Monday, May 14, 2012

FBC RB 5/13/12

“This Means War, Pt. VII”  Eph. 6:10-18

Some of you may have noticed the title of the sermon in today’s bulletin.  I added all of the Roman numerals just kind of as a joke, wondering if Belinda, who prints the bulletins every week, would catch it.  Of course she did.  When I sent her the title I couldn’t remember what number we were on so I just added a bunch of x’s and I’s and V’s.  This is the last sermon in this series on the armor of God.  I hope you have seen in the past few weeks the seriousness of the battle that we are in but also the hope and the help and the power that we have to overcome the schemes of Satan.

In looking for illustrations for this series I have enjoyed looking up battles and weapons and techniques that militaries have used over the years and I saw something this week that just fascinated me.  In 2009, British sniper Craig Harrison made a world record shot with his rifle in Afghanistan.  Corporal Harrison, of the British army, holds the record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at a range of 2,707 yards.  That’s about a mile and a half.  You can’t see a bus at a mile and a half but not only did Harrison make the shot, he did it twice, killing two insurgents with consecutive shots and then he shot the machine gun they had set up so that it couldn’t be used again.  At that distance it takes over 6 seconds for the bullet to hit the target after the trigger is pulled.  He had to account for the wind, the humidity, bullet drop, even the spin of the earth at that distance.  No kidding.

That’s the guy I want on my side in battle.  That’s the guy I want next to me, somebody that can reach out and touch the bad guys from a long distance because I don’t want to get any closer to the enemy than I have to.  It’s nice to be able to call on somebody that can break out the big gun and knows how to use it.

Today we are going to look at the big gun in our arsenal in defending ourselves in the spiritual war we are in.  In the passage we are going to read in just a second Paul warns us to be ready when the day of evil comes.  He doesn’t say if the day of evil comes .  He said it is coming and for most of us we have to fight the devil and his forces every day.  If we have to fight this battle every day we wake up then shouldn’t we be prepared?  Shouldn’t we make full use of every piece of armor and every weapon we have?

We have seen in Ephesians 6 that the armor available to us includes the belt of truth and that everything else hangs on that belt.  If the Word of God is not truth, if what Jesus said and Paul and the others wrote is not truth then every other weapon and piece of armor falls off and is useless.  But since the Bible has proven itself true over and over again, we know we can depend on it and it will not fail us.

We also have the breastplate of righteousness to protect our heart.  It includes the imparted righteousness of Jesus Himself that He gives to us when we believe on Him and accept Him into our lives to be Lord and Savior.  It also includes the imputed righteousness that we live out, with His help, by keeping ourselves pure and holy.

Our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace and that means that when we are obedient to God that we have horizontal peace with others, vertical peace with God and even internal peace but we have to choose the benefits of obedience or we suffer the consequences of disobedience.

Then we pick up the shield of faith and when we don’t understand why we are going through something, we don’t know why somebody else would treat us this way or we can’t imagine being able to get through this difficult circumstance but because of our faith in God we are able to survive and even thrive.  Because God, like His Word, has been proven faithful over and over again in our lives and in the life of our church, we know that He is in control of this situation and when we resist the devil then God is there to reward us.

We have the helmet of salvation strapped on tight knowing that our salvation from this world has not yet been realized but will soon be here when Jesus comes back riding His white horse with angels singing and trumpets blowing; and He will take us to our ultimate reward in Heaven.  Come, Lord come!

We also have the sword of the Spirit which means we have portions of scripture memorized and handy ready to pull out of the scabbard and fend off the attacks of Satan by telling him, not what we think, but what the Bible says just like Jesus Himself did in the desert.

All of that makes for some pretty formidable armor and weaponry.  That makes you a force to be reckoned with if you choose to wear it; if you choose to put it on every day and every hour because the day of evil is here and Satan is just waiting for you to forget to put on one piece of the armor and then the worst thing in the world happens.  Sin happens and we lose the battle.  We haven’t lost the war but our relationship with the Lord is broken, our witness is shot and our peace and joy lay bloody and dying on the battlefield and we are left to face the consequences of our choices.

I Corinthians 10:13 should be part of our sword, part of the verses we have memorized or handy.  It says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

So, let’s (finally) look at our passage for this morning and let’s look again at all the ways we have to escape with a concentration on the last part, the big gun.  You may already be there.  Ephesians 6:10-18.

Paul knew that all good sermons have 3 points so he laid it out with three things for us to look at as we study what he says about prayer.  We are to pray:

·         In the Spirit

·         On all occasions

·         Always

Now I know some of you are tempted to elbow your spouse and say, “Oh no, he’s talking about prayer again.  I’ve heard this.  I could have stayed in bed and now I have to sleep here.”  And that’s fine but while Sam Colt’s revolver was called the “Great Equalizer”, it couldn’t hold a candle to the big gun of prayer but you have to know how to handle it.  Some of what will be said you may already know.  Some of it you may need a refresher and some of it you may already be doing and didn’t realize it.

But it is vital that we follow Paul’s guidance here and begin with praying in the Spirit.  I have probably a dozen different commentaries that talk about the armor of God in Ephesians and I’m disappointed with every one of them.  About the most I got from any of them about this was that we are to pray with the power of the Spirit.  And that’s true and I hope that helps you come Monday morning when the day of evil comes and Satan starts hammering on you.  I hope those pretty words benefit you but for me I want to know more.

This is the most difficult of the 3 points to understand and the one on which I will spend the most time.  It is difficult because a lot of people think Paul is talking about our own spirit.  They think that to pray in the Spirit means you have to pray in tongues or that you have to work yourself into a frenzy for God to hear you but since I don’t see anywhere that Jesus did that I don’t think that’s true.

On the other end of the spectrum I see people who go long periods of time, sometimes their whole lives, without ever tapping into the power that they have available through the Spirit of God.  They try to live their lives on their own power, go to work, keep a marriage alive, raise kids, worship, even pray without ever connecting with and utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit should be a normal part of our lives not an extreme part.

The question before us now is, “How do we do that?”  Well, we have the Sword of the Spirit mentioned earlier.  What is that?  The Word of God.  It is called the Sword of the Spirit because as II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed…”  It is the inspired word and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and just like every passage of the Bible was written by a person who was inspired to write it, so can our prayers be inspired. 

And how did the Spirit speak to the authors of the Bible?  With loud words and thunder and smoke and lightning using blood on the walls and clouds to form the words in the sky?  Um…no.  He spoke like He spoke to Elijah; with a still, small voice; a voice so quiet that you have to be very close to Him to hear.  And that is how the Spirit speaks to us today.  And what we need to do to pray in the Spirit is to go to God and say, “God, your word says to pray for my friends and so I am.  It says to pray for my enemies and so I do that now.  It says to pray for my leaders and to pray without ceasing and to pray fervently and so I do all of that.  But right now, God, what do you want me to pray for?”

Have you ever done that?  Have you ever prayed about what to pray?  Do you think that is a prayer God wants to answer?  When you tell God you want what He wants and you want to pray for what He wants, do you think God will answer that?  When there is no barrier of sin between you and God and you are so close to Him that you can hear His still, small voice and you ask what prayer would please Him, He will answer you.

Especially in the context that Paul is telling us to pray so that we resist temptation, God wants to help you.  He wants to answer that prayer.  “God I can’t do this.  I’m not strong enough.  I’m not tough enough.  I have to admit that it looks like fun but not my will but Yours.  Tell me what to do and how to do it and then help me do it!  Please God.  Amen.”

That’s praying in the Spirit.  That’s praying like Jesus prayed.  And that is a prayer God is anxious to answer.

I know we are short on time so I will hit the next 2 points quickly.  They are similar in that we are to pray on all occasions and to pray always but a little bit different.  Let me give you a Mother’s Day example of praying on all occasions.  I was talking to my Mom a while back about prayer and she told me she sometimes gets embarrassed because she finds herself at the store praying that God would help her find the best deal on something.  If you know my Mom you would believe that.

She says she prays and then feels like she needs to apologize to God for wasting His time praying about such trivial matters but I tried to assure he that Paul said we are to pray on every occasion.  Then she said she finds herself sometimes praying as she plays Solitaire that God would help her.  I said that’s probably pushing it too far.  But that comes from a woman who is so used to praying about everything that it is just natural and normal to her no matter what she is doing to include the Lord.  She would be embarrassed if she knew I told you all that but it is because God has proven Himself to her over and over again that she knows the value of prayer.  She knows from where her salvation comes.  She knows the truth.  She has the peace.  Faith is her shield.  And while she is not perfect and is still learning she knows how to wield the sword and wear the armor.  She continues to make that choice.

She would also tell you to make the choice to keep on praying as Paul says.  Keep on praying on all occasions.  Keep on praying in the Spirit.  Don’t give up.  She has been known to keep on praying.  I won’t mention names for fear of embarrassing somebody but she has been known to pray for long periods of time for some pretty stubborn people.

If you look at what is probably the very next page in your Bible Paul tells the church at Philippi that he thanks God for them every time he thinks of them.  He knew how to pray in the Spirit, on all occasions and how to keep on praying.  James 5:16 says those prayers are powerful and effective.  Isn’t that what you need in a big gun, one that is powerful and effective especially since we live in the days of evil?  Make the choice to put on all the armor every day and when the day of evil comes, then you can stand.  Let’s stand right now.

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