Contending for God's plan
We are in a series entitled “Ephesians: Fitting in to God’s Plan”.
God’s plan is to restore the world by bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This includes both things in heaven, in the unseen realm and things on earth.
We begin by bringing ourselves under the Lordship of Christ.
This means knowing who you are in Christ.
It means renewing your mind and thoughts to think about yourself and others as God does.
It means being transformed from the inside out, new thoughts, new aspirations and new desires.
Last week we talked about using our relationships to reach other people for Christ.
Our families and our marriages become a place where we demonstrate God’s order.
We become servant-leaders to our wives and children.
We use our power at home and at work to build one another up.
This is the best way to show people what it means to come under the lordship of Jesus - to model it.
As we are bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ there will also be resistance.
Obviously, if Jesus is gaining followers, influence and power, someone or something else may be loosing power.
Paul refers to the devil, the rulers and cosmic powers over this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.
In other words, coming to Jesus, and especially when you start bringing other people to Jesus, can put you in the middle of a huge spiritual battle.
When you came under the Lordship of Jesus Christ you became a soldier for the Kingdom of God.
However, God gives you the protection, the weapons and the strategy that you need.
You need to receive and use them.
Spiritual warfare is not just for a few elite prayer-warriors.
Every believer who knows their calling and is becoming all God intended them to be will encounter resistance.
If you are not advancing the Kingdom of God, you are loosing ground.
If you are only maintaining in your Christian walk, you are probably stagnating.
After we bring ourselves under Jesus’ Lordship and bring our sphere of influence under Jesus’ Lordship, together we take back our region, our state, our country and eventually the world for Jesus Christ!
We began with a declaration, let’s say it again - “Jesus is Lord over Spring City!”
Prepare for battle
Prepare for battle
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
This week millions of Americans will celebrate Halloween. While for most people it’s simply a time of having fun, dressing up and collecting candy, for those who serve the kingdom of darkness this is their high and holy day. While everyone else is playing with evil, they are invoking demons, casting spells and actually victimizing people in the practice of their religion. How do I know? I have met these victims and have heard their stories. Jesus has literally brought them from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom!
What kind of battles to you fight? Where to you encounter resistance from our spiritual enemy?
Some of the obvious ones may be in our encounters with other people and their problems and situations.
But sometimes we ourselves struggle with doubt, confusion and even bouts of depression that can be directly related to spiritual attack.
Or we might face circumstances like accidents or illness that seem designed to interrupt our intention to serve God.
Notice in this passage how often the word “stand” is used.
Military strategy has to do, not only with taking new ground, but being able to defend what you have already taken.
Good strategists know how to balance offence and defense. Some even say, “the best offence is a good defence.”
Every soldier’s goal is to take back enemy territory, but sometimes when you are under fire, your goal is just to live to fight another day.
We can all probably think of people who were zealous for Jesus but who didn’t stand the test of time and of circumstances.
How are we to be prepared for battle?
We need truth in our most vulnerable places.
The process of “girding” means lifting up the hem of your tunic and tying it in place so that you can move freely.
The same process that makes you more agile and effective also makes you more vulnerable. Your legs are now exposed.
This belt came equipped with armor to deal with hits “below the belt.”
Honesty is always the best policy when when attacked. It doesn’t help to deny the truth. But we do not need to accept condemnation.
Remember that truth isn’t just not telling lies, but its saying what God says about you.
Much of Christian counseling focuses on telling ourselves the truth and then choosing to see ourselves from God’s perspective.
We need righteousness in our most vital places.
There are many ways that we can become wounded as believers. But the one thing that can turn a person away from God quicker than any other is believing that they are somehow beyond God’s grace.
If we think that we are loved or accepted by God on that basis of anything other than the work of Jesus Christ on the cross we can be taken out with one hit.
Whatever it is that you are so proud of that you think can earn God’s gift of grace, that is what the enemy will target.
Ephesians makes it very clear that who you are in Christ is not your own doing. It is what God has done for you.
You can take that and strap it on like a bullet proof vest. No one can take the life that you have in Jesus Christ. That is God’s gift to you!
We must have peace in all our motives.
The first two pieces of armor are a references to passages from Isaiah that describe God as a warrior. (Isa. 11:5, Isa. 59:17)
This one comes from Isaiah 52:7
7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
This piece of equipment is not so much about blocking the blows of the enemy. This is about being able to stand.
Shoes may not seem that important, but if you do not have shoes you will not be able to keep up with the troop because you will be hurting before the battle even begins.
We already talked about the importance of unity in the Body of Christ and the importance of getting rid of bitterness and jealousy.
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If you do not come to a place of peace within yourself and with others you will not be able to stand against the enemy.
Fighting from a place of peace may seem like a contradiction, but it means that you are settled about who you are, about what you are fighting for and that the people you are fighting along side are not against you. This will give you sure footing as you fight.
We must have faith to meet the unexpected.
The Roman shield was one of the great advancements that made their armies invincible. It was a versatile piece of equipment.
You could wear it on your back or on your arm to protect against unseen attackers.
They would soak the leather in water to put out the dreaded tar-coated flaming arrows.
Soldiers could lock their shields together in a turtle formation to advance against a hail of rocks or arrows.
If needed, the shield had metal edges and center and could become a blunt force weapon.
The point of the illustration is that faith doesn’t mean that you have everything figured out, it means that you know enough to trust God with what you don’t know.
Flaming arrows are like those thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere and you don’t know how to answer them.
Even good people can be affected by circumstances that “are not supposed to happen to good people.”
Sometimes faith is the only weapon you have left, but it’s a great one!
It’s also good to know that we can lock our shield together and advance as a troop.
Our salvation is both our covering and our identity.
Salvation is a word that we only ever hear in a religious context and might not even know what it means.
It means safety or well-being.
It carries the sense of being kept alive and protected from harm.
It sound like just the kind of thing you would want to have on your head.
But keep in mind that the “head” in scripture is also a symbol of authority.
The helmet not only indicated which battalion you were part of, but your rank as well.
So the same thing that is physically protecting your head is also symbolizing your authority and your “covering” of authority.
You have authority because you are under authority.
The Word of God is how we fight back.
Most of the armor of God is defensive, because the goal is to remain standing. But is there anything that can take out the enemy?
Yes, God can.
What you have in your hand is God’s Word and you can use it against the enemy.
Jesus used the Word of God when he was sparring with satan.
Its also called the “Sword of the Spirit”
The Spirit of God will show you how to use the Word of God effectively.
In fantasy films and movies such as “”Lord of the Rings” certain swords are considered to have magical powers and would glow when the enemy was near. They would also cause fear in the enemy because the sword would remind them of their prophesied defeat. The Word of God comes with the Spirit of God who direct us on how to use the Word.
The Word of God is a weapon because:
It exposes the enemy.
It warns the enemy.
It reminds the enemy of ultimate defeat.
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Here is another weapon that we have in our arsenal - prayer.
Prayer is also a function of the Holy Spirit that is given to us by God.
We can make request to God for anything,
In fact we are encouraged to make requests of God all the time.
But if we are listening to the Spirit, the Spirit will also tell us how to pray.
Paul tells us to keep alert because our prayers are helping other believers to fight their battles.
When we pray in agreement our shields are locked together.
The enemy would like to make us think that we are alone or that our prayers are not effective.
Prayers are like the “air covering” that we provide our military.
Your prayers can hit targets far away.
Just make sure you get your coordinates from the Holy Spirit.
Persevere to the end
Persevere to the end
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
As Paul is talking about spiritual warfare and using the armor of Roman soldier as illustrations of what we have in Christ, he is writing from a Roman prison.
Paul has been under constant attack with frequent threats against his life.
The truth is that he was originally taken into custody to protect him from the Jews.
Paul then appeals to Caesar, not because Caesar will help him, but it’s a way to get to Rome where he wants to preach the gospel.
History tells us that Paul will briefly be released from prison and then rearrested and killed by the Emperor Nero.
What I want you to see is that Paul was totally focused on the mission, not on the opposition.
A soldier who is fighting for money, possessions or even for love will not risk his life or he looses everything.
But a solder who is fighting for his beliefs and values which transcend this life has purpose even in paying the ultimate sacrifice.
Last week I introduced you to my friend Kemuel from India. My friend Pastor Mark has also visited this church. Christians in India are facing intense persecution. The current government has promised to eradicate Christians from their country by 2025. By the beginning of next year 2020, each pastor has to sign a statement that they will not convert Hindus to Christianity. A census will be taken next year to find out how many Indians identify as Christians. This is a real test for our brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom were born into Hindu families and are considered Hindu by their neighbors. They will need to make a declaration of their faith in Christ which could cost them, or their pastors, their lives.
Paul prays for boldness in the face of persecution.
This is what the early church prayed for.
This is what Christians in India are praying for.
Our warfare is not about fighting people. it’s about the unseen forces that are behind those people.
If we get caught up in fighting and forget who the real enemy is, we will start to look like the enemy that we are fighting.
Remember our goal is to bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ - first ourselves, then our sphere of influence, eventually the world.
Questions for reflection:
Questions for reflection:
What battles are you engaged in? Are your battles with people or are they spiritual? Where are you being attacked? What is your armor for this attack?
How is your prayer life? Are you making requests like God asks you to do? Does the Holy Spirit ever take over your prayers and start giving you things to pray for? Do you look to the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers?
What are you fighting for? Are you fighting for your own pride or your own survival? Are you fighting for others and for their freedom? Are you fighting to bring everything under the Lordship of Christ?