. . . and Stand
12th Sunday after Trinity
Ephesians 6 10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench 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.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
May these written/spoken words lead us to the living word Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Continuing in our theme of Ephesians. I am sure this is a very familiar text to you all and that you will hae heard similar sermons in the past. My pray however is that there will be something new for each of you this morning.
Living the Christian life is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt to do. If we are honest, it is sometimes difficult to get yourself to church. It is difficult some days to open your Bible and read and study it. It is difficult to spend quality time in prayer with God each day. It is difficult to be faithful with giving the full tithe to the church. It is difficult to keep thoughts pure. Living the Christian life is difficult. Have you ever wondered why? The answer is spiritual warfare. (apart from the occasional bout of rebellion!)
The next time you ask someone to church or Alpha or a Lent Course, and they say they will come, but come the day they don’t turn up. When you see them again you tell them you missed him at church, and you ask what happened, and they just evade the question by saying that something came up.
What really happened? Spiritual warfare.
The Christian life is hard to live because of Spiritual warfare. Evangelistic efforts meet with excuses and procrastination because of Spiritual warfare and I am sure we could give numerous more examples. Christian families and marriages are under huge attack today. Children are under attack at school, they are bullied and belittled. Churches are under attack by vandals. Church leaders are under attack. Even the Bible is under attack. It is Spiritual Warfare. Jesus came under attack in the wilderness when he was tempted. We cannot believe in light without darkness, we cannot believe in goodness without acknowledging evil. We cannot believe in angels and not believe in demons.
In saying this, I do not mean to say that marriages and families and churches and witnessing efforts are falling apart because of demonic activity. There is much more involved in Spiritual Warfare than a battle between angels and demons. Often times, our own sinful flesh is the culprit, or the wicked influences of this world.
In the modern materialistic Western world, it’s easy to ignore the spiritual realities of life. There are just so many things to get on with and worry about: relationships, health, family, work, leisure, career, reputation, and so on. With all these concerns, it’s hard to find the time, let alone the motivation, to consider spiritual things. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone, as there are many worldwide who live their lives conscious of the spiritual realm.
In the final part of his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul turns to talk directly about spiritual realities. Up to this point in his letters he has been talking about the very practical realities of living the Christian life on the ground so it might seem strange that Paul suddenly changes gear and talks about battling spiritual powers. Paul isn’t asking us to look for demons in every-day life or be scared of the supernatural. Rather he offers us the ability to take part in the battle of life with confidence and joy as we seek to stand in God’s grace:
Paul was in prison, he was anticipating his last days and he writes with a sense of urgency.
'Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.'
All this time Paul was chained by the wrist to a Roman soldier to ensure that he would not escape. As he writes further on ‘I am an ambassador in chains’ and here he uses a wonderful visual aid. As he writes the soldiers armour suggests a picture to him, and he takes the Roman armour and translates it into Christian terms.
’Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist’.
Notice the word stand, this is not to be taken lightly. Stand and pay attention. Stop dashing about being busy all the time stand still. The belt was around the soldier’s tunic and his sword hung from it. For the Christian this is the belt of truth. The gospel is true, if it isn’t it is meaningless. It is the belt that holds everything together both literally and spiritually.
‘put on the breastplate of righteousness’
A soldier’s breastplate is what protects the heart and other vital organs; it is like a bulletproof vest. Likewise, if we’re not properly protected by the righteousness of Christ then we leave ourselves open for attack, as the old hymn says ‘our hope must be built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.’ If we are trusting in anything else, or clothed in anything else we will have no assurance and no holiness.
'As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.'
Never underestimate the importance of shoes. Without the proper shoes a soldier couldn’t march or advance, let alone stand. They needed shoes that not only protected their feet, but also gave them grip to advance and to stand. As Christians if we would truly stand firm against sin, self, and Satan, our feet, our lives must be planted firm in the gospel. So we must know it, understand it, believe it, and cherish it and above all share it. Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
'Take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.'
A Roman soldier’s shield was about 2 feet by 4 feet; it was large in order to protect the whole body. Before a battle the shield was soaked in water so that if it was hit by any flaming arrows they would be quenched. Likewise, the shield of faith is what protects us from the attacks and the flaming arrows of temptation and condemnation. Faith is knowing, loving, resting in, trusting in, delighting in, and treasuring all that God has done, and will do for us in Christ. Just as the soldier soaked his shield to quench the arrows, so we are to soak our mind, our heart, our soul in the Word, and so strengthen our faith so that we are ready to stand.
But there is another major aspect of the Roman soldier’s shield that is important for us to know. It was designed in such a way that it was not meant to only protect one soldier, but a whole battalion. When the arrows came the soldiers would form a square and lock their shield together and those on the inside the square would put the shields over their heads until they were covered in shields. The same is true for us. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. The life of faith, sanctification and growth, perseverance, and spiritual warfare is a community project. This is why church is meant to be central in the life of every Christian.
'Take the helmet of salvation.'
The helmet protected the soldier’s head and brain from all kinds of different weapons. So likewise, our salvation acts as a helmet, keeping our minds focused on God’s glory, God’s love, God’s mercy, and grace.
So far all the armour is defensive until we take up the 'sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.'
The Roman’s soldier sword was more of a dagger, used for close combat This is what they would use when the enemy came in close. So likewise when the enemy comes in close to take us out, we must be ready to fight with the sword of the Spirit. When sin, the world, or the flesh creeps we must fight temptation with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness he repeatedly said ‘it is written’ when he addressed his adversary.
Finally, Paul comes to the greatest weapon of all, prayer.
'Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.'
The enemy’s temptations, accusations, and threats are a burden to us, but our prayer to God is a far greater burden to the enemy, especially if our prayers are in the Spirit: meaning that they are led by, initiated by, inspired by, and saturated with the Word of God. There are three important things about this prayer, it must be constant. There is the temptation to just pray when there is a crisis, but we will only grow in faith if we pray daily. Next it must be intense, limp prayers won’t do, we need to learn to knock on heavens doors and lastly they should be unselfish, to pray for others as much as we pray for our own needs.
If we are committed to the Christian life, the enemy will rage, we will at some point find that we are at war but if we consciously dress in the armour, stand firm in our faith and having done all to stand we will be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.