2008-06-29 Ephesians 6:10-18 Are You Dressed Yet?
What a strange way to end the letter to the Ephesians, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it make more sense to summarise everything that Paul’s said so far? Maybe stress the importance of knowing who we are in Christ, the importance of our identity in Christ, that we have every spiritual blessing from Christ, that we’re seated in heaven with Christ. Shouldn’t we expect a summary of the letter written for the saints, the children of God.
But Paul doesn’t give us that. Instead, he gives us a charge, a command, a—you’d better do this or else—exhortation to put on some clothes, to get dressed! To be prepared for the day. And not just any day. This isn’t a charged to get dressed for a wedding. It isn’t a command to get dressed for work. It isn’t an exhortation to get your play clothes on for the sandbox or the sand trap, depending on your age.
No, Paul is commanding us, in simple, straight-forward language, to put on God’s armour. We have to get ready for battle. Daily. Whenever we get up; Drill Sergeant Apostle Paul yells at us through this letter, “Are you dressed yet? Get your armour on! Get going!”
Why? Why must we put on this spiritual armour?
It is because Paul wants to draw our attention to reality.
Reality is a big buzz word these days. Reality, authenticity, if you’re listening to stuff on Christian radio, if you’re aware of the emergent church movement, then, you’ve heard stuff like this already, there is a push for authenticity. It is a Biblical concept.
Here, Paul encourages us to go for reality and authenticity.
Now, the real question is, are we prepared? Are we dressed yet? Are we looking at the true reality?
Perhaps you caught it in the reading, perhaps you already know where I’m heading.
Are you, are we, looking at true reality?
To help us open our eyes, we need to turn to the Old Testament, to 2 Kings 6:8-17. “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
“None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:8-17).
So, maybe you’re sitting here this morning, and like me, you’re thinking, “I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the situation in the world. I know what needs doing. I know what I need to do.
But are our eyes open? Are we truly seeing the same reality that Elisha saw, which Elisha’s servant saw?
Do we know what is really going on in the world?
Paul does give us the perfect conclusion to his letter! Listen to what he says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Paul has spent the letter explaining to us the power of the Lord. It was this power, which raised Christ from the dead. It was this power, which enabled Jesus to do miracles. It was this power, which the disciples received in order to perform miracles. Paul once preached so long that at midnight, a young lad fell out of a second story window and died. Paul stopped preaching, went down, prayed that God’s power would bring him back to life, God did, and then Paul went back to preaching, and kept on preaching until the morning! He was able to do this because He had the power of God in him!
We have the power of God in us. We do, that’s why Paul says, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. In other words, don’t waste your time trying to fight on your own strength. You can’t do it. Your strength is from flesh and blood, but the foes we fight are not flesh and blood! They are principalities and powers of darkness.
So, draw instead upon God for strength. Pray! When you’re in a tempting situation, pray, don’t delay!
And before you get up, before you get dressed physically, get dressed spiritually.
Now, we could, perhaps we should examine each article of God’s armour in its own sermon, but we’re not going to break it up over several weeks. Instead, tighten your belts, be prepared to skip lunch and supper, I’m preaching through the night, and well, my parents named me for some reason.
No, seriously, this morning we’re simply going to hit the highlights.
The first thing we look at is context. As Elisha’s servant realised, we too much realise that we’re not struggling against people, we’re struggling against foes we cannot see, and foes we, on our own, do not have the strength to conquer.
So, we need to stand on God’s strength, we need to exercise God’s strength. Paul summarises his letter, through these articles of armour. So that we can stand. Now, this is not passive standing. This is not being a strong wall that withstands enemy onslaught. No, when we stand we stand out, we march, we walk, we step, we go, we follow! We’re out in the thick of it. We don’t wait for the campaign to come at us and corner us, no, like David, we run up to the battle lines and we advance, knowing that God has the victory and we have His strength. But before we jump out into the battle, we put on God’s armour.
First: Buckle the belt of truth. This instruction cannot possibly come at a more relevant, more important time. People are debating, have always debated what truth is. Even Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” But in God’s word, we have truth. Jesus Christ is God’s Son. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. Jesus Christ took on human flesh. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. Jesus Christ fulfilled all the OT prophesies and commandments, perfectly. Jesus Christ suffered. Jesus Christ was judged, condemned, though innocent. Jesus Christ willingly took upon himself God’s wrath poured out toward sin. Jesus Christ paid the perfect atonement for all who believe in Him. All who believe in Jesus are truly God’s sons, co-heirs of Christ, men, women and children who believe in Jesus are God’s children. That’s the truth, in a nutshell.
Second: The breastplate of righteousness. This is so important. Because it ties directly into the belt of truth. In knowing who Jesus is, we recognise that he supplies us with righteousness. We are not merely justified, we have Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s righteousness covers us perfectly. It protects our hearts, our souls from Satan’s attacks. And when the final judgement comes, we will be able to stand before God, dressed in Christ’s righteousness, which he has so graciously dressed us with!
Third: Gospel shoes. We put the gospel on our feet. The gospel is the good news, the good news of truth and righteousness that comes from God. And the good news keeps us moving, keeps us going forward. With the good news, we can cut through enemy lines. We can bring relief to the poor, hope to the afflicted! The good news cuts through chains and bondage and slavery.
Apart from the good news of the gospel, all our good deeds don’t mean squat. Apart from good deeds, all our preaching is empty. We need both, and the reason why the gospel is on our feet, is to get us to move. You don’t put shoes on and stay home. You don’t put skates on and sit on the bench. You don’t put running shoes on and sit on the grass!
Fourth: the shield of faith extinguishes doubt. With faith, we move forward. Satan comes along and says, “Did God really say?” And so, we look at the scriptures, we exercise the faith we have received in Christ and from Christ, and we say, well, yes. Yes he did. We don’t add words, we simply let our yes be yes and our no, no. So when Satan comes at us with temptation, we don’t need to spend too much time thinking about the temptation. If you’ve read the Bible, you’re familiar with the lists of what are not permissible: the Ten Commandments, then there are several places that have lists of things that we’re to avoid with the shield of faith: sexual immorality, lust, debauchery, hatred, anger, discord, gossip, slander, envy, pride, you know the list. So, when things come at us, we can say, “NO”. Remember, just say no.
Fifth: The helmet of salvation. Our brains are protected by the helmet of salvation. This is so great. Salvation isn’t just a promise, it is something we wear! We are saved. We are saved. We are saved. Christ saved us. Christ justified us, make us right with God, and Christ gave us everlasting life. We’re destined to be in eternal existence with God. Know that in your head. Put that in your mind. Be filled with the knowledge that salvation comes from God, Jonah said it in the belly of the whale, Job said it. Know it. Knowing your eternal destination is absolutely important. It will enable you to have the proper perspective on life. No matter what Satan throws at you, you’re saved. No matter what circumstances befall you whether good or bad, you are saved. You are eternally secure. Nothing, not sin, not death, not angels, not demons, nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ. Nothing. Put that on your head, put that in your head.
Sixth: take up God’s Word. Don’t leave it in its scabbard. Don’t leave it to collect dust. Read God’s Word. Speak God’s word. Sing God’s word, pray God’s word. Pray through the Psalms. Trust this book! Whatever situation you’re in, there’s a similar one in here, and there’s an already written prayer to help you to pray. Meditate on this book. Live by this book. Preach and proclaim this book to your family, your friends, and your neighbours. Look for ways in which to wield this truth. Jesus used it to quote Deuteronomy to the Devil. With this book, you have everything you need—not just to defend yourself from Satan’s attacks—but to fight against Him. Use this word to preach the truth, to shine light into the darkness, and to overcome Satan’s strongholds, not just in your life, but also in the lives of those around you.
Seventh: pray. Pray, Pray, Pray and keep on praying! Pray in the Spirit. Pray on all occasions: don’t neglect prayer when things are going well. Don’t neglect prayer when things are not going well. Don’t neglect prayer when you don’t feel like praying, pray anyway. There is nothing you can do that will ever surprise God. There is no sin, no good deed that can ever catch him off guard. Don’t be afraid to pray: Christ prays for us. Keep praying, not just for yourself, but also for those around you. Pray, pray, pray, all the livelong day!
So, let’s ask ourselves, as though it was the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit asking us, “Are we dressed yet?” If not, then let’s get dressed! Amen.
Father in heaven! You’ve already given us everything we need in order to be your servants, in order to enjoy life, regardless of the circumstances we’re in, because of the joy we have in you! Lord God remind us to be prepared, to always wear your armour. If we’re unprepared today, hear our prayer as we pray: we put on the belt of truth. We snap on the breastplate of righteousness. We slip our feet into the gospel of Christ, we take up the shield of faith. We place the helmet of the salvation of Christ upon our heads and we take up the sword of the Spirit, your Word, into our hands and we wield it in your strength, with your spirit within us, so that we can fight the foes we cannot see with our physical eyes, but the ones we can see with our spiritual eyes. Open our eyes, Lord, just as you opened Elisha’s servant’s eyes. May we see the battle as it truly is, and may we fight the good fight and finish the race, to your glory and honour, Amen.