Paul/Ephesians, as a Christian, when you get up in the morning, what are you going to wear? If your desire is to be strong in the Lord, this message is about what you put on….
veryday is a new day to choose how to live… to live as a Christian is not something you attain and then coast along, it is a way of life, an everyday choice. A fresh start begins by daily choosing to put on the armor of God.
The armor of God is figurative; a picture to help visualize what it means to be ready. Almost everything in this description is defensive. Over and over again Ephesians says to put on this armor in order to stand: “take your stand against the devils schemes… stand your ground… to stand… stand firm then…” many places in the Bible talk about privilege of going and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, even Eph. 6:19 Paul asks for prayers to be proactive in going on the offense in sharing the message of salvation READ. that is part of our purpose… but the message of the gospel begins by being strong in the Lord ourselves… Paul says to STAND FIRM… confidence, knowing who God is, believing in His promises…
Ever been on an airplane and listened to the flight attendant give pre-flight instructions? The standard message: if an airplane loses oxygen pressure, masks will fall from above, and parents are instructed to first put on their own oxygen masks before they help their children. The parents need to have a clear head to help others. Paul is saying something like that with the Armor of God: the priority to living a life that is honoring Jesus Christ is to put on the oxygen mask/ the full armor of God. Get down your own attitudes, your own convictions, your own trust, your own faith… stand firm as a person of faith and then you will be prepared….
Over and over in the scripture: stand firm, to be prepared. The armor is for defensive purposes. The armor is to protect your body in battle from the fiery arrows of the enemy. Two weeks ago when our building was used by firemen for a staging area during the flood, I was once again amazed by all the equipment a fireperson wears, a lot of it is for protection from heat, lack of air in case fire and smoke displace the air… these are defensive measures… put on the oxygen mask before you help your children… stand firm in your convictions of Jesus Christ!
Eph. 6:10 makes it clear our strength comes from the Lord… if you don’t believe Jesus Christ is alive, if you don’t believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, if you don’t accept Jesus Christ has died for your sins and broken down barriers, then putting on the armor of God makes no sense. Listen again to the powerful words of Eph. 1:3-14, a single amazing sentence in the original language READ… Paul is saying, because that is true, you are now to stand firm…. Put on the oxygen mask!!!!! Breath God; breath the truth of Jesus Christ. Every day/moment choose to put on the armor of God “so that you can take your stand” (Eph. 6:11) and v. 11 ends, “against the devils schemes.”
A healthy perspective is to know Satan is behind this worlds problems, obstacles… this is not to let me off the hook; if I tear others down it is no excuse to say, “the devil made me do it” as if I’m not responsible. However, never forget the purpose of Satan is to tear down, create divisions. A Church, a faith community, is easily caught up with tension because one person is unhappy/disgruntled, personality conflicts. Paul wants us to take a broader view, and put everything in perspective… that’s what Eph. 6:12 is about READ.
This verse is a major arrow I have in my quiver of truth to try and keep a healthy perspective… So easy to get overwhelmed by the world’s systems… politics, social movements that seem to be away from Christian values/teaching… Obviously there is division and discouragement from people, but Paul is saying it’s essential to keep a larger perspective and not get bogged down in the squabbles… Satan has many ways he attacks… In one of the gospel Stories Jesus is speaking to his disciples about how he is going to die on the cross. Peter objects and blurts out that he’ll never let that happen. Jesus’ response to Peter is amazing: “Get behind me Satan.” What did Jesus mean? I am convinced Jesus meant something like, “Peter, you are doing the work of Satan by trying to tempt me to avoid the cross…”
Eph. 6:13 enlarges the thought in how to stand firm against Satan…READ. We need that large perspective… The personal challenge I have faced with my personality, a life long struggle, is to take things too personally… if criticized I don’t get angry and fight back, sometimes I wish I did, but left to my own personality I internalize the criticism and withdraw… it is a daily struggle to see the larger picture of the work of Satan, it is not about me, or whatever adversity I am facing… this is all part of Satan’s design to put up walls that come in many forms. Peter, a disciple loved by Jesus, was attempting to side-track Jesus from his calling… How do I guard against the same temptation to enter into the work of Satan? I put on the oxygen mask first so that when the oxygen is sucked out of the airplane I can help others… I need to be fully aware that Satan will do anything in his power to keep our church from fulfilling our calling to serve the community, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He’ll create division. His most subtle tool? Causing division among people who can truly justify their actions/attitudes.
I think the reason a lot of people get discouraged with the church/leave, is because they can only see the tree in front of them and lose sight of the forest. How many times do you hear an explanation of discouraged people that this or that happened, somebody didn’t act right said the wrong thing or I don’t like the music or the narrow minded thinking… the struggle is larger than the individual person standing in front of you… Satan is the larger struggle… that perspective will cause you to see the larger picture and to keep going forward…
On Thursday’s we’ve been studying Isaiah. Chapter’s 37-39 are about good King Hezekiah and how he responds to a series of challenges. He is a model of faith/ a model of standing firm in the Lord as he faces the first two challenges of an enemy that is threatening him and then a personal illness in which he will certainly die. He goes to the Lord and asks for God’s wisdom. But the third challenge is far more subtle. Using Ephesians language, each of Hezekiah’s challenges is an arrow of Satan: for our struggle is not flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world… Hezekiah is a model of faith when the evil facing him is obvious and overt. But then Hezekiah shows a chink in his armor with the third challenge. A new enemy flatters him and butters him up and complements him and he doesn’t see the threat as a threat at all; Hezekiah opens his doors to the Babylonians and shows them all the treasures and the riches of his Kingdom, he gives all his kingdom secrets away unwittingly making himself vulnerable to the enemy. Satan often comes in the form of flattery and riches… Stand firm, stand firm, stand firm…. This is how you have a fresh start of faith, by learning to stand firm in God’s power against everything Satan has…
The armor consists of READ Eph. 6:14-17. With the exception of the feet being ready to spread peace, the weapons and armor are for defensive purposes… when attacked stand firm. Belt /TRUTH… breastplate/RIGHTEOUSNESS…shield/FAITH… helmet/ SALVATION… Sword/WORD OF GOD… I don’t think it’s necessary to find nuances of meaning in each of the corresponding armor items and character traits…. The message is found in the whole, standing firm by having confidence in truth, knowing you have right standing with God, Faith that God will protect like a shield, the knowledge of salvation…. The message is in the whole armor of standing firm, put your own oxygen on to keep yourself clear headed so you can help others… Satan will try to sidetrack in a variety of ways.
I love Eph. 6:18 because it is like Paul himself got caught up in the armor imagery but decides to not try and force everything he wants to say into the details. READ. Faith, truth, peace, righteousness are all part of standing firm, but there is more to living as a Christian with a fresh start… Pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests… be alert… It’s like Paul is saying put on the spiritual armor but my illustration is a bit too clever and I can’t fit in everything I really want to, so don’t forget also to pray about everything in everyway all the time.
Eph. 6:19 is like an addendum. READ. BTW, pray for others to know Christ too… this is the next step… Put on the armor of God, stand firm, then go… If Paul were to write a 2nd letter to Ephesians in my imagination that would be the topic of letter 2….
Ephesians in Summary: know what you believe, know who you believe, Christ came to break down barriers, a new way of thinking is yours, new relationships are yours, a new community of faith is yours… Stand firm, stand firm, stand firm, stand firm. If the airplane suddenly decompresses, first put on your own oxygen mask so you can help others. Stand firm in Christ.
I want to end this message and this series with a few words. These four words may be the most important words in this entire series from Ephesians: Today’s message: Stand firm in Christ. The most important four words you need to hear:
- You can do it.
- You can do it.
- You can do it.