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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:The Armour of God
Text:Ephesians 6:13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 18:1,6

Psalm 95:3

Psalm 35:1,2,5

Hymn 41:3,4

Psalm 56:4

Read:  Daniel 10;  Ephesians 6:10-20

Text:  Ephesians 6:13

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Up until about 200 years ago, most people believed in the reality of Satan and in the presence of demons.  In the Middle Ages they used to hang paintings in churches that showed Satan with horns and a pitchfork.  In the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther felt the presence of the devil so strongly that on one occasion he threw an ink bottle at him.  It was accepted as fact that the devil and his demons were real, and they were greatly feared.

But today, our so-called modern world leaves no room for a sprit world, and no place for the consideration that the devil might be working behind the scenes.  Today our western culture teaches that reality is what you see, what you hear, what you touch.  Today evil is always – and only – seen as the result of something natural: the result of poor parenting, weak governments, sick minds.

And that has affected the church also.  We too often act as though reality is limited to what we see and what we hear and what we touch.  Bad laws are made by bad politicians.  Bad friends and bad choices lead to bad decisions.  We are fighting people, we are fighting philosophies, we are fighting political systems.  We are fighting the desires of our own sinful hearts.  And on the one hand that is all true, for we have three sworn enemies: the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.  But on the other hand, we need to look beneath the surface, we need to see that there is an evil spiritual dimension to the struggles that we face.  We need to realize that our great enemy is one whom we normally can not see, can not hear, can not touch.  But an enemy who is real all the same.

In 1 Peter 5:8,9 the apostle Peter warned,

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith…”

You might not see him, but he’s there, and he’s ready to pounce.  Now we don’t have lions here in Australia, so perhaps we don’t fear lions in the way that Peter’s first readers did.  So permit me to re-word this text:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil lurks in the shadows, in the depths, like a shark circling, scheming, looking for a way to attack, to bite, to devour.

We have an enemy who is every bit as dangerous as a lion or as a shark.  We have an enemy who is on the prowl, seeking to attack, seeking to devour.  We have an enemy whose desire is for you and for me.  That enemy is real, and the battle we fight with that enemy is real.   And in this battle, this spiritual battle, this spiritual warfare, we need to hold our ground.  We need to stand firm.  We need to fight.

But, as we confess in Lord’s Day 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism, in ourselves we are so weak that we cannot even stand for a moment.  In ourselves we are as vulnerable and exposed as a hapless individual swimming in the middle of the ocean with sharks all around, zeroing in on the kill. 

We need protection.  We need weapons.  We can not survive this spiritual war without the use of some form of armour that is strong enough to withstand the attacks of the evil one. 

And the good news is that God has provided the armour needed to enable us to withstand in the evil day.  And He says to us, “Use it.  Put that armour on, and take your stand in the fight against the evil one.

I preach to you God’s Word this afternoon under the following theme:

Stand Firm in the Armour that God Provides.

1.    The need for this armour.

2.    The provision of this armour.

3.    The effectiveness of this armour.

1. The need for this armour.

As Christians we are involved in a war, a spiritual war.  This war was declared by God Himself in Genesis 3:15 when God said to the serpent,

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

The LORD God put enmity, He declared hostility or hatred between the seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent.  That enmity was displayed in its fullness when Christ hung on the cross.  But it is an enmity that remains throughout all of history, and will be there until the last day.  Satan is at war with Christ’s church, and he is doing all he can to devour it.

Now this enmity, this separation between the Church and the World (and I use the term “world” here as mean all that is opposed to the church) was in times past clearly marked and delineated.  In times past there was a long list of what you could or could not do as a Christian.  There was a time when, in many churches, playing cards, going to the theatre, dancing, gambling and going to the movies or any other form of so-called worldly entertainment was considered sinful.  These were the devil’s playthings, and no Christian ought to set his foot within a mile of the devil’s playground.

Today this sort of thinking is no longer popular.  We’ve “grown up”, we’ve matured since those days, and we know that there is nothing inherently evil in a pack of cards, we say that a theatre can be used for good and not only for evil, and that when it comes to the movies, we simply need to learn to discern.  Strict pharisaical, legalistic laws have no place in Christ’s church.

And in the last few decades, something else has happened also.  We no longer need to go to the movies, for example, for the movies come to us.  Home theatres and DVD players (and we can’t wait for live-streamed movies over the internet!) have almost seamlessly connected our homes to Hollywood.  And so today, the movies that would once have caused shock and outrage in the world, are now able to be viewed in our living rooms.  And “the devil’s music” (as it was once referred to) that used to be played in bars, can now be downloaded at the click of a mouse, uploaded to our iPods and plugged directly into our ears. 

And that is happening.

Now I am not saying that technology is all bad.  But I do wonder if we have lost something.  I wonder if, in certain ways, our identity as Christians, Christians who are called out of darkness and into God’s marvellous light, I wonder if that identity is in danger of being blurred, of being lost.  I wonder if we always know the difference between right and wrong, what is of Christ and what is of Satan.  I wonder if we always know when to stand against the wiles, the schemes of the devil - and I wonder if we do.

The Bible tells us to be on our guard.  The Bible tells us that the days we live in are evil.  The Bible tells us that the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, he’s lurking in the shadows like a shark on the hunt.  And if we are to survive, if we are to withstand in the evil day, we need to know what is going on, we need to know who the enemy is.  And we need to know where the battle lines need to be drawn.

In the Belgic Confession, article 12 says the following about Satan and his demons:

“The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and of all that is good.  With all their might, they lie in wait like murderers to ruin the church and all its members and to destroy everything by their wicked devices.”

That’s what is happening.  That’s what we are up against in this spiritual war.  We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness.  And that is far more serious than a battle with people, with an enemy that we see.

We read together from Daniel 10.  In this chapter the LORD sent His angel to Daniel not just to comfort him but also to help him see that the struggle God’s people faced on earth was not all there was to see.  In fact what Daniel observed with his eyes and heard with his ears was just the tip of the iceberg.

In chapter 10, Daniel was in mourning on account of the situation the Jews were facing.  Two years earlier, in the first year of Cyrus, a group of Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple.  However they were quickly opposed by the neighbouring people and the work came to a halt.  It is likely that Daniel heard of this, and this was the reason why he mourned for three full weeks.

And then an angel appeared, an angel so glorious that Daniel lost his strength and fell down to his knees.  And then the angel said something very peculiar in verse 12,13 –

12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

With these words, the angel who was speaking to Daniel pulled back the curtains of the heavens, so to speak, and showed him that the struggle of the Jews against the surrounding nations on earth was just a part of a much greater struggle that was going on.  The one called the prince of the kingdom of Persia was evidently one of Satan’s demons, a powerful one, who was focusing his attention on the Persian Empire.  And this demon struggled with the angel that was sent to Daniel, keeping him from speaking to Daniel for 21 days.  And it was only when Michael, one of the chief princes, an angel of God who is mentioned again in Revelation 12, came to his help that he was able to get past the demon over the Persian Empire and speak a word of comfort to Daniel.  And what was more, this angel told Daniel, the struggle that God’s people were experiencing would not be over for some time to come.  Although Persia would fall, there would later be satanic opposition from Greece.

What Daniel was shown in chapter 10 was that God’s people were not just facing a number of hard headed heathens of Samaria.  They were not just facing human, flesh-and-blood, opposition but opposition from the principalities and powers, from the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Behind those Samaritans and other enemies was the devil himself.

But that was then.  That happened in the Old Testament, and the fact that the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece in Daniel 10 were satanic forces, demons, is perhaps something many of you do not even recall hearing before.  But assuming this is the correct understanding (and you may study that for yourselves), what about today?  Today we are in the time of the New Testament.  Are those demons still at work, still trying to attack us?  Are they prowling like lions, circling like sharks? 

Indeed they are!  If it was not for the armour that God provides, Ephesians 6:12 would be even more frightening than it is:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

I am not going to try to explain the difference between principalities and powers and rulers of darkness, for that is not the point of this verse.  The point the Holy Spirit is making to us is that Satan is throwing everything at his disposal at the church.  It is that serious!  We can not afford to yawn and go back to sleep.  The devil might not be in your face.  He might prefer to sneak into your living room via a fibre optic cable than hit you with the force of an atomic bomb.  But whether he presents himself as an angel of light or an angel of darkness, Satan and the hosts of wickedness are doing everything they can to attack the church, to attack you.

But it is not just the devil and his demons who are at work.  The angel who spoke to Daniel was able to encourage him in verse 19 –

“. . . Fear not!  Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong.”

And that is the same encouragement we receive in Ephesians 6:10.

 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

Daniel could be strong because God had sent His angels to help him.  And today we too can be strong in the Lord because not only has God sent His angels to help us, but He has also sent us His Son who came to crush the head of the Serpent.  And now our Lord Jesus Christ rules at the right hand of the Father, and He sends us His Spirit so that in the power of the Holy Spirit we will not go down to defeat but may fight in the power of His might, having put on the spiritual armour that He has provided.

 2. The provision of this armour.

We may not be lulled into thinking that the enmity between the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent no longer exists.  We may not imagine for a moment that Satan has given up in his battle with the church.  We may not play with the idea that devils and demons are the folklore of yesterday, that today there is no more to life than that which meets the eye.

But the LORD does not leave us defenceless.  “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.”  That must be our response to the knowledge that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. 

Now the armour of God is said to consist of a belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and a sword.  It is an extensive list that covers the soldier from head to toe.  It is not my intention to describe each part of this armour in this sermon, but what I would like to emphasize is that this armour is the armour of God.  He provides us with the armour and the weapons we need to fight in this spiritual warfare.  The armour of God is not something in the first place that we have to do but it is something we have to take on.  When we are told to gird our waist with truth (that is, to put on the belt of truth) this does not refer to us speaking the truth (although of course we need to do that!) but it refers to the Word of truth, God’s revealed truth.  When we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness, this does not refer to the need for us to live and act righteously (although of course we should!), but it refers to the righteousness that we receive through faith in Christ.  These are things that God supplies.  And He has also supplied us with the “gospel of peace” that we have as shoes on our feet, with faith that protects us like a shield, with salvation that becomes our helmet, and with His Word that is our sword.  These are not the things that we need to provide in order to be able to stand against the enemy; these are the things that God supplies.

And what we need to do is to take it up.  God is saying to us:  “Here is the armour that you need to withstand the evil one.  Here are the weapons you require to fight this battle.  These are My gifts to you.  Now take them!  Wear them!  Use them!”

It is more than an invitation: it is a command.  There can be no greater crime than for God’s people to receive such a great blessing, such powerful armoury to resist the evil one, but to live and act as though God had never given it. 

Satan would like us to think that there is no war.  Satan would like us to think that the battlefront is far away, in another land, in another age.  Satan would like us to be blinded to the fact that there is enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  I don’t think that Satan minds too much that many of us in the church no longer see the theatre, the cinema, the pub and so forth as the devil’s playground.  Because I fear that somewhere along the line, in throwing out the bathwater, we’ve also thrown out the baby.  What I mean is, in rejecting what some people call a rather legalistic list of do’s and don’ts, many of us have also forgotten that the devil is indeed working in and through the things that amuse us.  Many of us have also forgotten the intensity of the spiritual war that rages.  And when we fail to see this spiritual war for what it is, we also fail to put on the armour of God.  Perhaps that is why the Christian Church as a whole no longer sees a lot of difference between those who are alive together with Christ and those who walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2,5).  Perhaps that is why the Christian church as a whole spends less time thinking about what it means to sit together with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and more time thinking about sitting down in front of the computer to play Farmville.  Perhaps that is why the Christian Church as a whole is failing to ask, “What does Jesus say?” but instead asks, “what does Google say?”, “What does the world say?”

And that is why we also need to listen to the call in Ephesians 6:18 to pray.  To always pray, being watchful with all perseverance and supplication for the saints.  In ourselves we are too weak to stand even for a moment.  In ourselves we don’t have the will to do what is right.  In ourselves, we will fail to put on the armour that God has provided.  And therefore we have to pray.  Pray that you might stand firm as the enemy approaches.  Pray that you might be watchful and persevere.  Pray that you might be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pray that you might put on the armour that God has provided, and pray that you might make full use of that armour.

There is a real enemy and there is a real war.  But there is also real armour. Take up the whole armour of God!  Put it on!  Use it!  For only then will you be able to stand in the evil day.

3. The effectiveness of this armour.

In Ephesians 6 we are told that the spiritual war we are in is real and it is fierce.  But we are not told to run away and hide in our bunkers.  Instead we are told to stand.  This command is first given in verse 11 –

“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

It is repeated in our text, verse 13,

“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.

And it is repeated again at the beginning of verse 14,

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth . . .”

So the reason we are called to put on the armour of God is so that we might stand.  We need to stand our ground, we need to hold our position.  We can’t give up an inch of ground to the devil if we are to fight against him.  We need to draw a line in the sand and refuse to allow him to have even a little foothold in our lives.

But we can stand.  We can withstand anything and everything that the devil throws at us.  But only when we have on the full armour of God. 

And the reason why the full armour of God is fully effective and guarantees our victory over Satan is because this armour comes not from us but from God.   The armour that protects us from the evil one is God’s gift to us, and it works, it is effective, because the One who gives us this armour has already defeated the hosts of evil and is seated above them at the right hand of God.  Jesus Christ, the Seed of the Woman, came down to bruise the head of the serpent, to claim victory over Satan.  And that is what He has done.  Colossians 2:15 says,

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  (NIV)

Christ has declared victory over Satan and all his demonic hosts.  And now, as we can read in Ephesians 1:20-22, He is seated at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power and might and dominion.  All authority has been given to Jesus Christ, and God has placed all things under His feet.  And God did that, Ephesians 1:22 tells us, He did that for the sake of His Church, for the sake of you and me.  He did that so that Christ could pour upon us His blessings.  And in those blessings we receive the armour, the protection and the weapons we need to be able to withstand in the evil day, to be able to stand against the attacks of the devil.

When we are in Christ, together with Him, we will find ourselves equipped with the armour of God, dressed for battle.  And in Him, and in His power, we will gain the victory.

The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; he rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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