Sunday, April 15, 2012

This Means War IV

FBCRB 4/15/12

“This Means War IV” Ephesians 6:10-18

I’m not having a very good day today. Everybody has bad things happen to them every now and then, right. And sometimes your bad day turns into a bad week or even a bad month. And for some of us, it seems like it is always something. Why is that? Is God displeased with us? Does He hate us and want bad things to happen to us?

I don’t even have to bring up all the things happening in the news. It’s bad enough for some of us here today in our own lives. I look out and see people affected by difficulty all over the room. Job problems, physical problems, money problems, marriage problems (those two words go hand in hand, don’t they?). Problems with the kids, problems with the car, the weather…It’s enough to make you just want to give up sometimes, isn’t it?

Well, it would be if we weren’t being so saturated by the peace of God that passes all understanding. That’s what Philippians 4:7 says; that our hearts and minds are protected by God’s peace through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t say that bad things won’t come our way and I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that being a Christian makes life easy but I will tell you that I don’t understand how people get through this life without the peace that comes from having a relationship with Jesus.

We took a little break from our series on the armor of God for Easter but I want to go back to Ephesians 6:10-18. Verse 15 is where we will focus but to keep everything in context, let’s read the full passage.

Ephesians 6:10-18

You may have heard sermons preached on this beautiful passage before and if so I have to warn you that many times it may be a good and inspiring sermon but interpreted incorrectly. To have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace is not Paul exhorting us to take the gospel out. This is one time where he tells us to put the gospel on and then stand there.

There are many, many other places that tell us as Christians to go out and tell others the good news or the gospel but this is not one of them and it is important to know exactly what Paul was talking about because if we fail to put on one part of the armor, we can be assured that is where Satan will attack us.

On Feb. 28, 1997 2 men robbed the Bank of America in North Hollywood, Ca. They went in carrying several guns each with over 3000 rounds of ammo and wearing full suits of home-made body armor that covered them from their heads down to their knees. They immediately started shooting with armor-piercing ammo that went right through the police cars when they quickly arrived.

When the police shot back the body armor repelled every bullet. It is estimated that the police fired almost 700 rounds at the 2 men but it wasn’t until one of the SWAT team members, who had ducked behind a police car shot under the car hitting one of the men in the shins and feet that finally the man was brought down. They had protection everywhere else and may have gotten away with it but they had left one piece of armor off and it proved to be their downfall.

So, it is just as important or more for us to know what armor is available to us and to make sure that we put it on. Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and stand firm against the schemes of the Devil and to put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness as we have talked about in previous weeks. He then says to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from having the gospel of peace.

Some of your translations probably say to be shod with the readiness. It means to lace up tightly. As I prepared for this sermon I read several commentaries about what this verse means. Almost every commentary would explain that a Roman soldier’s shoes would be made of leather and metal with spikes on the bottom for traction and would include brass greaves that would protect from the knees down to the top of the foot. The commentary would then go on to say that we should shod ourselves with the gospel of peace so we don’t slip.

I would read that and think, “Yea, we should do that. But what does that mean?” I read sermons from other preachers and they would talk long and pretty about fitting ourselves with the gospel of peace but few tried to actually explain it. Some would say that our feet should always be ready to take the gospel to all parts of the world and while that is true and good to say, it is not what this passage is talking about.

As we explore what it actually means to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, I want us to see 3 basic things:

· The Gospel brings vertical peace

· Horizontal peace

· Internal peace

The Greek word translated “readiness” or “preparation”refers to the basis of something or the foundation, the firm footing of something. We are to be strong in the Lord, standing against Satan’s schemes, on the firm footing of knowing the good news that God is in control. Let me ask you some questions as examples.

How many of you have ever had God tell you to do something or not to do something and you wanted to do the right thing but you just couldn’t. How many of you have ever had somebody do something mean or wrong to you and you harbored a grudge against that person for years? How many of you have ever been scared about what was going to happen to you tomorrow or next week?

We have probably all been in all of those situations and the answer to all three is having our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace. You see, if God has told you not to do something and you keep on doing it then you need the gospel that brings vertical peace, up and down, between you and God. Romans 5:10 says that before we were Christians we were actually enemies with God. He loved you and sent Jesus to die for you but until we accept Jesus into our lives to be Lord and Savior, we are His enemies

But the good news is that once we accept Jesus we are considered friends with God. We are joint heirs with Jesus to all good things including a life of purpose and fulfillment and then eternal life with God in Heaven. It also means that we accept God as our spiritual Father who is sovereign, in control of everything and while we should have a fear of Him and His power it should also bring us great peace because we know God has proven Himself faithful over and over again; and not just faithful but very loving, compassionate and generous.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Do you understand that? When God tells us to do something or stop doing something and we refuse it is because somewhere in our minds we are not sure if we can trust Him. We say we believe Him and trust Him but our disobedience is proof otherwise. When difficult times come and we start to worry we take off those brass greaves that protect our shins and Satan hits us with a baseball bat of doubt and down we go. We slip. We fall. We sin.

Put on the good news, the gospel, that God loves you and wants to make you like Him. It won’t always be easy. He never promises to give us everything we want. But He does promise to work for the good of those who love him.

And that brings vertical peace or peace between us and God. Another way it brings peace is horizontally, between us and others.

One of the reasons the Roman army was so successful was because they knew how to march and fight in formation, as a whole. The men in the front had their shields to the front. The men in the back had their shields to their backs. That way the whole platoon was protected from the spears and arrows of the enemy.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” The good news of Christ should affect how we deal with others. When we know that everything that happens has to cross the desk of the Creator, Sustainer, Deliverer and our Friend, then we should be at peace with other people even when they mistreat us.

There is always going to be the potential for friction anytime two people show up at the same spot for anything even if it is the church. Adrian Rogers was a powerful Baptist preacher from a time not long ago. He was in a meeting one time when a young man stood up and said, “There is only one way to see this problem and that is this way…” When he got through explaining his way was the only way, Adrian Rogers said, “It’s a mighty thin pancake that only has one side!”

There is usually at least 2 ways to see a problem and that is going to lead to friction but it doesn’t have to mean that we slip and fall and bring shame to the Kingdom. It is an opportunity for us to show the peace that we have with God to the other person, knowing, again, that God is in control and is going to work to make all of us more like Him and to our good. That ought to bring such peace that when Brother Thundermuffin stands up in a meeting and he is full of hot air and bad attitude and wrong ideas that instead of arguing over our preference, we let him have his way knowing that God is in control. We don’t compromise on truth but when it comes to preferences we show peace and let Brother Thundermuffin go home thinking, “What’s different about that person?”

I'll end this section by simply saying that every time there is disunity in the church, you can trace it back to sin somewhere.  Remember Colossians 3:15.  As members of one body, we are called to peace.  And why wouldn't we have peace with others when we have such peace with God? 

The last way the gospel provides peace is internally.  I have two beautiful passages of scripture to illustrate this.  The first one is Psalm 46:1-3 and 10. 

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Though my body give way and my job fall into the sea.  Though my spouse roars and foams!  Be still and know that I am God.  That means to quit striving.  Quit running around trying to fix everything with your own power.  In fact, isn't that what Paul is telling us to do in our main passage?  Be strong in the Lord, and STAND!  Accept God's peace and stand strong when Satan attacks.

The last passage I want to look at is in Habakkuk 3:17-19. 

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

This last passage, I want you to go home and personalize it.  I want you to go home and substitute what sustains you in the place of what sustained Habakkuk.

Though the credit card gets declined and the bank account falls to zero, though the contract gets cancelled and the grocery store runs out of food.  Though there is no car in the garage and no clothes in the closet, yet will I rejoice in the Lord.  I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Can you say that this morning?  If not then your feet are not fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  And that may be because you don't know God well enough; you aren't close enough to Him.  Or it could mean that you don't know Him at all.

In John 14, we see Jesus comforting His friends who are going through a really rough time.  These words are a comfort to us as Christians today but they are also an invitation to those who have never accepted Him into their lives to be Lord and Savior.

John 14:1  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."

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