The Believer's Spiritual Armour - Part One
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10–13
The Believer's Spiritual Armor-Part OneEphesians 6:10-13
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
New Jersey's own, Thomas Edison once said, "Genius is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration." The man worked 18 hour days and practiced incredible perseverance. Yet once he recognized the value of an idea, Edison stayed with the process until he discovered its secret. It's been said that his alkaline storage battery became a reality after 10,000 failed experiments! Perseverance!
The Christian life is no different. It's rather easy to start out excited about a relationship with Jesus - the newness of discovery and adventure. However the real test is the ability to persevere to the end.
Too many professing Christians are like the 4th of July fireworks we watched last week. A lot of flash, but then a gradual fade as time goes on. For some, the flame even goes out completely. Remember Jesus said, "It is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved" (Mt. 10:22).
So why is the Christian life so difficult? Because we have continual opposition that never ceases to pull us away from our Lord.
For example, Paul reminded us of this opposition in chapter 2 of this letter. In verses 2 and 3 he spoke of the world, the flesh and the devil. The world not only persecutes us, but tries to convince us that we will be happier if we adopt its beliefs. The flesh (the enemy within - the remnants of our old nature that still indwell us) work around the clock to oppose biblical living. And the devil and his legion of demons tempt and accuse and seek to frustrate God's plan for our lives. Give in to these powers and within time your spiritual life will be shipwrecked.
We stand every day on the front line of spiritual warfare. The attacks are relentless and subtle. If we are not aware of the enemies and not prepared for the conflict, we will surely be defeated. We will not persevere.
For the next two weeks I would like to specifically look at what the Bible says about fighting demonic attacks. Possibly no other section in Ephesians is more popular this this one and possibly no other section in Ephesians is more abused.
The questions begin: Wasn't Satan already defeated at the cross? Are we to bind demons? Are we to rebuke Satan? Should we fear the devil? Does the devil even exist? What is his primary goal? Can Satan indwell a believer? Is there a difference between Satan and demons? What is spiritual armor and how do I wear it? We'll seek to answer these and other questions from the Scriptures over the next two Sundays.
Let's start off in verse 10 - an essential verse that sets up this entire discussion. Look there with me. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might."
Perhaps this is the most important verse of the section. If we wish to be victorious, the only hope we have is the strength of the Lord. Christians often spiritually fail for one of two reasons. Either they deny the reality of spiritual warfare or they try to win the battles in their own strength.
Let's remember, the third verse of this letter promised that we have been blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Our hope of spiritual success must never rest in our own resources - our strength, intelligence, experience - but rather the resources that God provides us in Christ.
And what are those resources for fighting spiritual battles with the devil? I'm sorry to say that it is not all the mysticism, incantations and arcane codes that are being proposed by many today, but rather the reality of your salvation in Christ and the spiritual sweat of the spiritual disciplines.
In Christ you have been purchased by God for Himself. In Christ you have been newly created. In Christ you have already defeated the devil when He defeated the devil at the cross. In Christ you have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit at your disposal. In Christ you have been robed with His righteousness. And in Christ you have been given spiritual responsibilities. Pull away from these and you are putty in the hands of the devil. We must practice these spiritual disciplines: Accountability from other believers, daily time in the Word and prayer, faithful church attendance and holy and righteous living.
The devil hates you. He lost you to God and he fiercely wants you back. He wants to see more than anything you fall way from the Lord. He is your "adversary." He is, 1 Peter 5:8, "a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Yet we are promised we can be victorious when we do things God's way. And doing things God's way is laying hold of His resources and being "strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." And though Satan will try to convince you this is not the case, let's always keep in mind that He is the "father or lies" (Jn. 8:44).
Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his 10 year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: "Unless the divine power has raised you up... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might" (Daily Bread, June 16, 1989).
So remember - The Christian life must be done in God's strength! 2 Timothy 2:1, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble." 1 Samuel 30:6, "But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."
Now in verse 11, we get specific. How are believers to specifically be strong in the Lord when they fight against the devil's assaults? The command flows from what we have been learning going all the way back to chapter 4.
Remember how we are to put off the old nature and put on the new nature? Once we were spiritually dead. Now we are spiritually alive. We were aliens to God. Now we are member of His household. We were in darkness. Now we are in the light. Positionally, everything about us has changed in Christ. Therefore our new lifestyle should reflect our new position. The Christian life in this world is forever putting off the old self and putting on the new self: Lying to truth telling, anger to kindness, bitterness to love, immorality to purity, etc.
When it comes to spiritual warfare it is no different. Before you were unprotected against Satan, now you are to put on your protection. Verse 11 tells us that we are to "put on the full armor of God." It's listed for us in verses 14-17. "Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Lord willing, we'll cover these in detail next week, but for now we need to realize that God has equipped us in this spiritual battle with all we need to stand victorious. We will succeed if we do it in His strength which requires us continually wearing our spiritual armor.
As verse 11 continues, this armor is necessary if we wish to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil." "Standing firm" is a military term commonly used to hold a key position while under attack. It is maintaining your ground. It is not being defeated or retreating. It is 4:27, not giving the devil an opportunity.
Obviously "standing firm" is an important theme as it's used three times in verses 11-14. Interestingly, we are not commanded to win the overall victory. Christ already did that at the cross and He will consummate it at His return when the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire. We are simply told to hold our ground against the continual assault of the devil's schemes.
"Schemes," what does that mean? It means strategy. It means that Satan has a master plan. He knows his time is short and we know he will lose in the end. But he has a well-organized plan through crafty and deceptive and creative and relentless and diabolical methods to defeat the believer and those in this world already held captive by his power.
Schemes, things like: Sexual immorality, false religious systems, perversions of biblical Christianity and the less obvious ones like doubt, fear, anxiety, temptations, self-reliance and pride. Satan's schemes are subtle, but predictable. They are the same ones we read about from thousands of years ago in the pages of Scripture. We can be more effective in the warfare if we know the strategy of our enemy.
Here's an example of how I see Satan working today in the world. Through the media, education system and entertainment community - convince people that they evolved. Teach them that any religion is a valid way to find God. Moreover teach them that spiritual things are useless. Focus on yourself. And if there is a God trust that He is loving and all, or almost all, will get to heaven anyway. Mock Jesus. Mock Christians as bigots, hypocrites, brain-washed and weak. Never reveal any of the positive they accomplish. Promote the Bible as a man-made book of contradictions. Make sin look glamorous and the consideration of Christianity the furthest thing from one's imagination.
And for his schemes in the church: Promote disunity, selfishness, false doctrine, cheap grace, easy-believeism and shallow preaching. Discourage them in their efforts. Plant seeds of doubt in their minds. And make the world look more attractive as if they are missing out on something.
Or if you want to get more specific with something we just covered, look at Satan's attack on God's institution of marriage: Undefined roles in marriage, gender confusion, redefining marriage, radical women's liberation, sexual perversions, the purpose for marriage and the list continues.
And it is important to note that that though most of this assault seems to come through humans, we must see the devil as the ultimate force behind it all. It's easy to get frustrated and even resentful toward others who oppose the cause of Christ, but they must not be seen as the primary cause or the primary enemy. People are only prisoners of war being used like puppets in the hands of Satan. People are to be loved as deceived as they may be. They are the mission field that needs to be set free from their bondage as they exist entombed in their false beliefs. Our enemy is not the liberal media or the gay community or the atheist or even the devil worshipper that lives down the street. Our enemy is the devil himself. We struggle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).
That is why Paul says in verse 12 that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood." Of course we speak out, but we ultimately battle not against human foes. What did Jesus pray on the cross? "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34). Rather our battle our struggle our wrestling match (it's a Greek word used for hand-to-hand combat) is (verse 12) "against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Now, throughout the centuries people have sought to get specific with all these classifications. It's probably a hierarchy of demons with various organized levels of authority. However, I believe such attempts to define this beyond that are futile. It's beyond the point Paul is making. The message is simply this. There is Satan, a demon himself, and below him are a fixed number of personal demons (all fallen angels) that serve as his ambassadors. Regardless of what demon it may be, the strategy for us remains the same. Stand firm!
Verse 13, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
Did you notice that there is nothing about exorcisms. Nothing about casting out demons. Nothing about claiming authority. Nothing about rebuking Satan. James 4:7, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Success in spiritual warfare is standing firm against the onslaught of Satan. And the way we stand firm (like a good Roman centurion was expected to) is to rest in the Lord's strength as we take up our spiritual armor.
The unknown missionary said, "Man, it's great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old Devil's heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease! He doesn't waste time. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you're on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up and some don't bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on your mourning suit? No Sir! That's the time to pull out the stops and shout hallelujah! The old fellow's getting it in the neck and he's giving it back. And all of heaven is watching over the battlements: "Will he stick it out?" And as they see who is with us, as they see around us the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure with God, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We're not going to run away. We're going to stand.
By God's grace we can persevere to the end. All true believers will. This section is intended as a warning, but also a great encouragement. We are promised that we can stand firm against the devil if we are in Christ and if we do as He commanded. Let's remember that Satan may rule the realm of darkness, but we have been transferred into the realm of light. He may be the god of this world, but we as believers are no longer in this world and he is no longer our god. That god deceived us. He used us and abused us. Our God loves us, paved the way to the salvation for His children at His own cost through Christ and promises to bring us nothing but good into our lives.
May we recognize the battle by keeping our eyes on the Lord and standing firm in the graces He provides. The devil has no problem handling you, but He cannot handle the One to whom you are joined!