Welcome Home: Together We Stand (September 8, 2019)
Welcome Home: Together We Stand
It happens in the home. Husband hurts wife with a statement that is far less than loving. The two of them then engage in a fight that can last hours… maybe days. It damages their relationship, their faith in one another, maybe even starts to erode away the core beliefs that once united them. It happens between friends where arguments sadly drive them apart – away from one person who used to stand with you, away from one person who used to support you, away from one person who would tell you the tough things you need to hear and encourage you on good paths in life. It happens in the church. Something was said, something was done, something was misunderstood, and rather than dealing with the issue, confronting someone, or seeking a proper understanding of what happened and why, you are driven away. My wife did this to me. Someone I once called a friend did that to me. The church drove me away from Christianity.
I’m not denying that these things happen. I’m not denying that people hurt one another, misunderstandings happen, or entities can become corrupted. I’m not even saying that issues should not be worked out and resolved between you and whoever or whatever did the damage. But before you throw it all away, before you leave and let yourself be forever divided from what you once called good, be sure to identify the real enemy behind it all.
“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” (Eph 6:12). Yes, your husband or wife may have said hurtful things, may even have done something that makes it so you can’t even look at them. And it needs to be dealt with. But ultimately, your struggle is not against them. They were a pawn. The Devil used their sinful nature to begin driving a wedge between you. Divide and conquer is often his strategy. Yes, the church may have done something terrible – either purposefully or inadvertently. Yes, it needs to be brought up, addressed, and dealt with. But ultimately, your struggle is not against that entity. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:14-15).
This is serious stuff. Don’t picture a person with a nametag that says, “Hi, I’m with Satan.” Don’t even picture someone who is obviously up to something – plotting evil and scheming to deceive. Satan will drive his wedge in anywhere he can, all while masking and disguising himself so that we would be none the wiser. Instead, we are so consumed with defeating the visible enemy right in front of us that we don’t see who’s really behind it all. And he’s not just trying to drive a wedge between you and others. He’s trying to drive a wedge between you and God. Between you and salvation. This is no mere sport in which we try our own strength against a human opponent. It is a deadly battle in which we are pitted against spiritual forces of evil which would overwhelm us if we met them with anything other than God’s help. Face him alone and you WILL lose.
We know that we are surrounded by temptations but think that we are too wise to be taken in. “I won’t go too far.” “I won’t let it happen a second time.” Think about who you are dealing with. The Devil has thousands of years of experience in leading people astray. Paul emphasizes that he is organized, he is powerful, his hand is far-reaching. He is not a force to be messed with. He is behind every argument, every sinful action, and every offense. He loves to see God’s gift of marriage ripped apart. He loves to see the lone person who stomped off from friends who would support him. He loves to see you leave a church vowing to go it on your own from here on out. He is relentlessly trying to rip you away from your only hope in life – God your Savior. On your own, you WILL lose.
So now that you’ve identified your true opponent, and realized his true power – I mean that. He is powerful and cunning beyond your understanding. – But you have someone even more powerful who stands in your corner. You have been given armor that can not only defend against Satan’s attacks, but stop him dead in his tracks. You have the armor of God! Don’t miss what that phrase means. This is not just armor from God. You are given God’s own armor – the very armor that Jesus himself used to defeat every evil attack and avoid every temptation. God gives you this armor. Paul urges, “Put it on!” Use the armor in which God himself is clothed when he goes forth to overthrow his enemies. If you use it, you will stand as conquerors and victors.
Let’s take a look at these pieces and why they are so important.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Eph 6:14). Unless you know the truth and use it, you will be overcome. For the devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). The only thing that can expose his lies for what they are is the truth of God’s Word.
“Stand firm then… with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Eph 6:14). One of the first and most common moves of the devil is to try to get us to despair because we do not measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. When any form of calamity strikes, Christians are tempted to ask, “What have I done to deserve this?” The devil will help them find some particular sin in their past and tell them because of it, God has turned against them. And if Satan has succeeded in plunging a Christian into some gross sin, he will be quick to follow up by telling him that he can never be forgiven. That is what happened to Judas. When you are under the same attack, use the breastplate of righteousness! Confess your sin, yes, but then remember that by his suffering and death Jesus earned perfect righteousness for you and declared it so! We can join Paul in issuing the challenge: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Rm 8:33).
“Stand firm then… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). When the believer has the gospel of sins forgiven – the gospel of peace – he has firm footing that cannot be shaken.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). If you think about a flaming arrow, they weren’t primarily meant to inflict a mortal wound. They weren’t lit on fire to kill faster or more efficiently. A flaming arrow, if imbedded in certain materials, could start a fire that would spread and eventually inflict massive damage. And I think this is the one we need to be most aware of in our relationships, in our homes, among friends, and here in God’s house. The devil tries to imbed in our inner being a small beginning of doubt, or false doctrine, or sinful desire, or vengeful impulse, or pride. He knows that if any of these gains a foothold it will spread. What embers do you think are smoldering now? What’s the evil ember glowing at the bottom of that argument with your spouse? What’s the ember that ignited scorn for your brother or sister in Christ? What’s the coal that fuels your anger against this place? If we hold to the faith, to what we have been taught from God’s Word, we will resist the beginnings and thus extinguish Satan’s arrows before they do massive damage.
“Take the helmet of salvation” (Eph 6:17), the gift that is far too precious to be traded for any of the vain pleasures with which the devil entices us. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Mt 16:26).
“Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). While the word is not mentioned specifically until the end, every piece of armor is closely related to the word. The word is the truth that serves as your belt. The righteousness that is your breastplate is revealed in the word. The gospel of peace is found in the word. The faith that serves as a shield is taught in the word, as is the salvation that is your helmet.
If you are to be strong and safe, you need to live in the word. If a congregation is to be strong and united, all of its members need to live in the word. If a church body is to be and remain strong, all its individual members and congregations need to be rooted in the word.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph 6:10). Put on every piece of God’s armor every day so that we are not torn apart by the hidden enemy. I’m going to read this armor of God section once more, but in a slightly different way. I’m going to read it in a way that carries the emphasis the way that Paul’s listeners would have heard it, because this is the only way you can stand up against Satan – and, it’s a guaranteed way to stand against Satan.
“Take your stand then, with truth as your belt, righteousness as your breastplate, the gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all, be sure you take faith as your shield.”