A Declaration of War

A Declaration of War

Usually, all wars start with a declaration. Some will have heard or read Neville Chamberlain’s Declaration of War against Germany on September 3rd 1939. He announced to the nation, to Germany, and to the rest of the world that unless certain conditions were met that England and Germany would be at war.

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a
final note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were
prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would
exist between us.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that
consequently this country is at war with Germany.” [Full transcript can be found here.]

And, in one of his lesser known novels, ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’, George Orwell wrote that the central, anti-hero character, Gordon Comstock, had declared war on the money-god. If you have read the book you will have grasped the shape of Comstock’s war on the money-god. If you haven’t yet read it there will be no spoiler here, so relax.

Gordon Comstock was an aspiring poet who had faced the reality of a lack of real recognition and success, and had turned to honest paid work whilst awaiting literary acclaim. He was, after all, living in a society where worship of the money-god was considered the norm.

“To settle down; to make good and to sell your soul for a villa and an Aspidistra.” [ George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, London 1936, Chapter iii].

And when he had had enough of the diaphanous lies of materialism, Gordon declared war on Mammon. You will have to read the book to know the rest of the plot. I use this only as an illustration to something that Jesus said.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” [Matthew 6:24 NKJV]

This is one of those verses that, for many years, I had wondered why it says God and mammon. Why not God and Satan? After all, you would consider God and Satan to be opposing forces, wouldn’t you? Let’s take a look.

Many translations render the final word of the verse as ‘money‘. I tend to prefer ‘mammon‘ as a more accurate translation. The Bible Hub website states that #3126 is a masculine noun derived from an Aramaic noun ‘mammonas‘, meaning ‘riches, money, possessions, property’. But notice that it is a noun. The original Aramaic word was the Semitic term for ‘the treasure a person trusts in‘. And the Strong’s definition is avarice (deified). So, let’s roll that altogether. If you Google ‘avarice meaning’ we get ‘extreme greed for wealth or material gain’. Do the same for ‘mammon’ and we get ‘wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion’.

The paraphrase could read something like ‘You cannot serve (with worship and devotion) God and (an entity which manifests as a god-like being demanding the same level of worship and devotion but focused instead on wealth, money, possessions and materialism) mammon”.

In other words, we get to choose whom we worship. We can choose God, the designer and creator of everything, or a false god who disguises himself as materialism by making it all appear desirable and worth chasing. Sound familiar? It is part of the old trick that Satan used on Eve, back in the Garden:

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” [Genesis 3:6 NIV]

Let us say that this deified entity is actually a demon, a principality, in charge of wealth, money, possessions and property and its name is Mammon, and he works to the wishes of Satan. Now re-read that last line of Matthew 6:24 – ‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’.

We just need to look around us at the way the world is encouraging everyone to subscribe to certain lifestyles; products that will make us feel better about ourselves; acquisition of wealth, money, and property. Jesus says:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV]

The choice, in other words, is to get on the endless treadmill of trying to pursue happiness through serving the purposes of one of Satan’s chief demons…or let your treasures be in the unseen heaven where all that is required is the worship of God, who promises to provide for everything you need.

There is always a choice. Why? Because built into the rules of creation is that we are made in the image of God. And part of that image means that we will always have a sovereign will. The choice will always be ours. When we choose God’s will as an act of worship, we get the benefits of His protection and blessing…and Satan has to call off his minions. When we choose Mammon’s will, God has to withdraw and allow us to get on with it. At that point we open the door to the real influence of Satan. It’s like us saying ‘Come on in, make yourself at home.’

What is interesting is that when we are leading lives that honour God He always tells us the best way to go; the best choice to make, and then let’s us make our own decision. Satan, on the other hand, desires us to continually fall from God’s grace, so he dresses up the wrong choices up in pretty packages designed to enchant us and trust in Satan instead of God. It is a very subtle process. Learn to discern which influence is of God. Ask God, humbly, for wisdom. He will light up your path. And if Satan’s persuasions are hard to fight, remember this: God will never allow you to be tempted beyond that which you can stand (1st Corinthians 10). Trust God. He always provides a way out for you. Resist the devil and he will flee (James 4). He has to. Them’s the rules.

Look at Revelation 2:7. It reads ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God’. One of the trees that Adam and Eve were denied access to in the same garden that they were banished from, because they failed to overcome the temptation that Satan used to bring about the fall of the entire human race.

As this blog is primarily about our progress at Cornerstone, (although that itself is becoming more and more of a metaphor for our own journeys), I like to share with you how these experiences play out in our lives. You see, the God I speak of as my own personal saviour and shepherd through life, is the very same as mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. He is not only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also the God who allowed the sacrifice of His own son, in order to buy us all back from the sentence of death by the spilling of innocent blood. It is important that we remind ourselves of this regularly.

God has called us to undertake Cornerstone by never asking anyone for money or anything at all. Ever. At first, when we realised this, it was a very daunting task that scared me. Then people keep telling me about George Muller. Three times in one single day, three separate individuals asked me if I had heard of George Muller (I hadn’t really, just a notion of the name). Then the following week, one of those individuals gave me a book on his life, which I read with a great fascination. A few weeks later someone who we had never met before came to the Cornerstone equipped with two more books about George Muller and a prophecy regarding people who followed Jesus…such as George Muller! If you don’t know who he was, I strongly recommend you to read anything concerning him. The one that inspired the most for me was ‘Release the Power of Prayer’ by Muller himself.

Muller had been led by God to set up an orphanage in Bristol by never asking anyone, except for God, for anything. He never once told people what they needed or what they were praying for. Why? So that when God supplied all of their needs, George was able to give all of the glory to God. The process taught him how to pray; how to deepen and strengthen his relationship with God and increase his faith. It worked. Over a period of around 60 years, he received over £1,400,000 in unsolicited donations (this was in the 1800s). He built not 1 but 5 massive orphanages and set up a foundation that continues his work today. All by prayer. Never by holding out his hand, nor by subtle persuasion or fund raising ‘special offering’ services.

So, we felt we should do things the same way. We don’t tell anyone what we are praying for until what we need arrives. Then we tell people and they find that their faith grows. Ours does too.

Here’s two recent examples to show how God works for us. I stress, it is not a formula or some ‘cosmic ordering’ system. It is simply about how God is teaching us to trust soley in Him for all of our needs.

Firstly, we have been feeding people for a while and felt that we should great ready for more. We have a fridge and freezer but needed another of each. I asked God for His provision. I asked for a large fridge and a large freezer but said to God ‘you know best so please provide what we need rather than what we want’. A couple of weeks later we had a call from a guy at a church we used to attend. They had just had a new kitchen fitted and asked if we would like a fridge and freezer. I automatically said yes expecting them to be the tall kind. This was on the Thursday. On the Sunday someone gave us a great pile of kitchen work surfaces that were all new or nearly new. On the Monday we went to collect the fridge and freezer and discovered that they weren’t the tall type but instead the under the counter type. I just decided to trust God. When I went to the Cornerstone the following day, I measured the work surfaces and the room that we are turning into the kitchen and food bank. And do you know what? The work surface fits brilliantly and perfectly into the space we have and the new (to us) white goods complement the existing fridge, freezer and range cooker that have already been donated, along with a series of kitchen base units previously donated.

Secondly, we had wanted to teach people to be more self sufficent and had intended to use the car park at the back of Cornerstone to start a small allotment. God had a better way…He always does. A local housing authority had offered us a piece of land to use as an allotment. It is three times the size of what we had in mind. We signed the lease for it on the Monday. It had no gate so we planned to remove a fence panel and turn it into a gate. On the Monday I asked God for a gate. On the Tuesday a friend asked us if we needed a gate. I said yes please. On the Wednesday I ripped out a small fence panel. On the Thursday our friend brought the gate over. On the Friday, I fitted the gate into the gap in the fence. Of course, it fitted absolutely perfectly!

These might seem like very small things, but they are just recent examples of the way He works. There are many other accounts of His marvellous provision that I will save for another day, including a donation of several thousand pounds when we most needed it and praying for a dishwasher on one day and a week later a kind friend who knew nothing of the need gave us a brand new dishwasher!

Now, back to serving God or Mammon.

For a while we have been running on empty. Or very nearly. We have learnt that if you (very humbly and gently) remind God of His promises on provision, we have our ‘daily bread’ needs met. There is always just enough. But with Cornerstone the need is greater. We need a considerable amount to complete all we believe He would have us do. We have had several words of prophecy that basically all confirm that God will do this in stages and at the pace He decides. We have some personal debt (a hangover from years of drug abuse) and some bills that need paying regarding Cornerstone. And every now and then the same temptation arrives, always from different directions. As well as owning the freehold on Cornerstone, we are blessed to have no mortgage on our home. At the start we knew we didn’t have enough to complete the work and pay the debts. Our choices were sell (the house), borrow (against Cornerstone or the house), or believe. Every time we sought God it was always believe.

And every now and again we come under pressure about money. Sometimes someone says we should sell the house. Or we get threatened by someone we owe money to. And we find ourselves asking God if we should sell or borrow, even though He said believe. It always takes a while to sort it out and stop ‘off-roading’, but we always get back on God’s path. This is what I believe happens in the unseen realm at the time:

Mammon or the money-god, under the instruction of Satan, uses people who serve him (unknowingly) into pressuring us. The temptation then arrives. Sell or borrow – clear the debts and accelerate the work at Cornerstone. When we realise it is only temptation we resist and it goes. Because we choose something other than God’s will, He leaves us to get on with it – we just get silence when we pray about it. He won’t interfere with our sovereign will. When we realise that when God says something, He always follows through with it. Nothing has changed. Then we resist the temptation to serve Mammon’s will, and he has to flee. We then resolve to serve God and He returns to protect and guide us. Whilst we are being distracted, our prayers are not answered. Remember this: Satan cannot stop the will of God…he can only try to distract us. Read Genesis 31. Laban had been influenced by Satan and was used to keep Jacob stuck there. The Trouble with Sheep will help to explain this.

It is worth mentioning here that my understanding of such matters has recently been enhanced after watching an hour-long video narration on YouTube which explains the experience of a Baptist minister called Howard Pittman, who had an near-death experience. I cannot say whether or not the description of what happened to him is actually true but it is believable and convincing. If you choose to watch it please do so with an open mind. If nothing else it facilitates a good mindset when viewing the invisible realm. With us, it certainly put a narrative to some of the things God had been showing us for some time.

Ever wonder why prayers go unanswered? Here is one likely explanation:

If you choose the will of Satan or his minions, such as Mammon, or Greed, or Lust, or…well, anything other than God, then it means that God cannot or will not answer your prayers, either personally or corporately (boy! I hate that word in that context) as an ekklesia or part of the body of Christ. Jesus says anything you ask in My Name will be given to you (John 14). He also says that we should seek first the kingdom of God and all of these other things will also be given (Matthew 6). In My Name means we ask using Jesus’ credentials before God. When we pray Your will be done, Your kingdom come and we fail to follow out His will we don’t get into kingdom living because of His rules over sovereign will. So, imagine a church, for example, who decide to store up treasures on earth such as money. Unless God has given them a clear direction to do so, they have been seduced by Mammon instead of following Jesus’ example. That means God will withdraw and Mammon will move in and continue to deceive them. What if that church then starts to pray for healings, revivals, and the rest? Nothing. Nothing at all.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” [1st John 5:14-15 NKJV]

But if we are not in His will, how can we expect Him to hear us or fulfil our petitions? We know of churches where no prayers are answered. Why is that? Probably because one part of that body has fallen into sin or disobedience. Look at the New Testament for how the body works. Start with the letter to the Ephesians. Prayer isn’t answered because people choose to flaunt God’s grace and fail to withstand temptation, despite God always providing a way out (1st Corinthians 10). Prayers go unanswered because people continue to sin and choose not to repent. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that this is why there is no revival. Revival starts in the heart. We choose God over Mammon. We choose life over death. We choose as individuals to follow Jesus and not materialism. If each of us choose to fully focus on getting ourselves right with God then ‘all these over things will be added to us as well’. People are ‘prophesying’ that the revival is coming as if God is going to do it for us…a flood coming into churches, despite Jesus saying to ‘go out and make disciples’. Revival is not coming in to churches until the churches start going out. It is easy to hide in a lively church and never fulfil anything spoken of in the gospel. And anyone who speaks out prophecy that is never fulfilled have a name in the Bible…false prophets.

My guess is that Mammon has been running riot in the churches for decades. Churches have a tendency to measure success on the basis of bums on seats – the more people who attend proves that God is pleased with us. The more people who attend means more money. But what if we had it wrong about tithing? What if God intended the act to end with the Old Covenant? What if Mammon has subtly persuaded churches to make tithing back into the law it once was?

I can testify to two things in our recent experiences: Firstly, that when we have money we find it very hard to hear God, and secondly, the desire to store or save money as a security displays a total lack of faith in God as a provider.

In his book ‘The Restless Church: Rediscovering New Testament Christianity‘ Mark Fairley asserts that we have been deceived and stopped doing what we should be doing in exchange for flashy shows and dry ice and endless meetings and asking for money and, and, and. He maintains that the way is simple: Faith + Obedience = Righteousness. There is no other way. Now, if having money stops us having faith and the message of grace without repentance that is being preached stops our obedience, how can we expect to live lives that are called righteous?

I entitled this post ‘A Declaration of War’. I will shortly make our own declaration. But what this is really about is choices. Look at the Bible – it is full of choices, from Genesis to Revelation. We have to chose humility over arrogance; patience over haste; obedience over self-will; love over hate; blessing over curse and life over death.

Think differently about money. It is very, very deceptive. It corrupts everyone. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1st Timothy 6). Don’t be deceived.

We declare that we will not follow the subtle persuasion of Mammon. We declare we will follow God and be obedient to His will and never ours. And we declare war on Mammon because the Bible tells us and the heavenly realm that in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form and we have been given the fullness of Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. That means we have the strength in God to deny ourselves and draw upon the authority given to us to oppose the will of all principalities. We declare that we will fight against the principalities and demons that exist in this present darkness in order to see the kingdom of God extended in our own lives and the lives of others. We will be strong and very courageous and will never take our eyes from following Jesus the Christ, of Nazareth, the son of the living God, wherever His path takes us. Amen.

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