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Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, September 16, 2018

“The Great I AM”
Spiritual Warfare - Part 2

Text: Ephesians 6:12–13

Last week we began a series on Spiritual Warfare that will last approximately six weeks.

Our main text for this series will be Ephesians 6:10–20. We started last week with verses 10–11,

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.

We saw that our individual strength would never be enough to defeat the kingdom of darkness but that we don't have to depend on our own strength. The Lord is willing to go before us and fight our battles but in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit we are to be in the midst of the battle. We go as those who have put on the mantle of power and the authority of Jesus Christ.

We saw the example of the 72 disciples in Luke 10 who were sent out in Jesus name to heal the sick and to cast out demons, so that everyone would know that the kingdom of God had come. They returned rejoicing that at the name of Jesus even the demons submitted to their authority. Jesus came to take back what had been stolen and to begin the process of establishing the kingdom of Heaven here on earth. The evidence to men and to the kingdom of darkness was that the King had come and his power and authority would be evident.

This was before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost because it was at the name of Jesus the sick would be healed, the dead would be raised and the demonic would flee. The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost so that the servants of Jesus would have the power to stand against the schemes of the devil and to rebuke him in the name of Jesus. They had been given his power and authority through his name, but at Pentecost that power indwelt them so that they could become the earthly representation of Jesus in word and power.

The kingdom was to move forward in power and authority through the setting up of the church as the people of God's own possession. We saw the example of how this should work in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were surrounded by enemies from three nations who had come to destroy the people of Judah. The Lord spoke through Jahaziel the son of Zachariah that they should have no fear because God would fight the battle for them. They were to go down in the midst of the enemy and watch what God would do.

They embraced the promise of God to fight their battle and entered it behind those who were singing praises to God and declaring, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 20:22,

And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.

Judah discovered the secret of putting on the armor of God. They put on the garment of praise instead of the garment of fear and watched as God routed their enemy and defeated them on their behalf.

We learned that this is the foundation of spiritual warfare. It begins by depending on the power and strength of God in Christ and we fight with the weapons given us by God.

Today we will consider Ephesian 6:12–13 as we continue to ask God to give us a deeper understanding of spiritual warfare and who we are in Christ.

Let's read together verses 12–13,

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.13 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.

I haven't been one of those people who gets really involved in super intense video games. I limit myself to things like Solitaire and I find that relaxing. However, years ago a friend gave me a computer game put out by “N’Lightening” that you had to download. It was called “Catechumen” and the setting was in the year AD 171 during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, a persecutor of Christians. During this period, new Christian converts were guided by a mentor for at least a year in which the new converts were referred to as Catechumen.

The game's opening scene reveals that the player's mentor and fellow brethren have been captured by demon-possessed Roman soldiers and locked in the deepest Roman catacombs. Being a Catechumen, it is the player's job to delve into the Roman catacombs to free them. With the help of various angels, the player eventually frees his brethren at the end of the game by banishing the leader of the demons, Satan, back into the underworld.

I don't remember how many levels there were but as I went deeper into the catacombs I was confronted by various types of demons and each level had stronger enemies that were progressively harder to kill. It was at times a very nerve-racking game because I couldn't always see the enemy until suddenly it presented itself and attacked. Often I could hear various noises that tipped me off that something was there in the dark and gloom, and of course the manufacturer had music in the background that was at times unsettling. With each level my character grew stronger and had a larger array of weapons at my disposal.

Finally, at the end of the game I was confronted by the Prince of Demons and had to use all the weapons available to finally defeat him and send him back to the underworld. I'm embarrassed to say that it took me over a month to finish the game and I don't even want to know how many hours I wasted playing it. I do know that it was enough that I decided to never do that again.

This week I remembered that game as I considered verse 12 of Ephesians 6.

Just like in the game our struggle is not against flesh and blood, even though our struggles often seem to be with those with whom we disagree. In truth the struggle has always been and always will be against the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, or as we commonly refer to it, as the kingdom of Light verses the kingdom of Darkness. The lesson of the game was that even though I was only a Catechumen, I could defeat the enemy, no matter how strong, if I depended on the weapons of warfare given me by the angels who helped me. Now of course this was only a game and not everything was according to a strict reading of the Bible, but I got the point: I could never have done on my own.

Psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck in his book, The Road Less Traveled, tells of his journey from not believing in Satan to being convinced of the reality of Satan. This journey not only led him to believe in the existence of real evil and a personal devil but it also led him to become a Christian. He wrote that more and more psychiatrists are starting to believe in the reality of Satan even though at one time it would have been a terrible career move. What produced this change? Peck argues that it is the sheer reality of evil—viewed in a dramatic way in exorcisms—and because it is seen in people who love evil and practice evil for it's own sake.

Most every day I read in the news of some horrific crime that has been committed. This should not come as a big surprise to those who have read the Bible from the earliest pages of the Old Testament, the prophets, the Gospels, Epistles or the Book of Revelation. I remember reading many of God's prohibitions in the Levitical laws and wondering, “who would do such a thing.”

I remember comedian James Gregory pointing out instructions on cans or power equipment. An owner’s manual for a Sears lawnmower gave the warning to not pick up the lawnmower while running in order to use it to trim your hedges. Now to you and I that is just common sense, but Gregory pointed out that it was there because at some point, somebody picked up a running mower and tried to trim their hedges and likely trimmed their fingers instead.

Well, I can assure you that every law in the Book of Leviticus was there because at some time people were doing the absurd things listed in the law. Evil seems to have no boundaries and if not dealt with will go to places previously considered unthinkable. We see that going on in our country today as evil has sunk to lows that we wouldn't have believed possible just 25 years ago.

In God's word we are warned at every turn of Satan's existence and activities and that's what Paul is doing in Ephesians. He is describing Christian warfare in this world and showing that it's not just against visible enemies but against the devil and those spiritual forces that stand behind the enemies that we do see.

In his description of the spiritual forces of evil that we are to contend with Paul tells us three important things about the devil.

The first is that he is a very powerful enemy who has agents that are described as rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Paul warns us to take up the whole armor of God against them, so it is imperative that we not take them lightly. People who dabble in the occult have no idea the extreme danger they are inviting into their lives.

That being said it is equally important that we not overstate the power and ability of Satan. Because he is a spiritual rather than a material being many are inclined to assume that he is somewhat equal with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is God and everyone and everything else are created by God and are in submission to his will and authority. Every other creature is limited, and Satan is no exception.

God is omnipotent—all powerful; the devil is not. God can do whatever he desires but the devil can only do what God permits him to do, for now. This is God's universe and even Hell doesn't belong to Satan. God created Hell as the place where Satan and his cohorts will one day be confined for eternity.

God is omnipresent—He is everywhere at once. King David wrote in Psalm 139:7–10,

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

This is not true of Satan, as he can only be in one place at a time. He can only tempt one person at one place at a time, consequently he must exert his influence on other fallen beings to assist him. Even though the devil has great influence it is probably true that none of us have ever been personally tempted by Satan himself. As a matter of fact there are only six examples in the Bible of people being directly tempted by Satan himself: Eve (not Adam), Job, Jesus Christ, Judas, Peter and Ananias (but not his wife Sapphira.) I'm sure there have been many others but not that are found in the Bible.

God is omniscient—He knows everything. That isn't true of Satan, he doesn't know everything and cannot read your mind or know what will happen in the future.

He is however a very shrewd and powerful enemy and a formidable foe. A Christian is foolish to think that he can resist or defeat Satan in his own strength. The Archangel Michael, the Captain of the Heavenly hosts, is recorded as saying in Jude 1:9,

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

The second thing that Paul tells us about the devil is that he is wicked, destructive and bent on subverting the works and plans of God. Paul is warning Christians that they will encounter evil people, but in reality they are in a struggle with the evil behind the evil.

One of the mistakes that many well-meaning Christians make is assuming that they can compromise with evil for the sake of unity. John R.W. Stott, in his book, God's New Society, wrote,

…bear in mind that they (evil powers) have no moral principles, no code of honor, no higher feelings. They recognize no Geneva Convention to restrict or partially civilize the weapons of their warfare. They are utterly unscrupulous, and ruthless in the pursuit of their malicious designs.

This is why we can never compromise the Word of God in order to placate those who chose to ignore it's teaching. As we will see in a few weeks, God's word is the strongest weapon in our arsenal.

The third thing that Paul says about Satan is that he is extremely sly and crafty. He is a schemer and doesn't attack directly or always in the same way. In Genesis 3 he is called crafty in his temptation of Eve, and in 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul, after addressing the need for Christians to forgive, writes, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; we are not ignorant of his designs.”

He can't read our minds, but he and his minions can cleverly read our actions and hear our words. They can see the things we allow ourselves to watch and observe the ways that we exhibit weakness, especially in moral and ethical character. They can hear the agreements we make about our weaknesses and fears and they are glad to keep whispering in our ears that we can't make it or we just don't have what it takes. Ever hear that little voice confirm the darkest things that you believe about yourself? It's the enemy doing what he does best.

He can see those things that cause us to show fear and he can glean from our passions where we are the most vulnerable. In the West I suspect that the demonic forces can see how attached we can become to “our stuff” or “our positions” and they learn to develop ways to take our focus off of Jesus Christ and place it elsewhere. We must be intentional in our focus on Jesus through his word, prayer and focused praise. When Jesus becomes our focus everything else is seen in the light of Him and the evil ones lose their power and control. When we call out to Jesus and focus on him they have to flee to safety. Satan and his army are primarily tasked with taking our focus off of the things of God. Once that happens they don't need to stick around for long because they know that our sin nature will take us down unless we run to Jesus.

The Apostle Peter knew very well what is was to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. He wrote in 1 Peter 5:7–8,

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

He knew that Satan would attempt to overwhelm and fill us with fear. His goal is to make us forget who we are in Christ and the power and authority that are at our disposal at all times. At other times he might come to us as a friend who seems to have our best interest in mind, just like he did with Eve. However, often the deceiver likes to come to us as an angel of light and we have seen that play itself out in many of the mainline denominations throughout the world. Dr. James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on Ephesians wrote,

Oh, how Satan loves to bring enlightenment. “You don't mean to tell me that you believe those old-fashioned tales that you find in the Bible,” Satan says, “Nobody believes those myths anymore. Scholarship has disproved all of that.” Martin Luther had it right when he said, “When you look for the devil, don't forget to look in the pulpit.” Many have fallen because they believed the Prince of Darkness's light.

Once we focus on Jesus and remain aware of the schemes of the devil then Paul reiterates that we are to “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.”

If we trust in ourselves we will fall, but if we are aware of our own weakness and turn to God as our necessary defense against the devil's schemes, then we will be able to stand. For me the greatest comfort I have is in knowing who God is. I find delight in God's answer to Moses in Exodus 3:13–14,

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: 'I am has sent me to you.’”

Every excuse that we can think of as to why we can't follow the commands of God, he has a solution through his name. His word declares everything that we need to know about God's character and nature. Let me give you some examples:

The Problem: “God, I'm too weak.”
        The Solution- I AM your refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Problem: “God, I'm afraid.”
        The Solution- Cast all your anxiety on me because I AM cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

The Problem: “But God, I am poor.”
        The Solution- Don't worry I AM rich. Psalm 50:10

God was assuring Israel that they had every reason to follow him with confidence because for everything that they were not, God was. For every problem that came up, God was the solution. In running from the armies of Egypt, Israel came to the barrier of the Red Sea. God parted the waters and they walked across on dry land. They ran out of water and God brought water from a rock. They ran out of food and God gave them the bread of angels. The list goes on and on. God was assuring Israel thousands of years ago as well as those of us today who have surrendered our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, that he is still the great I AM. He is still saying to us as we confront what would appear to be an overwhelming enemy—I AM—whatever you need me to be. I AM not limited as you are. I AM God and there is no other, trust me.

Almost two weeks ago a friend and fellow priest felt that he was no longer able to stand and fight. He believed the lies that the enemy whispered in his ear and decided to take his own life. He left behind a wife and two young boys. I hate Satan and the kingdom of darkness and I’m tired of losing people to his lies. I’m weary of seeing those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ compromise with a fallen world and call it love. I believe that as the Apostle Paul wrote this letter he felt the same way. Jesus won the war but there are battles to fight until the day of the return of our Lord and King, Jesus. Until he returns or calls me home I will dedicate my life to the glory of God and the defeat of the devil.

In spiritual warfare as in any military battle, it is vitally important that you choose the side you are on. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there is neutral ground. The enemy would have you believe differently but God's word commands us to “having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13). There is to much at stake to do anything less. God’s people must put on the whole armor of God, doing everything they can in the power, authority and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and stand firm.

Let's take a few moments of silent reflection asking God to speak to our hearts and to encourage us to trust him and to STAND FIRM!

©2018 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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