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Friday, May 18, 2012

Faith Friday (another long one)

This is a copy of an article I wrote for my church newsletter a few months ago. This has been such a busy and tiring week that I have not had the time or energy to work on anything for the blog. We had our early morning Bible study this morning and now I am basically taking the rest of the day off to rest and recuperate as much as possible. There is a mini family reunion tomorrow night with some California relatives and I don't want to show up like a zombie, which is sort of what I feel like today.

I hope this article gives you some food for thought and reflection. I am not sure that I totally got across what I meant to say here but it is the best I could do at the time. I often have so many points in my mind but they don't always show up in the words I say or write. Maybe that is God's way of saying those points are not what He wants me to tell others right now.

Are you Wearing Your Armor Today?

Ephesians in a Nutshell

After looking at the February church newsletter and reading the article on how Satan attacks us, I knew I had to write this. You see, I had been mulling this subject over in my mind for about the last month, thinking that I might write something on it, but also had a couple of other ideas. So seeing last month’s article confirmed that this is what I should do. The previous article is the perfect lead in to what I want to tell you, so I hope you have read it. If not, dig out that copy and check it out, or borrow one if you do not have it anymore.

I know most of you have learned the pieces of armor in Sunday School and maybe some adult Bible studies, but I would like you to take another look at it, and see if you find something new. I know I did when we recently studied the book in my Friday morning group. After we finished the study I kept getting more and more of the full meaning of what Paul was saying to the church at Ephesus, and to us, and that is what I would like to share with you now.

First, we must understand what Ephesus was like at the time Paul wrote this letter. Ephesus was a very large commerce city and a Mecca for Artemis, a popular goddess of the times, as there was a huge shrine for her there and people would come long distances to worship her. There were many magicians practicing their magic, and I don’t mean the kind of magic like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. And there was much witchcraft, casting spells, and all kinds of the occult life. People living there made most of their livelihood making and selling idols of Artemis. In other words, Satan was in control in Ephesus. Is the world any different now? I don’t think so. Just looking at today’s movies, TV shows, and what is on the internet is enough to convince me that Satan has a good foothold on what is happening in this country alone. We don’t have to go to Ephesus to find these things, they come right into our own homes every day. So we need to hear the words of advice from Paul as well.

In spite of the conditions in Ephesus, we find a small group of believers living in the midst of it all. It is quite understandable as to why Paul needed to remind them to ‘stand firm’ and to not give in to Satan’s attacks, right? They are the minority, and probably heavily persecuted by unbelievers. I found it quite interesting that the first thing he tells them is a long list of the things they have in Christ. He reminds them that God chose them to be his adopted children long before creation ever took place. I am now going to change the pronouns of ‘them’ to ‘us’ from here on out. We were chosen, we are adopted into God’s family. We have redemption and forgiveness of sins. We have obtained an inheritance and have been given the Holy Spirit as the seal that we will receive what God promised.

I love to give detailed information but since I said this is a nutshell, I will try to be brief. This seal that God has put on us (the Holy Spirit) is to insure that we will reach our final destination (heaven). It means that Satan cannot thwart God’s plan no matter how hard he tries. And boy, does he try hard! We need to understand Satan’s character – he is a liar and a deceiver. He is the used car salesman that makes a heap of junk sound like a really good car, but when you get it home it falls apart. His lies are so close to the truth that they sound right to us and he catches us unaware. Each and every one of us are vulnerable to his sneaky lies, so it is necessary to know the real truth in order to recognize that they are lies. Paul tells us to expect trials and tribulation. Just because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit does not mean we will have a perfect, peaceful life. We are living in a world that hates God and all who are His, so they will be tough on us as well. We will have to stand up to them and their accusations.

Paul says we need to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Think about being part of the royal family, which we are, and how we represent that family, and to act accordingly. So what does that look like? Paul goes into a long list of things that are part of our sinful nature that we are to ‘put off’, the things we all know are wrong – lying, cheating, etc. Instead we are to ‘put on’ the new nature that He gives us, created in righteousness and true holiness.

We, as a church body, are to work together in peace as we all believe in the same God, have the same Holy Spirit, and we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior. We should not be arguing and fighting amongst ourselves. When we do that we look just like the rest of the world. But even more than that it gives the devil a chance to get his foot in the door, and then we can end up getting in deeper than we wanted to.

Then Paul talks about personal lives. We need to make sure our marriage is good. We are to not only keep ourselves in good shape, but take care of our spouse as well. Both partners have to work at keeping the marriage and present a solid foundation so that Satan can’t come in like the wolf and blow the house down. Then he talks about the relationship between parents and children. At your job, do good work, put in your full time doing the work and not goofing off. If you are the boss, treat your workers with respect.

Now, Paul finally gets to the point of his message. Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”  If we try to stand against the devil with our own strength, we can’t do it as we are much weaker than Satan is. That is why we need to put on the armor. Who gives us this armor? God does. And we need to put on every piece of that armor in order to stand against the devil’s wiles.

I can bet that most of you can rattle off the list of those pieces of armor – belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up the emphasis seemed to be on the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword, not what they represented. We don’t actually put on such things. The most important thing to remember is that God has given us many things to stand firm against the devil. We just need to put them on. And those things are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God. There is one more piece that is not given a name and that is prayer. We could call that our ‘walkie-talkie’. It is our direct connection to the general commander of the army – God.

So how does this all apply to us? First, we need to know the truth that is in God’s word so that we can discern the truth from deception. Read the Bible and study it. Righteousness – right living, doing the right thing even if others aren’t. The breastplate guards the heart.  Jesus gave us His righteousness on the cross since we are not righteous in ourselves. But we can do our best to live as God wants us to, and the more we practice that, the less we have to consciously think about doing the right thing because it has become a habit. Peace – we need to be at peace with ourselves, others and especially with God. If we are not getting along with any one of these three, the door is open for attack. There is a chink in our armor where one of the devil’s arrows can pierce through. Satan will always attack at the weakest point and that is why we need to make sure we have put on all the armor.

Faith is called the shield for good reason. We need to hold our faith out in front of us like a shield. It should be easy for others to see our faith, and to hold on to it when we are having some really tough times. We depend on that faith to carry us through that battle line. It is our faith that puts out the fiery arrows. Where does our faith come from? God. Remember I said God has given us the armor.

Salvation – naturally we know that God has given us that. We just need to remember that when we are attacked. God has already saved us and given us eternal life. Jesus has defeated death and Satan, and freed us from the grip of both. Then we can pick up that sword of the Spirit and stand firm and defend ourselves. To me, the sword of the Spirit means that the Spirit will give us specific words from the Bible to use against Satan. Remember that Jesus used God’s word against him when he was tempted in the wilderness, and Satan had to walk away.

And remember the last thing, the prayers that keep you connected to God. They should be constant, not only during a difficult time, but at any time.

How about you? Do you have your armor on today? I hope you are reminded of these things when you have a problem, big or small.

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