Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Call of Duty

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Call of Duty
The Church at Ephesus was one of Paul’s crowning achievements as a missionary.

  • They were strong.
  • They were active and growing.
  • The picture of health and life as a church.


Paul would not allow them to rest on past accomplishments… for he explains in our passage…
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In ALL circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To THAT end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints  …

In a classic Twilight Zone episode, an American vacationing in Europe gets caught in a raging storm.  Staggering through the blinding rain, he happens upon a dark - imposing medieval castle.  

It's a monastery, and the reclusive monks reluctantly offer refuge to the soggy-outsider for the night.
Later that evening, as he is wandering through the castle, the American finds a cell… with a man locked inside.  An ancient wooden staff bolts the door.  

The prisoner claims he’s being held there by the insane head monk, Brother Jerome.  He begs the American to release him.  The prisoner’s kind face and gentle, yet pleading voice, win him over.
The traveler confronts Brother Jerome.  

WHY is there a man held here against his will?!?!”  

The wise old monk explains,That prisoner is none other than Satan, the “father of lies,” held fast by the Staff of Truth – the one barrier he cannot cross.”
This story seems too incredible to believe, so the American looks for an opportunity to set the captive man free.  

Once released, however, the prisoner immediately transforms into a hideous demon and vanishes in a puff of smoke!

The stunned American is horrified that he was so deceived and unleashed all this evil upon the world.  

Bro. Jerome responds sympathetically, “I’m sorry for you… my son.  All your life you will remember this night and who you have turned loose upon the souls of man.”  

But I didn’t recognize him!” replied the American.

To which Jerome solemnly observes,THIS is man’s weakness and Satan’s strength.
So true.  Whether you realize it or not - you are involved in a life and death conflict with a being you cannot see…  
  • a master of deception,
  • a student of your weaknesses…
  • an enemy of great cunning and patience.  
He wants your soul and will not stop until he gains it.  His chief objective is to mar the creation of God… to destroy what Christ accomplished through the cross on your behalf.
Right now, you are in a battle of epoch proportions.  

In fact, Paul described the Christian life as “a fight” to the very end.  Writing to the young man, Timothy, Paul said,
  • Fight the good fight of faith!”  
  • Later he urged,Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  
  • At the end of his life, reflecting over his years as a Christian, Paul testified,I have fought a good fight.
The Christian life is not a walk in the park, but a spiritual battle – and the hearts of men are the trophies at stake.

The Church at Ephesus was involved in a war they did not understand.  Everywhere they turned - there was hardship.  Paul wrote this letter to prepare them for a conflict far greater than they ever imagined.  Their struggle would not be with men or against governmental policy … their battle would be fundamentally Spiritual.  There are three things he wanted them to know:
1.  First, he wants them to know Their Adversary.  Listen to verse 12, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Even though MEN might be involved in Satan’s plan, they are NOT the enemy.  Jesus told us in Matthew chapter 12, your adversary is Satan.”  In Revelation chapter 12, he is called a murderer, liar, and dragon.”  He is also referred to as the god of this ageand an angel of light by Paul in 2 Corinthians.  Peter called him a roaring lionlooking to prey upon your soul.  He is the Father of lies according to Jesus.
People underestimate him… making him the punchline of jokes, depicting him as a little red man with a tail, horns, and a pitch-fork - but Satan is no laughing matter.
Paul speaks of his Strategy.  Verse 11 mentions his schemes.”  He is organized.  Satan has a plan of attack.  He knows you, your life, your relationships, your weaknesses.  He has heard your words and studied your tipping points.  He will use the situations and struggles of your life to get you to doubt God’s love and care, to disobey Him… and ultimately to deny Him.

Satan doesn’t need to invent weapons for you, he knows your vulnerabilities and exploits those opportunities YOU give him… THIS is His strategy.
Then Paul reminds us of his Strength.  He is a powerful being.  You are no match for him.

According to Paul, he has demonic forces at his disposal and refers to them as,the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.”  They are everywhere.  

But He also has human forces, referred to asrulers and authorities.”  Behind all the brutality and suffering we see in political regimes… the injustice… the hate… there are men who are being manipulated by Satan.
SOME may even attend church… men and women who have earned your trust, who disguise themselves as spiritual people… even making their way into prominent roles of leadership in the church, who distort God’s truth and create division, living hypocritical lives.  They are tools of the evil one.  THIS is His Strength.
Notice also his Subtlety.  Verse 16 refers to hisflaming dartsor arrows he shoots into the heart and mind of the believer.  He is an excellent marksman… when you are going through a particularly difficult time in your marriage, Satan will shoot a flaming arrow of temptation into your mind, leading you to believe that you DESERVE this little “piece of happiness” that would jeopardize your relationship with God and destroy those you love.
Maybe you are going through a tough time spiritually, or maybe there is some disharmony in the church or with someone at church?  Satan will shoot arrows of dissension into your heart – driving a wedge between you and the safety of the family of God.
He is very subtle you see, shooting arrows into your mind, thoughts intended to weaken your faith, to damage your testimony, to mar the Lord’s work that He has begun in you.
THIS is our Adversary.

2.  But THEN Paul shows them their Armor.  Though our enemy IS powerful, Christians are NOT DEFENSELESS.  Because God knows you are under constant harassment from the evil one, He has provided you with Armor to protect you.  

Thank God, that, when a person gets saved, he is not a helpless victim. God gives us 5 pieces of armor to protect us from assault.
But don’t think of these things as separate pieces of armor where you can opt for one without the rest.  No – it comes as a suit.  In fact, when a person invites Christ into their heart, they “Put on Christ.”  

HE is your armor, your defense.
Notice first, how Christ is our Truth.  Paul talks about the girdle of truth.”  In those days, men wore robes.  But if they went to battle, they would tuck their robes into a belt, called a “girdle” to keep them from tripping.
Funny how the truth works that way... it can keep a person from tripping!  The key to spiritual victory is to be sure that our lives are wrapped up in the truth of Christ.  

Satan will deceive you with lies.  What ARE some of those lies?  How about:
  • “You CAN’T live the Christian life.”  
  • “Why pray, it doesn’t work anyway.”  
  • Before you sin, Satan tells you “it’s no big deal.”  
  • AFTER you sin, he tells you “God won’t forgive you.”  
All lies.
But Christ is our truth.  In HIM we are forgiven and free.  Listen, when you are in a spiritual battle, it is absolutely essential for you to stand – in - TRUTH.
Not only is He our truth, he is also our RighteousnessPaul calls ita breastplate of righteousness.”  

My heart is protected by HIS righteousness.  When I stand before God and He asks me, “Why should I allow you into heaven?”  The only correct answer is “Because of the righteousness of Christ.”  I am fit for heaven, only because of Him.  I can live the Christian life, only because of Him.  HE is my righteousness.
He is also our Peace.  He talks about … shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”  Jesus is my peace.  Wherever I go, wherever I walk Because of the Lord, I have peace WITH God and the peace OF God.  I can face whatever comes my way in the quiet confidence that Christ never fails.
He is our Faith.  Paul mentions the shield of faith.”  Jesus is my faith, as the writer of Hebrews explains, “He is the author and finisher of our faith.”  

I am protected by that faith.  I can withstand every arrow of doubt, every fiery trial - because of faith… As John explained,THIS is the victory that has overcome the world – EVEN our faith.”  In Philippians Paul explains,I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.
He is also our HOPE.  Because of what Jesus has done by saving my soul, not only am I free from the penalty of sin, I am also free from the power of sin.  And one day I WILL be free from the very presence of sin.
He is our truth, righteousness, peace, faith and hope.  HE is our armor.  

When Satan attacks you, understand, your ability to keep on keeping on, your sufficiency to fight, does not come from you – but Christ.  That’s why the Bible says,We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
3.  And finally, not only does Paul tell us of our Adversary and our Armor, he also shows us our Activity when he says,Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.and then he says in verse 17 and 18, “and take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

The only way you can experience victory in a spiritual battle is to fight with spiritual weapons.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul explainsFor though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

We’ve been talking about our armor, our DE-fense, but God has given you two very powerful weapons for defeating Satan - the Word of God (depicted as our sword) and Prayer.
When Satan comes knocking on your door, use your sword!  The writer of Hebrews explains, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The first time we are permitted to see the power of the Word over Satan is in Luke chapter 4 - where Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness.
Having fasted 40 days, Satan came to Jesus at a time of perceived physical weakness in order that he might entice Jesus to sin.  

That's what he does.

But with every temptation, Jesus fought back with the word of God.
You have a weapon, friend, in the Word.

We also have a weapon in prayer.  William Cowper said – “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”  

We can talk to the Lord about the things we are going through and know that He
  • hears,
  • cares,
  • and answers.  
John said in 1 John 5,And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we HAVE the requests that we have asked of him.”  
As we go through battles, we often make the mistake of turning to the wrong people.  
  • We want to know what our friends think…
  • what our family thinks…
  • what the pastor thinks.  
We spend all of our time talking to people who cannot do a thing about our circumstances.  And we wonder why things don’t improve.
BUT, when we pray, we avail ourselves to the power of God, who fights our battles for us.  

As Moses told the children of Israel, and the LORD, HE it is that goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, nor forsake you: fear not, neither be dismayed.”  

Or as God told Cyrus the king,I will go before you and make the crooked places straight:
Though the Christian has a strong adversary, YOU ARE NOT A HELPLESS VICTIM!  God has given you everything you need to STAND.
Are you going through a spiritual battle right now?  Do you find yourself discouraged or overwhelmed???  

Sometimes the only way a Christian can stand - is to kneel!  

Ask the Lord who will be your strength.  

If you need to pray about a situation you are facing, we are going to give you that chance right now.