Episode 1. Be Strong in the Lord
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This program is the first in a newSeries called What to Wear to the War- unpacking the spiritual weapons with which God equips each person who believes in Jesus His Son.. So join Bernion …
You and I cannot defeat the devil, in the spiritual realm, on our own – we need Jesus. We need the Spiritual Armour that was forged by Him for us on the cross.
Over the last few years there has been a real increase in the level of sophistication of sport – in the training techniques and the equipment they use. I mean, look at cycling, and they use a lot of science to make those bikes – to make them strong, to make them light weight, to make them aerodynamically suitable. The more competitive sport gets, the more there’s money involved, I guess the better the equipment gets and a key area has been the athlete’s protection and safety. Now cricket is a very good example. It you are listening to this program in Australia or India, you’ll probably say, “Oh, I love a cricketing example,” or maybe you’re not a cricket fan, but, hey, humour me; I love cricket. Cricket is a good example. I remember when watching it as a boy. The batsmen didn’t have any helmets; they didn’t have any protective equipment for their heads and I remember a lot of times, seeing terrible head injuries happening in cricket. You know, the bowler would bowl a really fast ball that would bounce up and hit the person right in the middle of the head – terrible stuff. These days of course, the batsmen have light-weight, very strong helmets. In fact when a batsman walks out on the field, he’s really protected; he has pads on his shins, he has gloves on his hands, he has a helmet on his head, he has a protective box, he has an arm guard and sometimes a chest guard and he wears boots with spikes so that when he runs he grips the dirt rather than slipping over. And the whole thing is supplied by the team – the aim is to protect the player so that he can play the game. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why would it be any other way – why wouldn’t the team supply the player with protective equipment?
Over the last four weeks we’ve been looking at a series called, “Jesus, the devil and me.” We looked at God’s perfect plan for our lives and how the devil tries to ruin those plans. Remember, if you joined us over those weeks, in John’s Gospel, chapter 10 and verse 10, we see the battle lines drawn. Jesus says. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” So God’s life, God’s plan is that we have abundant life, a life that’s full of things, a life where we are used by God to touch other people with His love. The thief, on the other hand, comes only to steal, kill and destroy.
Well, today we are starting a new four part series that kind of follows on from that. It’s called, “What to wear to the war.” There is a battle going on, have you noticed? We are in a Spiritual battle – there is – and it wouldn’t make sense if God didn’t provide us with some protective equipment; the best protective equipment, so that when we walk out onto the battlefield we are protected. I’d like you, if you have a Bible, to turn to Ephesians – it’s in the New Testament – chapter 6 and we’re going to look at verses 10 to 18. It talks about the body armour of God – let’s start at verse 10. I’ll read it – “Finally be strong in the Lord and the strength of His power. Put on the whole armour of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle isn’t against enemies of flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take the whole armour of God so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist and put on the breast-plate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” So here the apostle Paul to his letter to the church in Ephesus outlines the body armour of God. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes that are prepared to walk to share the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and he adds to those, prayer and alertness. It sounds an awful lot like the protective gear that we were talking about before, with the cricketers and any other sport, for that matter. I mean in football – the football players don’t go on the field unless they put mouth guards on to protect their mouths.
Over the next three weeks we’ll be going through each one of those items of the body armour of God in detail. I think there are three things that we have to know about each one of them. Firstly, what’s it for? I mean, why is it important for me to wear this item of God’s equipment to war? What if I don’t wear it, what happens? That’s the first thing; what and why? The second thing is how do I put it on? I remember the very first time I put some cricket pads on. I’d have to say, it wasn’t entirely obvious to me how to get them to fit tightly, and snugly. If we are going to wear God’s body armour every day, we’re going to wear that to war, but it want’s to be a snug, tight, comfortable fit – it needs to be a part of me so that I can get on with life without being distracted by it. And the third thing is, when it’s on, how do I use it? I mean, this sword of the Spirit that Paul talks about – what do I do with that? How do I use the shield? So next week we’re specifically going to begin with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. What’s it for, how do I put it on and when it’s on, how do I use it?
But today I’d like to stand back a bit and first look at the big picture. What’s all this thing about a battle and body armour, why does God talk about this stuff? It’s interesting to me that when Jesus came into this world, the Son of God, He never did anything wrong – He just came to love us and give Himself up for us. Right from the very beginning, He encountered opposition. Jesus arriving on this earth is ‘the’ turning point in history. He’s the Son of God. He could have walked into this world and taken it with the power in the finger-nail of His little finger on the left hand. He’s the Son of God; He could have done anything He wanted. But even before He arrived, there was no room in the inn, so He was born in a stable and when King Herod heard about Him, well, he tried to kill Him. In fact King Herod committed genocide; he had all the boys under two years old, slaughtered. And at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus was rejected by His own home town and ultimately they assassinated Him for opposing the rottenness of this world, with His love and His goodness. Jesus said, “Look, no servant is greater that his master, if they persecuted me they will also persecute you.” Here’s the bottom line – the devil didn’t want Jesus to succeed then and the devil doesn’t want any follower of Jesus Christ to succeed today.
Let’s go back to the cricketing picture for just a moment. The batsman walks out onto the field, all dressed up with his pads and his gloves and carrying his bat and his helmet and he walks out and his aim is to stand there and to score as many runs as he can. But of course, the bowler at the other end, why is he bowling the balls? Is he bowling the balls at the batsman with the aim of helping his score runs? I don’t think so! The reason the bowler is bowling the balls, is to try and get the batsman out. The batsman wants to score runs; the bowler wants to get the batsman out. Let’s look again at what Paul says about this whole battle; this war – what’s going on? If you have a Bible come with me to Ephesians chapter 6 and verse 10. It says again, “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might, put on the whole armour of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Because our struggle isn’t against the enemies of flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places, therefore take up the whole armour of God so that you may be able to stand on that evil day and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Question! Is there any time that we don’t need to put on the body armour of God? Well, you may think I am a heretic, but I think there are actually some people who don’t need God’s body armour. Over the last four weeks you have heard me say time and time again, if you have been with us, that God’s plan for us is that we should be a part of His master plan; that we should be a part of winning this world with Jesus; of bringing people in touch with Jesus. Jesus said, “My ideal plan for you is that when you are thirsty you come to me and drink and out of your belly will flow rivers of living water.” In other words a flood tide of God’s blessing of love and mercy to all of the people that are around us.
I think there are two types of Christians. The first type is what we sometimes call ‘nominal’ Christians. A nominal Christian, well, believes in Jesus from a distance. A nominal Christian really isn’t engaged with the fullness of God’s love and truth and the important thing about a nominal Christian is that this man or this woman or this child, doesn’t have an impact for Jesus in this world. “I believe in Jesus, but well, that’s it, that’s where it finishes. I wouldn’t call myself a disciple of Jesus.” You know something, I don’t believe this person needs the body armour of God because I believe the devil has very little interest in attacking this sort of person, because this sort of person; this sort of so called ‘Christian’, isn’t interfering with the devil’s plans at all. On the other hand, there are people who are Christ followers; who are disciples, who are living out Jesus perfect plan for their lives. There are people who are touching other people with God’s love. There are people who are living a life set apart for God; a clean life, a holy life, a life that’s all about glorifying Jesus.
Now these sorts of Christians, they need the body armour of God because these sorts of Christians are interfering with the enemy’s plan. These sorts of Christians are touching the world with the love of Jesus Christ. These sorts of Christians hunger to see that love poured out into this world. When that cricketer walks out onto the field, when the game starts, he walks out onto the field dressed in his protective equipment. When a Christian makes that decision; when a person says, “I will be a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ. I want to see Jesus glorified on this earth, I want to see people touched by His love and I want to live my life wholly and completely for Him. “ The moment we make a decision like that, we are like the cricketer who steps on the field, we become the soldier who steps onto the battlefield – we become someone who’s desire is to see rivers of living water; God’s blessing, God’s Spirit, God’s mercy, God’s grace, flow out from us. From then on, that person needs God’s protection. He or she needs the body armour of God.
Let’s observe a few things about this whole battle and body armour from what the Apostle Paul writes here. The first thing he says is, “Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His power.” Be strong, literally means ‘to take into you God’s strength.’ The word that Paul uses is kind of a joining of ‘into’ and ‘strong.’ Be strong in the strength of His might – take His strength into you. And remember, God and the devil are not equals. The devil is subject to God. God is above all things, all things that were created, were created through Him and in Him. So when we have a battle and we choose to put on the armour made by God, remember – see what it says? It says put on the whole armour of God. I’m not talking about my armour; I’m not talking about things I have supplied for myself. I’m not talking about my own strength and my own abilities. It is fashioned by Him; it fits you and me perfectly and it is based on the power of the cross. It is based on the victory that Jesus won when He died for my sins and yours, so that we could be forgiven. He paid the price and He rose again to say, “Hey, death will not hold us, if the wages of sin is death, Jesus has paid for my sin – Jesus has paid for your sin, and He is risen again.” The Bible says He is the first born among many; He has risen to give us victory so that we know that as we believe in Him, we have eternal life because He has paid the price.
So the armour that God fashions for us is the armour of the victor. The devil was defeated at the cross; when Jesus said it is finished, He said I have done everything to pay for your sin; I have won the victory and that armour is perfect in every way. Once we have it on, once we know how to use it, the devil cannot win because Jesus already has won. In the first chapter of Job he talks about the fact that God puts a ‘hedge’ around us. The image of a ‘hedge’ is one that grows. The more that we obey God and live our lives with Him and seek to glorify Him; the more we do that, the more this hedge of God grows. So it becomes impossible for the enemy; for Satan, to attack us. But we see in the first chapter of Job that sometimes God allows the enemy to attack us. God opens a gate in that hedge and allows the enemy in. Just picture this. So here am I standing in the middle of this battlefield, with a hedge around and God, through His sovereign love and grace, chooses to let the enemy attack me. Why does He do that? Why does God allow trials like that to happen?
Well, we find the answer in the first chapter of James and verse 2, where he writes this, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have it’s full effect so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” So the devil is the tool in God’s hand; God allows him sometimes to attack us so that we will become mature, so that we will grow, so that we will become dependant on God’s armour, and God’s grace and God’s power to live our lives. So I am standing here in the middle of this battlefield and the gate opens, by God’s grace and the devil comes in. At that point, I have another line of defense; at that point I have the body armour of God – the Spiritual armour that God has given each one of those who believe in Jesus Christ, to protect ourselves from the devil.
So that’s the first thing, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power,” not on mine. His gifts, His body armour – perfect, complete and absolutely impenetrable to the devil. The second point is that he says, “Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand the wiles of the devil, because our struggle isn’t against enemies of flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and rulers of this present darkness.” Put on the whole armour of God – interesting when Paul wrote this in the Greek, he doesn’t use two words for the whole armour, there’s only one word, by definition, the armour that Paul is talking about is the whole armour that God supplies. We need every little bit of the armour that God gives us. There are no bits of that armour that are optional extras in protecting us from the devil. Think of the batsman, as he walks out onto the cricket pitch. What if he wears a helmet but no gloves and so the bowler bowls a really fast ball. Remember this cricket ball is hard as stone and instead of aiming at the batsman’s head, he hits the batsman’s hand and breaks his fingers. Well, what good is the batsman to his team? The batsman needs the whole armour and in the same way, you and I need the whole body armour of God.
Let’s just go through that list one more time. As I said, over the next few weeks we’ll have a look at the list in detail. But look at all the items of armour that God gives us: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes that make us prepare to share the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and to that Paul adds prayer and alertness. There are a few items there. Do we understand why God gives us a breastplate of righteousness, or a belt of truth? I mean, do we really understand? I really encourage you to join us over the next few weeks when we look at each of those items in detail. Put on the whole armour of God.
Why do we have to put it on? This is the third point. Why do we have to put on this armour? So that we may be able to withstand the wiles of the devil. What do we struggle against in our lives? I know the things I struggle with. I struggle with time, sometimes. I struggle with things that just seem to happen that come against me. You know, life’s going along well, all of a sudden, ‘bang’, something bad happens – I think, why did that happen? Or sometimes the people around me are difficult to get on with, sometimes, just quietly; just between you and me, sometimes I’m difficult to get on with – not very often mind you, but sometimes. They’re the things that we tend to struggle with. We see them in the flesh, we see them in the physical, but Paul is saying that behind everything that happens on this earth, there is a spiritual dimension. There are spiritual forces at work; spiritual forces of good and of bad. We struggle not against enemies of flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Behind everything good that happens on this earth, there is God – and behind everything bad that happens on this earth, there is the devil.
If you read the first five chapters of this letter, Ephesians, Paul talks about a whole bunch of things. He talks about disunity in the church. He talks about evil talk that comes out of our mouths. He talks about pagan ways, obscenities and sexual immorality. He talks about what it means to have order and disorder in the home. He talks about what it means to have obedience and disobedience in the workplace. Now they’re plain, ordinary, everyday things. Some are good and some are bad, but there’s nothing sinister surely, behind them. We easily can make the mistake of forgetting the spiritual dimension that lies behind everything good and everything bad. And let me say this, the spiritual dimension is just as real as the stuff that we can see. What is God? God is Spirit.
God broke into history and became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, for a period of thirty three odd years, but for most of eternity, God hasn’t been a man, a human being. God has been God, the Spirit. God is the great, unseen reality – the good, unseen reality and you and I cannot defeat the devil in the spiritual realm on our own – we need Jesus – we need the Spiritual armour that was forged by Him, for us, on the cross. The good armour, the perfect armour. The power of His death and His resurrection, alive in us through the same Spirit who caused Jesus to rise from the dead. That same Spirit writes Paul, earlier on in this chapter, is alive and well and available in each person who believes in Jesus Christ.
In fact, let me just flick back to the first chapter of Ephesians for a moment. Paul says to these people as he writes to them. He says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which you are called. What are the riches of His glorious inheritance among the saints and,” listen to this…“and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe according to the working of His great power. For God put this power to work in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him as His right hand in heavenly places; far above all rule and all authority and dominion and above every name that is named, not only is this age, but also in the age to come. And He has put all things under His feet and has made Him the head over all things of the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” So God is saying, through Paul, “I wish you would just understood how much power you have; the power of the Holy Spirit in you. The power which Paul writes about again then in chapter 6, where he likens it to the armour of a soldier going into battle – the armoury of a Roman soldier. You have that power, if you believe in Jesus Christ and we need that power to defeat the enemy. You can’t defeat the enemy on your own, and nor can I, but Jesus already has and that’s the power that He gives us. “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day and having done everything, to stand firm.” Have you noticed that some days are evil days? Some days the enemy just seems to come after us with an axe. We can be going along just wonderfully; having a wonderful life and then some day’s temptation wracks our bodies – temptation wracks our souls. God’s plan is that we are able to withstand him, whether it’s a little nagging temptation or whether it’s a massive attack on our faith or our well-being, or anything in between; God’s plan is that we should be able to withstand the devil. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The devil is smart; the devil hatches plans. The wiles of the devil mean literally the ‘plans and the deceptions’ of the devil.
God doesn’t want us to be taken in. He simply wants to use the devil to help us to grow. The devil is part of the testing mechanism; part of the mechanism that God has ordained in order that we should be complete and mature and lacking in nothing. The armour is for you, the armour is for me. It’s God’s armour – its perfect armour – it’s impenetrable armour. Truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, salvation; God gives us armour to wear into battle. Could you imagine a soldier going into a war and leaving his rifle behind? Could you imagine a ship, a naval ship, going into a naval battle and leaving its missiles behind?
What is it then that causes some Christians to walk out onto that battlefield and think, “I’m going to do great things for God in my life” and to leave behind the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of our salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God? The number of Christians that I have seen who leave one or more of those things back at home in the closet and think, “Well, I don’t need to abide in God’s truth. I can make up my own mind about what’s right and what’s wrong. Actually, I don’t entirely agree with what God says in His Word so I’ll have my own version of truth and then they wonder, “Why do I struggle, why does it seem that God doesn’t use me powerfully?” “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power. Put on the whole armour of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Take up the whole armour of God so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Father God, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, that you would reveal to us, deep in our hearts, the truth that you have equipped those who would follow Jesus, with all of the power that they need to withstand the spiritual forces of darkness. Over the coming weeks, Lord God, I pray that you would give me the words and that you would open all of our hearts to the truth of the weapons of war – the spiritual weapons of war – that you have placed in our hands, to protect us, to love us and enable us to live our lives out for your glory. Father we pray this in Jesus name. Amen.