TEXT: EPH 6:10-20 (New International Version)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.In April 1861, an army of the newly formed Confederate States of America captured Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Three months later, a hastily recruited army of thirty thousand untrained troops marched out of Washington, with objective of taking the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia. Standing between Washington and Richmond was a significantly smaller army of Confederate troops, camped at Manasas, a mere thirty miles southwest of the Yankee capitol.
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.
The march was inspired more by the emotion of popular outrage, than by careful military strategy. Many of the citizens of Washington, along with the congressmen, their wives, and children, accompanied the Union army as spectators. They were expecting a grand show as they came out in the carriages with picnic lunches. Everyone was confident that the southerners would flee at the mere sight of Federal muskets. What they had not counted on was the determination of one General Thomas J. Jackson, who, after five hours of resisting the attack of Union Army, earned a new nickname, Stonewall Jackson.
The commanding general of the Union Forces decided it was pointless to continue the battle, so he ordered a retreat. One historian describes the ensuing scene this way:
As the army retreated, panic began to set in and the officers lost control of the men. The running retreating Yankees and their equipment became entangled in the civilians that had come to watch and their carriages, wagons, buggies, and hampers of food and drink. All-out turmoil and chaos grew worse each moment as panicky civilians and disorganized running troops tried to force their way through a tangle of vehicles and debris. The troops refused to listen to any commands; they rushed on and many of them traveled all night, reaching Washington in the morning. (Lee Whitney, "The Civil War Battle At Bull Run")This scene, I am sad to say, is descriptive of the way many Christians engage in the spiritual battle into which we are all enlisted. We are not called to be spectators of the battle. We are, whether we like it or not, in the middle of the battle.
So using the imagery of warfare, the Apostle Paul in our text at the end his letter to the Ephesians, identifies the enemy, emphasizes the battle objectives, and describes basic equipment which every one of us needs to have and use for our part in the battle.
For the next eight weeks we will camp out on this text and learn what we can about what God says is our basic equipment in living a victorious Christian life.
First, in order to engage successfully in battle, we must know who the enemy is. Verse 11 of our text identifies our enemy as "the Devil."
Contrary to the Gospel of Humanistic Psychology, there really is a Devil. Popular opinion polls are occasionally taken in which two questions are asked: (1) Do you believe there is a God? (2) Do you believe there is a real devil? It is surprising how many people there are who answer yes to the first question, and answer no on the second. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what is their source of information.
The Bible ascribes several names to the enemy. And all of the names describe something of his character, reflected in what he does.
The name Satan means "the accuser." This name appears only in two books of the Old Testament. First is the Book of Job, where Satan accuses Job of an insincere faith. The Second is from the seldom studied prophet Zechariah, the 2nd to the last book of the OT where this story occurs:
ZECHARIAH 3:Clearly, this is a prophetic description of what Christ does for us by exchanging our sin with His own holiness through His death on the cross. Yet, even after we have been cleansed and forgiven, the enemy continues to stand by our side, hurling is accusations against us.
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.
4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you."
In the last book of the Bible, the enemy is described this way:
REVELATION 12They over came him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony... In other words, they individually defeated Satan by trusting in the suffering, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on their behalf.
9 The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Satan, the accuser of the brethren... Martin Luther once wrote that the worst time of the day for him was at night time, just as he was trying to go to sleep. Satan would assault him with doubts about his salvation, reminding him of his many sins. How Luther learned to respond to these accusations is something we will look at in one of our future studies.
This verse also describes the enemy as "the serpent." He sneaks in, often undetected, and what he offers us is venomous, poison.
Another name the Bible gives to the enemy is "the murder," and or "the destroyer." Throughout our culture today the enemy is gaining ground through his promotion of death, and he has packaged death so attractively, so positively... in abortion, euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide. We, like the pagans of ancient Rome, have made visual images of violent death a form of entertainment. The enemy hates life, because he hates the creator and author of life.
In one place Jesus calls Satan "the thief." Jesus also calls the enemy "the wolf," and his disciples as "wolves in sheep’s clothing."
He also aptly identified as the tempter.
Scripture calls the enemy the "deceiver," and a liar. Every temptation is packaged in a half-truth, or even bated with an outright lie.
He is identified as "Lucifer," the angel of light who rebelled against God’s authority, to establish himself as his own authority, and he invites us to do likewise, and establish ourselves as our own authorities.
Our text from Ephesians, and many others, describe Satan as a clever schemer. He knows that he is more effective using tactics of guerrilla warfare against us, rather than head-on assaults. Which is why it is so very important that we utilized every piece of armor provided for us.
And our text reminds us that Satan is not working alone.
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.When the Bible uses this phrase, "heavenly realms," or "heavenly places," or sometimes just "heaven," it does not necessarily mean that place of joy in the presence of the Lord, where we can live forever free of sin and Satan. Rather, the "heavenly realms" is a reference to the unseen spirit world, which God warns us in Scripture not to explore, precisely for this very reason, but rather, we are to only seek God, which now we have the privilege of doing through the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is as important to know who are enemy is, as it is to know who our enemy is not:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against [Satan and his forces]If we don’t get this straight, we will be fighting the wrong people. The enemy is not any particular political party or candidate. The enemy is not that relative or that coworker who has so terribly hurt you. The enemy is not that individual with whom you seem to be in constant conflict. If we want to point the finger at any person, the only one we can legitimately point it at is the person in the mirror. As the comic strip character Pogo so aptly said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
My real struggle is not against any particular person who wronged me. My struggle is against my own feelings of bitterness. The person who wronged me was only an agent of God, whom God used to simply show me the evil that is in my own heart. And if the enemy can get me to take my eyes off the Cross in order to look at others and to nurse my resentment and bitterness, then enemy has won a terrible victory in my life. And my testimony for the Lord is damaged, and my effectiveness in His service is hindered.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says,
And what I have forgiven... I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.For our struggle is not against [people]... Our struggle is against our own attitudes, our own self-defeating habits, our motivations which are exactly the opposite of God’s motivation, which make us as poorly equipped for spiritual warfare as the Union Forces at the Battle of Bull Run.
In our Battle we not only need to identify the enemy, we also need to be aware of the objectives of the battle... what do we hope to gain? .... what is the enemy after?
First and foremost, Satan is after your eternal soul.
Second he is after the eternal souls of those whom you love, particularly those who are under your authority -- Parents, that means the enemy wants your children.
Third he wants to bring enough defeat in your Christian experience to make you ineffective as a witness for Christ.
What is our objective in the battle? We have a defensive objective, and an offensive objective. Defensively, we are to do as General Thomas Stonewall Jackson did: Stand our ground. The verb "stand" appears three times in first few verses of the text. There is a message here.
In the Old Testament, we have the sad example of King David, when he should have been standing with his army on field of battle, he was lying around on the roof of his palace, entertaining impure thoughts, which eventually led to impure actions, which then brought lifetime of devastating consequences.
But we also have the wonderful example of Daniel who one two separate occasions took a stand, at great personal expenses. And the reason he could stand, is because he was ready. Young people, the time to decide where you stand on matters of faith is not in the college classroom where your history professor is making sarcastic remarks critical of Christians. The time to decide where you stand on matters of personal moral purity is not when friends are inviting you to participate in what they believe to be a "good time." A soldier in battle doesn’t begin reading the manual on how to load his gun the moment he notices the enemy shooting at him. He’s got to be equipped and ready before the battle, and so do you.
We have not only a defensive objective. We have an offensive objective. Our Lord Jesus Christ has enlisted us as His foot soldiers, His infantry, to damage Satan’s kingdom by introducing people to Jesus, so they may join us in heaven. The chief mission of the Church is to de-populate hell.
We do that, our text says, not in our own strength, not in our cleverness, but in Christ’s...
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of GodAnd just what that armor is, why we need it, how it protects us, and how we utilize it... that we will begin next week.
Part 2 - The Belt of Truth
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