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Ready for Battle, #2

May 8, 2016 Pastor: Don Green Series: Strong for the Battle

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 6:16

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I hope that in this sense you are like me, I love the realism of the Bible. It explains the world in which we live. It gives us perspective to understand what we are seeing unfold before us as we walk through life and as we observe the unfolding of things in the world and in the news. It explains the world and it explains it perfectly from this perspective, in 1 John 5:19, the Apostle John said, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." We live in a wicked world that is united in its opposition to our Lord Jesus Christ. That same book says, "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you." So we recognize, we realize that we are going to have this sense that we are in an alien environment as we go through it as Christians and if you're here today as a believer, I want to kind of lay things out for you to give you a sense, kind of a little bit of an overview, kind of engage your mind in the comprehensive nature of the alien environment in which we live so that you would be prepared to receive the word from Ephesians 6.

Let's look at it this way since these things seem to dominate the news, since this is what the world wants to drive and advocate, well, we'll accept this and address it on their own terms. Beloved, if support for homosexuality and if support for transgenderism say anything, it says to us this, what we see, it says to us this about our environment, about the comprehensive nature of the opposition to Christ and his righteousness, it's easy to document every element of what I'm about to say: our government, our entertainment world, our news media, our higher education system, our business world, and even athletics, have coalesced to oppose the order of God which made us male and female. In every area of those dominant strains of public life, you see this being advanced, advocated, defended and insisted upon. To resist that consensus is to become an enemy of the state subject to penalties from state commissions on so-called human rights and now as we are increasingly seeing, lawsuits from the US Department of Justice.

Let there be no mistake about the hostility of the world toward the righteousness of God revealed in Scripture. It is universal and the forces which oppose us are strong with legal authority, governing authority; they are strong with popular-level appeal; and they are strong with financial influence as well. It is universal. It has all moved in this direction. To speak against it is not only to invite repercussions from the government, in many realms it is to invite yourself to receive a pink slip from your employer. And I often think about this, think about how you as the younger generation coming up, how are you going to live in response to this, how are you going to be faithful to Christ in this, those of you who are entering into adulthood, new to adult life in your early 20s, late 20s, early 30s, what's going to happen to you going forward. I've lost sleep over this. When you think further about the nature of the world in which we live, difficult times are compounded within the professing church, aren't they? False teaching and unfaithful ministries flourish in the Christian marketplace. So-called Christian book publishers have no compunction about publishing the rankest heresy and false teaching just so long as the books will sell in the name of God. It's despicable. And even a little closer to home, even within the professing church, let's be honest and accept some responsibility that for many Christians, self-pleasure rather than self-sacrifice is the animating principle behind their chosen life priorities. It's as if the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, just like Scripture says. It's like the whole world is designed to be antagonistic toward the things of Christ and the things of righteousness.

Then, beloved, when you take it one step further and look in the mirror and even as a sincere, humble believer in Christ and you recognize and transparently acknowledge the battle that you face with your own inner corruption, in the midst of this overwhelmingly hostile external environment, it's easy to feel discouraged and vulnerable and even intimidated, to withdraw into a corner and say there is no point, there is no use in even fighting the battle within or without. And to ask this question as we look at these coalescing forces inside and outside, you look at it humanly and you would rightly ask the question: can we even survive in this environment? Can a fish survive outside of water? Can a man breathe without air? How are we to do this? Let alone to ask the question: could we even thrive? Could you survive in this environment? Could you perhaps thrive in this environment? And the answer is yes. Not only can we survive, God has called us to thrive in this environment; that it is in exactly the midst of this evil wicked world with all of its impending uncertainty in the months to come, it is precisely there where you are to thrive as a believer in Christ.

Beloved, we are of God. Do you understand that as a Christian? That God is the one who has given birth to you. That God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who laid down his life for you. That God in the person of the Holy Spirit is the one who indwells you. And beloved, not only are you not supposed to shrink back from the battle that has come to us in our day and age, you are to realize that you are equipped for that battle, to enter into that battle, and to succeed and prosper in that battle spiritually and manifest the conquering, overwhelming, overcoming nature of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of it. Jesus said in John 16:33, he said, "Take courage; I have overcome the world." In this world you have tribulation but take courage, I have overcome the world.

So you start to realize that you are not to define your perspective on life on the basis of the evil environment in which you live. You start it from the perspective of who Christ is, what he has done for us, what he has given to us, and realize that you are sent forth into the battle with the expectation that you would stand firm; that you would be strong; that you would play the part of a man despite the seeming isolation in which you find yourself. Incidentally, I would say, this is a tangent, but incidentally I would say to you and plead with you to realize that the fact that we are in this hostile environment, the fact that it is difficult for each one of you and you feel that discouragement and the weight of internal corruption and external opposition that comes with it, beloved, it makes it all the more important for you to do what you've done this morning, to gather together with the people of God whenever they come together. It's not just that you need it, we need you. We need each other in times like this. When you get off by yourself, when you start to isolate and separate yourself from the people of God, you are making yourself vulnerable like a sheep straying from the fold for a wolf to attack. It is all the more urgent and important for us to come together and gather together and love one another and be with one another and pray with one another and pray for one another and to manifest your love and support for each other by the way we come together week by week. So thank you for being here today. Recognize the important priority that that is in life.

But beloved, what I want you to see, as bad as the external appearances seem to be, what I want you to see is that God has prepared us for precisely such a time as this. And even though I don't know what lies ahead for the coming generation. I don't need to. I don't know what all of the Christian strategies are going to be to survive in the midst of such hostility that is only going to get worse. I don't need to, you don't either. What we need to focus on is what has been given to us in advance already by our living gracious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look at Ephesians 6 with me. Go there if you haven't turned there already. We're in the midst of a study of the armor of God and I'm grateful to God for the providential ordering of the timing that allows me at this point in my ministry to preach exactly this passage and to proclaim the sufficiency of what God has done for us even in the midst of the outward hostility to all things Christian that is only going to get worse as the restraints of government are removed and people are more free to aim the hostility that they have toward Christ against those who follow him here on earth. Let's read the whole passage to set it into context and then we're going to focus particularly on Ephesians 6:16 here in our message this morning. Ephesians 6:10, The Apostle Paul says,

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. 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. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Beloved, let me just lay something really simple and basic and obvious out to you as we consider these things, as we try to realistically assess the evil world in which we live, the challenges that face us now and that we expect to become more difficult as the last days draw closer near, you must understand this and you must view yourself, you must view your life, you must view your fidelity to Christ from precisely this perspective: a soldier's valor is tested in the midst of conflict. It is when a soldier is tested by enemy fire that he is most displayed as being a courageous worthy soldier of the medals that will one day come to adorn his vest. And, beloved, this time in life, this world that God has placed us in, this life that God has given you with all of its attendant struggles and uncertainties even on a personal level, beloved, this is your arena; this is your realm; this is your sphere of action. This is where God has providentially placed you so that you would manifest the exquisite glory of God even though there is very little in your surrounding environment to support you in the process.

This is our realm to shine and, beloved, God has equipped you for the battle. God has equipped you for the conflict. God has equipped you for the smoke of the battle. God has equipped you for the fiery darts that come in the midst of it all. From whatever realm you face the things that we discussed, whether it's in that world system realm or in your personal life or difficulties in relationships and losing loved ones to death, beloved, you've got to come back to what we talked about last Sunday. If you missed that message, if you weren't here, I beg you to pick that up and listen to it because what has God given us? What do we have in our salvation? And is it sufficient for the need of the day? Well, look, what we saw last time is that God has given us his truth, he has given us his word written and incarnate in Christ, he has given us righteousness in the sense that he has given us the very righteousness of Christ imputed to us, clothed us in the righteousness of Christ that we might know for certain that all of the demands of God against us have been perfectly satisfied in Christ and therefore we are reconciled, we are at objective peace with a holy God. We have his truth. We have his righteousness and in our salvation, we have peace with him, objective peace. The God who once was angry with us has been satisfied. The God who once was the enemy of our unrighteousness is now our friend. As we sang a couple three weeks ago, "The Lord of angel armies is always by my side now that I am in Christ." So you must look beyond the visible things of this world and the visible things of this life to the invisible unseen realities of salvation, of Christ, of those things to which the word points us as we study it together and as you read it on your own.

Beloved, you are called by God to live by truth in this evil world and to let truth be that which shapes your perceptions; to let truth be that which sets your priorities; to let truth be that which gives you courage when all of the world seems to be arrayed against you and even your own heart and prayers fail in their weakness and corruption. You are to live by these truths. You are to own them. You are to embrace them. They are to permeate the very essence of the inner core of your inner man so that you respond and you analyze life and you think about your existence all from that great perspective of strength given to us by the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ and our reconciliation with him. You see, when you're in the midst of a battle with an evil, supernatural, wicked, unseen foe, you need to know that you are given what is needed for the battle.

Well, beloved, whatever else Satan can do, if he succeeds in destroying the world's perception of male and female gender, what you need to see is that even if he could do that, what he can never do is he can never pull down the truth of God from its perch of preeminence. He can never pull Christ down from his place at the right hand of the Father. He can never, because he tried on earth, he can never diminish, he can never successfully attack the righteousness of Christ which is the ground and foundation of your salvation. He can never snatch you out of the hand of the Father, John 10:28-30. So whatever else he can do in creating this scene of a horrifying conflict, what you have to do is you have to come back, you have to step into the realm of what God has done, who God is, his unconquerable supremacy, his surpassing sovereignty and realize that whatever Satan can do in this evil world can never assault the things that are the very foundation of the eternal well-being of your soul. Satan can never undo God's truth. He can never undo Christ. He can never undo your salvation. What does that mean as you go through the battle? It means that you're secure. It means that you're strong. It means that you have everything that you need to go through without concern that the world will somehow dislodge you from your security in Christ. It's impossible. Satan cannot attack these things of God no matter what else he might do with the surroundings in this world.

You are to live by these truths. How do you do that? That's the question for today. How do you take these things that you know to be true that are revealed in Scripture, how do you take them so that you are strong in the battle and not weak and fearful? If ever there was a time for the church of Christ to rally around these truths, it's the day and age in which we live. The men, even the good men, who highlight all of the negative things going on in our culture but leave you in a state of fear, are doing you a disservice. When they show you all of the complexities of the things that have led to this state in which we live and yet they stop short of saying, "But even in the midst of that, you have all of the resources that you need in Christ in order to flourish in the midst of it," they are doing you a disservice. And it may be that you simply need to take your own initiative and rather than relying on leaders and teachers to point these things to you that maybe they're not emphasizing as they are in the midst of the battle themselves, you by contrast, you in the privacy of your own home, you in the quiet of your own prayer closet, you come to these things and you feed upon them and you draw the strength and nourishment you need so that you can be strong, so that you can stand firm. There is no excuse for us to be weak and fearful even in the environment in which we find ourselves. There is no excuse for that whatsoever, not when God has given us all that he has given us in his revelation and the righteousness of Christ and in our reconciliation to him. What do we have to be fearful about? What do we have to be afraid of? What could possibly penetrate the iron veil of security that God has surrounded us with in those areas? Nothing can, not even a supernatural wicked foe. So we go to these things as our fortress, as our rock, as our refuge, and we find our strength to live with confidence, to live with serenity even when the most urgent things of life seem to be compromised around us.

By the way, one other thing, one other tangent here. It's finally starting to dawn on me after all of this time. If you hope and look to the world, look to news reports, look to legislation, look to political results, look for any manner of something from the world to encourage you in this direction, you're going to be disappointed because it's not going to be there so stop looking for the encouragement there. Of course the headlines are going to be negative and are going to be discouraging to us. Of course, because the headlines are coming from within the evil world system that is opposed to us. Why do we look to the realm of politics, the realm of something in media to be that which would give us strength? Why would we lean on the broken staff of Egypt when we have the rod of Jesse, when we have the King of Israel to look to for our strength and support?

Well, that's what we've got to do here and this is how you do it. Three things today just from verse 16. It's actually pretty simple. Scripture says God didn't save many noble, not many wise. Scripture tells us a prince is a false hope for victory and so is a strong horse in battle. False hope. So let's push that aside and say, "Okay, God, how is it that you would give me strength? What would I rely on that would be reliable? That would be trustworthy? That would be sufficient?" Watch this, beloved, "That is not subject to change?" Three things. First of all, here's what you do and I can't do this for you and God doesn't do this for you. It is your responsibility to take these things and to do them yourself as you will see. 1. First of all: affirm your confidence in Christ. Affirm your confidence in Christ. Beloved, we don't live by sight. Our perspective on the world is not subject to the shifting sands of political elections or newspaper headlines. You are set, you rely on your sufficiency in Christ in those realms that he has given to us.

Look at Ephesians 6:16, the Bible says that, "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Those of you that are using the English Standard Version see that the opening of this verse says, "in all circumstances." In the original language, it's a two word phrase, "in all," and so the translators are trying to help flesh out the meaning of what that means. But it's simply the idea "in all, in everything take up the shield of faith." In other words, whatever comes to you in your life, whatever happens in the world around us, it doesn't matter what the details are, in everything do this, take up the shield of faith. In everything. In other words, you view your entire life, you view the world around you, you view everything through the prism of the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ and our reconciliation to God in him. You view everything through that prism and all of a sudden you're looking at everything from a position of strength. But you need to be confirmed in it, you need to be established, you need to be confident, you need to assert it.

Paul talks about the shield of faith. He's extending the metaphor of the Roman armor, the soldier armor that a Roman soldier would wear. When we think of a shield, we sometimes think of a little round disk that you would hold in your hand and maybe the size of an oversized dinner plate. That's not what Paul's describing here. No, this is a word that points to something else. It points to a large shield. It actually comes more from a word that means door. It was a shield that was 4 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide that was covered in animal hide and bound together with iron. This was the shield that the Roman soldier used in battle and he would crouch behind it and it would cover him and protect him in the battle. It didn't leave anything exposed when he used it properly. Why did he need a shield like that? Because in the method of warfare at the time, the enemies would try to kill him with arrows that were dipped in flaming pitch and then shot at him and if he was hit with one of those arrows and it sunk into his body, it would mortally wound him. But the design of the shield was such to absorb the impact of the arrow, extinguish the flame so that there would be no injury or death wrought by such a powerful attack. Beloved, that shield kept him safe so long as he kept it up at all times.

Paul is using that word picture for you to have a sense of how central, how vital it is for you to ever keep focused in your mind the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ in our reconciliation with him. That is your defense against the wickedness of the evil world around you. It is your source of encouragement when you battle your own internal corruption and fears. Paul calls it a shield of faith. Watch this, the shield of faith, once in a while Scripture will use faith in the sense of "the faith," the revealed body of doctrine that Scripture teaches, that's not the sense in which Paul is using it here. He's talking about faith in the sense of your personal trust and confidence that you place in these things that God has given to us in Christ. You can see that, you can see that this is something that you are to do personally with these truths rather than it is something that is external to you. Because of what he says in verse 16, look at the verse with me again, he says, "taking up the shield of faith," that's what you do, "with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." It's something that you do. You have responsibility in this. You're not meant to be a passive observer that just lets whatever happens happen and to not consider and think and dwell and meditate upon the great truths of our salvation. You are to take these things and internalize them because that is what creates the shield around your heart to give you the courage, the fortitude, the confidence to go forward.

So what is this faith? Paul says, "You settle in your mind an absolute conviction, a complete confidence, a total reliance, a settled assurance on the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ, and our reconciliation with him." He says, "You settle in your mind so that there is no doubt, that there is no room for hesitation, that you are confident in these things, you believe them, you embrace them, you accept them, they are yours, they belong to you as a gift from God to you." And you say, "This is what I stake my life on. This is what I stake my eternity on. This is where I have put my foot down. My mind is made up and my foot is put down. I stand firm on this ground and I will not be moved." And you can have that kind of assurance because this isn't about what you believe, in one sense. What I mean by that is this, is that these things, these truths about the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ and our reconciliation with him, they are true whether or not you exist. They are independent of you. They are outside of you. This is not simply a matter of, "Well, I believe this and whatever you believe is fine with you too." No, no, we're not standing on the grounds of postmodern shifting sand. What we're standing on are on the certainties of revealed truth from God that are impenetrable, that are unchangeable, that are unshakable and you say, "That's what I own. That's my existence. That's what belongs to me. I believe that. I receive it. I rest in it."

So step back, take a breath and we ask ourselves this: where is it that you're going to find courage to live in this evil world? It's not going to be fed by anything that's around you. What is it that's going to give you discernment in the midst of a weak, effeminate professing so-called evangelical church in the world today that thrives more on numbers than it does on truth and integrity? Where are you going to find the discernment to pick your way through that when you're just an ordinary Joe and all of these forces are going against you? Beloved, talking about it in terms of your own internal corruption, your own battle and struggle with your own pursuit of righteousness, what is it that's going to give you strength in temptation? What is it that's going to motivate you to rise above that and say, "There are greater affections of my heart. I'll deny myself in these sinful desires for the sake of something higher and better." What strengthens your heart in temptation except that the revelation of God is true; the righteousness of Christ is complete and impeccable. "My reconciliation with God has brought me into his family and given me a position of security and belongings that I can't find anywhere else." When you feed your mind on truth like that, when you feed your mind on those unconquerable unchanging things of God, do you know what you find? Confidence. You find a shield that says, "I'm not tempted to go after false doctrine." You find that temptation in the words of the hymn writer, temptation itself loses its power when Christ is near. And beloved, mark it, what is it that will give you the strength not to be intimidated by the pulsating headlines of wickedness that would try to drive us into despair, discouragement, dispirited distrust? Where are you going to find strength like that except when the roots of your spiritual tree, so to speak, are drawn upon the fresh living water found in what Paul calls the armor of God?

When you are persuaded of these things, when you are relying on them, not only are you not intimidated into silence, you start to say to yourself, "I see why martyrs in years gone by went to the gallows, went to the stake, had fire consume their life. I can see why they were like that. I can see where that courage came from because they are feeding off the same eternal truth that is laid out before us here in the revelation, righteousness and reconciliation of God." That's the armor of God. That's what protects you. And the ones who are going to be equipped to stand firm in the battle and show their valor are going to be those who day by day, week by week, are consistently faithfully anchoring their minds right there rather than loving the world and pursuing what it has to offer. We are coming out of an age over the past 50 or 60 years where you could comfortably have one foot in Christ, so to speak, and one foot in the world and you didn't have to choose sides. We're not going to have that option. That option is over for us.

So we take on the armor of God. We consciously rely on Christ. We realize that we are united by faith with him and that what he has done is our future. What has he done? He has overcome the world. He went through death. He triumphed. He ascended on high. Those of us that are in him, the same kind of victory is assured for us. And what you do to live in a world like this is you affirm your confidence. You settle it in your mind. You take yourself in hand. You preach to yourself. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, "These things are true and this," you say to your soul, "this is what you will live by. This is what will shape your perspective on everything. I stake it all on Christ. I stake it all on his word and I won't be moved." You affirm your confidence in Christ. You take up that shield.

Secondly. What else do you do? You acknowledge your responsibility. Point 2: you acknowledge your responsibility. First of all, you affirm your confidence in Christ and, secondly, you have to acknowledge your responsibility. Honestly, in light of what God has revealed to us in Scripture generally in Christ and even in this particular passage that we are looking at in Ephesians over a period of a couple of weeks, there is no excuse for you and me to be weak. There is no reason for us to shrivel back in fear. And what you have to realize is that that realm of confidence is your responsibility to enter into, to feed it so that your soul lives in that realm rather than the realm of fear and doubt. Beloved, you must and you can engage this spiritual battle with a wicked, unseen, spiritual foe in a world environment that is hostile to everything that you and I hold dear, you are able to engage that battle with an expectation of spiritual success with the fact that you will prevail in the midst of this; that you will overcome just as Christ called you to.

Look at verse 16 and I love the simplicity of the observation that we are about to make together about God's word. Ephesians 6:16, "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which," look at it, "you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." You will be able. Now, a point of grammar here for you: this verse, this participle, taking up the shield of faith, is a supporting element of the central command of the text to stand firm. Look at verse 14 with me just to keep you acquainted with the primary structure and the main verbs of the text. Verse 14 says, "Stand firm therefore." It's a command. It's an imperative that you are responsible to obey every bit as much as you are other commands in Scripture. You are commanded to stand firm. That's the central command and when Paul says, "having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having shod your feet, taking up the shield of the faith," these are the things that enable you to carry out that central command of standing firm.

Can I show you something? It's simple. In the text, do you know what? The Bible does not command God to stand firm. Scripture commands you to stand firm. You have a responsibility in the midst of this that you are to recognize, undertake and do. You are the one to stand firm meaning this: that you – oh beloved – you are responsible to take what God has given and develop a sanctified mind and an obedient life no matter what else happens. You are to take this up. You are to do this. This is your responsibility and unless you have your nose in this book, you are falling short. Somehow this book has to be the most precious thing in your life for this to be true about you, for you to be able to stand firm like this. The command comes and says stand firm, take up the shield of faith, and you say, perhaps you might say this, you say, "But pastor, you don't understand, I'm too weak. I'm too scared. I'm too discouraged." And the biblical response to that statement from a Christian is this: "Nonsense. That's not true. You are not too weak for whatever you're facing. You are not too weak to go through this evil wicked world courageously, standing out as a light of the world, a light to the world, standing out as a representative of Christ."

And I want you to notice this, look at verse 16 with me again. The simplest things open up the most wonderful depths of what it means to be a Christian. Paul says that when you take up the shield of faith, you will be able to do this. Do you know what? That's not a conditional statement. It's in the indicative mood. In other words, it is a statement of reality, it is a statement of fact. Paul isn't saying it might work out as if he had used a subjunctive there, as if he were dealing in hypotheticals about ideals that only a few attain to but most of the rest of us fall short of. Paul says, "When you take up this shield of faith, you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Look at it, beloved. Look at the text with me. Paul when he says, "you will be able, you do have this capacity, God has equipped you to live in just this way," beloved, he is declaring confident facts, not wishful hypotheticals. Whether you feel it or not is not the point of this passage. The point is that these elements of the armor of God are by definition, by God declared reality, by God declared intention sufficient for you to live out the Christian life with serenity, with confidence, with courage no matter what comes.

So even in this world, even in your life, even in your weakness, God has made you able. God has given you what you need and you're to take it up. As you sit here, it should be dawning on you if it hasn't already, "I have to respond to this. I have to live this way. The danger is too great for me to lay down my shield in battle. It's obvious that I will take in mortal wounds if I don't take this seriously." It also does this, it takes away all of your excuses of being a weak, whimpering Christian in the midst of battle, in the midst of conflict, in the midst of hardship. There is no excuse for that, beloved. Why? Because God has given you what is necessary for you to be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Look back at verse 13. He used of same language up there too, didn't he? Verse 13, "so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." You're able. That faith, that kind of conquering heroism in the Christian life comes with you starting by affirming your confidence in Christ and in God's revelation about him and then acknowledging your responsibility to respond. Stated negatively, to not make excuses for your sin, for your weakness, for your unbelief. You take yourself in hand and say, "That's not acceptable. I'm not going to live that way. That's not the kind of Christian that God called me to be." Because you are able to stand. You are able. Look at it, "you will be able." A revealed word from God that what he has given you in Christ is sufficient for the day and age in which you live.

So, you know, we stop making excuses for ourselves. We stop saying things like, "This is too hard." We stop getting all worked up about, "I can't believe that they did this. They went another degree further." Of course they did. What do you expect from an evil wicked world? "You know, this world is unfair to Christians." Do you know what? Of course it is. It's hostile. It's going to play every advantage against us that it can. So what? So what? So what? The people to feel sorry for here, the people to feel sorry for in this is not ourselves, the people to feel sorry for are those who are lining themselves up with the agents and spirits of doom because the outcome of this is assured no matter what the temporary back and forth may be in the world.

So to ask a final question: can you really prosper spiritually in a world like this? Is that really possible or is this just some kind of motivational thing that can't really succeed in real life? He has overstated the promises of God. The only thing I do is understate them. The only thing that my words do is fall short of the glory and the confidence that it deserves. I haven't overstated anything. And based on the clear terms of the text itself, point 3, write this down, burn it into your mind, brand it as that which defines your existence and your expectation about everything in the future in this life and in the life to come. We have said that you affirm your confidence in Christ because of the armor of God that he has given to you. You acknowledge your responsibility, "Ah, I have to take it up. I have to think about these things. I have to let this shape my world perspective and manifest confidence in them even when it's difficult." Thirdly: you anticipate complete victory. You anticipate complete victory. You fear no evil. Isn't that what Psalm 23 said? Just basic Scriptures that we think we know but we don't live by. David said in Psalm 23, "I fear no evil for You are with me." Well, is that the mark of the Christian church today in the hostile environment in which we live? Are we marked by no fear of evil? You tell me. For you individually, personally, no matter what other Christians are doing, you, my friend, my Christian friend, my brother and sister in Christ, you can rise up and be a man or a woman of God like this. You can look to the future knowing that Christ is sufficient in all things, for all things, without exception, without doubt, without any concern that your confidence in him will somehow be found to be misplaced. Scripture says repeatedly, "He who believes in him will not be disappointed."

And when you look at this very text, verse 16, some of the simplest words lay it all out for you in a way that you cannot miss. Verse 16, "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." All of them. Flaming arrows pictures the various attacks that Satan uses against us, drawing upon that metaphor of first century warfare that I alluded to earlier where flaming arrows are shot at the soldier as he upholds his shield against them. Here's the thing, beloved, here's why you should walk out of this room with a supernatural confidence about the future in your life and in the ultimate conquest of Christ. Whatever the attack may be, if it's in all of those powerful realms of the world that I alluded to earlier, whether it's in the false revelation and false righteousness that false teachers try to deceive us with, whether it's you being tempted to ungodly thinking and behavior, whether it's you feeling the ground on which you stand being undermined with doubt and despair, whether as it was for many of our brethren in centuries gone by Satan instigating lethal persecution against those who named the name of Christ, whatever the realm may be, lots of different arrows being shot at you, fear, persecution, doubts, false teaching, hostile world, fractured relationships, impending death, uncertainty about what's going to happen in your own life situation, consistent arrows incoming, beloved, don't you see what Scripture says here? What God has equipped you with? Look at it, and all of those various devices, all of those things designed to undermine you, to mortally wound you, to make you a casualty on the field of faith, Paul says, "What God has given you in his revelation, the righteousness of Christ and your reconciliation with him is sufficient for you to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Every single one."

Look at it, beloved, even though these arrows are fired at you with supernatural power by a supernatural destroyer, a sadistic deceiver, what God has already given to you in Christ is sufficient for you to successfully withstand all of it without exception. Your union with Christ overcomes all of Satan's schemes. God has equipped his church, he has equipped you and me individually with such holy weapons of warfare that we are ready for whatever the battle may be. We don't have to be afraid of the future. We don't have to anticipate what's going to happen five years down the road. It'll probably be difficult. It'll probably shock our conscience but do you know what? Whatever it is, the same resources that have defended us from the past until today are going to be sufficient to defend us going forward as well.

So if we are entering difficult days to be a Christian and it seems that we are, beloved, don't be afraid. Don't shrink back. Even if you're entering difficult days in your personal life, change is ahead. Disappointments, discouragements, sudden loss, don't be afraid. Don't say it's too much because that's not true. What God is giving you is sufficient for all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

If you want to think about it politically, beloved, just apply it in this realm – I'm controlling myself here. Our shield has never been the United States Constitution. That which protects us was never the First Amendment. It was never based on a human document no matter how we might have been taught to respect that document in times gone by. Beloved, beloved, we were never ever going to put out demonic fires of unrighteousness with the squirt guns of politics. Our forefathers, our prior generation in the faith that tried to do that did us a great disservice conditioning us to think in that way, to try to fight spiritual battles with political weapons. That was never going to work because human weapons are not sufficient against spiritual foes and our struggle, Scripture says, verse 12, "not against flesh and blood, it's against the spiritual forces of wickedness." If the current age in which we live has done anything for us, it's done this to us as a favor, it has clarified for us exactly where our strength lies. It's only when God takes away any hope of political or military deliverance that we finally start to look to him for the sufficiency of the resources that he has given us and we realize that by comparison, this political stuff was hay, straw and stubble, destined to be consumed in the fire whereas in the righteousness of Christ, the revelation of God and our reconciliation to him, we have pure gold not subject to diminishment.

So, beloved, you as an individual Christian, we as the body of Christ in the 21st century, we're ready for a call to battle. We're ready for a call to valor. We're ready to meet this opposition, this unseen difficulty, these unseen forces of wickedness arrayed against our spiritual well-being. We're ready. We're prepared. James Montgomery Boice says this, he says, "When God says that he is able to keep us from falling and present us before his presence with exceeding joy, he means exactly that and he will do it. We do not need to fear when we advance into battle, God will go with us and will bring victory." That's our position as Christians. That's what it's like to be a soldier in the army of Christ.

Let's bow together in prayer.

Beloved, God has given us these things but you have to take up the shield of faith and use it, the question is whether you will. For those of you who are not Christians, take this occasion to come to Christ and trust in his blood atonement for sinners. My unsaved friend, you cannot continue in this world, that is to seal your own description. Scripture says you must be saved from this perverse generation. Leave the world behind and come to Christ.

Our Father, we thank you for the truth, the righteousness and the peace which you have given. We take these things up, as it were, by affirming our confidence in them. We accept the responsibility to be strong in them and to not cave into doubt or fear. We thank you, Father, that you have made us completely sufficient for a completely difficult battle, that in Christ we are able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one from whatever direction they may come. We praise you for our security in him. We thank you that you are with us always, even to the end of the age. We thank you that you have conquered death and sin and hell, our Lord, and now are at the right hand of the Father interceding for us without fail, with the full intention of preserving us in the salvation that you have given to us forever. No one can snatch us out of your hand therefore we are confident, therefore we are strong, therefore we are at peace. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

More in Strong for the Battle

May 16, 2016

Ready for Battle, #3

May 1, 2016

Ready for Battle, #1

April 3, 2016

The Nature of the Battle