October 7, 2019

Be Prepared for Battle

The closing chapters of Daniel 10 made it clear that God's people will experience both ongoing physical persecution, as well as spiritual attack until the Lord Jesus returns to vanquish the forces of evil, and to establish His eternal kingdom. And Daniel chapter 10 revealed that there is more spiritual activity in our world than the human eye can see. What the human eye sees, is the result of the influence of the unseen, dark, spiritual forces at work in the spiritual realm. And in the passages that we just read, Paul acknowledges the reality of cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil.

But let's be honest, there are plenty of people today, perhaps somebody here, who they discount the reality of the unseen spiritual forces and cosmic powers, as Paul says. But by doing so they are left with a question for which they have no suitable answer. For those who refuse to acknowledge the unseen spiritual forces that work in our world, they are left in a hopeless condition of trying to explain why, despite all of the human race's ongoing efforts, despite all of our efforts to improve ourselves morally, to make ourselves better people, if you will, and to help us all get along to have peace among ourselves. Why is it that we see no improvement in either of those areas? Even a casual observer of our world over the past few years, let alone the past few decades, must admit that we as a race, we are not getting better, we still kill each other, we still sell each other, we abuse each other, we hate each other. And all of this goes on unabated.

Well consider this: all of mankind has been created in God's image, Satan, as well as his demonic horde, they hate God. And therefore they hate all who are created in the image of God. But they find themselves in a difficult position because they are powerless to destroy God. So where do they turn to vent their hatred of God? They turned to those who bear the image of God, they turned to his creation. And they work unceasingly to destroy his creation to destroy as many of those who bear his image as possible. Let's think this through. When you think about the evil and the inhumanity of man to man. How are you going to explain that? Yes, I know that we're fallen, sinful people. But what how do you explain the extermination of 6 million Jews? How do you explain the abortion of millions and millions of babies? How do you explain the fact that young children around the world are forced into being soldiers? And how do you explain so many children being sold to be somebody's sexual slave? How do you explain that? Where does this depth of hate and cruelty come from? Well, the Bible points us, as Paul does in this text, to the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil.

And when you begin to think this through, you come to understand, listen, I'm all for good works. I'm all for working to make society better. I'm for all of that. But when you think this through, you begin to understand that the only hope for this world is the gospel. There is nothing else that is going to solve these problems, nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this battle began back in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The battle continued against God's people throughout the Old Testament. And this battle really reached a fevered pitch at the cross. And when Jesus cried on the cross "It is finished" I think that Satan may have, just for a moment, reveled in what he thought was his victory. But then he realized that when Jesus said it is finished, included in the finished part was his own doom. He was finished as well.

But nevertheless, he continues to fight against God and against the people of God. So today, the battle continues to rage. But here's the tragic thing. The battlefield has shifted for Satan. Used to be your home was somewhat isolated from the things of the world. You could close the front door, as it were, and have some form of protection. But now Satan not only brings it to our doorstep, he brings it into our homes. He comes right into our homes, through the ubiquity of technology. Brian Chapel writes "Liberty for many has led to slavery. Our slavery becomes apparent in our prayers for release from compulsive addictive and repeated sin. We pray God, please help me to stop (and fill in the blank), to stand against this temptation, to resist this sin, to change this habit, to act differently, to be rid of this compulsion, not to fall again to yield again, or to be this way again." It goes on to say, "But how do we stop the impulses that so powerfully war against our righteous resolve? How do we progress in the battle against sin and self when Satan attacks us through our own lust, weaknesses, and ambitions?" Then he says the apostle Paul provides the answer in the passage under consideration.

Based upon that I say this: this passage of Scripture is one of the most important passages for you as a Christian if you have any hope at all of surviving in this world. This is not a Sunday school flannel graph type lesson where we put a soldier up here, and we dress him up. No. This is spiritual life or spiritual failure. And considering what we've learned from our study of Daniel, what are we to do as Christians? How are we to survive in a world that is fueled by hatred and self interest? How are we to survive the attacks of our own fallen flesh? We have to ask ourselves, is there a way to protect ourselves in the midst of this battle? And the answer is yes. The Bible says yes. The Bible gives a resounding yes. That we can survive, and even thrive, in a world that is not only antagonistic to Christ, but to our faith in Christ as well. We can survive and thrive against the attacks of our fallen flesh. I don't know about you, but I find that to be incredibly good news. It removes this thing that we're just a victim of sin. We're the victim of somebody else's sin. No, we have protection. We can have victory.

And because the battles we face and the forces that we must contend with are spiritual in nature, we must protect ourselves, not with physical weapons and not with physical armor, but with the spiritual weapons and spiritual armor that God provides, get this, God provides each one of his children. None of his children need be unprotected. To do so is to make a choice. They choose to leave themselves unprotected. You'll see that as we go through this.

So who's this written to? Well, Paul's instructions are directed to those who are in Christ and only those who are in Christ, which is incredibly bad news, more bad news, for the unbeliever. You know why I say that? They're totally unprotected against the schemes and the wiles and the attacks of Satan. They have absolutely no protection at all. But know this: you cannot be strong in the Lord unless you are in the Lord. And to be in the Lord is to be in Christ, which we have learned in our study of Ephesians, to be in Christ is a synonym, is synonymous with being what? Being saved, being a Christian. Now mark this: you cannot put on the armor of God apart from the power of God. I'm afraid that's what many Christians have tried to do again and again and again. And secretly, they cast the armor aside and say it doesn't work. You're right. It doesn't work apart from the power of God.

It's not self defense, is God's defense. This is what God has provided to you as a believer through Christ. And here's the great thing that we're going to see. As we go through this study, guess who has already worn this armor and proved it reliable? Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. He's already battle tested each and every piece of armor. Therefore, you can be confident in this armor, you can be confident you're not being issued inferior armor. You're not being issued a prototype of spiritual armor and told to cross your fingers and hope it all goes well. No, you are being issued the armor that the Lord Jesus Christ wore into each and every battle that he faced on Earth.

Ask yourself a series of questions. Did the armor ever let Jesus down? Did the armor ever fail him? Did the strength of God and the power of God fail him? Did any of those things ever desert him? Well, the answer, of course, is no. And we would say as believers "perish the thought". So you can have confidence in this armor because of whose it is, and who has already proved it. Now additionally I want you to notice this. This is personal. Implied in Paul's command is you. You are to be strong in the Lord. You are to be strong in the power of his might. This is your responsibility. You have to take the initiative. You must make the decision to daily dress properly for the battles, not that you might face, but that you will face. Christ has won the victory, but you must use the resources that God has provided for you, in order for you to experience and to live out that victory.

There is a philosophy that just says "well let go and let God". No, no. It's not a biblical philosophy. We have to put on God's armor, we have to take the necessary steps to be aware of the battle and prepare ourselves to face the battle. And in light of who you are and what you're a part of, you are a target. In a sense, you're being hunted. We've probably all seen I don't know "24" or some kind of movie or cop show or something where the bad guy, or maybe the good guys, got that red on their chest or on their forehead and they don't know it. And finally somebody points out to them "look, somebody's got you in their sights." Guess what? Satan has pointed his laser, his red dot, at your forehead. He has you in his sights. Therefore we must protect ourselves. The sad thing is many Christians I'm afraid are completely unaware and unprepared for spiritual battle. Peter offers us some wise counsel. He says "Be sober minded, be watchful." Why Peter? Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.

All right. Before we get into the details, or something that we have to keep in mind, and that is this: we must keep this section in context with the rest of the letter. I'm sure that many in this room have heard a series of sermons that began at Ephesian 6:10 divorced from the rest of the book. Mistake, mistake. Keep in mind all the wonderful things that Paul has taught us throughout the letter to the Ephesians. He's taught us what God has done for us through Christ and all that is ours through Christ. For instance, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, we saw in Ephesians 1. God has made known to us the mystery of his will. In Christ, we have obtained this glorious inheritance, we've been raised with Christ, we have been seated with Christ. Why? So that one day the father could show us the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness. God has, in Christ, brought us near and God has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. So God has done all of these wonderful things for us. And guess what?

We have an enemy who would like nothing better than to try and take these things from us. But he can't take them from us, know that. But that doesn't keep him from trying. And because we have an enemy who would like to rob us of these blessings, which he cannot do. You know what he'll do instead? The next best thing for him, which is he'll try to discourage us. He'll try and get us to forget all of our blessings in Christ. He'll work very, very hard to get us to forget our identity in Christ. So we find ourselves in sorry, state. We've let the enemy take these things from us. And perhaps because we've been not protecting ourselves. By the way, Satan will do everything he can to disrupt the unity that you have with God and the unity that we share as brothers and sisters in Christ. He doesn't care who he hurts.

So the question is this at this point, how do we keep the enemy at bay? Well, Paul says by being strong in the Lord and putting on the whole armor of God. I'm going to emphasize this several times, but you have to get the sequence right. Many of us want to do what? Want to rush and put on the armor. But that doesn't come first. What comes first? "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." That's what comes first. To try and rush ahead and put the armor on will only lead to more failure. The power, never forget this, the power of God empowers the armor. This is a bad illustration, but Iron Man, Tony Stark, was nothing more than a jerk, right? But he had that power supply that powered that suit. You take Tony Stark out of that suit, what is he? Dead. You take us out of the armor, what are we? Victims. We fall prey.

All right. Finally, that's the first word in our text finally. "Finally," says Paul "be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might." Now you may think, man, you're really getting into the minutia here but really I'm not. We have to decide how does Paul use this word? How does Paul use this word "finally". Is he using it as a summation? I pictured a lawyer in a courtroom and he's giving his closing argument and he says "finally." Like, let me sum everything up here. Is that what Paul's doing here? Is he using it as some kind of device and calling them to remember what he's written to them? Well, if you read the text carefully, you see that neither of those are possibilities. "Finally" could be translated here as "wherefore" or  "henceforth". It says this, Paul saying, finally, now you're ready. Now that you understand who you are in Christ, and now that you understand what your heavenly Father has done for you through Christ, now you're ready to understand why you need the armor, and how you can have complete confidence in the armor.

So if we don't understand the sense in which Paul uses the word we could very possibly miss out on what is critical information that every believer needs to know. And I emphasize critical information. You ignore this information at your own risk. I don't know about you, I love to read. But I have a problem when I know that I'm getting towards the end of a book. You know what it is? I want to speed up and get to the end. I don't know why. But I just do. It could be a biography, it could be a work of fiction. But I have this tendency to rush through the last few paragraphs when I know I'm about to finish a book. And in my haste to finish, I'm sure that I've missed out on some important information somewhere along the line Something that would have been very helpful to me. And if you and I are not careful, we can do the same thing with Scriptures when we read the Scriptures. So there may be a tendency that when we read a word like "finally", we say good, this is about to be over and our eyes gloss over and we just kind of skim through it, we kind of race through it. And if we're not careful, we'll miss some critical information. Or we may think, well, Paul's just summarizing things here and it has no relationship to the rest of the books, but that would be a mistake. But when we understand that we have an enemy who is out to do everything that he can to discourage us, to defeat us, and cause us to forget who we are in Christ, then guess what? I want to take the time, I want to slow down, I want to make sure that I understand what Paul is telling me here.

So finally, we can look at it this way: it's a continuation of all that Paul has taught them. In light of God's eternal plan and purposes for you as a believer as part of the church, you must be prepared for Satan's attacks. Paul says, "finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." Know this: this is a command. It's an imperative. He's not saying look, some of you may want to get a suit of armor and wear it as you go about your Christian life. No, he's saying, listen everybody, this is a command for everybody. You have to put on the whole armor of God. Let me give you five whys. Five whys. In other words, why do we have to put on the whole armor of God? Why do we have to be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might?

First of all, we need to be strong because the power of the enemy. Remember Peter's warning about the enemies? Your enemy's here right now. He's out there. He's unseen. He's on the prowl. He's on the hunt. And he's just waiting for the perfect moment to launch his attack. And coming off our study of the book again, and we don't have to look very far to understand the power of the enemy. We just have to go back to Daniel chapter 10. In Daniel chapter 10 what did we read there? We read that Daniel was in mourning for three weeks. And finall, this angelic, this Heavenly messenger, appeared. And what did he tell Daniel? He told Daniel, that hey, Daniel, as soon as you started praying, I was semt, but I want you to know this, I was opposed for 21 days. And who was it that opposed him? He said it was the Prince of Persia. It was a demonic figure who ruled and influenced the kingdom of Persia. Now think about this. This is an angelic messenger, a Heavenly Messenger. But this demon was powerful enough to delay him for 21 days. And you think in your strength you can take him on? And how did the messenger finally get through? Michael had to come. Mighty Michael. And then and only then, with his help, could the messenger get to Daniel.

See our enemy is much stronger than we give them credit for. And one sure way to underestimate, one sure way to lose the battle is to underestimate the strength of the enemy. So as believers, we must make sure that we are not naive about the power of our enemy. Listen, it's Halloween time, right? I've seen a lot of changes in my lifetime, one of which is the craziness surrounding Halloween. You know, when I was a kid you dressed up like a hippie and that was fun. Maybe I don't know. But now what is it? It's everybody wants to be a zombie or something grotesque. In the world, the enemy is is done a wonderful job of believing that "Well, if he is real he wears red pajamas, he's got a pitchfork and some horns on his head." Who's afraid of the guy, who is afraid of a guy running around in red pajamas. Right? So what do we do? We totally underestimate the strength of our enemy. But he's much stronger than we give him credit for. We want to make sure that we're not naive about the power of our enemy. But let me say this, we do not have to fear our enemy. And what I mean by that is in the ultimate sense he cannot take our souls. Healthy respect, yes. Ultimate fear? No, no. He is not more powerful than God.

Second why, the second why. We need to be strong in order to stand in the evil day. Verse 13, we are told that we need to stand firm. The only way that you and I will be able to do that is if we are strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Listen. Personal experience proves this to be true, right? Would anybody like to stand up here this morning and recount your failures this week? Why did you fail? Could it be you underestimated the enemy? Could it be that you weren't prepared? Could it be that you didn't put on the whole armor of God? We make our resolves, right? We make our resolves but yet what happens? We fail. We promise, we promise we'll stand firm, yet we fall. Why? Because we are trying to stand in our own strength. And our strength is not even close to being enough in the face of our enemy.

Thirdly, we need to be strong in order to avoid personal failure, and what I mean by personal failure is sin. I need to be strong and Lord in order to avoid sin. We all know either by experience or by Scripture's testimony, there is no long term benefit to sin, none. Sin makes us miserable. Sin makes us unhappy. Sin breaks our fellowship with God. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in order to avoid all of these consequences, what do we have to do? We have to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his strength.

Number four. We need to be strong because of who we are and what we are. Listen, we are God's children. We are God's people. I need to be strong. I must be strong for His sake, for the sake of His name, for the sake of His character. I need to be strong so that I do not besmirch the reputation of God. I need to be strong and to make sure that I don't tarnish the image of God, to put a blemish or a blight on the image of God. So you and I as God's children, whether we recognize it or not, we are God's representatives in the world. We should always bear that in mind. Let me give you a couple things to think about. For instance, how about the way that you talk? Does the way that you talk, the language that you use reflect poorly on God? You know, we had this situation a few years ago where we had the cussing preachers. No, no. Ask yourself, have you as a professing believer adopted the language or the vernacular of this world? What about your social media posts? What about your day to day interactions with other people?

Do you realize that when you talk like the world, you're identifying yourself with the world and not with God? Say you're just an old fuddy duddy. Yes, guilty as charged. But the Bible does say let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Okay. And this applies to others of life. How about our attitudes? I know we all struggle with attitudes from time to time, but as a believer we should not be Negative Nelly all the time. We shouldn't be negative and critical and complaining. That shouldn't characterize us as believers. How about our entertainment and fashion choices? Again, I'm not saying you got to dress in a gunny sack or feed sack. But are you meeting the Biblical qualifications for modesty? Both men and women? How about how you spend your time and how you spend your money? What are they saying about God? Are they bringing glory to God? What are they saying about God your family, your friends, your co workers? As a good doctor says we are not isolated individuals. We are one in this great and mighty army. Let's represent our general well.

Fifthly, lastly. We need to be strong because we are so weak. Need be strong just simply because we're so weak. Now there's two possible mistakes we can make here as Christians. First, we can overestimate our strength, right? We do it all the time. We think that somehow we are going to be the exception to the rule. We think, hey, I'm a pretty good person. I'm a good moral person. But listen, your morality is no match for what we face. Or you think well, you know, I've got a lot of willpower. Again, your willpower is no match for the power of the enemy. The flesh is weak because of the fall. Let's make it personal. Your flesh is weak because of the fall. Ask yourself this question: could this be the reason behind your repeated failures? Even after you promised yourself and you promise God again and again that you'll never do it again, yet you do it and you do it again and again. And you're miserable, and you feel helpless and you cry out for deliverance. Could it be you have yet to recognize just how weak your flesh is?

Second mistake is we underestimate again the power of the enemy. We overestimate our strength and we underestimate our enemy's strength, which as we know is a recipe for disaster and failure. That's why. How? How? How do we be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might? This is the question. This is the question that we will wrestle with for a few weeks probably. It's one word, two words: by faith, by faith, by faith. Say well, how can I increase my faith in God's power? That's an important question. How can I increase my faith in God's power? Well, let me give you just one and we'll look at more in the coming weeks. And as you all know this, faith comes by hearing and hearing by what? Rhe Word of God. Say where should I go to increase my faith? What is the gym, if you will, where I can go and increase my faith muscles? It's the Word of God, it's the Word of God. And next week we'll get into exploring that in greater detail.

So here's what I want you to do this week. When you are faced with temptation, you will be faced with temptation, can we all agree on that? Now you may think this is strange, but try it before you think I'm crazy. When you're faced with temptation this week, I want you to talk to yourself. I want you to remind yourself that you are weak but God is strong. I can't, nut he can. Whatever it is you're facing, you can't handle it on your own. Like Jack Nicholson, "you can't handle the truth." You can't handle the temptation, but God can. And in Christ, in the Lord, you are strong. Therefore, you can overcome any temptation the enemy places before you. I ask you do you believe that? Do you believe that? That goes a long way in winning this battle. Do you believe that? Don't bring the mind the 10,000 times you've already failed that does no good. Bring to mind that you are strong in the Lord. This is God's power at work on your behalf. Say what power? What was the power Paul talked about way back in Ephesians one? The power of the resurrection. This is the power that you have access to that God puts to work on behalf of his children. Remember the words of John: "little children you are from God." And what's he say? You might overcome them? No. "You have overcome them for..." because you're so great, because you're so strong? We take that little children song "I'm so great, I'm so mighty." No. "For he who is in you is greater than he that is in the world." You are not alone in the struggle. I don't care what it is. By the way, your struggle does not shock God, it does not surprise God. It doesn't turn him off. He's there to help.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai