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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Are in a Real Battle

“Real Christians Are In a Real Battle”
Real Christians
November 25, 2007
Ephesians 6:10-20

We are continuing our series on Real Christians.

Last week, we learned that Real Christians Walk in the Light.

We are simul justus et peccator, simultaneously righteous and sinful.

We are saved sinners. Saints who still sin.

We are called to walk in the light and not in the darkness, but we still sin.

And when we sin, we confess. We completely agree with God about our sins and we receive forgiveness! He is faithful and just (because of our advocate!) to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness!

This week, we’re going to learn that “Real Christians Are in a Real Battle.”

Ephesians 6, starting in verse 10.

[scripture reading, prayer]

I have some bad news for you this morning.

If you are a Real Christian, you are in a war.

There is a battle raging. And there are only two sides. The stakes are higher than life and death. The stakes are eternal life and eternal death.

The battle rages all around. And no one is neutral.

If you are a Real Christian, you are in a war.

Not to scare you, but your enemy is fearsome.

You have a Real Enemy.

Your enemy is one of the most powerful created beings in all of the universe.

He is smarter than you.
He is more dangerous than you.
He is more experienced at combat than you are.
He is stronger than you.

And He hates you with a vengeance on a scale that you cannot imagine.

Your Real Enemy wants to utterly destroy you. He wants to rip you to shreds. He wants to devour you.

If you are a Real Christian, you have a fearsome enemy who hates you and wants to see you eternally dead.

You are in a war.

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news:

There are resources available to everyone who is a Real Christian that will enable you to withstand the onslaught of this fearsome enemy.

The good news is that there are resources available IN GOD to ever Real Christian that will enable you to STAND YOUR GROUND when this enemy attacks.

That’s the point of Ephesians 6:10-20.

There are resources available IN GOD to every Real Christian that will enable us to STAND OUR GROUND when this enemy attacks.

The Apostle Paul is saying in this passage that every Real Christian the possesses the armor God–the resources necessary to withstand the onslaught of Satan and his warhost.

And Paul is saying that God wants every Real Christiain to engage in spiritual warfare (this is not just for some special class of believers) every Real Christian to engage in spiritual warfare TAKING UP and PUTTING TO USE the resources of God Himself to fight spiritual battles.

Real Christians Are in Real Battle with Real Spiritual Weapons.

That is good news! Let’s see how Paul describes the battle. Look at vv.10&11.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.”

In other words, “Get ready for a fight.”

Paul says, “Get your strength up because you are going to need it.”

You are going to have to take your stand against the schemes of the devil.

Were you aware that Satan has schemes, battle-plans, tricks, plans of attack for taking you down? What he doesn’t have ready, he’s drawing up right now! Paul says, “Real Christian, get ready for a fight with Satan’s schemes.” Get your strength up because you are going to need it.

But notice. (And this is all-important.) Where does it say to get your strength?

It doesn’t say to pump iron. It doesn’t say to look deep within yourself. It doesn’t say to beef up your moral resolve and your will-power for defeating the enemy.

You haven’t got what it takes! You are going up against the most powerful weapons of mass-soul-destruction in the universe––where are you going to get strength to withstand the spiritual equivalent of the atom bomb?

What’s he say? V.10

“Be strong...IN THE LORD and IN HIS MIGHTY POWER.”

Get ready for a fight. But don’t think that you’ve got what it takes to stand up to Satan. You don’t.

But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (You should have that one memorized, again: 1 John 4:4!)

There is a fuel supply, an energy shield creating source, a spiritual armory that is more than able (more than able!) to successfully repel the attacks of the evil one.

God Himself. And God Himself has committed His own resources to fight your battles in this world.

Real Christian, get ready for a fight by drawing strength from God.

V.12 makes it clear who the enemy is.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We often think of our enemies as being other humans. Flesh and blood. And sometimes, in some senses, they are: child abusers, murderers, thieves, rapists, hostile nations and so on. But, standing behind them and below them is a darker evil.

We sometimes think that our enemies are movie producers, pornographers, liberal theologians, dangerous politicians of certain political persuasions, magazine publishers, internet enemies. But standing behind them and below them is a darker evil. They are but puppets in the hands of these enemies: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil.

Are you aware that Satan has a huge network of secret-agents? There are demons on every level with orders to attack, a “spiritual Mafia.” Behind the scenes, on different levels, joined together for a dark and dangerous purpose–the tearing down of human souls.

That’s who we battle. And where are they? Last phrase of v.12:

“...in the heavenly realms.” It means the unseen realm. The world that is more real, more concrete, more substantial than this one. But the world that is, for right now, unseen by human eyes.

Your Real Enemy is fearsome, in control of a huge army of fallen angels who are joined together to destroy you. And your human eyes cannot even see them coming.

So, Paul says, get ready right now by drawing on God’s power.

That’s what the “armor of God” is. The armor of God is the powerful resources of God to fight every spiritual battle we will ever face in this life.

So, Paul says (now v.13), “Therefore...”

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

What do you think is “the day of evil?” I don’t think it means just one day. I think it means the times when Satan seems to be really be on the attack.

Sometimes, he pulls away and retreats and re-groups and looks for an opening. He did that with Jesus. Do you remember that? Satan left Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness–not for good–but to wait for an opportune time to strike again.

So sometimes, Satan and his minions aren’t on “full attack mode.” But that doesn’t mean the war is over. It means, get ready because he’ll be back with a vengeance. I think that’s what the “day of evil” means. Those times when Satan seems to be coming on strongest.

Maybe you are in the midst of the “day of evil” right now.

Maybe in the midst of a trial. A loss. A relational problem.

Or maybe in the midst of a temptation. Some sin that keeps dogging your heels.

Or maybe in an accusation. Some sin you have been forgiven of that He keeps pounding on you. ["When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within!"]

Or maybe even some kind of a supernatural manifestation of his power. A paralyzing fear, or a demonic oppression, or something like that.

“The day of evil.”

But God has something for you on that day, in those times, to (v.13) “be able to stand your ground.”

Do you believe that this morning?

Do you believe that God has something for your every spiritual need?

Do you believe that God has purchased resources by the death of Jesus that will help you to not fall when “the battle presses in hard?”

That’s what this text says. And it’s the greatest news in all the world for living the Christian life!

We don’t do it on our own. We don’t have to muster up the courage. We don’t have to arm ourselves. We don’t have to find it in ourselves to live the Christian life and fight the daily battles with the Tempter, with the Accuser, and with his agents of darkness.

God will do it for us. God has done it for us. We have a Mighty Mighty Savior! And He has made it all possible (through His Holy Spirit) for us take full advantage of His mighty power for living.

That’s what it means to “take up” the full armor of God. I love that phrase, “full armor” of God. There are other words for “armor” in the Greek language. But this one means everything you need for success in battle.

So that when it’s strapped on, you’ve got everything you need to stand your ground.

And that’s exactly what Paul tells us to do in vv.14-18. We don’t have to retreat from Satan. And we don’t have to fear. We just have to, “Stand firm.” he says. God has an armor for you. Put it on. And stand firm. Put it on.

Vv.14-18 are a description of the armor of God and a call to put it on. To appropriate (by faith) the mighty, powerful resources of God.

There are 7 armor pieces (or weapons) here. Lots of imagery that is easy to remember.

There are 7 resources here from God for doing real battle with our Real Enemy. Let’s look at them one at a time.

First, the belt of truth. V.14.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”

The belt of truth.

Truth is pictured as a great belt tied around your midsection. And remember this is God’s armor that He is giving to you. Paul is saying, “Tie God’s truth around your waist.”

Let me give you a definition of biblical truth because there is a lot of misunderstandings about truth out there.

Truth is a description of what really is. Did you get that? Truth is real description of what really is. Truth is an accurate description of reality. When you go into battle, you want to know the true state of things. You want to know how bad the fighting is going to be. You want to know how strong your side is. You want to know if your weapons will do any good. You want to know if your armor will withstand the attacks of the evil one.

And you don’t want to be deceived about it. You want the truth.

And I think that the reason truth is pictured here as a belt is because everything else on your armor is attached to it.
The belt was more than just to keep up your pants.

On a Roman soldier (by the way Paul might, have a firsthand idea of what a Roman soldier wears. He might be writing this chained to one!) On a Roman soldier, the belt kind of hung everything together. It was the first thing you put on to get yourself ready to fight.

So the question is, do you know the truth of God?

Satan is coming to attack you. He might be doing it right now as I speak. And if you are deceived and don’t know the truth of God–what really is–how are you going to stand?

1 John 4:4 (that verse I quoted a couple of minutes ago). That’s the truth. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is the world.” That’s truth. It won’t feel like that on the day of evil! That’s why you’ve got to put on truth be ready for the fight.

Put on the belt of truth.

Second, the breastplate of righteousness. V.14 again.

“Stand firm...with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”

The breastplate of righteousness. Or the “body armor of righteousness.”

Holiness must be close to your heart.

God has provided righteousness, purity, holiness to you through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You need to put that on daily, practicing holiness, to be able to stand in the day of evil.

It’s another way of saying, “Walk in the Light.”

Satan is going to tempt you. And it’s going to be powerful. You are going to want to go his way, not God’s. But all the resources you need to say, “NO!” including holiness, purity, and righteousness, are available from God.

Did you know that you no longer need to sin?

You still have indwelling sin living inside of you. It will be an internal struggle all of this life. But sin’s authority over your life has been broken. You don’t have to sin any more! God’s righteousness is right at hand for you. And you can put it on any time.

It won’t feel like that on the day of evil! When Satan is attacking, it seems (sometimes) like sin is your only choice. But God has a breastplate, close to your heart that you can put on, any time, anywhere.

The breastplate of righteousness.

Third, the boots of readiness. See what Paul says in v.15.

“And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

The picture here is a soldier binding his feet up with leather boots or sandals so that his feet don’t twist and turn and lose their sure-footing. No teetering and losing your balance. Your feet being “readied” for battle.

Have you ever seen all the trouble that professional athletes go to to make sure that their ankles don’t pop out from under them? There, the stakes are just winning and losing a game. Imagine going into war without sure-footing!

And readiness (the surefootedness) for spiritual battle comes from the real “gospel of peace.” That is, the good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners like you and me.

Peace with God is possible because of Jesus.

You need to know that when Satan comes knocking! You need to know that no matter what accusation he tries to push you over with, you are accepted by God through the blood of Jesus and the gospel makes you untoppable.

“When Satan tempts me to despair...upward I look and see him there that made an end to all my sin!”

It won’t feel that way on the day of evil. If you aren’t prepared, it will feel like you have no place with God when Satan attacks. He’ll accuse you of being the worst sinner imaginable. Unworthy. Unacceptable. Wretched. And he’ll be half-right!

You are an unworthy, unacceptable, wretched sinner. But God has made you worthy, acceptable, and loved in Jesus. You have peace with God if you have come to believe the gospel. And that will keep you from tottering on the day of evil.

Stand your ground with the boots of readiness.

Fourth, the shield of faith. V.16

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Do you see the picture here? Satan is attacking from a distance. He is dipping the tips of dangerous arrows in pitch and then lighting them on fire. And aiming them your way.

He has red-hot missiles of temptation, trial, and accusation flying through the air–with you in the cross-hairs. You are the bullseye for Satan’s fiery attacks.

But God has a shield for you. It’s called FAITH. Take it up.

Trusting the promises of God will extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

One of you wrote on the survey, “Real Christians Believe God’s Promises.”

That’s what this is talking about.

The Roman shields were about four feet by two feet and often covered with leather. The soldiers, afraid of these kinds of blazing attacks, would soak their shields in water before battle.

So get the picture. You are in a fight. It has gotten hairy. The enemy is shooting the arrows at you. When they land, flames shoot up everywhere. But when they land on your shield .

That’s what faith does. God has a faith for you to use in spiritual warfare. Every one of His promises is true.

What if the flame is a temptation? “No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. There is a way of escape.”

What if the flame is a trial? “Consider it joy when you encounter various trials because the testing of your faith will lead to maturity in Christ.”

What if the flame is an accusation? “There is now NO condemnation to those who in Christ Jesus.”

What if the flame is hardship? “And my God will meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.”

What if the flame is demonic oppression? “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Raise up the shield of faith. Trust God’s promises! And the arrows go out. They seem powerful on the day of evil. But not against the armor God has for you. Don’t fear! Trust God! He is powerful to save.

Fifth, the helmet of salvation. V.17

“Take up the helmet of salvation.”

No solider goes to battle without his helmet. This helmet is the reminder of the salvation that is to come. Elsewhere, Paul calls it the helmet of the HOPE of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8).

That’s because victory is certain for the children of God!

When Satan attacks, put your hope in God’s salvation which is ready for you, prepared for you by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The helmet of salvation.

Let me give you an idea of how that works. When you are in the midst of the war, it seems like the war will never end.

But you need to remind yourself DAILY that this war is already won!

It’s a Real Battle. Satan is a Real Enemy.

But Satan is a defeated enemy. The Cross took the fangs out of Satan. He tries to convince himself that that isn’t true. He is still fighting. But the decisive blow has been struck. And while God has some rescue missions to accomplish, we still have to fight with Satan. But he is a defeated enemy. “Lo! His doom is sure.”

And the “helmet of salvation” is our reminder to ourselves each day as he comes at us, that we have victory, we just have to wait for it.

Did you know that? You don’t have to win the spiritual battle!

It’s already been won.

You just have to stand your ground for Satan’s last ditch attempts to gain an upper hand in your life. Put on the helmet of salvation and remind yourself of the victory which is God’s for you.

Sixth, the sword of the Spirit. V.17 again.

“Take up...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Sixty six books. Notice that this is your ONLY offensive weapon.

Learn this. Know this. Use this. The Spirit of God Himself has written it, preserved it, and put it in your hand. Get to know it. Whip it out and slash it at Satan. It’s powerful!

The word for “sword” here in v.17 is for the short-handled sword that Roman soldiers used for hand-to-hand combat. This is for the times when Satan and his soldiers get right up in your face. You can’t flee! You’ll want to. But there is no back to this armor. Don’t retreat. God calls you to stand your ground. James 4:7, “Resist the devil {slash back with the word of God} and he will flee from you!”

Are you strong enough to make Satan flee? No. But the word of God is.

Didn’t Jesus use this in the wilderness?
“It is written...It is written...Be gone, Satan for it is written.” Jab. Jab. Jab. And the devil actually has to run.

Take up the sword of the Spirit.

Seventh, and last, the walkie-talkie of prayer.

Okay. The words, “walkie-talkie” don’t appear in v.18. But Paul is still talking about spiritual warfare here. And if we were writing it today, it would be “walkie-talkie” or some kind of military communications device. V.18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions (whenever Satan is attacking and all the time!) with all kinds of prayers and requests (praise, adoration, intercession, confession, thanksgiving). With this in mind (this war), be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

You are not in this war alone. If you are a Real Christian, you have fellow-soldiers, comrades-in-arms who need “air-support.” Call it down! That’s what prayer is. It is asking God to come and to win the battle for you!

And He wants to. He is ready to. He has provided everything that you need for success. A full-armor and all the air-support through prayer that you need.

He even wants to help you pray! It says, “Pray in the Spirit.” That means in the power of the Spirit. He’ll help you do it if you lean on Him!

Call on Him. Trust Him. Take up and put on his provision for your battles.

“So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

I don’t know what your battle looks like right now.

But I know that if you are a Real Christian, you are in a Real Battle with a Real Enemy.

But you don’t have to lose it. It’s already been won!

You just need to take up the Holy Spirit’s resources for you and stand your ground.

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