This Means War!
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Memorial Service on the 10th Anniversary of September 11
This Means War!
Text: Ephesians 6:10-18
I was up bright and early in the morning for class. No matter how interesting the subject, first hour class was never fun for a college student. After two morning classes, I had a break third hour before we had morning chapel on campus. I walked back to the dorm room. Fall was not far off, so the temperature was nearly perfect in Minnesota.
I walked into my room and my roommate immediately said, “Dude, you gotta see this.” I glanced at our TV. He had the news on. I think the first thing I said was, “What? Is that real?” I couldn’t believe what I saw—two massive skyscrapers billowing fire and smoke into the air. America was under attack!
Every day we had gathered for chapel in college. As usual I sat with my friends and next to my girlfriend (Becky). But chapel certainly had a different mood and feel that day. This was an epic event for the world, but in particular for our generation. My grandfather remembers where he was on December 7, 1941 for Pearl Harbor. My father cried as a grade school boy when they announced on November 22, 1963 that the president had been assassinated. But our generation has had nothing traumatic happen yet. The world wars were just history facts. Vietnam was something we saw in graphic movies or that our parents sometimes talked about. The Persian Gulf War was seemingly no big deal. We went over to the Middle East, flexed our American muscles, and called it a day. My generation had experienced nothing like this.
I could tell it would be a historic day, and not just because 2,977 people lost their lives. This was an attack on American soil. This was the Middle East versus the United States; terrorists versus people living in peace; Muslims versus Christians. All I could think was, This Means War! Rally the troops! Strap up the armor! Fire up the jets! Lock and load! This Means War!
Paul could have thought the same thing—Paul the apostle, that is. Christians were under attack. Emperor Nero and the Romans hated Christians. When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians he was under house arrest in Rome. Within four years Paul would be beheaded, Peter would be crucified, Rome would burn down, and Nero would blame the Christians for the fire and use it as an excuse to murder thousands. Paul could have thought the same thing: This Means War!
And he did think that and write that—just in a different way. Verse 10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” “Ok, Paul, give it to us! Tell us, Paul! Tell us how God will crush the Romans! Tell us how the Lord will squash them like he did with the Egyptians for Moses and the Israelites!” Verse 11: “Put on the full armor of God.” “That’s right! Here we go! This Means War! We’re ready to fight, Paul!” Ah, but now look at verse 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.”
“Wait. What? You’re not telling the early Christians that God will overthrow the Romans? You’re not telling us today that God will overthrow the Muslims, that the Lord won’t help us win the war in the Middle East?” No. That’s not what Paul is saying. He said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” Our real battle in this world is not against Muslims or oil magnates or the Communists or the Vietcong or the Nazis. “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.”
The real war for Christians is not with Osama bin Laden or Kim Jong-il or Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler. Our war is against spiritual powers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. And only one thing is behind all of these spiritual powers and authorities. Look again at verse 11: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Satan is the one that we are really fighting against. You see, terrorists can fly into our buildings and they can plant bombs. Communist regimes can plan nuclear attacks. Anthrax outbreaks can occur. All these evil worldly people can kill our bodies, but Satan is the one who wants to kill our souls!
I was just in New York City a month ago. Ten years later Ground Zero is still one big mess. There are piles of debris and cranes and construction workers everywhere—10 years later! Two massive towers came crashing down, but dozens of other buildings were severely damaged as well. What a mess!
Even worse were all the deaths. 2,977 were murdered between New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Some of you were in New York at the time. Some of you probably even know a few that died. Some of you have ties to the NYPD or the FDNY. Personally, my mother (a psychologist) volunteered by counseling New Yorkers over the phone. What a horrible day! Such destruction! Such devastation! Such death!
Yet consider the damage done by the devil. His schemes and trickery seem harmless at first. “Don’t worry, it won’t be that bad.” “No one will notice if you do that.” “Everyone talks like that these days. You can too.” “You know you really want to have that. No, you need to have that. Who cares how you manage your money anyways?” He starts with small little temptations that we hardly even notice.
Then he whispers doubts in our ears. “What does God matter? What has he done for you lately? He doesn’t seem to be helping you out much lately. Things have only been getting worse lately. You need to focus on your life and your family, not on some God in the sky that you’ve never even seen before.”
Once we worry or doubt a little, or once he has us trapped in a sin we can’t break free from (like anger, hate, greed, lust, etc.), then he starts shooting some flaming arrows at us. They are mixed shots: “Wasn’t that fun? Didn’t that feel good? Aren’t you glad you did that?” Or he takes a different approach: “Look what you have done! How terrible! How shameful! God would never forgive that! You might as well keep doing it!” The arrows are flying.
Finally, Satan goes for the jugular. He schemes and tricks and plots and ploys until he gets his evil way—dragging us down to join him for eternal death in hell. Such destruction! Such devastation! Such death! And sometimes it seems like he is winning this war because surely we do fall into his temptations. We do sin. We do have thoughts of doubt and worry. We do have thoughts of ditching God and his ways. Such destruction! Such devastation! Such death! This Means War!
Amidst the horrors of 9/11 there were also many heroes. Twenty three NYPD officers, 341 firefighters, and two paramedics lost their lives that day, too. Most of them willingly entered danger and doom and risked their lives to save others. Many of them likely knew that they had little chance to make it through that day alive. In the midst of all the horrors, these heroes gave us something to be proud of. These heroes were a rallying point and uniting factor for millions of people throughout the country and the world.
Yet as great as their love and as faithful as their service, they saved very few. They couldn’t keep the buildings up. And neither they nor our powerful American forces have completely defeated our terrorist enemies.
So how great is the power of Jesus! He knew that we couldn’t defeat the spiritual powers and forces of this world. He knew that we couldn’t defeat our greatest enemy Satan. And he knew that left to ourselves we would be doomed to death in hell forever. So Jesus went to war for us. He went toe to toe with Satan on our behalf.
The battle looked rather one-sided and lopsided. It looked like a failed plan. As Jesus was beaten and battered and bludgeoned and hung from a cross while covered in blood, it didn’t look so good. As the weight of the world’s sins crashed down on his shoulders and the Father abandoned his Son to suffer hell, it seemed like Jesus was losing the battle. And as he bowed his head and died, it seemed like the war was lost. It appeared as though Satan had won.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Amidst all the horrors and tragedy of that Good Friday, Jesus became the hero that triumphed. He cried out on the cross, “It is finished.” The suffering was finished. The payment for sin was finished. The battle was finished. Jesus had won.
Need proof? Not sure a dead man could do you any good? Not sure Satan was defeated? Not sure your sins were forgiven? Then look at the empty tomb. Death had no power over Jesus. The tomb could not hold Jesus. Satan could not beat Jesus. He’s living. Death has been swallowed up in victory! Satan’s head was crushed!
Amidst all the horrors of Good Friday, amidst all the horrors of our sins, amidst all the horrors of the hell we deserve, Jesus emerged as our great hero. He laid down his life and did save us—to pay for our sins and bring us forgiveness. He laid down his life so that we could rise to eternal life.
Jesus has won the eternal battle. Satan lost to Jesus. But that won’t stop Satan from trying to defeat us. He’s playing for eternal keeps and fighting to kill our souls. So though we have won with Jesus, while we remain in this world, This Means War!
So dress for battle! Verse 13: “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.” Here’s what your armor looks like: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” Buckle up tightly with the good news of your free forgiveness in Jesus—the belt of truth. Next, stand “With the breastplate of righteousness in place.” The breastplate was an important piece of armor. It protected your vital organs. Cover yourself against Satan’s temptations and accusations with the righteousness that is given to you through Jesus. And then have, “Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Be ready to run swiftly away from temptation and sin as you live in the peace of your forgiveness.
Verse 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.” Satan may attack all he wants with doubt and worry and temptation and sin, but we can block each arrow with our faith that clings to Jesus. “Take up the helmet of salvation.” Protect your important head and brain with the knowledge that Jesus has saved you from your sins. “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Then fight! Fight Satan. Fight temptation. Fight sin. Fight false teaching. Fight with the word of God as your mighty sword.
As you march off to war with this armor and with the sword of the Spirit, do two things: First, pray! “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” And finally, “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying.” Be ready as you march off to war with Satan.
Such tragedy happened 10 years ago. It was a life-changing event. It was a world-changing event. But as we reflect 10 years later and move forward into the future, we are reminded that our real enemies of this world are not Koreans, or African rebel insurgents, or Muslim terrorists. Our real enemies are false teachings, temptations, and sins—with Satan behind them all. Others may be able to take our lives, but Satan wants to take our souls. This Means War!
But come what may. Come terrorists. Come communists. Come insurgents. Come evil regimes. Come wars. Come false teachings. Yes, even bring it on Satan! We are ready for battle. We are wearing the full armor of God and holding the sword of his Word. And we have Christ as our Champion. We have Christ as our Conqueror. We have Christ as our Captain. And so we’ve already won.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
If you would like a copy of this sermon to print or to share, click here.
Posted on September 12, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged 9/11, Adolph Hitler, Armor of God, Church, Communism, Ephesians, Ephesians 6, FDNY, Ground Zero, Heroes, Insurgents, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Koreans, Memorial Service, Muslims, NYPD, Osama bin Laden, Regimes, September 11, September 11th, Sermons, Terrorists, War. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.