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The Nature of the Battle

April 3, 2016 Pastor: Don Green Series: Strong for the Battle

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 6:12

49-069

We're grateful for you here this morning and I'm grateful that you're here to be able to enter into a very important text to give us a whole new perspective on the nature of Christian life. We're in Ephesians 6 and I would encourage you to turn there as I read the passage that will be our subject of attention here this morning, Ephesians 6. I'm going to read verses 10 through 12, actually verse 12 will be the topic of our exposition here this morning as we encounter the nature of the battle which we live as Christians in this life. Ephesians 6:10,

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Then verse 13,

13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

There is something that I want to do by way of a preliminary observation as we enter into this text here this morning because we're going to focus on verse 12 and focus on the nature of the evil forces that we struggle against in the Christian life. But as we do that, and as we give over 50 to 60 minutes in consideration of these things, I want you to notice something very important that will shape and frame the entire way that you think about these things going forward. While Paul lays out for us the reality of the spiritual nature of our battle, he does so in a way that calls our attention to focus on the resources that we have in Christ rather than drifting into a preoccupation with the demonic. He says in verse 11, "Put on the full armor of God," and like radar, like a laser beam, he says, "Focus on the armor of God," and then he leads us into this verse 12 that we're going to consider here this morning, and then on the way out of that, he says and he reminds us again, "take up the full armor of God." The focus that you are to have when you consider the reality of demonic forces in the world and in your Christian life, is to be on the resources that you have on Christ and to be preoccupied with Christ, with his resurrection, with his power, with his word, with the indwelling Spirit. The reality of the dark side of the spiritual realm is there, it is presented, but it is not that which is to preoccupy us in the Christian life and that's a very important corrective to the things that other people and other teachers get you into. We'll address some of that here this morning. It's just so critical for you, though, to realize that Paul's overall emphasis here is on the armor of God given to Christians and that is to be that which we are preoccupied.

But in the middle of it he gives us this statement in verse 12 and look at it again with me because that will be our focus for this morning. Paul says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Here's the thing, brother and sister in Christ, you live for Christ in this world in the midst of supernatural hostility. There are powerful demonic forces arrayed against the successful execution of your spiritual life and Scripture teaches us this. Here's the thing, knowing a little bit about where some of you come from: bad teaching and so-called Christian novels, have distorted the nature of the spiritual battle. They have distorted our understanding of the demonic hostility that is against us in the Christian life. For years Christians were caught up in best-selling fiction, fiction being the operative word, about unseen spiritual battles that were being played out and people's minds were captivated by these novels that portrayed things in such graphic ways and in seemingly such ways that seemed more exciting than the Bible itself. Well, as soon as you start thinking like that, you know you're off-track. Other people bind Satan as if magic words could restrict the activity of a supernatural enemy. I remember as a very young Christian being with an older woman and we were in a prayer time together and I had never been exposed to this but she took off on a riff about binding Satan and, "I bind you in the name of Jesus," and all kinds of silly things like that and making a spectacle of herself, really. It's sad in retrospect looking back on it. Beloved, when we think about the nature of spiritual life, when we think about the nature of the demonic forces arrayed against us, we need to stick ever so close to Scripture for our guidance in how to think about them; in our guidance for understanding how we successfully live through the battle and triumph in the battle. Look, the very nature of Satan is that he is a liar and a murderer. The demons that are arrayed under his power are deceptive demons. They are instruments of lies and deception. The Scripture says that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, that he comes as a roaring lion, that these demonic forces are bent on your destruction and your deception. So in that realm, it is so incredibly vital that we stick strictly to what Scripture says and not stray beyond it; not stray into speculation; not stray into other things but to rely ever so closely on what Scripture says and not go beyond what Scripture says for our understanding of what this battle is like. Not only are the Christian novels misleading, not only is the call to have Christians go out and bind Satan even though Michael the Archangel was unwilling to do so, to speak directly to him, those things are not only wrong and inaccurate, beloved, here's the thing: they distract you from the true nature of the battle. They distract you from understanding what's really at stake, what's really going on and we are trusting God's word to open our understanding as we turn to Scripture here this morning because only Scripture can tell us the truth. Only Scripture can guide us in this area which is unseen, which is evil, which is destined to deceive us if we stray from Scripture at all.

So what we're going to do as we look at verse 12 today is we're going to see three truths to guide you and to direct you and to help you win the fight of the battle of the struggle that is described here, and we're going to see later on how immensely practical this is and rather than the spiritual battle being something remote and distant and that is out there, you're going to find that the battle is something that is close and immediate and is expressed in your immediate spiritual life in a way that's going to make perfect sense to you. Rather than being captivated with cleverly designed tales, you're going to see that what Paul is saying here is actually some of the most practical instruction on resisting demonic forces in your life that you could ever imagine. What are we going to see here today? Three things: first of all, I want you to write these things down. I'm about to describe your life in a way that you will immediately relate to and then you will be able to connect from that which you understand from experience and Scripture and connect it to see how it connects to this unseen dark world that Paul describes here.

Point 1: you fight a spiritual battle. You fight a spiritual battle and it's right at this very point where we see that moralistic teaching that appeals to the will of man fall so utterly short. There is a spiritual dimension to the Christian life that you are trying to live and it's not simply a matter of more willpower or greater rules to be followed and obeyed. Here's the thing for you, beloved, for you and me both, we're all in this together, we're all in this together: you and I are trying to live the Christian life while simultaneously there is a spiritual unseen realm that is populated with wicked forces that actively oppose Christ and Christians who live for him. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. 1 Peter 5:8 says the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. 2 Corinthians 11 says that Satan loves to disguise himself as an angel of light in order to perpetrate his deception and Paul lays this out so clearly.

Look at verse 11 which I read earlier, he said, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." Well, notice something, first of all, apparently this spiritual being called the devil, also known as Satan, stands over a realm, he has a realm and he has schemes, he has methods that are directed against you; that are directed to deceive you, to discourage you, to cause you to stumble and fail and to destroy your Christian testimony. As you kind of read verse 11 backwards, the devil has schemes against you and therefore that is why it is so vital for you to take on the full armor of God so that you are able to resist them; so that you are not harmed by them as you go forward. Paul attributes the schemes to one being, the devil, and yet as he goes on in verse 12, it's like Satan is a Mafia boss in the sense that he has a hierarchy under him that extends his evil influence. It's important to remember that Satan is not at all like God. Satan is not omniscient. He is not omnipresent. He is not omnipotent. He is limited. He is localized in his ability. In the book of Job God asked him, "Where have you been?" He said, "I've been roaming about on the earth." Well, why is he roaming about? Because he's not omnipresent. He's not everywhere present. So when we talk about Satan, we're not talking about someone who is a parallel being with God of equal attributes just on the bad side of things, we're talking about a limited but a powerful being and he extends his influence through a scheme of evil beings that are under his influence and control and direction.

Look at verse 12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Now, look, it's hard for me not to speak week by week and think about the other stuff and the seeker friendly philosophies that are out there, the entertainment mode of Christianity that we have addressed from time to time. If that was the perspective from which you understood Christianity, if that's the perspective that you came at it from, that this is kind of light, it's fluffy, it's entertainment, aren't the fog machines and the lights cool today? And it's just something appealing to your physical senses, you would never suspect that there are lethal wicked unseen forces at work that need to be dealt with seriously, would you? If you just took it by the way that Christianity is presented in these pseudo-churches, "pseudo" being a word for "false," you would never suspected that there are lethal forces arrayed against you that put you in imminent mortal danger. That's why we have to go through Scripture verse by verse. This is so important. And here's the thing, and if you were coming out of that environment and you just kind of stumbled into our service today or stumbled across the live stream and started hearing things about a wicked spiritual realm, you might wonder where is this coming from. "This is so different from anything that I have heard." You just kind of turn away and say, "This is new. It's something I haven't heard before and therefore I'm just going to turn away from it." Well, that would be a serious mistake. That would be a denial of Scripture and here's the thing as we think about the book of Ephesians, beloved, so that you understand and appreciate the fact that we are not entering into something today that's brand new and sudden and unexpected in Paul's teaching in this epistle: Paul has been talking this way throughout the letter. This is not the first time that he has spoken this way.

Go back to Ephesians 1. I want you to see that in addition to other places where Scripture addresses the reality of Satan, James 4:7 for example, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you," Scripture repeatedly testifies to this unseen realm and in verse 20, Paul is talking about the resurrection of Christ and he says that God "brought about in Christ, He raised Him from the dead," Ephesians 1:20, "He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." Christ is exalted in the resurrection, exalted in his ascension over an entire spiritual realm that is opposed to him.

Now, in chapter 2, verse 2, he goes on and he is addressing what your former way of life was as a Christian. You know, here's the thing: it's not just that you had done a couple of bad things and therefore, you know, you were guilty. That's true, in fact, you've done a lot of bad things, every one of you, that's why we said last week you're not a good person in and of yourself at all. But Scripture describes us as those who were under the domination of Satan; that we were under the Lordship of a dark, wicked being and he defined the course of our lives. Look at chapter 2, verse 1, "you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."

In 2 Timothy 2, turn over there for just a moment because we just need to, you know, we just need to not be so materialistic in our thinking that it leads us to a denial of the biblical nature of reality. 2 Timothy 2:25, and these two verses that I'm about to read are a present description of those of you who are here that are still not Christians. This is what reality is like for you. This is a description of the realm in which you exist and who it is that is your true master. You see, you're not a Christian and you think your independent, you think you're your own man, well, you're not. You're a slave and a captive to a wicked force.

Look at chapter 2, verse 25 of 2 Timothy. Actually, go to verse 24, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition," those of you that oppose the Gospel as you're hearing maybe online or in subsequent media. You are opposed to the Gospel, you have not received Christ, you are resistant or, at least indifferent to the demands of the Gospel on your soul and you're opposed to it. You stand against it and Paul tells the man of God, Timothy, he says, "You need to be gentle as you correct them. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." And now we come to where you stand as an unbeliever if you're here today and you have not repented and put your faith in Christ. Here is a description of you. This is the only description of you that matters, no matter what kind of occupation or education you have or are pursuing. This is a description of your reality. Paul says, "perhaps they'll come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." You're in a snare. You are caught in a trap that you cannot get out of. The devil exercises dominion over you and holds you captive, elsewhere Scripture says blinds your mind to the truths unless you would believe and come to Christ. That's the nature of spiritual reality for those of you that aren't in Christ. It's pretty desperate, isn't it? The whole point of being a captive is that you don't have the power to escape. You are helpless, hopeless, and bound even as you're proclaiming your own freedom and independence from the God of the Bible. Wow.

Well, that's what Paul is describing in Ephesians 2:2. Go back to that. Different kinds of metaphors used: held captive, "dead in trespasses and sins, even as you were walking about as a dead man in the course of the world, bound by the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." Paul also addresses this dark spiritual realm, alludes to the reality of a personal devil in chapter 4. Let's look at verse 26 because now he's addressing Christians. Chapter 4, verse 26, "be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." Do not by allowing your temper to flare and get out of control, by letting yourself be carried away by your anger in whatever the manifestation of that would be, Paul says, "Be warned because when that spirit of temper starts to carry you away, you're entering into a realm where the devil has opportunity to do mischief and harm to you." So Paul as he's writing this, here's the bigger point that I want you to see, all of Scripture, I mean, Genesis 3, the serpent came, the devil deceived Eve in the form of a serpent, you know, it's just woven throughout, and what we want to see here is that this realm that Scripture describes is real and it's something that we are to consider in accordance with the truth.

Now Paul comes, go back to Ephesians 6:12. We've kind of circled all the way around and we can come in for a landing now. What does all of this say about the Christian life? What does this say to you as you live life as a man, as a woman, as a spouse, as a parent, in the workplace, what does this say to you? What does this mean for your life? Well, here's the thing: Scripture is calling you to recognize that there is spiritual opposition to you that you cannot see; that your Christian life, there are going to be times of conflict that are manifested in that. And where does that opposition come from? It's not simply circumstantial. It's not simply because you're having a bad day. Paul here is describing the Christian life in terms that expose us, that open our minds, that help us understand that we are dealing with a battle against foes, against opposition. And what does this say about the Christian life? Well, first of all, remember we're in a point that's saying you fight a spiritual battle, your foes are spiritual in nature. Your foes are spiritual in nature.

Look at what Paul says there in verse 12. He says, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood." In other words, it's not merely a human realm in which we are engaged in the Christian life. We cannot perceive these spiritual enemies with our physical senses but according to Scripture, which is what we trust to define reality for us, they are real. You say, "Well, yeah, but if I can't see them, if I can't hear them, if I can't touch them, can't smell them, then in what sense is this any kind of reality?" Well, you don't want to go there. You don't want to think in such a defective, obviously wrong way, do you? You don't want to think like that. You can't see gravity and yet gravity surely affects your existence every moment of your existence in life. Every moment that you walk is affected by the natural force of gravity holding you down on the earth and you wouldn't be so foolish as to say, "Well, I can't see gravity therefore it doesn't exist." Of course it exists. You know, come and stand in front of us and try to jump up and touch the ceiling. We'll watch as you deny gravity. That's not going to work. You know that that's not reality, that there is an unseen force that affects your physical existence here on earth. The fact that you can't see it doesn't mean that it's not real. Now, when we go from that familiar thing into the less familiar realm of the spiritual, we understand that Paul is saying that there is an unseen realm that is affecting your Christian life. It goes beyond human existence. It goes beyond human resistance. You need to be aware of what it is that you are dealing with. There is a spiritual foe that is involved here.

Secondly, the nature of this spiritual battle for you, and this is sobering what we're about to see here, is that your foes are not only spiritual, they are not only unseen, they are supernatural in their power. Look at verse 12 with me again and notice the words that convey authority and strength and might in what Paul has described here. Verse 12, he says, "your struggle is against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces," the ESV says the cosmic forces, "the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places." There is a powerful realm that Paul doesn't describe in much detail but having said that there is a devil with schemes, he goes on and describes rulers and powers and spiritual forces that are arrayed under the devil that are engaged in a struggle and a battle against you. You cannot see them and they have strength that is greater than yours. Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, it says. You and I can't do that, not persuasively anyway. There is a supernatural wicked realm arrayed against you in your spiritual life. As you walk with Christ, there is a battle going on that you can't see and that in your own strength you don't have the power to do anything about. That's kind of frightening. That's almost intimidating and it gets worse as you look at this.

Look at verse 12 with me again, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces," look at this, "of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." These foes are not merely unseen, they're not merely spiritual supernatural forces, beloved, they are wicked. Do you understand that? The whole point of this is designed to cast you like a wave, that the wave of this reality of truth about the unseen realm is designed to be a wave that casts you onto the shore of God's truth and strength and resurrection power. Paul minces no words: these foes, these forces arrayed against you, these demonic beings, are dark and wicked.

How dark? Look over at John 8:44. What is the mark of this darkness and this wickedness? Well, Jesus gives a sense of it, our reliable, trustworthy friend tells us what the devil is like. When he's speaking to unsaved people, he says in verse 44, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father." What's the devil like? "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." This wicked realm is overseen by the devil who Jesus says is a liar, one who is a murderer, in other words, who is a bloodthirsty deceiver, and he has these wicked forces somehow arrayed under him. Scripture doesn't go into much description about that and so you and I are not going to speculate about it here today because we can't see it and we can only verify that which is true by what Jesus has said in his word anyway. But this wicked realm is one of incalculable deception, wickedness, and is bloodthirsty after your well-being to destroy it, to harm it, to harm you, to bring sorrow and evil about in your Christian life.

Go back to Ephesians 6:12. It just bears repeating that your foes are hidden. They operate in the heavenly places. Look at verse 12, "our struggle," Paul says yours and mine, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood," it's not a human battle that we are facing; it's not a human warfare that we are engaged in. This is a spiritual battle "against rulers, powers, world forces, darkness, spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places." In a realm that you cannot even access is where the battle is engaged. That's what you are facing here. So Paul in this brief description, giving us enough description to attune us to the reality of it, its existence and its nature, says this is what you are up against. Here's the thing, beloved, you who are in Christ: you are the object of active resistance from spiritual, supernatural, evil, invisible foes.

Now, you don't feel it, how are you to identify it? What else can we say about the nature of the battle from this verse? Well, this is where I think it gets very, very helpful. I realize that as we're talking about invisible things that we can't see, that Scripture doesn't give us a whole lot of detailed information about, how do I get my hands on this? How is this practical? What can I make of this? Let me just say one thing. I've used this word in recent days in other settings and it is a really important word for the Christian life, especially as we deal with this demonic realm that we are talking about and the word is this: restraint. Restraint. We must restrain ourselves from trying to delve into a wicked realm that Scripture has not revealed a lot of details about. It is for our well-being that Scripture limits our knowledge about it and we are not to dive into it and run in where angels literally fear to tread, as it were, and start speculating about geographic territories or what demon answers to another demon someplace else. That's all a lot of foolishness that can only distract your mind away from the truth revealed in Scripture and into speculative areas that you cannot verify one way or another. God has told you enough to put you on alert to make you dependent, to make you cautious in what you do, and yet he has said a small enough amount to teach us restraint not to speculate and not to engage our minds with a bunch of Christian fiction that would draw you into a realm that you were never meant to go into to begin with. If that was necessary for your spiritual well-being, beloved, God would have revealed it to you because his word is sufficient to make us adequate for life and godliness. The fact that we're not given a whole lot of encyclopedic information about it is to protect us and to help us that we don't get fascinated with the darkness instead of reliant on the light.

Now, having said that and the restraint that is necessary as we speak about these issues, what else can we say about the nature of your battle? You're going to relate to everything I'm about to say if you're a Christian. All lights are going to go on in your mind here. Point 2: you fight a close battle. You fight a close battle and here's what I mean by the word "close," the battle that you fight as a Christian, where this realm intersects with the reality of your life is close in the sense that it is personal and it is intimate and sometimes it is even moment by moment. Paul, look at verse 12 with me, Paul calls it a struggle. That word for "struggle" is a word for "wrestling," and if you think about Olympic wrestlers or anybody that's on a mat going against a foe, you have a sense of the closeness. It is breath on breath, force on force, hand to hand combat, personal force resisting personal force. Struggle. Wrestling. It's a severity of contest. Relax for a moment and your opponent will flip you on your back and pin you. That's the nature of wrestling. It's tight quarters where it happens.

Now, there's something else. I don't often do this but in this instance it's very important. The closeness of the battle is very much reinforced by the preposition that Paul uses. The preposition that he uses. Look at the many, many times he repeats the word "against." Verse 12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Against, against, against, against, against, five times in that one verse. That must be important to say it that many times. And in a general sense, it reinforces this sense of battle that we were talking about, that there's a contest going on that you're engaged with. That's what the word "against" means in English, that you're fighting against someone or something, but I want to take it just another step further here. Remember we've said that Paul describes it as a struggle, wrestling kind of thing. Against, I'm going to give you one Greek word and this one's for real. I know sometimes when I say I'm going to give you a Greek word, then I'll say something silly like "duh" and so I undermine my own credibility as I approach it here today but today I'm serious. This word "against" is the Greek preposition "pros," p-r-o-s, if you were going to transliterate it into English. It's the preposition pros and, beloved, here's the thing about this preposition: the root meaning of this preposition is "near or facing." It's the preposition that's used in John 1:1 when it says that the Word was with God. Jesus Christ in pre-eternal glory with the Father was with him face-to-face intimate communion kind of thing. Closeness. Right there. Hand to the face, as it were. It expresses close proximity.

Think about it: struggle with a word that means wrestling, followed by a multiplied use of a preposition that means close proximity, facing, near, and you start to get the picture, right? It's a struggle. This is a perfect preposition to be used alongside the wrestling metaphor. Your battle is close. Your battle is personal. It is in your face. It's a close battle. It's why Paul calls it a struggle. You don't struggle with what somebody's doing in, you know, Butte, Montana. It's remote. It's distant. It doesn't have anything to do with you. Well, in like manner, these Christian novels that were written in years gone by portrayed it as a separate realm that was disconnected from daily life and that's why it made it easy to speculate and to step into it because it was disconnected from reality. Oh, beloved, here's the point: what Paul is talking about here is intimately connected to your daily life and I'm going to show that to you in just a moment here.

You're fighting a spiritual battle and you're fighting a close battle and so we're kind of zeroing in here and now you'd asked the question, if I were you I would ask this question, I'd be waiting for this question to be asked: well, where is it played out? If I can't see it, I can't hear it, can't smell it, can't touch it, then in what way is this a real battle? You're going to find that you already know the reality of it. Point 1: you fight a spiritual battle. Point 2: you fight a close battle. Point 3: you fight a life battle. A life battle. This is our final point for this morning and here's where I want you to really engage me, okay? One of the things I love about our church is you do engage, you listen. I can tell and I'm glad for that, grateful for it. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. This is where it's engaged and there is something really basic about biblical interpretation that I want to lay out to prepare your mind and heart for what we're about to hear. We've said many times as we've studied Scripture together that context is everything. One of the things that I have tried to model for you in my biblical teaching is to constantly expand out and remind you of the context of the overall book in which these passages appear. That's very, very vital and it's especially compelling and important here. Paul is writing Ephesians 6:12 in the flow of a long letter that he has already written, where he has already said a lot of things, right? He has said this, Ephesians 6:12, he said this, having already made three prior references to the devil and to a spiritual dark realm, right? I've showed you that. You've been able to see that for yourself. This is all woven through the book. Well, now, if we want to understand what Paul means by the struggle, if we want to understand how it intersects with our daily life, this dark invisible realm, beloved, here's what you've got to understand: now we're letting our principles of interpretation guide our understanding and this becomes very, very essential to you. When Paul writes this verse in chapter 6, verse 12, he has not suddenly disengaged – oh, this is just so important. This is just so important. Your protection is found in what I'm about to describe to you here. When Paul writes this verse in chapter 6, verse 12, he has not suddenly disconnected himself from everything that he said before and stepped in and just started talking about something completely different and unrelated to anything else that he had said in Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 6:9. No, that would be foolish. There is nothing to suggest that kind of radical break with his flow of thought.

Where's the battle? Where's the struggle? Paul is assuming that you know, that you have a sense that there is a struggle about the Christian life and throughout the book of Ephesians, beloved, now we're going to step back, look at the broader context and let that inform our understanding of this somewhat invisible verse, in one sense, talking about an invisible realm. Throughout Ephesians, the Apostle Paul has called the Christian life a walk. A walk. Ephesians 2:10. If you think about Google maps, we've really expanded back out and we're kind of looking at a global view here before we zero back in so that we can see context and have perspective on what Paul is saying. Throughout Ephesians, Paul has been concerned to address the Christian walk which is a metaphor for the Christian life. He says in chapter 2, verse 10, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." He says God saved you in part so that you would live out the life which God prepared beforehand for you. God had a purpose for you. He saved you so that you would walk in this life that is being described in the book of Ephesians. As you move into the second half of the book, he repeats this metaphor constantly. You can tell that this is his emphasis. This is what he is concerned about. Chapter 4, verse 1, "I implore you as the prisoner of the Lord to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Walk this way. Chapter 5, verse 2. In verse 1 he said, "be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you." Look at verse 8, "you are now Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." Verse 15, "be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise men." Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Christian life, the good works which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in, a walk that is worthy, a walk of love, a walk of light, a walk of wisdom. Now, think with me here, stay with me: this is the realm that Paul is addressing; it's the nature of your Christian life.

Now, again, keeping context in mind, part of what we're doing here is we're taking out the mystery of this demonic realm so that we understand how it affects us and where we engage the battle; that's why this is so important and why I'm spending so much time on it. Think with me. It's so easy to lose sight of context but all of that context informs what Paul is saying here in verses 10 through 12. And think just a little bit further about a little bit more context with me. As Paul has been talking about the nature of the Christian walk and has been exhorting and correcting his readers and, by extension, us in what he has said, what has he been talking about? Right now it engages. Right here everything plugs in and comes together. What has he been talking about in chapters 4 through 6? What has he been talking about? Church division. Talking about biblical teaching and instruction and doctrine. Talking about matters of personal temptation and pride. He taught on ignorance and deceit, greed, silly talk, drunkenness, rebellion and lust. And in what realms had he been talking about those specific things? In the realm of the church. In the realm of marriage. In the realm of parenting. In the realm of the workplace. Are you getting the picture? Do you see how all of this comes up? What is your life in Christ except it's marked by your family relationships, your workplace, and your involvement in the local church? Once you cover those areas, there might be a few things on the margin but the core of what's important, the core of what engages your life is all covered by those realms and the areas of correction and instruction that Paul gives within them. The book of Ephesians is close. It's personal. It's intimate. It goes to the very core of who you are and what you are to do.

Now, let me ask you a question, a personal question. One of the odd things about my demeanor is that I'll ask really personal questions from here that I would almost never ask you directly in private conversation. I don't know if that's good or bad. It's just how I am. But it lets you have a little bit of space to process things in your own heart under the light of God's word without a personal pressure being brought to bear on it. Beloved, as you think about these areas of local church, family life, workplace and the realms of lust and pride and deceit and doctrine and all of those things, let me ask you a very personal question: don't you know from personal experience the struggle in your life in some of those areas? Don't you know what it's like to wrestle with difficulties in what's right versus what's wrong? That you want to do the right thing and yet sometimes you find yourself doing the wrong thing? That there are issues and relationships that just seem irresolvable and that weigh on you and that make life difficult, and your workplace is hard and harsh and unproductive sometimes? Isn't your own path, your own walk with Christ, beloved, isn't it pockmarked with your own ineffectiveness, indifference and failure past and present?

Beloved, don't you realize by personal knowledge and experience what we're describing here? Why is that? Why is the Christian life sometimes so hard? It's like it's a struggle. It's like I'm wrestling with something. It's close and intimate and I can't seem to separate from, permanently I can't get away from the fact of this struggle. Why is that? It's a struggle because it's the nature of the battle, beloved. You are trying to live for Christ in the midst of close, supernatural hostility. Behind the scenes there are unseen wicked forces that hinder you and make it difficult; that throw roadblocks and barriers into the way. That, as it were, again speaking metaphorically, stick out their foot and trip you. What do they do? How do they do it? Where does this realm play out? What do they do? Well, as we're going to see as we look at the armor of God in coming weeks, what do they do? They insinuate false doctrine to you. They distort and twist the Scripture in a way that sounds appealing and sounds right and you start believing things and doing things that aren't true. What do they do? They tempt you to sin. They tempt you to doubt. They flatter your pride. They flatter you and make you think that you're doing pretty good and that overall God's pretty lucky to have you on his team. They exploit your carnal desires. They set you at division with family and other Christians and in your workplace.

How do we know that that's what Paul is talking about? Beloved, do you see it? We know that's what he's talking about because it's what he's been talking about the whole letter. This is the whole thing. And so now at the conclusion of the letter, having said everything that he has to say, he says, "Beloved, I've laid out all of the duty to you. I've corrected you and said everything that there is for me to say now. Finally as we look back on the totality of everything that's been said to you," Paul says, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." Why does he need to say that? Why does he cast you back upon the resurrection power of Jesus Christ as the source of your energy and ability to live out what he has been instructing you in chapters 1 through chapter 6, verse 9? Why? Because you don't have the power to do it on your own. Because there are forces arrayed against you that would cause you to stumble everywhere. And therefore when he says be strong in the strength of the Lord and in the strength of his might, he is saying in this whole realm as you live this out, understand you don't have the spiritual resources in yourself to resist the hostile spiritual supernatural forces that seek to cause you to stumble and therefore you must walk humbly before the Lord, humbly coming to his word, humbly bowing before him in prayer saying, "God, teach me the truth page by page, line by line. Help me to search this out. O God, I breathe out a spirit of dependence. As my Lord Jesus said, 'O God, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.'" Why did Jesus teach you to pray that way in Matthew 6? Was Christ just giving you a meaningless piece of fluff that had no relevance to the reality of life? Why did he teach us to pray, "O God, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil"? Why that spirit of prayer? Because evil is right there close as a threat.

Beloved, this is why you have God's word in your hand. This is why God sent the indwelling Holy Spirit. And what you need to see is that God calls you to dependently go back to these resources again and again so that you are able to resist these spiritual forces. If you fail, if you fall before these forces, understand why. It's not because you weren't equipped for the battle. It's not because that was an inevitable result. Your accountability is to be found in wrapping yourself in these things that God has given us in his word, wrapping yourself in prayer. You say, "Well, I don't do that." Yeah, and do you know what? If the truth be told and we looked at your life, we might question how effective a witness you are for Christ. We might wonder why your life is like it is. You see, you have trivialized, many of you, you have trivialized the nature of the battle. You have acted as though there was not a wicked realm opposed to you and opposed to Christ and that's why it's so easy for you because you don't take the battle seriously. That's why it's so easy for you to ignore God's word, to be superficial and inconsistent in prayer and you think you're doing fine when actually you're a product of this kind of deception. You're deceived into thinking you're doing well when you're not because the only way you resist this realm is through the strength that God has given in his word and prayer and with the fellowship of his people.

That's why Paul so urgently says, go back to Ephesians 6, I'm done here now. He says he's done and then he keeps talking. That's why Paul gives as an urgent command, verse 11, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand." Verse 13, "take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist, that you'll be able to stand firm. Stand firm therefore." You see, when your life is preoccupied with earthly things, your life is preoccupied with just completely earthly things and your mind is not engaged in these things of God, beloved, you've laid the armor down and you've said, "Demonic forces, come have at me." You resist these things only in the strength of the Lord and the strength of his might. Paul goes on and tells us exactly how to protect ourselves in the passage that comes, beginning in verse 13. We're going to gear up for battle next time.

Let's bow in prayer.

Father, I pray that you would awaken us to the real nature of the battle and of the foe. Father, when we see that there are supernatural wicked forces bent on our destruction against us, how can we be casual in our approach to the Christian life, to your word, to prayer, to the fellowship of God's people? Lord, I pray that you would help us grasp and understand on the one hand, the nature of the danger and that it plays out in the reality of the Christian life and yet, Father, that that would not leave us in despair or in a position of fear but simply to awaken us to lay hold of the resources that you have given that are fully sufficient for us to win the battle. Yes, Satan and his forces are strong and have supernatural power that is beyond our ability but, Lord Jesus, you created them and you defeated them, their sting was in death, and you are resurrected and therefore in Christ we belong to the Victor and have all of the resources of victory at our disposal. So while this verse, Ephesians 6:12, would wake us up and alert us to danger and call us to duty in the midst of the conflict, Father, may you just as quickly and swiftly and even more deeply bring to our mind the resources that you have given to us in Christ that we would be able to stand firm in the midst of the battle and glorify our warrior God, our warrior Champion, the one who conquered sin and Satan and death and identify ourselves so fully with him that during this brief walk of our life on earth we would be shown and we would manifest the strength in the Lord and the strength of his might. May that be true for each of us, Father, as we go on our way now. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

More in Strong for the Battle

May 16, 2016

Ready for Battle, #3

May 8, 2016

Ready for Battle, #2

May 1, 2016

Ready for Battle, #1