Be Strong In the Lord (Part 3)
Passage: Ephesians 6:10–6:24
Be Strong in the Lord Part Three
This morning we will be bringing to a close our series in the book of Ephesians and while I’m sad to be leaving this great book, I’m excited about the new series that we will be starting next week which is actually two series in one: first part is simply called Watch, and it will be a series on the last days. I’ve called it Watch because Jesus tells us that his return can come at any time and therefore we are to be watching and waiting, and that is my burden – not that we get all twisted up about what’s going to happen when, but that we’re watching and waiting for our Lord’s return. The second half of the series will be called Ready and will examine how anticipation of our Lord’s return should affect how we live our lives. Please pray for God to meet us in a special way through this series as you think about it. Got a lot of ground to cover to get through this last chapter so let’s jump right in…
Ephesians 6:10-24 (pray first)
A report in the DENVER POST read: "Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and 'scare-coyotes.' She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs--fifty last year alone. "Then she discovered the llama--the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama...'Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything,' she said. 'When they see something, they put their head up and walk (or even more frequently run – ats) straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that... Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.'"
As Christians, we are engaged in a spiritual battle and our enemy the devil is, as I’ve already said, a powerful foe, but he is also like the coyote in that he is also an opportunist. He really doesn’t like head on confrontations, especially with men and women who are living in submission to the living God (that’s why James 5:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”), so he slinks around and lurks in the shadows looking for opportune times to attack. After Satan tried to tempt Jesus and failed, Luke records that he left Jesus until an opportune time. Judas, inspired by the devil to betray Jesus, waited for an opportune time to betray him. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:27 that we are not to let the sun go down on our anger and that we are to give no opportunity to the devil. The devil is an opportunist and waits for just the right time (the right opportunity) to attack, and so the appeal in this chapter to be strong in the Lord, to suit up in the armor of God and to stand firm is so important for us to hear.
This morning we come to two offensive weapons that the Lord gives us to take the fight to the enemy. Christians aren’t supposed to live their lives on the defensive, circling the wagons and trying to survive the latest onslaught of the enemy. An old hymn out of the Civil War says:
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still, Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace, we will.”See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on; Mighty ones around us falling, Courage almost gone.“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still, Wave the answer back to Heaven,“By Thy grace, we will.”
I understand what the hymn is trying to say, but it sounds like a mentality that all too many Christians can have that Satan is the advancing one and we’re just holding on for dear life. Jesus is the Powerful One and he calls us to advance offensively. The gates of hell shall not prevail – we’re to be storming hell with the gospel in the power of the Lord!
We have been given two offensive weapons, the first one found in verse 17:
1. The sword of the Spirit
The word of God is pictured as a sword wielded by the Holy Spirit. We take it up as part of our armor, but it is the Holy Spirit that supplies the power for the Word of God to do its supernatural work. The word here describes a short, double edged sword that was easier and faster to wield and more deadly in a fight than the larger cutting and slashing swords. It was the sword most feared in a fight.
What does Paul mean by comparing the word of God to a sword? What does the word of God do that is like a sword? Interestingly, God’s word is not the only time that words are compared to a sword in the Bible. Proverbs 12:18 compares the words of a rash and careless person to a sword.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Most of us have experienced the cutting power of words in our lives. I can remember as a kid reciting the old rhyme sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me to some kid saying mean things, all the while deeply hurt and on the verge of tears. Words do hurt – they can cut deeply and leave people with wounds that remain long after a broken bone has healed.
The word of God is a different kind of sword – when used properly it cuts in all the right ways and destroys, not souls, but Satan’s work in souls. Let me mention two ways – there are more but time…
a. God’s word opens blind eyes to see the glory of Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes only by trusting in His finished work on Calvary.
Satan’s great objective and passion is to blind men to the glory of Christ. Everything Satan does, the temptations, sin, the accusations, the lies, everything is aimed at this one objective: to blind men to the glory of Christ. He hates God, hates Christ, and doesn’t want anyone else to love Christ either. He is condemned by God and wants as many men as possible to share in his fate of entering a Christ-less eternity.
...the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor. 4:4
We do serious damage to that objective when we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ! Paul goes on to say,
5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:4-6 (ESV)
As we proclaim Jesus Christ and the gospel, God by the power of the Holy Spirit says “let there be light” and light shines in the darkest of hearts and eyes that have been blinded to the glory of Christ suddenly see. Nothing better in the world and nothing does more damage to Satan’s kingdom.
b. God’s word helps the Christian fight off the temptations of the devil.
If the enemy can’t destroy the believer’s soul then his next objective is to damage their witness and their vision of Christ by tempting them to sin and we need to fight on the battleground of temptation. Our greatest weapon to offensively fight the promises of temptation are the promises of God in His word. Our greatest weapon in fighting the lies of temptation are the truths of God’s word. Jesus is our greatest example in this: he answered every temptation with truths and promises from God’s word. The Psalmist is speaking of this temptation-fighting power of God’s word when he writes:
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Storing up God’s word in our heart (reading, meditation, memorization) helps us to fight the temptation to sin because God’s word lifts our eyes and hearts to God’s perspective and helps us recognize the attractive snares of temptation for what they are.
Taking up the sword
It is called the sword of the Spirit because it is the HS that supplies the power to enable the word of God to do the powerful work of God in hearts. The power is in the word and in the Spirit – not in us! But, we need to do our part and have the word as part of our armor and that means that the word of God is to be a large part of our lives. We need to read and study and meditate on and memorize the word of God.
The sword is a short sword, very quick and very mobile. Jesus didn’t quote the entire book of Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil – just a relevant verse is all it took to defeat the enemy’s lies. If you’re being tempted or attacked in a certain area, memorize verses that speak God’s promises to that area. Meditate on them throughout the day, and find the strength those promises impart.
Our family has been rediscovering The Andy Griffith Show recently and my favorite character is Deputy Barney Fife. Barney Fife always carried a gun but God forbid he should ever actually need it quickly cause he only had one bullet and he had to dig that out of his shirt pocket.
We don’t want to be spiritual Barney Fife’s – just one bullet of scripture to pull out against every attack and lie and even that’s hard to get to. If the only scripture you remember is somewhere it says something about “eat, drink, and be merry” that’s not gonna be real helpful in most situations where you need spiritual help! God’s word is the sword of the Spirit, but we need to give the Spirit something to work with. Read, study, meditate, and memorize! Our great offensive weapon is the word of God!
2. The weapon of all-prayer
The second offensive weapon which is not portrayed as armor, but is essential to all of the armor is what John Bunyon called All-Prayer, termed thus because of Paul’s emphasis on the word all in verse 18:
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephes. 6:18 (ESV)
In John Bunyon’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian having fought Apollyon with the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith, finds himself in a different kind of fight, seeing the mouth of hell in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and saw flame and smoke and heard hideous noises, it is said he, “was forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon, called All-prayer.”
I think Bunyon is right to label it another weapon because there is no separation between Paul’s admonition to resist and fight the enemy with the armor of God and the lifting up of all-prayer to God. Praying at all times, in all kinds of different prayers and supplications, with all perseverance, for all saints. In other words, not a shallow, fair-weathered kind of prayer that gives up when the fight gets rough, but desperate and persistent prayer that calls in for back-up all the more when the battle gets rough.
John Piper has made the point that prayer is a walkie talkie in war – calling in reinforcements and supplies from the foxhole, not an intercom to call in more chips and soda from the kitchen to the living room. Prayer is the privilege of the Christian through faith in Jesus Christ, but it is also a necessity if we are going to overcome the wiles and strategies and attacks of the enemy and our own sinful flesh.
3. The advance of the war through the advance of the gospel
For Paul, the offensive of the kingdom is always measured in the advance of the gospel to a lost and dying
world in need of a Savior. And so here he’s asking for prayer, not that he would be released from prison, but that he would have boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the gospel that got him imprisoned, but he saw himself as an ambassador in chains.
In those days ambassadors often wore very expensive jewelry and gold chains to display the wealth and dignity of the nation they represented. For Paul who was an ambassador for the crucified Christ, his chains were more honorable than any gold chain could ever be. He wears the chains proudly – he is an ambassador in chains.
The other night at our Youth meeting we asked the question, is Jesus worth being laughed at for? Is he worth being ridiculed for? Is he worth suffering for? Paul would answer joyfully, YES!! In fact, Jesus is so good, and his gospel so great, that it is an honor to suffer shame and ridicule and rejection for him. When we realize that and pray that we proclaim the gospel boldly as it ought to be proclaimed God will use us as instruments in His hands to advance the gospel and damage the kingdom of darkness.
Paul concludes this massive letter, so filled with the sovereignty and grace of God expressed through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, by leaving the readers with the very thing he prayed for them at the beginning.
¨ He begins the letter with, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
¨ He ends the letter with, grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Life. Powered by grace. Real grace for real lives from a real God who gives salvation and eternal life to the undeserving sinner like you and me. It is a gift received by believing in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross and his resurrection.
If you have never experienced the power of God’s saving grace, won’t you ask Him right now in the privacy of your own hearts to save you? Confess your need for a Savior and faith that Jesus Christ is the
only Savior God has provided for the world. He promises He will save you if you will believe.
 John Bunyon, The Pilgrim’s Progress, pg. 77