Pentecost 15B: September 17, 2006 – Be Strong

16 Sep

Text: Ephesians 6:10-20

Be Strong

            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.  The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle which was read earlier.

            War seems to be on people’s minds today.  We’re fighting the war on terrorism.  We’re wondering if things could escalate to World War III.  We’re fighting the war on drugs.  I remember fighting this war when former first lady Nancy Reagan promoted the “Just say no to drugs” campaign back in the ‘80’s, a war we’re still fighting today.  War is something that is constantly around us.

            There’s another war not many people realize is going on, because the enemy is largely unseen.  This war is more critical than any our nation has ever fought, and the casualties are much heavier.  This time the enemy is no pushover.  Every ounce of our energy, every weapon we can bring to bear, and every defense we can raise will not be enough.  IN THIS WAR, WE NEED THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD!

            You do know which war I’m talking about now, don’t you?  You do know the enemy.  No, I’m not talking about the war against terrorism that began five years ago this past Monday, September 11, 2001, that war against a nearly invisible enemy who nevertheless seems to be operating in the shadows everywhere.  No, we’re at war against a different unseen enemy, far more dangerous: we are at war with Satan.

            In our text for today, Paul writes to the Ephesians: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.”  We are at war with none other than Satan himself, and truth be told, Satan likes the way that the war is going.  When Satan started the war back in the Garden of Eden, it was the shot heard around the cosmos because at that very moment, Satan started and ended a war with a single piece of fruit.  He rejoiced in his victory because he forever separated man from God.  As far as Satan was concerned, this was a well-fought war; however, God was ready to begin His own war to regain His creation back.

            Many people think that the Old Testament is only Law and that the New Testament is only Gospel.  However, the very first Gospel message is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John; it is found in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  Let me dissect this verse for you.

            The serpent brought death into the world.  Therefore, “your offspring” refers to all of mankind because we are all born as children of Satan because of our fallen nature.  “Her offspring” is Jesus Christ Himself, who will be the one to crush the head of Satan.  This could only happen at the expense of Christ Himself, hence the serpent striking Christ’s heel, ultimately ending in Christ’s death. 

            While the war has ultimately ended with Satan being defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, the battles still rages on today in all of our lives.  That is why Paul tells us to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  We continue to be assaulted by Satan and his evil ways every day.  It can be very easy to surrender in our daily battle, but that is why Paul tells us why we need the full armor of God and not just bits of pieces of it.  As General Sherman said, “War is hell!”

            First, we put on the belt of truth.  Every soldier in every war needs to feel convinced that the cause for which he’s fighting is true.  Our cause is true.  We see first hand what the affects of this war have caused: it causes separation from God, all the evils in the world that we see and hear about and ultimately it all ends in death.  We stand firmly in our faith against Satan and against the world because God has opened our eyes to see him as he truly is.  Next we place on us the breastplate of righteousness.  The key to this is that it is not our righteousness.  If it were, our righteousness could never stand against Satan because our righteousness, our works, the best we can do, is as filthy rags.  We cannot rely upon ourselves; we must rely solely upon Christ.  Christ’s death upon the cross and His laying down of His life and His ultimate resurrection gives us that protection from whatever Satan can throw at us because we are no longer children of Satan but made children of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

            Our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”  We are able to follow Jesus who came to bring peace with the saving message of the Gospel.  The shield of faith which we take up is able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”  These flaming arrows are constantly around us.  They are in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.  The shield of faith is God’s gift which apprehends salvation, effects the forgiveness of past sins, affords access to God, assures eternal life by the deposit of the Holy Spirit, rendering us holy and without blame.  Again, this is not our shield, but the shield that is given to us by God.  No shield that we bring to the battlefield can defend us.  Every flaming arrow that Satan shoots at us will penetrate the shield.   

            The helmet of salvation that we wear is salvation won for us.  In the ultimate battle of the cross and the grave, Jesus defeated the devil and broke Satan’s power.  Satan fired all his arrows and spent all his weapons; he has nothing left.  Christ has given us the victory by His death and resurrection. 

            Our armor against Satan is complete, minus one thing: a weapon, the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Again, this is not our weapon, nothing that we bring to the war.  Even if we did bring something to fight with, it would not be able to stand up to the arsenal that Satan has.  Only the Word of God, which is Jesus Christ made flesh, could defeat Satan.  It was He would come into this world, not at our asking, but of the Father’s will.  It was Jesus Christ who lived a life without sin for all of us who are sinful.  It was Jesus Christ who died a death that no one else could die on our behalf.  It was Jesus Christ, by His resurrection from the grave that defeated Satan, not us. 

            We as Christians and blood-bought children of God need to remain strong.  We should not be strong in ourselves because if we put our strength in ourselves, we will only find weakness.  While it would be easy to be strong and to put our strength in this world, we will only find destruction and the devil.  Instead, we need only to be strong and find strength in the Lord and His power: for it is there that we are given the victory in Jesus Christ.

            Satan once ruled the world, and even today, working in the shadows, always lurking, he’s no pushover.  But he is pushed-over!  Christ has defeated Satan.  We’re still at war with Satan, fighting battles until the day that we die.  But in Christ, we are armed for victory and have ultimately won the war through Jesus Christ.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

            Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus until life everlasting.  Amen.

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