Well, most of you have in your possession, a device that lets you communicate with anyone, anytime, and anyplace. Most of you have in your possession the device that enables you to carry around a vast library of reading and reference material. Most of you have in your possession, probably this morning, a device that will let you access more information than you could possibly digest in your lifetime. Of course, I'm talking about your cell phone. The cell phone has dramatically changed the way we communicate as well as the way that many of us consume information. It is truly a powerful device. But as powerful as your phone is, it really is only as good as the life of its battery. Right? When the battery in your phone goes dead you know what you have? An expensive paperweight. Because you can't do anything with it.
Well, the armor of God, if I could use this term, is state of the art. The armor of God is unparalleled in the protection that it provides for us as believers, nothing else like it exists. But the potential of the armor will only be realized when we have sufficient desire to use the armor. Let me repeat that. The potential of the armor will only be realized when you have sufficient desire to use the armor. To experience the protection of God's armor, we must have a desire to achieve the purpose for which that armor exists. You must have the desire to put on the armor. You must have the desire to take up the whole armor of God. You must have an overwhelming desire to stand against the schemes of the evil one for the glory of God. Without desire, you will not use the armor of God effectively and without the necessary desire you will not be enabled to withstand the schemes, the attacks of the evil one, of Satan, and therefore you will not be able to bring glory to God.
Now here's the problem that we encounter as Christians: it's our flesh. If we're not careful, we allow our unredeemed flesh to convince us that we don't need the armor of God. If we're not careful our flesh convinces us that in and of ourselves, we are pretty clever and that we are pretty strong and so, therefore, we really don't need God's armor to protect us. And we don't need to go to all that trouble of using the armor. Let's just be honest with ourselves as well. There are plenty of times when the desires of the flesh seem to be more essential and more pressing and more important to us and more of a priority for us, then our spiritual desires. Let's just acknowledge that.
Let's look at this in another way, twice in this passage, Paul said that when we put on the armor of God, he assures us that we would be able to stand. Then why do we fall? If the armor of God is given to us, is provided for us, in order to enable us to stand, "to withstand in the evil day," then why do we fall? Well, let me tell you some reasons why we... the negatives if I can say it that way. It's not because our enemy is too strong. Scripture assures us and I've said this, probably a dozen times in these messages: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world," than he who is in the world. The Bible also assures us that the devil is what he's a defeated foe. Nor is it a question of power. If you remember all the way back in chapter one of Ephesians, Paul assured us there of the immeasurable greatness of God's power towards us who believe. And what was the power that he was referring to? Resurrection power, the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. So it's not a question of power. In fact, in the passage we've been studying, it began with Paul telling us that we are what strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. So it's not a question of power. It's not a question of strength.
So if the problem is not with the armor, and if the armor is not the problem, and if there's power available to us, then what is the problem? its desire. Our desire to put sin to death, to protect ourselves, to stand and to glorify God, let's be honest with ourselves, is simply at many times, weak. We lack the desire necessary to put on the belt of truth. We lack the desire necessary to put on the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes, the helmet of salvation. We lack the desire to pick up the shield of faith. We lack the desire to pick up and wield the sword of the Spirit. Too often, we are too weak. Too often, our desire is weak.
So what's the solution? What's the solution? What does Paul command us to do here in this passage? What is his instruction to us? Now notice what it's not: it's not to put on another piece of armor. Isn't that our tendency as human beings? We've been given "x", but we think we need "y". But Paul says no, you don't need another part to the armor. Remember, he describes it as the whole armor of God. The armor that we have been given cannot be improved upon. You don't have to go out there looking for some special technique or some tool.
I think, you know, if you think about this time of the year, many people make their new year's resolutions and that's fine. And many people say, you know, "this is the year I'm finally going to get organized." Right? "I'm going to get organized." And so what do they do? They go out and they look for perhaps a new planner, or a new system, or whatever the case may be to help them get organized. But you know, one of the first steps in getting organized is? Get rid of the junk you've got. right? Get rid of the junk you've got. In other words, just use the resources that you have available to you. In the same way with the spiritual armor of God. You don't need to go to look for anything else. You can't improve upon it. There's no other spiritual technique out there that is more effective than God's armor. So spiritually speaking, we say we want to stand. We say we want to grow in grace. And if we're not careful, we'll do the same thing. We'll go looking for another piece of the armor. Well, I know that God has given us this, but there must be something else. Right? Well, there is nothing else. Paul doesn't offer another piece of armor he does offer another piece of biblical counsel. Paul urges us to pray but to pray in a specific way.
Now, I know when the preacher mentions the subject of prayer, we all want to tune him out. Do you know why we want to tune him out? Because we're not satisfied with our prayer lives. I promise you, I'm not here to make you feel guilty about your prayer life this morning. I doubt that there's anybody in the room who would stand up and say, "you know what I am 100% satisfied with my prayer life. Come see me and I'll help you out." No, I don't think anybody would say that. So this isn't one of these sermons that "you ought to pray more, you ought to pray better, you dirty slug, and get up at four o'clock in the morning and pray for three hours. Come on what's wrong?" No, that there's not this kind of message at all. But perhaps Paul does offer us a fresh perspective on prayer from this passage.
Now notice Paul urges us to "pray at all times in the spirit." Please do not let that phrase "in the spirit" trip you up. All true, genuine, biblical prayer is prayed in the spirit. Okay, so this is not some code for something fancy, or something hidden, it's just the reality of the prayer of the Christian. Can a Christian pray apart from the spirit? Yes, many times we do. But Paul's point is, it is possible for you and I to pray it all times in the spirit. So he starts with the frequency of prayer.
Now, I think many Christians do themselves a disservice when they limit their prayer life to a certain part of the day. Here's what I mean. Many Christians get up early in the morning, and they spend time reading the scriptures and praying. That's great. That's wonderful. I commend you for that. I encourage you to keep doing that. But let me ask you a couple of questions. Is that the only time that you will pray for the next 24 hours? Do you ever think of praying again during those 24 hours? Well, Paul urges you as a believer to pray, to be praying at all times. In other words, as God's child, you should feel free to be in constant contact with him. There is nothing so small or insignificant in your life that God doesn't care about it. Do you believe that? If God cares about the littlest bird that falls out of the tree dead to the ground, he cares about what's going on in your life. Our tendency, unfortunately, is to do what? We pray about the big things. We get a bad diagnosis from the doctor and we want to pray about that. We get bad news about this and we pray about that. We come up against this problem, we want to pray about that.
But what about the small things in our lives? Do we pray about those things? How about our relationship with our co-workers, that perhaps is a little tense and fractured and on the edge? Do we ever pray about that? Maybe you have quarterly sales goals or goals that you have to reach at work. Do you ever pray about that? Do you ever pray about your own spiritual condition? Do you pray about that? See? How about praying about God helping you to glorify Him through your efforts on your job. You know, as a parent, think about this, if you're a parent, think of it in these terms: There is nothing so insignificant in the life of my children that I don't want to be bothered with. Whatever it may be, I want them to feel free to talk to me about it. I like getting texts from my kids. I look forward to the day when I get a text from my grandkids. Daniel asked me a while back she said, "Papaw, did you get my text?" I said, "No, I didn't get your text." "I asked you to bring me a biscuit from McDonald's." "I'm sorry, brother. I didn't get your text." But I look forward to the day when I do get the text you better believe he'll get a biscuit from McDonald's. Amen?
Because I love my wife, my children, my grandkids. I want to hear from them. Because God loves you, He wants to hear from you. And he wants to hear from you frequently. You know, the Bible teaches us to be constant in prayer. I think that's in Romans. Paul taught the Thessalonians to do what? "To pray without ceasing." The Lord Jesus said that men always ought to what? "Pray and not faint." Jesus also said "watch and pray so that you don't fall into temptation." Paul was saying the very same exact same thing here in the book of Ephesians. Know this, not only are you God's child, you are God's soldier. And because you are God's soldier, that means every day you're going to face spiritual battles. And because these spiritual battles are constant and ongoing, so to should be your communion with God in prayer.
But notice that Paul adds a modifier here, he teaches you to be praying at all times in the spirit. In the spirit. So let's clear up whatever confusion we may have about this phrase. I give you two examples, two excellent examples, I think, that will be very helpful. First one's from Pastor Bryan Chapell. He describes praying in the Spirit this way "praying in the Spirit is prayer that conforms to the will and purpose of the Spirit. By humbly submitting our wills and desires to God, the spirit takes the limited wisdom and zeal of finite creatures and uses them with infinite wisdom and power to work all things together for good." Of course, it wouldn't be a sermon without a quote from Dr. Jones. Right? He said to his congregation, "this means that the Holy Spirit directs the prayer, creates the prayer within us and empowers us to offer it and to pray it." He then refers to Romans, "we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself, maketh intercession for us." He goes on to say "He does this in us. He gives us the petitions. He orders our minds. He gives the prayer. He directs it. He empowers it." Right here is a powerful argument to not rush into prayer. Are there times when you need to rush into prayer? Absolutely. But I think there are many more times when we need to slow down and ask the Holy Spirit to help us pray. Could that be the solution to some of our repetitive, rambling prayers? Could that be the solution to our problem of not being able to focus when we pray? Could it be our solution to the fact that we can't seem to pray for more than two or three minutes? I think it is.
So Paul says, we are afraid at all times with the aid of the Holy Spirit. We are to let the Holy Spirit direct our prayers. And guess what if you get off course go back and get back on course. Part of being filled with the Holy Spirit is submitting your wills, your will, and your desires to him. And you can do that in the midst of your prayer time. So we are to let the Holy Spirit inform our prayers, who are to let the holy spirit guide us in our prayers. And let me say this when the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray, pray. I'm frequently woken up in the middle of the night. And one of the things I always ask myself is, "should I be praying?" I don't think God wakes me up for me to wonder why I've woken up. Do you? Okay? How about this? In first John chapter five, verse 14, the apostle John wrote, "and this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will", God's will, what happens next? "He hears us."
Now, let's connect some dots. When you pray in the Spirit, you will always be praying according to the will of God. Do you see that? When you are praying in the Spirit, rest assured, you are always praying according to God's will. Take a moment and think that through. That alone should provide you with all the motivation you need to be praying in the Spirit. When you pray in the Spirit, your prayers are under the control of the Holy Spirit. And when you pray, when your prayers are being directed by the Holy Spirit, you know that you are praying according to the Father's will and therefore, you pray with the assurance that God does what" He hears your prayer. And remember, God will always answer those prayers that are prayed in the spirit, according to His will. Do you see that? God will always answer those prayers that are prayed in the spirit according to his will. Say, "how can you say that?" Because the Father and the Holy Spirit are not at cross purposes. The Holy Spirit doesn't have his will and the Father has his will. No. It's the same will.
So, Paul gives us the assurance that when we put on the whole armor of God, we will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. So let's circle back and answer the question again. Why do we fall? If we have the equipment if we have the instruction, and we have the promises, and we have the power, why do we fall? Well, if you still have your Bibles out there, I hope you do, look at verse 13. Paul says, "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." That "all" certainly includes that we are to be praying at all times in the spirit. So we can't say that we've done all until we are sure that we are at all times praying in the Spirit. But again many times instead of standing we fall.
So the question we must come to grips with is how do we keep from falling? Know this: there is an inseparable connection between praying in the Spirit and using the armor effectively so that we will be enabled to stand against the schemes of the devil. Mark it down. If you are not praying in the Spirit, you will not be able to use the armor of God effectively. The armor of God is not powered by human strength. The armor of God cannot be operated by your willpower. It can only be operated and used effectively by the power of the Holy Spirit. See, again the problem is not with the armor. The problem is not that we are left to fight in our own strength. Again, Paul was starting this session by reminding us that "we are strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." So we're called to stand we are called to fight. We've been given the equipment that enables us to stand given the instruction as to how we can stand. From God's perspective, you know what we lack? From God's perspective, you know what we lack? Nothing. Nothing. Have you ever opened up a box and got down to the final step of assembly and found that you're missing a piece. That's not the way it is with the whole armor of God. God has given you everything that you need. So the problem is not that God has not supplied everything that we need. The problem is we lack desire. Remember I said last week "you have to fight for holiness. You have to fight for sanctification." Say "I don't like to fight." I don't either. But it's a necessary activity if we are going to become like Christ.
You know, like many new year's resolutions, we declare our intent to stand. We declare that "finally this year things are going to be perfect. 2020 is going to be the year where I make real significant progress in becoming like Christ," and by January 2, what happens we've forgotten all about it. And I do believe that every believer, in a spiritual sense, they have that desire to stand. I believe you when you say "this year things are going to be different." I believe you when you say "this year I'm going to make real progress in becoming like Christ." You have the desire. But let's acknowledge another reality and that is this: You are a quivering mass of competing desires. The spiritual side of you has the desire to stand. You want to stand, you have every intention of standing. But guess what? Your unredeemed flesh has its own desires. And it has his own desires that it has had decades of practice with. The flesh likes to have its way. Have you noticed that? The flesh doesn't want to yield to the spirit. Your flesh is at war with the Spirit. And if the Spirit has his way, that means the flesh can't get its way. Do you see why the Bible says that "the flesh wages war against the Spirit." And Paul in Romans chapter seven, He understood this. Let me read these verses to you again Romans chapter seven, Paul said,
"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh sold under sin, for I do not understand my own actions" Can you identified with Paul? "I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want I agree with a law that is good." So, he agrees that the law is good, "so, now it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me for I know that nothing good dwells in me that is in my flesh. For I have a desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now, if I do what I do not want it is no longer I who do it," it's a spiritual "I", "but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil eyes close at hand for I delight in the law of God in my inner being but I see my members another law, waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." And what does he explain at this point? 'Oh, happy guy that I am?' No. "Oh, wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Well, thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of God." Paul's, just like you, Paul says, "I want to stand". Paul says "I want to fight. I want to do the right thing." But there are far too many times when I do the wrong thing. I have the desire to stand but I find myself falling." So he says, "Oh, wretched man that I am." He recognizes these competing desires within him. And you and I must do the same thing. We must recognize the competing desires that we have. Until you do and until you begin to take action to strengthen one of those sets of desires, which will automatically weaken the other set of desires you will never be able to stand. You will never be able to fight for holiness. See? You will find yourself far more often than not falling rather than standing. Listen. I understand that life beats us down. It is hard to fight on sometimes. As Piper says, you have to fight for joy. You have to fight in order to stand and when you stand you glorify God. God is not glorified by a bunch of knocked-down soldiers. So it comes down to desire. So yeah, you've said that about 18 times. Hopefully, you're getting the point, right?
So the question now is, how can I increase my desire to stand? How can I increase my desire to honor God, to bring glory to God by withstanding the schemes of the devil? Well, let's ask another question. What is the Spirit's desire for us? What is the Holy Spirit's desire for us? Or to look at it another way what should we be seeking as we pray in the Spirit? Here it is: We should be seeking a greater zeal for God.
Many times, and I, I think I understand what people mean when we, when they say this, "you know, I desire the things of God. I want to seek the things of God." Can I encourage you to refine that statement and say, "I'm seeking God Himself." It's easy to fall into the trap of seeking His gifts and forgetting the Giver. The Holy Spirit is the One that helps increase our desire and our zeal for God. The Holy Spirit will always lead you as a Christian, to seek a greater understanding of the things of God and in particular, a greater understanding of the love that God has for You.
So, we understand what it means to pray in the Spirit: it means it is prayer that is under the control, the direction, the guidance of the Spirit. Armed with that knowledge, I think it gives us additional insight into what Paul has already prayed on our behalf earlier in the book of Ephesians and Ephesians chapter three. Take your Bibles with me and go to Ephesians chapter three. And let's read that familiar prayer that the Apostle Paul prayed for us. In verse 14, Paul says, "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being". Why? "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you" know pay particular attention to what comes next, "being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Paul's prayer for you is this: by the power of the Holy Spirit, you would know the vastness of God's love for you. When you as a believer, when you as a child of God, begin to grasp all the vast dimensions of God's love for you. When you as a child of God, continue to grow In that knowledge, the understanding and the experience of God's love for you guess what will happen? You will grow in love for him. And if you don't, I would check your salvation. I would seriously check your spiritual condition. How can you not grow in your love for God when you begin to understand the great love that He has for you? So what happens when our love for God grows?, My desire to honor him, my desire to stand for him, my desire to fight for him grows. I love my wife, I love my children. I love my grandchildren. I don't want any of my actions to dishonor them. Right? Now, just think about that. Those that you love the most, you don't want to do anything that would dishonor them. That's a physical example of a spiritual reality of a spiritual truth. The more I love God, the less I want to dishonor him.
What's the key here? What's the key? What's the key to increasing my desire? Focus on the love of God for me. The key to standing is not making more resolutions. We've made resolutions ad nauseum. We are sworn to ourselves 1000 times we won't do that again but we do it again. We promise ourselves "I won't do that, I will make progress, I will move forward" and we don't. Why? Because we are trying to do what only God can enable us to do. Listen, God doesn't toss you the armor and say "figure it out, strengthen up, bulk up, it's all on you now." No, that dishonors the armor of God. God says "it's my armor, I give the power. I give you the ability to use it effectively." And here it is "pray at all times in the spirit," increase your desire to use it.
We are far too passive as Christians. I'm absolutely convinced of that. We play the victim. And yes, life is tough. Yes, life stinks at times. Yes, things don't always go our way. That is no excuse to lay down and quit fighting. That's the time to get up and fight. See why Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." God loves you with an everlasting love. God loves you with a steadfast love. There's nothing that you can ever do, to cause God, to love you less or to quit loving you. Nothing. Your heavenly Father's not like your human father. Don't think of him in those terms. God describes himself as a God of loving-kindness. What a term: loving-kindness. Pray in the Spirit, to understand the love of God. Meditate on the love of God, and your love for Him will grow and your desire to stand for him will grow.
I said in another message that God's armor is an expression of his love for you. Likewise, you taking your stand is an expression of your love for God.