Sunday, May 6, 2012

FBCRB 5/6/12

“This Means War, VII”  Ephesians 6:10-1

General McKenzie was in charge of the Navy, and he was visiting his colleague General Marshall, who was in charge of the Army. McKenzie arrives at the military camp and is greeted by Marshall. They both walk around the place, and McKenzie asks: "So how are your men?""Very well trained, General McKenzie.""I hope so. You see, my men over at the Navy are so well trained, you could see they're the bravest men all over the country." "Well, my men are very brave, too.""I'd like to see that."
So Marshall calls private Cooper and says: "Private Johnson! I want you to stop that tank coming here with your body!""Are you crazy? It'd kill me, you idiot! I'm out of here!" As private Johnson ran away, Marshall turned to a bewildered McKenzie and said: "You see? You have to be pretty brave to talk like that to a general."

How many of you have been in the military?  You have my sincere thanks and admiration for your service.  As a soldier, what is your basic function?  Your most basic function as a soldier is to fight the enemy, correct?  And as a soldier, what is the worst thing that can happen to you?  Injury or death; anything that takes you out of the battle is the worst thing to happen to you.  You are of no use to the team if you can’t fight.

Now, as a Jesus-loving, God-worshiping, Spirit-filled Christian, what is the worst thing that can happen to you?  I think it is important for us to see this morning that the worst thing that could happen to us as Christians is not death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.   The worst thing to happen to us is not an injury or physical ailment.  Again, Paul says in Philippians 4:11 that he is content in whatever state he is in. 

No, for a Christian, the worst thing that can happen to us is to be taken out of the battle.  The Bible tells us in several places that we are in a battle.  The passage we have been going through in Ephesians tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but that we are definitely in a battle and what is the only way we can be taken out of the battle?  Sin.

For a Christian, sin is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you.  Not death, sickness, disease, poverty, divorce, abuse, or persecution.  We don’t usually see it that way, do we?  Maybe when we see it in the life of somebody else but when we have sin in our life, it’s not that big of a deal.  We know that God will forgive us and besides it’s not like we did something really bad.  We are still better than the other guy, right?  God understands we aren’t perfect so what is a little sin among friends?

If sin is not that big of a deal then tell it to Adam and Eve.  All they did was eat an apple, right?  No, they disobeyed God and paid for it the rest of their lives.  Tell it to Uzzah, who in I Chronicles 13 touched the Ark of the Covenant and paid for it with his life because God had told them not to touch it.  Likewise, Annanias and Sapphira misled the apostles in Acts 5 and failed to take another breath because of it.  This should lead one to believe that God takes this sin thing pretty seriously.  It is that big of a deal.  It is, in fact, the worst thing that can happen to a Christian.

As we have talked about before, when there is sin in your life it effectively takes you out of the fight because sin puts a barrier between you and God, ruining your relationship, nullifying your witness and killing your joy and peace.  And for Satan, that’s a mark in the win column.  He gets a big kick out of that at your expense.  Satan laughs at you with great contempt every time you fall for his deception.

Now, what if I told you I had the answer?  What if I told you I know how you can keep Satan from laughing at you; how you can stay in the fight, keeping your relationship intact, your joy complete, your witness strong all the while furthering the Kingdom of God?  The good news is that it actually isn’t something I came up with.  It has been around for a few years and has proven itself to be a reliable form of defense against the schemes of the devil.  As good soldiers would turn to their military handbook, I ask you to turn to Ephesians 6:10-18 where we will continue our study of the armor of God.  Our focus will be on the second part of verse 17 but to keep it all in context and to remind us of the whole armor I want to read verses 10-18.

If we are to protect ourselves from the very worst thing in the world happening to us then we need to do exactly what Paul tells us here.  We have already put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, shield of faith and last week we put on the helmet of salvation.  We have seen that with all of this armor we are a force to be reckoned with.  We have the ability to fight off most of the lies of Satan, the deception of the evil one who is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting to kill you dead but we need to add one more piece of armor and this one is vital.

No Roman soldier would think about going into battle without his sword.  This was not the big broadsword mentioned in other places that took two hands to swing.  The word used for sword here in the original Greek is talking about a razor sharp, two-edged sword that was smaller (from 12-24 inches) and would be carried at all times in a scabbard, ready to go.  It was the same kind of sword Peter used to cut off the ear of the guard when they came to get Jesus in the garden.  It was small but very deadly and could be used with precision.

I continue to be amazed at how well this analogy works and how well Paul writes about how to defend ourselves from Satan.  I can just see him sitting there writing to the church in Ephesus thinking, “Now how can I illustrate what I want to say?” and then he looks at the Roman guard he was chained to and goes, “That’ll work.”  Every piece of armor the Roman soldier had was just the right analogy for what we should do to protect ourselves from sin, which is basically what Paul is helping us with here.  And this sword analogy is just perfect as well.

It says that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God and we all know what the word of God is, the Bible.  But the word used for “word of God” is not “logos” which means the whole Bible.  The word used is “rhema” which means specific parts of the Bible.  Now I tell you that mainly to impress you with my vast knowledge of the Greek language.  But since most of you know I can’t even speaks English gooder enough there must be another reason to bring it up.  It just goes to show how good the analogy is that instead of saying that when Satan attacks us we are to swing the whole canon of scripture around and hope we hit something when in reality, when Satan attacks us we are to bring up specific scriptures that apply to the specific attack we are enduring.

Don’t swing the big sword when the job calls for the dagger.  In practical terms: we need to have scripture handy or memorized that will pertain specifically to our struggle.  Bill’s joke.  I heard the story recently of the general store owner who was known to always quote scripture every time he rang up a sale.  A little boy came in one day and bought a piece of hard candy.  As the store owner rang up the sale he said, “Honor thy father and mother…”  Another time a man came in and bought a calculator from him so the store owner rang up the sale and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  A woman bought a lantern and as he took her money he quoted, “He came as a light unto the world.”  Then one day a fancy truck pulled up outside pulling a horse trailer.  A well-dressed man got out and came in the general store and told the owner he wanted a really nice horse blanket for his horse.  The owner went to the back and got the only horse blanket he had and took it to the counter.  He told the man, “That will be $10.”  The wealthy horseman said, “$10?  I have a thoroughbred racehorse out there.  I want the best quality, most expensive horse blanket you have!”  So, the store owner takes the blanket to the back with him, stands there for a second and then takes the blanket back to the customer.  He said, “Ok, sir, this is the best blanket I have.  That will be $500.”  The wealthy man said, “Good.  That’s better.”  He bought the blanket and walked out as the store owner said, “I saw a stranger and I took him in.”  That’s Bill Lightsey’s joke.

You see, there is an appropriate scripture for whatever situation you are in and the absolute perfect example of this is in Matthew chapter 4 when Satan tempts Jesus.  Jesus had been fasting by Himself in the desert for 40 days.  It is no accident that Satan picks this time to tempt Jesus.  Satan often tempts us when we are physically tired and hungry.  At the end of a long week, Satan often puts it in our heads that we deserve something and when we are tired reality starts to get cloudy and we start to believe that something is ok when other times we might know it is not.

So, Satan must have seen his opportunity and jumped on it.  3 times Satan tries to get Jesus to sin and 3 times Jesus quotes a specific “rhema” or part of scripture.  Note that Jesus does not tell Satan that he doesn’t think that would be right or even that the Bible teaches not to do that but he says, 3 times, “It is written…”  and then quotes scripture.  He draws his sword, which was hanging from his belt of truth and fends off Satan’s attack.

Jesus had on the entire armor of God.  He had His belt of truth.  He knew what truth was and he based everything else on that.  He had on his breastplate of righteousness as He was righteous.  His feet were shod with peace between Himself and God and Himself and men.  His shield of faith brought Him joy and peace and a strong witness.  His helmet of salvation was on tight as He knew when and from where His salvation would come.  And when Satan attacked Him with some flaming arrows of temptation they might as well have been spitballs.

And you have the ability to put on the very same armor and wield the very same sword of the Spirit.  But you have to do it.  I can’t do it for you.  Your mama can’t do it for you.  Just coming to Sunday School isn’t going to be enough.  Do you really want to avoid being taken out of the fight?  Do you really want to not hear Satan laughing at you?  Do you want to do your part in furthering the Kingdom of God? 

A good soldier would practice for hours and hours with his sword so that when the time came to use it, it flowed naturally out of the scabbard and felt like an extension of his own arm.  If you are not spending time in God’s word every day I don’t want to hear about how Satan keeps getting the best of you.  Of course he is!  Dig into God’s word and find your passage or passages.  You know what I’m talking about.  Whatever your little pet sin or sins are, find in the Bible where it talks about that.  Memorize a “rhema” or small part and when Satan comes at you next time and says, “Hey, you really need to go into work this Sunday to help pay some bills.”  You can tell him that Deuteronomy 5:12 says to keep the Sabbath day holy and not to do any work.

When he tells you to look at something you shouldn’t on TV or online you come back at him with Psalm 101:3 that says “I will put no vile thing before my eyes.”  He may come back at you with his favorite line about nobody ever finding out and you just tell him that Proverbs 5:21 says that a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord and He examines all his paths.

If you are tempted to gossip find a passage that will help you with that and jab it in Satan’s eye when he tells you it’s really just asking for prayer for someone.

If you are tempted to steal or cheat or do mean things to puppies with a fork, whatever it is, have a scripture ready when Satan comes calling.  I’m going to give you some homework.  There are 31 Proverbs.  One for each day of the month.  Perfect for reading as part of your devotional.  Go through Proverbs with an eye for finding a nugget or two every day that will help you in your struggle against the schemes of Satan.  Start today reading Proverbs 6 since today is the 6th and read it every day.  It’s something you can do the rest of your life, in fact.  Every day just read that day’s Proverb and see if the Spirit helps you find just the right verse for what you are going through.

I will tell you again that Satan hates you and wants only the worst for you.  It is time for us as Christians to realize that the very worst thing that Satan can do to us is lead us into sin.  And sin is that big of a deal.  If sin wasn’t that big of a deal do you think God would have allowed His only Son to die to pay the price for our sin?  It is that big of a deal and so Jesus did His part.  It is time for us to do our part.  Ask Him into your heart to be Lord and Savior and then live like He is.

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