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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Standing Strong against the Devil's Fierce Attacks
Text:Ephesians 6:10-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-05-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 144:1,2                                                                              

Ps 7:3,4

Reading – Isaiah 59:9-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10

Ps 46:3,4,5

Sermon – Ephesians 6:10-17

Ps 35:1,2,3,4

Hy 53:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, there is someone who really hates you. He has a terrible plan for your life, for he wants to ruin and destroy you. And he could, for he is powerful, and invisible, and smart, and he is well-supported by a legion of helpers and allies. Standing against him, you don’t have a chance—if he had his way, you would crumble in an instant.

Is it so bad? Does Satan really hate us that much? Is it true that our very souls are in danger of hell? Read our text again for its warning about spiritual warfare. It is not describing a distant possibility, something that might affect us, but only if we mix with the wrong crowd or we start doing drugs. Our text is also not about being a Satanist, a person who dabbles in the dark spirits and prays to the devil.

For see how this text is addressed to every reader. In recent sections Paul has spoken specifically to husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters, but now he turns to the entire congregation, “Finally, my brethren” (6:10). Brothers, sisters, young and old—listen to this. There is a spiritual war that’s raging every day, and it involves you. You have a sworn enemy, and he hates you. He wants to ruin you.

And this battle is raging exactly in the place you are today. Husbands and wives, it’s affecting your marriage. Parents, it’s in your home. Children, it’s lurking in your bedroom and in your classroom. Brothers and sisters, it’s going on in our congregation: a mighty conflict between evil and good, between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. That battleground is where we live today, and the contest is about what kind of people we will be. Will we live in the Lord, and for the Lord, or will we live for ourselves—and so offer our lives to the one who will destroy us? I preach God’s Word to you from Ephesians 6:10-17 on this theme,

Stand strong against all the fierce attacks of the devil:

  1. in the evil day
  2. with the armour of God
  3. through the strength of the Lord

 

1) in the evil day: Our text begins with a “finally” (v 10). “Finally,” because Paul is about to bring to a close his letter to the Ephesians. Since chapter 1, Paul has spoken about the great work of salvation accomplished by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has described the precious peace created by Christ: peace with God, and peace with other people. He’s taught us about the high privilege and the holy gifts that we have as church, and as households in the Lord.

There has been much to celebrate, but the Spirit wants us to know that life in Christ cannot be separated from an ongoing spiritual battle. “Finally, my brothers and sisters, know that it’s going to be hard. Success and blessing will not come without a fight.”

“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might… that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (vv 10-11). Here I want to underline a key verb in our text: stand. It comes back a few times, like in verse 13: “having done all, to stand.” It’s about resistance. Our Christian life isn’t so much an aggressive attack or a victory march, but it’s more like the holding of the fortress, a persistent and even stubborn defiance of the devil.

For that’s the enemy we’re up against: “the wiles of the devil.” See how the devil is spoken of as a being, a creature with thoughts and plans. We sometimes imagine Satan as little more than a vague influence on our life, a passing irritant—something in the air you can pick up, like a cold, and if you’re lucky, you can avoid him. Some days he doesn’t even think about you, and he leaves you alone.

No, Satan is an intelligent, powerful, and purpose-driven being. And here is his deliberate purpose: He is an enemy of God and all that is good, at work in pulling away from Christ. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:9). He’s out to destroy.

The Spirit mentions the devil’s “wiles” (v 11). Wiles are tricks, deceits, treacheries to lead people astray. We’re up against the cunning and strength of an enemy who actively devises subtle plans against our souls.

Compare it to how people worry these days about surveillance. There are cameras everywhere, and we leave behind us a long digital trail. It makes us nervous, how much governments and big corporations know about us, and what they do with that information. But it’s not a stretch to think of Satan doing something very similar, that he watches us, listens to us, wants to find out our weakness. And in his deceit, Satan crafts temptations. He’s so good at wearing down our resistance, weakening our resolve, priming us to fall: waiting for the right mood, the right day, the opportune moment.

He can make sin feel like the most natural thing. He is able to make what is evil look good, and he can put the most attractive shine on something wicked. Isn’t that the case? It’s probably not often that we’re tempted to commit a purely wicked act, something that is totally evil, like killing our teacher or raping our neighbour’s daughter. But the deceit of the sin is that we can do many things that are in exactly the same spirit as murder and rape, yet we hardly notice it. We bolt the front entrance against the big sins, but through an open back door we’re letting in gossip and anger about church people, lustful thoughts about our co-worker, and greed and jealousy.

And we wonder: Do these things really matter? Is my bitterness toward that family such a big deal? Yes. Are these worries that I have really part of a spiritual battle? Yes. Is choosing to drink too much once in a while really a satanic trap? It is. Beloved, realize that there’s a basic trickery to the devil’s work, for the evil he plants rarely looks evil until it is fully-grown.

This is the nature of our struggle, says the Spirit, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (v 12). Our greatest enemies aren’t the ones we can see. Now, we tend to think a lot about the external threats. It’s easy to point to the internet as the enemy, along with television and the computer. It’s bad friends who are going to corrupt our kids, or it’s the evil of a party lifestyle. So we set up walls and we man the barricades to keep it all out. But we need to see the reality, that the entire Christian life is a profound spiritual battle, and that the battle rages within.

Of course it’s true that we can be led astray by other people. And no one should be naïve about the dangers that are accessible online. But look at things rightly. When you’re struggling with a temptation, this is an intense conflict that goes beyond the surface of things.

We’re “wrestling,” verse 12 says, a word that shows the personal nature of our conflict with the devil. If you’re wrestling with someone, they’re in your face and up close—they’re so close you can smell their body odour. That’s our life, an in-close grappling against the strength and craftiness of the devil. He’s always ready to throw us to the ground, even as we’re having an ordinary conversation with our co-worker, or as we’re going about our day at home, even as we sit in the worship service this morning.

Beloved, we are fighting “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness” (v 12). Who are these opponents? These are different categories of evil spirits, the demons who are moving around in this world.

It’s clear that a demon isn’t just a little red man with a pitchfork, perched on your shoulder, whispering bad ideas into your ear. Such an enemy you could brush off! But listen to the intimidating terms used to describe our enemy. They are principalities: these demons have real authority, strength, and influence. Powers: they are strong—stronger than us. They are rulers of the darkness: they’re far from God’s light, and in the fearsome realm of darkness they have dominion. They are spiritual hosts of wickedness: a host is a great army—like God is so often called “the LORD of hosts,” because He’s got an army of mighty angels. Satan has his own hosts, vast armies of demonic beings who are dedicated to evil.

Scary, isn’t it? And true to life. If you’ve struggled with a temptation, you know it can be an immensely powerful thing. At times, it’s like every cell in your body wants to surrender. It’s like your mind can’t think of any other course of action than the wrong one. It feels impossible to say no. We shouldn’t be surprised at the strength of sin: see how much help Satan has!

All these demons are “in the heavenly places” (v 12). They’re not visible, but they are real—unseen agents of the devil circling all around us. Which teaches us that we can meet Satan in many places. We can encounter him in material things like money, or we can meet him on the screen in front of us, or we come up against his influence in the leaders of our nation.

So the Spirit describes our time as “the evil day” (v 13). That reveals what kind of world we’re living in. Despite appearances, these are not the best of times. These last days are the time when the conflict is going to be most severe, when the war intensifies.

This is our challenge, to stay vigilant. In these evil days, it’s not easy to be holy—in fact, it’s a constant fight to remain faithful to God, to stand fast. If you stop paying attention, you soon begin to slip. So perhaps the best question is: Are you still wrestling? Is there some fight left in you, where you’re actively resisting sin and fighting the devil? Can you say that you’re battling against specific temptations? If you’re not wrestling, you’re in grave danger. Scripture teaches us to defy Satan: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). Don’t make peace with him, but fight him, and fight him hard. And put on your armour.

 

2) with the armour of God: Do you remember where Paul was when he wrote this letter? He was in prison, which meant he probably saw a Roman soldier everyday—so every day he could reflect on the importance of good armour. If you’re fighting flesh-and-blood opponents, you need it, and if you’re fighting demonic armies, you need it. So Paul exhorts us, “Put on the whole armor of God” (v 11).

When he says “armour of God,” he doesn’t just mean the armour that God supplies, but the armour that God wears! We read from Isaiah 59, which tells how Israel was so weak and defenceless against her enemies, “There was no man… no one to intercede” (v 16). But the good news is that the LORD will fight for his people, and He’s a warrior. Verse 17: “[The LORD] puts on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; He puts on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and is clad with zeal as a cloak.” Almighty God has armour, and He lends it to us his people. We’ve got some help in this fight!

Paul describes six different components of the armour of God. The pieces are listed in the order in which a soldier would put them on—starting with a belt: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” (v 14). Before you start layering on all your armour, you’d want to bind together the garments underneath. Your tunic needed to be tucked in with a belt so that you’d have freedom of movement. We know that image from other parts of Scripture. Fastening clothing securely around one’s waist is all about being prepared, freed for action. You’re not going to trip, you’re going to run!

And what is our girdle, our belt? It is the truth. By that, the Spirit likely means truthfulness, when we live with integrity before God. When your life is shaped by God’s truth, you can enjoy an ease of movement. You’re striving to do what God expects of you, so you’re not tripped up by a lack of sincerity, and you’re not worried about hidden sins being revealed. If you’ve got the belt of truth on, you’re living with integrity. Have a clear mind, and a pure heart, and you’ll be ready for action!

Gird yourself with truth, and “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (v 14). This is the large piece of armour that covered the chest to protect it against the blows of the enemy’s sword. Our protection of righteousness is what’s given through the righteousness of Christ. Because of his perfect life and death, our sins are forgiven and we’re made right with God.

Think of the confidence in battle that this can give us! If we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ, if we have accepted his sacrifice by true faith, we are unassailable, invincible. There’s no accusation the devil can throw against us, and we have no reason to give in to his lies. If you know the righteousness of Christ, you also aim to live in a righteous way. You want to become more righteous, more faithful to the Word of God.

Roman soldiers also had vital equipment for their feet; they would wear sandals with short nails sticking out of the soles—a little like soccer cleats—so that they could plant their feet firmly when fighting. A Christian soldier needs this kind of stability too, and it comes from “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v 15).

How is the gospel of peace like wearing a solid shoe? The gospel gives us a steadiness in life, a sure-footedness. We have peace with God through the work of Christ, a knowledge that works in us a deep assurance. The devil might be offering us a world of attraction, pulling us his way, but we already have the best gift. If you have the gospel, if you love the gospel, you’re prepared to be pushed and pulled, but you can stand firm.

Another vital piece of armour is the shield: “Above all, [take] the shield of faith” (v 16). Roman soldiers sometimes carried shields that were small and round for running battles, but this describes the large shield which almost covered the full length of the body. Our shield is faith, when we have a full reliance on God. Your only true safeguard in this evil day will come through looking upward to God. Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

We have a dire need for a shield, because with it, “you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (v 16). In battle, an enemy might dip arrows into tar or pitch, set them on fire, and launch them into gathering troops. Fiery darts falling from the sky would cause deadly wounds and wreak havoc. But the Romans would cover their long shields with leather and then soak them with water, so that as a dart sank in, its flame was put out.

We’ve spoken already about the kinds of attack launched against us by the devil: shafts of impurity, selfishness, doubt, and idolatry. Maybe the fiery darts launched at you come in the form of anger, laziness, fear, or disrespect. They’re all designed by the enemy to burn and destroy, and they will penetrate, unless you carry the shield of faith.

“And take the helmet of salvation” (v 17). A Roman helmet was typically made of bronze, with two cheek pieces to give full protection to the head. Our critical piece of protection from the evil one is salvation, God’s deliverance from the penalty of sin and his help against Satan’s power. If you know salvation through Christ, you are secure! The noise of battle will keep resounding in your ears, but you’ve got your helmet.

At their side Roman soldiers would wear a short-handled sword. It was an important weapon in close combat with the enemy, to fend off blows and also to attack. Without a sword, a soldier was useless. We have a weapon too, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v 17). As the devil attacks every day, the Word of God is vital equipment. How else will we learn what is right? Where else will we get encouragement through the Spirit?

Satan can defeat our best arguments, ruin our logic, and persuade us of pretty well any truth he likes. But he cannot overcome the truth of God’s Word. It’s a double-edged sword that lays everything bare, that separates false from true, evil from good. So take up the sword of the Spirit!

God has given us essential armour for our spiritual warfare. But it’s not just a museum piece; we’ve got to do something with it: “Put on the armour of God” (v 11). Think of a Roman soldier going into battle without his helmet or his shield or sword, or a solider thinking he’d be OK on patrol in Afghanistan without his bullet-proof vest or machine gun. It’d be the worst foolishness, something approaching to suicide.

Yet I wonder how often we do something similar? We go through a day of Satan’s attacks without opening Scripture once, or we drift along for an entire week without any thought for the shield of faith or the helmet of salvation. Satan and his spiritual hosts of darkness are everywhere, launching their fiery darts, but we stroll ahead, with empty hands and bare feet.

Beloved, how can you fight against your temper or your pride if you’re not always girded with truth? How can a man expect to resist the onslaught of pornography if he’s not arming himself every day with the Scriptures? How will you fight envy or jealousy if you’re not working hard at being satisfied with Christ and his righteousness? If you rarely seek to strengthen your faith, why are you surprised when you give in to the devil’s temptations? If we’re not armouring up every day, is it any wonder that we struggle with doubts and fears and guilt and uncertainty?

We’ll never stand firm against the devil if we’re unprepared for battle. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be fools, victims of Satan’s deadly attacks. “Here is my armour for you,” says God, “now put it on!”

 

3) through the strength of the Lord: Let’s go back to the beginning, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (v 10). It’s on purpose that Paul starts there. Of paramount necessity for persevering in the Christian life is the power of God. We cannot sustain or strengthen ourselves, but we must be empowered from above.

Back in chapter 3, Paul prayed for the Ephesians, asking God that they would “be strengthened with might through God’s Spirit in the inner man” (v 16). This is what we need, and this is the secret to standing firm: when we rely on the power God has given us, we’ll be able to overcome the devil. For Satan might have a well-defined purpose, but he’s not invincible. He might be intelligent, but he’s not perfectly wise. He might have freedom to tempt, but He’s still under Christ’s control.

And in chapter 1 of this letter, the Spirit told us how Jesus our King and Saviour has been lifted up, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (v 21). Remember, those are the scary terms for Satan’s forces, but Christ is far above them! Their authority has been broken, and their final defeat is assured. The powers of darkness cannot finally hinder the progress of the kingdom of light. With Christ seated at God’s right hand in heaven, we know that there is someone greater than the devil—and He’s on our side!

We don’t underestimate the devil—that would be fatal—but we do know God’s incredible power. He’s King of all created things, visible and invisible. He’s faithful to his children, and won’t let them fall. If you know how weak you are in this fight, and if you know how great God is to give the victory, then humbly and daily rest yourself in the LORD. Be strong in the LORD and in the power of his might!

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v 13). Here is that key word again: stand. We must endure, whatever the fight. Christ is like the army captain who tells his men before the battle, “Whatever you do, hold the line! Do not fall back. Do not surrender!” And we can, when our strength is in Christ our captain and king. Because He stands firm, we can stand firm.

In this life we’ll be busy with many things. Busy with the church, busy in our career, busy with raising children, busy at school, busy with all our interests and pleasures. But “having done all,” don’t forget this. Having done all, make sure that you’re still standing. Make sure you’re standing firm against all the fierce attacks of the devil—standing strong in Christ.  Amen.  

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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