The 15th Sunday after Pentecost September 17, 2017
Text: 1 Kgs 18:21; Eph 6:10-11 3 year series B – Revised 17:2030
Theme: Onward, Christian Soldier!
Do the devils in hell hold conventions? A legend says they do. It tells of a day when all the spirits met to discuss the best way possible to destroy people’s souls. As the proceedings began one spirit arose and proposed: “I know what to do. I will go to earth and tell people the Bible is not God’s inspired Word but only a myth.”
“No,” replied another spirit. “That’s already been done. I’ll go and tell people: ‘There is no God, no Savior, no heaven, no hell.’”
“That won’t work either,” exclaimed a third spirit. “People aren’t sure, and they won’t know if they can believe it.”
A fourth spirit arose with a fiendish grin: “I will go to earth and tell people there is a God, a Savior, a heaven, and a hell, but they don’t need to be in a hurry to prepare themselves. I’ll convince them that they have plenty of time to wait. Time is on their side, so they ought to enjoy life while they can. When they get old, then they can think about their soul’s welfare. But no hurry, not yet.”
“Bravo!” all hell shouted. “That’s the way to bring about man’s destruction.” So they sent that spirit to earth. He is now at work, lulling men to procrastination and spiritual indecisiveness until it is too late and death summons them to be lost forever. Unbelief slays thousands, but indecisiveness consumes tens of thousands daily.
When it comes to matters of eternity, one can’t sit on a fence. One can’t put off for tomorrow what needs to be today. Tomorrow may not come, and what you are at the moment of death determines where you will spend eternity.
Our greatest enemies are not human tyrants; they are not the North Koreas of the world or radical Islamists. Our greatest enemies are “demons who prowl around like roaring lions, seeking to devour us” eternally. It is difficult enough to fight wickedness that so viciously shows itself among men. But what shall we say about the battle that rages daily against the forces of evil, unseen to our eyes? As Paul said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This conflict is of cosmic proportions because…
I. …Hell opposes us. There is a remarkable incident recorded in the Epistle of Jude that bears out the evil nature and intent of the devil to destroy God’s people.
In Jude we read how the devil fought with the archangel Michael over the dead body of Moses. Scriptures tell us that at the age of 120 God took Moses to the top of Mt. Nebo just as Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land. From that lofty perch, God permitted Moses to see the glories of the land in which Israel would settle. After giving him that sight, the Lord took Moses’ soul to heaven and He buried Moses’ body in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor. But no one knew where his grave lay (Dt.34:6).
Some 1,500 years later, Jude tells us in his epistle that a conflict took place over Moses’ body between Michael and the devil. The
Bible does not tell us the details except that Michael won. But the point is this that hell is bent on all manner of evil and destruction, even at the death of a believer.
Another incident of hell’s fury is recorded in the book of Daniel (ch.10). A messenger of the Lord, who could be Christ Himself in the Old Testament, was sent to Daniel in answer to Daniel’s prayer for understanding and mercy. But for 21 days He could not reach Daniel for Satan was acting to frustrate God’s plans. How can Satan detain any of God’s messengers from acting? The answer is not given, but Christ prevailed.
The point is this; our struggle against Satan is not a struggle against one equal to us. Satan’s power lies far beyond ours to resist on our own. His minions surround us daily with evil intent on their minds. Most often they come to us as they came to Israel long ago
Israel sat on a fence. In some things they worshipped God; in most things they followed the false god, Baal. It’s not like they couldn’t make up their minds as much as that they were too lazy or preoccupied to care. The king and his wife Jezebel had killed most of the Lord’s prophets and in their place set up 450 prophets of Baal and another 400 prophets of Baal’s consort, Asherah. 850 opposed the one prophet of the Lord, Elijah. As a result, God struck the land with drought and famine which the prophets of Baal could not halt. Yet, the majority of Israel was noncommittal. So Elijah confronted them with their indecisiveness in our OT Lesson today saying, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him.” And then came the most telling part. The writer says, “But the people didn’t answer him a word.” Silence! Satan had lulled Israel into a life of procrastination and spiritual lethargy where they had nothing to say.
“In your face” or “procrastinate”, both are flourishing strategies of Satan. And the latter proves most successful. Hell uses all.
Paul describes it as if it were a vast empire of spiritual powers and forces of various grades, skills, and abilities drawn up like an army to oppose God’s people. At the head of this evil kingdom is its captain, Satan, a fallen, disgraced angel of the Lord with tremendous faculties and strength. Under him are thousands upon thousands of evil spirits doing his will and carrying out his commands. He not only enlists these invisible spirits, but also influences, controls, and uses men who depart from God’s ways.
He has preachers and teachers in his camp who have left the truths of God’s Holy Word. He employs television, radio, the press, magazines, books, internet, facebook, twitter, and all types of media to help carry on his diabolical purposes with godless and blasphemous content. Much of the world’s wealth is in his control and he pours it out profusely on his favorite objectives. He speaks from mouths of rulers and politicians and can direct the systems of education so as to lead young minds away from God and fill them with errors of evolution, religious tolerance, loose living, and teachings that oppose the ways of God. And most effective is the tool called spiritual procrastination.
Christian, don’t blind yourself. You are a soldier in a fight in which hell opposes you. We often think that our problems and opposition come from perverse people. But they are only instruments used in Satan’s grand scheme against believers. Do not fall asleep to it! We stand against cosmic forces more powerful, more numerous, more capable of influencing us than we imagine.
II. Heaven surrounds us.
“Therefore,” Paul writes, “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil….and after you have done everything, stand!”
Israel of Elijah’s day would not take a stand. They waffled, limping this way then that, but never standing strong in the Lord.
Heaven has to surround you if you are going to stand against such evil forces. So it is that Paul counsels to arm yourself similar to the way the Roman soldiers of his day did.
First Paul writes: “Buckle the belt of truth around your waist.” With soldiers long ago, the belt was a section of armor strapped around the waist to protect the soldier’s midsection and vital organs.
“Fasten the breastplate of righteousness in place.” The breastplate covered the upper body, protecting the heart.
“Tie the sandals of peace to your feet.” Now, you cannot think of the type of sandals we wear today, or simply flip-flops. Can you imagine a Roman soldier going into battle with flimsy flip-flops on? These were heavier sandals, strong enough to take a beating, yet light enough to allow the soldier to move swiftly.
“Take the helmet of salvation” — a helmet protects the head.
“Hold up the shield of faith.” A soldier’s shield was oblong, about 4 feet long and warded off the blows from the enemy’s swords, spears, and arrows.
Finally, “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” The sword was the one offensive weapon by which the soldier took the fight to the enemy to slay him.
Paul attaches spiritual significance to each piece of a Roman soldier’s armor to highlight the various aspects of Christ’s redemptive work in our behalf. Christ protects us. His Word defeats Satan. His righteousness covers our weakness. And faith is the hand that receives His blessings that will last to eternity. It’s all there for us. And you’ll find its power right here, in the Bible. Even if hell opposes us, heaven’s strength surrounds us. Our position is sure since the armor is God’s. It, not you, will prove invincible. Use it! Trust it!
“Put it on, Christian,” Paul admonishes, “Put it all on. And then pray to your almighty Lord in everything, for everything, whether great or small, every chance you get, for yourself and for others. Stay alert and pray.”
See, Christians can’t afford to procrastinate. We can’t afford to waver and be indecisive. To do so spiritually means death eternally. “But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Our almighty Lord. And there’s none other God. He holds the field forever.”
So Onward Christian Soldier. God grant it in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.