This segment concludes the chapter on the Kingdom of God, as authored by Gary North in his book “Unconditional Surrender.” It clearly calls into question some of the present teachings of the church and the resultant ineffectiveness not only of the church, but leadership at all levels in the whole world.
· Why is the church so pessimistic about its role - in time and on earth? Who wants to be a commander in a losing cause?
· When Moses selected Joshua to lead ancient Israel, what happened to the rest of his generation which resisted and mistrusted God? Are we the modern version of them by resisting God’s dominion assignment?
· How do we justify our inaction?
· What are we in effect doing when we continually pray for miracles without laboring for victory under God’s revealed law-order?
· When will we decide to leave the wilderness of doubt, pessimism and confusion?
The biblical reasoning and logic of this subject was detailed in the previous studies. Please review as you need to do so. Also, I would strongly advise that you re-read the recent Notes and Asides #4 – “Understanding What We Believe.” The following is from “Unconditional Surrender.”
(If this is your first exposure to CAP Lessons, you can backtrack the thread from here.)
For a successful program of delegated responsibility to persevere, the church must become convinced that such delegated authority can produce long-term benefits. The church must become confident in its own earthly future. The church must become convinced that it is an honor to bear new responsibilities, in time and on earth, in every area of life. The church - and I mean the multitude of Christians acting as dominion men - must become convinced that we aren't God's cannon fodder, that we aren't destined to defend the last outpost. Who wants to take responsibility for commanding despondent troops who won't take responsibility themselves? Who wants to lead an army of incompetents whose own Supreme Commander has supposedly told them that the army is destined for temporal defeat? Who wants to be a commander in a losing cause? Who wants to command troops when it isn't safe to delegate authority to any of your subordinates a lesson which you learned from your Supreme Commander, who made this mistake at the very beginning of the war? Nobody sensible would do it. I submit that this is a major factor in explaining why Christians have nobody sensible leading them in this century - or at least very, very few sensible people.
What should be our first step in locating a generation of competent leaders? Moses selected Joshua to lead Israel into the land because Joshua was one of only two spies who had returned to Israel, 40 years before, to recommend that they march in right then and take the land that had been promised to them (Numbers 14:6-10). Caleb, the only other spy to agree with Joshua, also entered the land, as God had said he would (Numbers 14:24). Only two men were optimistic. Not an auspicious beginning for Israel in the wilderness. But God has all the time necessary to achieve His goals. He simply waited for all of the older ones to die off, except Caleb and Joshua. Then they marched across the Jordan River and began the conquest.
The younger generation took God's word more seriously than their parents had. They entered Canaan believing that God would give all the nations of Canaan into their hands. They didn't remain true to this faith; they were unsuccessful in dislodging several of the tribes (Judges 1). They were, however, far more confident than the generation of the exodus had been, and far more successful.
Therefore, the first step in locating reliable leaders is to reverse the paralyzing pessimism of contemporary Christianity. We must take God seriously. When God gave man his dominion assignment, God meant business. He was serious. He built the dominion impulse into man, and only a progressive demonization of men can begin to thwart that impulse. In hell and in the lake of fire, the dominion impulse cannot find expression. Part of hell's horrors is the eternal thwarting of that impulse. For regenerated men, the adopted sons of God, there can be no question concerning the continuing nature of the dominion assignment. Since it was built into man's very being the task which defined man's purpose from the beginning - the progressive ethical untwisting of the presently distorted image of God in man will bring the dominion impulse into the forefront of the life of man. The kingdom of God is an ethical imperative, but since man bears God's image, and his built-in purpose is to exercise dominion over God's creation, the kingdom of God is also an ontological imperative an inescapable aspect of the being of regenerated mankind.
Israel was defined in terms of God's promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:13-16). God would give the seed of Abraham the land. This was an unconditional promise, for Abraham had surrendered to God unconditionally. God had dragged Abraham to Himself. He had dragged Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and Haran. He told Abraham what He would do for Abraham's heirs, and He would fulfill His promise (Galatians 3:16-19). Israel would enter Canaan. Israel was destined to enter Canaan. Yet Israel was also commanded to enter Canaan, and the older generation refused to obey. Their punishment: to die in the wilderness. But Israel did enter the land eventually.
Redeemed mankind must subdue the earth. It is God's dominion assignment. We cannot evade its implications without suffering punishment. Our generation may try to evade its responsibilities in this regard. Our generation may continue to deceive itself, arguing that the Bible's promises of victory, in time and on earth, are to be interpreted as spiritual victories only, the internal victory over sin, but with endless defeat in the external world of culture, until Christ finally returns to deliver us from destruction. Men may try to justify their failure in the external world by pointing to their own hypothetical victory over sin in their spiritual lives. Christians who do this will view the institutional church as a haven of refuge, God's port in the storm, and they will turn inward, concerning themselves with endless bureaucratic ecclesiastical squabbles, signifying practically nothing.
Christians may take another approach, and try to postpone the establishment of God's visible kingdom until after Christ returns physically to give us total direction, placing us in various bureaucratic positions where we will be allowed to follow detailed orders from the cosmic Command Post. General Headquarters will issue comprehensive orders, and we will obey them to the letter. We won't ever again have to make responsible decisions, fit ting the letter of the law to external circumstances without deviating from the spirit of the law a difficult, though responsible, process. The future external, visible kingdom will therefore not be our responsibility to build, but Christ's.
By using either of these two approaches, today's Christians seek to justify their own cultural impotence, their own lack of dominion. They internalize the kingdom, pointing to supposed victories inside their souls victories that never result in cultural influence. Or else they point to a coming discontinuous event, which will bring power to them only in terms of the creation of a massive supernatural bureaucracy. In the meantime, both views preach pessimism concerning this age. Both views prophesy the defeat of the church externally in this age. Both views create a desire to escape from the responsibilities of this world the comprehensive responsibilities of cultural dominion. Both views reinforce our rebellious tendencies to defy God, deny the dominion assignment, and retreat into a closed, isolated society to sing our hymns, pray our prayers for deliverance, and eat our mess of pottage.
We have tried to sell our birthright to the devil. Let him exercise dominion! Let him bear the responsibilities! Let him rule in time and on earth, if only he will give us a little more time to pray and sing. Maybe if we grant him his right to rule temporarily, he’ll be nice and let us alone. Let Satan rule, if Satan lets us alone: this is the "battle cry" of contemporary Christianity.
We need to revive our hope in God. We need to revive our hope in His good judgment. We need to revive our hope in ourselves, as redeemed men, so that we can face the dominion assignment with confidence. We need to regain our confidence in the power of God's revealed law as a tool of dominion. We need an eschatology of victory, in time and on earth an optimism concerning our ability to extend dominion and subdue the earth, making manifest the comprehensive kingdom of God, in time and on earth, before Christ finally comes in victory to remove His people from a world whose potential has been used up because God's people have fulfilled the terms of God's dominion assignment.
This requires unconditional surrender. We must surrender to God's absolute sovereignty. We mustn't mouth the words, "the sovereignty of God," if we really mean, "The sovereignty of God, with a little sovereignty to man." We have to read Job 38-41, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1 again and again, until we recognize God's total sovereignty. Then, once we see who is really sovereign, we can have faith in ourselves, as redeemed and progressively restored ambassadors of God on earth. Then, and only then, will we bring God's peace treaty before the citizens of Satan's shrinking and defensive kingdom, calling them to sign the treaty now, to submit unconditionally to its terms of surrender, and to make a covenant with the God of the invading kingdom. Those who are meek before God shall inherit the earth.
The kingdom of Satan is very much like Jericho in Joshua's early days. The church of God has its marching orders. It is to conquer the land, driving out the inhabitants. This time, we are not to use force, as the Israelites did, but we are to use the sword of the Lord, the preaching of the gospel. We are ambassadors, not spies, this time. We announce the coming of the kingdom. We warn the residents of today's cities of the coming judgment. In Deuteronomy 20:10-15, God gave us the command not to destroy a distant city without offering it the opportunity to sign a peace treaty and to become tributaries. This is the same treaty God sends to the nations today. Their time is running short. God's kingdom is coming. They must capitulate now, or else spend eternity as fiery sacrifices to God. It is to their advantage to become members of God's kingdom.
God gave the people of Canaan time to think about His arrival, in the person of His people. They knew what was coming a generation in advance, and they trembled (Joshua 2:9-11). Perhaps they grew temporarily confident when the Israelites of Moses' day grew fearful, and decided to remain in the wilderness, culturally impotent, fed by God's miraculous manna (Exodus 16:15,31-35). God graciously spoon-fed these pathetic former slaves until they died. The Canaanites were given an extra generation to fill up their cup of iniquity (Genesis 15:16). But the day God parted the waters of the Jordan River, the manna ceased forever (Joshua 5:12). God would spoon-feed these people no longer. The miraculous manna would never again appear on their land. The land was now permanent land; they would have to subdue it under God's law. That spelled the end of the road for most of the Canaanites, and had Israel been more faithful, it would have been the end for all of them.
This leads us to a crucially important principle: when God's people seek continual miracles from God, rather than victory by means of labor under God's revealed law-order, they are admitting defeat. When God's people prefer to be spoon-fed rather than to exercise responsible dominion, the kingdom of Satan is given another stay of execution. It is this continual praying for miracles, for discontinuities in history rather than the continuity of victory under law, which has paralyzed the expansion of God's kingdom. Pessimism concerning the church's ability to extend God's comprehensive kingdom, coupled with the slave's hope in miraculous, discontinuous deliverance, have kept the church wandering in the wilderness for several generations. Should we be surprised at the second-rate officers we have today, given the state of mind of the troops? Should a generation of slaves, who wait trembling for their master to tell them exactly what to do next, expect anything better than third-rate bureaucrats to lead them? When men flee from the burdens of responsible self-government as men of both kingdoms are doing all over the world today, should we expect to see Christians demand God's freedom under God's law?
Let us flee the wilderness. Let us abandon hope in our daily manna, our daily miracles. Let us abandon the need to be spoon-fed by God. Let us begin to act like shepherds. Let us begin to accept the burdens of responsible self-government under the guidelines provided by God's law. Since the law is no longer a threat to us eternally, because we are delivered by Christ from the curse of the law, let us approach God's law as a master craftsman approaches a tool that he understands and respects, and not as apprentices who are afraid of the tool and the responsibilities of using that tool in their labor.
When Christian leaders see that they are called to lead confident troops who understand the responsibilities of self-government, and who are willing to bear these responsibilities because they understand the law of God, their tool of dominion, we will find better quality leaders accepting their positions of responsibility, not just in the institutional church, but in every institution, in every walk of life.