The Closer We Get to the Chief
Let’s do an overview:
- God has defeated Satan and his agenda: He has delivered us from the penalty of sin but in the interim we are involved in guerilla warfare with evil forces.
- We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light – we have been endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We have a responsibility in this spiritual war:
- Be honest with God, ourselves and others as a prerequisite to all spiritual battles
- Respond to God’s call for living a righteous life
- Share the Good News with others.
- Put on the total armor – don’t leave any piece out
- The great majority of spiritual warfare never need to go beyond the regular practice of us living out our faith in Christ. If we daily put on the armor of God and following His teaching we will have an ongoing relationship with God. In other words if we do the do’s we aren’t going to have time or the energy to be tempted to do it the evil one’s way.
There are times when the evil one is firing a lot of burning arrows. That comes as we get closer to the Chief in our spiritual lives.
The pieces of armor we have looked at are pieces that we wear. The next piece is something we carry compared to wearing the other pieces.
Ephesians 6:10-16 (NLT)
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- I can almost predict when Satan will attack us:
- When we are taking significant steps in our faith – when we are growing spiritually.
- One of the things Satan hates is for us to study the Word. He doesn’t want us to grow in our understanding of what a Christian is to be like and what we are to do as a believer.
- He sends doubts and he questions what we read and study.
- Satan certainly doesn’t want us praying either. Especially he doesn’t want us to be praising God. That is like we are giving compliments to the enemy. Well we are – we are praising and giving thanks to Satan’s opponent.
- And certainly doesn’t want us to give to the church – if he can convince us to treat God as a cosmic bell hop putting a buck in the plate he has won.
- Inevitably when I am doing well spiritually – I can expect an attack. Satan wants us to be bland and mediocre – he loves for us to fail.
- The second area that really annoys Satan is when we invade his territory. What I mean by that is when we share our faith, when we share the food and the gospel, reaching out to the people in our community in the name of Jesus Christ.
- When you look at Paul’s mission trips – everywhere he led people to Christ there arose a group that would attack him and his followers. There always seemed to be a counter-attack to whatever he was doing.
- If you look any of the reformers of the 1500s and the Wesley brothers in the 1700s – there was always a counter attack – Satan even used the established church to do his bidding:
- The Baptist movement in the 1500s experienced persecution from the church over believer baptism – and they even put to death those who were being baptized as adults in the name of the church. There are accounts of the church burning a believer who was baptized as an adult.
- The Wesleys got kicked out of the Church of England and preached in fields, street corners, in front of factories and mines.
- Satan is not thrilled that he has lost – so he will do whatever it takes to destroy the believer and the church.
- When we repent and make a clean break from the world of sin. Repentance brings out the worst in Satan. He always wants us to feel guilty and he certainly doesn’t want us to have righteousness and holiness as our goal.
- When God is calling us into some type of ministry – when we God is preparing us for some type of work for Him. Satan hates for the church or individual’s to be in some kind of ministry or service.
- Satan becomes really agitated and will fire burning arrows at us when we take him seriously and expose him to the church. He works real hard to persuade folks that he doesn’t exist and then we come along and refute that. Expect to be attacked. He is not a good loser. It is like this a card gambler never wants to be caught dealing from the bottom of the dealing from the bottom of the deck. Well when we expose Satan’s dealings he shoots back.
- The Shield of Faith – there were 2 types of shields at the time that Paul wrote his letter. One was a small round one that you have seen in movies with gladiators in them. The other shield was much larger and this is the one that Paul is thinking about. It was 4 feet high and 2 feet wide with hooks on the side so they could link the shields together. (take a look at the picture)
- It was common for the enemy to dip their arrows in pitch, light them, and send a volley of flaming missiles.
- The Romans made their shields with iron and 2 layers of wood, wrapped them in linen and then wrapped everything in leather.
- They would leave gaps between each layer so the flaming arrow could penetrate far enough into the shield to be quickly extinguished.
- One historian remarked that a soldier came in form battle with at least 200 arrows.
- This is the metaphor that Paul uses and most of his audience understood the shield’s protective nature.
- Paul was thinking about faith in God when he thought of the shield’s ability to protect the soldier from being pierced and catching him on fire. Faith in this perspective means absolute confidence in God – his promises, his power and his course for our lives. It is rooted in the objective reality of the gospel and our standing with God through Jesus Christ. It is the confidence in the saving grace that justifies us.
- Paul is referring to a faith that trusts in Jesus for victory over sin.
- It trusts in God’s promises for forgiveness and eternal life.
- It holds to the unchanging character of God
- Regardless of the form in which the arrows come faith will overcome the spiritual attacks.
- The fiery arrows / darts are the schemes, temptations, lies and attacks aimed at God’s people. Their goal is for us to shift our focus from God and His plans to something or someone else. If the enemy can distract us from God’s plan, make us feel guilty, get us discouraged or lose hope it is doing its job. Let me mention a few flaming arrows:
- Blasphemous or profane thoughts – thoughts that just pop into our mind when we are attempting to have a devotional life.
- Let’s say we are praying we are having a real great time with the Lord and out of nowhere a vulgar word or thought pops into the conversation. Or you might be studying the Word and a person comes to mind that creates an inappropriate thought.
- Where did that come from – try the enemy. Maybe you had a problem with vulgarity / swearing before you became a Christian; he is going to shoot flaming arrows in that direction.
- Another potential dart or arrow is hateful thoughts. We sometimes are consumed with anger or hatred toward someone. You think you have forgiven them but out of nowhere you begin to have thoughts about that person.
- Unresolved anger is one of the most common ways to become vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.
- The more we think about that person the more we are sidetracked from working on our relationship with God and Satan loves the distraction.
- Ephesians 4:26 (NLT) And “don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” - if you allow hatred to fester in our hearts it will grow and it will damage our relationship with God.
- Doubts are another fiery missile – not just little doubts which all of us struggle with but even big picture doubts. We have a teacher or a professor who questions our belief in God after the tornados occurred. Saying something like this, “if you believe in God where was He when the tornados ripped through WV, KY, OH, IL? You must believe in a cruel God that would allow something like this to happen.
- If we haven’t struggle with questions like that we are ignoring that things like that happens. We need to struggle with those types of challenges and have faith. But the enemy uses others to attack our believe system by questioning us and creating doubt in us.
- When our minds are attack we need to have faith in God and His plan. This is the same God who has miraculously created the heavens and the earth – who has created each one of us in His image.
- Sometimes out of nowhere we have this burning desire to sin. Everything in us wants to do something wrong – where did that come from? We rationalize that everyone does it. These thoughts certainly do not come from God – God is not going to produce sin. We need to reestablish the shield of faith.
- Out of nowhere comes this overwhelming sense of depression – we can’t get out of the house or even the chair. This comes from one of those flaming arrows.
- Or what about unexplainable conflict with another individual. I had two ladies in a church that I served who just couldn’t tolerate being with each other. They both served on the Adm. Bd. and if one had a suggestion the other argued against it. One night it got so bad at the meeting. I eventually slammed my hand down on the table and dismissed everyone in prayer accept the 2 ladies. I simply asked them why they disliked one another. They each said the same thing “if you only knew what she was like.” I said – no I don’t know what she is like so explain it. They didn’t have an answer. So I told them to go home and think about the fact that Satan was using them to defeat any kind of spiritual growth in the church.
- I told them that they were to meet with me tomorrow to apologize to each other and to God.
- It was a painful meeting but it worked. Did they like each other from then on – not really but they decided for the betterment of the church and their lives they would learn to love each other.
- How the shield of faith works. Let me give you three examples of how faith can remain strong when attacked:
- First we need trust God’s Character. He always has our best in mind.
- Psalm 84:11 (NIV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
- Romans 8:32 (NIV) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
- God always wants the best for His children; don’t we want the best for our children? One of God’s primary characteristics is that He personally loves us that is why He sent His Son to die for us. He has our best in mind.
- Secondly we need to trust / have faith in God’s promises. 2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. 3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NLT)
- He is going to take care of us. Do you believe that?
- Philippians 4:19 (NIV) 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
- Our shield is a shield of faith and trust in God’s character and His promises.
Areas of Temptation Promise
Temptation to Sin 1 Cor. 10:13
Financial needs Phil 4:19
Strength & endurance Phil. 4:13
Adverse circumstances James 1:2-4
Uncertain future Psalm 84:11
Fear Isaiah 41:10
Anxiety Phil. 4:6-7
Personal crisis Psalm 23
- Thirdly we need to have faith and trust in God’s plans and timing. God’s ways are not always the easiest but they are the best. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 29:11 (NIV)
- What is God’s plan for us? He wants us to prosper us and to do no harm in our lives. He wants us to live a holy and righteous life. God is very specific in what His desires are for us. He desires us to be holy and righteous. He gives us His Word so that we might understand His call for as disciple.
- God has certain boundaries that we need to stay within that is His plan for us. You might say what does God say about an area that is not covered in the Scripture. Good example is smoking – what would God say about smoking? I believe that I have given this little formula out before but I think it is part of God’s boundaries and plan:
- 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV) 12 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.
- Is what I am about to do beneficial to me and others?
- Will this master me?
- 1 Corinthians 8:13 (NIV) 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
- Will what I am doing cause someone else to sin
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV) 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
- Will what I am about to do bring glory to God
- What are you going to do when the smoking dart hits the shield? We tell ourselves that God has a plan to prosper and not harm us and we will have faith in His plan and extinguish the arrow.
When the flaming arrows come our way - those flaming darts of blasphemous and hateful thoughts, doubts, and the burning desire to sin must be immediately met by faith. It is essential to trust in the character of God, in his promises, and His plans for our lives. Flaming arrows are deadly and precise. The only way to render them ineffective is to plant our shield of faith firmly on the ground and kneel behind it and faith will snuff them out.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.