There was once a boxer who was being badly beaten in the ring by his opponent. Blow after blow by his opponent left him with bloody nose, swollen eyes, and enormous amount of pain. The battered boxer's trainer, trying to encourage his man between rounds, kept telling him, “You're doing great, Fred. That bum is barely touching you.” To which the boxer responded, “Then you better keep your eye on that referee, because somebody is killing me!”
I would like to call your attention to the reality of the spiritual warfare you and I face. This message is a sequel to last Sunday's message. I don't want to leave any of you with the impression that the Christian life is an easy breeze without any opposition. Therefore, I would like to share with you on the topic: “Preparing for Spiritual Warfare.”
I. THE EXHORTATION TO BE STRONG IN THE LORD VV. 10-13
Those of you who have been studying the Book of Ephesians with me, I told you that the book is about power for living the Christian life. A Christian is not prepared adequately to live the Christian life until you have read, studied, and are practicing the teachings of the Book of Ephesians. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Apostle Paul spends time teaching us what Christ has done for us (doctrine) and in chapters 4-6, he teaches us how to live the Christian life based upon what Christ has done for us (practical standards for Christian living). There were many Western Christians who ignored and rejected the concept of spiritual warfare years ago, but now due to the proliferation of evil, such as terrorism, child pornography, ritual killings, demonism, and occultism they are reading Ephesians 6:10-20 with new sets of lenses.
Just before the Apostle Paul concludes God's revealed truth, he gives us an important exhortation: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (v. 10). The phrase be strong indicates that this empowering is something that God does to you and me and not something we do ourselves. The passive sense of the phrase is also continual. This is not instruction for a quick fix, but for a life spent drawing strength from Christ on daily basis. This says that the battle is the Lord's, not yours. Your job is to put on the armor God supplies, to dress for success.
American airlines, other airlines, and many corporations have strict dress codes because the corporations want their employees to have a certain look the corporations believe is critical for business success. Seminars teach businessmen and women how to dress for success, how to wear the kind of clothes that make the right impression and get the job done. A friend of mine told his brother who was an electrical engineer repeatedly how to dress for success. He didn't pay heed to his brother's advice and his business folded up. As a Christian if you are going to be victorious in Christ, then you must don the attire the Lord has provided for you on daily basis. If you want to get the job done in spiritual warfare, you have to dress for spiritual success. You must put on the whole armor of God (v. 11). It is like a young man or woman whose parents have bought him/her school uniform. All that you need to do from Monday to Friday is to put on the uniform. You are to dress up for school. However, God's uniform is to be suited for seven days a week. You are to wear it everyday.
The nature of the armor of God is such that when you put them on you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (v. 11). There is a formidable adversary who seeks to undermine and attack everything we do for and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wants to attack you, your children, your spouse, your marriage, your home, your business, and to make you useless for Christ. Some of you might be saying why do I need this whole armor of God? You need God's armor because the devil isn't one bit scared of you and me. Do you remember when David was going to face Goliath and King Saul offered him his armor. David refused to go in King Saul's battle gear because it was a wrong armor for him. Instead, David went to meet Goliath in the armor of God. What armor have you dressed for success? What armor have you put on as you live the Christian life day and night? The only person who has ever scared the devil is Jesus Christ. Therefore, put on Jesus' outfit and the devil won't be able to hang with you.
There is an important need for your armor. The reason for you to put on God's armor is because you are in an ongoing combat with Satan and his demonic hosts. The reason I have problem with some pastors in Africa and even here in the United States is that they teach Christians to fight the wrong battle. It is always cheap to say your mother is against your marriage, and as such she is responsible for your infertility, your lack of progress in life, and all the problems you are facing. That diverts your focus from the real enemy. Ladies and gentlemen you and I are not fighting people. The worst person in your life is not your problem. That is why Jesus prayed for Peter. If you were Jesus you would not have even be in speaking terms with Peter. You would have sent Peter packing to go home. But Jesus did not do that. He prayed for Peter and told him Satan has desired to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. The person who gives you pain and problems is only a vehicle through which Satan is getting at you. So, don't get sidetracked fighting people. Your enemy, your adversary is the devil. The key phrase in verse 11 is to stand firm. The next question we are to consider is why should you stand firm? There are three reasons.
The first reason you are to stand firm is that you have an enemy. What enables you and I to stand firm is by putting on all the whole armor of God. Satan's attacks come from the unseen realm of the spirit. Therefore, if you don't use God's spiritual weapons to fight your spiritual battle, you are going to war with a toy pistol. Some of the toy pistols some of us use are anger, positive thinking or positive confession. We get mad and turn people off, but anger is a human weapon that doesn't work against a spiritual enemy. Positive thinking or positive confession, naming it and claiming it does not get the job done. Some people also make New Year's resolution only to abandon it during the second or third month of the year. Such toy pistols don't work against Satan. He is too big an opponent for such toy guns. You cannot use human weapons to win a spiritual war. The devil is too crafty for us. He has schemes and devices that we can't even see. We need the armor of God because of the enemy we face.
The second reason we are to stand firm with our armor on is because of the nature of the victory Christ has won for us. Three times the Apostle Paul commands us to stand firm. The term is a military one, which means that you and I are to hold the ground Christ has already won for us. Let me warn you. Paul is not telling us to go and attack the devil as some of the TV preachers teach and preach. The Bible doesn't tell us to attack Satan. It tells us to stand firm. Why are we not to attack Satan? It is because Jesus has already invaded Satan's stronghold and won back the territory Adam lost, and then some more. Therefore, our job is to hold the ground Jesus has won, not to fight to win. Let me remind you again that we are fighting from victory not for victory, because Jesus has already won the victory.
The reason the church has many defeated believers is that they are trying to whip Satan. That means many Christians are fighting the wrong battle. Jesus has already beaten and embarrassed Satan (Col. 2:15). So all we have to do is to stand firm. Christians are like a football team that is leading the opposing team 70-0 in the fourth quarter of the game. When your team is ahead by that many points, winning is no longer the issue. You don't need to score any more points. You are only on the field to prevent the other team from scoring. One of Satan's strategies is to steal the spiritual victory and spiritual blessings you already possess (Eph. 1:3). Would you go out and borrow money when you have a million dollars sitting in your bank account? Would you go out on the street and say, “Buddy, do you have a quarter to spare when your daddy owns it all?” Some believers are walking around like spiritual paupers when Jesus has credited to their account His power and authority. All that you need to do is to appropriate the authority and power Jesus has credited to you.
The third reason we are to stand firm clothed completely in God's armor is because of the evil day. The reason you need the whole armor of God everyday is that you don't know when the evil day will come upon you. A couple of years ago, a police officer was severely wounded in a drug bust because she did not have her bulletproof vest on. Therefore, if you are having a good day, enjoy it because an evil day is coming when your name comes up, so to speak. But as you are enjoying the good day don't put away the armor of God. Don't lose your guard because the adversary is cunning. You and I are to learn from Job when he suffered the horrible losses from Satan, but he stood firm by saying, Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15).
II. THE EQUIPMENT FOR THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE VV. 14-17
I thank God for His word because He does not leave us guessing what we are to wear to battle against the great adversary and his cohorts (Use Russell Crowe's Gladiator for an illustration of a Roman soldier). The first equipment that Paul commands us to put on is the belt of truth. The Roman soldiers wore a long tunic that flowed down to the ground. But when it came time to fight the soldier would pick up the tunic and tucked in his belt so he would have mobility for battle. A Roman soldier also carried his sword on his belt, and his breastplate connected to his belt too. So the belt was indispensable to the soldier's mobility, quickness, and victory. Without his belt a soldier could not keep himself together. Our belt as soldiers of Christ is truth. Truth is foundational to the Christian life. The truth has to do with the revelation of God in Christ and a life of sincerity and integrity. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Him there is no darkness and when the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. Therefore, it is basic that you and I know the truth of God's word, and also apply the truth. We must be honest and truthful in everything we do (Psalm 51:6; Eph. 4:15, 25). When a Christian becomes deceitful, lapse into hypocrisy, resort to intrigue, and scheming he is playing the devil's game, and he cannot beat him at his own game. What Satan hates is transparent truth. He loves darkness, but light causes him to flee.
Truth is under assault today. People say, “I don't want anybody telling me how to live my life.” They don't want objective truth when it comes to the spiritual world. But the amazing thing is that when it comes to other things that matter most, people suddenly want objective truth. For example, nobody wants a surgeon who says in the operating room, “You know, I think this is where I need to cut you. Other doctors have a different opinion about this surgery. No one can really say who is right, so all of us surgeons just cut wherever we think best. Let's try an incision here and see if I'm right.” Is that the kind of doctor you want? Let's say you went to a pharmacist who said, “I can't be sure, but try this medication. Though the pharmacist down the street thinks that this pills would kill you, but who knows? What is right for him is not necessary right for me, try them and let's see what happens. Probably when you leave that pharmacist he would soon hear from your lawyer.
You see truth is the beginning point of authority. The belt of truth holds your life together and protects you from the lies of the evil one. The belt of truth also helps you from replacing God's Word with your feelings. If you want real weapons of authority you are willing to say that if God's Word contradicts the way I feel, then I am wrong but God's Word is right. Satan gets nervous when he sees that you are committed to God's truth, because you have not left him any loopholes he can get through. Satan is having a field day with many Christians today because how they feel is more important to them than what God says. His first temptation in the Garden of Eden was about truth.
The second piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness (v. 14). The Roman soldier's breastplate protected his chest, his heart. What is the best protection for your heart in spiritual warfare? The best protection is to be covered in Christ's righteousness. Many Christians know only half of the truth of their salvation. This is what I mean: when you were saved your sins were forgiven, that is true. However, not only were your sins forgiven but also Christ gave you His perfect righteousness. That is, God credited Christ's perfect righteousness to your spiritual account. So you are righteous today as a Christian because of this transfer. Before you were saved you were spiritually bankrupt; some even had spiritual overdraft. But when Christ saved you, He forgave your debt and also deposited His own spiritual account of righteousness to your account. Therefore, God wants you to live right because of Christ's imputed righteousness in your spiritual account. One reason many believers exercise so little authority in spiritual warfare is that they don't really know who they are in Christ. They have identity crisis like people who have amnesia and can't remember who they are. If you study the writings of the Apostle Paul carefully, he always begins with who you are in Christ before he gets to what you are to do for Christ. You cannot act with authority against Satan until you know what authority you possess. We sometimes act like turkeys instead of soaring like eagles.