Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Be Strong in the Lord
1. With his mighty power
2. With his mighty armor
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
Let’s get ready to rumble! A man named Michael Buffer has made that phrase (and the way it is said) quite popular over the last two decades. Michael Buffer got started as a ring announcer for boxing matches. The unique way in which Buffer says that phrase has landed him dozens of other gigs. He has given his call to action before boxing matches, wrestling matches, and various other sporting championships. He has made appearances on TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and American Idol. He even trademarked the phrase in 1992 and has since made $400 million just off that trademark. It seems that any time there is going to be a big event, a big battle, or a big fight, Michael Buffer is there saying Let’s get ready to rumble!
Well, are you? Are you ready to rumble? Are you ready to battle? Are you ready to fight? Maybe you didn’t completely realize it. Maybe you weren’t fully aware of it. But I would hope that with the theme for worship today, you would now understand that all of us are entrenched in battle. Each and every day is a struggle. Each and every day is a fight. Each and every day is war.
Therefore, we must be ready to battle. We must be ready to fight. As Michael Buffer would say, we must be ready to rumble. The apostle Paul explains how we can do that today. He tells us how we can Be Strong in the Lord.
Our world knows plenty about war. There have always been wars throughout history, and now is no different. Depending on what generation you are, you have probably lived through many wars. Some here have even fought in several wars. From the first two World Wars to Vietnam to Korea to the Persian Gulf to the War on Terrorism, Americans are not strangers to war.
With modern technology and media, Americans are also not strangers to the carnage and great ramifications of war. Pictures in magazines and books and on the internet reveal the graphic and gory. Movies and documentaries depict the horrid and horrendous. Powerful cameras and high tech video recorders capture the danger and disaster.
Yet while we may understand the brutal and catastrophic nature of wars, the wars we are used to in this world are really quite insignificant when compared to the war we are fighting right now. Look at verse 12 of Ephesians 6. “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.”
Our struggle is not looking for Charlie somewhere in a jungle. We aren’t looking for bin Laden somewhere in the dessert. We aren’t in a standoff with the Russians about missiles in Cuba. Oh, no. This is a much more dangerous battle! First, our fight is against the rulers, powers, and authorities of this dark and sinful world. We are in a struggle against those who have worldly power but oppose our faith. Paul is not talking about Obama or health insurance policies. He’s talking about persecution. He’s talking about those who oppose our faith and beliefs and try to hinder them. In his day that became a huge problem as Paul himself and many others were martyred for their faith. Today, that is still happening in countries all over the world—in Africa, in Afghanistan, in Indonesia. Maybe not in America—but then again, maybe just not yet!
As if that struggle against worldly powers isn’t scary enough, there’s even more that we have to worry about. The end of verse 12 reminds us that our struggle is also, “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is the part that is truly frightening. There are evil spirits and demons out there, led by their wicked ringleader called Satan. These spiritual forces are also out to get us. They are out to attack our faith and beliefs. They are out to play for eternal keeps.
Satan’s method for fighting is also important to note. Sometimes it will be an obvious and open assault—as obvious as the Red Coat English walking in a straight line down the battlefield. We might think of an event like Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street in New Orleans as an obvious and open assault of temptations. Sometimes it is an obvious and forceful attack—as obvious and forceful as a German blitzkrieg of tanks. We might think of the powerful and open attack on our eyes and ears that lurks with just a click or two of a computer mouse or TV remote control.
That’s how he fights sometimes. But more often Satan employs a different strategy. Paul mentions it at the end of verse 11. “Take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” More often, Satan engages in spiritual guerrilla warfare. He plots. He schemes. Instead of an all-out attack he will whisper in your ear, “It’s not that bad. Everyone’s doing it.” “One time won’t matter.” “It won’t be that bad.” “God won’t mind.” He will try to turn opinions into fights and divisions, using your pride against you to make you angry with me as your pastor, or me with you as my parishioner. He will aim at causing arguments and rifts between families in this congregation. He will push you over the edge to think that it’s acceptable not to be around God and his Word as often as possible. He will shake your faith with doubts and worries and questions. He will use struggles and troubles in your life to make you wonder if God really loves you.
Friends, this is war! And Satan is playing for eternal keeps. He wants your faith to crumble. He wants your trust to disappear. He wants your soul in hell. This is war!
By all visible evidences, he’s winning. We fall into his tricks and traps all the time. We get led astray. We fall into temptation. Sometimes then we even try to rationalize or excuse our sins. We make it seem like our wrongs are no big deal. But our sinfulness is a big deal. God tells us that, “the wages of sin is death.” This is war. We’ve sinned. We are going to die. By all visible evidences, it looks like Satan is winning!
But that’s why Paul opens this section the way he does. We’ve already failed. We’ve already fallen. So don’t rely on yourselves. Don’t rely on others. No. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
In the Bible we see just how mighty the Lord is. It took us eight months to build this little church. It took God six days to create the universe (and he could have done it faster if he wanted!). God spread wide the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites. He made the sun stand still for a day for Joshua. Jesus walked on water. He calmed the wind and waves. He made the blind to see and the lame to walk. The Lord has mighty power!
And how about this infinite power? Jesus was able to carry the guilt and sin of the world on his own shoulders. Jesus was able to wage eternal war against Satan and win! He was able to burst forth form the chains of death and rise again to new life. If you want to see power, just look at the empty tomb! Sin, death, Satan—none could hold him. He conquered all.
We are in the midst of war—a spiritual war with eternal ramifications. If Satan takes hold of you and destroys your faith, the result is an eternity in hell. But don’t be afraid! In fact, Be Strong! Be strong in the Lord who crushed Satan. Be strong in the Lord who already won the battle. Be strong in the Lord who’s on your side! Fear not! Be Strong in the Lord and in his mighty power!
Those who wage war are always looking for advantages in warfare and combat. Those who fight are looking for the best you can find for offense and for defense. When swords and arrows were dominating combat, chain link armor was invented. But soon chain link armor was rendered useless when gunpowder exploded onto the scene (literally). But then soon bulletproof vests and bulletproof glass and armored vehicles were made. So nuclear and chemical and biological weapons are now used. If you want power in war, you need a good defense and you need good weapons.
Praise God! We have just that! Here’s verse 11: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” After describing our struggle against worldly powers and against Satan’s powers in verse 12, he continues in verse 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.”
You are ready for battle. You are ready for this spiritual struggle because you can Be Strong in the Lord with his mighty armor. Here’s what that armor is: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” You have the truth that Jesus is Lord. You have the truth that Jesus is Savior. You have the truth that Jesus crushed Satan at the cross. These truths are the belt that holds everything up and everything together.
Also, “Stand firm . . . with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Satan will stab at you with accusations. He will stab at you with charges that you are a sinner who deserves eternal death with him in hell. But those shots and stabs will bounce right off of your breastplate, which is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. On the cross he erased all of your sin clothed you in his perfection. That great righteousness is your great breastplate.
Then, “Stand firm . . . with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Like a fit and fleet-footed soldier ready and prepared to defend or attack at any time, so also are we fleet-footed and ready. We are ready to erase guilt and doubt with the peace that our sin is forgiven. We are ready to bring comfort and joy to others as we are ready at any and every moment to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with any and every one.
Oh, but that’s not it! There’s more to the armor of God! Verse 16: “In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Satan will shoot arrows at you—dangerous arrows that are burning with the flames of hell. These arrows are aimed to pierce your heart. They are intended to cause doubts. They are intended to cause you to question the certainty of heaven. But you have just the right defense! You have the shield of faith. Your rock-solid faith in your loving Savior and mighty King Jesus Christ will defend you from such attacks.
Equally important to protecting your heart is protecting your head in battle. Not to worry! You have the “helmet of salvation.” Knowing that because Jesus lives, you will live is just the protection you need!
And while you have all these pieces of armor in the great armor of God, you also have the most powerful weapon ever. Not an AK-47. Not a tank. Not an a-bomb. Not anthrax. No! You have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God which slices and slashes Satan’s temptations. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God which smashes stony hearts with the law yet also consoles burdened hearts with the gospel of forgiveness.
Finally, while you bear this armor and wield this sword, pray. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” God hears and answers the prayers of his people and will deliver you from every trouble. So Be Strong in the Lord! Be Strong in the Lord with his mighty armor!
We don’t need Michael Buffer to scream at us that it’s time to get ready to rumble. We already know. We know that it is all out war with Satan. But we also know that we have already won. We have Jesus on our side. So Christians, fight the good fight of faith. Be Strong in the Lord—in his mighty power and in his mighty armor! So then,
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
If you would like to view a copy of this sermon to print or to share, click here.