************ Sermon on Ephesians 6:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 5, 2005
"The Armor of God"
I The Christian's Struggle
A We are under attack. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," says Peter (1 Pt 5:8). In our Scripture reading Paul tells us that the devil schemes and struggles against us (vs 11,12) and tries to destroy us with flaming arrows (vs 16).
Have you ever noticed how evil is often advertised as being good? Drug pushers don't say, "Try it! You'll hate it! You will lose control of your mind and body." Rather, they say, "Try it! You'll like it. It will give you a buzz like you've never had before." Advertisements for alcohol don't ever show the wreckage that results from drunk-driving and tobacco advertisements never show a lung-cancer patient gasping for breath and filled with pain. Rather, their advertisements almost always picture handsome men and beautiful women sun-tanning on the beach, skiing down a mountain, sailing a boat, playing tennis. They want us to associate alcohol and tobacco with health, well-being, and fun.
What makes Satan so dangerous is that he is an expert at dressing up evil as good. He started this in the Garden already. He told Eve all the good that results if she would eat the forbidden fruit: "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God" (Gen 3:5). Of course, he doesn't bother to tell her that the result will also be misery, brokenness, disease, death, enmity, struggle. Satan wants to deceive us. He wants us to fall for the falsehood that evil is good. "Lie," says Satan, "and you will protect yourself. If you steal, you'll enrich yourself. If you cheat, you'll get ahead. If you mock somebody, you'll feel better about yourself."
What Satan does with evil he also does with his own person. He disguises himself as an angel of light when in reality he is an angel of darkness (2 Cor 11:14). He and his false prophets dress up in sheep's clothing, while inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Mt 7:15).
We, my brothers and sisters, are under attack by Satan and his legions. And boys and girls and young people, let me tell you, Satan loves to attack Christian kids. Satan's aim is to make us fall, like Eve, for his illusions and lies. He applauds when we fall from one sin into another. He rejoices when marriages split apart, kids get hooked on drugs, churches and neighbors have fights, and ministers are caught in adultery. He loves it when we are no longer faithful, when we ignore the Word of God, when church members fall away from the faith. He is happy when Christian kids call each other names, cheat on tests, and do not obey parents and teachers.
B On our own we cannot stand against Satan. On our own we will fall for Satan's lies, get enmeshed in his schemes, and be pierced by his arrows. When it comes to taking a stand against Satan, our only hope is the Lord. When it comes to our spiritual struggle against evil, our only security and strength and help is the Lord. So Paul says,
(Eph 6:10-11) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (11) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
I remember the time I saw an advertisement in a Christian magazine: "Drive home to your kids the meaning of Ephesians 6. Let them learn firsthand how God protects them from Satan's attacks." The product was everything I suspected it would be. It was an entire suit of armor – made from plastic: the breast-plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, and the shoes of the gospel.
The full armor of God. If only we were to put on what God offers to us, we would be strong in the Lord and we could withstand Satan's attacks. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
II The Necessity of Prayer
A "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (vs 11). How do we do that? How does God's armor become our defense against Satan? Paul tells us in our text:
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. The answer is prayer. We put on the armor, we equip ourselves for battle, through prayer. There is a song we sing which speaks to this:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,In, by, and through prayer God's strength becomes our strength, His power our power. In, by, and through prayer we equip ourselves with the armor of God.
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you,
Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
(old P.H. #467:3)
Let me warn you, my brothers and sisters – spiritual battles await. Satan will choose a season to attack us. Will we be victorious, or will we fall? Much depends on what we do now – before the wars begin. What we must all do is apply the bull-moose principle:
Topic: SatanThe bull-moose principle means that now, right now, before the time of testing, we must be praying, we must be having a time with God. Or else, when Satan attacks us, we will easily go down to defeat. The armor of God must be put on with prayer before it is needed, just like a moose must put on weight and antlers before they are needed.
Title: Spiritual disciplines
Recently National Geographic ran an article about the Alaskan bull moose. The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon, are broken. That ensures defeat.
The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk.
B Prayers have a reason, a purpose. They are meant to strengthen us, to equip us for battle, to enable us to withstand Satan's attacks.
Topic: ExerciseWe have to be careful that our spiritual exercises – Bible study, prayer, worship, reading Christian books, listening to Christian radio and tapes – are also for a purpose and not just for show. Let's make sure that we use our prayer life to put on the full armor of God so that we can with-stand the devil's attacks.
One time on "The Merv Griffin show," the guest was a body builder. During the interview, Merv asked, "Why do you develop those particular muscles?"
The body builder simply stepped forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded.
"What do you use all those muscles for?" Merv asked. Again, the muscular specimen flexed, and biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive proportions.
"But what do you use those muscles for?" Merv persisted. The body builder was bewildered. He didn't have an answer other than to display his well-developed frame.
C I found a short letter this past week. Listen as I read it to you:
Dear Christian:You've had it and I've had it – a day so busy, a schedule so crammed, that you are tempted to skip devotions. But let me tell you, congregation, that when your prayer life slides, your armor becomes dirty and rusty and of little effect. Notice the word "all" in our text:
When you are faced with a busy day, it is okay to save precious time by skipping your devotions.
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Prayer is not something we can ever afford to give up on. It is something we must persevere in at all times and in all occasions. Oh by the way, the letter is signed "Satan." It is Satan who tries to convince you that prayer is not important, that you can let it slide once in a while. He wants this, of course, because then he knows you will fall in the battle.
III Pray in the Spirit
A In our text Paul says, "Pray in the Spirit." Our talks with God, our prayers, are to be "in the Spirit." What does this mean?
Prayer "in the Spirit" is prayer by the Spirit. Paul speaks of this:
(Rom 8:26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. [Part of what I am saying now, I said during our National Day of Prayer service.] The Spirit helps us, the Spirit intercedes for us, because "we do not know what we ought to pray for." In mind here are the many sincere Christians who become tongue tied when it comes to prayer, especially public prayer. These Christians, for some reason or another, are completely at a loss about how to pray or what to pray for.
In mind here are also those times when God's people are confused about what to pray for. I think of the situation many families face with an elderly parent. The parent is full of cancer with no hope of a cure, or is lying there comatose and being tube-fed, or no longer has any control of the mind or body. We know he or she is a child of God. It is hard to know what to pray for in such situations: do we pray for healing, or a painless death? In such situations most families do not know "what we ought to pray for."
The Apostle has in mind more than just being tongue-tied or being confused. He reminds us, perhaps I can say he even warns us, that even in our prayers for material and physical needs we really don't know what we ought to pray for. You see, when we pray for our needs we often run the risk of dictating to God what we think He ought to do; often times we end up praying for what we want or what we think we need instead of for what God knows we need.
B In this weakness the "Spirit himself intercedes for us." The Spirit enters our heart. He sanctifies our prayers so they are fit and proper and worthy of God. In and through and by and because of the Spirit, our heart can talk with God's heart. In and through and by and because of the Spirit our heart's desire becomes the will of God, the glory of God, the praise of God.
What might be the content of such a prayer? What is it that the Spirit puts in our heart to say to God? Don't forget, Paul tells us we are under attack, that we are at war with Satan. So our prayer would be:
Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Deliver us from the evil one.Our prayer would be:
Rule us. Keep Your church strong. Destroy the devil's work. Let us obey You rather than Satan. Uphold us and make us strong so that we may not go down to defeat.
And, when we "pray in the Spirit," our prayer is heard and answered and God gives us His armor. When we "pray in the Spirit," our prayer is heard and answered and we become strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. When we "pray in the Spirit," our prayer is heard and answered and God enables us to stand against the Devil's attacks and schemes and flaming arrows.
Topic: PrayerWhat the fort was to Sir Lawrence, prayer is to the Christian.
Deep in the Arabian desert is a small fortress. It stands silently on the vast expanse of the ageless desert. Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as "Lawrence of Arabia," often used it. Though modest, it was most sufficient. Its primary quality was its security. When under attack, often by superior forces, Lawrence would retreat there. Then the resources of the fortress became his. The food and water stored there were life supporting. The strength of the fortification became his. Sir Lawrence felt confident and secure within its walls. On more than one occasion he had to depend on the fort for safety. He made sure he kept it in a state of repair, so when needed at the moment of attack, he would be safe within its walls.
You see, congregation, we are under attack. Our only hope is to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And this is possible only in and by and through prayer:
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
So I urge you, congregation, to pray in the Spirit. I urge you, to talk to God in prayer. Then God's strength becomes your strength and Satan goes down to defeat.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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