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Monday 14 November 2022

A Strategy To Take Down The Devil’s Influence

Image: Unsplash

You can watch the video of this sermon here

Introduction –

(Read verses Titus 2:1-8)

I want to begin today by talking about strategy and logistics. I need to note at the start of this that I am not a master strategist. I never went to military college, and I have only read a small selection of military histories. So, while I have some understanding of strategy it is not the most advanced. But I have read some and I was also in the army reserves and was trained in basic military tactics. I was only ever an infantry grunt, but still, I have some understanding of how the military works, and what it takes for an army to succeed in the field. And I want to illustrate an important point by way of military analogy this morning.

I want you to picture a big battlefield. You have your military forward base, which is a base that is operating in enemy territory. It is fortified, it has barracks, equipment sheds, ammo supplies, a mess hall. It has high fortified walls, guard towers, is patrolled by military aircraft, and is capable of repelling all but a full-scale assault. It sits forward from your main base, which is in a green zone, that is a zone which has already been conquered, and is reasonably well controlled by your military. This forward base has a large battalion with several companies and as I noted it is accompanied by air support. In this forward base you have about 1000 men at your disposal, frontline soldiers and support.

This forward base is capable of extending military efforts into enemy territory for several dozen kilometers around the base. They perform patrols, incursions, hostage rescues, targeted attacks. It is their job to gain control of the sector of the city under their operating range. They also link up with other battalions in the combat area and are highly skilled at what they do. If needed they can be called upon to reinforce other elements of the regiment in the field.

But for the soldiers of this base to do what they do, they need to be constantly resupplied with food, rest and recreation, ammunition, reserves, fuel for their trucks and tanks and more. Without these things these men would perish in enemy territory, picked off one by one, or even all together.

The base has a good transport crew who can bring soldiers in and out of battle and also bring ammo to soldiers pinned down in combat. But they can’t drive anywhere without the fuel supplies that the forward base keeps full, and there is no point going anywhere if they don’t have the ammunition to bring to the battle. The mess hall, the hospital and the sleeping barracks are exactly what hungry, injured or tired soldiers need. But if they run out of food, or if the cooks aren’t there, or the nurses are gone, or the sleeping barracks are badly kept, the soldiers will not be able to perform at a high level.

As long as the forward bases and the soldiers do their specific tasks the enemy needs to fear. The soldiers are good at what they do, and they will advance into enemy territory. But it must never be forgotten that both the support base and the tip of the spear are necessary for success. The support base keeps the reserve units, the food, healing and sleeping supplies necessary, which are vital for soldiers to be fully up to the task. The tip of the spear, the soldiers, advance against the enemy. New ground is taken, and those soldiers must be continually replenished.

Now, what happens if everybody stops doing this and the forward base and tip of the spear get their roles confused? What happens? They will lose, badly. If the forward operating base decides that all of the cooks and medical staff are going to go out into enemy territory, and all of the soldiers are going to swap roles with them, then things will go pear-shaped quickly. Sure, its not like they can’t fight; cooks and medical staff have been forced to fight in many wars. But it’s not their specialty, they are not as good at it.

Even worse, what happens if everyone in the military base decides everyone is equal and everyone should go out to fight? Well, you will probably have an initial surge of success because you will have more people in the front lines fighting, but after not too long it will all fall apart, because there is no one making sure there is food for the soldiers, ammo for the guns, or fuel for the trucks and tanks. There is no foundation supporting the fighting force. What will happen is that after the initial shock to the enemy of facing more troops, your soldiers will start to wear down, run out of ammo, get confused about who does what and the enemy will advance quickly, because there is no rear support for the soldiers. In making everyone equal, or the same, everyone is diminished and the enemy wins.

In fact, even if the support staff prove to be close to as good as the soldiers in fighting the enemy on the frontlines, you will still have the same result, because it is not about their giftedness for fighting or their desire to fight or their skill to fight that matters. For the army to succeed it needs everybody in their proper place fulfilling their proper roles. They are supposed to be keeping the rear base ready to support the forward troops. This is what matters, not what they want to do, or what they think they can do, or what they might believe they are gifted to do. No, what matters is that they are fulfilling their designed role. The strategy requires it. Anything less invites disaster.

In fact, if I was tasked with defeating this forward base and their soldiers, and I had inferior numbers and equipment, I would do what I could to break down the ability for the base to reinforce their soldiers. Because if you can achieve this, it does not matter how good the soldiers are, once they run out of ammo, food and fuel, they can be easily dealt with. If the forward base is diminished, then the frontline soldiers will be diminished too. So, a good strategist would find a way to break the forward base’s ability to do what it is meant to do.

As I said, I am not a mater strategist. But you do not have to be a master strategist to understand why Napoleon said, “The amateurs discuss tactics: the professionals discuss logistics.” Logistics is about getting things where they need to be; support, ammo, men, everything. The most important thing an army can do is guard its supply lines, because without them your soldiers will lose, guaranteed. Getting things where they need to be at the right time takes a highly competent leader who presides over a very skilled network of supporting bases. If those bases fail in their duty, the whole army fails. To ignore the leader’s commands is to create a logistical nightmare making the whole army vulnerable to collapse.

This is an extended introduction and I think by the end here many of you will anticipate where I am headed with this, but let me just say it outright: it is because we have allowed the enemy into the gates to confuse people about their God ordained gender roles that much of the West has been lost to the Church, the enemy has advanced and now reigns from the pulpits of many churches. This is not my opinion, it is the observed reality of the western church today. The Church has massively declined, territory has been lost to the enemy, and in many quarters the Church is in retreat. Why? Well, in large part, because we ignored the roles that God has given us, and this has caused confusion, anarchy, and diminishment of men and women. Until we repent of this, the enemy will continue to advance in the Church and in society.

This is why today, we are going to talk about Paul’s advice to men and women, and why we are not going to try and fit his advice with our modern society but look at why we have our strategy all wrong. It is incumbent on us to learn from the Lord’s strategy and get back to it, otherwise our efforts against darkness are guaranteed to fail. Let’s see what the captain of our salvation has to say to us through Paul about defeating the devil’s influence.

Sound Doctrine (2:1) – The basis of God’s strategy for the Church is sound teaching, “1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Paul begins here by telling Timothy to be the opposite of the Judaizers and false teachers which he just rebuked. He is to be a man who sticks to the sound teaching of the Bible.   

It is important for a church to recognize that it is part of God’s spiritual army against spiritual darkness in this world. This is why the New Testament often refers to Christians as soldiers of Christ. We are not a physical army, but one that carries weapons of spiritual power, “4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Cor. 10:4-6).

What are our spiritual weapons? The sword of the Spirit, God’s word, prayer, the gospel, and more. But this is key, if we are going to fight against the evil one’s schemes, we have to use “the knowledge of God”, “obey Christ” and reject the ideas of the world. Otherwise, we are defenceless against the devil’s schemes.

If sound teaching is part of how God protects us from evil, then how important is it to put into practice what the Bible says about things like sex, gender, family, and church? And how dangerous is it to reject those things?

Therefore, the teaching of the Church has to be unapologetically biblical and resistant to the culture when the culture contradicts the Bible. Sound doctrine is like basic training for soldiers which helps keep them orientated on their role. And for Paul, what the Church teaches about gender roles is part of this sound teaching that defeats the devil’s schemes. It’s not extra, its not just cultural, it is foundational and necessary for helping us know how to fight against the devil.

So let’s see what Paul says.

Noble Older Men - Patriarchs (v.2) – A key part of how we fight the devil is that the older men of the Church need to set a noble standard, “2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” Paul doesn’t start here with the older men for no reason, the older men are supposed to set the tone for how the Church is run, what its character is and how people should seek to comport themselves.

They need to be noble men.

Sober-minded – they need to be careful in how and what they think, not diminished by too much alcohol or drugs or flights of fancy.

Dignified – their maturity needs to be clear.

Self-controlled – there is a kind of older man who cares so little about what people think he lets his behaviour completely go, he cannot be like this.

Sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness – they need to understand what the Bible says and hold to it consistently, even in the face of pressure to walk away from it.

In other words, older men should be clear thinking and noble in how they carry themselves.

Paul is not addressing the elders here, but the elders would be mainly selected from among these older men. They have life experience, they have seen many situations, they have faced them and come through them still holding their dignity.

Not all men still have their dignity at this age. Some men have diminished their dignity from loose living, by giving in to temptation with women, by focusing more on career, hobbies and fringe ideas than family and church. But many men have preserved their dignity – these men are patriarchs, and the Church needs them.  

The Church that is filled with noble older men, setting the standards, has in place one of the key pillars of God’s strategy to help us defeat the evil one. What’s next?

Noble and Active Older Women (vv.3-5) – Another core component of God’s strategy to defeat the evil one, is that noble, older women play their part, “3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

There is a common stereotype of the older wine drinking woman. It is the subject of many memes, and is seen a lot in media. The common theme of all of these instances is the lack of dignity that comes with this. It is not wrong to like wine, even good wine, and to enjoy it in a godly way, but being given to too much of it, that is a problem.

Older women need to match the dignity of the older men. But they also need to be reverent, that means, they are respectful of authority, especially of their husbands. Modern society constantly tells women that they should tear down or mock authority. But Paul says older women should do the opposite. Why?

Because he wants older women to teach the younger women. “They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

One of the most common arguments I hear for why women should be pastors and teachers, is that some women are such gifted teachers. Of course they are, because God intends women to be teachers, of other women and little children. This is a vital, necessary and seriously neglected aspect of God strategy for how the Church can defeat the Devil’s schemes.

What are they to teach? They are to teach the younger women to: Focus on getting as educated as possible, build that education into a career, ensuring that they are prepared to support themselves for as long as possible, until a man comes along who earns more than them, and can afford to take that lifestyle to another level, helping her have her career and family and all the rest (Titus 6:66).

Is that what Paul says? Well, if not, why is this the kind of advice that younger women get often, from their Christian school teachers, Christian mothers, women at church, and so many other Christian influences? When you lay it out so clearly, it obviously a bit ridiculous.  

They are actually to teach women to be diligent, gracious, stay at home mums, who respect their husbands and follow his lead. Why? So, the word of God is not reviled.

“So the word of God is not reviled” – What does this mean?

One way to look at this, is Paul is saying to the Christians in Crete, that they live in a traditional society, so structure their homes like the traditional society, so that they fit in and are not hated.

This is how many Christians treat this verse, as an out-of-date advice meant for a different day.

But the problem with reading it this way, is that the Bible covers more history than we have had since Paul’s day, and its advice remains consistent, and the Bible was written by the God who created men and women and knows what is best for us. Why would God’s advice be any different today, than any other day in history?

The other, and correct, way to look at this, is that Paul is giving timeless advice about how to defeat the evil one’s schemes. This makes much more sense, and let me highlight why: For most of Church history the church practiced women passing the culture down in the home, and Christianity advanced in the West from generation to generation, shooting across the entire known world, through the descendants of those who obeyed this verse.

In the short time since this passage has been rejected as cultural, the enemy has re-conquered the West, the Church is in decline, and Christianity is receding from the public sphere.

In other words, the church that rejects this way of life will lead to the world reviling Christianity, because the mother is the primary person who passes culture down to the children. She is the one who spends most of her time with them, and therefore, she will determine the direction our culture goes in the next generation.  

Part of the reason why the word of God is so reviled today is because most pastors won’t pass this teaching on. Most husbands won’t lay out this standard in the home. Most women think their career is more important than following Paul’s teaching.  

But Paul is telling us that this basic Christian doctrine, that women should maintain homebase, is necessary for defeating the evil one’s schemes. This is sound doctrine. Anything else is unsound. Only sound doctrine can defeat the devil’s schemes.

There is nothing confusing about this verse, nothing hard to understand, it does not use any big theological words. It does not use complicated logic. It is a simple, straightforward verse. So why is it so often ignored?

Because the reviling of God’s words often starts in the heart of the stubborn Christian.

This verse is not intellectually hard to accept. It is emotionally hard to accept, because it clearly teaches that the role of the woman is different to a man, and in a society where equality is the highest god, any clear gender distinction like this is maddening to many.

You might hate hearing this: but Paul was clearly right, because the Church ignored him, and has lost ground at a rapid rate. Do with this what you will.   

The Church vitally needs the older women to teach the younger women why their role of maintaining homebase is so important. It is a necessary part of the strategy to defeat the evil one’s schemes.

Obedient Younger Women (vv.4-5) – And of course for the strategy to have any chance of working, the younger women need to obey Paul’s teaching, and put this into practice, “4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

I don’t need to repeat what we have already looked at, so I will simply address some of the reasons why young women will find this hard to put into practice:

-        A lot of older women will not teach you this, in fact some will outright tell you Paul was wrong.

-        Also, your husband might not believe this. He might use a bad reading of Proverbs 31 to say that women should be bringing in the income, or he might just not care what the Bible says.

-        So many people will note your intelligence and tell you it would be a waste for you to be a stay-at-home mum. You will find this hard to ignore. Who wouldn’t? But you must be prepared to laugh at such a silly, retarded statement. Think about this, career women have the least amount of kids. What happens if all of the smartest women have the least amount of kids? The answer is obvious.  

-        Depending on where you live, you might find being a stay-at-home mum lonely, because most women today are out of the home. Many women work just so they can be around other women or having someone to occupy their mind.

So, because the culture is all walking the wrong way, you will face never ending pressure from all quarters to follow it. But Jesus never said living according to the scriptures was going to be easy. Working against the schemes of the devil is never easy. It always requires some level of resisting the culture around you. For women in the workforce, they face a whole different host of problems, so you won’t find shelter from the evil one there. Far from it.

A Church where many of the women are maintaining the commands of Paul to have a thoroughly Christian home base, has an incredibly important part of its strategy against the devil in place.

Self-Controlled Young Men (v.6) – Titus is to “urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” Considering he has said so much to everyone else, why does he say so little to the young men? Well, because the role of the man is clear in the minds of the early Church, he is to be the husband and provider, Paul makes this clear in many places.

But the young man’s greatest weakness is his lack of self-control. Aristotle helps us here:

“To begin with the Youthful type of character. Young men have strong passions, and tend to gratify them indiscriminately. Of the bodily desires, it is the sexual by which they are most swayed and in which they show absence of self-control. They are changeable and fickle in their desires, which are violent while they last, but quickly over: their impulses are keen but not deep-rooted, and are like sick people’s attacks of hunger and thirst.”[i]

Young men are filled with testosterone and it rages like a bull in their body, and needs taming, otherwise they will create all kinds of trouble for themselves.

If Paul’s advice to women highlights that they struggle to submit and obey their husbands, as God said would happen in Genesis 3. Then Paul is showing young men the key to becoming the noble older man: gain control of yourselves.

Of course, this advice is true for all people, of all ages. But who is most likely to give into passion, anger, sexual temptation, and similar things? The young man who does not know himself and his limits.

The backbone and strength of every successful fighting force, or top-level sports team in history has been young men who have self-control. It is no different for the Church, if the young men have no self-control, the Devil will run rampant throughout the place.

A Living Example (vv.7-8) – Lastly Paul addresses Titus himself and tells him: set the example and stick to this solid teaching, “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

Titus is to live like he is asking others to live, and be a model of good deeds. Pastors cannot be those who are good at telling, but not at doing, they must live what they teach.

Titus is to make sure he makes his case strong, honestly, with dignity so that opponents are silenced.

-        They will still attack, as Jesus, Peter and Paul all experienced.

-        They will twist and misconstrue what you are saying, I have experienced that and it is frustrating, but there is not much you can do about it.

-        They will paint you as radical, or dangerous, or this or that.

-        Paul’s advice is make is hard for them to do so. But keep teaching the honest, God ordained truth no matter what: sound doctrine is necessary to help us defeat the Devil’s schemes.

A teacher who sticks to sound, biblical doctrine, helps the church and families defeat the evil one’s schemes.

Application – I think the application of this sermon is pretty simple, men and women know your place, and maintain it, otherwise the devil wins.

Conclusion – Jesus died on the cross, defeating sin, death and the devil, so that we can trust in him by faith to be saved from our sins, death and the devil. But, though we are saved by faith, our lives are improved by faithfulness.

So my challenge to you is simple: onward Christian solider, marching as to war, but take into battle with you God’s strategy, not the worlds. God’s strategy is clear. Let’s pray.   

[i] 1.1        Aristotle. Aristotle: The Complete Works (p. 880). Pandora's Box. Kindle Edition.

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