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Dressing for Success

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Dressing for Success

Ephesians 6:10–20 NIV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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. 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.
Who knows the fashion rules today?
But generally clothes should be functional. They protect us. They help us present ourselves to others. But if they don’t enable us to function freely, they become a hindrance.
Nobody knows this more than those serving in the military. Millions of dollars of research goes into the apparel that our troops wear. It has to be functional. Those who wear the standard uniform may do everything from sit behind a desk for most of the day to marching for days in the jungle or desert. They need to function when someone is sitting at their post in the hot sun for hours, or taking on bullets from enemy fire.
Most of us don’t find ourselves on the frontlines of modern military action, thank God. Neither did those to whom Paul was writing this letter. But he was writing it from prison and few realized like he did that being a follower of Jesus can be a dangerous activity. As he’s been emphasizing throughout this letter, our privileges in Christ are second to none. But as SpiderMan’s grandpa said: with great power comes great responsibility. :)
Paul has been reminding us that the days are evil. One commentator put it this way:
“Readers need to be prepared, as if for battle, for right living does not just happen and opposition is certain.” Klyde Snodgrass NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, p. 334.
So as Paul is writing from prison he’s likely getting a close up look at the military garb of his guards. In Acts 28 we see that Paul lived with a guard when in Rome. I could see Paul writing this letter chained to a guard and using it as an opportunity to explain the gospel to this guy while writing a letter of encouragement to the church at Ephesus. Awesome stuff.
Paul wants us to be strong. But for followers of Jesus, our strength comes from another source.
We are to:
be strong IN THE LORD and in the power of his might!
Paul has already referenced this power when he described what God has done for us in Christ Jesus back in chapter 1.
Ephesians 1:18–20 NIV
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
Now Paul is showing us where this power is to make a difference in our lives. We are to make it our source of daily strength. It is a power that goes far beyond what any workout plan or supplement could give us. But it requires discipline and action steps to experience it. Perhaps part of the steps is admitting that we aren’t strong enough on our own. Notice it doesn’t say have tremendous personal strength of personality and add a little Jesus to it. No, it says let the power of his might become your strength. There’s a bit of process of submission going on, maybe for years to really let that happen. That’s especially true if we’ve been highly self-reliant for decades before deciding to follow Jesus. To be strong in the Lord is different:
Paul wrote about this over in
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NIV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
It’s an art of learning to let go of our own perceived strength and pride, taking hold of the strength God gives us. It calls for prayer, reading the Word, learning to get along with others in the Body of Christ and in the world, learning new patterns of holy living, learning a new way of thinking and seeing the world through the lens of the gospel.
So we understand that when people mistreat us or things seem to go oddly wrong, we need to remember that we aren’t truly wrestling against other people. For example, often an employee who seems rude may be just implementing the policy of company leaders. If the economy is bad and your boss is tightening your budget it may be large factors beyond their control. Maybe chief economic advisors to the president have made decisions that affect your industry. Globalization may increase your competition. Tariffs may cut off your customers. Rulers and Authorities push the big levers that sometimes affect us negatively. But even above them we have spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Here I think Paul is using a combination of code language while referring to the Roman authorities who put many unjust policies in place and spiritual language referring to demonic forces in the spiritual realm.
The point is this: try not to get too distracted and frustrated by low level human adversaries. Cut them a break. Realize when it’s really a spiritual battle that requires a loving spiritual response. In this way we may be able to live with less frustration and more traction. We know when to move on to bigger battles. But we should be willing and able to stand. That’s a military term. Taking up a position and standing firm, ready to respond. It doesn’t mean picking a fight. It means being willing to lay down our lives.
This becomes our new way of living. These become our new items to wear, if you will, daily. We put them on, not casually, but with purpose. Here is how Paul says we should dress daily for spiritual success....
Ephesians 6:14 NIV
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
In a world where our leaders lawyers say “truth isn’t truth” we need to be wary. Truth matters. Jesus said
John 8:32 NIV
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The belt is a key anchor point for holding your armor together. The truth holds things together. And in Jesus we know truth isn’t just the right information. The truth is a person...
John 14:6 NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
so the truth is remembering who Jesus is, what his authority is, and being in relationship with him. Anxiety can quickly overtake us when we speculate too much about things. Stick to what you know for sure: Jesus is God. Jesus loves you. Jesus died for everyone’s sins. Jesus rose again victorious over sin and death and hell. Jesus is coming again to defeat every enemy and bless all his dear children. Jesus has the power to get you through any circumstances. Jesus has the power to change any life, even the one giving you a hard time right now! But also at the core of your being live by the truth. Do things in line with the truth. Make changes as necessary to reflect the truth in your life. Otherwise things won’t fit quite right...
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Paul says our own righteousness isn’t worth much but....
Romans 1:17 NIV
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Again, not our own strength and not our own righteousness. That doesn’t mean we don’t live righteously. It just means that Jesus works deeply in our lives through the Holy Spirit. As more of his power flows into us, we take on more ability to live out God’s righteousness. In a certain sense it’s credited to us, based on what Jesus did. But in another very important sense, it is imparted to us. God applies it to our lives. We really change and become more like Jesus. Righteousness keeps us from getting into bigger problems. So in that sense it defends us from many attacks. We avoid the danger altogether.
Ephesians 6:15 NIV
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
One of the genius things about the Roman army was their emphasis on mobility. Needless conflict will weigh you down. Move freely in the gospel way of life by seeking to be at peace. Be at peace with God within through Jesus. Be at peace with others as much as possible. A gospel warrior doesn’t go looking for a fight. He or she brings peace to every setting. A sense of well-being and forgiveness offered freely.
Ephesians 6:16 NIV
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
This was another key feature of the roman army, their shields. They were coated and long. They could absorb the flaming arrows of enemy archers. Faith functions this way in our lives. Faith in this sense is two things: belief in God. God’s grace enables us to have faith in what we cant’ see. We believe that God exists. But even more importantly we believe IN GOD. We really trust God to watch over us. This way our hearts are not weighed down when we are under attack. We believe and keep moving forward even when things get rough.
“Take the helmet of salvation...”
We are saved if we are in Christ, but we are also being saved and we look forward to the day we will be fully and finally delivered. Salvation involves the renewing of our minds and giving us a new outlook. We are protected from the threat of an eternity separated from God. We look forward to wearing this helmet as a sign of victory of all we have overcome with God’s help! One day the battles will be behind us! Even today Jesus has already won the battle on an important level. Remember this and guard your mind.
Ephesians 6:17 NIV
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Finally we have the sword of the Spirit… Here it is! This is a gladius sword.
The Word of God is a two edged sword that reveals and defends. When Jesus was tempted in the garden he quoted Scripture. It helped him fend off the attacks. But it also put him in the offensive. Jesus came to defeat evil. The Word of God is a powerful weapon of truth and inspiration each day. We overcome temptation. We learn important truth. And we meet God in the holy pages. That’s an important way we gain strength. As powerful as any sword. The Spirit will remind you of what you have studied and meditated on, when you need to know it. It’s your primary weapon.
We are to put on this armor and be prepared.

Prayer is the battle

So, let’s pray… It’s intercession and spiritual warfare. Tapping into God’s holy love and power. Building up our faith. Calling on God to act. Reminding ourselves of what really matters most.
The armor of God is there for you. Are you wearing it? Is it just a fashion statement to you? Or, does it prepare you for battle in prayer and holy living?
Let’s pray....
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