Sunday, March 25, 2012

This Means War II - Ephesians 6:10-18

For those of you that were here last week you will understand if I ask you to please make sure your cell phone is off and put away.  For those of you that might not have been here, I say that because we had an illustration here last week that was perfect and it involved a cell phone.  As a preacher I am all about a good illustration.  I try to make my sermons interesting and applicable and the best way to do that is with an illustration.  What I had not planned on was God Himself doing the illustrating. 

We saw last week who our enemy is and as the passage said our enemy is not a flesh and blood person.  The enemy is not your neighbor, your spouse, Al Quada or the Taliban.  Our enemy is spiritual and so therefore we will see how to fight those spiritual enemies with spiritual weapons and armor.
In 1993, US forces were involved in the Battle of Mogadishu.  The movie, "Blackhawk Down" was based on this conflict.  It was civil war in Somalia and the US sent Special Forces in to capture the leader of the opposition.  The entire operation was estimated to take no longer than 30 minutes.  Most of the 160 men involved did not bring all of their gear.  They thought since it was only going to last a short while during the day they wouldn't need their night vision goggles nor would they need extra food or water or even all of their ammo.  I mean, what could go wrong?
Well, right off the bat two of the Blackhawk helocopters were shot down and several others damaged.  In trying to save the soldiers in the downed helicopters, several brave men lost their lives.  Several had to wait overnight to be rescued while trying to hold off the enemy.  In what turned out to be a battle lasting 2 full days, 18 American soldiers were dead and 73 wounded.  While it may have been a poorly planned offensive, how many lives could have been saved if those soldiers had brought all of their gear to the battle?  And how much more do we need to bring all of our spiritual weapons and armor to the battle we are in?
We face a spiritual enemy that wants us to be not only spiritually but physically dead.  Did you hear what I said?  Our spiritual enemy wants us to be spiritually and even physically dead.  Now, when I say that, some of you may be thinking I'm being a bit dramatic because surely spiritual enemies only fight spiritual battles, right?
How do you think Job would answer that?  In Job chapters one and two, Satan actually approaches God and basically asks for permission to afflict Job with all sorts of physical problems.  He kills his children.  That's pretty physical.  He afflicted him with sores from head to toe.  That's pretty physical.  And he kills all of his livestock.  Those are all very physical problems.  Yes, it affected him spiritually but it was a physical attack.
What is the very first reaction of Job?  Does he curse God?  Does he make excuses?  Does he claim to know the problem or the answer?  Does he blame somebody else?  Does he allow his emotions to dictate his thoughts?  No.  The very first thing Job does is what Paul later tells us to do and that is Job buckled the belt of truth around his waist.  In Job 1:21 the first thing Job says is, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away."
Job here is falling back on truth.  He could have justified any other response but he made the decision to, as some versions say, gird his loins with truth.  What Job is saying is that God is sovereign.  He allows all things.  All things have to cross the desk of God and get his approval.  Job doesn't lie and say it is ok or that he understands why it happened but the first thing he does is realize, believe and hold on to truth.
Turn to Ephesians 6:10-18.  I want to focus on just one part of verse 14 this morning but it is important that we read the whole passage to remind ourselves of the context in which it was written.  Read 14a again.
After reading this, I want us to see just two things:  What is truth?  And why does it matter?
I first want to think about why Paul used the Roman soldier's uniform as this analogy.  I mean, it fits perfectly but what brought this to his mind?  I have an idea that being chained between two Roman guards night and day would give you a pretty good opportunity to see firsthand what all was involved with getting suited for battle.  Paul says later in the chapter that he is an ambassador in chains.
Can you imagine getting assigned to guard Paul as a Roman soldier?  "Oh, no!  Not that guy again!  All he wants to talk about is Jesus."  Well, obviously Paul noticed how these soldiers were dressed as he was being guarded and makes use of them in this illustration.
Our idea of a belt doesn't do this word justice.  The Roman soldier's belt was actually a thick and wide leather piece that not only was used to tuck in his tunic so he could move around easily, it was also used much like a modern policeman's belt to hold some of his weapons.  It also provided support for his lower back and abdomen.  The breastplate was then fastened to the belt as well.  The belt was not just an adornment, but an essential piece of the armor that held everything else together.
It’s actually not surprising at all that the first piece of armor that we are to put on in preparation for our battle with Satan is the belt of truth. As we saw last week, Satan is a liar and his main weapon is his deceitful schemes. The truth is the primary weapon that we use to stand firm against his lies and deceit.
We have talked about this before but what is truth?  The original Greek word for this truth is "aletheuo".  It is slightly different from the word Jesus used when He said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."  This "truth" means to know and speak reality.  Paul uses this exact same word in chapter 4 of Ephesians when he tells us to speak the truth in love.
Last week I quoted a poll from the Barna Research Group and I will quote them again today.  Their survey showed in 2002 that only 1/3 of Christian adults believed in absolute truth and only 9% of Christian teen-agers.  So, what am I talking about when I say absolute truth?
I remember years ago talking to a lady about how to be saved.  I told her that Jesus was the only way and that when we accept Him into our lives to be Lord he will forgive our sins and we can have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in Heaven.  I remember she said she was glad that I had that and she was sure that was true for me but she preferred to get to Heaven another way and that was her truth.
No, no, no.  I told her the absolute truth.  I told her aletheuo.  Absolute truth is truth that is true for you and for me and for everybody yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Some examples of absolute truth include
• God is the all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today;
• Jesus Christ never sinned
• Satan is real
• Salvation is received through faith in Christ, not by good deeds
• Every follower of Christ has a responsibility to share their faith with non-believers
• The Bible is accurate in all that it teaches
There are many others.  When someone comes to you and says they are living in a lifestyle that is contrary to what God approves of what do they always say?  "I do this and that BUT it's ok because of ..." or "I don't do this or that BUT it's ok because...".
I cheat on my wife because she doesn't love me.  I have to work on Sundays or I would come to church.  I had to lie to her or she would be mad.  I had to steal that because I can't afford one and he can.
I'm sure God in Heaven is saying, "Oh yea, I wrote those 10 Commandments but if you have a note from your mother I'll give you a pass.  It's not that big of a deal."  In the book of Exodus, when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 Commandments it says that the people actually backed away and told Moses to talk to them from a distance because they didn't want God to talk to them or they were afraid they would die.
Today we know what the truth is we just choose to put our fingers in our ears and say, "nanny, nanny, nanny" as we live however we want to.  We know what the truth is but it's not always easy and sometimes it makes us uncomfortable.  If I hear any more about comfort I am going to be sick.  Everybody wants to be comfortable.  We all have to make sure that nothing we say or do makes anyone uncomfortable.  Talking about Jesus in school makes people uncomfortable.  Standing up for the sanctity of life or against gay marriage makes some people uncomfortable.
You know why it makes people uncomfortable?  Because it is truth.  It is aletheuo.  And when people are living contrary to truth God allows them to be uncomfortable.  Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."  Jesus didn't come to make people comfortable.  His coming brought conflict - conflict between Himself and Satan, as we have seen in this passage; conflict between His followers and Satan's followers, between light and darkness and between lies and truth.
We know what the truth is and sometimes it is uncomfortable.  Now let's look at why it matters. 
Have you ever noticed how often what is said in Sunday School directly relates to what is later said in the sermon?  And how what is said in the sermon directly relates to something we learn on Wednesday night and relates to what you are going through Friday morning?  Do you know how we do that?  Well, the Leadership Team meets every week with Bill and me and we decide what is going to be taught and what conversations are going to happen and how the music will relate to all those things and make it match up to what is happening in your life this week.
And most of you are thinking right now, "He is preaching on truth and telling a lie!"  No, we don't do that.  The Holy Spirit does that when our church preaches and teaches and sings about truth.  When it all matches up then God blesses that and uses all of that together to bless and encourage and prove what is heard.  Our very unity depends on truth.  If somebody comes in and starts teaching something that is not truth then there will be a division; something else Paul knew all too well.
Now, let me tell you another reason why truth matters.  Let's say you are studying your Bible in your quiet time tomorrow morning and you stumble across a passage that doesn't make sense to you.  So you study it and pray about it and get out a commentary or two and you realize that this verse is not true.  You read in James 5:16, for example, that fervent prayer is powerful and effective.  But in every other place that talks about prayer it says that it is only good for making you feel good or maybe it is just a ritual that we are supposed to do.  What then?
I'll tell you what happens to me.  If I find a passage, a verse or a word that is not true in the Bible, I become an Atheist.  If there is one word that is not truth, aletheuo, then how can you believe any of it?  But in my studies, I have found everything written from cover to cover to be absolute truth.  I have learned firsthand that fervent prayer is powerful and effective.  I can give you examples.  God continues to reveal to me the depth of truth in His Word and without truth everything falls apart.
Remember, Paul said this was the belt of truth.  And like a Roman soldier's belt, everything hangs on it.  Without truth then we have lost the sword of the Spirit, the breastplate of righteousness goes twisting around, the helmet of salvation is useless if the rest of us is uncovered and we might as well join the other side before we get a flaming arrow in the heart.
But when we put on the belt of truth before we do anything else we know we will be able to stand because we know that when God says there are benefits to obedience and consequences of disobedience, we know it's true.  When God says thou shalt not we don't make any excuses.  When we see the blessings of truth in our church we accept nothing that isn't.
Knowing truth doesn't mean you will be free from trouble but like Job, when trouble comes we will be able to say, "God, I don't understand.  This isn't fair.  It doesn't make sense but I know that you are sovereign.  You are in control and You love me.  And so I trust You and I will stand in the battle.  I will stand when the enemy attacks.  I will be strong in You and in Your mighty power."

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