Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Call to Battle

This is Part one of the sermon series: The War You Must Win

We wrestle not against flesh and blood

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

It is obviously important today that the Christian understands the full implication of this statement. This statement is definitely addressed to the Christian. The world on the other hand ridicules statements like this. To us it is full of help and of real encouragement especially so when we think of the difficulty of living and the confused times in which we find ourselves. Life had never been easy for the Christian but ours is particularly bad for the world is not only outside but now comes into our homes with the newspaper, magazines, television and the wireless and other media. So ours is a time full of difficulty, stress and anxiety.

The Apostle warned us about the “wiles of the devil” reminding us that we are not fighting “against flesh and blood”. A man who does not understand the nature of the problem he is confronting is a man who is already doomed to failure. So we have to realize that we are called; in the Christian life, to a battle, not to a life of ease. For the Christian, to be forewarned as to the character and strategy of the enemy is absolutely essential; for to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and that in itself is half the battle. But this is only half the battle. If we are to leave it at that we shall surely fail. The Gospel does not end half way. It does not hide the truth. It is not a true Gospel that gives the impression that the Christian life is easy, and that there are no problems to be faced.

The Apostle goes on to show us the second half of the battle. He says: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that (in order that)...”, then he introduces the problem. It is something to thank God about. The apostle is saying, despite all that is against us, whether in realms above or in the world in which we live, with all its strains and stress as Christians we can be enabled to triumph, to rejoice in the midst of it all and to know that victory is assured. This is what we want to consider in this message.

What we are offered as Christians facing combat are just two things: Firstly, “Be strong in the Lord; and in the power of His might” and Secondly, “Take unto you the whole armour of God”

As we look at these two things it is important to note:

Both are necessary. We are not to take one without the other
We must take them in the right order. We are not told to put on the armour first and then be strong in the Lord. 

What we are saying is this; Christianity is not ‘hand it over to the Lord and rely on His strength’ or what is usually said “let go and let God”. That leaves out “put on the whole armour” It is equally wrong to emphasize “put on the whole armour” and neglect dependence on the power of the Lord and His might and His strength.

So let take a more detailed look at this command

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might

This command is written by no less a person than the great Apostle Paul with all his experiences in warfare and his expressed care for all the churches.

Be strong in the Lord
Be strong in the Lord
What does it mean? And how are we to do it? It does not mean that if I constantly recite this statement or use it as a kind of incantation, or auto-suggestion, repeating the phrase to myself often I begin to be strong in the Lord. This may be true of some cults but not with Christianity.

The first thing to realize is that we need to be strong because of the power of the enemy.

Never underrate that power! Peter reminds us that he is “as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” We are told that the Archangel Michael dared not to speak lightly or loosely to him, and when he debated with him concerning the body of Moses, he did not bring any “railing accusation” against him. All the Archangel ventured to say was “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9)

Another reason and a very powerful one from the human side, is that if you are going to be able to stand, and withstand in the evil day, you need His strength. The evil day! In general at the present time we are living in a very evil day. It is evil in every respect. I am not only thinking of international tensions; it is evil day because evil and sin are so powerfully organized, so deeply entrenched ; it is an evil day because of confusion in the Church herself which sometimes seems to deny not only the whole of the Gospel but even belief in the being of God Himself. It is not easy to be a Christian at a time like this when you have men in position of high authority in the Church talking about meeting atheists in heaven. Christians are confused especially the young ones. If you are to stand at such a time as this, we need His power and the whole armour of God.

Another reason for us to be strong: in order to avoid personal failure; for I know that if I fail and fall into sin I become miserable and unhappy. So to save yourself from misery “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might”

But there is still a better reason: “Be strong” because you are who you are, because you are what you are. We are individuals in the matter of salvation but we are not isolated units. We are members of Christ’s body, so He is not ashamed to call us brethren, (Hebrews 2:11) and God is not ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:16). We should be strong because the reputation, as it were, of the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is in our hands, and any failure in us brings the great and holy Name into disrepute. There is no better way of giving a proof of the truth of the Gospel than that we should be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might; than that we should triumph and prevail. We are being watched at the present time. The world is most unhappy, men and women do not know what to do, and they do not know where to turn. When they see someone who seems to be calm and steadfast, someone who is not utterly bewildered at a time like this, someone who seems to have an insight into it all; and who can see beyond it all, they look and say “What is this? What is this person’s secret? And so you become an evangelist by just standing and being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. You are not carried away by the flood, you do not do things because everyone else is doing them, you have principles of your own, and you are ready to stand for them and suffer for them.

Let us recap... We have been looking at our first reason – the power of the enemy. In the second place, we have to realize our own weakness and our need for help. 

The Bible has a lot to say about the weakness of the Christian. Though Adam was perfect and had lived a life of fellowship and communion with God, he fell; and fell so easily. All the Old Testament patriarchs, the godly kings and the prophets; they all fell – that is why the Bible concludes “All men have failed, and they have all sinned and come short of the glory of God”. The same is true of the New Testament saints. The man who gives the impression that it is easy has confused something else with Christianity; he has a short-cut which he imagines brings him to a place where everything is easy. That is not the Christian way. If you feel that you are a strong Christian, let me ask you why you have failed so much and why you still fail? What happens to your resolutions and resolves? Why do you so often find yourself in the place of repentance? Why are you at times despondent and low in your feelings? We have to persuade ourselves of our weakness. This is being honest. We need to know that we are ill in other words; we need to indulge in a great deal of self-examination. That is why people pay such slight heed to our text; that is why we know so little about what it is to stand and to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. We have never realized our need. We do not go to the doctor as long as we feel that all is well; we have got to realize that we are sick. It is not enough to realize the principle of weakness but feel that moral uprightness will do. Let us remember the hymn: “The arm of flesh will fail you; You dare not trust your own” The problem is not just a problem of moral living- we should realize the spiritual character of the problem.

That leads us to the third and final principle. Having realized that I am to be strong and that in and of myself I am essentially weak, what is the next thing? We need to realize that the Lord is strong, that He is mighty and, as the Old Testament reminds us that, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower”. We are therefore commanded to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Power means the manifestation of that might; the might is there as a potential, as something inherent, now manifesting itself, showing its efficacy. The apostle is saying “Look at Him, look at His power. You have been looking at the enemy and you have seen his strength; you have looked at yourself and you are trembling in your weakness and in your ineffectiveness, well now, look at Him, “Be strong in the Lord”. To be strong in the Lord you must remember the might of His power, and the might of His strength. Paul writing to the Colossians says, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” Again he says “In whom, God has hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge”. This should be one of our reasons for reading the Bible regularly. We should read the Scripture to discover His strength and His might.

Where do we see His strength? 

We see it in Christ’s life in this world. He was in all ways tempted as we are but without sin. He stood with the world, the flesh, and the devil – everything against Him, yet He stood.

We see His power and might in His miracles especially those miracles where He cast out devils. The devils came to Him and said “We know You are the Holy One of God”. He is the master of the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual wickedness in high places.

We see the power of His might as it is revealed in His own temptation – He was tried directly by the devil himself for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness and on other occasions but the devil was utterly and entirely defeated. With the word of Scripture our Lord repels the devil and the devil falls back defeated. In all ways tempted – Hebrews 2:18; 4:16 and 7:26. James in exactly the same way, and grasping this point says; “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” That is how it works.

We see His power on the Cross and in the Resurrection. The Cross seems to be the day of the power of evil. The devil thought that of Him. The world too ruled against Him, they laughed at Him, they jeered “He saved others, Himself He cannot save” Paul answers them when he said; “He was taking principalities and powers and putting them to an open shame, triumphing over them by the Cross”.(Colossians 2:15) Christ Himself said before that day – looking at the Cross “Now is the judgment of this world ; now is the prince of this world cast out” (John 12:31). So, look at the Cross and see the supreme paradox. He appears to be dying in weakness, but do you see the inherent strength there; do you see the might of His , do you see the power of the Godhead there, turning even that into the vanquishing of the devil and setting of the people free – a glorious victorious triumph? Then go and look at the Resurrection. He “bursts asunder the bands of death” triumphs over the last enemy and the ultimate effects of sin and evil. He rises, He ascends into Heaven “leading captivity captive”

So to us – we will never know power in our lives until we know Him. We must therefore get to know Him – this is what the various pieces of armour are aimed to achieve: To show us the truth about Him. But the beginning is “Being in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”

May the Lord help us to “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might”.

For other Sermons in this Series Visit: The War You Must Win

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