Monday, March 19, 2012

This Means War!

3/18/12  FBCRB

“This Means War”  Ephesians 6:10-18

Do you see that person next to you? See them?  Now look at the other person next to you.  See that person?  That person is not the enemy.  No, I know that if you are married to that person you may sometimes think otherwise but that person is not the enemy.  If you walked in this morning and that person was sitting in your seat, you may feel like they are the enemy.  They are not.

Now think about your friends and family.  Think about your neighbors.  Think about the person you work with that seems to have it out for you.  Those people are not the enemy.  Oh, make no mistake, we are in a war and we have enemies; very real enemies that want to kill you dead.  I’m not talking about Al Quaeda or the Taliban.  I’m not talking about Iran, North Korea or Russia.  Because, honestly, even those people are not really the enemy.

The Bible tells us that our enemies are spiritual.  Now when I say that some of you relax and say, “Oh good.  I thought he was talking about real enemies.”  The word “spiritual” does not mean it’s a fairy tale.  It doesn’t mean pretend or play-like.  Barna Research Group, Ltd., of Oxnard, California conducted a poll in which they discovered the following. Nearly two out of three American adults (62%) agreed that Satan is not a living being but a symbol of evil. And even more alarming is that among evangelical Christians, 52% deny Satan’s existence! 72% of Catholics say the devil is non-existent. The conclusion we must then come to is that one of the major battlefields is taking place within the Church!

We speak a lot about peace and joy and rest and those are valid but at the same time we have to realize that the life we have been called to lead is a battle.  It is rarely easy and almost never comfortable.  It’s not supposed to be.  Christianity is hardly the “opiate of the masses” Karl Marx thought it to be.  It is a battle and we are the soldiers on the front line.

I watched a TV special on the Army Rangers training school.  It is crazy the torture these men go through to become a member of this elite group.  These are the cream of the Army crop but to become one is almost unbelievably difficult.  One of the officers said that they have to be careful what they ask these guys to do because he said there is no off button.  They will do anything they have to do or die trying.

In one part of the training they went out to do some “PT” – physical training.  To me that sounds like some jumping jacks and maybe some deep knee bends but on this day it meant several hours of continuous log-rolling;  laying on the ground and rolling over and over left and right until almost every one of them was getting sick. 

There were doctors every few feet watching them closely to make sure none of them overdid it.  I watched one doctor grab this big Baby Huey-looking kid off the ground and he got him off to the side.  The guy’s eyes were blank.  He couldn’t breathe.  He was about to literally pass out.  The doctor asked him if he knew where he was.  The guy thought about it for a second and replied, “Hash Browns?”

The doctor told him to get in the truck to go to the infirmary but Baby Huey tried to go back.  “Gotta…go…PT.”  He was half-dead but didn’t want to quit.  He thought he was at hash browns but would not stop. He wanted so bad to be a warrior on the front lines he would not quit.  He understood that war is not comfortable.  He knew it would take some sacrifice to win and he set his mind on doing it no matter what.

On the other hand I heard a guy say one time that when he was in grade school a bully took his lunch money every day so he decided to stand up to him and so he started taking karate classes.  The problem was the karate teacher wanted $5 for each class.  The guy decided it was cheaper and easier just to give his lunch money to the bully.

This morning we are going to look at Ephesians 6:10-18 where it talks about our spiritual warfare and you can decide what kind of warrior you are going to be.  Let’s read that passage.

We are going to break this passage up into more than one sermon concentrating today on verses 10-13.  In these verses I want us to see 3 things:

·         We will have conflict.

·         The conflict is supernatural.

·         The conflict is personal.

When we read verse 10 and it says “Be strong in the Lord…”, how many of you want to do that?  Most all of us would agree that we want to be strong in the Lord.  But how many of us start out strong, on the front lines, waging war, engaging in the battle and then a month or two goes by and we realize we are no longer on the front lines?  We are sitting behind a desk somewhere stationed in a comfortable base doing paperwork.

We are still in God’s army.  We still have our weapons and armor.  We are just not fighting in this spiritual war like we once were.  It is almost overwhelming when we realize that we really are going to have conflict.  Not just conflict where we expect there to be conflict, there is conflict everywhere.  Do you know what the problem is?  We are “being strong” …all wrong. 

It is important that we look closely here at the word Paul uses for “be strong”.  The original Greek word was endunamao and it literally means “to clothe oneself with power”.  In our translations we may think it refers to self-effort but it really means to accept it from God, not build it from within.  For us, if someone says we should be strong then we think we should start working out, trying harder every day to build up and get in shape.  We know there will be conflict so we start doing everything we can to build ourselves up.

But look at what it says.  Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  It doesn’t say be strong, Todd, in your power.  It means to accept the power of God in your life which is often just the opposite of what we think of when we are told to be strong.  That same word was used of Paul in Acts when he was struck down on the road to Damascus.  He was taken to a house and there he received strength from the Lord.

In Romans 4, Paul describes Abraham as being strong in the faith; same word.  He got the strength from the Lord.  It wasn’t something he did or built or prepared.  It was not of himself that he was strong.  That may be hard for us to understand in a time where it seems that we have to look out for #1 and nobody else is going to.

But it is really a good thing that we don’t have to engage in this conflict in our own strength because while we will have conflict, the conflict is supernatural.  We will talk more about verse 11 later but go on to verse 12.  Read. 

If our conflict is supernatural or spiritual then these are the evil spirits.  These are the demons, evil angels, Satan’s minions, whatever you want to call them.  They are real.  There is a real war going on between the forces of darkness which is Satan and the forces of light which is God.  And it is waging all around us, all through the universe and it has since Satan and his angels fell from Heaven.

That first sin of Satan’s pride has led to an epic and universal war being waged and the consequence of losing the battle will be the price of your soul or your witness, not to mention your life.  With all that at stake many people still don’t believe there is even a war being waged and that is victory #1 for Satan.  If he can make you think there is no war then that means you won’t fight it.

The 10th chapter of Daniel is a perfect illustration of the spiritual warfare that is being fought.  I won’t read the whole thing but I encourage you to write it down and read it later.  We talked about this passage in depth a couple of weeks ago at Lake Bridgeport.  In Daniel 10, Daniel has been praying fervently for 3 weeks but has not heard from God.  3 weeks go by and finally an angel comes to Daniel and says that his prayer was heard the first day and that he was sent by God to tell Daniel some good news but a demon had delayed him.  Evidently the battle was so fierce between the two that the angel said he had to go back and get reinforcements.  He went back and got Michael, one of the chief angels, to help him and finally, 3 weeks later was able to come to him and tell Daniel the good news.

Satan has a well-organized army.  A thorough study of verse 12 would show a hierarchy of evil from private to general all with the goal of giving heartache and pain, despair and death, tragedy and suffering.  All of this is going on all around us.  Do you want to face that kind of power on your own?  I don’t care how strong you are.  You are not powerful enough to beat Satan.  That’s why God says to be strong in Him.

So, because there is conflict, we will be strong in the power of the Lord, recognizing that the conflict is supernatural but also seeing that the conflict is personal.  Look at verse 13.  Read.  No, now wait a minute.  That’s not it.  Hang on.  I’ve lost my place.  I’m looking for a certain verse in here.  Hang on.  You know, it’s that verse where it talks about us going on the attack; where we advance against the enemy.  But all I see is “stand” and “stand your ground”, “withstand”.  And verse 11 says about the same thing as 13.  Take up God’s armor and stand.

If this conflict is personal, when do we ever get to attack?  Don’t we get to ever shoot back or go hand-to-hand, maybe do some karate?  Let me ask you, knowing who our enemy is, do you really want to go hand-to-hand him?  I Peter says he is a roaring lion.  He is called the accuser, the adversary, the beast, the deceiver, a dragon, the enemy, the father of lies, the evil one, a murderer, serpent, tempter, thief, and wicked one. 

The Bible describes us as witnesses, children, pilgrims, sheep, believers, even athletes but when it tells us to fight it says we are to stand.  Put on the full armor of God and stand.  Just like we don’t get in shape and be strong on our own, we also don’t put on our own armor.  If we did we would mess that up. 

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”   Nowhere is that more literal than right here.  The devil is smarter than you.  He is stronger than you.  He has been around a whole lot longer and he will overcome you unless you do as this says.  Put on the armor of God.

Isaiah 59:16-17 Isaiah  says this about God, “He saw that there was no one,

he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;

so his own arm worked salvation for him,

and his own righteousness sustained him.

17He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

18According to what they have done,

so will he repay

wrath to his enemies

Do you want to fight Satan and his army of demons in your strength and in your righteousness or would you rather put on the armor that God Himself uses and then stand as God and the angels fight?  There is a conflict.  It is supernatural and it is personal but when you try to fight your battle; when you try to solve all your problems and rely on your own goodness and good looks then you sin exactly like Satan sinned that first time.  It’s the sin of pride and that’s when Satan gets a hold in your life.

He can work with pride.  He knows all about pride.  Good grief, he started it!  And when you try to figure out, scheme, connive and solve your spiritual problems or your physical problems or your economic problems, that’s when Satan wins that battle.

Instead, God wants us to come to Him and tell Him that we are humble enough to admit that we can’t do this and we need Him to do it.  When you tell God you will go where He wants you to go and do what He wants you to do and say what He wants you to say but He will have to fight the battle…that’s when God gets the glory because that is when He wins the battle.

Satan would love for you to not believe that there is a battle.  And he would love it if you thought the person next to you was the enemy.  He gets a kick out of that, I’m sure.  He also loves when church folks battle each other.  That’s one of his specialties.  But that’s not going to work here, Satan.  We know I John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

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