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The Fight of Our Lives

In warfare, there is always an objective. In many wars, the objective is land. For example, in the Middle East, Israel and the Palestinians fight because they both want to have the same land. In Afghanistan we’re fighting because we want to destroy the power base of terrorism. Hitler fought because he wanted to create a “superior” race. The Southern states fought the Civil War because they wanted to be free from the oppression of the Northern States. The Gulf War was fought because the U.S. wanted to end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, so they could have access to oil. I mention all of these wars, not because I want to say who was right or wrong, but to show that in every war, there is an objective. There is a reason we are fighting the war. And the same is true with spiritual warfare. If we are going to be in a war and win we have to know what our objective is. 

There is a battle or war going on everyday of your life. If you are a Christ follower you have one objective and that is to become more and more like Christ everyday of your life. When you come to accept and believe this it will change drastically the way you view your life.

Kent Hughes wrote this about Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:

“Paul’s cosmic perspective, so eloquently stated in verse 12 – For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, against evil spirits in the heavenly places. – is life changing when truly believed. Without it our theology is monochrome, colorless, faded like an old photograph. But truly believed and lived out, it becomes polychrome, Technicolor, throbbing with light and reality. Even more with this Biblical worldview in our hearts, we have the foundation for victorious spiritual warfare.”

There has been a lot of teaching out there about spiritual warfare that is extreme and at times just downright goofy. Because of that there is a tendency to leave the subject alone altogether but to do that means we are ignoring the reality of what really happens when you try to follow Christ.

The fact is that there is a struggle daily that goes on for our soul and faith. We have an actual adversary with one goal in mind and that is to destroy our faith and walk with Christ. If you are not aware of it or ignore it how can you survive? It is impossible. Here are three things you need to know about this battle:

a. It is Supernatural: “against mighty powers in this dark world, evil spirits in heavenly place.” 

b. It is Personal: “we are not fighting.” (struggling or wrestling)  

c. It is Futile to fight it on your own: “put on all of God’s armor”

Actually we are given five admonishments or what I am calling 5 Degrees of Defense, to help us in a battle that is raging all around us every day of our lives.

 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we  are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT

 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere
. Ephesians 6:13-18 NLT

As the Apostle Paul finishes this letter to the church at Ephesus he gives them a very clear and descriptive idea of what we all face in trying to live above hypocrisy and in trying to be authentic Chrsitfollowers. 

When you look at this and read it over there are some things that really stand out that can be very helpful in our daily attempts to stay connected to Christ. Let’s examine this for a few moments and then I want to challenge you to get serious about your faith. 

5 Degrees of Defense: 

The apostle Paul is finishing off a letter to a church in Ephesus. He has encouraged them in their faith and called them to follow hard after Christ. And now as he wraps it up we get these admonitions to be aware of the battle we are in. 

1. Be Strong

 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

We are encouraged to be strong in the Lord. If you are going to be in a battle you need to be at your peak physical and spiritual condition. There is no branch of our military that will take your enlistment without you consenting to a boot camp experience that conditions and prepares you to be strong.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 1:8 that: “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV

Let us make sure that we do whatever is necessary to build ourselves up in our spiritual strength. It was also Paul who wrote to a young pastor by the name of Timothy and encouraged him with these words:  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

So are first admonition is to Be Strong!

2. Put on All God’s Armor:

Paul’s mind is full of a war that he cannot see with his eyes yet as he sits in prison for preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ he is chained to Roman soldiers. These men are his companions day and night and provide for him an illustration that he passes on to us. The soldier’s armor becomes the vehicle he uses to teach us what is necessary to win the invisible war all Christfollowers are in. 

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 

14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

Belt of Truth: 

When a soldier cinched up his belt it meant that he was ready for battle. The belt he wore held the essentials of battle. Having this belt in place made mobility possible. Paul says that “truth” is the belt that holds everything in place and allows us to have the freedom we need to serve God unencumbered with the things of this world.
Seek the truth, search for it and when you find it hold on to it for it will be the truth that sets you free to be the person that Jesus Christ created you to be.
Charles Colson speaks of our "moral exhaustion."  He says our sensibilities have been dulled by TV and the Internet.  Unable to turn them off, we turn off our minds instead.  We come to accept and expect the garbage that's thrust upon us.  The bizarre becomes commonplace.  "Morally exhausted, we lose our CAPACITY to discern good from evil."
 
Colson also quotes Charles Krauthammer, who's often seen on Fox News - "The inability to make moral distinctions is the AIDS of the intellectuals:  an acquired immune deficiency syndrome ... moral blindness of this caliber requires practice.  It has to be learned."
 
Colson continues:  "When words lose their meaning, it is nearly impossible for the Word of God to be received.  If sin and repentance mean NOTHING, then God's grace is irrelevant.  Our preaching falls on deaf ears ... Certainly evil is to be expected in a fallen world.  What is not expected is for a holy people to accept it.  If Christ is Lord of all, Christians must recapture their sense of moral outrage.
We must learn to love the truth while still loving those that do not know the truth.
 
Body armor of God’s Righteousness

In our day this would refer to body armor worn by those who stand between us and those who would do us harm. We are to put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. How often do we get ourselves sin trouble when we wrap ourselves in self righteousness? The kind you and I can put on in our own strength. We are called to dress in the righteousness of salvation that can only come from Jesus Christ. 

In ancient times, before a squire was knighted he would spend the night in vigil in the castle chapel, with his armor spread before him as he offered up his soul to God. This is the way to put on the armor of God. We must allow Him to cinch the belt tight and to lower over us His breastplate of righteousness. In conscious dependence we must cultivate truth through reading his Word and in conscious dependence we must allow our lives to be protected by God’s armor that He provides us by way of His mercy and grace. 

War Boots of Peace and Goodness

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared

The image Paul has in mind comes from the Roman soldier’s war boot. It was an open toed leather boot with a heavily nail studded sole which was tied to the ankles and shins with straps. 

What brings us peace?
 
Peace with God: “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Life apart from Christ has no deep peace. 

The Peace of God: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
Shield of Faith

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

The fact is that our adversary with throw all kinds of things our way. He is an accuser. He promotes doubt, discouragement, depression, as well as temptation and anything else that will destroy our faith and relationship with God. 

There are fiery trials of illness, tragedies, unemployment and even persecution. There are even fiery arrows that can come from within our own army. There is often a large casualty count from what is called friendly fire. Sometimes it is not friendly fire but someone that is supposed to be on the Lord’s side can cause pain in our lives. Again the shield of faith is to be deployed which will diffuse the heat and save us from self pity and bitterness. 

Be aware that not all the devils arrows are negative in appearance. All of us have experienced the fiery arrows of pleasure that promise a sweet reward if we just react against our convictions and respond to what we know is forbidden and wrong. This pleasure only lasts for a season but like everything else that is sinful the wages of sin are always death. 

Helmet of Salvation

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Head protection is so important. You may only get one chance to save your head in a fight. One blow to you head could end the fight and your life.  Spiritually Paul is saying simply, put on your helmet and in this case it is salvation. Today there will be 22 guys on a field ramming their heads into each other and I can assure you the game or fight would end early if they didn’t wear helmets. 

Without experiencing salvation in your life you are as vulnerable as a soldier in a battle with no helmet. 

Sword of the Spirit

In these verse Paul says, take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. I know I say it often and I assure you I will keep on saying it often. You can’t be a Christfollower and not open this book on a regular basis. You cannot sustain life nor stay in the battle with no weapon to fight with and this book is your weapon. Everything else Paul has described is defensive but not the sword of the Spirit.
The Psalmist wrote: “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps.119:11) 

John wrote: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:14) 

“The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) 

Read it! Meditate on it! Memorize it! Study it!  You would not go to a battle without a weapon yet we often try to live our lives as Chrsitfollowers without THE most important weapon in our arsenal. 

3. Stand your Ground

“Stand your ground. . .”

This is really simple. If you prepare yourself each day for the battles that come your way you will stand. You will not fall. You may be weak, you may think the end is near but if you have followed the instructions nothing formed against you will prosper.

“Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV

4. Pray in the Spirit

 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion

You have heard it over and over but prayer is so important. Here we are encouraged to pray in the Spirit which simply means we allow God’s Holy Spirit to direct our prayers above our own focus and reasoning. God’s Spirit will often give you a burden to carry in prayers and although I can’t explain how or why I can tell you that the discipline of focused praying sometimes for years brings health to your soul.

5. Stay Alert

Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Staying alert is just a good word of advice in any context. Yet in this context Paul says be persistent in your praying for all believers everywhere. You and I should have a list of people that are our “brothers and sisters” in Christ that we pray for everyday. Maybe it is your small group or bible study group. Maybe it is your best friends that are also Christians. You should pray for the staff and leadership of the church. You should pray for those who teach our children in the context of the church. We are called to remember and pray for those involved in ministry around the world. 

All of these admonitions provide you and I defense in a battle that is real.

Be Strong
Put on God’s Armor
Stand your ground
Pray in the Spirit
Stay Alert

I have mentioned this song before but I remember as an indelible mark on my mind the country preacher from rural Pike County Ohio playing and singing this song. I think it was the catchiness of the tune as well as the way he bent forwards and backwards as he strummed his guitar and sang with a southern Ohio twang that made me never forget it. I remembered one phrase and I have quoted it a time or two.  “It’s a battlefield brother not a recreation room.” This week however I looked up the words and they all came back especially the chorus. I wish I could sing it but honestly I can’t remember the tune all that well. Listen to these words: 

Run if you’re goin’ to, run if you will, but I came here to stay.
When I fall down I'm gonna get up,
Cause I didn't come here to play,
It's a battlefield ,brother, not a recreation room,
It's a fight and not a game,
Run if you’re goin’ to, run if you will,
But I came here to stay.

Well, the champion marched, for forty days,
Said "Gimmie a man to fight!"
The Israelites said "We got a brave heart
but our feet are sorta full of fright!"
Then a boy with a sling and a pocket full of rocks,
who knew how to trust and pray said:
"Run Goliath, if you're gonna run, ‘cuz I came here to stay!"

Now the boys wouldn't bow and the King got mad,
He said "Turn that furnace up high,
Tie 'em up and throw' em in,
These Hebrew boys are gonna fry!"
A little while later he looked in the flames,
And he heard old Shadrach say,
"Pull up a chair boys and warm your hands,
'Cause I came here to stay!”

The decree had been signed by the hand of the king,
But ol’ Daniel still talked to the Lord,
The hungry lions were pacing the floor,
"Here comes supper" one cried.
But if You'd been around anywhere close,
You'd heard old Daniel say,
"If you're talking 'bout me, forget it boys,
'Cause I came here to stay"

Mild mannered John Huss dared differ with the ancient Roman Church. Among other things he said that men should commune directly with God; he said that singing should be allowed by everyone not just the clergy. For this and other public speeches of protest against the church, the gentle Bohemian paid with his life at the stake in 1415. The ashes of John Huss had hardly cooled, when his followers launched a war of revenge. Blood flowed unending for fourteen years. This was the religious condition in Europe almost six hundred years ago.

Almost a century after John Huss was burned at the stake, a German peasant named Martin Luther was working his way through school, when he was almost killed by a bolt of lightning. Pondering his close call with death, Luther changed his course of study from law to theology. At the age of twenty-four, he was ordained a priest. Five years later, he earned the degree of Doctor of Theology. Like John Huss, Martin Luther differed with the policies of the Roman Church, except more so. Luther challenged the Supremacy of the Pope. He spoke out against the indulgence tax. He said everyone should be able to read the Bible, pray to God for his or her own forgiveness and be allowed to sing songs in church instead of chanting the psalms.

Luther spent thirteen years translating the Holy Bible into his native German language. He wrote thirty-seven hymns. He outlined his contentions and what he thought the church should be in a ninety-five-point thesis. On Oct. 31, 1517, he nailed this thesis to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church for all to see. The Pope issued an edict for Luther’s excommunication from the church. Luther’s writing was burned, and he in turn burned the edict from the Pope. Martin Luther might have been the principal attraction at a public stake burning, had he not had the foresight to gather about him powerful political leaders; but something had to be done with this mad man who spoke out against the Roman Church, the Pope, and even suggested that each person had the right to worship God in his or her own way.

Luther was brought to trial at Worms and was commanded by Emperor Charles V to recant his written statement. He refused to do so, and it is said that he told the Emperor, “I cannot and will not recant. Here I take my stand, so help me God, Amen”.

The court found Luther guilty of defying the church and sentenced him to prison. One elector named Fredrick, Luther’s friend, was charged with keeping the prisoner in custody. Fredrick turned his back while Luther translated the New Testament. Fredrick looked the other way and allowed Luther to escape to carry on his work of the reformation. Martin Luther and his followers were forever being hauled into court. He finally issued a formal protest against oppression – hence the name, “protest-ant”. To give his followers courage on the eve of a bitter court battle in 1529, Martin Luther wrote this hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Let us stand and lift our voices in this triumphant song!

Prayer:

Benediction: “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. Stand therefore. . .”  Ephesians 6:13-14 NKJV



2010/02/07