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Standing Strong (Eph 6:10-20)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

COVID 19 may feel somewhat like an invisible enemy. A virus particle, so small yet dangerous, unseen by the human eye without the help of science, has caused so much disruption, frustration and desperation. Although there is no visible army or enemy, although unseen, the threat is present, and its presence is seen and felt all around, perhaps even when we walk down the street. Just in the last two weeks, we have been reminded afresh of our vulnerability- we may feel on edge, feel threatened, feel afraid, as so much of our lives, our health, work, finances, and our community are shaken once again.

The Apostle Paul addresses the believers in and around Ephesus about another unseen enemy.  They lived in a city that worshiped many spirits and gods and practiced magic and amongst all this, Paul wants them to stand firm in their identity in the Lord Jesus. Paul addresses the Ephesians caught up in a struggle of cosmic proportions, and he wants them to stay strong and know God’s power and purpose for them.

In today’s passage, we reach a section which is like a final pep talk- as you see as a coach might stir up their player or team at the last moment of advice. Some scholars call this a preoratio, a rhetorical part of ancient speech that seeks to bring the speech to a conclusion and stirs the emotions

In the chapters leading up to today’s passage, Paul urged the Ephesians in their Christian behaviour, and urged them to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (4:1), to walk in certain ways, walk in love, unity, light etc and now he calls them to stand.

So how were they, and how do we today, stand strong when we find ourselves in a struggle?

First, we need to have a right perspective to stand strong. A right perspective firstly helps us realise that God gives the power, and secondly that we are in a struggle against the devil and his schemes.

a. We need to know that God gives the power (verse 10-11)

Look at verses 10 and 11:

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armour of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.

Do you see that the source of the strength is from God, not from within themselves – they are to be strengthened by the Lord and his vast strength.

What power does an unarmed soldier have against a dangerous armed enemy ?? unless you are James Bourne or another Hollywood character, probably not much …Or what strength does a river have in times of drought? Again, not much.  The strength here is not from within, put from what gives it strength.  Like a soldier going into battle, Paul wants the believers to have the right gear on to be prepared for the fight. Just as the front-line nurse or doctor without the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is fairly powerless and of limited service, the Christian needs to put on the right PPE. The strength comes from the Lord. It is looking to the LORD and His Mighty power that one is strong.

Some of us may think of ourselves as quite strong and resilient. Perhaps you feel that you have worked hard, that you are a good person. Maybe you think that at the end of the day, that can be an amour of types to protect you in life’s winds. Friends, we must not rely on ourselves, but be strong in the Lord and in His mighty Power.

b. This is our first point about perspective, God gives the power to stand. Following on from this first point about perspective, lets focus a bit more about the struggle at hand.

Paul reminds the believers that the struggle is not of this world only…but has a cosmic dimension against the devil’s schemes.

Look at verse 12:

12 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.

The Christian is in a cosmic struggle against the devil and evil cosmic forces. Whilst Paul reminds the believers in chapter two about their changed status, now saved by grace (Eph 2:8), and ‘made alive with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’, Paul recalls that they were also once dead in your transgressions and sins, they followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, and the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

This struggle, or fight is now what the church has been caught up in: In a song by Keith and Kristyn Getty called O Church arise, there is a line that goes  ‘our call to war to love the captive soul, but to rage against the captor’. As the gospel is proclaimed, the evil one does not want people to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus and respond to him in obedience and faith. The devil’s schemes may also play out in disunity within the church. However, Since the day this letter was written, God’s kingdom continues to grow. However, the struggle for the church continues. The Devil has been active since the Garden of Eden, and until the new heavens and new earth when he will be done away with forever, the struggle will continue.

CS Lewis, English author, writes about the cunning schemes of the evil one in Screwtape letters. Here is one example, as Screwtape, the senior devil instructs Wormwood, his apprentice and tells him:

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

We could be quietly plodding along in our entertainment and hobbies that may be good things in themselves, yet without giving thanks to God or pursuit of him, there is caution about a gentle slow path away from God.

Are we alert to the advances of the evil one?  Or have we fallen asleep to the seductive tunes of pleasure and leisure? Do we need to get up and take our stand?

We have an enemy, the conflict is ever present, and we need to be alert and ready.

So, believers need to take the right perspective, they need God’s power, they need God’s PPE, and they need to realise the powers they are up against.

Verse 13 sums this up quite well,

13 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

So with this perspective in mind

This leads us to our next main point: Our Practice

There are sub-points: Firstly, We need to first Put on the full armour of God, and secondly, we need to pray.

Let’s take some time to consider the full armour of God/ the Christian’s PPE. I think whilst the individual components are important, before we take a brief look at each item individually, I wonder if you can appreciate with me how the full armour of God is greater than the sum of its parts. The armour of God is not only encourages Christian behaviour, it also encourages Christian identity.

Reading from verse 14:

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Whilst we have six items listed here, I think we should try to see how the whole is greater than the parts. I think what they do as a whole is that they help us identify with the Lord Jesus who is the promised deliverer and redeemer of God’s people as seen both in the old and new testaments

What I would like to do now is briefly look at some references that help us look at how the armour first points to Jesus.

So reading again from verse 14:

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist:

  • Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:4),

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

  • In Isaiah 59:15-17:
    • YHWH looked and was displeased, that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and he own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head:

V15, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace:

Earlier in Eph 2:17: Jesus came to proclaim the good news of peace to you who were far away and near, bring between Jew and Gentile

V16 In addition to all this, take up the Shield of faith:

  • David’s song of praise,
  • 2 Sam 22:31 as for God, his way is perfect; the Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in Him
  • You make your saving help me shield 2 Sam 22:36

 

  • Helmet of Salvation
    • Isaiah 59:17
      • YHWH the redeemer is described as “He put on righteousness like a breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head:
    • Sword of the Spirit
      • Isaiah 49:2, in describing the servant of the Lord
        • He made my words like a sharp sword

So our first practice to stand when we put on the full armour of God is to see that we are identifying with Jesus who is the ultimate deliverer, redeemer of God’s people.

Have you identified with Jesus, knowing that he is the one where there is no deceit, where there is perfect righteousness, perfect love. It is because of his love that he died to save people from their sins, only by trusting in Him and his death and resurrection are people saved from the clutches of the enemy. Have you run to him for your eternal protection and taken up His armour? If you do not consider yourself a Christian, the good news about Jesus is something you need to hear today. Come to Him for forgiveness of sin, protection from the evil one and for true peace.

For the believer, after standing firm in our identity in the Lord Jesus, we now turn to our behaviour and ethical considerations. After grounding our identity in Him, we then must put on the same kit as Him. Just as some of you may wear red and white when the Sydney swans are playing, or a blue scarf or jersey when the NSW league team take the field, we must also resemble the one who’s side we are on.

As we put on the armour of God, we ought to be transformed and conformed to Jesus’s likeness. As the Christian walks by repentence and faith, may God help us to reflect increasing honesty, integrity, righteousness and faith.

So in this lockdown period, when we go anywhere, you may be well aware of the presence of COVID 19. We put on a mask, We put on hand sanitizer, We scan  QR CODEs, we get vaccinated.

As the church, we need to be aware of the devils schemes, and so let us put on the full armour of God so that we can take our stand. May we rest in the protection of God, and may we live such godly and holy lives in the way we love God and in the ways we live that makes the gospel attractive.

The Roman sandals were heavy and studded with hobnails: it anchored them to the ground. Let us friends, ensure that we know of God’s assurance of His love, as we place our faith in God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Let our hope be able to point those who have no hope to Jesus.

When the flaming arrows of doubt, or temptation, or guilt strike, we need to look to Jesus and take cover in him. When we lift up our shields, we form strength in unity. When isolated, we are more easily hit. Reach out to one another to look to each other’s needs. We can do this today whilst in isolation and lockdown, pick up that phone, send that message.

We must hold his sword, his living Word, to challenge, comfort, rebuke and encourage us. We need to know truth, and not to believe the lies of the enemy that satisfaction is found in the ways of the world, the flesh or the devil. In the next few weeks, we will be, as a church, God-willing looking at a topical series on common temptations, called flirting with the world. Stay tuned as we address the topics of greed, sexual immortality and workaholism.

We must be reminded daily of our salvation and what Jesus has done for us. And we must keep standing strong in Him, putting off sin, and putting on truth, integrity and righteousness. It’s not uncommon to hear criticism from non-believers that ‘Christians live as hypocrites, that they don’t practice what they preach’. Whilst believers are sinners saved by grace, Paul prays that they live lives that are holy and blameless.

Finally, to stand strong in Jesus we need to pray.

Paul moves from the exhortation to walk, to stand and now an imperative to pray.

Paul urges believers to pray:

i) in the spirit at all times, ii) with all types of prayers, and iii) and for all the Lord’s people.

Look at verse 18-20.

i) Like as regular our heart beat or as we breathe, Paul urges the believers to praying regularly and constantly, as our prayers are inspired and breathed out by God’s Spirit.

ii) And What type of things are they to pray for? And for who? Praying for al God’s people, all kinds of prayers and requests

a. All kinds of prayers includes literally, all types, realising our dependence on God. We pray to give thanks, to praise God, to ask for his help. We pray the Lord’s prayer, and we may pray throughout the day.

b. How can you grow in your prayer life? Perhaps look back over the recent series we did on prayer, or make the Lord’s prayer a regular part of your day, and pray for example that the Lord guard us from temptation, or perhaps pick up a book such as Don Carsons Praying with Paul- a Call to Spiritual Reformation-

iii) And who do we pray for?

a. For all people: for all the saints, that they stay strong. How to keep track? Keep a diary/ or use Prayermate App.

b. For gospel purposes

          • Missionary partners, our pastors, we need your prayers. Apostles Paul’s plea: being alert of the time, understanding, and being bold to make known the good news about Jesus.

Conclusion

As we battle our way through a global pandemic, as many of us may feel unsettled or unsure of what the future holds, let us have the perspective to seek God’s power, so that we can stand strong in the strength he gives.

As God’s gathered people, (albeit online) on this side of heaven, we are not yet home. We need the perspective to expect trials of many kinds and we have a cosmic enemy. Yet take heart that the Lord Jesus reigns. And Let us remember that we are raised with Christ in the Heavenly realms, and our greatest enemy has already been defeated.

And let us Stand strong, by Putting on the full armour of God, standing with Jesus in his death and resurrection to deliver us from sin and the enemy, and let us keep putting on the virtues that will keep us protected and effective in service.

As we put on the full armour of God and look to Jesus, our rock and our redeemer, our deliverer and protector, may God’s grace also change us to looks more like the Lord Jesus

Just as we start the Christian life by grace and God’s strength, it is in His power that we stay strong. Let us be persistent and dependent in prayerful as we await His return.