Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pentecost 13 - Proper 17

As Christians we are soldiers, drafted at our baptism to fight in God’s army against a formidable foe. Jesus said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (v.12)

We must never underestimate the strength and tactics of our adversary, the devil. As the father of lies, he leads “spiritual forces of evil,” who are intent on destroying our souls. The devil has a ready ally in our sinful nature with its reliance on the self. But reliance on ourselves, on our strength and resources, will only result in capitulation and eternal defeat. The only way to stand firm in this battle is to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (v.10). God Himself provides us with the equipment we need to be strong in Him. God has equipped you for battle.

1. With the belt of truth.
A. The belt was an essential part of the Roman soldier’s equipment, for it kept the other parts in place and allowed for more freedom of movement. All seven weapons enumerated for defense and offense are supplied by God Himself. Thus the truth of God’s truth in Christ, not our own truthfulness, which may sometimes be mere rationalization, that he devil, the father of lies, can subvert to his own purposes.

B. This is the truth God has made known to us about ourselves and about Christ.

C. The truth about our sin and our Savior helps us “get it all together” against Satan, the father of lies.

D. When Satan accuses us with the truth that we are sinners, we can stand firm with another truth of God – that Christ has saved us from our sins.

2. With the breastplate of righteousness.
A. This is the righteousness of Jesus, which is imputed and attributed to us. This is to be used for defense. Not even the righteous conduct that flows from faith, but rather the righteousness of Christ.

B. Our works of righteousness are like flimsy rags.

C. When Satan reminds us of our unrighteousness, Christ’s righteousness is the breastplate that protects us from despair.

3. With the shoes of peace.
A. A soldier with bare, sore feet is almost immobilized. In our battle against evil we can be immobilized by fear and doubt.

B. The good news of the Gospel’s assurance of peace with God gives us courage to tread on the scorpions of evil because we know God is with us.

4. With the shield of faith.
A. Besides the small circular shield for defense in close combat, there is a large oblong shield that protects the entire person. Faith that clings to Christ makes us partakers of His invulnerability.

B. We have an impenetrable defense against the flaming darts of Satan when he uses sickness, discouragement, and loss to disturb of faith.

5. With the helmet of salvation.
A. Christ has already saved us through His suffering, death and resurrection. In his Salvation we are safe. For our head, the most vulnerable part of our body, the helmet of salvation is our defense. The salvation we have in Christ assures our deliverance from sin and death.

B. As possessors of salvation we are safe; Satan’s blows cannot cause us permanent injury.

6. With the sword of God’s Word.
A. Our offensive weapon is “the sword of the Spirit”. It is the Word of the Lord which is powerful to defeat the forces of evil in this world. Because the Holy Spirit works in the Scriptural Word, that Word is a source of power by which we can drive away Satan-induced bitterness and resentment, anger and despair.

B. When we immerse ourselves in the Word and use it against Satan, Christ Himself is fighting for us.

7. With prayer.
A. The seventh weapon is both offensive and defensive. Prayer in the Spirit, that is, in faith worked by the Spirit is necessary at all times because Christians are engaged in a life-long battle requiring watchfulness and perseverance. Fellow Christians need our prayers, even seemingly strong Christians like the Apostle Paul, so that despite the severity of circumstances, they can stand firm and be good witnesses for the Gospel. Prayer is god’s all encompassing piece of equipment because prayer alerts us to the need for perseverance in the battle and opens the door of the arsenal of all of God’s resources.

B. We pray not only for ourselves but for our fellow Christians that God may equip them to fight the battle well.

If we will use the equipment God Himself supplies, we will be able to stand our ground against the devil’s schemes in very evil day.

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