Spiritual Warfare - "Tell the truth and shame the devil"
May the words of my mouth and the mediation in in all our hearts be acceptable to you, our Lord and Saviour - Amen
How important is the truth in your lives?
What value do you place on the truth?
Put it another way - Would you characterize your life as a quest for things truthful?
Truth - important or not
We as Christians have made the decision that truth is important
I think that consciously or unconsciously that truth is our prime Goal in life
I think that we are all searching for truth in its various forms
And for those that are not here or any other place of worship, they have simply decided that ultimate truth - spiritual truth is not their present priority
they are engaged into other pursuits of truth - maybe the perfect sleep-in
I have always had this vision that one of the purposes in my life is to be a father,
and I am living the dream
not sure I felt that way the last two months when I get woken up multiple times in the night
serious though - I am living fulfilled a truth for me
There are also sorts of small examples truths
Only the right key works for the matching car
Or the right answers on a test
The examples are limitless
In the end - everything we do is based on little or big truths
So we get to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and the truths he is trying to share with that community of believers 2000 years ago and with us today.
The first half of the letter - Paul is trying to instruct them on the believer’s position or relation in Christ
With teaching on:
Praise and thanksgiving for God
And the saints that have prepared the way for them
Instruction of the full body of believers
Including both the Jews and the gentiles
And then the teaching on the mystery of God
That is the grace of God
The second half of the letter, chapters 4-6 is Paul teaching on the truths for the believer’s practice in the Lord - or the true application of a believer.
There is an appeal for unity in Christian fellowship
A plan for the proper functioning of Christians within the church
an appeal for a new morality
and for personal piety in the Christian household
but then - as Paul draws this epistle to a close.
He does it in the most dramatic way.
We have the passage for today,
It is about what Christians are truly battling
- it is about spiritual warfare
Paul is trying to reveal to readers - To uncover for them
The true opponent
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Jews and gentiles living under occupation could easily thought that the Roman army or the emperor were the enemy
But Paul removes that vale
Paul is getting to the heart of the matter and sharing a timeless message
The real enemy is the enemy that attacks us all at the spiritual level
Examples of belief in spiritual-world-beyond-our-vision are riddled through out the bible
Beginning with the serpent in the garden
To warnings of the first commandment - that we should worship the one true God
To the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness where he says
“Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve."
Paul was not the only New Testament writer who recognized Satan as a threat to the believer
- James believed it! - (James 4:7) - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
- Peter believed it! - (Acts 5:3) - Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?"
- Also in (1 Peter 5:8,9) - Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
· Certainly all the gospel writers do as they describe the healings of those that were demon processed or in describing the transformation of Judas Iscariot in the betrayal of Christ
And of course Jesus instructed against it with what we know as the Lord’s Prayer! - (Mt 6:13) - And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
If the Word of God is true, then we must take this spiritual warfare seriously
We must take the advice from proverbs which tells us that we should believe that “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”
From my own life I can testify to spiritual warfare
Spiritual warfare is a topic that I was quite skeptical of before I experienced it first hand
In the two week period when I was discern the call to ministry I was faced with more dubious situations then ever before or afterwards
I was in sales and in that short two week span I had so many opportunities to make big sales - if I only comprised my values
Yet when I had made my decision - the opportunities completely went away
Temptation was there in that time of great questioning and transition
In retrospect I can only attribute it to spiritual warfare
I want to say also that I don’t believe in mass demon possession
The devil is much to clever and subtle for that
And also that there is no place for using spiritual warfare as an excuse.
“the devil made me do it”
God has provide us with too much to use that cope out.
My mother used to say to us kids one thing that always stuck in my mind
In fact she said it just the other day when I was talking to her on the phone
It might well have been the wisest thing that she ever taught me
“Tell the truth to shame the devil”…
The devil lurks in the dark places, the places that don’t see the light of day
The devil schemes and asks questions like
Did God really say…
St. Paul in this passage is writing to warn the people that evil is hidden all around them.
It is a timeless message
- Timeless because the forces that oppose God’s will are all around us
They are there when we get angry
And think about how we would like to live out that anger.
They are there when our Pride shows up
And we think we can do it on our own
Without God’s help…
They are there when we think-about telling a lie,
Even a small one.
But Paul sees clearly through all the masks of the evil one
Paul sees the devices and warns against them
Warns against them with a hope-filled message
Hope filled because the undercurrent of that message is that
- God provides -
o In fact God provides us with a whole armory
§ A whole armoury rooted in truth
the belt of truth
the breastplate of righteousness.
- righteousness modeled by the true Lord
Footwear to travel to share the gospel of peace
- the truth of good news of Christ
the shield of faith,
- faith in the true power processed by God alone
the helmet of salvation,
- that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- the only offensive weapon in the armoury,
where all other weapons defend, the word of God attacks the false messages of the Devil
The psalm that is appointed for today speaks about safety and security of God’s temple
It is a psalm of praise that rightly worships God for all that God has provided
How - when we are right with God - we are blessed
And there is one particularly beautiful line that sums it up
“go from strength to strength”
That is what we have from Paul’s closing thoughts in the letter to the Ephesians
In the midst of struggle and assaults from the devil we have an armoury to defend ourselves
We go from - God’s provision - to God’s provision
From strength to strength
To the gospel of peace
And finally we go beyond defending ourselves
- In the strength of God’s provision
To defending others by attacking with the sword
- the word of the Lord
From Strength to strength
Therefore, the church has to “suit up” with God’s armor
to carry the battle to the foe.
It isn’t enough to be Godly politicians, businesspeople, individuals, couples and parents in an ungodly world.
You have to be equipped for spiritual warfare
because that is what you are actually going to be engaged in!
You have to do your part
you have to accept - and put on God’s defenses - the whole armory
And how does Paul Advise us to equip ourselves with this armory against tricks of the devil
- Paul then moves on to his second answer.
"Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.”
The greatest weapon that Christians have to battle evil and to work for its spiritual transformation is not armor or shield or helmet or short sword.
It is our knees!
It is prayer.
The first answer from Paul is the awareness of spiritual warfare.
But the second is the Christian response
I think there are great dangers in responding as certain politicians might like to and mobilizing the war machine.
Christ has turned the expectations upside down
And the understanding of war was transformed
Just as the Jews were expecting a politician and warrior messiah
Christ turned their expectations upside down
Christ came as the teacher of peace and the sacrificial lamb
Paul is very clear - Prayer is how we address - how we engage in the struggle
So take my Mom’s advice
Which was her mother’s advice to her
And “tell the truth to shame the devil”
Both the Gospel passage and the passage from Paul to the Ephesians tell us a simple message
- God provides
As we are about to commune with our Lord in the Eucharist…holy communion
…as we think about how God provides for us
Let us give thanks to the Lord that provides
- And returning to the gospel - St. John writes of Jesus’ words
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me…the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Abide in that truth