The Armor of God
The Armor of God
The Armor of God
…so this past week, while in Kentucky, I was reading and preparing for this week, and this series generally. Understand I had done a bunch of work already, but I was having second thoughts about the shape of the series, and was trying to settle into it and find out what God was showing me.
So I read. I prayed. I read some more, and prayed some more. I kept working, as I always do, to figure out what God was saying. That’s just how I do it.
And then I had an idea! I emphasize, “I” had an idea. I was going to start the series in the second chapter. You see, I didn’t want to have to get into this difficult idea presented in chapter one, so I would just breeze by that and get to the easy stuff.
You ever have that feeling? Like taking a shortcut at work, or at school? I mean you are still getting it done, you are just leaving out this hard bit that no one will really miss, right? No big deal.
Well, when I got back from the trip, I went for a bike ride primarily to preach to myself. Or more specifically to let God preach to me. And as I was going up this super steep hill, over by Paula’s house, I thought to myself - “Jeff, if you turn around right now, no one will know. But what will you think of yourself if you skip this hard part?”
Well, obviously I kept going. And as I cleared the top of the hill and started barreling down the other side - almost dying in the first curve by the way - as I felt that wind in my face I felt God telling me something. Something I have preached even here in this place!
The hard is what makes it worth it.
There is nothing in life worth having that comes easy. And if something good comes to you easily, I suggest you keep working at it until the work becomes hard! Because when you dedicate yourself to that - to the hard work of life, or of faith in particular - you will find rewards beyond compare.
And so today I do just that. In fact, we will do that together, as we look at this difficult theological idea together today.
This idea, by the way - predestination - is difficult really, because it birthed a denomination. It is difficult, because when we look at it as the central truth instead of God, we will find ourselves fighting to justify ideas that need not be justified!
No, instead, we need to take this idea head on, and try our best to understand that God uses this facet of faith to help us better to understand how very loved we all are.
First though, a little bit about this book.
Ephesians was written by Paul around 62 AD. It was written from prison in Rome, as were 3 other letters: Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. This letter had a very real and important purpose. You see, Paul had some unfinished business there. Not that he had left anything undone really, not that at all, but pastoring a people is more than speaking a few words, just as being a follower of Christ is more than words.
So Paul was checking back in. Giving some more advice and trying to guide them to the reality that we are all called to - the meaning and purpose of and for Christians in the world.
The letter has three main themes throughout - all of which point to one overriding point.
First, Christ has reconciled all creation to Himself and to God through grace. Secondly, Christ has united all people to Himself and to one another through the church. And finally, Christians, you and me, we must live as new people.
So in short, this letter is really an instruction manual written not only to this church, but to every one of us. A manual telling us how the church - and Christians - should live and what the focus of that life should be.
also mention how the book is really an instruction manual of how the church is to live and to be.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
What does it mean to be adopted? [story about adoption/dad…adoption equal parts being wanted and escaping an awful situation…either way it is a new life...But that is from the adopted ones point of view]
…adoption is also taking something that doesn’t belong to you, something you love, and including it in your family. And not just including it, but folding it into your family, and changing your family. You see, you don’t just adopt someone and then keep on living like always! No, when you adopt someone, your life changes, and your family changes - and for the better!
Likewise, when we talk about adoption - or election in spiritual terms - we must understand that this isn’t a zero-sum game. This isn’t God picking some and leaving others, that actually isn’t the point of it at all. I think that this language is used here to cause us to see this idea as a moment when we are brought into a family, and that we are changed by that family! We become a new creation, one that is ready to take on the roles and traditions of their new family.
Given that language - the adoption to sonship - it is more correct to see those “predestined” as potentially everyone. You see, when we view this text through the lens of Jesus we see the whole truth. This is bigger than just a setting apart of some and not others. No, this is an open invitation to all people to come join the family! After all, God sent Jesus to die for us so that anyone who would believe would have eternal life. Not just some. Anyone. And because of that, because this isn’t an exclusive club from our point of view - you, me and everyone who will ever believe - must do our dead level best to make sure that everyone knows that they are invited to be in our family!
as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
After all that is His plan! A plan to unite all things in Him.
All things. Now that doesn’t sound like taking some and not others. That sounds like a God who has opened the door for all to come in, not dictating their choice, but rather allowing them to choose to be clothed in Christ and follow the way to where He is!
[story from Matthew - wedding feast]
Understand that just because we are invited doesn’t mean that we get in! We have to clothe ourselves in Him! We have to be changed to look more like Him! And I don’t mean look in a superficial way! I mean in a deep, heart changing way! Essentially, we need to make the choice to accept the invitation to the family - the invitation to adoption - and then set our hearts and minds on becoming a part of that family!
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
I think that is what Paul is getting at here in verse 13. You see, when we heard the word of truth - the Gospel of our salvation - the invitation to the family of God, we made a choice to believe.
We chose to belong to that family.
We chose to listen to Christ, our Heavenly Father. We chose, just a child chooses, to be like Him. To do what He does. To like what He likes. To want to look like Him, and talk like Him, and work like Him! Just like our children, we emulate and venerate our father - or for us our fathers and mothers, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents - we choose to copy them because we love them and want to belong with them and to them!
And in the EXACT same way, we must choose to love God and want to belong with Him!
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
It is then that we are
When we choose God -choose to become a part of that family, we are choosing to live in and with God’s Spirit! We become sealed, Paul says, protected by God! Not from bad things here on earth necessarily, but from those forces that would break our spirits!
After all that is what family does!
Listen, I can’t protect my daughters from the bad stuff in life! Quite to the contrary, I have to let some of that bad stuff happen so that they will learn how best to live! But I can love them! I can give them some peace! I can be patient! I can be kind, good, faithful, gentle - I can be for them a safe place, a place of refuge and love!
I can be for them armor. Not physically, but emotionally. And likewise, God - through His Spirit, and His Son, can be that armor for us.
And once we choose to put on that new life, that armor, that family, we become a part of Him, and all He is doing.
And we become that, because really, the armor of God is the church. The armor of God is faith. The armor of God is our neighbor, our friends, our family. And if we are the armor of God, then we must protect those who don’t have any armor! There are no longer Jews or Gentiles, slaves and free. No elect and un-elected! There are people, creations of God, some having chosen to accept their adoption and others who have not! And as those who have, it is our job to cover and protect those who are running around without any armor on!
Now that doesn’t mean we make excuses, or bend our faith, or anything like that at all! But it does mean, that when it comes to those who are without God, we protect them by our actions! We show them love even when we feel like we can’t or shouldn’t! We extend endless Grace in the hopes that in so doing, they will somehow come to know the one from whom all that grace flows! We never grow tired of doing good, and not to be seen to have done good, but just to have done it!
When we do that, church, we become the armor for those whose lives are exposed and vulnerable to the enemy.
In short, because we have been adopted, we understand the need for adoption. And moreover, we want everyone to become a part of this unbelievable family.
The armor of God is this water in which we find salvation and hope! The real armor of God can be found only in Christ, and in all those things in which His Spirit takes up residence! And we must put it on! We must become the church that He wants us to be. Not a divided church of the elite and non-elites, the haves and have nots, but the unified body of those adopted into the family! Brothers and sisters of Christ! The people of God unified in His Spirit through grace, who understand that the only difference between them and those who are not in that family is a choice. It isn’t sin - we all have sin! It isn’t knowledge, it isn’t prestige, it isn’t the fact that God handpicked us and people like us to be His! It is that we - like all people - are given a choice to follow Him; to choose to be adopted. To give up our lives for and to Him. To stop fighting God, and see the truth - we are loved. We are wanted. We have a family, a hope, protection from the troubles in this life.
And today, we celebrate those doing just that.
Those things aren’t all the armor of God is. You see, the armor of God is also found here, in this water in which we find salvation and hope! You see, it is there that we are reborn! There, that we can put away the life we have lived waiting for adoption, and be born again, into the new life to which we are called! A life with a new family! A new hope! A new focus! A new Father!
And it is in that family, and that Father, that we find the true armor we need. The real armor of God can’t be found in slogans, clubs, cliques, cultural Christianity, jewelry - it isn’t in the things we say or the things we have really, it can be found only in Christ, and in all those things in which His Spirit takes up residence!
But here is the thing, we must still put it on! We must become the people and the church that He wants us to be. Not a divided church of the elite and non-elites, the haves and have nots, but the unified body of those adopted into the family! Brothers and sisters of Christ! The people of God unified in His Spirit through grace, who understand that the only difference between them and those who are not in that family is a choice. It isn’t sin - we all have sin! It isn’t knowledge, it isn’t prestige, it isn’t the fact that God handpicked us and people like us to be His! It is that we - like all people - are given a choice to follow Him; to choose to be adopted. To give up our lives for and to Him. To stop fighting God, and see the truth - we are loved. We are wanted. We have a family, a hope, protection from the troubles in this life.
All the armor we ever need.
We are safe in the arms of our Father. Saved from a life wasted for ourselves, and born into a life lived for God. A life in which we now choose to live in the light of grace and our salvation. A life of mercy for all, and love for all. The great gift of God in Christ Jesus - redemption. Adoption into the very family of the Creator of the Universe.
That is the life these two young people choose today...
[open invitation up for any to come to be baptized as well.]