What a joy to preach on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day! Growing up we referred to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. We always made a trip up the Big Sandy and would have our family reunion at Dewy Lake. Remembering loved ones that have gone on, decorating graves, having family reunions, or taking an out-of-town trip are all great things to do. However, this is not what Memorial Day is all about. Memorial Day is all about remembering fallen soldiers. I wonder how many have lost immediate family members due to their service in the Armed Forces? Regina, Angie, and I have just returned from decorating graves in Ashland, Grayson, and Flatwoods on Saturday. The Ashland Cemetery contains the remains of my great aunt, Mary. Aunt Mary was special for many reasons: she lived near us when I grew up, she was very good to my mother, she allowed our family to have a garden spot on her property, etc. Aunt Mary was special for another important reason…she gave one of her sons, Charles Vaughn, for the cause of freedom during World War II. Charles was in the U.S. Navy and was lost at sea during the war. We wanted to remember this sacrifice on Memorial Day.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
How grateful we should all be for those who were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for freedom…laying their lives down for their friends. Yet today I want to focus on another type of battle…a spiritual battle. Christians find themselves in a battle. It is a battle that requires us to put our lives on the line. Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The word translated witness in Acts 1:8 is the same word that we often translate using the English word “martyr.” Here is what the word means, “One, by their death, bears witness to the truth.” Christians taking a stand for truth, and it is getting tougher by the day to do that.
Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground and not a playground. Warren Wiersbe
A good soldier needs to know their enemy. A good soldier needs to know:
- who the enemy is
- what the enemy does
- what the enemy can do
The Christian’s enemy is not necessarily Al Qaeda. The Christians enemy is not necessarily religious extremists or an atheist dictatorship gone wild. The Bible is very clear about who the Christian enemy is. The Bible says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We know who he is, but what does he do? The answer is found in Revelation 12:10, The Bible calls him, “The accuser of our brothers.” The Bible goes on to say, “[Our adversary] accuses [Christians] day and night before our God.” (Revelations 12:10)
People ask, “How can I know God is dealing with me, verses Satan harassing me?”
|Seeking death for you||Seeking life for you|
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
Truths concerning our enemy:
- He is not all-knowing
- He is not all-powerful
- He is not everywhere-present
You say, “I know he is not all of these things. I know he is not God. I know he only wants to be God. But it sure seems like he is all of these things. How come?” The answer is that our enemy has help. We read in verse 12 they are the “rulers”, “authorities”, “cosmic powers”, and “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.” Our enemy has a demonic army. Our battle is not with each other! It is not a battle between the Calvinist and the Non-Calvinist. It is not a battle between the moderates and the conservatives. It is not a battle between denominations. When we battle each other, we are wasting time. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are in a battle with the unseen forces of darkness. We had better wake up and smell the coffee.
In the nineteenth chapter of the book of Acts, the Bible tells of a riot that had taken place in Ephesus. Luke provides the record, “There arose no little disturbance concerning the Way (Christianity).” (Acts 19:23) Paul had correctly preached that Artemis was not God! He even went beyond that and proclaimed that Artemis was to be considered nothing. The trades and workmen didn’t like that. Why? Paul’s preaching interfered with their business of making miniature images of these false gods for profit. They were “enraged” the Bible says, and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28) Luke states that, “The city was filled with confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them (the traveling companions of Paul).” (Acts 19:29) Here is the sad result of Spiritual Warfare, the Bible records, “After the uproar ceased…he (meaning Paul) said farewell and departed for Macedonia.” (Acts 20:1) They rejected the way, the truth, and the life! Christians, we have an enemy!
The Bible calls our enemy a supernatural force. (v. 12) He should not be underestimated. He is not referred to as a lion for naught. The Bible refers to him as a dragon. In June, we begin to study the book of Job in Sunday school. All church members need to attend Sunday school in June. Your assignment will be to discover what our “adversary” can do to:
- Our home
- Our body
- Our wealth
- Our friends
Church, do not be ignorant to his “schemes.” The word “scheme” means a plan. It means a program of action that is secret. Here is how your “adversary” operates:
- He uses your external enemy, the world. The world means that our gaze is man-ward instead of God-ward. It is materialistic and sensual. It causes you to seek gratification from the lower appetites and desires.
- Next, he uses our internal enemy, the flesh. That’s our old nature. The Bible says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.” (Galations 5:16-17)
The Christian’s equipment is referred to as “the whole armor of God.” The word “whole” is used to remind the believer that no part of this equipment should be left out. The reason no part should be left out is that our “adversary” looks for the unguarded areas.
THE BELT OF TRUTH v. 14
The belt is what holds the other parts of the armor together. Wiersbe calls the belt, “the integrating force of the Christian life.” What is it? It is Christian integrity.
You are never more like God when you are speaking truth, but you are never more like the devil when you are speaking a lie. James Merritt
Here’s what the Bible says about our enemy in John’s Gospel, “He is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) The NKJV Bible Study notes states, “a dishonest Christian cannot hope to withstand the father of lies.”
“Behold, you delight in truth.” Psalm 51:6
THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS v. 14
The NLT calls this “body armor.” The body armor runs from the neck to the waist protecting all the vital organs. This is a metaphor. A metaphor is when one thing is used to designate another. Here, the breastplate is used to designate the righteousness of Christ. The Bible says, “for He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “In Him” is our positional righteousness (Justification). But spiritual warfare requires more than just a positional righteousness, it also requires a practical righteousness. It requires living a separated life day by day. Do not aid the enemy by the way you choose to live your Christian life.
a lack of holiness…leaves the Christian vulnerable. John MacArthur
THE SHOES OF THE GOSPEL v. 15
The Roman soldiers wore sandals with hobnails in the soles to give them better footing. If we are going to stand against the enemy, we need to have the right kind of shoes…we must have gospel shoes on. In spiritual warfare, we must be ready to take the gospel to a world that is lost.
A victorious Christian is a witnessing Christian. Warren Wiersbe
The Scriptures say, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15) My Hope with Billy Graham is one of the ways we plan to do spiritual warfare and to share the good news of the gospel.
THE SHIELD OF FAITH v. 16
The shield was a large 4×2 foot piece of wood covered in leather and soaked in water. A Roman soldier would hold it before him, and it would protect him against:
- Fiery darts
The soldiers would interlock their shields in order to create a wall as they would march forward. Here is what this picture suggests…Christian warfare is not something a Christian does alone. We are in this battle together with other believers. Faith here is not to be understood as saving faith. Faith in this context is to be understood as living faith. It is a faith that says that I BELIEVE IN THE PROMISES OF GOD. The enemy shoots his fiery darts that are designed to destroy you, so the believer takes up the shield that represents their total dependence on God. Faith then puts God between me and my adversary. The battle is not mine/ours. The Bible says, “for everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4)
THE HELMET OF SALVATION v. 17
Satan desires to attack the mind (the citadel of intelligence). David Jeremiah says, “You are not always who you think you are, but you are what you think.” The helmet suggests a mind that is controlled by God. When God controls the mind, the believer cannot be led astray.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT v. 17
Remember, the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. The Bible tells us that the “sword of the Spirit” is the Word of God. This is your offensive weapon, Christian. It is designed for close-in-fighting. The Bible says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) A material sword pierces the body. The sword of the Spirit pierces the soul. A material sword kills and destroys. The sword of the Spirit gives abundant life. Jesus often used the sword of the Spirit in spiritual warfare by saying, “It is written.” He would often say, “have you not heard.”
Church, you have the equipment;
- You have the truth
- You have His righteousness
- You have the gospel of peace
- You have the promises
- You have His salvation
- You have the Word of God
The energy might be best described by referencing the embassy in Benghazi. The only thing they used to fight that battle, it appears, was emails. As Christians, we do not fight our battles by email but by knee-mail. We use prayer in order that we might defeat the enemy. Paul writes, “Praying at all times.” Paul on another occasion said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
The Church should not pray, “Lord we now come into Your presence.” Why? There should never be a time when we are not in His presence. Then, pray with all prayers: prayers of adoration, prayers of confession, prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of supplication. Add to that prayers of intercession. We are getting ready to study Job in Sunday school, and there’s an interesting verse in Job that says this, “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” (Job 42:10)
- Pray to the Father
- Pray through the Son
- Pray in the Spirit
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) Finally, Paul says, “keep alert with all perseverance.” (Ephesians 6:18) Keep your eyes open and don’t stop praying. The Bible says of the early church, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” (Acts 1:14) This verse means that the early church constantly spent time in prayer.
So how do we pray? We do not pray to twist God’s arm. We pray so that we might trust God’s will. It means we will not rest until we get an answer from heaven.
The encouragement is that we are not in this thing alone. There are other believers to stand with us. We need to encourage one another. We need not tear each other down, but rather we need to build each other up! As good soldiers, we stand together, and we fight the good fight together. Why? Because the Christian life is not a playground…it is a battleground!
Perhaps you know the story of Saeed Abedini. He is an American pastor who has been placed in solitary confinement in Iran. It is not the first time this has happened to him since the persecution of Christians intensified under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was elected back in 2005. It is believed that he has been beaten. They believe that he has suffered internal injuries. His family has said, “Please pray for his health and healing. Pray for his release. Pray that the Lord would use this for His glory and the salvation of many.” Why is this man in prison?
- Did he kill someone? No
- Did he take something that did not belong to him? No
- Did he break some kind of law? No
- He is in prison because he chose to live the Christian life…building orphanages in Iran!
The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems arise in our lives. Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. Saeed Abedini
We must come to realize that the Christian life is not a playground; the Christian life is a battleground. We must put on the whole armor of God.