Ephesians: The Fight

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  About ten years when we first started Journey we were kind of learning about how we were going to do this church thing – and finding our way a bit and so one of the very first sermon series we did we called Fight Club.  And we thought – you know – let’s be edgy and call it Fight Club and we even used the graphic from the movie fight club.

But the reason I bring it up was because as part of the series – we had guys sign up to take Krav Maga classes – which was like, an Israeli martial arts kind of self-defense class-  Which was a blast – except that – part of the class was practicing like, punching each other – with pads or whatever – but we had to partner up – and my guy – lucky lucky – the guy I got to pair up with was Jason Baker – who was a former lineman for the Huskers in the 90’s – and who I think is 1/4 grizzly bear.

I’m not sure how that all – I’m no scientist – but all that to say – that guy beat the tar out of me.  Just like he might beat the tar out of me again for suggesting his grandmother was a grizzly bear.  I went home at night completely worn out from being destroyed by Jason.

At least I knew who was beating me up!  Ready?  Some of you are getting beat up by someone you can’t see – but who is every bit as real as Jason or me or the chair you are sitting in.  Some of you are getting tore up by an invisible enemy – the devil – who, the bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8, Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Today we are going to talk about satan!  Do I have your attention?  Are you expecting to see my head twist around?  Some might expect that, but today we are going to learn that the devil doesn’t often make his presence so easy to detect.

So as we come to the end of our study on the letter to the Ephesian church – and we are going to listen to Paul talk about our enemy and how we can prepare ourselves to be ready to fight against him – because you are likely fighting evil spiritual forces on a daily basis.  So let’s learn how they operate, and how to fight back.

Let’s read Ephesians 6:10-17

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

The Bible insists that there is a devil.  And that there is a battle going on against an enemy that is not flesh and blood.  We are in a fight against the dark and evil powers of darkness.

Does it surprise you to hear this?  Do you have a hard time believing in the actual existence of the devil and the demonic world?

It wouldn’t surprise me if you did.  After all – we live in the west.  If you went to Haiti you will hear the chanting all night – and you will feel the presence of dark forces – it’s hard to explain except to say – no one in Haiti is going to argue that there is no spiritual dark forces at work.

But we live in America.  We live in a land that wants to explain away the idea of the devil as archaic, medieval, superstitious, something that was before we understood such things as schizophrenia or mental disease, or depression, or whatever.

But here’s what I’d ask if you are right now super skeptical about this passage or about this talk.

First – if you believe in an invisible God it ought not be difficult to believe in an invisible enemy.  Furthermore – it is increasingly difficult to explain the evil that exists in the world as only existing because of natural causes.  In other words – there is an attempt in modern society to say – the reason why people do evil things is purely because of the way they were raised, or what others taught them, or some economic and social forces that misshape people and cause them to do evil things.

If only people had more money.  If only people had more education.  But in recent times it is more and more difficult to explain away the forces of evil we see occurring.  When we see the worlds wealthiest people rape and molest like Jeffrey Epstein and company.  When one of the worlds most affluent, most educated, most civilized countries, like Germany in the 1940’s, design build and attempt to carry out genocide – well, it’s harder and harder to just say – the reason someone did evil was because they weren’t raised well.

The bible has no difficulty in explaining the presence of evil in the world.  There are two sources.  Rebellious human beings and evil angels.  Paul tells us that we were once darkness.  Before Jesus we contributed to the darkness and evil in the world.

And the Bible tells us that there was once an angel – who was created pure and beautiful and powerful – who decided that He could be a better God than God.  And so he rebelled and brought – and it’s a bit murky – but it appears that perhaps up to 1/3 of the angels fell with Lucifer.  And so – evil exists in both the physical world and the spiritual world.

Now someday – spoiler alert – God is going to make everything right in both of those places.  The bible never insinuates some sort of dualism – two forces fighting and the outcome is unclear.  The outcome is certain.  Our God will one day speak the word and Satan will be defeated.  But in the meantime we have an actual enemy who seeks to destroy our faith.  And Paul wants to make sure we know it.

He is trying his best to get us to avoid what C.S. Lewis called the two great errors you can make when it comes to the devil.  This is from the book ScrewTape Letters – which is fictional letters back and forth between two demons.  One a young apprentice and the other a master demon.

This is from the preface… where Lewis writes,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves (the devils) are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

So Paul makes sure to remind us that we do in fact have enemies that are something other than flesh and blood.   But he is also sure to remind us in the reading to stand firm. That we can resist the enemy.  So we ought not be overly preoccupied with them.

We do have an enemy – and it’s important to know that we are in a fight.  Even now.  So now that we know who we are fighting, (The devil and the spiritual forces of darkness)  the next question for us today is – what are we fighting?  And lastly this morning we will look at how do we fight.

And Paul tell us very clearly what we are fighting.  11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

See – part of the problem we have in our culture is that – when we think of spiritual forces of darkness at work in our life – we think of this fight in the terms of the supernatural world.  We think of movies – right?

We think of the Conjuring – and the nun – if you’ve never seen it – it’ll freak you out!  Don’t – but you know – that and dozens of other shows and movies out there that depict spiritual warfare only in terms of demonic possession.

Certainly – people can possess demons – and we read about them in the NT but it still happens today – but far and away the real threat to you and me is NOT that our heads will be spinning around – but rather – the real threat to us is – and what you and I have to fight on a daily basis – is what Paul calls the strategies and schemes of the devil that are meant to derail us in our faith journey.

So what are these schemes?  What is the devil’s strategy?  The devil has one main strategy – and that is to deceive us.

Listen to Jesus as he rips into a group of stiff-necked religious leaders of Israel.  He minces no words when he says to them…  44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

See – Satan is the father of all lies.  His primary weapon is deception.  Author Timothy Keller put it this way – Satan doesn’t leave fang marks in your flesh – he leaves lies in your heart.

Now I owe a debt of gratitude for this next part of my message because I heard a message Timothy Keller gave about the two major types of deception that Satan employs and I felt it was too good to not pass along to you.  So this is not original material, but I felt I would be doing you all a dis-service not to share what I learned from him.

The main weapon that Satan uses against us is deception.  And there are two main ways he attempts to influence us through deception and lies.  And they are – Temptation and Accusation.

First – Temptation.  Satan is our tempter.  Paul writes, in a letter he wrote to the church that met in Thessalonica – That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

Of course, if you read the gospels of Matthew or Luke, you will find Jesus in the desert for 40 days where he was, what?  Tempted by the devil.

Satan is the author of temptation.  And what is a temptation?  Temptations are offers to buy into the lie that – You deserve to take what you want.  You are too good to be denied what you want.  So take it.  Do it.

Temptation is an appeal for us to think more of ourselves than we should.  that God is holding something out on us that we deserve to have.  Temptations are an invitation to take God’s place in our lives.

So how does Satan tempt us? 8 ways.

  1. He shows us the bait and buries the hook. (Adam and Eve)
  2. By rationalizing sin as virtue. (I’m not greedy, I’m thrifty. I’m not gossiping I’m sharing a prayer request)
  3. By comparing ourselves to Christian leaders who have fallen. (If David had an affair, and David was a man of God’s own heart, then it’s not that big a deal)
  4. By over stressing God’s mercy. (It’s okay – God will forgive you afterward)

If you hear yourself saying this, you need to know who is whispering in your ear.

  1. I deserve this, because I am suffering. (No one knows how hard I work.)
  2. By showing us how bad people seem to have great lives.
  3. By getting us to compare one pat of my life to another.
  4. By declaring our sin to be “victimless” No big deal.  I’m not hurting anyone but me.  But you do know that you are God’s beloved son /Cherished daughter, and he doesn’t want you to hurt yourself either.

This is by no means a complete list of the ways Satan tempts us -but it does give us an idea of the kinds of ways that Satan tries to appeal to our pride – our self centered ego that thinks more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Now the second type of deception that Satan uses also is dependent on the way that we view ourselves.  If we think too highly of ourselves then temptations will sway us off of the path that God desires we walk on.

But – if we think too lowly of ourselves than we ought – that suits Satan just fine as well – and instead of reaching into his arsenal of temptations – Satan reaches for his array of accusations.

Revelation 12:10 and also Job chapter 1 describes Satan as being the great accuser of people of faith.

What’s the difference between an accusation and a temptation?  If a temptation appeals to a too high of ourselves – an accusation depends on getting us to think too low of ourselves.  It makes us focus more on our sin than on our savior.

What does an accusation sound like?

  1. Your sins are too great to be forgiven. Who do you think you are to deserve mercy?  Now of course, none of us deserve mercy, and Satan knows it – that’s the point of grace.  God knows al about us and truly forgives us.
  2. By causing us to obsess over past sins that caused damage that cannot be undone. this leaves us always in the past as a failure.  When I was a kid I remember being mean to my little brother and when we fought I’d grab his hands and say “Why are you beating yourself up?”  Isn’t that mean?  Well, Satan loves to try to get us to beat ourselves up for past sins or mistakes.

But God lifts us out of the muck and allows us to move forward.  Scarred but forgiven and free from accusation.

  1. By insinuating that bad circumstances are God’s punishment to us. Or even that God has forgotten us and doesn’t care.
  2. By making us judge our thoughts and feelings as unchristian. This is particularly devious.  If we’ve ever said, I know better than feeling this way!  Then that is a way we accuse ourselves as being somehow dumb or selfish or ungrateful or whatever.  It was a big turning point in my own life when I realized that I have feelings about y feelings – and that I just need to acknowledge my feelings without judging them as stupid or idiotic or unchristian.

Satan’s goal is to use this negative self-talk to make us judge ourselves as stupid or dumb or weak.  And in a way we end up once again beating ourselves up.

  1. By filling us with shame for giving into temptation. Shame and self-condemnation are not from the Holy Spirit.  They are whispers in our ear from an enemy that wants to put is into the self-destructive cycle of sin followed by heaps of shame.

Now – have you seen any of these schemes that the devil has been using on you with a measure of success?  Have any of these lies gained a foothold in your heart ?  Probably.  And now that you know it, Satan will probably try to find a different one.  Because he is nothing if not relentless in his pursuit of making you miserable.

So then, how do we fight against the schemes of the enemy?

Well, much has been made of Paul’s imagery here.  It’s interesting that he parcels out the armor and assigns it to specific areas of faith.  But basically what Paul is telling us is to be prepared to fight daily.  Don’t wait until you are in the battle – rather on a daily basis think about- apply to our lives – what?

(Belt of) TRUTH.  (Body armor of )Righteousness.  (Shoes of )Peace.  (Shield of) Faith.  (Helmet of) Salvation.

Now much has been made about how is salvation a helmet and peace a shoe?  I don’t think the emphasis should be on the pieces of the armor – my guess is he is sitting there in jail looking at his centurion guard and he is using the guard as an illustration.

I don’t think it hurts to think about that – but in my opinion he is ending this section – chapters 4,5,6, in a way that is very similar to how he ended the first section – chapter 1,2,3.

In chapter 3, he prays that they would know how long and high and deep and wide is God’s love – he wants us to experience it – not just in our heads but he wants us to feel it in our bones.

He wants us to feel the gospel.  And what is the gospel?  You were much worse off than you ever knew.  But you are loved much more than you can imagine.  When we place our faith in Jesus, when we see that he took our place on the cross out of love for us, then it elevates us to a special place.  We become cherished daughters and beloved sons.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Eph 2:8

What is the armor?  Paul wants us to wear the truth of the spiritual ramifications of faith in Jesus.  He wants us to live and breath truth, righteousness, faith, peace, salvation.

When we truly understand the good news – we will be able to fight off the temptations and accusations of the devil.

When we are tempted to think too highly of ourselves than we ought – the gospel reminds us that the only thing that could have rescued us from an eternity apart from God was the death of his beloved son.

When we are tempted to think that I deserve this or should be allowed to take that, or that God is withholding from me some good thing, I will remember that he who did not spare his own son, will he not take care me?

Don’t we see – the Gospel humbles us all.  It places all of humanity on level ground.  We all have sinned – we all like sheep have turned away.

Temptation is best fought by recognizing who is God and who is not.  Who will is best and who’s will is busted.

But what about the accusation?  Don’t you know how much God loves you?  He willingly laid down his life – he fell on the grenade to take the punishment that belonged to us.

Who then can condemn us?  If God himself does not condemn us, then who are we to condemn ourselves?

This book of Ephesians has been called by some a lighter version of the book of Romans.  Although Ephesians was written after Romans – and it takes a higher flyover view – there are some similarities.

And one the the most beautiful sections in all of Scripture occurs in Romans chapter 8 – where Paul is trying to get us to comprehend the ramifications of the good news of Jesus.  And so – I’m going to ask you to stand as I close by reading Romans chapter 8.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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