Last week, I wrote about the reality of spiritual warfare. We showed that the presentation of this reality according to the Scriptures is not some antiquated, ridiculous, or even fanatical idea…but a clear proclamation of the activity in this cosmic realm that surrounds us.
We have been using the biblical letter to the Ephesians as the basis of our study together. When reviewing the work of the apostle Paul, we can behold three over-arching commands to the church at Ephesus and passed on to us today…
1: Be aware of this life at war.
2: Be prepared for this life at war.
3: Be in prayer through this life at war.
We see that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about the presence of and preparedness for spiritual warfare during our the disciple’s Life in Christ. This life in Him is a gracious identity that comes from God and leads to a glorious outcome through God.
As such a precious gift of grace comes from the Father above (James 1:17), we also have a great adversary and Enemy who seeks the prevention of our understanding such a gift…much less embracing it for life transformation. This means that our life in Christ is a life at war. That is why we have such a great admonition from the apostle to…
- Be strengthened in the Lord.
- Be supplied by the Lord.
- Have sight from the Lord.
- Stand with the Lord.
Last week, the focus of our text was on the awareness for life at war. In light of this awareness, the wise apostle then shares about the believer’s preparedness that comes from the provision of Jesus Christ alone. Disciples must grasp the presence of and preparedness for spiritual warfare. This is how the Scriptures present this powerful declaration in the closing text of Ephesians.
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, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.
Ephesians 6:10-20 [hcsb]
The Scriptures were given to mankind as a gift. They were received by the grace of God so that we might know the grace of God. This revelation helps to answer the big questions of life…such as:
- Origin – Where do we come from?
- Identity – Who are we?
- Meaning – What are we here for?
- Morality – How shall we live?
- Destiny – What happens when we die?
As we wish to grow in our understanding of the Scriptures and grasp the answers to these life/worldview questions, we must continue to…
- Study the Scriptures systematically.
- Interpret the Scriptures properly.
- Scripture: What does it say?
- Observation: What can be learned?
- Who is God?
- What does God do?
- What does God say?
- How are we to trust & follow this God in a holy, truthful, loving, and grace-filled way?
- Application: What can be transferred so that my life is transformed by His grace, through His gospel, and for His glory?
- Prayer: How will I respond? How will I trust God? How will I seek His strength to live according to His word, way, and will?
- Apply the Scriptures daily.
We must do this if we are to face the reality of spiritual warfare that is very much present where we live, move, and breathe. Those who have placed their faith in Christ have been given a new position for life in Him. Such a position calls for the practice of our life to reflect the new identity we have been given. But this will not be easy. The enemy seeks to distract those that belong to Christ and destroy those who do no yet know Christ.
In response to such a threat, we must be reminded of how to live this life effectively in the midst of battle.
- We are to wear the full armor of God.
- The armor that we wear is God’s armor.
- Putting on this armor is nothing magical as it is more about spiritual disciplines than “praying on” a garment.
- Wearing this armor cannot be separated from what we believe and how we live. Our beliefs system (theology) influences our behavior because both are important and work together.
- Putting on the armor is about being equipped and deployed for spiritual battles. Wearing the armor isn’t just preparation for the battle; it’s also part of the battle itself as the Enemy fights to keep us from wearing the armor.
- The support of other believers helps us put on the armor. The letter to the Ephesians was written to the whole church as the “saints”. There is an expectation for them to stand together in battle.
- Learning about the full armor of God can only take place through preparation from God’s word.
When we think upon the reality of spiritual warfare, how are we to be prepared? The only responsible choice is to be prepared through the provision Christ has entrusted to us.
Today, we will focus on this process and the expectation to be prepared. The first spiritual discipline that must gird (hold-up) our lives is the disciple of examining, embracing, embodying, and explaining the truth. This is illustrated by the image of truth girding the believer as a belt which has been entrusted to us.
- Examine the Truth as we notice the Source. We first see that the Scriptures declare that they reveal the truth to those who seek to understand them. They are God’s special revelation and promise to mankind.
7 The instruction of the Lord is perfect,
renewing one’s life;
the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,
making the inexperienced wise.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
making the heart glad;
the command of the Lord is radiant,
making the eyes light up.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are reliable
and altogether righteous.
10 They are more desirable than gold —
than an abundance of pure gold;
and sweeter than honey,
which comes from the honeycomb.
11 In addition, Your servant is warned by them;
there is great reward in keeping them.
Psalm 19:7-11 [hcsb]
The Scripture reveals the truth because the Scripture is the truth. Reading & knowing God’s word—the Bible—equips us to wear the piece of amor known as truth.
The Enemy of God, however, is a liar. The truth is not in him. In his scheme and tactic as a deceiver and slanderer of God, he attacks the truth with lies that seek to undermine the truthfulness of God’s word, God’s character, and God’s authority. This was the pattern of attack in the garden of Eden with mankind’s original parents and this pattern of attack has not changed since.
The written Word is the provision of truth that reveals the person who is truth. Jesus said “you pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me” (John 5:39).
Jesus is the Truth!
One scholar put it this way.
Jesus is the very embodiment of truth. He is the truth in person.
When Jesus walked this earth, did the things that He did, and said the things that He said… He wasn’t acting. He wasn’t a phony. He was the genuine truth revealed to us. In fact, some of Jesus harshest denouncements went to those considered hypocrites. The enemy would try to distract both believers and unbelievers from the genuine truth of the Christ. These lies are sometimes not so subtle as they speak words like…
- Jesus is only one way among many routes to God.
- Jesus couldn’t possibly have been born by a virgin.
- Jesus must have committed at least some sins during His lifetime on earth.
- Jesus was a great prophet and teacher, but no more than that.
- Jesus did die as a martyr, but He did not and could not die for the sins of the world.
- Jesus bodily resurrection was only a myth that was circulated by the disciples and the early church.
Why is discerning the truth from these lies so important?
Apart from the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of the perfect Son of God, we have no hope; so the Enemy aims his arrows at our understanding of Jesus.
Jesus not only is the truth… Jesus Knows The Truth!
When Jesus walked the earth, His knowledge of the deepest truth was revealed in many accounts.
- He knew past sins. – John 4:7-19
- He knew current thoughts. – John 6:14-15
- He knew future actions. – John 6:60-64
Mankind, including those among the church, has somehow become convinced that hidden sin is acceptable sin. What we must remember is that no though we think, no word we speak, and no action we take is hidden from the One who knows all truth.
When it comes to the truth… Jesus Spoke The Truth!
The measure of a prophet in the Old Testament was to see if what they foretold came to happen. This measure was on full display in the foretelling spoken by Jesus.
- the call to the disciples to be fishers of men
- the comfort that would come to the grieving
- the foretelling of his betrayal, death, and resurrection.
Jesus is the truth who knows truth and who speaks truth. What He says can be trusted because what He promises to do will happen.
Jesus Lived The Truth!
The Scripture gives us a clear reminder of Jesus life of truth when it tells us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
We must understand that only Jesus—who faced the full brunt of temptation without ever sinning—can really understand its force. Still, He never failed (Lawless).
While we may falter and fail at fully living the truth, Jesus never does and never will. He is our confidence, hope, and help in our time of need…and we desperately live in a time of need.
II. Embrace the Truth by trusting the source of truth.
Jesus is our model for embracing the truth…especially in the moments of our darkest battles and adversity from the enemy. When you read the account of Jesus experience with temptation from the enemy in Matthew 4:1—11, you can see that Jesus Himself is the model for trusting the Father and responding with the Word of God.
The One Who is the Word of God used to Word of God to make the right choices to fulfill the will of God.
1: He made the right choices because His desire to please the Father was more important than anything the Enemy offered.
2: Jesus knew the Word sufficiently to respond to the Devil’s attacks.
3: Jesus experienced the Father’s blessings when He overcame temptation.
Jesus enables us to battle both the temptation for sins of commission and omission. We need help battling both. Many people can view the Christians life as one meant to keep a list of things to avoid. While our life in Christ is partly about fleeing temptation, but it is also about doing the good we are called to complete.
What we do is just as important as what we don’t do.
Jesus took the stand against the enemy not only by rejecting temptation, by by also accomplishing good in such a way that the promises of God were provided and fulfilled, and the stronghold of the enemy was loosened.
III. Embody The Truth by reflecting the source of truth. The call of the Scripture is to “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24).
How do we embody this? How is it that the truth is put on in our life?
- By listening to the message of truth – 1:13
- By speaking the truth in love – 4:15
- By seeing the truth is in Jesus – 4:21
- By putting away lying, deceit, and falsehood – 4:25
- By producing the fruit of light which results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – 5:9
- By discerning what is pleasing to the Lord – 5:10
The Truth found in Jesus is on display in the message of 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
Whoever 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.
To further embody the truth, we must find support in the church through authentic accountability.
What is accountability?
“It is a willingness to be honest about, and to accept responsibility for, my actions as one means to strive for Christlike holiness.”
– Chuck Lawless
- It is voluntary
- It requires honesty
- It accepts responsibility
- It is not a shortcut
- It seeks growth in personal holiness & a Christlike reflection
IV. Explain The Truth by proclaiming the Source of truth. We will be able to look around and see those not equipped yet with the belt of truth. It is our job to share the belt for others to put on. The truth is not just for the church. It is for the church to make known to the unchurched.
This is the mission and target of our Life at War. The church must be a people who are about both going and telling as we also invite others to come and see. But we must know this…
“God did not command the world to go to church but for the church to go to the world.”
As we are reminded of this principle…we must remember that each day could be someone’s one day. You and I could be that person’s one breakthrough person.
Let us be people that breakthrough with the truth in a world that needs to hear it.
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory.
*Notes taken from Putting On The Armor by Dr. Chuck Lawless, Christ-Centered Commentary on Ephesians by Dr. Tony Merida, NT Expositional Commentary from Dr. Warren Wiersbe, & sermon notes from Charles Spurgeon.