Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
THE WAR WITHIN
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
8 JULY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman
1 John 4:18
Preparation Verse: (1 John 4:18)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Since Pentecost, we have been talking about the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, how we should approach our everyday life situations, and where our problems really come from.
We also have talked a little about the struggles we have within ourselves in doing the will of God.
Today, through a sermon I have titled “The War Within,” we are going to
concentrate a little more on this inner struggle.
Let's begin by taking a look at a war that took place within the hearts of the Egyptians during the time when the Israelites lived there, about 3,700 years ago, and as recorded in Exodus 1:6-14. Let's begin by looking at verses 6-10:
6. And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.
7. But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.
8. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
9. And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.
10. "Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us, and depart from the land."
It wasn't some future war that the Egyptians had to fear, but it was the war that was beginning in their hearts.
They began to fear the very people who had helped their land prosper; and in that fear, they were afraid of what would happen to them if Israel remained in their land.
And they were also afraid of what would happen to themselves, if Israel left.
The Egyptians are afraid of both of their suggested options.
And if these are the only kinds of options we see for ourselves, we have already lost the war before it really begins.
The only way we can get ourselves into this kind of situation, which contains no positive options, is if God is not part of our decision-making process.
This is something for every one of us to realize and remember, for when we have no positive options, we become depressed.
So, if we feel depression coming upon us, instead of letting it get the upper hand, consider what positive options God's way would give us to the situations we find ourselves in.
And we also must be prepared to receive God's answer.
Sometimes we may pray out "What do I do to get out of this situation?" only to hear that inner voice of God saying "If it were Me, I wouldn't be in it." (A little humor.)
But our God is a very loving and forgiving God, and He will still help us out; but He would much prefer to help us not get into our problems in the first place.
Egypt did not know God, but the people they feared did know Him; thus they had to have seen the way God prospered them, and by comparison, how they lacked what Israel had.
But the war within them was being waged on both sides by Satan, as happens with us when we get into similar situations. Note the results, as we continue with verses 11-14:
11. So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.
12. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.
13. And the Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously;
14. and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.
When you oppress someone you fear, your fear of them will only increase, for now you have added the fear of retaliation.
The slave holders in this country feared the slaves because they were afraid they would rebel.
And remember, all of these options involve fear; thus we know they are not of God.
Our God is a God of love, and where there is true Godly love, there cannot be fear, for as we are told in 1 John 4:18, "perfect love casts out fear."
The Egyptians’ war within was based solely on fear, and in their hearts, they left no room for God's love; thus they were bound to Satan with their fears.
If we fear change or improvement in our lives, it is not of God; it is from Satan.
But with God all things are possible.
So, if you have fear and don't know where to start to end it, begin with praising God, as did David in Psalm 124:1-8, beginning with the first 5 verses:
1. "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,"
Let Israel now say,
2. "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,
When men rose up against us;
3. Then they would have swallowed us alive,
When their anger was kindled against us;
4. Then the waters would have engulfed us,
The stream would have swept over our soul;
5. Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul."
Sometimes we make a mistake when we praise the Lord.
We make the mistake of thinking that praising God is limited to saying "Praise the Lord! Praise God!" but it is not, for our Praise of God includes singing out of all that the Lord has done, just as the psalmist is doing.
This kind of praise does at least two things:
It is a reminder to us that God has done great things; and if He has, then He can probably solve our problems.
And while our mind is centered upon God and praising Him, the enemy is much less likely to be active in our thoughts and actions.
Then once God is part of the solution to our problem, we will find other options that we will not fear.
Then, as the psalmist does, we will sing praises of what the Lord has done for us.
Note verses 6-8:
6. Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
7. Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;
The snare is broken and we have escaped.
8. Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Yes, God made heaven and the earth, and He also made everything in them.
He even made each and every one of us, and all of the other humans and animals who have feeling just as we do, and who don't want to be enslaved or abused any more than we do.
This is why the psalmist wrote: "Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped."
He knew the people would understand the implications and that enslaving any living being is counter to God's will and love.
And God knows the thoughts of our innermost being and the mess we make out of the good things He gave us.
Therefore, doesn't it stand to reason that God could also straighten out the messes we find ourselves in, and the warring we have within us, that takes away our joy?
The Egyptians didn't have any real joy because they didn't have God, and his love in their hearts, and thus they feared.
The Israelites had God with them, even if not within them, and thus, in the face of persecution, they still had joy and multiplied.
Each and every one of us should have the same, but not necessarily to multiply.
But there is another element to our lives that does a good job of keeping us in the battle zone.
It's our personal sins that we have a problem with and which we are really reluctant to wholly give to God.
The apostle Paul had this kind of problem, just like each and every one of us.
The key to our overcoming is in our recognizing it for what it is.
Note what Paul tells us of this war within, as we look at Romans 7:14-25.
14. For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
15. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
Do you hear the war within?
Paul is battling within himself about the things that are of God against those that are not of God.
Listen carefully as we continue, and see how Paul wins the battle:
16. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.
17. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.
18. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.
Note that Paul in not planning the sinful things he does.
He is doing everything within his power to avoid them and to do what he knows to be of God.
And Paul doesn't excuse or condone the sin in his life, which many in the Church are doing today.
Since it is the desire of his heart not to sin, God helps him; for if He didn't, God would never have allowed Paul to write so much of the New Testament, if even any part of it.
As we continue, try to feel within yourself what Paul is feeling:
20. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells within me.
21. I feel then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.
22. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
23. but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
24. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
25. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Paul's joy, and his help from the Lord, is coming because he desires to serve the will of God.
He is not playing around with the sinful desires of his flesh within his mind.
He sets his focus on the things of God.
And God will help every one of us to do this, if we truly desire to be freed from sin.
Sin cripples us spiritually and physically.
And since every one of us has sinned, then it is more important for us to
desire not to sin and not to continually live in our pet sins, than it is to say
that we will never sin again and then go off and do what we said we would never
do again. Admit the truth.
Don't put those burdens on yourselves; God doesn't.
Yes, turn away from those things that you can, but desire to leave the others, also.
God really loves us, and he wants only good for us.
If we truly seek Him, we will have the good life, and our fears will go, the warring will become less, and we will have peace and joy.
Your Comments are welcome
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