Life In Christ: the Strength to Stand

Strength to Stand

It has been a while since I have last posted…but here goes.

*Q:  What comes to mind then you hear the words “spiritual warfare”?

  • Maybe you are the type that has visions of powerful war movies like “Gladiator” or “Braveheart”.
  • Or maybe the imagery of prizing fighting competitions with mixed martial arts like UFC™ comes into mind.
  • Maybe you are the person that the idea of battle games like paintball and airsoft geeks you out.
  • Or maybe you are the geek that thinks about strategy games like “Risk” or “Stratego”.

Perhaps you don’t fall into those types.  Perhaps, when you hear these words…

  • You think about the metaphors of spiritual armor as being antiquated compared to the machinery of modern warfare.
  • Maybe you think about this presentation in a somewhat childish or cartoonish view because of something from your younger years.
  • Maybe you think “Oy Vey” because even the topic of spiritual warfare or spiritual armor sounds brutish, fanatical, or unintelligible.
  • Maybe it draws to mind the superstitious and ancient explanations for how the world is instead of the modern psychological and/or physiological explanations.

But before you make any snap judgments because of past circumstances or pre-conceived notions… let’s think for a moment about what we are really talking about and what the Scripture declares on such a topic. This subject as presented by the Scriptures is…

Not antiquated, but ageless

…because we see that humanity has still not really changed.

…because there is still an evil an active enemy.

…because there is always the need for Christ & His mighty power.

Not ridiculous, but rooted in the totality of Scriptures

…because Paul is not only relating to his prison experience or the Roman warriors of his time but also bringing to light the OT writings of the Messiah King and His work among His people!

  • the LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is His name. – Exodus 15:3
  • You have clothed me with strength for battle; You subdue my adversaries beneath me. – Psalm 18:39
  • The LORD advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier.  He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies. – Isaiah 42:17

Not bizarre, but truly brilliant

…because the apostle is taking the time to reiterate what has been emphasized previously throughout this letter.

  • God’s divine power
  • the “already & not yet” plan
  • Christlike virtues
  • the power & practice of prayer
  • putting on the new self

Not uninformed, but informed

…because it is the revelation of the cosmic & the spiritual alongside the ethical & relational.

…because it is the revelation of something more than what meets the eye.

  • We cannot simply say that our relational challenges in the church, our behavioral challenges in the home, or our ethical challenges in society are the results of everything except spiritual problems.
  • They may certainly involve physical and psychological challenges, but we must realize that we are complex beings (physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, cultural, spiritual).  Many of our problems/issues are indeed spiritual ones.
  • We live in a culture where everyone want to talk about the problems of life without actually talking about the problem of life.
  • to speak of evil, or sin, or the enemy is to sound silly, fanatical, naive, or uninformed.
  • we may think we are so advanced today…yet our streets still run with blood from hate, lust, greed, etc. as people are treated as less than human through oppression and violence.*

So let’s take a look at the Scriptures to gain the understanding we need on Spiritual warfare and armor.

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on  the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand…

Ephesians 6:10-14 [hcsb]

So let’s try to understand what we have just read together.  It is important to learn the context of a written work in order to better understand what was written.  To do so with the Scriptures, we must ask 4 major questions.

  • What does it say?
  • What can be learned from it?
  • Who God is
  • What God does
  • What God says
  • How we are to trust this God
  • What can be transferred so that I may be transformed?
  • How will I respond to God & how will I trust Him in this process?

What we can gather from the build-up of this letter is that…

If we are to fully live our Life in Christ…it will be a life at war.

And so we are given three major over-arching commands in the latter part of Ephesians.

  1. Be aware for this life at war.
  2. Be prepared for this life at war.
  3. Be in prayer for this life at war.

Today, we will attempt to tackle the over-arching command to be aware and begin to wrestle with the subject of being prepared.

Q:  How are we to be aware & be prepared for the darkest of all adversities to our Life in Christ?

  1. We must be strengthened in the Lord. – v. 6:10

As we take notice of the Scripture, we see that Paul wrote for the church to “…be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.”

This letter is very pointed when it comes to being aware of the Source and Sustainer of our strength.

Now this is somewhat counter-cultural but it something we all need to hear.  Those of us raised in church have probably come to expect such a statement from our teachings…but what we hear and what we practice can very well be two different spheres in our lives.

Notice that Paul doesn’t say…

  • be strengthened by your vast numbers
  • be strengthened by your economic security
  • be strengthened by your healthy family
  • be strengthened by your physical fitness
  • be strengthened by your obedient practices
  • be strengthened by your biblical knowledge
  • be strengthened by your overflowing influence
  • be strengthened by your uplifting character
  • be strengthened by your “being in the know”
  • be strengthened by your “political leanings”

No!  The very direct emphasis is to be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  In doing so…

  1. We must be strengthened by the mighty power of the Lord if we don’t wish to crumble under the adversity & weight of the evil one.
  1. We must be strengthened by God as we are reminded of “whose we are”.  Remember who you belong to.  This means we must not have a view of Jesus that is less than who He really is and what He is able to accomplish.  We can’t always overcome…He can.  He does.  He will.
  1. We must be strengthened by God by being rooted deeply in the relationship provided through His grace.

II.  We must be supplied by the Lord. – v. 6:11

Once again, as we look to the Scriptures for our source of direction, we see that the apostle writes…

“put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.”

The full armor is to be embraced and not a partial armor.  God did not give us a partial armor so why would we ever consider only partially embracing that which God has gifted. The scriptures following detail this marvelous gift of grace.

  • the belt of truth
  • the breastplate of righteousness
  • the sandals of Gospel peace
  • the shield of faith
  • the helmet of salvation
  • the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word)

Just think on this.  There is almost nothing more pestering than to know you left home and you forgot something…especially if it pertains to your daily wear.

We must consider the grace of God that both clothed the nakedness of Adam and Eve…has also clothed us with Himself and with His armor.

We have all we need in Him to live with all we have for Him.

We must not doubt the supply of God because when we do, this harms our trust in the sovereignty of God.

Remember the harm done in Eden through a lack of trust in the authority, provision, and love of God.

The greatest reminder of God’s supply is the GOSPEL.

What is this GOSPEL?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is commonly understood in Christianity to consist of five key elements and one powerful result that brings mankind good news.  These are the Gospel “essentials” in any culture.

· the message of God’s Character:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”Ephesians 2:4

God is the Holy & Righteous One.  He is the loving & merciful God that created mankind to be in relationship with Him. At the same time, He is a just judge Who will not let the guilty go unpunished.  Habakkuk 1:13; Jeremiah 31:3

· the message of the Offense of Sin:  “…even when we were dead in our transgression…”Ephesians 2:5

The good news of the gospel addresses the critical issue of mans sinfulness.  Man’s rebellion, beginning in the Garden of Eden and passed down to every human in history, separates us from this Holy, merciful God.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23 Our sins cannot be overcome by our attempt at righteousness by doing good works and they place us on the path toward punishment & destruction eternally.  Without our understanding of sin, there is no realization of our need for a Savior. Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3

· the message of the Sufficiency of Christ:  “…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 2:5-6.

Christ is either sufficient to forgive us of sin through His act on the cross, or He is not.  The Gospel clearly states that Christ is not simply “an answer” but “the only answer” to the sin of mankind and resulting separation from God.  Because Christ is sufficient, nothing needs to be added to the Gospel to complete the promise of redemption.  Isaiah 53:6,11; John 14:6; Acts 4:12 

· the message of Personal Response:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:5, 8-9

Although God clearly acted in eternity past with a divine plan to redeem mankind, He has also placed on us a responsibility to hear and believe the Gospel.  This belief in Christ and the Gospel will result in a person turning to God from sin to worship and serve Him.  Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Romans 1:16; 2:4; 10:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

· the message of Eternal Urgency:“…so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”Ephesians 2:7

The Scripture teaches that eternity presses on us.  Those who do not place their trust in Jesus Christ will perish into eternal hell, separated from God.  Those who trust the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will spend eternity with God in heaven.  This urgency drives disciples to share the Gospel.  Exodus 34:7; John 3:16; Romans 2:4-11; 6:23

calls on Christ Jesus for salvation, repents and places their faith in Him as the Lord God will be saved.

· the message of Life Transformation:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

When one hears the Gospel and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, the result is a changed life.  Life is transformed by the power of the Gospel, not the efforts of man-and the change is dramatic. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:2-10

This Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in Christ’s family, our sanctification as disciples, and our future of a heavenly inheritance.

III.  We must have our Sight from the Lord. – v. 6:10-12

As we look at the Scripture, we gain clarity as we behold…

  • the strength of the Lord
  • the supply of the Lord
  • the supreme picture from the Lord
  • the strategic target from the Lord
  • the sinister enemy of the Lord

If we are going to be aware of this life at war in our life with Christ, we must not lose sight of these things.

And while it is not healthy to dwell on the enemy, it is also not healthy to pretend that he is not real or a real threat.

As we look scripturally at this very real sinister enemy…we see that his schemes are rooted in who he is.

  • the Devil or the slanderer
  • Satan or the accuser
  • the authority of evil & the demonic forces
  • the serpent, dragon, or crafty one
  • Beelzebub or lord of the flies (chaos and fear)
  • the ruler of this world
  • the god of this age (both the idol and the idolater)
  • the evil one
  • the father of lies or the deceiver
  • the thief
  • the roaring & devouring lion
  • the disguised one

We see that this real enemy is…

  • evil
  • strategic
  • a wrestler
  • defeated

We must receive sight from the Lord so that we don’t lose sight of…

  • the real picture
  • the real target
  • the real enemy

Do not lose sight by distraction or by decisions.

IV.  We must stand with the Lord. – v. 6:13

In light of all these admonitions addressed by the apostle, we see it is continued by his encouragement by writing…

This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand…Stand!…”

In other words… now that we have been made aware of life at war and understand the expectations of being aware…the choice is set before us.

  • Will we be prepared?
  • Will we embrace what has been provided?
  • Will we take this stand?

If we do so… we do so

  • By His Grace
  • Through His Gospel
  • For His Glory

The Full Armor of God is given to us so that we will be able to resist in the evil day.  A day that is coming and is not a matter of if it comes…but when.

This reminds us of our urgency.

We must be aware so that we may be prepared in everything that has been entrusted to us.

I encourage you to…

  • Stand in His strength
  • Stand by His supply
  • Stand with His sight
  • Stand by His side

I’m not asking you to stand by me…but by Him and to know that is here I aim to be.

*much of the material for this post is taken from the work of Dr. Tony Merida in the Christ-Centered Exposition: Ephesians commentary.

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