A Call to Christian Warfare (Ephesians Sermon 47 of 54)
August 21, 2016 | Andy Davis
Grace, War Against the Flesh, Warnings, Spiritual Warfare, Judgement Day, Trials, Demons
I believe every Christian on the face of the earth greatly underestimates spiritual warfare, perhaps even infinitely underestimate spiritual warfare. I think all of us do. I think the vast majority of, at least American Christians, are day by day unaware that they're even in a spiritual war. And so I feel like my job today is to, as one Puritan pastor put it centuries ago, to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.
And so, I think about my home state Massachusetts, one of the heroes there is Paul Revere, and you think about that story, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. April 18, 1775, he was roused from his bed, was told that the redcoats are on the move that very night, found out that it was going to be by sea, he went, escaped from some British pickets and then rode out to Lexington and conquered to warn the slumbering countryside, a Middlesex County there that the redcoats were coming, the British were coming. And you picture in your mind the militia being roused from their beds and getting their weapons and going out to the green there in Lexington and then to the bridge it conquered, and getting ready to fight. And so, I feel like this text is going to do that. I pray that this text will do that, kind of run roughshod through our complacency and rouse us from our beds of ease and comfort, as the book of Amos says, "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion," that we would not be complacent, that we will be roused to vigorous, attentive fighting in the spiritual realm.
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament, I've quoted it many times from the pulpit is the story of Elisha with his servant, and the Aramean troops surrounding the city. I've quoted even quite recently, and how Elisha prayed, "Oh Lord, open his eyes. There are more for us than there are for them." And so, the servant was enabled to see in the spiritual realm the chariots of fire, the angelic army that was surrounding to defend and protect Elisha. Well, I have maybe a bit of an opposite mission. I want you to have your eyes open to see the spiritual forces of evil that are arrayed against you without neglecting the fact that there's an angelic army or the sovereign power of God, but that you be aware of “the rulers and the authorities and the powers of this present darkness,” and that you would see into the spiritual realm. And you're only going to do that by faith, you're only going to be aware of your danger by faith in the word of God. So we're coming to Ephesians 6:10-18, the whole section on spiritual warfare, and my desire is that you would be aroused and aware that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened so that you could see spiritual danger, and then take the precautions the Lord wants you to take.
I feel like many of us Western Christians, American Christians, we fall prey to what one missiologist called, “the Flaw of the Excluded Middle.” And the idea here is that we Christians believe in the most high God, creator of the ends of the earth, and also in His own son, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, and our prayers go up to the throne of God, and we have that sense of the loftiness, and the grandeur, and the greatness of God. Amen. And then we see the physical world around us that operates by physical scientific laws, and we're familiar with that, and we operate in that realm, and we've increased in the last 200 years of our scientific awareness of the principles by which this physical world is governed, we're more and more aware of that. But we've excluded the middle realm of angels and demons. We're like practical atheists when it comes to those things. We're like materialists, or deists, who act like it doesn't even matter, and we're not aware of the kind of danger that we're in all the time from the devil, and from demons, from demonic influence. And it seems like this text for us is a major wake-up call that we would be aware of what kind of enemies are opposing you every step of the way.
We're not aware of his moment by moment activity. You never think that if you're sick, it might be a satanic attack. You're not aware that if something breaks down or something happens, you just think materially what would it take to get fixed and you wouldn't be aware of the fact that it might be a satanic attack on your life. Or that when you're in a conflict, like you married folks occasionally get into marital discussions from time to time with one another, and in the course of that discussion something pops in your head that if you said it you'd spend months living it down. And perhaps some of you husbands have actually said it. Only the husbands now. Say that thing, and then how do you un-explain, and then, what's so amazing, it's like I don't even think that's true. I would never want to say that to my beloved wife. Where did that come from? I know where it came from. 2 Timothy 2 says that the devil can take us captive to do his will, and so that we actually even as Christians, we can sometimes do the work of the devil, we just need to be more aware of the invisible spiritual realm.
A few nights ago I was watching with my kids, the movie, The Hobbit, probably some of you have seen it, the Tolkien thing. I don't know how in the world they got three movies out of a 250 page book, but you have to do what you have to do. But at any rate, that first movie, in that movie, this Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins finds this magic ring, this powerful ring that enables him to turn invisible. And he finds its previous owner, Gollum, is a wicked, vile creature who just lives for lust of this ring, loves it, lost it, is looking for it, and Bilbo has it. He doesn't know it's power but somehow he comes to put it on and goes invisible, and this nasty creature is blocking his way out of the cave system. And there's this very poignant thing in the movie where Bilbo, invisible, has his sword laying right at the neck of Gollum, ready to kill him. And I was like, "Wow." But Bilbo has a good heart, he's got a merciful heart, and he doesn't want to kill him, and so he doesn't kill him, pulls the sword back and jumps over him and escapes. Turn it around. Imagine the most vile, wicked creature you can imagine. Worse than any human tyrant that's ever lived, worse than Hitler, worse than Stalin, worse than all of them. With his sort of spiritual lies laying at your spiritual neck, and zero mercy in his heart. That's the picture that I have of spiritual warfare. And the word of God has come to be a light shining in a dark place to show us the truth, so that we're aware of the kind of enemy that we have, and that we will fight.
And so, look at the text again verses 10-13. It says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil schemes for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, or we wrestle 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. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you've done everything to stand, stand firm then." And he goes on from there.
Our Spiritual Warfare is Real
So I want to begin by saying our spiritual warfare is real. There's a real war going on, a spiritual war. We have a struggle, we wrestle. Look at verse 12, "Our struggle..." NIV says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood." A more literalistic translation, “we wrestle.” We have a wrestling. It mentions later in the text. There's this day of evil that's on us, and so we have this struggle, this fight. So if you're a Christian, you are at war. War is upon you, and you need to know it, you need to be aware. You have a violent, a vigorous enemy that's against you. And so, we wrestle. KJV, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, [or this present darkness,] and against spiritual wickedness in high places [or in spiritual places.]"
So you picture a vicious hand-to-hand combat and two soldiers with knives, and they're rolling on the ground, and they're grabbing at each other's clothes, and sweat coming down their face. It's war, and they intend to kill each other. There can be no truce, no peace between the two. One or both of them will end that struggle dead. And that's the picture that we have in the scripture. The word of God alone has the power to teach us the reality of this spiritual warfare. You can't find it in a laboratory, you're not going to be able to come up with an experiment that will prove that it exists. It's the word of God that tells us what's happening to us, what's going on. We're told in 1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith." So there's a war that we have to fight.
The “Spiritual” Nature of this Warfare
Now, this warfare is spiritual. It's a spiritual war. It's not physical. It's fought in the spiritual realm. He talks about how our struggle is, “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and spiritual force of evil in the heavenly realms, that spiritual language.” We have spiritual enemies.
Now, Paul makes an amazing negation or an amazing assertion in the negative. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that is to say not against human beings, but Paul is not denying the reality of human opposition to the Kingdom of God. He's not saying, "You will never have a human enemy." I would imagine none of you will have as many human enemies as the apostle Paul did. I mean, committed, dedicated, murderous enemies who hated Paul. Paul struggled mightily against the Jewish leaders of his nation who didn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and they felt motivated to do everything they could to shut down the sect of the Nazarenes of Jesus of Nazareth, that shut it down. Paul had been one of them. And when he turned and became a servant of Jesus, they became his mortal enemies. And then even in Greece, they're going from town to town to persecute him and arrest him and stir up riots against him.
And speaking of riots, in Ephesus, he had Gentile enemies too like Demetrius who made shrines to Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. Losing money, comes after Paul vigorously.Sso much so that a riot starts for two hours as they're shouting, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians." They would have killed Paul on the spot if they could. And the Romans, to some degree, were Paul's enemies. In the end, Caesar executed him, cut off his head. They were holding him, and they incarcerated. So Paul knew very well that he had vigorous human, flesh and blood enemies. But he also knew that there is no human enemy so depraved, so wicked, so violent that they're beyond the sovereign grace of God to save. Even the bitterest enemy breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples can be converted in an instant like Paul was. He knew that.
Satan is Behind the Enemies of the Cross
So what is he saying when he says our struggle is not against flesh and blood? We want to stick in some extra words maybe. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the Scripture, but my understanding just through exegesis, “Our struggle is not only against flesh and blood.” Or even better, “our struggle is not ultimately against flesh and blood.” Behind every seething hate-filled enemy of the cross, there is a demonic, even a Satanic presence. That's what he's saying. So as we look at at our world, and we see who they are, who are the human enemies. And you may talk about ideological enemies, gay rights activists, abortion rights activists. Talk about Islamic terrorists, ISIS, people that behead Christians. Talk about atheistic, materialistic, scientific professor types that are hostile to your faith in the classroom, or other students who are like that. Behind every racist, behind every materialist, every atheist, behind all of that is a demonic, satanic world system of lies, and a spiritual presence. That's what he's saying.
Now, what is the spiritual warfare that we're talking about? Later in the chapter, Paul's going to talk about the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. So I hope you knew we weren't going through the entire spiritual armor today. Piece by piece. Maybe four sermons, maybe five, probably not 40. Okay? But a good number on spiritual warfare. So we're just getting going. So say, "Oh, God, give me strength and patience." But yeah, there are these flaming arrows that the shield of faith can extinguish. Faith operates in the invisible spiritual world, the shield of faith. And so these flaming arrows, shot at us by the devil, are invisible.
Defending Against Satan’s Weapons
What are they? They have to do with truths or really lies on his part, contradiction of biblical truth. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, you can turn there if you'd like and look there or put your finger in Ephesians and look at it. But this is a very important passage. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. And there the Apostle Paul says this, "Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." If you just walk through that you get a sense of the nature of spiritual warfare. What are we talking about? I think one of the keywords there is the word "arguments." Paul says, "We demolish arguments." What are arguments? Arguments are not like having an argument, not like that. Arguments are like the closing argument in a law case. They are rational. They are organized. They are thoughts and concepts and the idea of, supposedly of truth. Satan makes lying arguments against every doctrine in the Bible. And we have the power to demolish those arguments, to blow them up.
We don't blow people up like the terrorists do. We blow up arguments and concepts. We blow up ideas. We refute the sword of the lies of the devil. As he swings his sword of lies, we meet it with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And it blocks it. We have the power to refute, to demolish satanic arguments, the cults, the false doctrines, the false religions, the false philosophies of this world, and the temptations that come. We're going to take captive in this warfare every thought and drag that thought obedient to Christ like it's in chains. We fight a mental, spiritual, conceptual battle. That's what we're fighting.
So the devil is a liar. And he tries to use lies to manipulate our feelings and our senses. He stimulates lusts. He stimulates doubts and fears and depression. I honestly believe every spiritual depression is demonic, all of them, not some of them, all of them. I'm not denying that there's physiological side, but Satan has some access physiologically too. They're all of them should have to be fought in this way. And so, Satan comes at us. In all of this, Satan and his demons have the power to insinuate thoughts into your mind. Think about that. I mean it's. I think it's creepy, but it's true. Satan can put thoughts in your mind. Now he can't trigger your volition. He can't make you will, but he can tempt you and allure you with concepts. We'll talk more about it next week, but he's just constantly pushing. And you can't see it, but you can feel it.
Assaulted from All Angles
It's to me like air pressure, 14.7 pounds per square inch of air pressure pushing on every square inch of your body all the time. You're just used to it. It's all you've ever known. The only time you really notice it is like when you're on an airplane taking off in your ears start to pop because the cabin pressure is stabilizing. So you're chewing gum or whatever. You have an ear infection, it's awful. But you didn't even notice it. You didn't even feel it. It's just the world you live in. It's like, does a fish know it's wet? Does a lost person know they're in darkness? Do we know that we're surrounded by a dark world? Are we aware? I think if the Lord wills to take away all demonic influence from you for 24 hours in which the devil could have literally no approach to you at all, not physically, not mentally, not in your feelings, not in your thoughts, none. I wonder if that day might be like the closest to Heaven on Earth you've ever felt in your life because that pressure would be removed. And you would be almost giddy with joy and peace as a Christian I mean. I mean, just so confident, so happy, so elated. Friends look forward to an eternity of days like that in Heaven, Amen. I'm just looking forward to that. But all I'm saying is that that's not happened. And we have this pressure, constant pressure. He's called the “power of the air, the kingdom of the air. And so he's pressing on us all the time.”
Our Spiritual Enemy is Relentless
Your Enemy, the Devil
And our spiritual enemy is relentless. He never stops. We have a spiritual enemy. Look at verse 11: "Put on the full armor of God." Sorry, I'm back in Ephesians 6. "Put on the full armor of God. So you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” So we have an enemy who makes schemes. That's what the verse says in verse 11. He has schemes. And it's really terrifying, but here's the truth. Just as you have a personal Savior, you also have a personal enemy. You have, if you're a Christian, you have a savior, His name is Jesus Christ. But 1st Peter 5:8 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith." So, you have an enemy, the devil, and that's terrifying. What it means is, I think, that the demonic realm has demons assigned to each one of us as believers, who study us and know our weakness and come after us all the time in our weak areas. All the time, and it's relentless.
Jesus Crushed Satan
Jesus Christ fought the devil every day of his life, all of his life. I believe Revelation 12 makes it plain that that ancient serpent, the dragon, Satan, was ready to devour the male child, the moment He was born. And what happened, you remember what happened? King Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem and its vicinity to kill all the boy babies that were two years old and under. That was a direct demonic, a satanic attack, seeking for Jesus. But the Lord had sent an angel to warn Joseph in a dream. That proves angels can speak into our brains. And the angel spoke and warned him, "Get up and flee, go to Egypt," because Herod is going to search for the child to try to kill him. And so Joseph took the warning from the angel, that was insinuated in his mind, and he ran, and he got Jesus out of there. But that, I think, it was a demonic attack on Jesus. And then, when Jesus began his public ministry, right at the start of his ministry, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil, for 40 days. We're going to talk more about that in future weeks, God willing. But the Holy Spirit led him, and the devil tempted him. And, when the devil was done, he left him till an opportune time. I'll talk more about that in a minute.
Satan fought Jesus every step of his way, and Jesus opposed and advanced his kingdom by means of driving out demons, the kingdom of God advancing. It was a battle of light and darkness. Satan mysteriously tempted Jesus through Peter, when Peter took Jesus aside. When he said, "I'm going to be crucified," he said, "Never, Lord, this will never happen to you," He said, "Get behind me, Satan. You're a stumbling block to me." But, strangely, at the end of his life, at the Last Supper, Satan entered into Judas to go and betray Jesus to his death. So, honestly, Satan didn't know what to do with Jesus, we can talk about that another time. He's like, tempting him, "yes" to the cross, "no" to the cross, which is it? But, ultimately, Satan was there fighting Jesus every step of the way. And at the cross we're told in Hebrews, chapter 2, and this is so vital for us. Jesus, by his death, Hebrews 2:14-15, “destroyed him who holds the power of death, that is the devil. And freed those who, all their lives, were held in slavery by their fear of death. Jesus set the prisoners free, He crushed Satan at the cross.” So, Satan is a defeated foe, but he's still alive, he's still roaming the earth, and he's still dangerous.
The Devil’s Defeat: Past, Present Future
So, who is the devil? What are we talking about? The devil is a created being, an evil angel, I guess we could think of it that way, created by God. It's debatable, but I think so, the most powerful, the most glorious, the most capable of all of his created beings. Seems that way, anyway. He, Satan, according to Ezekiel and Isaiah, became enamored with his own beauty and his own power, and sought ascendancy in heaven, sought to take God's throne from him, not realizing the infinite gap between creator and creature. Infinite gap. He tried to topple God from his throne. Michael, the good angel, and his good angels, fought against the devil and his angels. He apparently, it seems, was able to co-opt, to persuade one-third of all the angels to follow him in his rebellion. Michael defeated him, Revelation 12, he was thrown to the earth, and now he's doing all his damage here on earth.
Then, in the next moment in redemptive history, the next main thing in redemptive history, he co-opted a serpent, and came and approached Adam and Eve through a talking snake, the deceiver that he is. And he led Adam, and through Adam, the whole human race, into joining Satan's rebellion against God. And in us joining Satan's rebellion against God, we also took on his wrath and condemnation, as it says in Matthew 25, in the sheep and the goats, the Lord will say, on that final day, to all those that have not been redeemed through faith in Christ, "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." He's not in Hell, now. Hell is his punishment, talking about Satan.
But at the garden, God also judged the serpent, gave a prophecy to the serpent, this is God being more clever than Satan. "Okay, you're going to come in in disguise, I'll talk to you through your disguise. I'll talk to the serpent. I'll put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed." “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” So, the clear prediction there of the coming destruction of Satan's kingdom. Now, the word "Satan" itself means "accuser." He is the enemy of the people of God, and has fought God's people for 20 centuries, every generation Satan fights God's people.
The Satanic World System
He's pictured as a dragon, you think of a flying, fire-breathing dragon, but it's just a metaphor for his deadly power. Actually, he usually masquerades as an angel of light. Sweet, alluring, beautiful, enticing, clever, appealing. And in this way, he comes through cults and false teachers and others who masquerade as servants of righteousness, but they're really not. And this is how he does his damage. He crafted, if you can believe this, every world system that is anti-Christian, every world system that's against Christianity, he crafted it. All of its various snares and traps and lures, the world and its system, every false religion, every atheistic philosophy, he created it. He's exceptionally devious, intelligent. His power is vastly greater than ours, that's Satan. But he's not alone. As I said, one third of the angels fell with him, we call them demons. And they're mentioned in the text, looking in at verse 12, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against... " Now, these words are plural, "against the rulers," plural, "against the authorities," plural, "against the spiritual forces... " plural, "of evil in the heavenly realms." So there's this array of demonic opposition to the Church of Christ.
It's a vast, dark, organized kingdom. The Scriptures speaks of the devil's authority and the rulers' authorities and all that. They have powerful positions. So much so, that in Jude and 2 Peter, we're told as believers we are not to deal with the devil. We're not like hunting the devil down and going after the devil. No, the devil will come after you. Be fruitful. Lead people to Christ. Speak the truth. The devil will find you. He's already after you anyway. We're not going to hunt the devil. Actually, even the Archangel Michael only said, "The Lord rebuke you." He's not getting in a debate with the devil. You'll lose. Just, "The Lord rebuke you. I'm here to do a job. I'm here to bury Moses." That was what Michael was doing at that point. We're here to preach the Gospel. We're trying to advance the Kingdom of God, but that's the devil in it. And it speaks of the demons as powers of this present darkness. Satan is called the “god of this age,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. “The ruler of the kingdom of the air,” Ephesians 2:2. Demons are everywhere. I don't personally think that I've ever gotten up on Satan's radar screen. I think I'm too small for that. I'm a small fry. I don't make Satan omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He's a created being. He moves fast, but he's dealing with big stuff. But he's delegated parts of his kingdom to me and to you. And so, to some degree, you're dealing with demons. You're dealing with Satan and his kingdom.
The Devil’s Powers
Now, he has powers. Look what it says in verse 11: "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Now, when you think of a scheme, what do you think of? I think of like the Ponzi scheme. You think about some of these money-making things that bilk people, investors out. I think of an intelligent malevolent, twisted plot, don't you? When I think of a scheme, a stratagem. Alright. So the devil is intelligent. I think of a combination of poker and chess and boxing. I mean, it's kind of weird, isn't it? Can you imagine combining those? I actually think there was a biathlon of chess and boxing a number of years ago. I don't know if they're still doing it. So they would fight. They'd fight around, and play chess, and then fight, and chess, and fight, and chess. Isn't that weird? I guess they took off their gloves, but fight and chess. But also poker where there's bluffing going on, and basically lying and deceiving going on. That's the mix. So a combination of a left, couple of rights, a left, and you're down on the mat. So I get that sense of that malevolence, that evil allure. It says in 2 Corinthians 2:11: "In order that Satan might not outwit us, we're not unaware of his schemes." He uses that same idea. Satan crafts, allures by intelligence. Think of the brilliance of Satan's mind to come up with Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism, pagan religions, animism, materialistic atheism, Christ-rejecting Judaism. He's able to take a God-given religion that should have moved on into the New Covenant and shut it down and maintain the old covenant as long as they could, and then reject that whole thing, Paul says of the Judaizers that their religion is not much different than paganism at that point. Satan was able to do that.
Think of how clever he is to stimulate some people toward sins like homosexuality and then stimulate others to brutalize and attack them because they're gays like the Nazis did. He's behind both sides. Just like I think he was behind the Nazis and the Soviet army that fought in World War II, both sides, demonic all across, murdering everybody on both sides. That's just how intelligent he is. His dark genius is seen, and he sows division, especially within local churches. There is nothing I think more terrifying to Satan and his kingdom than a healthy local church. It is a terrifying weapon. It's more dangerous to him than any individual talented person, who's got a position for working for a magazine or working for CNN or whatever. Those folks have great ministries and can have an influence. But an organized, healthy, Gospel-preaching, advancing local church is a terror to him. So he will fight in healthy local churches like this one and seek to divide it and cause there to be factions and divisions within it, and cause people within the church to go after godly pastors or elders or go after different things and create and sow factions and divisions, as could happen in our church.
Some geographical regions seem especially saturated with satanic influence. Revelation 2:13, Jesus said to the church at Pergamum, "I know where you live, where Satan has his throne." There's a focus of satanic activity. And he's able to attack us. He has the power, according to the Book of Job, to steal our possessions, to bring about natural disasters. Job lost every possession he had, his camels, his donkeys, his livestock, his servants. He even lost his children, seven sons and three daughters in one day. He has the power to hurt us physically, even to kill us. "He was a murderer from the beginning," Jesus said. But especially he kills our souls through lies, and he brings on us temptations. He's able to stimulate us.
How Satan Tempts Us
Thomas Brooks in the 17th century wrote a book called 'Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices,' powerful book. You ought to get hold of it and look at it. And he just talks about different ways that Satan tempts us. Like one of the things Satan does is he presents the bait and hides the hook, right? So I think about David and Bathsheba, right? And so he's out there on his roof looking and he sees the bait, but he doesn't see what's going to happen, what his life is going to be like afterwards. He hides the hook. He's able to do that. He's very skillful at doing that. He's able to paint sin with virtue's colors, so that sin looks actually virtuous, and morality looks not so virtuous. He's doing that in our culture today. Satan actually minimizes sin. He makes very little of it, making it appear minor and insignificant. He can twist our view of God, making us forget before we've committed the sin that our God is a consuming fire. And then making us forget after we've committed sin that our God is the Father of the prodigal son and welcomes penitent sinners back in the name of Jesus. He twists our perceptions of God, he's able to do that. He's able to persuade us that repentance will be easy later on, that the sin isn't that costly, it's not that big a deal and that you can always repent later, forgetting the hardness of heart that sin produces.
Satan makes the soul bold to venture into tempting situations. “I can handle that,” although Jesus said in the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." By the way, that's the correct translation. Not "deliver us, generally, from evil." Deliver us from the evil one. But we think we can handle it. We get into tempting situations. Satan makes much of happy, apparently happy sinners who haven't yet repented. The prosperity of the wicked, so that we forget the darker side, or the future of what's going to happen. Satan persuades sinners that there are a lot worse sinners than they are. And he works to discourage us from holy duties. He presents to the soul a twisted view of the difficulties, crosses, afflictions and troubles of serving Christ. How hard it's going to be. He makes us bored and weary of godly duties. Like getting up for a quiet time or listening to sermons. He persuades us that holy duties will not make us better, they're going to actually be ineffective in fighting sin. He's able to make us distracted and mentally weak in prayer.
Not only does he tempt us, though. He also accuses us of the sin after we've committed it. In this way, he is the greatest spiritual hypocrite there has ever been or will be. He is the most wicked being there is, but then he gets all righteous and accuses us of sin. How can that be? He seeks to manipulate God, to use God's holiness and God's Law against God's people. He is the “accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before our God,” listen to this, “day and night.” Revelation 12:10. And he causes sinning Christians to despair of mercy and grace as though God can never win them back. He does all of this and he orchestrates persecutions. Satan's behind ISIS. Satan's behind communist governments that use their position to shut down the Gospel as best as they can. He's behind any anti-Christian elements in our government. Satan's behind all of it.
The Devil’s Limitations
But the devil is on a chain, amen? He's limited. He's restrained. As powerful as he is, he is infinitely below God. This is not dualism, the yin and yang. You've got Satan as the yin and God as the yang. It's not like that at all. Satan continues to exist only because God allows him to continue to exist. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” At any point, God could pull the plug on Satan's very existence. Now you may ask, "Why doesn't He do it, then?" Because Satan is actually serving God's purpose in this world. Part of it is to the Church, He wants you to learn how to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. He wants you to get strong. He wants you to use your faith. He wants you to rise up like Jesus and fight like Him and do great deeds of valor in His name. He wants you to be strong. And so, Satan is the foil against which you will be courageous and strong and bold. God is using Satan. But in Job 1 and 2, Satan has to ask permission to get at Job. Complains about the hedge He's put around Job and all of his possessions. It says in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:13, "God is faithful, and will not allow you, [will not permit you,] to be tempted beyond what you can bear." There's Satan's leash. “But with the temptation, He will make a way of escape so you can stand up under it.” Praise God.
Our Spiritual Determination is Required
God is Always Present
And so, the Lord is on us, strengthening us and helping us. I was talking to somebody recently like, "Does God just let us fight on our own?" Does He just say, "Alright, here's your spiritual armor. Put it on. Hope it goes well for you. I'm busy doing other things?" Not at all. That's, again, that deistic view. God is so on top of every moment of your spiritual struggle, more than you can possibly imagine. “With the Lord, one day is like a 1000 years.” He is filtering and chaining Satan and resisting at every moment, but allowing some things through so that you can be strengthened and you can fight with your spiritual armor on. He is filtering at every moment.
And so, we're told in James 4:7, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Friends, he's not fleeing from you. He's fleeing from the power of God around you and behind you. Now, the devil is a defeated foe. He was defeated in the past by Michael and his angels. He was defeated at the cross and the empty tomb by Jesus. Couldn't stop the cross. Couldn't stop the resurrection. He was crushed. And God has willed a slow death for Satan's kingdom. It's been going on 20 centuries. Slow death.
And so, Jesus said, "I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." So He is slowly, gradually, taking dark territory back from Satan. One living stone at a time. We are scaling the walls of Satan's dark kingdom. It's kind of cool. I think of myself like a spiritual ninja. It's so exciting. And we scale the walls and we're going in the dark kingdom. And we are rescuing sinners. We're seeing chains fall off and people rescued. And there's nothing he can do to stop us. It's been going on for 20 centuries. All of the elect, all of them will come to faith in Christ, and Jesus will raise them up on the last day. None of them will be missing, and it's awesome. And so, little by little the God of peace is crushing Satan under our marching feet. It's awesome. So, that's the devil's past, present, and future defeat is coming at the second coming of Christ, when the Lord comes with the armies of Heaven and with the sword of truth coming out of His mouth. And He will consign, finally, the devil and his angels, to Hell, where they will be forever and ever in torment. That's the future. And so, he knows that his time is short.
Alright, now, what are the actual commands given here? And like I said, we're just beginning to look at this week, but there are three commands given here. Look at verse 10 and following, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." So verses 10 and 11 has three basic commands to you in terms of spiritual warfare. Command number one, “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Command number two, “put on the full armor of God.” And command number three, “take your stand,” or “stand your ground,” which he says four times in these verses. So be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, and then stand your ground.
Be Strong in the Lord
So, let's talk about them briefly, and we'll talk more next week. First, what does it mean to be strong in the Lord? What it means is you cannot, you must not, try to fight on your own. When the devil comes you've got to run to Jesus, get close to Christ. See all of your fighting as with Him and close to Jesus and empowered by Him. Not away, like "Look, Jesus. Look what I can do." “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing.” You draw close to Him. Well, who is He? He is the omnipotent God of the universe. He's the God of Isaiah 40, who sits enthroned above the nations. And “all the people are like grasshoppers, are like dust on the scales, they are like a drop from the bucket.” That's the omnipotence of God. Infinitely powerful compared to Satan. “Be strong in His mighty power,” in His omnipotence.
Do you realize nothing difficult for Jesus? What would you think would happen if you said to Jesus, "Which is harder, to cure a blind man or a deaf man?" What do you think He'd say? I think He'd say, "No, but trust in me." Something like that. Something that make you scratch your head and say, "Okay, what is that? What did He say?" Nothing's particularly difficult. Do you think it was particularly difficult to save Saul of Tarsus? The language means nothing when you're talking about omnipotence. There's nothing particularly difficult for omnipotence. And so, draw close to Jesus, the omnipotent one. Draw close to Him, the undefeated one. He defeated all of Satan's temptations. Get close to Him. “Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.” Find out how powerful He can and will be through you. Find out. Again, we're going to look at each of these elements of the spiritual armor, but they relate to your salvation. Think of who you are in Jesus, how righteous you are in Him with imputed righteousness. How secure and strong you are in the Gospel, with your feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. How at peace God is with you. How secure you are with the helmet of salvation on. How saved you are and will be. That's the strength of the Lord. There's nothing Satan can do. His mighty power.
I love Isaiah 40:28 and following, it says, "Do you not know? Have you not heard the Lord is the creator of the ends of the Earth? He will not get tired or weary. His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." Think about that. Don't you get tired when tempted? I do. I mean, you're resisting, resisting and it just doesn't seem to abate. And it gets wearying to fight for holiness. So be strong in the Lord. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. “Even youths grow weary and stumble and young men stumble and fall, but those who wait on the Lord, will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary and walk and not faint.” And then put on the full armor of God. We're going to talk about that beginning next week, God willing. And then finally stand firm. Stand firm. Stand firm.
Verse 11, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand.” Stand against the devil's schemes. Verse 13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, that evil day, that time of temptation, you may be able to stand against." That's literally what it says, "Just stand against them. Stand your ground. And after you've done everything, to stand." That's three. Verse 14, "Stand firm then." Four times he's told you to stand. So you stand, stand firm.
Be Determined Not to Sin
Well, how do you do that? You're utterly determined not to sin. You're not going to give in, you're not going to yield. You're going to say, "No" to the sin. Sometimes you're going to do that by running. You're like, "What? Wait, wait, wait, wait. What do you mean?" I mean running in the physical world so you can stand in the spiritual world. Think about Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Remember that story? Of Potiphar's coming after that guy, day after day after day. Remember that one day when Joseph comes in and said, "Huh, where is... Everyone's gone. Where did all the servants go?" And then, here she comes, again. It's like, "Oh, I get it. I see what's happening." There's nothing to talk about, there's only one thing to do. Run for your life! Leave your garment in her hand, whatever, just run. So what's interesting is the combination of standing and running. Listen again to what it says, 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you, except what is common to man, but God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear." Listen, "But with the temptation will make a way of escape so you can stand up under it." It's like, "Alright, am I escaping or standing?" You're doing both. You're standing by escaping. “Lead us not into temptation.” You've gotten yourself into a tempting situation? Get out! Run! So do that.
Alright, let's finish with some applications. We'll pick it up, God willing, next week. First and foremost, I just want to say, none of the advice I've just given for fighting Satan applies to non-Christians, not yet. There's only one thing you need to do, and that's come to Christ. You have no hope, you're actually already in Satan's kingdom. His chains are around you, spiritually. You can't break free, but here's the thing. You've come to a place today where the Gospel is being preached. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is that God created Heaven and Earth, gave us laws by which we are to be governed. We have violated those laws. We have broken them. We are in Satan's dark kingdom thereby. But God sent His Son who lived a sinless, righteous, upright life, perfectly obeyed all of God's laws, resisted all of Satan's temptations, won our righteousness for us, then suffered on the cross, paying the penalty we deserve for our sins, and now offers His righteousness as a gift, and to take your wrath on Himself as your substitute. That's salvation by grace through faith. Trust in Christ. You don't need to do any works, just trust in Him. And if you do that, all of your sins, past, present, future, will be forgiven. Trust in Christ. And then, once that happens, Satan will be at war with you and you can begin your battle.
See the War and Fight
To you Christians, embrace the central concept of this sermon. You're at war. You're at war. Wake up. Fight. Stop underestimating the amount of damage this war is causing you, how much trouble it's causing you in your marriage, how much trouble it's causing you in your parenting, how much trouble it's causing you at work or at school. Stop underestimating. Greatly increase your spiritual vision of seeing what's happening in the spiritual realm. See it. Be not unaware of his schemes. Be aware of what he's doing. When you fall into sin, ask the Lord to show you what Satan did to get you so you don't do it again. And then follow the three steps that we'll talk about. Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power, draw close to Christ, do that in your morning quiet time. Do it throughout the day. Be very Christ-centered in your life.
Evaluate Your Present Life
And evaluate your present life. How do you see Satan attacking you? What's going on? What temptations have been a recurring theme in your life? How are the demons coming at you day after day? What lusts are conquering you? What habits do you have to change so you stop yielding to those lusts? Might have to do with the internet, might have to do with your smartphone, your iPad, or something. What covetousness has mastered your heart, what material thing are you living for? What hidden anger or unforgiveness is Satan stirring up in you so that you're hostile towards someone you should love? What excesses are glutting your lifestyle right now? How is Satan duping you and drawing you. Evaluate the duties you're neglecting. How are you doing in your morning quiet time? How are you doing memorizing scripture? How are you doing putting on the full armor of God? How are you doing in ministry? Are you interceding and praying for brothers and sisters who are going through these kinds of struggles? How are you doing with witnessing? So next week we'll talk about putting on the full armor of God. Let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the time that we've had to study today. Study your word. Father, I pray, strengthen us for this battle. Help us to be more aware than we've been of what the devil does and how he attacks us. Help us, O Lord, to fight. And not just to fight but to win. To be victorious in Christ. To stand firm in the day of testing. To stand firm in the evil day when temptation comes. Father help us to do all this for your glory and for the spread of your Gospel here in Durham and even to the ends of the earth. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.