Sermon 1628 Ephesians 6.10-18 March 7, 2018
Flip-flopper. Wishy-washy. Quick sand. Liquefaction. Unsteady. Off-balance. Tottering. We don’t like any of those terms. We don’t want to inadvertently walk into quick sand and not be able to get our way out of that gooey mess. We are glad we do not live in a place where the water table is so high, that if an earthquake struck, it would turn the earth into a liquidy, muddy mess. Unbalanced flailing at a baseball as it comes across the plate will not earn the coach’s favor. Wishy-washy politicians who constantly say they will vote one way then vote another way as they flip-flop around an issue, they aren’t the incumbents for long.
Our God agrees. He is the solid ground for our faith, the anchor for our soul. He is the immovable who moves heaven and earth. No wonder his people reflect God’s steadfastness as they
- Know our enemy! (10-12)
- Know our weapons! (13-18)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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 (10-13).”
Warfare is always a pain. It is inconvenient. It is destructive and so costly. That’s why we tend to avoid wars. Better to negotiate, better to give a little, than to see the wealth of a generation wasted and the blood of thousands upon thousands needlessly shed. You really have to be forced to go to war.
The Apostle Paul says we Christians don’t have a choice. We are at war. Didn’t you notice the army boots and the camouflage pants on the bulletin cover? That’s us! We are in combat uniform. We have a spiritual war to fight! Trouble is, we might think we don’t have to put everything we’ve got in it. We can give it lip service or treat it as a sideshow to our life. Don’t do it! Paul says. Put on the full armor of God. We are going to need it! Know our enemy so we aren’t taken by surprise. Know our enemy so we can stand firm.
The devil is behind everything that threatens to tear us down. Stand firm against the devil’s schemes! If it were only flesh and blood we were struggling against, we might do an OK job just with the resources we have at our own disposal. Educate people so they know what misery certain behavior can cause. Then they will stay away from those terrible things. Motivate and inspire people so they see we can move mountains if we just put our backs into it, if we just pull together! So, heave, ho! Away the problems go!
And I would have to say we would be right. Rational human beings don’t cut off their nose to spite their face. You get burned once, you learn. Fast.
But that’s not the way this battle goes. The devil is behind it. He has put his demons to work to undermine everything good and honest, noble and holy. Look what he did in the Garden of Eden. He fooled Eve into thinking there was a way to obtain wisdom different from the way the Lord had told her. She thought she would be wise if she ate the forbidden fruit. I suppose the devil led King David astray into thinking that no one would know a night of stolen whoopee with his general’s wife. The devil even had a hold of Peter when Peter wanted to overrule Jesus! When Jesus started to teach that he would be handed over to be crucified, would die and be buried, Peter would have none of it and he wanted Jesu to stop that kind of talk. It was beneath Jesus. That’s what the devil fooled Peter into thinking.
So I know it is the devil who is behind the idea that God wants me happy, so getting revenge would make me happy. Or I can cut corners here or there. Or I can just pretty much neglect what God has to say to me and put words in his mouth, like I am the ventriloquist and he is the dummy. Know our enemy. We need an arsenal that can counter his weapons. And we have that arsenal!
Stand firm! Know our weapons!
“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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (13-17).”
Paul tells you and me we have the best weapons available. He compares our armament to the weaponry of a Roman legionnaire, the soldier who had conquered an empire which would last over a thousand years. I’m not going to bore you with a description of the ancient Roman soldier, but Paul is saying our weaponry is state of the art, grade A, top shelf, unmatched and unrivalled.
The Lord isn’t sending us out into battle with junk. The weapons Paul describes break down into two types: the Word of God and prayer. Know our weapons. That’s how we stand firm.
Stand firm with the Word of God. The Word is truth. Every time we listen to the Word of God we fill ourselves with the one and only truth. I can’t help but remember Jesus saying that he was the Truth. I have a Savior. You have a Savior. He died on the cross to take all our sins away and he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday to show us there was nothing standing in the way of our entering heaven. Because of the Word of God, I know I have a Savior who also lived the perfect life for me. For thirty-three long years he never sinned. For thirty-three long years he always did, not only what he was supposed to, but everything his heavenly Father wanted him to. Through faith in Jesus, this righteousness is credited to our account. When God looks at us he sees people who have done the right thing and stand in a right relationship with him. Everything’s A-OK between us and God. Because of that Word of God, we are so thankful, we are eager to do what is good. Help here, lend a hand there. It’s in the DNA of a Christian. And we can not only stand up to the devil’s attacks with that shield of faith, but we can go on the offensive with the Word of God as our sword and helmet. Every time we bring one of our little ones to baptism, the devil has lost a battle. Every time people hear us tell them what Jesus has done for them, the devil is on the ropes. That’s one of the weapons God has given us, his Word.
Here’s the other weapon by which we can stand firm. Prayer.
“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 (18).”
Oh, here’s where we can really tell the battle is not with flesh and blood. The wicked world, ridden to the ground by the schemes of the devil, views “I’ll pray for you,” as the wimpiest response available. But believers know prayer is powerful. One prayer from Moses and the Children of Israel, wickedly worshipping the Golden Calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, were spared. Elijah broke a three year drought with prayer. Jesus started the miraculous feeding of the 5000 with a prayer. Prayer works. Prayer moves mountains.
So pray. Pray for ourselves, that we can resist the attacks of the devil, the sinful world and the voice of unbelief and doubt within us all. Pray that God either take way the trouble that is threatening our walk with him or that he so toughens us up that we bear up under it. Pray for others who we know are going through hard times that would test the faith of the staunchest believer. Keep on praying for all the believers, all the saints, Paul says.
- Know our enemy! (10-12)
- Know our weapons! (13-18)
Knowing our enemy, knowing our weapons, we will stand firm. Steadfast, constant, stable, solid. Bedrock. I challenge anyone to find fault with any of those terms which currently and will continue to describe your and my life as Christians on our way to heaven.