September 2, 2018 [Pentecost 15]  Ephesians 6:10-20  J.D.Roekle

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. 

 

Put on the Full Armor of God

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

It’s football season.  Some of you aren’t into football.  Many of you have been looking forward to this for a long time.  As football coaches get their teams ready for games, often times they will speak about games in war terms.  They talk about how they need to fight.  How they need to battle in the trenches.  Some have taken offense at that.  They say football is a game and that it can’t compare to war. 

          Whether it’s proper or not to do that, we won’t speculate about here.  What I will say is that you and I are in a war.  And I’m perfectly comfortable saying that, because God says it.  We are at war.  Every day.  A life or death war.  We battle every day whether we think about it or not.  And that’s because the enemy isn’t going to rest or take breaks.  The enemy is real.  But the Lord doesn’t want us to get discouraged.  He doesn’t want us to despair.  He doesn’t want us to lose hope.  And so he provides us with his armor.  He provides us with everything we need to defend ourselves and to even go on the offensive.  We do well in utilizing the full armor of God.

          What is that full armor?  Before we get into that, let’s first identify what we’re up against.  Let’s understand who our enemy is, because we do not want to underestimate the enemy.  How devastating it can be when that happens! 

          Paul sets us straight on the enemy at hand when he says “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”  The real threat is not other people.  Certainly the enemy may use other people as their pawns.  But the real threat is what lies behind.  The real threat is that which we cannot see with our eyes.  The real threat is the devil and all his evil cohorts who fell from God’s side at the beginning of time.  And make no mistake about it: this is a powerful foe.  Much more powerful than you or me.  When we try to take on this enemy alone, we are defeated every time. 

          So what do we do when faced with this powerful enemy?  We turn to someone and something much more powerful than even the enemy.  We turn to God and his armor. 

          The Apostle Paul uses a picture here that would have been very familiar to his original readers.  The picture is that of a Roman soldier who has full armor…he is fully equipped for battle.  Try to envision it in your mind.  He has a belt or girdle of armor around his midsection and down to his thighs. He has a breastplate covering his upper torso.  He has proper footwear on his feet.  A helmet protect his head.  And as another line of defense, he has an oblong shield long enough for him to hide behind for protection.  Finally, he is equipped with weapons.  Here Paul specifically points out the sword which could be used both to defend himself and to go on the attack. 

          Make no mistake about it.  The Lord fully equips you too.  Even better than a Roman soldier was equipped.  You’re equipped to face all the attacks of the enemy. 

          Think about the various ways in which the enemy attacks.  Remember that the enemy is a deceiver.  In fact, Satan himself is called the father of lies.  He comes to you and tries to plant doubt in your mind. “Does God really love me?” or “Is it really a big deal if I just break the commandments a little bit?”  Remember, he has been lying from the start. His first lie was to Eve that came in the form of a question: “Did God really say…?”  His lies are meant to make us doubt God, and make us think that God doesn’t really have our best interest in mind.  His aim is to take you away from God. 

          So how do we combat the devil’s lies?  With the truth.  The truth is that God doesn’t lie.  The truth is that which God says.  In fact, God cannot lie.  It is against his very nature which is the opposite of our enemy.  The truth is that God is on our side and only wants the best for us. 

          Another way in which the enemy attacks is by getting us to despair.  When something bad happens in our lives, we are tempted to think “What did I do to deserve this?”  The devil pounces by getting us to think that God must be punishing me because of a past sin I’ve committed.  The devil intensifies the attack by trying to convince us that the sin we’ve committed is just too big for God to forgive.  He wants us to despair like Judas who went out and hung himself because he didn’t think Jesus would forgive him for his betrayal. 

          Learn to fend off this attack with the breastplate of righteousness.  Be open and frank with God about your sin.  You cannot hide anything from him anyway.  Just ask Adam and Eve.  But in being open in confessing your sin, remember that God does not condemn you for it.  Instead remember that Jesus went in your place to suffer and die in order to win a perfect righteousness for you.  Now, when God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Christ which you are now wearing. 

          The enemy also attacks by trying to make you think that everything in this world should go smoothly.  If I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have any problems, right?  That’s what the devil wants to plant in our minds.  In so doing, he’s trying to make you think that he is your ally and that God is the enemy. 

          How do you fight back?  You fight back with the Gospel of peace.  Jesus Christ established peace between us and God through his work on our behalf.  We have peace with God.  A peace that will last not only now but forever in heaven.  Remember that being a Christian on earth is not easy.  But it is this peace we have with God that carries us through the tumultuous times.

          The enemy is very good at attacking our weaknesses.  He attempts to get us to try to trust in our own wisdom.  In our own strength.  In our own works.  He does that by making us think “I’m not so bad.”  He wants us to forget about our inherent sinful nature that is capable of any evil thought, word or act. 

          But the key to deflecting these arrows from Satan is faith.  And in reality, the key is in the object of our faith: Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is our strength.  It is his works that save me, not mine.  I cannot contribute a thing.  Earlier in Paul’s letter he said: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

          Satan’s bag of tricks is deep.  He tempts us by trying to distract us.  He says: isn’t it more important to do this or that rather than go to church?  You don’t have time to open up your Bible, you have too many other things to do! 

          But what did Jesus say? “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”  There is nothing more important than your salvation!  When the devil tempts you with the earthly treasures and vain pursuits, remember that those things don’t last.  The Lord’s salvation does.  He has rescued you from guilt and punishment of sin.  He has opened the gates to glory with him.  Don’t lose focus on that! 

          The devil also coyly attacks by tempting us to think we can stand on our own against him.  That we just have to be strong.  That we can find in the inner strength to defend ourselves against him. 

          That couldn’t be further from the truth.  What we need to be reminded of is that we have a weapon that is far greater that we dare never forget: the sword of the Spirit.  The Word of God.  When the devil’s temptations come, we do well to remember our Savior who withstood those attacks.  And how?  With the sword of the Spirit.  He used the Word of God to ward off the devil. 

          You have that weapon too.  Use it!  In order to be effective in using a weapon, training is necessary.  How’s your training in the Word going?  Are you only getting your training here once a week?  Are you taking time to train in the Word each day?  The more you train in the Word, the better equipped you are to use it!

          Remember too, that the sword of the Spirit is not only to be used to defend ourselves, but also to go on offense.  We are to use it to reach other souls for Christ.  In reaching others for Christ and his kingdom, it is this weapon alone that can reach hearts.  Use it! 

          And throughout all these attacks and our use of God’s armor, we dare not forget an important tool God wants us to use in order to keep us alert.  It is prayer.  So what do we pray about when Satan attacks?

          When Paul wrote this letter, he was under house arrest in Rome.  And he asks the Ephesian people to pray for him.  But note what he asks them to pray for.  He doesn’t ask them to pray that he would be released.  He doesn’t ask them to pray that God would make things easier for him.  Instead, he asks them to pray for boldness and the ability to speak up on God’s behalf. 

          And so, that’s my prayer for you today too.  That when the enemy attacks, you are bold to withstand those attacks.  That you know how to defend yourself.  My prayer for you is that you don’t rely on yourself, but you turn to God when the day of evil comes.  When the enemy that is greater than you attacks, put on the full armor of God.  Amen.