Overcoming Division by Choosing Love: Part 1-2

Part 1

Acknowledging Spiritual Warfare- In this age, spiritual warfare, or demonic resistance, focused against the people of God is an assured reality. If we are to go forward in the will of God then it is certain that we must prevail in the realm of the spirit.
Often spiritual attack begins very subtly but can have far reaching and devastating long-term impact. One of the primary tools of the enemy involves an assault against the Kingdom of God by seeking to bring division in the midst of His people. Jesus taught that, “…a house… divided against itself…cannot stand.” (Mk.3:25). Yet the apostle Paul taught the Ephesians that we are to stand.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand…stand therefore.” Eph.6:13-14
We can think of ‘standing’ as enduring in fullness while overcoming adversity.

Understanding the Commitment to Love One Another-

Often, as a spiritual community, as we realize that division exists within the ranks we pray against division. While it is important to ask God to remove a divisive spirit we must recognize that often time God requires more than just our asking Him to remove something from our midst. We are tasked, in the most practical sense, with loving one another.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 Jn.4:7
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jn.15:12
The biblical definition of love extends far beyond just a friendly sentiment or a kind act. In both cases, in the above verses, ‘love’ is translated from the Greek word, ἀγαπάω; agapaō (agape). Agape love reflects the way that God Himself loves, not the way that people love. The verb tenses used in the above verses (‘love one another’) are both present, active, subjunctive, plural tenses. This means that they refer to the corporate church choosing, in the present tense, to actively love one another as God loves them. This is the command, then, from the Holy Spirit to the people of God. “Be busy loving one another, like I love love you.”
Loving one another on Jesus’ terms involves a very practical commitment to obey His word and to relate to one another according to it’s boundaries.
Loving one another according to God’s definition of love involves recognizing and affirming those things that God approves of and resisting those things that God resists.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phil.1:9-11


Part 2

Understanding the Nature of Accusation- Accusation is one of the key features of demonic spiritual warfare leading to division. We can trace it’s deep roots right back to the purity and beauty of Eden’s garden sanctuary.  “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”…Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen.3:1,5
God’s character and intentions were slandered as truth was twisted to create the optimum context for taking advantage of and manipulating the weakness of humanity.
Demonic accusation involves slander and is always malicious. The scripture titles Satan as ‘The Accuser of [the] brethren’ (Rev.12:10). This title describes more than just his nature, it describes his agenda. He is an accuser and he purposefully chooses to bring accusation against the saints in order to try to disrupt and overthrow the Kingdom of God.
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Rev.12:10-11

Resisting Accusation-
Stand therefore…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Eph.6:14,16
Spiritually, we are called to resist the temptation to agree with demonic accusation. This reality is what Paul refers to as ‘the shield of Faith’. This involves recognizing (discerning) and loving truth. We call this agreement with God. The primary way that we resist demonic accusation is by agreeing with God. We want to agree with God about what he thinks and feels about His people. This is critical if we are to resist a spirit of division.
The shield of faith involves walking in confidence about who God is and how He feels about us and others. As we walk in confidence with God we can resist the slander of the enemy that tries to separate, or divide us, from his love. To the church in Rome, Paul wrote,
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom.8:37-39
We conquer the works of the Adversary by staying in Christ Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…”. The way that we abide in Jesus is through sincere, wholehearted love for Him and loyalty to His word. Those things that would seek to divide His people are rendered powerless when we choose to live this way.
But it is not enough that we resist accusation personally, we must resist the power of accusation corporately as Satan seeks to divide the family of God.

Releasing Power by Resisting Accusation-
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Rev.12:10-11
Power to resist and overcome the enemy will be released to the end-time saints who resist the Accuser. Salvation, strength and the power of the Kingdom will be released in great measure when Satan loses His position of authority in the heavenly realm. This same reality applies today. As Satan loses his position of authority and influence among the people of God, we experience the increase of the release of His strength and blessing. This happens primarily when we resist the strength of his accusation and choose agreement with the word of God.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor.10:4-5
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess.1:11
This reality is to sit central to the last days prayer movement. God is raising up a people who will ‘pray always’ for the release of ‘the good pleasure of His goodness’ , that is, the outpouring of His Spirit, and the increase of power for those who choose to walk in partnership with God.
We must declare the truth of God’s word with boldness to us and about us and those that God has joined us to.

Acts 4:29-30 -“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

The Practicality of Choosing Love-
There are many ways in which we will choose to love one another in this age. Two of the most important as they apply to overcoming division involve what we do when we discern error and weakness in others and what we do when we recognize the excellence of Godly virtue budding forth.
God sees both our failures and our successes and still He chooses to love us. We are not disqualified from His love because of our sin and weakness. It is precisely because of His love that we choose to turn from sin.
We must learn to view others as God views them if we are going to be able to love them well. The narrative of the book of the Song of Solomon chronicles the journey into love of a young Shulamite woman. As she is introduced to the splendor of the King’s beauty she recoils at the horror of her own weakness. Though she admits partially to the grace of God upon her life, she is aware of her sin, her weakness and her failure. Agreeing with shame she immediately disqualifies herself from love.
“I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not look upon me, because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me…” Song.1:5-6
Though Jesus is aware of the weakness and failure in her life, He immediately affirms His affection for her and the divine grace upon her life.
“If you do not know, O fairest among women…my love…[you] are lovely…” Song.1:8-10
We must learn to measure as God measures. He told the prophet Samuel, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sm.16:7. He is not ignorant of our failures and He will address areas of sin and compromise in our lives. Even so, He is quick to recognize, affirm and encourage those areas where we are succeeding in Him even if they are small. He enjoys our love for Him even when it is not fully mature.
The Adversary, however, brings criticism and condemnation when we fail. He rejects that there is anything good working within us at all. He seeks to discourage us from trying and desires that we would renounce the working of God’s grace within us. He brings shame, discouragement, guilt and oppression. Because of the brokenness of all humanity, it can very easy and almost natural for us to cooperate with this.
The book of Zechariah, chapter 3:1-5, gives us isight into the nature of the Enemy’s accusation and God’s zeal to defend and justify us. During the time of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple when the exiles of Israel were beginning to return from Babylon back to Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah was given 8 powerful visions in one night. During his fourth vision he is shown Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord.
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” Zechariah 3:1-5
The significance and purpose of this vision is manifold and ultimately global and eschatological but the truths contained can be applied even in general ways to the people of God in any generation.
Joshua was the high priest and main spiritual leader of Israel and represented the entire nation before God. He represented the ministries of worship and intercession. He was the chief spiritual leader in the land. To disqualify him from leadership would be to disqualify the people of God from their priestly office and calling as well. Without one to represent the nation, God’s power and blessings to Israel, and thus, to every nation, would be severely limited.
Satan’s accusations against Joshua were based on truth. His garments were dirty, he was stained with iniquity. Yet, the basis for his acceptance wasn’t his own righteousness, it was the fact that Yahweh favored him, and had chosen him as a brand plucked from the fire.
*The believer is declared righteous before God based on the very righteousness of Jesus Himself being credited, or reckoned, to us. This is known as forensic, legal, or imputed righteousness. In addition to being declared righteous before God, we are given gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. This is known as imparted righteousness. We have them, they are ours and they are in us and we are therefore called to make righteous choices and live with righteous behavior. This is called behavioral righteousness. We are declared righteous in Christ because God has cleared us of the guilt of past sins and given us a new human nature predisposed to obeying Him rather than rebelling against Him and we are to, from this point on, live righteously before Him. Rom.8:1; Rom.8:33-34; Is.61:10
Jesus, the Angel of the Lord, rebuked the accuser. We too are to resist the accuser, not based on what we are thinking and feeling at any given moment, but based upon the position that God has taken. Our ability to resist accusation based on truth comes from the reality that God sees and measures on a completely different scale than we do. He addresses our sin and our failure from the vantage point of One who desires to completely forgive, heal and bless. This is a polar opposite view of the one who seeks only our disqualification.
Zechariah, watching this dramatic scene play out, requests from the Lord, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” Zechariah sees the Lord’s affirmation of Joshua the high priest and immediately steps into agreement with God’s verdict even though he is aware of Joshua’s sin. This is to be our posture and confession as well. “What God has cleansed [we] must not call [defiled].” (Acts 10:15). It is easy to see another believer’s sin and failure but we must view that sin through the finished work of the cross and the grace that is made available by God and appropriated by a life faith.

Responding with Intercession-
Zechariah’s agreement with God begin’s in his mind as he comprehends what is taking place and finds it’s first expression in the place of intercession, “Let [allow] them put a clean turban on his head.”
We too must be a people of ‘intercessory first responders’. God cares deeply about each and every other believer and when He allows us to see as He sees it is not for the point of bringing judgement (in a wrong spirit), shame or condemnation. We are to pray to Him, as Jesus said, in the ‘secret place’. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt.6:6 Part of our ‘open reward’ is that we are able to discern the hand of grace working upon another in concert with our fervent prayer and committed love. We are able to see the progressive unfolding of their maturity as they choose to love Jesus.

Responding With Affirmation-
Zechariah not only responded with intercession, he responded with affirmation. He joined in the conversation regarding God’s blessing and approval of Joshua and his role. We must join the divine conversation. We are to speak the truth in love. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Eph.4:15). In this context, ‘in love’ refers to the church growing in maturity in every aspect of life and to experiencing the fullness of Jesus. We are to affirm with our speech those thoughts, words and deeds done by others who are sincerely seeking to love Jesus.
We are to speak the truth directly to those walking in sincerity even though they struggle. We must speak this same truth about them to others and we must speak this same truth about them to God as we pray.
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word …the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” 1 Pt.1:22 -25
This verse emphasizes the motives of our heart as we choose to love one another with our speech, affirming God’s words (as those things which express his desire) over others.

Purposing to Embrace Confrontation with Grace-
Embracing and even initiating confrontation is part of how we are to love one another biblically, though, typically, most of us resist confrontation because of it’s notoriety.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. ’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Mt.18:15-17
In this case the issue is sin between brethren, but we can also apply this command related to dealing with offense because ‘gaining our brother’ is the goal. We are seeking to overcome that which separates by choosing to respond to offense in a biblical way. This is how we practically wage war against division between brethren. We assertively seek one another out to talk through matters like offense with the goal of resolving conflict and strengthening relationship.
Confrontation is also part of speaking the truth in love. Confrontation happens when we directly address one another in a spirit of meekness seeking to work through things like offense, wounding, and sin with goal of spiritual restoration (Gal.6:1) and relational restoration (Is.1:18).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Gal.6:1
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool…” Is.1:18 (Is.43:26)