Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God

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As we’ve journeyed through the book of Ephesians, the big idea is who we are in Christ and how we live that out in our daily lives. When we live out who we are in Christ in our relationships at home, at work, and with other believers, Jesus is made much of and God is glorified. By living out who we are in Christ, we make known the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 3:10).

We see this idea in our series theme: In Him For Him. Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians with all that we are and all that we have in Him:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

What are we In Him? Paul lists all that we are in Christ in Ephesians 1-2:
-He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
-He chose us in Him to be holy and blameless.
-He predestined us for adoption as sons for His praise.
-He has blessed us with His glorious grace.
-In Him we have redemption by His blood and the forgiveness of our trespasses.
-He has lavished His grace upon us.
-He has made known to us the mystery of His will.
-In Him we have an inheritance.
-We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is our guarantee of our inheritance.
-We can know Him, His wisdom, His power, and His immeasurable, unsearchable love.

In Chapter 3, Paul transitions from who we are in Him to how we live for Him. The mystery of the Gospel is that the Gospel is for everyone, Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 3:6). The gospel, the good news, God’s grace, is for all. We can’t earn grace with any merit or qualifying attribute; nothing can earn us a place in the presence of God. By living out the Gospel, we fulfill our intended purpose and God is glorified (Ephesians 3:10).

To live out Christ in our relationships, we need to have the strength of Jesus and to be rooted and grounded in His love. The great love of Jesus is our strength (Ephesians 3:14-17). God’s love has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5). His love is perfect, endless, and eternal – He doesn’t love us anymore today than yesterday, and His love will be the same tomorrow. Our idea of love is limited by our imperfections, so we have to be grounded and rooted in the love of God to live out all that we are in Christ.

In Chapters 4-6, Paul instructs us how we live out who we are as a new creation in Christ:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Ephesians 4:1

Paul urges us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

Next he gives us a living example of what it means to stand in the Gospel:

Pray also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. Ephesians 6:19-24

Paul wrote these words from prison. He was chained to a wall or a guard, imprisoned for preaching Christ. He had not broken the law or committed some heinous crime; he was simply proclaiming Jesus. This was not his first time in prison, and if he was in a Roman prison (which most experts agree), then he was imprisoned for close to two years when writing this letter. What does Paul ask for? He asked for prayer; for boldness to open his mouth and proclaim the Gospel!

Paul had the correct perspective of prayer, not as a celestial Costco where we cry out for things that will make us comfortable, but a “wartime walkie talkie” (Piper), to keep us in touch with our commander and keep us supplied with what we need for battle.

Paul’s perspective and purpose did not change in prison, his mind was on mission and his purposed remained: to preach the Gospel and encourage the saints.

To preach the Gospel
Paul suffered for Jesus endlessly; he asks for prayer as he has prayed for the saints. Paul did not let his circumstances dictate his purpose, and did not doubt God, even while in prison.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:5-10

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11-12

We are afflicted but our purpose does not change because our God does not change! Paul suffered well for the glory of Jesus Christ. He proclaimed Jesus through his circumstances, not despite them.

To encourage the Saints
Paul proclaims the power and presence of God. He sends his beloved brother Tychicus to communicate everything that God is doing. Paul wanted the saints to know God’s provision and to be encouraged by God’s work. He reminds them of the promises of God: peace, love, and faith. “Grace be with all” – grace is for everyone, through no merit of our own. The incorruptible love we have for Jesus is the love He gives; He wraps us with His robe of righteousness.

What do we learn from Paul?

1. None of us may ever be imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, but we will probably all find ourselves in difficult situations. Our circumstances do not dictate our purpose or calling; God is the only constant. He is the anchor to the rock that remains the same. Circumstances may change how we fulfill our calling but the calling does not change and the exhortation to walk worthy of that calling does not change.

2. When we understand who we are in Christ and that our life purpose is for Him, we are less concerned about ourselves and more concerned about others – His glory become our goal. In this present life, He is the one that never changes.

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Spiritual Warfare

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Join us from April 27 – May 25 as we look at the reality of spiritual warfare and the armor of God:

The Whole Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20

As we continue our study of Ephesians, we reach the final charge of Paul to the saints at Ephesus and to us: Stand firm and be strong. There is a battle that rages against all of God’s people and all that God has for us. The enemy’s goal in this battle is to steal God’s glory. He does this through any means possible (including deception – false teaching; division – gossip and arrogance; destruction – fear) so that the Church will not make known the manifold wisdom of God in the heavenly realm. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. We have strength in the Lord and the armor of the Lord to be more than conquerors. We have been saved by grace through faith and we walk victoriously in the same way, by grace through faith.

We will look at what the scriptures teach us about our enemy, his tactics, and the great strength and armor we have in Jesus. This short series will remind us of the confidence we have in Jesus, and we will be encouraged and emboldened to pursue Him with a passion.

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Contentment in all Circumstances

Ephesians 3:1

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles–

Paul understood the cost of following Christ. At one time Paul had it all… he had position, authority, wealth, reputation, and family; he went to the right school and studied under the great teacher Gamaliel, he had influence, and a sense of self-righteousness that was affirmed by those around him (Phil 3). But after encountering the resurrected Christ (Acts 9), he counted all that rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. Jesus changed everything for Paul, giving him a new value system, a new perspective, and a new purpose. He viewed all things differently, even the Gentiles.

The grace that was given to Paul (Saul) not only saved Paul, brought him into the family of God, and made him one with other believers, but God was now his loving Father to whom he could cry “Abba”. This Father would only do what was best for Paul. He had proven that with Christ on the cross. Paul viewed circumstances through this understanding of the Gospel. Jesus blinded him on the road to get his attention and lead him to this grace. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, was now commissioned to preach to the Gentiles. He did not argue or drag his feet, instead, he was humbled because of all that Christ had done for him (Eph 1:7-8).

Paul believed in the perfect sovereign work of God which he had experienced first hand. He delighted in serving the God who had saved him from the burden of performance and was willing to serve the Gentiles (Gal 1:1.15-16). Paul wanted to bring glory to God through the salvation of the Gentiles, so when he found himself in prison, he did not complain or blame God. He knew he was there because that’s where God wanted him. He knew his time in prison was to be used to glorify the One who had saved him by grace.

Paul found contentment in his circumstances because he trusted that Jesus was enough. He found contentment despite his circumstances because Jesus was all he needed. Jesus is not the means to an end, He is the end. He is the prize that we seek. He is our heaven. He is love. He is peace. He is the way. That means He is not only the beginning and end of the way for us but also that Jesus carries us along the way.

Are we content in our circumstances?

2 Corinthians 12:10
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

1 Timothy 6:8
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To have Jesus is to have everything. If we find our contentment in Him the things that happen around us are just that…around us, but HE holds us. Jesus must be our foundation, our rock. Any other foundation will surely shake and may crumble under the storms of life. Jesus alone stands strong.

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Understanding What God Has Given

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:17-23

As Christians, we often ask God for the wrong things without realizing it. We ask Him to change our circumstances when He wants to give us power to walk through them. We ask for a raise or for our finances to improve, yet He wants us to find contentment in Him. Not everything we ask for is wrong; some of the things we ask for may even be good, but good things can still distract us from what is best. When we fill up on the good, we miss out on the best God has for us.

In this passage, we read the first prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians: he prays that they may have the wisdom and understanding of the Spirit. Paul wants the Ephesians to be intimately aware in their hearts of what they have in Jesus. The first 14 verses of Ephesians tells what we have in Christ and what we are in Christ. We have grace, peace and every spiritual blessing. We have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, blessed with an inheritance, sealed, and given hope. Paul prays for the Ephesians to have hope, riches, and power.

Hope – What is our hope? What do we hope in? To hope is to believe in or trust in, with the anticipation of a positive outcome. God tells us where to put our hope:

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:14

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. Psalm 130:5

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:24

Our hope is in the Word and also in the resurrection:

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2, 4-5

Our hope rests in the Kingdom and glory of God. If we place our hope in anything other than the Gospel, then our hope is in vain.

Riches – Our spiritual inheritance is rich, yet it can be hard for us to rejoice in those riches when we have so much already. We can easily miss the importance or need for our inheritance and because we are sensory driven, we try to fill the intangible with the tangible. Nothing can compare to being in the presence of the Almighty God for eternity.

Power – The power we have as believers is the same power that raised Christ from the dead (v. 20) and the power that seated Jesus at the right hand of God in the heavenly places (v. 21). This power places Jesus above all rule, power, authority, and dominion. God has power over all things, and all things are subject to Him (Ephesians 1:22). He placed Jesus as head of the Church, and His glory fills this earth through the church. This power is designed by God to be used for His glory, and we are in a battle for souls and lives.

Why don’t we experience the hope, riches, and power of God? Our hearts are dull and deadened by the distractions of the world. The church of Ephesus was dull of hearing and understanding, and so are we. We do not see the spiritual forces that work against us, but the Bible reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Satan wants to destroy us. He prowls around like a lion, and comes like a thief to steal and destroy. If you aren’t seeking Jesus, you will be devoured – no one is exempt from his schemes. Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly. We have the awesome power of God for a victorious life, but even beyond that, we can rejoice that our names are written in heaven:

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Our current circumstances are irrelevant to joy and contentment. As a church body, we are the fullness of God and we take His glory with us as we hope in Him, trust in our riches in Him, and rest in the power that is His. When our hearts are enlightened, the world will see the glory of God.

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