Sermon Date: September 20, 2015
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Ephesians 6: 10-20
Stand Firm in God's Grace
May the God of peace fill you with all joy in believing!
Dear children of God, Satan is afraid of you! Usually we’d say it’s the other way around, we’re afraid of him, and for good reason. Satan was created a holy angel, but he rebelled against God and took a third of the angels with him. You and I are no match against any of them, because they were angels. That means they are very powerful and highly intelligent, and they use it all for evil. This morning I’m going to talk about some of their tactics, but my goal isn’t to scare you. Rather I’ll be showing how God’s grace protects us and makes the devil afraid of us.
God’s grace is His undeserved love for us in Christ. Through Christ we are holy in God’s sight, because by grace God credits us with Christ’s holiness. Also through Christ our sins are already punished, because God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And so for Christ’s sake, God called us to faith and made us His dearly loved Children. Christ! Christ! Christ! There is no need for us to earn God’s love. There is no reason to doubt His love. In Christ we have it forever!
In the book of Ephesians Paul had been explaining how God wants His grace to affect us. He wants us to be humble and gentle and forgiving like Christ is. He wants us to practice these qualities in our daily life especially with our family. God also wants us to keep our priorities straight, so that we’re growing in His Word, worshipping Him, and sharing His grace with others. Now, living such a life doesn’t earn us any of God’s grace. Rather God’s grace motivates and empowers us for such a life. But this is where Satan begins his attacks. In order to get us to follow him, he has to somehow separate us from God’s grace. But we can defeat him! Our text this morning tells us how. Stand Firm in God’s Grace. 1. Put on the whole armor of God. 2. Use that armor to make Satan flee from us.
When Paul wrote the words of our text, he was in prison and probably chained to a Roman soldier. He probable also watched lots of soldiers put their armor on, as each got ready for the next shift. The first piece of armor a soldier put on was his belt. This belt was thick enough that if he got into a knife or a sword fight, it’d keep him from being stabbed in the stomach.
Satan wants to stab us in the stomach with lies – lies like, “I didn’t do anything wrong”, when in fact we had. If we let Satan stab us in this way, our consciences will make us sick to our stomach. But even worse, we’ll have to keep on lying to cover up our first lie, and continued lying, separates us from God’s grace, which is Satan’s goal. John wrote: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. – I John 1:8-10 The belt of truth that we all need to wear, is that when someone confronts us with a sin, we tell the whole truth, and not just the parts he already knows and cover up the rest. The blessing of confessing the whole truth, is we will experience God’s forgiveness. As a result our faith in God’s grace will grow, and Satan looses his power to stab at us.
The next piece of armor a soldier would put on was his breastplate. The breastplate protected his heart. We need to protect our heart with the breastplate of righteousness. This is because sin lives in our hearts, and from time to time sin travels from our heart to our brain, so that we think sinful thoughts. If we don’t stop those thoughts, sinful words will fly out of our mouth, or our hands will put sinful thoughts into actions. God’s grace empowers us to fight sin at the heart. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic a bad word goes through your head. Well, don’t lie to God and tell Him you had a right to be angry. Instead ask God to forgive you, and then rejoice that Christ lived a righteous life for you. Also, Christ was slapped in the mouth for all the times God should be slapping us in the mouth. Remind yourself of this and then confidently ask God to cleanse your heart – again. If we put on the breastplate of righteousness in this way, we will live a more righteous life. For instead of getting used to sinning in little ways, which leads to bigger ways, we will enjoy doing what is right. The Psalmist put it this way: I will run the way of your commandments, when you enlarge my heart. – Psalm 119:32 (ESV)
The next piece of armor a soldier put on was his sandals. This was the most important thing a Roman soldier he had. That’s because if he lost his footing in battle and fell down, the rest of his armor wouldn’t do him any good. He’d be a goner. We need the sandals of the Gospel of peace! Satan’s always try to throw us off balance. For example he used a storm to kill all 10 of Job’s children, in order to tempt Job into thinking God is not loving, or God is not just. Actually God is both loving and just, and He brought His love and justice together at the cross. Paul put it this: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:1-4 Stand firm on this truth! And then when Satan hits us with guilt or troubles, we will know that God is still at peace with us. Also, do not look for the certainty of His peace by what you feel or what you do, because Satan will knock you over for sure. In stead look for certainty of God’s peace in His Word, and in your Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper. Then in all your troubles, you will grow in God’s grace, and Satan will give up on you for a little while at least.
This brings us to the next piece of armor, the shield. Shields were big enough for a soldier to duck under, because sometimes an enemy would begin a battle by shooting 1000s of flaming arrow into the Roman lines. Their shields would extinguish those flaming arrows, because they were made out of thin sheets of wood layered together with a special glue. Satan also shoots 1000s of flaming arrows at us. These arrows are false doctrines. His goal is if he can get one false doctrine to ignite in us, that false doctrine will spread like fire to more doctrines, until we don’t believe anything God says. This does happen! Sometimes a person is putting his human reason OVER the Bible. At other times maybe the person isn’t thinking at all, and is just listening to what his friends or the media are saying.
On the other hand, the shield of the Christian faith protects us. Faith, here, is not referring to our personal trust, but to WHAT we trust. And so, we recite the Apostles or the Nicene Creed every week, and then with that comparison we can spot false doctrines for what they are. Also, just as the Roman shield was made of layers of wood glued together, we add layers to our shield of faith every time we read the Bible or attend a Bible class AGAIN. And let’s do that, because how strong do we want our shield of faith to be? We want it to be as strong as God’s grace is precious to us!
There was one more thing a Roman soldier would do just before going into battle. He’d attach the chinstrap on his helmet. It wouldn’t be particularly comfortable, but he couldn’t let his helmet fall off while he was fighting. We also need to protect our heads with the helmet of salvation, so that nothing will be more important to us than our salvation, and so that all the choices we make, will helps keep us on the straight and narrow. But now, we can’t let this be a negative thing, we can be thinking that this is making my life uncomfortable, or, this is so confining. Just the opposite! Keeping a right focus in life is a joyful thing as we look back to God’s grace in our life, and as we look ahead to living with Him in heaven.
But now life here isn’t just about getting ready to leave it. God keeps us here each day that He does, so that we can pick up the sword of the Spirit and rescue many others from Satan. Rescuing others isn’t easy. People are stubborn at times (well, so are we). They can also be slow to understand and quick to forget. For this reason our human wisdom isn’t going to win anyone over to Christ. In fact the more we try with our own abilities, the more we’ll realize that we need to use the sword of the Spirit, who works through His Word. But how do we pick up this sword and get experienced in using it? Two things. Keep studying it and keep praying. Paul told Timothy, who was a young pastor: Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – II Timothy 2:15 (AJV)
But Satan knows the Bible too, and we’re trying to rescue someone, he will counter or twist everything we say. But we can’t back down; we can’t let Satan win. Rather, let’s pray before we speak. Let’s pray in the back of our minds as we’re speaking. And let’s pray when we’re done that the Holy Spirit bless what He enabled us to say and cause it to grow in that person’s heart.
For the past weeks we have been studying the book of Ephesians under the theme, Working Together We Can Make a Real Difference in the World. One plus God is a majority. All of us together under God’s grace plus God is a supermajority. We need not be afraid or discouraged. Instead let’s set this world on fire for God, just like the first Christians did. So, stand firm in God’s grace. 1. Put on the whole armor of God. 2. And use that armor to make Satan flee from us very afraid. Amen.
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