly redeemed people is decreasing, as are those who are affected by the preaching of those redeemed people. There's a third class, and that is the wicked. They respond to nothing except sirens and what you see on Saturday night on Fox on the Cops show. That's what they respond to: handcuffs, batons, beatings, and metal bars, and sometimes gas chambers, lethal injections, and in days of old, electrocutions, nooses, and chambers.
God said that is appropriate, because if they will not be transformed by the Word of God and they will not be transformed by their conscience, which is quickened by the preaching of the Word of God, then they should meet the sword. But this is not a good thing. War is bad. As I said, it is not as it was, it's not as it should be, and it's not as it will be.
If you go to the United Nations, you will find Isaiah 2:4 written up there as part of their goal. They wanted to come together as a group of people and say, "This is not as it should be. We are going to bring ourselves to eventual destruction." After World War I, we tried to pull ourselves together, but we didn't work with the league of nations, so it took World War II, and then we were a little more motivated.
So some folks decided to come together. The United Nations was formed. Their goal is to, through diplomacy, bring about world peace. Their goal is that God would come and judge between the nations or would use the nations to judge between each other, and then eventually we would hammer our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks so that nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again will we learn war.
This is from Isaiah 2:4, and this is God's promise to where eventually he will take his people Israel, who are his chosen people and are to be the beacons through which God declares his greatness. He has told Israel that he will eventually bring peace, but he has not told Israel that they will get peace through their mighty weapons of warfare, nor will they get peace through their relationship with science and technology, nor will they get peace through prosperity, and nor will they get peace through their alliance with the United States or the United Nations.
They will get peace when the Prince of Peace delivers them to a place of peace. There will be a day, God says, when all of the nations of the world will gather together and things will be as they should be, when you take your swords and hammer them out into plowshares, and your spears will become pruning hooks, and we will just concern ourselves with the great harvest that is before us. That is as it should be and as it will be one day.
In Revelation, the end of your Bible… What you find is that the Bible is all about God dealing with the wickedness of men that came about as a part of our rebellion. In Revelation, you'll find in chapter 21, verses 1-4, that God is going to take care of all that war is and all that war brings. Again, in verse 4, you'll see that there will be a day when he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will no longer be any death. That's a good thing. That's as it should be, as it will be, not as it is, and yes, one day before as it was, but war is bad.
A friend of mine's father-in-law fought in World War II, and he told me that his father-in-law told him, "To put a human being in your crosshairs, to pull the trigger on a rifle that you know has a bullet that can penetrate steel, to see it hit another man and watch him flip, to be in a foxhole and to be so scared that you grip a knife so tight it hurts, to come up behind another man and take that knife and put it in his rib cage and to reach up there and go for his lungs and to feel the life come out of him…" He said the human psyche, the human life, was not made to do this.
This man knew Christ, loved God's Word, understood God's call to a soldier and to a nation. He went over there and served, but he killed men, and it took him years to deal with that. Let me tell you something. War is bad. Those of you who have seen Gods and Generals have seen Robert Duvall sitting on a horse, delivering the line that Robert E. Lee said to James Longstreet at the Battle of Fredericksburg when he saw the Confederate forces push back a Federal charge and he saw the carnage before him.
Robert E. Lee, a man who loved God and feared God, said, "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it." I'm going to tell you something. War is terrible. War is bad. War is not what was, it is not what should be, and it is not what will be, but it is what is.
War is a divine right, it is a divine privilege, it is a divine responsibility. To war unjustly is to not obey. To war unjustly is to not love, but mark my words: to not war is to rebel as well. Where do I get that? Romans 13:1-4. I have a friend who was speaking to some ROTC folks, and as he was talking to them, he said to them, "I want to tell you, it's nice to be here speaking to other ministers of God."
They kind of looked at each other, thinking, "What does he know that we don't know about us?" What he knew is the Word of God. Look at this. In Romans 13:1 it says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities." This is Paul, who knew his Bible, who knew Genesis 9.
"For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same…"
In other words, you guys can relate to this. When you're driving along, as a friend of mine has said, you're doing rearview mirror, side-view mirror, side-view mirror, rearview mirror, side-view mirror, side-view mirror. Why? Because you fear the law. You're checking to make sure your radar detector is still working properly, that your pace car is not so far ahead that he could get him and you.
You have some insecurity when you guys get a letter from the IRS. If you haven't filed those taxes correctly, there's much fear and consternation. You might be bothered if you get a letter from the IRS and you filed your taxes well, but you do not find the same cold sweat overcoming you if you haven't.
In college, when that teacher walks around and you have a cheat sheet sitting there, your heart races differently than those the teacher walks around who have studied and prepared themselves appropriately for the test. You don't want to fear evil? You don't want to fear the law? You don't want to fear the IRS? You pay your taxes, you drive the speed limit, and you study. But there are some who will not, so God has instituted government.
Verse 4. What is the government? It is a diakonos. "…it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it [government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God…" Remember what my friend said? "It's good to be speaking to other ministers." "…an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Government exists because men are evil.
That's why every Israelite over the age of 20, man or woman, serves in the military. It's why I don't believe we should have a voluntary military, because theologically, I understand this truth: men are evil and men are wicked. They are fallen sinners, and they are prone to hurt and work against one another. Israel has seen that theologically in the teaching of God's Word, and they have experienced that in the reality of the world they live in.
They know men are wicked and evil and that they prey upon them and come upon them, so they have a strong military. Romans 3 is what says this in the Bible. This is what it says in Romans 3:10-18, lest you be offended by my opinion that men are not innately good. When I speak of "men" here, I speak in the generic sense of homo sapiens, not the gender male.
"…as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.' 'Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,' 'The poison of asps is under their lips …'" It says in verse 16,"'… *destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes.*'" Lest he bring it.
Let me tell you, war is a divine right, it is a divine privilege, and, I'm going to say today, war is a divine responsibility. You have no option but to go to war. The philosophy of appeasement is a failed philosophy. You go back and look historically. You see Munich in the 1930s. To appease Hitler did not work. You look at China in the 1940s and the takeover of that country by Communism. They were not appeased just with China. No, they wanted to bleed into Korea, later into Indochina in the 1960s.
That's why one of President Kennedy's finest hours was in October of 1962 when he said, "We will appease the reign of atheism and godlessness and communism no more, and we will embargo any ship that is carrying that which could do destruction to Cuba. It will stop." We won in that duel because they refused to duel, and as any person who's involved with dueling will tell you, to not duel is to lose the duel.
One of the reasons a country must have a strong military is because perceived power is the same as power. Hussein would not have stopped at Kuwait, just like China didn't stop at North Korea but wanted South Korea. War is not good, but it is necessary in a wicked and ungodly world. The wicked, as I said, do not respond to calls for morality. They don't respond to calls to civility, to calls to ethics and righteousness. They don't respond to diplomacy.
The wicked respond to one thing: What are you going to do about it, and can you do something about it? To that and that alone do they respond. I'm going to tell you, we should reason, we should be diplomatic, we should plead, we should pray, we should pray some more, but in the end, it's time to figure out, "Are we going to ante up against evil?"
Our president very wisely said Thursday night, "It's going to be time very soon for folks to show their cards, and you're either going to be with us or you're not, but we do not have to ask you if we need to do what God has called us to do." The only language Hitler understood was the language of superior force. To appease him brought about the fall of Europe. Why? Because as Solomon wrote in Proverbs, chapter 30, "The leech has two daughters: 'Give' and 'Give.'" These men have an insatiable power lust.
I read this week an 18-page work by a guy named Jerry Max Bunyard. He's a retired four-star general. I was just reading about the history of US diplomacy and our efforts. He essentially said, "You cannot satisfy the insatiable power lust of dictators by giving them by degrees that which they demand." He didn't know it, but he was quoting Proverbs 30:15. It doesn't work.
To survive, a country has to have godly constituents who preach, who pray, and who persevere individually against wickedness. They must have an effective judicial branch that strikes fear into the wicked and terror to evildoers, and they must have a strong military. That's what it takes for any nation to survive. It will either implode or it will die from attack from without. Why? Because wickedness will get them from within if the judiciary is not strong or it will fall from without if the military is not mighty. You can see that everywhere.
Admiral Tom Moore, when he was debriefing Japanese officers at the end of World War II and asking them what in the world they were doing when they bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941… You know, "Why did you guys come after us?" They said, "You didn't fortify Wake Island. You did not fortify Guam. You were disarming. You were making your army drill with wooden rifles. We had no idea that this rich, spoiled, feckless country would do what you did after December 7. You stunned us."
What they were saying was the evil axis, at that time, of Germany, Italy, and Japan… When they got together and imperialism reigned in their hearts and their insatiable lust of a dictator that wants to overcome and the leeches in his heart… Two things: "Give" and "Give." "We thought you were weak. We thought you in your rich little economy and your little paneled homes and your little carpeted dens… We thought all you wanted to do was protect your little self, and we were going to continue to march. You stunned us."
I don't know if you heard much about what al-Qaeda said is the reason they did what they did, but they looked at Mogadishu and our unwillingness there to respond when our boys were exploited. I have to tell you something. I think al-Qaeda is stunned right now at our response, because they looked at a spoiled, feckless (which is a Scottish perversion of the word effective)…
They thought we had nothing effective in us that would stand against evil, and I think they're being stunned. There's one Arab country that did not stand against the horrors of September 11. It is Iraq, and I think they're about to be stunned. War is a divine responsibility to move against evil, and if you do not, evil will continue to grow. History teaches us that and the Scriptures teach us that.
God gives the sword to the state, not to the individual. Now watch this. The governments of the world are to respond to abuse, to wrong, to evil. It is different from how the individual follower of Christ responds. As one has said, if there is a time that you are called by your country to go up and participate in just war and you are on your way and you go to DFW airport and get on that little plane and they fly you to their little base and train you and put you in their little transportation jet and get you over there and you get yourself involved with a gentleman and come up against him, you should do your duty.
On the other hand, if you are called by your government to war and on your way to Fort Bragg you're driving your car and somebody cuts you off or you pull into Dairy Queen somewhere on the way and somebody takes your parking space or steps in front of you in line or looks at you ugly because your hair is long and cusses you or flips you off, you are not to respond. The individual response of the Christian…
Those pacifists who say that Jesus would not respond confuse the individual responsibility of the believer and the sovereign call of government by God that is an instrument of wrath against evildoers. What many of us do is we become vigilantes. Vigilantism you cannot support in Scripture. Look at Romans 12:14. This is how you respond to the guy who cuts you off, cusses you out, flips you off, or takes your parking space. Are you ready?
This will happen to you this week. Coming out of this great talk on war, you are not to pull out your .45 and say, "Let me tell you something, buddy. I go to Watermark, and war is justified." Boom! And take care of him. No, you would be in error there, and we would visit you in prison before you died. Why? Because as an individual, you are to bless those who persecute you.
Look at verse 17. "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge…" Remember that verse. "…beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…" You are not to act on your own, but you leave room for the wrath of God. The wrath of God takes two forms. First, through its sovereign despot, which is government, and eventually through the very presence of God himself.
If you aren't satisfied with the one, hang on, because he'll make it right. But individually, "Thou shall not murder" is a command to you; it is not a statement toward the judiciary or the military. It refers to raising up haughty eyes or a high hand to heaven and fellow man to take what is rightly another's for a selfish reason. God says, "I don't want to see you doing it. In fact, if somebody comes and slaps you, you give them the other cheek."
I have a good buddy. We used to go through these little situational ethics. I'd ask him sometimes, "Now come on. Really. I know you're a follower of Christ, but what would you do if you were at a stoplight and some guy…? You were just driving along, but he was in a hurry, and he couldn't get around you, so he catches up with you finally, and he starts just yelling at you. You have your car. You have your two little girls in the back.
He is cussing you and yelling at you, and he is wearing you out. Your daughters are learning new words, and your wife is embarrassed. That guy is not satisfied. The light turns green. He shoots in front of you and comes over there. He starts yelling at you to the point of spitting through his mouth at your window. You pull the window down, and he grabs you by the scruff and starts shaking you."
I go, "Man, what would you do?" He said, "I'd turn around to my little girls and say, 'See, this is what happens when a daddy doesn't rightly discipline a man when he is a young individual. He doesn't learn what right and wrong is. Because God didn't give this guy a nice daddy, your daddy is going to have to get up and whup him right now.'" That's what he said.
The Bible said, "As much as you are able…" If a guy is leaning in your car and shaking you and spraying you with saliva, swinging at your jaw, you need to respond and restrain evil, but not that you might inflict judgment on him; that you might keep him from doing that which is a greater ill. Now listen. You are talking to a red-blooded American male here who happens to be a pastor who is rightly representing the Word of God.
I can tell you, the Spirit of God would have you not respond in force because you're as angry and now angrier than he is. I'm not telling you you have to get beaten to death, because to let somebody inflict personal injury to you at great extent is not loving, but if he spits at you once and walks away, you let him walk, and you wipe that spit from your face. May the Spirit of God be mightily present in my life when it hits me, because that's what he calls me to do.
We can call government and say, "This guy needs to be disciplined, and if you won't do it, I might have to reconsider," but that's what we are called to do. The sword is the state's. Perseverance is ours. Pacifists misunderstand this. They say that Jesus would not come, ever. I'm going to talk about what they misunderstand. I'm going to tell you why "WWJD"… If you have that "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet on your wrist, take it off, because it's the wrong question to ask.
You can be a pacifist because of conscience, but you cannot be a pacifist because of Christ. Yesterday in the Dallas Morning News you had two folks who tried to wrestle with this question…Was Jesus a pacifist? I will say, during those three years he sure looked like one, but I'm going to tell you, the brother is anything but a pacifist. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and he is going to come and let you know that though he can look like a lamb, he will roar like a lion.
The reason that "WWJD?" is not a good bracelet to wear is because all we can do is look at the life of Christ when he was here on this earth. What would Jesus do? Well, we think of, "What was Jesus' responsibility when he was here on this earth?" We always go back and look at what Jesus did, and Jesus always turned the other cheek. Jesus did not stand against evil imperialism. Jesus let wickedness prevail and kill him. Jesus did that. Jesus will not always do that.
The question to ask yourself is…What would Jesus have you do? You wear a "WWJHMD?" bracelet, which is, "What Would Jesus Have Me Do?" He would have you respond to his revelation and what the Spirit is calling you to do right now as an individual. Part of what God is calling you to do right now as an individual is to participate with legitimate authority that is an instrument of God to stand against wickedness on this earth as a minister of his wrath.
So you don't ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" You ask yourself, "What would Jesus have me do, as the Spirit of God indwells me and lives at this day and age, with the instruction he has given me?" Now I will tell you what Jesus will do one day, and that we can find in Revelation, chapter 19. Right now, Jesus, speaking to individuals in Matthew 5:9, says, "Blessed are the peacemakers…" That is instruction to individuals.
Right now to individuals Jesus says, "If somebody strikes you on your left cheek, you give them your right. If somebody takes your coat, you give them your jacket." But there's going to be a day that Christ will show you that he is anything but a pacifist. Look at Revelation 19:11. This is what it says: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war."
This is Jesus Christ. Listen to the description in Revelation 19:12. "His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood…" Guess where he got that? When he came as a lamb, looking largely like a pacifist, when, in fact, he was waging war even then against evil. "…His name is called The Word of God." John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In verse 14, it says:
"And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.'"
Let me tell you something. Jesus Christ is no pacifist. Individually, we are called to, as much as we are able, be at peace with all men, to turn the other cheek, and if somebody takes something to give them that. If they take our parking space, you buy them a cone. You heap burning coals on their head, Romans 12 says. You love them and say, "You must be in a hurry. You must have a hard life. I'm going to buy you a Buster Bar, buster, and bless you."
Folks misunderstand this. Our sweet theologian yesterday, Miss Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite… Susan is victim to not rightly dividing the Word of truth. As it says in 2 Peter 3:16, "…in all his [Paul's] letters, speaking in them of these things…" These difficult things about end times and how God is going to work it all out and just the basic truths of Christian conduct. Peter wrote that Paul, the apostle, when God inspired him to give us our New Testament…
It says, "…in which [the writings of Paul] are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." Let me tell you something. If we try to live the way Miss Thistlethwaite would have us live as a country, it will be to our own destruction. To say we don't need a military is as foolish as to say we don't need a police force or a judiciary that will rightly prosecute those who are rightly arrested and rightly tried. It is foolishness and naïve, and you are not called to that as a believer.
God approves just war, but he abhors imperialism. I said earlier that to war unjustly is to not obey, and I said then that to not war is to rebel as well. Let me turn that now, looking at this point, and say it this way: to not war is to not obey, but to war unjustly is to rebel as well. God calls us to war correctly and rightly. In Amos, chapter 1, you have God speaking to the sons of Ammon.
He says, "For three things, even for four, I will not revoke the punishment of Ammon, because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to enlarge their borders." God says in no way does he ever condone imperialism. You don't ever advance your interests as a nation at the expense of others, and he says you should not move the ancient boundaries set by the fathers. If America wants to move and say, "That land you have I will take for my own, and I will imperialistically exert my will over you," be careful.
You look at what America did with the Native American Indian, and there was some imperialism at work there. What we needed to do was have a society that was so good and right they would seek to join us as we educated them and enlightened them to the ways of Christ, and only should they be eradicated if they, in terrorist raids, destroyed us, but there was a day when it wasn't just because of an act of terrorism; it was an act of greed, and that is not just.
Ezekiel 35 tells us that God said this to Edom. He said that Esau's descendants were in trouble. He said Esau's descendants, the Edomites, looked at Judah and Israel and said, "These two nations, these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them." They looked with lust on the good land God gave Abraham and Israel. Verse 14 says, "Thus says the Lord God , 'As all the earth rejoices, I will make you a desolation.'""I will not allow you to see something that you don't have that you want and wage war on them just because you are mightier and stronger. I will deal with you."
There is one question you're going to be asked if you ever have somebody who doesn't want to believe and recognize your Bible. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, when she read the Bible, said it was the most filthy, bloodthirsty book she had ever read. She had never seen a book with so much carnage. The Bible is R rated because of violence. It is. You have been confronted with this question before.
"Well, how come, then, if God doesn't ever sanction imperialism, he had Abraham's descendants, specifically in the personage of Joshua and the boys, go in and take out the Canaanites, the Hittites, and all of the other 'ites' and wipe them out, and the land which they had he said, 'I will take it for them'?" Let me just walk you through and answer that question, and you can go out of here today learned, ready to answer that the next time you do, to say, "You know what? God doesn't approve of imperialism, and what happened with the Canaanites was not imperialism."
What was it? I'll give you a hint. It's very similar to what you find in Genesis, chapter 8, which was a flood. God didn't use water in the book of Joshua; he used the flood of wrath that was represented in his people. In Genesis, chapter 15, it says, "Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram…" God came and cut a deal with Abram.
He said, "I'm going to do something through you for the sake of my glory, not because you're good. I'm going to honor myself. I am going to come, and I am going to use you as an instrument of righteousness. I will judge the nation I'm about to give to you because they are wicked, but I'm not going to do it yet. It's going to take four generations."
He takes Abraham's descendants and, through a series of events, moves them to Israel. He takes a small group of Bedouin people and incubates them in Egypt to two million, and at the end of 400 years… Look at verse 16. "Then in the fourth generation they [your descendants] will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."
What God is saying is, "Abraham, I'm not going to give you this land yet, because the people who have that land don't deserve to be judged yet, but time will come when they will be judged, and when that time comes, I will use your descendants to be an instrument of the righteous hand of God as a minister of wrath that will come and will get their attention." In Leviticus 18, he says, "When you get there, I want you to act a specific way, because I will not use unholy people to do this." Leviticus 18 says:
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, "I am the Lord your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments [not theirs] and keep My statutes [not theirs] , to live in accord with them… So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord."'"
Then starting in verse 6, all the way down to verse 19, he goes through a litany of things that they should not do. Specifically, he says, "You should avoid the perversions of those people, lest what happened to them happens to you." He covers, basically, every form of incest imaginable in verses 6-18. In verse 19, he talks about how a man should treat his wife. In verse 20, he says you shouldn't have intercourse with your neighbor's wife. So, not only should it be carefully observed not to participate in incest but adultery, clearly, is not to happen.
"You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord." Not only are incest and adultery out but child sacrifice is out. Look at verse 22."You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Clearly, homosexuality there. Verse 23:"Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it…" A commandment you can handle, but they couldn't.
Finally, one, hopefully, that you don't have to alter your life. "I'm good with that one, Lord." But they weren't. This is a wicked people. They used to take their children and put them in jars and bury them in the earth in worship of Baal and Asherah, that fertility might spring forth. They would ask that Baal and Asherah would come together and copulate, and then his semen in the form of rain would fall on the earth, and Asherah, the goddess of the earth, would give her children up that they could harvest it and eat it.
So they put their kids in jars and said, "If we're going to eat your offspring, you can have ours." They took their children to the god of Molech in his burning hot hands and placed their children right there on that idol's hands. Their own flesh and blood would burn right there, and they'd bang a drum, and a parent would stand there stoically. This is a wicked people. There was cult prostitution, child sacrifice, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and God says, "Their iniquity has come full. Go get them."
This is not imperialism. Why did God absolutely eradicate the Canaanites? Because judgment day had hit. He said, "You take care of everything in there. You burn everything. You take nobody. You don't touch anything. It's all under the ban, and we are going to wipe it off the face of the earth." Just to show you that God wasn't on an imperialistic march, he told them…
He said, "When you go through the land of the Edomites, when you go through the land of the Moabites, when you go through the land of the Ammonites, you leave them alone. You don't take a single drop of water. You don't eat a single bit of their food unless you pay for it. If they tell you you can't go through their land, you march around it."
That is why if we wanted to, we could say, "Turkey, we aren't asking; we're coming," but we said, "Turkey, we would like to be there, and if we're going to use your land, we will pay for it, but if you won't let us use it, we'll remember that, but we'll just come in from the south, and if Saudi Arabia said no, we'll come in from the sky, if that's what we have to do."
Very quickly, war is just. Let me just lay this out for you. Do you want to know what just war is? This started really with Augustine when a Roman general… When the barbarians were marching on Rome, a Roman general came to Augustine, a great theologian of his day, and said, "What should I do? Should I lead my troops into battle or should I leave and run to the monastery?" Augustine said to him, "Go do your job, soldier. You're a minister of God for good."
He put together what is called the just war theory that has been built upon and improved since Augustine's day, but this basically is what makes a just war, Christians have believed from the third and fourth century on. For the first 300 years, pacifism did define the church. There was a misunderstanding of the text. We finally got it right along about then, and we've held on to it for 1,700 years.
A war is just when, first, there is a just cause. In other words, there was a just cause when the Israelites marched on Canaan: the execution of divine justice on a wicked people. Just intent, which is to say the intent of the Israelites was to obey God. Legitimate authority. God said, "Go. You're my people, my instrument, my sword. Do what I tell you to do."
Specific and achievable goals. Here's a specific goal: destroy everything. And achievable? Yes. "I am with you," says the Lord. Specific and legitimate casualties. In this case, God said, "This is a complete execution of justice, so I want you to take care of everything." And proportionality in cost and response. That's not applicable in the Canaanite destruction, but let me just walk you through this very quickly.
Our enemy right now is able to penetrate our borders and strike our homes. Secondly, he can hit us and others with weapons of mass destruction. Thirdly, his goal is not to change our policies or force our withdrawal from something. It is their goal (speaking now of terrorism) to destroy us as a civilization. Al-Qaeda's goal is to ensure future world reign of Islam, and that is wicked. They do not live by a just war, and they don't have specific and legitimate casualties, because they rain terror.
They don't live under what is called the discrimination principle, which is alluded to there in proportionality in cost and response. That is why, with a clear conscience, they did what they did on September 11 and killed all of those innocents. They believe they're at war, and they don't think they can fight us like men, so they fight us by striking terror into our hearts. That, friends, is wicked.
In the war at hand, you need to know this about President George Bush, 40 not 42. He was the first man in the history of civilization to say that we would do war by the just cause principle, and his second son has continued. George Bush, 42, has reaffirmed the commitment. I know, personally, that George Bush has had men for the last months sitting with him, thinking through, "If we do go to war for Iraq, is it just according to the principles the church has historically subscribed to?"
He asked that we pray, and he has said, as he should, "We have reasoned, we have tried diplomacy, we have pleaded, we have begged, and we are praying." As he said last Thursday night, we don't want to go. It is not my desire to go to war, but if I must, I have a just cause. This man is a threat to freedom. He has ruthlessly attacked his neighbors and his own people. We have a just intent. We have no intent to occupy, exploit, or destroy Iraq. It's not about oil. If it was, it would not be just.
Legitimate authority. We have had resolutions from the UN that have not been met. Congress has spoken, and we have the executive branch that can act according to our Constitution, so the authority is there. Specific and achievable goals. We want them to dismantle the weapons of mass destruction and replace the Hussein regime. Specific and legitimate casualties. Every care is being taken to minimize civilian casualties and care for those victimized in our response.
Every bit of technology we have is going to be made and efforted toward that end. Proportionately in cost and response. The human cost of war is less than the cost of not going to war if what is said about Osama is true. Now, do I know? I don't know. I don't have that kind of intelligence. That is why, folks, we need to pray for our leaders, that they will act responsibly with what they must know that we must not.
In the last 100 years, war deaths have changed from 85 percent military to 75 percent civilian, and war is not as it used to be. Increasingly, wicked men are using civilians as shields, and that has to be considered. I'm going to tell you, war is an awful thing. That's what just war is, and I'm going to tell you again that God abhors unjust war, he approves just war, and he stands against imperialism.
I'm going to give you another point: God is not neutral in war. That is clear in the Scripture. It is his sovereignty at work. War is not a football game where both sides say the Lord's Prayer. I think God couldn't care less if Highland Park beats Lake Highlands or Plano beats Plano East. He doesn't care whether your Longhorns beat OU or not. Let me say that again. He doesn't care! I'm going to tell you something else. So neither should you. I mean that.
For some of y'all, that is your life. You live around your university or your little professional team, and you don't eat and drink, you don't watch football or basketball to the glory of God. Is sports an okay thing? You bet. I enjoy it. I like to play and I like to cheer, but you'd better not beat your wife and kick your dog when your Longhorns get bounced in the second round of the Big 12 tourney.
Some of us act like this is the big deal, and it shows that you're not living for what ultimately matters. Put your sticker back there if you're a Texas Aggie or some Aggie 100 club. I couldn't care less. But quit acting like it's such a big deal. Now, in war, you can make a case that God cares who wins. His sovereignty is mightily at work. Nebuchadnezzar knew that. Daniel knew that. Isaiah knew that. If I had time, I'd walk you through it.
Isaiah 40:21-25 says it's God who reduces rulers to nothing. Nebuchadnezzar knew that when God made him like a cattle grazing on grass, eating out there. Job said, "He loosens the belt of the strong. He makes nations great, and then he destroys them. He enlarges a nation, and then he leads them away." Proverbs 21:1 says, "The hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of the Lord. He directs them wherever he pleases."
That's why God in his sovereignty told Israel, "You're going to go to exile for 70 years, and in 70 years, I'm going to twist the heart of the king of Medo-Persia, and I'm going to have him let you go with no ransom." God is sovereign, and he uses war to accomplish his sovereign purposes. So you'd better pray and see what it is God wants to do. He is not neutral in war.
The question is…Whose side is he on in the war that we may be about to enter into? You see, in this war, it's like Woodrow Call and Gus in Lonesome Dove said to Robert Urich's character. "You ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw." When Iraq stands with that group of folks who say that's okay and America gets what it deserves when that happens, that is wicked and that needs to be dealt with.
God wants individuals to stand against that wickedness. I can say that with absolute conviction. But I'm going to tell you something else. God is not neutral in war, and God has historically used war to discipline wicked nations. He will not shrink back from doing that again. Assyria. He has a whole book of the Bible dedicated to wiping out Assyria with Nahum.
Assyria was so wicked they used to take their slain enemies and cut their heads off and make pyramids out of them. Assyria would so pride itself in its brazenness that it would capture its prisoners of war and skin them, and it would brag that it could put their skins on a wall and a man could see his own skin tacked to the wall before he died.
There are pictographs of them standing over their enemies, and they'd rip the tongue out by the roots and just mock them, and they couldn't speak back against the Assyrians who exalted over them in victory. God said, "I will have none of that." Babylon. The book of Habakkuk speaks about how God is going to move against them. Obadiah spoke against the Edomites. God says, "I will use war to discipline those I have even in the past used as instruments of my righteousness."
It is also true that God will prosper wicked nations in war. Now watch this. God will prosper wicked nations in war to discipline others who are devoid of faithfulness. Patton essentially said, "Though war is terrible, God does use it to purify dross from the nations." There has been a bit more praying around our land lately, just like there was a flood of it right after September 11 that dissipated, and we went back to normal levels a year later.
But it'll increase again, and God will get rid of some of our dross, and he'll humble us a little bit. Our economy will get a little bit soggy or soggier. Some of our boys are going to have some awful things happen to them, and it will sober us, and some of our infatuation with The Bachelorette will fade for a while.
God will get rid of some of that dross, but you watch. It'll come back, until one of these days God says, "Folks, just like historically I've always gotten the attention of faithless people, I'm going to get your attention one of these days." It is completely consistent with God's character in history that he might use an Assyria to discipline an Israel, that he might use a Babylon (see also modern-day Iraq) to discipline his people.
The whole book of Habakkuk is about the Israelites saying, "God, how can you use these wicked folks? How can you be on their side in this war? You're telling me that they're going to come and ride herd on us?" God said, "That's right, because it's time for judgment to begin with the household of God, and we're going to get your house in order. If it's up to me to use the wicked folk, you let me use the wicked folk. I'll deal with them in their wickedness when it's time to deal with them, but it's time to deal with you."
You saw the "I want you" poster. I'll tell you something. I am, as a friend has said, a Yankee Doodle Dandy. I want you to know that. I love my country. I am grateful that I was born here at this time, but you need to know this. If you put Iraq and the United States of America in 2003 on the divine scales of justice, don't you be too quick to be sure which way the scales will tilt.
There's another Wanted poster I put together with some friends this week, and it looks like this. The reasons we're wanted are because we deny God in marriage and child-rearing and the arts and morality and our sexual mores. We call good evil and we call evil good. I have to tell you something, folks. There will be a day… I pray to God this isn't the day.
I pray because of our noble cause, because of godly people praying, because of the preaching of his Word to whatever extent we can do it, because of whatever traces of a Judeo-Christian ethic we have, because of the protection of his chosen people Israel that we can somehow provide maybe a little bit, that God would not choose to discipline us yet with the wicked Chaldeans, but I'm going to tell you something.
It's not just that God wants us to be his ministers of justice. God wants us to be righteous and pure, and we'd better not just pray we win this war, but we had better pray that we have clean hands and pure hearts. You have to ask yourself this: Would God be glorified in letting us win? That question is getting more and more difficult to answer. I have not forgotten bin Laden, but I think we have forgotten God. That ought to sober us like nothing else I've said.
It is completely consistent with his character to let a wicked nation, even a more wicked nation than us… Do you understand that? We don't even have to be lower on the scale than Iraq. If God wants to take this chosen nation… I say that only by history. We are not Israel. We never were. We never will be. But he has used us uniquely in the history of his earth to prevail with the gospel, to prevail with good and humanitarian aid and missionary work like no people in the history of the earth. We are blessed, but God will not put up with our character forever.
I have to tell you, we are leaking Jesus right now, and we'd better plug those holes, because if it doesn't happen this time, it will happen. Mark my words. It's going to happen one day. People have asked me this question. They've said, "Todd, is this part of the end-times scenario?" I'm going to answer it to you this way. I don't know, but you know what? I've always thought about "How are they going to explain the rapture, this event which is the catching up of the church of Jesus Christ before evil has its day on this earth like we've never seen?"
People ask, "What happens to America during end-times scenarios?" Now listen to me on this. What would happen if just like in Isaiah, chapter 39, when Sennacherib and his boys from Assyria had marched and wiped out the northern part of Israel, had gotten right to Samaria and were fixin' to move farther down into Judah, and there were hundreds of thousands of Assyrians encamped, besieged around Judah, around Israel… In the middle of the night, it says, 186,000 Assyrians were slain.
In that case, it wasn't a deliverance of good men; it was a destruction of evil. God sent Assyria with its tail between its legs back up because the wickedness of Israel was not yet full, so the exportation, deportation, exile wasn't yet to come, but how about this one for a scenario? Never before in the history of the earth has the rapture been so clearly taught and represented, even if folks who distort and twist the Scripture have told you not to read the books that tell you the truth about it.
What if you get 200,000 American troops camped out over there on the borders, and what if some of those, a significant amount, maybe some key individuals, do truly know Jesus Christ? I have to tell you, if men ever meet Christ, they meet him just before they go into battle. So we're getting ready. The word is coming out. "Tomorrow, boys, just before dawn, we're marching." I think there are going to be probably a few conversions that night, just like there always are.
What if in that moment the Lord decided, "You know what? Let's just get this thing called the end times rolling," and what if God removes all true genuine believers from the face of the earth? What country would be impacted by the rapture more than any other country? This one. What army would be impacted by that more than any other army? This one.
What religious folks who hate us and who love Allah and hate the great Satan who stands against it would count it as a victory that God had given them if there was all of a sudden a retreat of those forces that camped around them and a great movement on the nation that sent them? And the United Nations, which claims to be the method through which peace will come in the world who said, "Don't go," and we said, "We're going."
Somebody stood up for them and rallied the world together and said, "This is what happens to you when you act in isolation. You get judged and God brings desolation on that nation." So how do you explain what happened to America, what happened to all of those troops? I'll tell you how you explain it. You say that God got rid of them, and he would have, but it would have been the removing of the righteous before judgment hit the earth, not the removing of wicked so they couldn't move against Allah.
Now listen to me. I have no idea if that would happen. If you quote me, I'll tell you you're crazy, but I'm going to tell you something else, and this is my last point: all wars anticipate one war, and you need to decide whose side you're on. C.S. Lewis was addressing a bunch of his students when he was in Britain during World War II, and they said, "Why should we go and learn Latin when Hitler might come in here and make us learn German?"
C.S. Lewis looked at them and said, "The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice." I read a quote I wrote down a long time ago waiting for the right time to use it, and I'm going to use it now: "Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die."
Here's what I'm telling you: You're going to die one day. The rapture is going to happen one day, and God is going to move against evil, and you have to figure out where you're going to be when that movement picks up its pace. I'll tell you, if the rapture is going to happen in the next 10 days (and it would be great with me if it did), some of you all might still be here, and you remember that it isn't because Allah won; it's because God did what he said he was going to do, whether it's this time or the next time, but it's going to happen.
I'm telling you, it makes increasing sense where this becomes more and more of a religious-looking war that it might happen this way. Now, that's just one likely scenario. You don't bank on that; you bank on this book, and you bank on the fact that there is a God who will hold you into account for the wickedness which reigns in your hearts.
You figure out if you are on his side or not, if you are a seed of the serpent or a seed of the woman, if you are a child of wrath or if you are a child of God, because God will wage war, and you need to decide whose side you're on. If today you have never made peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, I call you to that. I call you to, as much as you are able, be at peace with all men, and I call you to use your brain.
If you were a young man in Germany in the 1930s and your leader, who is a legitimate authority, said "March," you shouldn't march because it's not a just war, and you have to figure out if this is. You pray for your leaders, and the first thing you have to do is you pray for yourself and get right with God, that his Spirit might instruct you and inform you. Repent. Acknowledge your need for a Savior. Consider Jesus, who has waged war against sin for you that peace might reign in your hearts. Let's pray.
Father, it's too easy to make this just a bunch of words. I've said a lot of them this morning, and I pray that right now you would do your work in us individually. Some of us have known you, Lord, for a long time, and we have not lived as if we do. We see that in our land there is wickedness, and adultery and homosexuality and self-love and greed and materialism have marked us. Not just tempted us, but for too many of us it has marked us, and we can see why you might be growing a little impatient with us.
We thank you that you have given us yet another day that we might repent, as individuals and as a people. I pray for this great country, Father, which I am so grateful I am a part of, that we would only partake in just war. I pray, Father, for this great country which I am so grateful to be a part of, that we would become a people that is just for one reason: our brokenness before and our dependence upon the perfect one, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins as he died for the sins of all men.
Father, we pray that world peace would come, and we know that world peace will only come one way: not through the advancing of righteous armies and not through the diplomacy and the efforts of the nations coming together. It will come, Father, when you eradicate evil with your just reign and righteous deliverance, and on that day, with shouts of acclimation when you come, we will have peace, but until then, may we act responsibly as individuals, participate responsibly as part of a nation, and, Father, be good citizens in this world, corporately and individually.
Lord, we know that you need to break our hearts for this to happen. I pray that no man or woman could leave this room today, Father, without doing business with you, and I pray that our country would have the dross melted away at the prospects of war. War is bad and you hate it, so come quickly, Lord Jesus. In Christ's name, amen.
Father, we admit our frailty, that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We are easily distracted. We are easily amused by things that are empty, pale, and void in comparison to you. So we come together like this, and throughout the week we meet with you alone on our knees. We open your book, that your Word might reveal to us again the greatness of who you are.
So though we may not jump up and down, scream, and applaud, in our hearts we bow in humble reverence. I pray, Lord, that nothing we do this morning is in rote response to who you are. I pray it's an increasing humble submission before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who died for us and who will return one day to deal with the sin of those who have not dealt with it by faith and trusting in the provision of your Son.
This morning we talked, Father, about the execution of evil and war, and we thank you that you are not silent on this subject, how in all things that are pertinent and meaningful to us you speak boldly and your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. I pray we would not just be amused by it this morning or learn from it as one who loves to have their ears tickled but we would bow in humble reverence to it and that we would understand that you wage war against all wickedness, and that includes us.
We need a savior. We need a redeemer. We need a protector, one who will war for us in a battle we cannot win, and we declare that his name is Jesus. By faith, myself and other believers in this room want to lift him up and thank you for the provision of who he is and how because of him we can escape the coming wrath and how we can live in relationship with you now and by faith have peace with God and by faith have the peace of God in our lives, even in a world that is as uncertain as ours.
We pray, as you have instructed us to, for kings and rulers and those who are in authority. We pray for our president. We pray for his cabinet. We pray for his military leaders and advisers. Lord, would you give them wisdom that no man has? They need to make decisions on incomplete information. More information than we have, surely. We are forced to trust them, and that is why our elections are so significant to us as people.
Father, we thank you for the privilege of this land, that we can install into government, into places of privileged information, men and women who can responsibly and biblically respond to that information. We are now victims of our vote, and some of us, Father, are culpable for not voting at all, and for that we are culpable for what is there, and we lose the privilege of what is right that is there.
But we pray for these men and women despite what we have or haven't done, and we ask that you sovereignly see over them. I am encouraged to know that at least the words of the man in the White House have been to ask for prayer, have been to acknowledge his humble need before you. Father, you tell us that if any man lacks wisdom he can approach you and that you give to him in abundance.
So, for our president, for other world leaders, for Saddam Hussein, we ask, Father, that you would invade their lives in an overwhelming way. We think in the Scriptures of other rulers of Babylon who mocked you and whose attention you got, and we pray that you would do that with the man who is there now, that he would repent, that he would lead, that he would come to Christ, that he would disarm, that he would negate that which makes our leaders think war is just.
Will you help us, and will you lead us today? As we open your book, as we open our hearts, as we seek to be instructed, may it be a clear lamp and may it be a clear guide and may we be clearly your servants. Might you draw to yourself those who are in this room who don't yet know how great you are. That's why we're here: to praise you, lift you up, that you might draw men to yourself. In Christ's name, amen.
Many are looking for answers to make sense out of the disasters that have taken place in the last few years. Everywhere, people want to know where God is in events like these and how or why things like this happen. In the midst of grief and fear, God's Word offers us peace, hope and wisdom for living in a world plagued by sin and tumult. Looking at more than just terrorism and hurricanes, this series addresses all sin and its consequences and offers God's answer to our great need.