Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Conclusion

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Conclusion

What can we learn from this passage and how does it affect us when we leave here this morning?

There are some key points to remember:

  • We are engaged in a spiritual battle but we are not left to fend for ourselves.
  • God has won the battle and has defeated Satan.
  • In doing that he has given us the most wonderful gift of eternal life with him.
  • One day we will go to be with Him and all pain and suffering, striving and battling will be over.
  • In the meantime we are called to be faithful and obedient by wearing our armour, and building God’s Kingdom here on earth.
  • God is all powerful and we can rely on His strength and not our own effort, but we also need to be active participants in his army.
  • We are not in Isolation but part of the family of God and a body of believers.
  • We need all the pieces of the armour and we cannot neglect any one.
  • In addition we need to use the power of prayer in the Holy Spirit. We cannot survive the battle without constant communication with God. Without this our armour is useless.

In the situation Paul faces, he gives us the perfect example of this spiritual battle in action. He is in prison for his faith and yet he stands firm with God’s strength, displaying his spiritual armour in his words and actions.

Let us try to follow his example and stand fast in the battle. At the end of my life I want to say, like Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”

 (2 Timothy 4:7).

 

Advertisements

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Prayer

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Prayer

Finally we come to Verse 18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”

Prayer is not listed as a weapon in this passage because it is more than that. Prayer is the spiritual air that the soldier of Christ breathes and it should pervade our whole lives. Paul uses the word “pray” or “prayer” 5 times in the last three verses, indicating how important it is. Without it, the rest of the armour will not be effective.

ILLUSTRATION:

When I’m at work my most important piece of equipment is my radio. Without I cannot communicate with my control room or any of my colleagues and I and cut off and isolated.

  • -We need to pray on ALL OCCASSIONS – We need to bring everything to God in prayer, through all circumstances whether good or bad.

 

  • We need to use ALL TYPES OF PRAYER – there are many ways of praying: Corporate, private, short, long, loud, quiet, praise, requests…

 

 

  • We need to pray ALL THE TIME – This doesn’t mean walking round with your eyes closed and hands together! We need to be conscious of the presence of the Holy Sprit in our loves and live in relationship with God.

 

  • We need to pray for ALL THE PEOPLE – We are in this battle together and we need to pray together and for each other.

Paul then asks for prayer – “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Paul knew the power of prayer and his first priority is not his release from prison, but the spreading of the gospel. He also asks that he might FEARLESSLY make the gospel known. This is the climax to the whole passage and book of Ephesians and the key to the building of God’s kingdom.

The ultimate goal is to know Christ and make him known to the world, but we will face severe resistance in trying to accomplish this mission.  We can be fearless and have confidence because we have the power of God on our side.

ILLUSTRATION:

When I am on duty as a police officer it isn’t only the uniform and equipment that gives me protection. When I first joined the police I swore an oath to protect the Queen’s peace and to protect people and property. When I deal with people and situations at work I have confidence to make decisions and to use my authority because it is underpinned by the law and I have authority and power bestowed on me by the Crown, by her majesty the Queen.

In the same way we have power an authority that comes from God our King, and we can have the confidence to act with the protection of his armour and by the power of his spirit through prayer.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Sword of the Spirit

The sword of the spirit is not a physical weapon.  Neither is it the physical word of God  (the Bible) that we use to hit people over the head with! It is our only attacking weapon – it is a double edged sword (Heb 4:12) and we have it as our disposal to use to combat the attacks on our spiritual lives.

It is the word of God that we learn, absorb and allow the Holy Spirit to write on our hearts and minds. It should be such a part of us that we can use it in any situation. It should direct and mould our thinking if it is going to afford any protection.

Jesus in the desert when faced with temptation quoted scripture at Satan. He knew it because he had studied and learnt it, and at the point of pressure was able to counteract the advances of the enemy.

The Rifleman’s Creed is a part of basic United States Marine Corps doctrine.  In late 1941 or early 1942. All enlisted Marines learnt the creed at recruit training and they were expected to live by it.

“This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviours of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace.”

We need to take a similar attitude towards the living word of God. Do you know your Bible well enough? We need to study it, to learn about it and to have it engrained on our lives so that when the pressure is on the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind and help us to combat spiritual attack.

Psalm 119: “The word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path” and it illuminates our way. With this light we can make the right decisions and discern the will of God.

The sword is also a short range weapon for hand to hand combat. We cannot fight from a distance. We have to be in the midst of the battle and fully involved.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Helmet of Salvation

The purpose of the helmet is obvious. It is to protect the head. Our head is the nerve centre of our body. It is where our thoughts are formed and it directs us. It needs to be well protected.

Our salvation is a gift from God. There is nothing we have done to earn or deserve it. When we wear the helmet of salvation we are to be active and not passive. We are to be involved in the action and the battle.

A helmet is the highest point of the armour and is visible for all to see.

ILLUSTRATION:

When I wear my police helmet at work it makes me about 6 inches taller, it is a visible mark of authority and makes me stand out in a crowd. Our helmet of salvation does the same – we are distinct from the world and we find our identity in the salvation that Christ has provided.

The helmet also protects the thoughts. We can be tempted to think “I’m not good enough and God can’t accept me” but this is a lie that Satan wants us to believe. We are good enough because God has made it so.

Satan wants to desensitise our conscience and minds to sin – this is why we need to stay clear of influences that will numb our spiritual awareness. The things we read and watch, the people we associate with, the things we talk about.

The hope of salvation gives us the hope of eternity. We are engaged in this world’s and struggles that are thrown our way, but when we lift our heads and fix our eyes on the eternal salvation that we are promised it gives us strength to keep fighting.

I loved watching the Olympics last year, and listening to some of the athletes made me realise how much dedication it takes to get to that level of sport. They all talk about hard training through the winter months, the pain and the monotony, but what keeps them going is the competition and the prize that awaits. It spurs them on to lift their heads and keep going.

The prize of eternal salvation that we wear on our heads as the helmet should spur us on to dig in and battle on.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Shield of faith

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The Shield of faith

This shield was huge – 4 and a half feet tall and 2 and a half feet wide.

The faith that Paul is talking about is the basic trust that accepts God’s gift of salvation and the daily trust in God for each day.

Sometimes people will say- “if only I had more faith”.  Your faith is only as strong as the thing that you have faith in. I could invest all my life savings “in good faith” but if the bank goes bust, I could lose all my money.  If our faith is in God he is completely unshakeable and dependent and we will never lose!

When Roman soldiers were in battle they would soak their leather shields in water and then crouch behind them, so that flaming arrows of the enemy archers would be extinguished. We are subjected to a barrage of temptation, hatred, immorality, pride, fear etc etc from Satan.

The only way to withstand this onslaught is to fully TRUST God and take cover behind our faith in an immovable and all powerful being. We need to be saturated in faith – just like the shield saturated in water – so that we can extinguish the attacks on our spiritual lives.

ILLUSTRATION:

I have never had the misfortune to be shot at on duty, but my training tells me to take cover behind something very large and very solid if I encounter someone with a gun.

We also need to remember that we are not fighting this battle in isolation. We are a church and a body of believers and we stand together to support each other. An army standing side by side with their shields linked together is much more effective than a lone warrior.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The boots of the gospel of peace

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The boots of the Gospel of Peace

These boots had heavy studded leather soles and supports around the ankle to protect the feet and prevent slipping.

If you went for a hike up a mountain you’d want a solid pair of boots with plenty of grip. In same way, for us to “stand firm” we need to put on the boots of the gospel of peace.

We have a peace from God that gives us assurance and steadiness. No matter how fiercely we are attacked we can have peace in our hearts and minds because we at are peace with God.

Horatio Spafford wrote the Hymn the well know hymn Peace Like a river. He wrote this after losing four daughters in the same ship wreck in the 1860’s

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

What incredible words! This is the peace that can only come from God in these situations

There is a second meaning here – We need to be prepared to carry the gospel wherever we go. We are called to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. That means being ready to share our faith with those that we are in contact with everyday.

The verse in Ephesians uses the term “readiness” of the gospel of peace. When soldiers are in battle, they sleep with their boots on so that they are ready to spring into action at any moment. We need to be ready:

 

–          Ready to stand firm in the face of an adversity.

–          Ready to take opportunities to share the gospel

 

We cannot take our shoes off and put our feet up for a rest from the Christian life.

We need a solid foundation to stand upon, and the gospel provides this.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The breastplate of righteousness

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – The breastplate of righteousness

The breastplate was made of metal or leather with animal hooves or horns sewn in. The main purpose was to protect the vital organs – including the heart. It protects our engine room and our emotions. Without this a solider would face certain death.

When Paul talks about righteousness he is referring to “justification”.  We have been accepted and forgiven, not because we deserve it, but based on Jesus dying on the cross to take our punishment for sin. We have already been forgiven and clothed in righteousness but that doesn’t give us a license to go and do whatever we want.

Having been justified, there needs to be a practical outworking of righteousness in our lives. We need to live daily in obedience to God both in our character and conduct.

This is our protection against Satan’s attacks and accusations. Satan wants us feel wrong emotions in order to mislead and confuse us. He will try to lead us astray with greed, lust, envy, hate. He will appeal to our emotions and earthly desires, which are very strong but often lead us down the wrong path.

There was a song by Sheryl Crow a few years ago that had a line “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad” This sums up the attitude of the culture in which we live.

When people are caught in an affair, or they need to make a big decision they will often say “but it just feels so right”. They try to justify themselves and make it right – but always from a distorted view of what true happiness is.

As Christians this is no basis on which to make decisions. We need to be obedient to God and listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our feelings and emotions are God-given and are good, but we need to guard them closely.

We need to “put on” this righteousness, which means to live in constant obedience.

 

Spiritual Battle: Standing firm – The belt of truth

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing firm – The belt of truth

The soldier’s belt would have been used to tuck in the flowing robes that they wore to allow them free movement when fighting. If not the robe would be a hindrance and trip hazard.

There are two aspects to TRUTH:

–          The content of God’s truth. We need to study the truth of God’s word and understand it because Satan loves to cast doubt in our minds. We need to be able to test everything against the absolute truth we find in scripture

In our modern day culture truth can be very relative. The general attitude is “well it may be true for you, but it’s not true for me”. The truth proclaimed in the Bible is absolute and it true for everyone. Whether they accept it or not is another issue!

ILLUSTRATION:

I saw an advert this week that said “7 million people can’t be wrong”. Actually they can. If the entire population of the world said that the Bible wasn’t true, it wouldn’t make it any less true! This makes it solid and reliable.

The NKJV says “GIRD YOUR WAIST WITH TRUTH”. The word GIRD gives us the image of strength and holding everything together. If we are wearing the belt of truth it supports us from the core and provides a solid foundation to face the battle, just like the girders in a building.

We need an attitude of truthfulness. We need to steer clear of deception and scheming because that is the devils speciality.  As the saying goes “honesty is the best policy”. This goes beyond telling the truth when speaking to people. We need to be true to God and have integrity.

There is a great quote by CS LEWIS:

“integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”.

Being honest and truthful will not always be the best policy for your own self interest, but it will always be the right thing in God’s eyes. Telling the truth may expose others, may harm your career prospects, or may turn people away from you but it is the only way, if we are following God.

One lie always means have to tell another to maintain your cover. If you tell enough lies you will eventually trip up. If you aren’t buckled with the belt of truth, you trip over, like a solider trying to fight without his robe tucked in.

John 8:32 says

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Sometimes we don’t know we are being lied to. When the world is lying to us, when Satan is trying to lead is astray with dishonesty, we can rely on God to show up the lies against his truth.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Protected by God’s armour

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Protected by God’s armour (v11)

“Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”

We don’t have to enter the battle unprotected. God give us the spiritual equipment we need to face the enemy.

ILLUSTRATION: In my work as a police officer I am issued with protective equipment to help me deal with dangerous and violent situations. SHOW BODY ARMOUR AND EQUIPMENT. I would never go on patrol without wearing this because I never know what is round the corner and I need to be able to protect myself and members of the public.

In the same way we should not enter the spiritual battle without the spiritual armour that God supplies – we’ll have a look at this armour in more detail later on.

The difference with spiritual armour is that once it is on, it should not come off! When I finish duty I take my body armour off and store it in a locker until the next shift. When this passage talks about “putting on” the armour of God, it means permanently. You cannot be a part time Christian or pick and choose your battles. Satan is not a part-time enemy and he is very scheming. If you decide to take a month off and drop your guard he will try to bring you down.

The phrase “put on” is also a command. It is not an option to take up the armour for battle. It is imperative for spiritual survival, which is why God instructs us to do it.

We need perseverance to go the distance in the battle. We need to “stand firm” when faced with the storms of life. This requires us to be obedient and to faithful, developing good patterns of behaviour – reading the word, praying, meeting together,

Don’t allow the enemy to force you to retreat of compromise your faith in any way.  Don’t give the devil a foot hold in your life. This could be in any area and can start small – a little lie or half truth can lead to bigger lie and before you know it you have compromised you integrity and ruined a relationship. This can be at work, at home, at church.

The battle has been won. We don’t have to go on the attack but we need to be able to resist the advances and hold position. It is not our responsibility to defeat Satan, but to be ready when he attacks.

 What is the armour?

As I mentioned earlier Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, chained to or very close to a Roman solider. He uses this as an illustration of Christian spiritual armour.

He focuses of 6 pieces of equipment for his analogy, which we will look at in the following studies.

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Strengthened by God’s power

Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual Battle: Standing Firm – Strengthened by God’s power (v10)

If we go back to verse 10 it tells us:

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” V10

We have no strength to fight this battle on our own and we are no match for the devil. We have to find strength in God, as our own efforts will be useless. The phrase“Be strong” may be a bit misleading because it almost implies that we have to use our own strength. A more useful way to read the passage is “Be strengthened” – the strength we need come God.

One of the main themes of Ephesians is that we are “in Christ”. This means that apart from him we can do nothing or as John MacArthur says “his life is our life, his power is our power, his truth is our truth, his way is our way and his strength is our strength.”

We are not promised that the battle is going to be easy. Fighting a battle never is, but God’s best soldiers are those who are conscious of their own weakness and rely solely on him.

We often think that our level of faith is dependent on us – “if only I had more faith”.  Your faith is only as strong as the thing that you have faith in. I could invest all my life savings “in good faith” but if the bank goes bust, I could lose all my money.  If our faith is in God he is completely unshakeable and dependent and we will never lose!

To rely on God’s strength we need to understand it and have confidence in its protection. That is why we need to look back at the rest of Ephesians to see how powerful God is:

–          Christ has defeated Satan on the cross and has dominated. The worst that Satan can throw at us is death, but Christ has defeated sin and death!

–          God is omnipotent. He is ALL POWERFUL. Nothing can defeat him. What an ally to have!

–          We are fighting a battle that has already been won!

Illustration: Scene from Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers. Helms deep when they are surrounded by the enemy and Gandalf arrives surrounded by a white light with the riders of Rohan arrive. They charge down the hill, with immense power and defeat the armies of Sauron!

Just like those fighting in that scene, without the power of Gandalf they were destined to lose. Without God’s power we will lose the battle and Satan will have his way.