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Author: Rick VanderHorst
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Congregation:Grace Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.grace.canadianreformed.ca
 
Title:Praying for victory over our enemies
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2024-05-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 46:1,2

Hy 1

Ps 3:1,3

Ps 35:1,4,10,11

Hy 85:1,3

Scripture Reading: James 1:12-18; Revelation 12:7-17

Confessional reading: LD 52

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


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ

One book of the Bible many Christians gravitate towards is the book of Psalms.

And that’s because the psalms speak to our hearts.

They describe the same struggles, the same emotions, believers still experience today.

 

Read the psalms and you’ll see all the ups and downs of the Christian life.

You see the same difficulties we face:

Things like fear, loneliness, worry, discouragement, and doubt.

On the other hand, you see the riches of the faith:

Things like joy, trust, contentment, and heartfelt worship of God.

 

But I wonder if you’ve noticed something else about the psalms.

So many of the psalms are about enemies.

That’s a consistent theme throughout this book:

So many psalmists cry out, Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!

 

You see, the psalms are not just about praise to God.

The psalms are first of all prayers to God.

And when we do see expressions of praise to God, not only in the psalms but elsewhere in Scripture, so often the greatest outpouring of praise comes when God does save his people from their enemies.

 

This emphasis in the psalms, and in the Bible, shows us one of our main needs as God’s people:

      We need to be saved from our enemies.

      This is why our Lord Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer.

      “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

 

We’re going to explore this petition in the sermon this afternoon.

But we’ll also look at one more thing.

We’ll also look at that beautiful ending we pray at the end of our prayer.

It teaches us to pray in faith and to God’s glory.

 

Christ teaches us to pray for victory over our enemies for God’s glory

1. Pray because you are in a spiritual war

2. Pray because God gives the victory

3. Pray because we want God to be glorified

 

Just a moment ago I spoke of how the psalms still speak to our experience as God’s people today.

But then I mentioned how many of the psalms are about deliverance from enemies.

And perhaps this is one area where we struggle to identify with the psalms.

 

Or think about much of the OT.

Read the OT Scriptures and you see God’s people fighting countless battles.

Many of them are filled with swords, chariots, and great bloodshed.

That probably feels foreign to us.

By and large the closest thing we get to a war is by watching it on our TV screen.

 

Yet, these pictures of war and of enemies in the OT are supremely relevant to us.

They give us a vivid picture of our spiritual warfare, and the daily battle we all face.

You see, one of the most dangerous things about spiritual warfare is that you might not realize that you’re in a war.

 

Do you understand you have enemies and they never stop attacking you?

You know, one of my fears is that your everyday life might look something like this:

You wake up in the morning, have some breakfast, think about the things you want to do that day at home, at school, or at work, and then go out and do them, but all the while you go about your daily business without understanding that everyday you are in a war and that you are under attack.

Instead, your mind is just dominated entirely by the things you want to do without giving one thought about temptation or stopping to pray for God to help you in the fight.

 

What if we were to describe a day in the life of the devil?

Everyday Satan get’s up, if may put it like that, and he says to himself, Today, I’m going to do the same thing I do every day – attack Christians.

That’s the reality of spiritual warfare.

 

That’s why Christ teaches us in this sixth petition.

Pray to God because you are in a spiritual war!

 

 

Scripture wakes us up to the reality of Spiritual warfare.

The catechism summarizes Scripture when it says we have three sworn enemies:

the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

Understanding these enemies properly will also equip you to pray properly.

 

So let’s see how Scripture describe them for us.

Let’s start with the devil, or Satan.

We receive important insights about the devil from Revelation 12.

This chapter describes him as a fierce dragon. Not a kitten, not a bunny, but a raging dragon.

Someone far more powerful than we are on our own.

 

Verse 9 calls him the deceiver of the world:

Think of how he led Adam and Eve into sin by his lies in the Garden of Eden.

He’s still up to the same tricks today.

He leads people astray by his lies and deception, making us question God and his good commandments.

 

Verse 9 also describes how Satan was thrown down from heaven.

We’ll see later on how that’s good news.

But verse 12 adds this unpleasant detail: “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath.”

Satan is angry; and he is out to fight and to kill.

 

Verses 13-16 describe how the devil made war against the woman, symbolic of the OT church.

When he was prevented from destroying her, verse 17 says this:

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Well, guess what? That’s you!

 

Satan is intent on making war against you!

One way Satan does this is by tempting you to sin.

He works in conjunction with one of our other main enemies – our own sinful flesh.

 

You not only have an enemy outside of you, but you also have one inside you – your own sinful heart

We all have a sinful nature, and that sinful nature is attracted to sin.

Everyday evil desires will arise out of your heart.

And part of you wants to indulge them!

So everyday there’s a war being raged on the inside.

 

James chapter 1 describes how our own sinful flesh attacks us.

“Let not one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

 

We’re probably familiar with how this progression goes.

Our hearts desire sin.

When desire gets strong enough, we act on those desires.

Acting on those desires brings damaging consequences.

One theologian described this progression from James 1 as spiritual LSD – Lust. Sin. Death.

 

 

Let’s add to this image a bit more by using an image we are familiar with.  

Let’s use the image of fishing.

What do you do to catch a fish?

You don’t just jump into the water and grab the fish with your bare hands.

Now, probably someone after church will tell me they’ve done that before.

But aside from the extreme exception, that’s not how it works.

 

What do you do to catch a fish?

You give the fish something he desires. You lure him. You appeal to his appetite.

And when the fish sees that bait in front of him, all he can see is something he desires.  

But the fish doesn’t realize there’s something more sinister going on.

The fish fails to see the hook; he fails to see the fisherman.

And if the fish acts on his desires and takes the bait, he’s going to get hooked, and he’s going to die.

 

This is what Satan does when he tempts us.

He appeals to our sinful desires.

And they ARE desires! Part of us wants to sin!

But so often we fail to see that sin always comes with a hook.

And Satan doesn’t play catch and release, he plays catch and kill.

And so when God warns you against sin, he’s not keeping you from something good,

He’s not trying to ruin your fun. That’s true no matter how appealing sin may seem.

Instead, he knows all too well that the end of sin is death.

 

This is the battle we face very day.

And the unbelieving world adds to this attack, by making sin look enjoyable.

The unbelieving world calls us to join them in their rebellion against God.

They make a godless life look attractive so that take on the same lifestyle they live.

Over time, the divisions between the church and the world becomes blurred.

God’s people are the salt of the earth, but there’s always the danger we lose our saltiness and take on the same flavour as the world.

 

These are our three sworn enemies. This is why we need to pray every day.

 

2. Pray because God gives the victory

 

So that’s the negative side, and you might find it disheartening, but our three sworn enemies do not get the last word.

We are weak in ourselves and left to ourselves we could never stand.

But here’s the God news: We have a God who saves.

Satan likes to play “catch and kill” but God is the God who raises the dead.

We have a God who can defeat any enemy, and any sin.

This is also why we pray. We pray because God gives the victory.

 

Pray to be delivered from your enemies.

And what does this include?

Pray first of all for forgiveness and righteousness in Christ.

Yes, that is central to the fifth petition, but it also fits with this petition here, the 6th petition.

 

Now, why does praying this help us in the battle against sin and Satan?

It’s because of another name that Satan is called in Scripture – the accuser.

You see it there in Revelation 12:10

The accuser of our brothers has been thrown down,

who accuses them day and night before our God.

 

This is so important to understand.

Here is what Satan does:  

First he tempts us to sin

And then, when we do sin, he turns around and accuses us for our sin.

 

Why does he do this? What is his goal?

        He wants to chip away at our faith and our assurance of God’s love.

        He wants to undermine our trust in Christ’s saving work for us.

        If he can do that, he can prevent us from producing the Fruit of the Spirit,

        He can prevent us from serving the Lord out of true thankfulness.

 

Ultimately, he would love us to stop praying altogether.

He wants us to get to the point where we say,

What’s the point in praying and why would God hear me?

 I’m too sinful anyways.

 

In response to this, we need to see two things from Revelation 12:

We need to understand the words of verses 7-9

There was war in heaven.

Michael and his angels fought against the devil and his angels.

The devil lost that war and was thrown down from heaven.

 

And the good news in that is this:

The accuser has been thrown out of heaven.

The one who accuses us before God, day and night, has been evicted.

That’s like the prosecutor in a court case being tossed out of court in a criminal trial.

That’s great news for the person on trial.

When that happens, the judge only hears from the defense attorney.

 

Yes, Satan loves to accuse us, and we might feel that every day.

But the devil’s accusations have been silenced in heaven.

And that is why we can pray and why we can pray in faith.

 

Look at how we overcome this further in Revelation 12.

We overcome the devil and his accusing tongue by the blood of the Lamb.

This is the second thing we need to know.

Yes, it’s true, we all sin.

We read from James 1 about the dangers of sin.

But later on he acknowledges, “we all stumble in many ways.”

But we pray not on the basis of our own goodness or righteousness,

but on the basis of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

 

The devil has been thrown down from heaven, but Christ has been raised up to heaven.

He is at God’s right hand, and he represents us before the Father.

This is why God hears our prayers.

He hears us through Jesus Christ.

That’s true no matter how fiercely the devil might accuse you for your sins.

This gives you encouragement to keep praying despite your own sins and weaknesses.

 

And as we pray knowing that God hears us in Christ, we pray also that God would lead us not into temptation but give us power to resist our enemies.

And this is something God can and does provide!

Look at what Revelation 12 says about Christ:

The devil and his angels were thrown down and then John heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.”

God and Satan are not equals.

Christ and Satan are not equals.

God is so much greater than the devil, the world, and our own flesh.

 

We can trust him to give us what we need to stand firm against the devil and against sin.

Yes, there will be battles lost, but there is ultimate victory in Christ.

And one way Christ gives us the victory is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit can give you the power to resist any temptation.

He can give you the power to say ‘no’ to any sin.

Remember the words of 1 John 4:4

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

The Holy Spirit is more powerful than that raging dragon of Revelation 12 and he is in you!

 

 

And one way he helps us is by inciting us to prayer.

He causes us to pray in line with God’s will, also as Christ teaches us here,

“Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

 

And as you pray this petition, I encourage you to pray this not just in a general way,

but to pray about specific ways you are tempted.  

I’m going to give you a few examples about specific temptations.

For sins against the first commandment it can sound like this:

Father in Heaven, I am tempted to love this certain thing or this certain person more than I love you. Keep me from turning these created things into idols and may I serve you alone.

 

For the sixth commandment it can sound like this:

Father in Heaven, I am really having trouble showing love towards this specific person in my life. In fact, I confess that part of me hates this person and sometimes I struggle with thoughts of harming him or her or wishing harm upon them. With another person in my life, I struggle with envy and jealousy. I pray that these sinful thoughts and desires would not rule over me, but by the power of your Holy Spirit I would put them to death.

 

For the seventh commandment, it can sound like this:

Father in Heaven, I struggle with lust everyday. I often crave pornography and want to give in to those cravings. I am also tempted to sin sexually and transgress the boundaries you have put in place. I am also tempted to commit adultery with this specific person I know. Work in me by your Spirit, that I would never give in to lust and that it would die more and more.  

 

You see beloved, get specific about temptation!

Doing this makes it crystal clear to you where the danger lies.

Doing this will also give you the help you need from God where you most need it.

 

 

3. Pray because we want God to be glorified

 

LD 52 ends this way:

How do you conclude your prayer?

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.

That is all this we ask of you because, as our King, having power over all things are both willing and able to give us all that is good, and because not we but your holy name should so receive all glory forever.

 

What a beautiful description from the catechism.

God is willing and able to give us all these things for which we pray.

We don’t pray in vain; we pray to a God who gives us what we need.

And he gives us what we need through the medium of prayer.

 

This ending also sets the focus for the entirety of our prayers.

Why do we pray? Yes it’s for our own good

Yes, we pray for everything we need for body and soul.

But we pray these things so that God would be glorified and that his kingdom would come.  

 

And these two things are not opposed to each other or separate from each other.

What is for God’s glory and what is for God’s kingdom is also at the same time for our good.

When God’s glory is made great, and his kingdom is built, we will only benefit.

And so we pray all the more eagerly for them.

 

Then we see the very last word of our prayer – that little word ‘Amen’.

The catechism describes its significance like this:

Amen means it is true and certain, for God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I feel in my heart that I desire this of him.”

 

What a beautiful way to end our prayers, and a beautiful way to end the catechism too!

God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I feel in my heart that I desire this of him!

 

You know what?

With this explanation of the word Amen, it’s kind of like we get the entire gospel contained within that one word.

Or perhaps we could say it’s like the entire teaching of the catechism is summarized within this one question and answer.

 

Now, perhaps that’s overstating things a bit.

But consider those words for a moment:

God has much more certainly heard my prayer

than I feel in my heart that I desire this of him.

What does it take for God to hear our prayers in this fashion?

It takes the saving work of Jesus Christ also as explained in the rest of the catechism.

 

God hears our prayers - because Christ has paid for all of our sins with his precious blood.

God hears our prayers - because he has become our Father in Jesus Christ.

God hears our prayers - because Jesus Christ is our advocate before the Father.

God hears our prayers - because Christ has removed all the curse from me.

 

This is why we can pray, and this is why we can end our prayers with that little word “Amen”.

It is true and certain, because God is our Father and Christ is our saviour. Amen.

 




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

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