Sunday, May 25, 2008
Subject: Stand Firm
Theme: Stand Firm against the devil’s schemes
Proposition: We are able to stand firm against the devil’s schemes and accomplish the work God has given us to do (spreading the gospel).
Have seven tables or stools with sheets covering a piece of armor on each one. During prayer the pillars and props are set in place.
INTRO: One of my family’s favorite shows is America’s Funniest Home Videos. When you think thru all the kinds of clips they have, there is an unsung hero. This show wouldn’t be nearly as funny if it weren’t for gravity. People falling downhill, falling down on ice, concrete, slipping off of a roof, tripping down steps, slipping off boats, falling out of cars, off tables.
(TRANS) If people could just keep their footing, it would only be a 30min show. But people always seem to have a problem standing firm. This morning we’re going to look at the serious side of standing firm. The kind you need to do in war when you are fighting an enemy.
Look with me, if you would, at Ephesians 6, starting in v.10. As we read, look for how often it mentions the idea of standing firm.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
This morning we are going to talk about the armor of God. But these four verses we just read are really the main point of the passage. We are given the armor for a specific purpose: so we can stand firm. We are in a battle.
God has given us a mission, the task of sharing the good news about Jesus with the entire world. But we have an enemy who wants to make sure we fail, that our mission is not accomplished. Our Enemy is not only Satan. It’s him AND a whole host of various demons to our trying to attack us.
That’s why we are given the armor. We don’t create the armor. It’s called the armor of God for a reason. He’s the one who supplies it to us. We just need to choose to put it on, so we can stand firm in the battle and accomplish the mission.
(TRANS) Now we know why we have the armor. Let’s look specifically at what the armor is.
So, let’s actually STAND as we read about the equipment God has given us to enable us to stand. As we read v.14-17, let’s actually read them out-loud together. The words will be on the screen.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Well done. Thank you. Now you can SIT.
Paul wrote this while a prisoner of the Roman government. He was probably chained to a soldier as he penned this letter. He was probably able to look at this armor-clad fella as he described each piece of equipment.
(TRANS) Okay, now we are going to look at each piece of armor individually. As you came in you hopefully received a paper showing you the armor. This is for both kids and adults to take notes on. Kids, please fill in the blanks by the picture as we talk about each piece of armor.
Now, I’m going to need some helpers during the sermon. Could I have a volunteer to come up on put on the first piece of armor?
THE BELT OF TRUTH
This is the Belt of Truth. Actually this is a weight-lifting belt, but I think you’ll get the picture. A soldier’s belt helped him do more than just keep his pants up. It was a central piece of equipment that kept him from getting tangled in his clothes. It also gave a place to hang his sword and attach other pieces of armor. Basically, it held everything together. Without it, other pieces might not stay in place and protect him.
Truth does the same in our lives. Have you ever seen how one little lie can cause a person’s life to unravel? You tell one white lie, then you have to tell a half-truth to cover it up. Then you have to tell a bigger lie to cover that. On and on it goes, until your life is more about hiding the truth than living it. Truth is the integrating factor in our lives, holding everything else together. W/o it, most of the other pieces of armor won’t fit right.
(APP) Imagine that each of us right now is preparing to go into battle. We are in our camp, putting on our armor and taking up our weapons. With each piece of armor, we need to inspect it, really inspect ourselves to see if we are ready for the fight. How are you doing at walking in the truth? Have you told any lies, big or small lately? If so, have you confessed them and told the truth? If we hold onto any lies, our armor will not be tight, and we are leaving ourselves open to attack.
(TRANS) Once the belt of truth is buckled on, it’s time for the next piece of armor. For this I’m going to need another volunteer.
THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Our next piece of armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness. Today we don’t see too many people walking around with breastplates, plates of metal strapped to their chests. But our modern equivalent is body armor, often called a bullet-proof vest. It protects your trunk, where most of our vital organs are located.
How is righteousness like a breastplate? I need you to listen closely to this, b/c it’s kinda deep. There are actually two kinds of righteousness talked about in the Bible – Positional and practical.
Positional righteousness is what each believer in Jesus already has. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see the stain of your sin anymore. He sees the spotless perfection of Jesus.
(ILL) It’s like separating clean clothes from dirty ones. You put the clean ones on the dresser and the dirty ones on the floor. Each is in a different position. That’s why this is called positional righteousness. God sees each Christian as clean, or righteous. That’s the first kind – positional righteousness.
The other kind is practical righteousness. This is the righteousness we practice, or the right deeds we do everyday. It is very closely related to the first kind, b/c we do all these good things out of thankfulness to God for making us clean in his sight. B/c God forgave our sin, we try not to sin. B/c he’s made us clean, we try to stay clean.
(APP) I want everyone to find a partner. It can be your spouse, family member, or just the person sitting next to you. Everyone needs a partner. Families, you can do this all together if you want. We’re going to PAIR SHARE for about one minute. We’ve talked about two pieces of armor so far. I want you to quickly share with your partner specifically what you can do this week to put on either the belt of truth or the breastplate or righteousness. You’ll only have about 30sec each. Got your pair share buddy? Are you ready? Go.
30 SEC – switch. REMOVE SHOES
(TRANS) What you just did is help each other inspect your armor. A very important step before you go into battle. That’s why accountability partners are so important. Okay, you ready for the next piece of armor? Who’s my volunteer?
FEET READY WITH THE GOSPEL
(ILL) I don’t know about you, but I like to go barefoot. I really don’t like wearing shoes. That’s great if you are in your house or on some nice grass. But it’s a pain, literally, if you have to walk over gravel, or on hot pavement, or step on some broken glass.
Remember, we are in a battle. In war you want to focus on fighting your enemy, not worry about your feet being hurt by what you are stepping on. Our mission is to take the good news to Jesus to a lost and dying world. There should never be a time when we are not prepared to run and do this this at a moment’s notice.
Peter says the same thing in:
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
We are to always be ready to share the gospel. It’s like a soldier in the battle; he even sleeps with his boots on b/c he has to be ready for action.
(APP) Are you ready? If not, we want to help you be ready. Classes like discipleship training are available, that teach you how to share your faith. Or ask your small group leaders, and they can show you how. Or call me; I’d love to sit down with you and walk you thru how to do that.
(TRANS) Okay, I need another volunteer. You have your belt of truth, your breastplate of righteousness, and your feet ready to go with the gospel. What’s next?
THE SHIELD OF FAITH
This is a medieval shield. Roman shields were a little different. They were actually about 4ft long and 2ft wide. They were covered in leather or fabric. If they expected flaming arrows from the enemy, they would soak the shield in water to extinguish any arrows that struck.
That’s the Roman shield, made of wood, metal, and leather. But our shield is made of faith. What does that word mean? It’s belief, trusting God and taking him at his word. God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
Satan, our enemy, has one major weapon he fires at us – the LIE. He tries to deceive us. Remember back in the garden of Eden, the first temptation. He went to Eve and said:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Satan lied to Eve and got her to distrust God and what he had said. He tempts us in the same way. But if we have the shield of faith in hand, each of those fiery lies that come our way can be snuffed out when we choose to believe what God has said.
(APP) Okay, grab your Pair Share buddy and in the next minute, help each other inspect your shoes ready with the gospel and your shield of faith. Tell each other how you will use them this week. Go.
(TRANS) Okay, we are not done suiting up for battle yet. Who’s my volunteer for the next piece of armor?
THE HELMET OF SALVATION
I’m using a hard hat b/c that’s more common to our everyday experience. It’s made of hard plastic. But the Roman solider would have had one of thick metal. It wouldn’t just sit on top of the head, but it would also come down around the sides and probably protect the forehead an face as well. For medieval knights, this was the thickest piece of armor. The head is the most important part to protect.
Why is salvation called our helmet? When we come to Jesus, we have great assurance that our life is secure, that he is protecting us. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us how secure we are in Jesus. I want to share just a couple.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
These verses don’t tell us that we won’t be attacked physically, but they do tell us that we our spiritually protected, our souls bound for an eternity with God. And if we are confident that our life is secure and protected for eternity, we can be very bold in as we fight to carry out the mission God has given us here on earth.
(TRANS) Okay, I need one last volunteer. Have you noticed how all these pieces of armor are similar? All are for defense. Our next piece of armor is the only offensive weapon listed.
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
At first I was going to borrow a really long medieval sword from one of my neighbors. But I chose this machete b/c as I studied this passage I found out that the Greek word in this passage is actually gladius, from which we get our word “gladiator.” It refers to a short sword, about 2ft long, used for close quarters combat.
The best way to illustrate this is to look at where Jesus used the sword of the Spirit. Do you remember when Jesus was tempted at the beginning of Matthew 4? Each time Satan came at Jesus with a temptation, Jesus replied, “It is written…” He used the Bible, God’s word, to fight off Satan’s attacks. Why was Jesus able to do this? It’s not b/c he was God, but b/c he knew the Bible. He had it memorized, he knew what it meant, and he quoted the appropriate truth to counter Satan’s lies.
(ILL) We don’t use swords nowadays. But imagine if a policeman pulls over a speeder, and as he approaches the car he sees the driver has a gun. He doesn’t say, “Hold on, let me run back to my trunk and find my gun.” He has it on his hip, ready to use at a moment’s notice.
That’s the same thing you and I must do. It’s great to carry your Bible with you, but that may not be sufficient for dealing with Satan’s temptations and attacks. We need to have the word of God hidden in our hearts, ready to use whenever there is a need.
The word here translated “word” is actually the term “rhema” referring to a spoken word, not just a written word. There is power in quoting the word of God outloud whenever you are tempted. It not only reminds you of God’s truth, it tells the demons who are tempting you what the truth is.
(APP) This is probably my weakest area in the armor. I am not very diligent to memorize God’s Word. The times I have done the best are when I’m accountable to someone else who is going to ask me to quote the verses.
I know I keep mentioning it, but I recommend Discipleship Training, as memorization is one of the key components. We have four levels starting next week if you’d like to join.
(APP) Okay, we talked about the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word). Are you ready to pair share again? You’ve got one minute. Go.
(TRANS) Here I stand, clothed in the armor. But there is one more piece of essential equipment. We stopped our reading at Eph 6:17. Now, look with me at v.18-20.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
(ILL) I have Julie’s cell phone and she calls me w/ ringtone “When you Call on Jesus, all things are possible…”
Every solider needs to be in communication with home base. That’s why I’m carrying this cell phone to represent prayer. Anytime we need back-up, we can call on God to help us.
But did you notice that when it rang, it wasn’t b/c I was placing a call. It was because someone was calling me. We need to constantly be listening in prayer, not just talking. We listen to God to receive our marching orders for the day. We listen when God prompts us to pray for other people.
You saw what the passage said: “keep on praying for all the saints.” That’s our fellow believers. Paul, here, is specifically asking his friends to pray that he would do a good job of boldly talking about Jesus. Remember, that is the mission we are on. Paul says, “Support me in the mission by praying for me.”
(APP) You’ve shared with your pair share partner. This was more than just something to keep you engaged during the sermon. Now you can put this passage into practice during the week by praying for your partner. Pray in the Spirit for them. Pray that they will be clothed in each piece of armor this week. Specifically pray for the challenges they shared. And next week when you see them, ask them how the battle went. Even better, get their phone # or email and contact them during the week to encourage them in the fight.
(ILL) Imagine that you are fully clothed in this armor. You have your belt tight. Your body armor in place. Your boots are on. You’re helmet is on. Sword in hand. Cell phone on. One thing I didn’t mention about the shields. They were made to interlock. Each soldier’s shield would be hinged to the ones beside him. The front row would have their shields down in front. The next rows would have theirs above. I imagine they looked like a massive metal armadillo, covered with one gigantic shield, through which no enemy can penetrate.
So, as we close in prayer, I’d like to ask you to do something a little different. Please stand up. We’ve prayed together holding hands. I’d like to ask us to actually lock arms. Nice, close, tight ranks as we close in prayer, symbolizing the unity we have to walk together in this battle, on the mission God has called us to accomplish.
Close in Prayer