AGCC Sun. a.m. 6/2/2002
#6 (SERIES ON THE "CHURCH" FROM THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS)
"THE CHURCH - A SOLDIER"
TEXTS: Ephesians 6:10-24
INTRO: The quality of soldiers and the quality of equipment they use often determine the difference between winning a war and losing one. Could you imagine the United States of America sending into battle the weak and sickly with clubs and sticks to fight a modern well equipped enemy army!!? Yet, how many times does the Church fight with their weakest warriors and without proper equipment? The war against sin is a winnable war; the fight against Satan and his minions is doable and will end in victory IF we properly equip ourselves for battle.
Becoming a Christian and living successfully as one is a battle! We live in days when the forces of evil are growing around the world. Satan knows his end is sooner than ever and his efforts at lashing out against God and His people will only intensify!
ILLUS:The first great communications revolution followed the invention of the printing press. The first thing they printed was the Bible. The second communications revolution was due to the computer, and the first things computed were missile trajectories. You call that progress? You call that "user friendly"? -- Richard L. McCandless in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 1.
Paul explains that the Church is like a soldier. Arrayed for battle and properly equipped she will be victorious. But, we need to take seriously the nature of the battle that we are in, it is a serious battle, and the Church has to be engaged in warfare as a well-equipped soldier!
PROP. SENT: The Church is like a soldier, we live on a battlefield facing an enemy. This warfare is real, and so is the equipment we need to successfully engage the enemy to win. The war is winnable however, and we will triumph in the end!
I. TAKING A STAND! 6:10-13
A. Power 6:10
1. Paul was not writing from a cruise ship, but from prison!
a. You would think Paul was powerless
each day a new soldier arrived and chained himself to the Apostle Paul.
b. Interestingly enough, the armor Paul mentions is in the exact order a Roman soldier put each piece on.
2. Paul was only a prisoner by chains, but he was free spiritually!
a. Paul's power was greater than the soldier he was chained to was, and the battle he was engaged in was more important than the battles the Roman soldier would fight.
b. The greatest battles require the greatest courage and faith
Paul was not afraid.
3. Are you afraid to stand up and fight for God? The greater challenge will require greater courage, but will also mean greater victory!
ILLUS:When Napoleon was an artillery officer at the siege of Toulon, he built a battery in such an exposed position that he was told he would never find men to man it. But Napoleon had a sure instinct for what was required. He put up a sign saying The Battery of Men without Fear, and the battery was always manned. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 41.
4. You will note that Paul does NOT say, "Be strong WITH the Lord
" but "Be strong IN the Lord
a. Our power comes from being IN Christ, and not just our natural abilities.
b. We fight with God's power and not our own.
B. Powers 6:11-13
1. We will "struggle"
but not against flesh and blood!
a. There are real evil powers in this world
and unless someone is completely blind they can see and hear about it everyday on the news!
b. To fight without God's strength is a losing battle.
2. Unless one has the conviction of greater strength and power and of support he will collapse under the weight!
a. It would be a losing battle against such forces if we didn't realize that Christ is fighting with us and for us!
b. Support is critical for soldiers
they need the morale and encouragement of their fellow soldiers also!
ILLUS:I was saddened recently, as you were, to read in a feature story in the newspaper that our casualties in Vietnam were 58,000 dead, but there have been 75,000 Vietnam-veterans' suicides since the war -- more than our casualty list. Who is the enemy? Is it us -- our attitude? I don't know, but there is some enemy out there, stalking our beloved Vietnam veterans. -- Bruce Larson, "When Your Enemy Prospers," Preaching Today, Tape No. 78.
3. The powers we struggle against are real, but they can be defeated if we go in God's strength and with His equipment
and we fight together!
a. Let's make sure we know who and what the enemy is however, so we are not fighting the wrong enemy!
b. Our enemy is not flesh and blood, and we need to be careful how and what we tackle
we are fighting spiritual forces in high places.
c. We cannot afford to be less than fully equipped
we must "take on the full armor of God." - not just part of it.
4. Paul says that a "day of evil comes
" we must be ready!
II. THE STRUGGLE! 6:14-18
A. Prepared 6:14-17
1. You cannot win against Satan and evil if you are not prepared to battle with the proper attire.
a. Paul is clear about the importance of proper armor
basically spiritual in nature.
b. Notice all the verbs for "put on"
an action on our part.
c. Christ may make the equipment available, but we must put it on.
2. It would have been foolish for a soldier of Rome to go into the battlefield improperly dressed, that would have been military suicide!
a. Sometimes we take too lightly the power of the enemy we fight and the need to be properly equipped to deal with him.
b. Too often we joke about "letting our guard down"
this can be serious!
ILLUS:It is startling to think that Satan can actually come into the heart of a man in such close touch with Jesus as Judas was. And more -- he is cunningly trying to do it today. Yet he can get in only through a door opened from the inside. "Every man controls the door of his own life." Satan can't get in without our help. -- S. D. Gordon in The Bent-Knee Time. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 10.
3. Each piece was important, none could be discarded!
a. "Belt of Truth" - this represents integrity, the first piece a soldier put on. The Word as truth is the Sword mentioned later. The "girdle" or "belt" was a hidden undergarment that all the armor pieces fastened onto to hold them together as well as to allow flexibility in battle, this is what integrity does in our life, hidden within, but everything hinges on it!
b. "Breastplate of Righteousness" - Christ's salvation, it covers all the major organs and prevents attacks from back and forward. Salvation covers our "past" (back)
and our "future" (forward). No sneak attack from behind will get us, nor any attack from before us, our life is protected by His righteousness.
c. "Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace" - these were hobnailed sandals worn by Roman soldiers, the nails gave them good footing on rough or sandy ground, made them sure footed. The Gospel gives us our sure footing on rough territory, so we won't stumble and fall.
d. "Shield of Faith" - the "flexible" piece of equipment, can cover any angle of attack. It also was made out of watered saturated leather so the flaming arrows shot would simply go out upon impact. Faith covers all angles of attack; even the fieriest attacks are thwarted with faith!
e. "Helmet of Salvation" - protected the mind, the most important part of the soldier. Salvation protects and purifies our mind so it stays on Christ and His kingdom, "as a man thinketh, so is he!"
f. "Sword of the Spirit" - God's Word, the only piece of equipment mentioned here that is offensive in nature. This is our weapon against Satan! Nothing defeats sin and Satan more than God's Word does -- NOTHING!
ILLUS:The Word of God has a supernatural edge with which a million-dollar budget can never compete. -- Joseph Stowell, Leadership, Vol. 13, no. 2.
4. No soldier in his right mind would enter a battle with a piece missing, what about us?
a. How many times have we fought temptation and sin without faith, without the Word of God directing us, without integrity, without a pure mind, etc.?
b. If we want to win, we must be equipped and at the ready!
B. Prayer 6:18
1. Paul also mentions prayer
this is communication with the commander in chief
something every soldier knows as critical in a battle situation!
a. Prayer is communication
it allows us to share our fears with God, opens us to hear from Him.
b. Prayer is powerful communication and will change us!
ILLUS:In Caribou County, British Columbia, a man was accused of setting a forest fire. Left alone in a room at the police station, he fell to his knees and prayed, "Oh God, please let me get away with it." A closed circuit television camera picked up the prayer. It was ultimately admitted into evidence and used against him. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
2. Prayer is a critical part of spiritual warfare, as well as the important elements at uniting us together for battle.
a. Good communication is always important.
b. We fight more unified when we are communicating together.
III. TOTAL SOLIDARITY! 6:19-24
A. Proclamation 6:19-20
1. Paul now speaks about the importance of proclamation
he asks prayer for boldness to keep proclaiming the truth in spite of the battle.
a. One of our presidents once said, "the first casualty of war is truth!"
b. However, we must be bold to proclaim the truth no matter how unpopular it might seem -- this is part of the battle!
ILLUS:Pastors who give their congregations only what they want are seldom able to lead them to new heights. If Moses had listened to his congregation and appeased them, the people of Israel would have returned to Egypt and bondage. A visionary pastor is one who is able to shake and rattle people for the cause of Christ. -- James A. Scott. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.
2. Truth is strengthened when everyone holds together for it!
a. Paul invites them to join him in preserving and proclaiming the truth of God's Word, to be bold!
b. Paul says that proclaiming the Gospel is EXPECTED from soldiers, notice his words here, "Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
3. Paul calls himself an "ambassador in chains" here.
a. Ambassadors speak for the king or president, their words are his words!
b. They represent the power of the leader they speak for.
c. The message is clear, we speak for God, His authority, His power, His plans, not ours!
B. Partnership 6:21-22
1. Paul does not fight alone
no sane solider would!!
a. Yet, how many Christians today have not partnered with others in their battle against sin and Satan!?
b. Paul sends Tychicus
a fellow soldier to help them since he is in chains.
2. We cannot fight well by ourselves
we need to work together to defeat our enemy!
ILLUS:During Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi war machine was overwhelmed by the Coalition Forces' ability to strike strategic targets with never-seen-before accuracy. Unknown to the Iraqis, the Allied Supreme Command had dropped Special Operations Forces (SOF) deep behind enemy lines. These men provided bombing coordinates for military targets and first-hand reports on the effectiveness of subsequent bombing missions.
To avoid unintended targets, pinpoint bombing was often required. A soldier from a SOF unit standing on the ground would request an aircraft high overhead to drop a laser-guided missile. Using a hand-held laser, the soldier would point at the target. The missile would hone in on the soldier's target for the hit.
In much the same way, the prayers of Christians focus the attention of the spiritual powers on high. -- Steve Schertzinger in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
3. When we look around and see other soldiers fighting alongside us we are encouraged and emboldened to keep fighting.
a. We need each other!
b. We need to be accountable to one another.
c. We need each other's support and encouragement.
d. We MUST NOT fight each other!!!!!
C. Peace! 6:23-24
1. What is the object of war?
a. To defeat the enemy and win the peace!
b. Paul can talk about "peace" here because we will win!
c. Paul talks also about "undying love" because we can't lose!
2. The Church is full of soldiers, fighting a battle against sin and Satan
a winnable war IF we fight with the right equipment.
3. The world can fight its battles for land, for style of government, but the battle we fight is far more important, it is for the soul!
ILLUS:Going to bat in the ninth is nothing compared to praying in an intensive care unit. -- Richard Doebler, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.
4. Who are the winners? Those left standing when the smoke clears! "
and after you have done everything, to stand." 6:13
a. What kind of soldier are you?
b. Are you fighting or letting everyone else do the fighting for you?
c. Are you properly dressed for battle?
CONCLUSION: The winners of any war are the ones left standing! The church is at war with a real enemy. God has made available the right equipment and has empowered us to fight - to stand! It is a war we can and must win! Are you properly "dressed to kill," and do you know who the real enemy is?