Be Strong In the Lord (Part 2)
Passage: Ephesians 6:10–6:24
Be Strong in the Lord Part Two
I thought that we’d be finishing up the wonderful book of Ephesians this morning, but I realized that I couldn’t get it all in one message and do it justice. My family and some others will be leaving right after the service, not to be rude but to get down to Gaithersburg by 6pm for Matt’s graduation from PC, so please excuse our quick exit. And let’s jump right in:
We’re looking at the armor of God and last week we considered the belt of truth /breastplate of righteousness/shoes of gospel of peace. Before we go on to the shield of faith, I want to remind us of two things that we looked at last week:
- Every Christian is engaged in a spiritual battle.
I heard a pastor say that when he was a young Christian a friend asked him “how goes the battle?” and in his immaturity he replied, “I’m not fighting anybody.” That can be how many of us live – naively unaware of any spiritual battle going on. “I’m not fighting anybody.” That’s where I am far too often.
Paul says: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (meaning other people), 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.
Our battle isn’t against people, it’s against dark spiritual forces led by the prince of darkness Satan (Adversary), otherwise known as the devil (the Accuser or Slanderer). His dark ambition is to defraud and slander God and destroy men’s souls by leading them away from God through sin. What we fight against and whether we are aware of it or not, every Christian is engaged in this spiritual battle.
There is a story from the civil war where in heavy fighting a young man was wounded and captain ordered him to the rear to get out of the fight and to be taken care of. Shortly after this young man came back to the captain and said, “get me a gun, this fight doesn’t have a rear!” No neutral countries – no peace treaties, no truces. This fight doesn’t have a rear!
- Jesus Christ has already won the war!
We fight a spiritual battle but Jesus Christ has already won the decisive victory on Calvary. Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of D-Day – which historians consider the beginning of the end for the Nazis. Calvary was the beginning of the end – the decisive, fatal blow to the works of the devil. Colossians 2:15 says that through the cross [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Here’s the irony: as Jesus hung on the cross it looked like Satan’s ultimate victory and Christ’s ultimate defeat and shame. Jesus hung there humiliated, naked, mocked by the religious leaders and others, suffering, dying. It seemed like Satan, working through Judas and the chief priest and other religious leaders had won a stunning victory. But Satan didn’t know our Savior’s mission was exactly to die for the sins of His people and he didn’t die in defeat and shame, but as the Prince of glory and on the cross he not only triumphed over Satan but he also put Satan to open shame – the cross was a humiliating and fatal defeat for the devil and his angels!
That victory was won for us – all who would believe in Christ as their Savior – for it is by the shed blood of Christ that we have been forgiven and redeemed and reconciled to God and God through Christ has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves!
The believer in Christ is eternally secure from the enemy’s efforts to destroy our soul eternally. We belong to Christ forever. But, we are still in a battle. Peter tells us that [our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Some have said he is a toothless lion – but his bite is very real and can be very painful to the Christian – he can hurt us badly and damage our testimony even if he cannot destroy our souls.
So we don’t want to be ignorant of his schemes or unaware of the battle we are in. But at the same time we don’t want to focus on the devil either. Just this week I heard more stories from some of you of churches or Christians who are focused on the demonic – seem to see demons behind everything.
If there is any point you take home from this message I hope it is this: We do not fight this fight by focusing on the devil – Satan would love for us to get our eyes on him! He loves it when a Christian is constantly looking for demonic activity, or pointing their prayers at him in constant rebukes, or trying to identify this spirit or that spirit at work and claim authority over it. Because these things keep our eyes on the devil instead of on God and the Christian doesn’t grow strong in the Lord by focusing on the devil! He or she grows strong in the Lord by focusing on the Lord! By drawing in dependency upon the strength of His might. By keeping our eyes and focus and dependency and trust all fixed on the Lord.
If we look we’ll see that all the pieces of the armor of God speak of our dependency on the Lord. Last week we looked at the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the gospel of peace. In verse 16 we come to the shield of faith:
- The shield of faith
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…(vs. 16)
The evil one is an archer who shoots constant fiery darts at us – but God has given us a shield to ward off those darts. It’s called the shield of faith. The shield Paul describes was a long, oblong-shaped shield that was made by gluing two layers of wood to each other and then covering the shield first with linen and then with animal hide, and then rimming it with iron. It was specially designed not only to deflect arrows, but to extinguish the fiery arrows that were shot at the soldier.
In military campaigns in those days archers would dip their arrows in pitch and then set them on fire so that even if deflected the arrow you were still in danger of being burned. It’s a vivid picture of how the enemy attacks our souls: through lies, temptations, and accusations, he is constantly shooting his arrows at us and it is the shield of faith that protects us from them. Lifting up the shield of faith is a picture of a faith-filled focus on God, not the enemy. Listening to the promises of God, not the threats or temptations of the enemy. We lift the shield of faith when the enemy shoots his arrows of
Accusation – Satan takes the arrow of accusation, dips in pitch, and lights it with guilt and condemnation. The accusations he whispers burn with a devastating fire of condemnation and guilt that can destroy our peace and our confidence in Christ and what he has done. Maybe there is a particular sin that he aims these darts at. Maybe a reoccurring sin that you just don’t seem to be able to overcome. Or maybe a sin you committed quite some time ago, but can’t forget it – it still burns with guilt. Whole point of arrow is to get eyes on that sin – emblazoned on conscious so can’t forget. Feel guilty. Condemned. But Satan deceives you into thinking you can only deal with it by looking at it and punishing yourself over it. Take up shield of faith and look in faith to God and His promises and His powerful solution to our sin and guilt. Promises like:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
Fear, anxiety, and worry – Satan takes the arrow of fear (whether it be the large paralyzing kinds of fear or the small daily anxieties and worries that can eat away at us slowly) and lights it with the whisper, “what if…” Enflames our imagination with all kinds of scenarios that fill our hearts with fear. Sure those things will happen. Or he lights it with the whisper, “God won’t (or can’t) help you this time. Do you think God will be faithful? Why should He be? Do you think you deserve His help?”
Gets our eyes on the thing feared, and then on our undeserving state, and then back on thing feared. Attack on what we believe about God. Fear is more a statement about what we believe about God than what we believe about ourselves or our situation. When the disciples were afraid of a storm that threatened to capsize their little boat and kill them (which is a pretty real fear) Jesus rebuked them with the question, “where is your faith?”
Satan loves to undermine our confidence in God and slander His character by insinuating that He won’t be faithful, He won’t be good, and He doesn’t care. Lift the shield of faith and believe what God has said:
…For he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" Hebrews 13:5-6
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear
though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3though its waters
roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3
Temptation - Another name for Satan in the Bible is the tempter. What is temptation? Think about it, it’s an arrow aimed for our desires, burning with an enticement to do something God has forbidden. Those fiery darts come in the form of lust or greed or self-promotion or pleasure.
Now to be clear, our sinful flesh desires these things – our main problem isn’t the devil but our sin. But the name tempter gives us insight into one of his main lines of attack: to fan the flames of desire for some evil thing or sinful act until it burns so strongly that we act on it. Temptation’s goal is to get us to do that thing and the devil knows just how to cover the arrow with pitch and set it on fire and aim it at us. Our sinful desires do the rest…
The answer isn’t to focus on temptation and try to overcome it in our strength or focus on the devil and try to figure out his strategies. Lifting the shield of faith believes the promises that the treasures of Christ are far more precious than all the pleasures and treasures of the flesh. We want Jesus more than we want that sin. Faith answers the temptation to do some fleeting sin with the call to live for a better treasure, a higher purpose, a greater pursuit. Fight the promise of sin with a greater promise!
Lifting up the shield of faith means believing that these promises of God are true for me, right here, right now, in this battle. Lifting up the shield of faith means getting our eyes on the Lord – drawing our strength, our help, our hope from Him.
Application: is there something right now. Want you to consider: are you focusing on that thing? Trying to overcome it by your own efforts? More aware of the devil’s activity than of God’s activity? Look to Christ. Believe in Christ. Trust in Christ. That’s how we fight!
- The helmet of salvation
This is the assurance of salvation and the hope of future glory that awaits us for all eternity through faith in Christ. This assurance and hope protects us from the blows of the enemy.
God has saved us – it is His good work. That is made so clear in the first three chapters of this letter. We hold onto Christ in faith only because He held onto us first. It is His grip we trust, not our grip.
In his writings Martin Luther would often refer to visits from the Devil, how the Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: "Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God." To which Luther would respond: "Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Saviour has died for all my sins - those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.'
How good it is to be saved! Undeservedly, scandalously saved – not because we are good religious people, but because Jesus is a good and great Savior. One day the Christian will stand before God and find that not one sin – not one sin – can be brought to his charge (though Satan will try so very hard to accuse), for Jesus Christ died for every one of them. His blood is sufficient.
And we will be welcomed into an eternal kingdom of light and love and joy. Glory will permeate every street and God Himself will be our light and our highest joy. And then the war will be over. No more fight. Until then we are to be strong in the Lord.
If you are not trusting Christ for your salvation I urge you: trust nothing else. Anything else we can trust in: our good works, God overlooking our sin, that compared to other people we’re pretty good – all these will fall apart on that day and we will be left to answer for our sin before a holy God. Only the death of Christ makes full atonement and we must apply His blood to the doorposts of our heart by believing in Him. Let’s pray.
Closing song: Oh The Wonderful Cross