Eph 6:10-13 “You’ll Never Win the Right Battle Fighting the Wrong Enemy”

Posted: August 26, 2012 in Ephesians, Sermon Manuscripts

I found a story on the ‘net last week that read like this: “It was late autumn of 1944 and Germany had been beaten back behind its borders. The Nazi war machine was nearly destroyed. The repeated bombing raids of the Allies all but assured that Hitler’s forces would never rise again. Around the perimeter of Germany’s borders, the Allies spread a thin line of forces. One person observed that Allied forces were so scattered that a man could slip between its lines without being observed.

All across Europe, there was celebration rejoicing in Germany’s defeat. The war was effectively over. The only problem was . . . somebody forgot to tell Germany. Even as his forces were being shattered and driven back, Hitler was devising a plan for one last onslaught. Underground factories churned out more weapons, armament and ammunition. More of Germany’s young and old men were conscripted and trained for war. And as Europe rejoiced, Hitler planned. Hitler’s goal was not to drive back the Allies into the sea, as much as it was to divide the British to the North and Americans to the South, so demoralizing them that they would seek peace on his terms and not theirs.

On Dec. 16, 1944 Hitler’s army began The Ardennes Offensive, also known as The Battle of the Bulge. Over 1,000,000 men fought along an 85 mile front; when the fighting ended Jan. 25, 1945 over 186,000 men died because we forgot that the enemy still lived and that the war was NOT over.”

A powerful story, and a powerful reminder that one of the things we as Christ followers need to recognize is this: though Satan has been defeated and the victory over sin and evil has been won at the Cross, our battle against evil will not be over until one of two things happens- Jesus returns for His bride, which He will one day, or we pass from this life into eternity by way of death. But until one of those happens, the war still rages.

It doesn’t take much effort as we look around us to realize that we live in a hostile and increasingly anti-God environment. Some thirty percent of the internet, almost 1/3, consists of pornography. In 2010 in this country alone there were almost 15,000 murders, 85,000 rape assaults, and 368,000 robberies. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, we’ve lost over 55 million babies in this country. Worldwide, there are an estimated 84 abortions every second.

Suffering exists. Evil is real. The creation is fallen and will remain to be until Jesus remakes it, until He reconciles it all back to Himself and fixes it. Until then, life will not be perfect. We will not live on easy street. Have we been saved from the penalty of sin? Yes! Have we been saved from the power of sin? Absolutely! But we are not yet saved from the total presence of sin, and you need to know today that we are in a battle!

We’re in a battle for our marriages, for our families. We’re in a battle in our education system, in our governments. We’re in a battle today for the youth of this nation, for the freedoms that we once enjoyed. We’re in a battle for our minds, for our hearts. This is why Paul’s closing exhortation in this letter to the Church in Ephesus, after he’s explained our position in Christ, after he’s urged us to imitate God as beloved children, is this in chapter six, verse ten: “finally, be strong.”

Be strong, because you still have obstacles. Be strong, because too many times last week we failed to live in the reality that we are sons and daughters of God. A passive verb in the Greek, what Paul is saying is not “strengthen yourself.” He isn’t saying “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and stay strong.” He isn’t saying “You’re on your own with this one- good luck!” In fact, any idea that we’re capable of anything on our own goes against the grain of everything that Paul has said so far in this letter, because we know that we’re completely and totally reliant upon grace for everything, from believing in Christ as Savior to walking worthy of this calling.

But Paul knows that there are obstacles to our imitation of God. He knows there are obstacles to our walking as beloved children, to living as light. He knows that there are obstacles to our walking in wisdom,walking in the fullness of the spirit. He knows that we’re going to encounter hardships as we seek to love our wives and submit to our husbands. He knows that we’re going to hit snags in our obedience to our parents, in the godly raising of our children. He knows we’re going to mess up and encounter difficulties in our employer/employee relationships, and he knows that we cannot of our own strength overcome these obstacles, and so Paul isn’t saying strengthen yourself, but rather “be strengthened, be made strong.” And then to clarify the source of this strength, he tells us that we are to be strong in Christ, and in the power of His might.

We need to unpack this a little, because if you’re like me, it’s entirely way too easy to let little phrases like this slide across the radar without really understanding them. What Paul is doing is not only telling us to be strong, but he’s reminding us that we can only do so in recognition of our position in Christ.

“In Christ,” is a phrase that Paul used prolifically in the earlier parts of this book.  In fact, Paul alludes to us being in Christ about 8 times in the first 11 verses of this book alone. Perhaps the best verse in which to sum it up is chapter one, verse eleven, which says “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

Let’s walk backwards through that. Paul reminds us, as we see throughout all of Scripture, that God works all things according to the counsel of His will. The Prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 14:27, “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” The Psalmist said in Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.’’

This is what we mean by the sovereignty of God. Nothing holds Him back, nothing limits Him, when our will and God’s will butt heads, God’s will will always win. And the amazing thing is that God willed to obtain for Himself a people, a bride for His Son. Before God breathed creation into existence, He predestined this people to be adopted as sons, as daughters, to receive eternal life with Christ as our inheritance. My salvation, your salvation, the salvation of all who will believe, was settled in eternity past, guaranteed at the Cross, and then applied to us when we trust in Jesus as our Savior.

We are in Christ. He has borne our sins and placed His righteousness upon us. Not because we’ve earned it. Not because we deserve it, but only because God chose to lavish His grace, love, and mercy upon us. Only because Jesus willingly went to the Cross in the place of His people. Only because the Spirit made us alive in Christ.

Paul tells us be strong…but to realize that we can only be strong through Christ. Have strength, but don’t rely upon your own strength, but rather in the strength of the One who died for you. Don’t trust in your own ability to be who God has called you to be. Rather trust that the God who has saved you will strengthen you, protect you, guide you, and lead you.

Right now as you read this we’re on a ball of dirt and water and rock that hangs weightless in space and yet weighs an estimated 6 sextillion pounds, or 6 trillion pounds, one trillion times. Yeah- it’s a crazy heavy mass of earth that’s rotating at just over a thousand miles an hour, traveling at over 66,000 miles an hour in a 585 million mile orbit around the sun, a 11,000 degree star almost a million times larger the earth. Yeah. And the God who spoke this into existence is on your side, if you are in Christ. He is fighting with you- not against you. So stop fighting on your own. Stop living as though you’re alone in this battle, because you’re not.

But we’re in a battle. Make no mistake about that. Paul couldn’t be any more clear as he urges us to “put on the whole armor of God.” Now he’s not saying “take God’s armor off of God and put it on yourself.” Instead he’s telling us that this armor that we need comes from God and God only. Anything you fabricate yourself will only fail you. Yet the interesting thing is that Paul is giving us an imperative command. Quite clearly we are told to put on this armor. Yes, it’s from God. Yes, it’s nothing we can do for ourselves. Yes, our strength can come only from God, but still we have a responsibility before God to put our armor on.

The Greek communicates an idea of finality, a once and for all thing. It’s not like a football game that requires defensive gear for four quarters and then you’re done. It’s a 24/7 way of life. Equally important to having it on constantly is the idea of having all of it. To carry to football analogy a bit further, in 2010 the National Football League recognized the importance of having all of your protective gear on and therefore created a rule that called all plays dead the moment the ball runner loses their helmet. Total protection is vital in our Christian life. We must put on the whole armor.

Why? Because only in doing so are we able to “stand against the schemes of the devil.” You know, there are two extremes in Christianity- there are some who believe that everything in this life that’s evil is a direct result of Satan. “I stubbed my toe and then got mugged. Satan really has it in for me.” And then there are those who feel as though Satan and his angels are powerless, that they have no bearing on our present life as New Testament Christians.  Research conducted by the Barna Group reveals that 40% of self-described Christians agree that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”

Now it’s true that some evilness or bad things happen as a result of living among fallen, sinful people. We were all like that once. And yes, it’s true that even as new creatures in Christ we still have a fallen flesh about us, that we are inwardly tempted to ignore our position in Christ and foolishly pursue things not of God…but it’s also a reality that Satan is still powerful insofar as God allows him to be, and that he and his fellow fallen angels are actively seeking to destroy the Church. As I said before, I don’t think he got the memo that his defeat is a certainty.

Until then, we wage a war not against those around us, not against this fallen world with it’s storms, sicknesses, sorrows, and selfishness, but against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It’s enough that we have a fallen flesh to contend with. It’s worse that there are those in this world who would do evil against us…but on top of that, perhaps driving that, and terrifyingly more difficult, is the reality that Satan and his angels are in opposition to us who have been redeemed by the Son.

I want to be careful not to exceed what the Bible teaches us about our enemy, because quite honestly there’s much I don’t know and sheer conjecture comes too easily. What I do know is that here in Ephesians Paul is describing a host of angelic beings that are numerous. They have control over this evil world in which we live, of which we were once part. They are crafty. There is nothing but grace to stop them right now from whispering thoughts of evilness into your inner ear in a way so subtle that you’d never think the thought came from anywhere but within your own mind. Satan brings accusations against us to God…and he can just as easily bring accusations against God to us. They can make us feel things, to dwell on unhealthy thoughts.

Some demons have powers that others do not. Some are higher ranking than others. Some, if not most, fly and have the power to travel in ways that we cannot. There could be thousands of them, there could be billions. They hate you, and they hate the Lord and Savior you belong to. Don’t think they’re the things of Hollywood that can be defeated by recitation of a prayer or through holy water.

So exactly how is Satan fighting against us? According to Colossians 2:8, by false philosophies, false ideas about Christ. Paul warns us against false ministers in 2 Corinthians 11. There are also false disciples among us wreaking havoc in the church, says Jude. Satan and his angels are active in directing governments, in deceiving us, in persecuting the saints, in keeping us from the work of the ministry, by creating divisions among believers, by planting doubt, by inducing pride, and by creating cults and false religions that will lead souls to Hell.
But it’s not hopeless. We’re not powerless. God is for us. He’s with us. He’s protecting and equipping us. That’s why Paul can offer this simple repetition of verse ten: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

To stand firm. Victorious. Conquerors, through the one who gives us strength. If we have the mindset that God calls us to, we will stand strong through the most vicious of spiritual attacks. In my next post we’re going to see how we can never defeat the right enemy using the wrong weapons, but what we need to wrap our minds around this week is this idea right here that we are all engaged in spiritual warfare, whether we know it or not. And my guess would be that if you don’t know when you’re fighting a battle, you’re probably going to lose it.

I really don’t know what spiritual battles you’re facing right now in your life, but I do know this- successful is guaranteed, but only by using the armor that God provides for us. Envision this with me…imagine what it would look like if we spent the rest of this week seeking God and asking Him to awaken us to the spiritual battle around us. How much different would our marriages look if we quit looking at our spouses as the enemy? What would God do through us if we all begged Him to mold us into soldiers in this fight, rather than passive Christians accomplishing little for the Kingdom? Are you willing to ask God to show you this week your need for His armor? Satan will continue his attacks against the Church. Will you fight against him or sit back and watch?

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