Battle-Ready

Battle-Ready

Home Church Service 11/13/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

When my family and I meet for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. This message was designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points Paul is making. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

                                                                       Ephesians 6:10–20 (NASB95)

I became involved with the Boy Scouts when I was very young. I began as a Webelo and continued until I was 18. Like every young boy who begins in scouting, I wanted to make it to the top of scouting – Eagle Scout. Well, I made it as far as Life Scout but that’s a story for another day. Getting to the rank of Life Scout took a lot of hard work, but it wasn’t just the hard work that made it possible – it took lots of preparation! After all the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared!”

Now as an adult and especially as a pastor and Christ follower, being prepared has taken on a new importance. While life as a teenager striving towards life’s first major goal was difficult, the things I face today are indeed much weightier than anything I faced working towards my goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. Today, as a pastor and Christ follower, I am much more aware of the spiritual aspect of what I am facing, particularly spiritual warfare. The spiritual warfare we are engaged in calls for being prepared as well and that means having the proper Battle Gear. Then and only then can we become Battle-Ready Christ followers.

Paul reminds the church at Ephesus they are engaged in spiritual warfare. Therefore, they must become a Battle-Ready Christ follower, prepared to fight against spiritual forces of darkness. With all prayer and petition, they pray for all the saints to speak boldly and make known the mystery of the gospel.

As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we are to fight against the forces of evil, standing strong against the deceptions and distractions of the enemy. Our battle gear protects us against any kind of attach from the enemy as we lift one another in prayer, speaking boldly the gospel message – the mystery of Christ.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “Why is it important to be a Battle-Ready Christ follower?”

As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we are able to stand firm and to resist in the evil day.

1). As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we fight a battle of the spiritual kind.

The enemy we face are the rulers, powers and world forces of darkness.

As we come to this final message in Ephesians, we find that Paul is now addressing ALL of his readers. Paul exhorts his readers to “be strong in the Lord in the strength of His might.” Why do we need to be strong in the Lord? Because, as we will see, we are facing an ongoing spiritual battle. What, then, does it mean to be strong in the Lord? In our context here it is best understood as “be made strong, be strengthened.” In other words, this is NOT something we can do on our own. Our strengthening comes from an external source – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The strengthening of His might has already been understood as the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him in the heavenly realm, far above all rule and authority. Now Paul provides the details of the battle and what we need to be successful. Paul tells us what we need to be successful is the full armor of God. The full armor Paul refers to is a complete set of items used for defensive and in some cases, offensive warfare, worn by the heavily armed foot soldier. For the Christ follower, taking on the full armor of God is the same as putting on the new self.

We will examine the details of the armor in just a bit, but for now we need to understand the importance of the armor – that is, to be fully protected in our spiritual battles. Paul highlights the danger and seriousness of the threat we face by strongly emphasizing our need for total dependence on God’s strength. It is important that we understand that this armor we are putting on is God’s very own armor! In fact, some of the weapons we put on can be described as putting on God Himself – this goes back to Paul’s exhortation to be imitators of God.

Our goal for putting on God’s very own armor is to be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. The idea of standing firm means resisting or holding your position against the devil’s attacks. Notice schemes is in the plural suggesting attacks that are constantly repeated or coming in an incalculable variety. This standing firm can also be an offensive thrust against the enemy. The idea here is the heavily armed foot soldier continuing to press the attack against the enemy.

Paul now turns his attention to the main thrust of the Christ followers need for the full armor of God – our battle is NOT against flesh and blood! Once again, we find that we are faced with an enemy of the supernatural variety. Here we are facing the rulers, authorities and powers of darkness at work in this world. These forces are under the influence of Satan, the prince of the power of the air. The Greek word Paul uses to describe our struggle is an athletic term used to describe the sport of wrestling – NO not the production show made for television type of wrestling, but rather, the type of wrestling you might see in the Olympics. This is describing an up close and personal, hand to hand type of military battle.

Our battle is found in the spiritual realm – the heavenly realm. We are not fighting against flesh and blood – the people or even the circumstances surrounding us – but the evil forces behind the actions of flesh and blood or circumstances surrounding us. Oh, certainly the enemy can, will and does stir up people – flesh and blood – to come against us, but the battle is not with the person but the spirit behind the action. So, our harsh words or hurtful actions against those who are stirred up, have little to no affect, other than to cause tension in the body of Christ – which, of course, is the aim of the enemy, cause division among the body!

Here is what we, Christ followers, must remember – these rulers, authorities and powers have already been defeated by Christ Jesus and are being placed in subject to Him as part of God’s plan of salvation in Christ. We face a defeated enemy who is living on borrowed time and knows it! We DO NOT need to WIN the battle for it has already been won. Our is only to stand firm!

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Are you fighting your spiritual battles in the might of God’s strength or your own strength?

How are you standing firm against the schemes of the enemy?

Are you able to recognize when a personal attack is NOT coming from flesh and blood? How?

Are you still trying to win a battle that has already been won or are you standing firm in the victory of Christ?

As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we are able to stand firm and to resist in the evil day.

2). As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we are prepared for any kind of attack from the enemy.

A Battle-Ready Christ follower is covered from the top of their head to the very soles of their feet.

We can now turn our attention to the details of the full armor of God. First, notice that we take up the armor so that we can “resist in the evil day.” We need God’s mighty power that we might, individually and corporately, stand together against the powers of evil. The evil day is the day in which we live, but especially so as we grow closer to the return of Christ. Even though there may appear to be “a lull in the action,” we must remain in full battle gear, for the enemy can and will attack at any time.

The first piece of equipment is the belt of truth. To have “girded your loins” is to have fastened your clothing securely around your waist in preparation for vigorous activity – in this case hand to hand combat! This is first described in Isaiah 11:4-5 in a description of the Messiah. On the well-prepared Roman soldier this belt was hung under the armor to protect the thighs, think of this as more like a leather apron. Next comes the breastplate of righteousness, again coming from Isaiah, this time in 59:17. The Christ follower is now protected with God’s own righteousness against the blows of the enemy.  

The Christ follower must be properly outfitted with the proper footwear. This comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How lovely on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news…” The picture here is a single messenger running along the mountaintops bringing good news to Jerusalem. The properly prepared Roman soldier would have the proper footwear, be it a long march or digging in for an uphill climb or hand to hand combat. Proper footwear is essential, for those who are equipped with God’s armor have their feet fitted, prepared and ready for their spiritual battle.

The gospel of peace refers to the peace brought through Christ. At the death and resurrection of Jesus, people can now be reconciled to God – they can have peace and unrestricted access to the Father. For the first time those who were close – the Jewish people – and those who were far away – the Gentile nations – have been brought together in peace. They now come together to form a new creation, begun by God, in Christ Jesus – they have become the body of Christ. This peace is unlike anything the world can understand or give, for our peace is found only in Christ.

Next, we take up the shield of faith by which we are fully protected from any assault that might be rained down upon us by the enemy. This is the large shield carried by the Roman soldier, covering the entire body of the soldier while in battle. This shield, made of leather, is soaked in water to extinguish any flaming arrows shot by the enemy. When grouped together these shields can be interlocked to form a protective dome over the group when the enemy archers fired their arrows to darken the sky and rain down upon the attacking soldiers. In the Old Testament the shield is a symbol of God protecting His people. To take up the shield of faith is to take up our faith in God to protect us against the onslaught of the enemy.

The final two pieces of equipment that we take up are actively offensive weapons – the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is identified as the word of God. The imagery of the helmet of salvation again comes from Isaiah 59:17 where the warrior wears the helmet of salvation as he saves his people and judges their enemies. Here the helmet itself is salvation and the Christ follower is urged to grab hold as they engage in spiritual warfare. The language of salvation has already been used in chapter 2 where Paul recounts what God has already done for the Christ follower – made alive with Christ and raised up and seated with Christ. The Christ follower has been saved from death, wrath and bondage to sin while being transferred into a new dominion – a dominion under the rule of Christ.

The sword of the Spirit not only allows us to stand firm against the enemy, it also helps us take the fight to the enemy – the powers of darkness.  The sword here refers to the short-handled sword designed for hand-to-hand combat. Here the language indicates that it is the Spirit who makes the sword powerful, making it effective and giving it its cutting edge. This sword is identified as the word of God and in our context, this is the gospel message. Paul here is stressing the actual speaking of the gospel message, which is then powered by the Spirit as it penetrates even the hardest of hearts.

Over this armor is, perhaps, the most lethal of all weapons, though it is not identified as a weapon – prayer. Particularly in sight here is intercessory prayer where all Christ followers are praying for one another at all times. Our prayer is to be very specific and pointed – we are to pray for utterance to be given and boldness to speak what is given and to be alert. The Christ follower prays continually because our spiritual battles are never ending. We pray to stay alert with perseverance that we remain strong as children of light as we await the return of Christ, even in those times of “lulls” in the action. Praying for utterance is praying for the right words to be spoken and that these words be spoken with boldness or clarity as the Christ follower makes known the mystery of Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Are you actively putting on the full armor of God each day? How?

Which piece of armor do you most need this week?

Are you actively praying for yourself to remain alert, to have the words to speak and to speak them with boldness? If not, why?

As a Battle-Ready Christ follower, we are able to stand firm and to resist in the evil day.

I began scouting at a young age, beginning as a Webelo, and working hard to make it to the top of scouting – an Eagle Scout! I only made it as far as Life Scout but even then, it took a lot of hard work and even more preparation. After all, the Scouts motto is “Be Prepared!”

As an adult facing much weightier issues in life, especially as a pastor and Christ follower, I am much more aware of the spiritual aspect of life. The spiritual warfare we face calls for being prepared and that means having the proper Battle Gear.

So, what do we do with this now that we have come to the end of our series in Ephesians? It would be easy to tell you to remember you have been called, sealed, and filled in Christ. But I think we are all at the point of our spiritual journey we understand that. I could remind you that you have been made alive with Christ and you are now seated with Him in the heavenly places. But I think we have all experienced enough battles to know we belong to Christ and the enemy wants to destroy us.

I could remind you of your boldness in Christ and how you have been strengthened in Christ. Then again, we have all come through the storms of life to know we have experienced both of things – far too often if we are being honest. I could tell you that you are to be grace in action as you are living as light. But we all have experiences where people have come to us, to lean on us, as people of faith while they struggle in the midst of a storm.

So, if I could tell you one thing it would be this – you are here – at this time and at this place – because God has been and continues to prepare you for something far bigger than you can imagine. I have no idea what God is doing in each of your lives, but I do know you are here for a reason. God is using all that you have experienced in the past, all that you are experiencing now and all that you will experience in the coming days, weeks and months, to prepare you for your life’s purpose.

Your part in this preparation is very simple and the one thing I want you to take from this series – PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD. This is, perhaps second only to prayer, the most important thing we as Christ followers can do. We must protect ourselves against the lies, deceptions, distractions, and the head-on attacks of the enemy. If you struggle remembering to put on the armor of God, use your morning routine to help. As you slip on your pants you are girding yourself with the truth. As you are putting on your shirt you slip on the breastplate of righteousness. As you slip on your shoes you are preparing your feet with the gospel of peace.

As you look in the mirror remind yourself you are a child of God, and He is your shield of protection. As you are brushing your hair you are putting on the helmet of salvation and God has already saved you from death, wrath, and bondage to sin. As you brush your teeth you are taking the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. It is active and living, sharper than any two-edged sword and never returns to God without first accomplishing His desires. Finally, when you put on your coat or hat, pick up your purse or backpack, whatever you do right before walking out the door, remember to put on prayer and pray for other Christ followers. Start here, in our small group and when it becomes comfortable for you, then widen your circle.

Remember, we DO NOT need to WIN the battle, ours is only to stand firm in the victory of Christ. Never give the enemy more credit than he deserves. The battle has been won, ours is the victory in Christ.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

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