AGCC Sun. a.m. 8/22/99



TEXT:     Eph. 6:17b; Matt. 4:1-11; I Tim. 4:13-16


The most powerful weapon man has ever possessed has not been invented in this century, nor has it been invented by man at all! The greatest weapon known to man is the Word of God! Though the Egyptian Pharaohs and their great empires have come and gone, though the mighty Babylonians have long since turned to dust, though the great Persian empire has disappeared and Alexander the Great and his great Greek empire is no longer around, and even the mighty Roman empire has not survived .. the Word of God is still here and going strong as always! ILLUS: Percentage of Americans who own at least five Bibles: 27-- Harper's, 10/95. "To Verify," Leadership. Some of our greatest leaders recognized the power of God's Word: ILLUS: "It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible." -- George Washington "The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life." -- Herbert Hoover "In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it."-- Abraham Lincoln -- As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1993), p. 39. The believer is not without the most effective weapon ever known to man. With God's Word we possess a power greater than the atom bomb, greater than the newest cruise missiles, and more accurate than the best smartest bomb ever made! PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we can defeat Satan and sin in our lives, God's Word provides the necessary resource to live victorious in Christ.

I. POWERFUL SWORD!       Eph. 6:17b; Matt. 4:1-11

A. Temptation     Eph. 6:17b; Matt. 4:1 1. Paul likens the Word of God to a soldier's sword, a very sharp two edged sword used by the Roman military. a. It was the primary weapon of a great Roman soldier. b. It was feared by the enemy 2. The Word of God is like this in the hands and hearts of God's people - Satan fears it, it is the primary weapon in the hands and hearts of a Christian soldier, and Satan fears it tremendously because it has power to destroy him and sin! 3. For a weapon to be useful however the soldier must understand how to use it! a. So many have used the Word of God in the wrong way - it is was not given for information, it was given for transformation! b. A sword has no power if used incorrectly. ILLUS: Whenever the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II was ill, he'd eat a few pages from the Bible. He believed it would restore his health. He died in 1913 after eating the entire book of 2 Kings. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 4. So many today don't find the Word of God that useful or powerful because they fail to understand how to use it properly. a. Too many see the Bible as just a good luck charm, or as an amulet of piety, or as just a symbol of some kind of virtue b. But they fail to let it transform their lifestyle and heart and therefore never come to appreciate its power to change who we are and to give us victory over Satan and sin. 5. Jesus was not exempt from temptation, He faced it just as we do so how did He overcome it? a. Did He use his deity to defeat Satan - NO! - had He, we wouldn't have received much encouragement from His example for we would never have been able to follow it! b. He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted, not by the devil!!!! c. There will be a time of testing in our life how are we going to win this war? B. Tactics!    Matt. 4:2-11 1. Notice what Jesus uses to defeat Satan and each temptation - God's written Word! a. Because He uses something available to us we can take courage to do the same thing as He has done - defeat the devil!!! b. Note too that Satan attempted to use the Scriptures also, but Jesus realized that Satan used them out of context and so could fight him back it is important that we know the Word of God as more than just information. 2. The world cannot understand the importance of God's Word in the daily life of a Christian, to them it is only a book, but to those who are saved we know it as the "bread of life" - it is our source of life and strength. 3. The world can never know the power of God's Word unless they partake of it, it contains spiritual nourishment, not just intellectual excellence. a. All through history those who have rejected God have never understood the value of spiritual things. ILLUS: The Roman general Pompey noticed how the Jews fought to defend their temple. He was anxious to see what was in their most sacred room, the Holy of Holies. He was surprised to see that it was empty. He wondered why they fought so hard to defend an empty room! He didn't understand their concept of a God "eternal, immortal, invisible." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). b. Some things never change with unbelievers they still cannot fathom the significance of the Word of God. 4. Jesus' example here is meant to be a teaching tool for the rest of God's servants we have access to the same weapon to fight Satan and sin. a. Jesus was advertising for all time the way to win the battle .. and the source to use! ILLUS: There is a large baking firm in the south called Sunbeam Bakeries. For many years they erected scores of billboards each Christmas showing a little girl in prayer. The legend read simply, "Not by Bread Alone." The implication was clear. Man is a spiritual being and must have food for his soul. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). b. Shouldn't our lives advertise to those around us also that we have the victory over Satan and sin and that the Word of God is what gives us the power to overcome? c. Do others see our lives advertise this great truth? 5. After defeating Satan and his tricks by the Word of God Jesus is ministered to by God and His angels first comes spiritual food, then the physical. a. Too often Christians today want this order reversed, they want physical blessings first and then they will commit to God their ways for spiritual food - this is backwards! b. Nourish the soul and the body will come along! II. POWERFUL SOLDIER      I Tim. 4:13-16 A. Training!    4:13-14 1. Paul's statements to a frightened young Pastor named Timothy are quite instructive to us: a. Paul's advice to a young man who was often quite timid and fearful - PREACH AND TEACH THE WORD OF GOD! b. In fact, Paul tells him to "DEVOTE" himself to this! c. There is nothing better a pastor can do for his/her Church than preach and teach the Word of God! (1. counseling cannot substitute for it! (2. programs cannot replace it! (3. beautiful buildings won't make up for it! (4. great ministry opportunities can't survive without it! 2. Paul recognizes that the successful pastor and successful Church needs godly training and not from human experts but from a divine resource - The Word of God! 3. No Church, no pastor, no Christian - in fact, no sinner can really find his way to God or through this world as one of God's children without the Word of God! ILLUS: During the early days of World War II, when the Nazis invaded France, French citizens took down all signposts. As the Nazi armies advanced, they didn't know which way to turn or in what direction lay their objective. Does it seem to you that the signposts of life have all been taken down? They were not taken down by us to confuse the enemy; they were taken down by the enemy to confuse us. We don't know which way to turn until we open the Scriptures. The only reliable signposts are there. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 4. This is why any civilization, any individual, any group will lose their way if they neglect the Word of God - and history bears this out! 5. Paul recognizes here in his instructions to Timothy the young pastor what he needs to know to succeed in the ministry and to build up the body of Christ. a. Every congregation should demand to have the Word of God expounded to them! (and make sure their Pastor has both the time and resources to do this!) b. Every pastor should prioritize his ministry schedule for thorough study of God's Word. (and not allow his schedule and demands to distract from this responsibility!) c. Every Christian should recognize the absolute necessity to have God's Word alive in their hearts and minds if they are to successfully walk with God. (and this will require more than just a sermon a week!) 6. There can be no substitute for studying God's Word! a. No Church should be without Sunday School!!! b. No Church should be without Bible study!!! c. No Church should be without a strong pulpit ministry of the Word of God! 7. No experiences, however spiritual, can replace God's Word as the arsenal of weapons against Satan and sin! 8. God's Word is the training grounds for our battles against the enemy. a. Hence Paul's admonition to young Timothy to "not neglect the gift" given him by God when they laid hands on him - what gift was this? b. The gift of anointed preaching of the Word of God - the calling of all ordained ministers! B. Triumph!    4:15-16 1. Paul says here that if Timothy is diligent, and gives himself wholly to the Word of God and preaching and teaching it that it will not only change his life so that all can see his personal progress, but it will save both him and his hearers! a. The weapon of triumph is the Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God; not the political system of our day, not the programs of good will, not the higher education system, not better paying jobs - as good as all these other things may be, they do not save the lost, only God's Word can yield this kind of victory! ILLUS: One of our Assembly of God pastors shared this true story recently, the Church he pastors has near it a strip club with nude dancers. Often he would get calls from other pastors to get a picket line going outside to hopefully close down the immoral place. He thought doing this would only give more advertising to the place on the local media so he felt in his heart a different approach would be better, one from the Bible and not from politics. He approached the Women's Ministry leader in his Church. Here was their plan and what happened: Instead of picketing, they pooled together a significant amount of money and appointed one of the elderly ladies in their group who was full of God's love and His Word to go to the mall and buy some really nice gifts. She would go alone to the strip club one night and approach the dancing girls and offer them a wonderful gift and an expression of God's love, and the message that God really loves these girls as does the women from the Assembly of God Church. The first dancer she approached stood for a moment stunned by this kind gesture and expression of God's love from this saintly lady and fell to the floor weeping. As she was helped up by this godly woman she asked her, "are you an angel?" "Of course I'm not" the saintly lady said, "why would think that?" The dancer explained that she had prepared to kill herself that very night after she had finished her dancing, she was sick of the sin and emptiness but that afternoon she had cried out to God and said, "God if you're real please send me an angel before this night is over to tell me you care - and here you are!" Needless to say this young lady became a Christian, leaving behind her immoral lifestyle. Night after night the Women's ministry of this Assembly of God Church continued this ministry of love and concern sharing both God's love and His Word until nearly all the dancing ladies were saved and the place closed down!! Since that time they have continued this with other strip clubs with similar results. The power of a life transformed by the Word of God can do what no political plan can accomplish! What a sword!!! - Shared by Pastor Dan Betzer, Fort Myers, FL First Assembly of God (8/9/99) b. In the hands of a Christian the Sword of the Spirit can destroy the enemy, or do surgery on the saints for healing, it is a two edged sword! 2. To be powerful soldiers of the cross we must carry a powerful weapon, and there is no weapon greater than the Word of God against Satan and sin. 3. It was the weapon of choice for Paul and the apostles, for Jesus, for the prophets of old, for the saints of the New Testament - dare we do anything without it today? NO! 4. It will save both us and our hearers but we must pick up that sword, learn how to use it, and swing it with skill and strength every time Satan comes around to injure and kill. 5. You will never have the edge in spiritual battle without the sword of the Spirit - do you have it strapped on? ILLUS: Read the Bible. Free gift inside! - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 688-692. CONCLUSION:   The only offensive equipment Paul mentions is the sword - and it is the representation of the Scriptures! We do not fight Satan and sin with our feelings or reason, we fight with the Word of God! The greatest weapon on Earth is NOT an atom bomb or a cruise missile, it is the Word of God! For us to be victorious in this life we must pick up the Sword of the Spirit and know how to use it.