Archive for the 'The Armour of God' Category

The Shield of Faith Hebrews chapter 11

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

There’s a war on. Every one of us in the middle of a spiritual battle. Whether we realise it or not, whether we are Christians or not, there’s a war on. The apostle Peter warns us all.
1 Peter 5 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith.

At every moment we should be on our guard because the devil and the powers of evil are plotting and planning to entice us away from God. We must defend ourselves using the armour God gives us. We have already thought about the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Last week we thought about our gospel shoes. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Whatever will help you to stand firm and stop you from slipping and sliding all over the place when you are talking about Jesus. This week we are thinking about how to stand up against all the attacks of the evil one.
Ephesians 6 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.

We all need the shield which is our faith. Life is full of temptations – the flaming arrows the devil fires at us. Temptations to do wrong. Temptations not to do the right things we should be doing. Temptations to say bad things. Temptations not to speak out for truth and justice. Temptations to stay silent about Jesus. Temptations to doubt God. Whenever we are tempted to give in to sin or selfishness or pride, whenever we are tempted to deny our faith, or to pass by on the other side, that’s when we need the shield of faith.

But what is faith? Faith simply means relying on God. Depending on God. Hebrews chapter 11 talks about faith and it challenges us all. What do you put your trust in? What do you rely on? These questions are really important in the heat of temptation. What are you depending on? What are you relying on? What are you putting your trust in?

Many people go through life trying to cope by relying on things within themselves. Education, Skills, Experience, Talents, Training. Determination. Hard work. None of these things count for anything in the life of faith. Nor do other things around us which everybody takes for granted and and rely on in times of trouble: things like Money and Possessions and Healthcare. None of these things are any use in the life of faith. When it comes to following Jesus, things we might rely on within ourselves or in the world around us are even less use than a chocolate teapot! We need just one thing – we need faith in God. If we are serious about following Jesus in this world which rejected and crucified Him, we need to put our trust in God and learn to rely on Him for everything.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us what real faith is and points us to countless examples of the heroes of faith from the Old Testament. Their lives are full of encouragement and inspiration and challenge. We need to learn to depend on God in every part of our lives. None of us relies enough on God and His grace!
Faith means RELYING ON GOD RATHER THAN ANYTHING ELSE

George Washington once wrote that we all need: “a due sense of the dependence we ought to place in that all wise and powerful being on whom alone our success depends.”
Faith means depending on God, stepping out and trusting God to act. Luther called faith “a DARING confidence in God’s grace.” Faith means going out on a limb and relying on God to help us. It means putting ourselves in situations where if God does NOT act, we fall flat on our faces, or worse!

ENOCH
Hebrews 11 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith begins by believing that God exists and deciding to live our lives to please the God we believe in. Other people may live lives based on possessions or money and things in the here and now which they can touch and feel. But we believers base our lives on the God of the Bible. We trust in His saving acts. We believe His Word the Bible as God’s word to us even today. We claim God’s promises. That is how we depend on God.

NOAH
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
GK Chesterton wrote, “A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr but to be a fool.” Even if nobody else hears God’s voice, if we believe then we hear, and we trust, and we obey. It may make us look foolish to everybody else. But we still rely on God!

ABRAHAM
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age- and Sarah herself was barren- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Faith means clinging on to God’s promises, even when they seem impossible.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!”

ISRAELITES
28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
So the Israelites were rescued out of slavery by faith and they won victory after victory through faith – relying on God to act on their behalf! What about OUR faith? Do WE rely on God more than anything else? Do we depend on God from day to day? Not just that he will bless our Christian work and witness. But relying on God from moment to moment in every part of our lives? One of the most important lessons I learned visiting Christians in Uganda is that in countries like that you simply can’t depend on money or transport or technology or healthcare in the way that we all do in this country all the time. You learn the value of praying over every meal, over every journey, every time you meet a friend. You learn to rely on God for the simple things of life. After that you can begin to depend on God for much bigger things.

It was that great theologian Cliff Richard who said, “The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find he is.”

Faith means BASING YOUR LIFE ON THINGS YOU CAN’T SEE

Our materialistic world is full of people who base their lives on possessions or money and things in the here and now which they can touch and feel. Hebrews 11 tells us
1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The eternal realities can often seem remote and uncertain. In fact they are MORE certain than anything we can see or touch, because this world is passing away but God and His truth will endure forever!
The truth about CREATION

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

The challenge for all of us is to live every moment recognising that we are CREATED beings in a CREATED world, and that every one of us will be accountable to our Creator on Judgement Day.
The truth about HEAVEN

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Even the Old Testament saints were looking forward to the unseen realities of the Heavenly City. Too many people in Britain today never give a thought to their own mortality – three score years and then what? In our funeral services we pray that God will help us to “live as those who truly believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, the communion of the saints and the life of the world to come”! When the going gets tough it matters much more what we really believe about eternal life and the hope of heaven!

A.W. Tozer - “What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.”

What about OUR faith? What do we rely on? Do WE really base our lives on things we can’t see? On the truths of Scripture and the promises of God? Are we really laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth because heaven is more real than earth is! Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to base our lives on things we can’t see!
Faith means OBEYING GOD HOWEVER MUCH THAT COSTS

This is where the rubber hits the road. Faith isn’t just about what we believe in our minds. Faith is about those beliefs changing how we live from day to day.

ABRAHAM
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

Abraham was 80 when God called him to leave his home and step out in faith towards the promised land. So we can be reassured that none of us are too old for a new exciting fantastic adventure in trusting him! The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be with us leading and protecting you every step of the way. We should rust Him - rely on him – depend on him – as the Patriarchs of Israel did, however much that costs.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

God called Abraham to be prepared to give up His only son, his heir, the son who would be the channel of God’s promise. In fact, that was only the same sacrifice that God the Father was preparing to make, giving up His only Son for the salvation of the church. Trusting God will always demand sacrifices. Material sacrifices and emotional sacrifices. But this is the God who was faithful to Abraham and Isaac. This is the same God who raised His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead. So we can certainly trust Him, rely on him and depend on him, however much that costs us.

MOSES
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Standing up for God and God’s people against Pharoah. Choosing to be ill-treated. Choosing disgrace over treasures. True faith will often lead to rejection and persecution. That is part of the cost of faith. But the God of Moses and the Israelites will never fail you or forsake you! Trust Him - rely on him – depend on him – however much that costs. That is the shield of faith! And then we come to the really cheery part of the chapter!

HEROES OF FAITH
35b Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Those Old Testament heroes of faith really put their money where their mouth is. Standing up and being counted for God won’t ever be a picnic, wherever in the world we do it! So what about OUR faith? What do we rely on? God calls us all to put our trust in him, to rely on Him and to depend on Him! THAT is the shield of faith which will help us resist temptation when the devil attacks us. We need that kind of Hebrews 11 faith! TS Eliot wrote, “The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyse his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.”

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to escape on to the roof. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you will imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you – and that’s all that matters.”

Faith means letting go and jumping and trusting that God will catch you. That is the shield of faith. Faith believes the incredible, sees the invisible, achieves the impossible! We need to be relying on God rather than relying on anything else! To base our lives on things we can’t see! To obey God HOWEVER much it costs! THAT is the shield of faith which will help us to resist all the attacks of the devil.

Gospel Shoes Ephesians 6:15

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

The gospel is the Good News that Jesus has died for our sins and has risen from the dead to offer the free gift of eternal life to everybody who puts their trust in Him. But it is a spiritual battle to help people to believe this good news. The gospel is spiritual warfare. Talking to the Apostle Paul, God explained the task of proclaiming the gospel in these words.
Acts 26 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
For somebody to believe in Jesus, God has to open their eyes so that they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, the devil. So it follows that proclaiming the gospel is spiritual warfare – it is always going to be a real spiritual battle.
2 Corinthians 4 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The reason people don’t believe in Jesus is that the devil, the god of this age, has blinded their eyes so they cannot recognise Jesus for who He is, the Son of God and the Image of God. Talking about Jesus is a spiritual battle.
This gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s way of bringing His peace to human beings who are lost without Him. It is the gospel of peace.
Romans 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
In the Bible peace means much more than the absence of conflict. It means being reconciled to God, reunited with God. It is all the blessings of wholeness, shalom. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that lost human beings can find true peace and wholeness.
We have thought about the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and some of the lies the devil uses to lead people away from God. How the devil wants people to think that there are all kinds of ways to God and any religion is as good as any other. At the same time the devil wants people to think that they are alright without God, that they don’t need saving and indeed that God doesn’t even exist.
With all these lies of the evil one we need to be bold sharing the good news of Jesus with our friends and neighbours. We need to be a church who believe what we preach and who preach what we believe. Believing what we preach – that Jesus is not an optional extra in life but that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the way the truth and the life and the only way to God the Father. That following Jesus is not just one way to live your life but following Jesus is the only way to life in all its fulness. And without Jesus, people are lost and without hope. This is the gospel we believe and it is the gospel we need to preach and announce and proclaim in any and every way that we can. For that we need the third element of the armour of God which Paul talks about.
Ephesians 6 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
The Good News Bible talks about putting on as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace.
The Jerusalem Bible talks about eagerness to spread the gospel.
But in this case the New Revised Standard Version says it best 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
If you’re climbing mountains you need a good pair of climbing boots. If you are running a race you need a good pair of running shoes. To be ready to share the good news of Jesus, you need to put on whatever helps you be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
The church exists to preach the gospel. Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” Being ready to preach the gospel is not an optional extra for super-keen Christians. God calls every one of us to be prepared to talk about Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God has made every Christian an Ambassador for Jesus. We represent God and we have been given his message to deliver – the life saving message about Jesus, the gospel which brings us peace. I have quoted before these challenging words of Karl Barth.
“The life of the one holy Universal Church is determined by the fact that it is the fulfilment of the service as ambassador enjoined upon it.
Where the life of the Church is exhausted in self-serving, it smacks of death; the decisive thing has been forgotten, that this whole life is lived only in the exercise of what we called the Church’s service as ambassador, in proclamation. A Church that recognizes its commission will neither desire nor be able to petrify in any of its functions, to be the Church for its own sake.
There is the “Christ-believing group”; but this group is sent out: “Go and preach the gospel!” It does not say, “Go and celebrate services!” “Go and edify yourselves with the sermon!” “Go and celebrate the Sacraments!” “Go and present yourselves in a liturgy, which perhaps repeats the heavenly liturgy!” “Go and devise a theology!”
Of course, there is nothing to forbid all this; there may exist very good cause to do it all; but nothing, nothing at all for its own sake! In it all the one thing must prevail: “Proclaim the gospel to every creature!” The Church runs like a herald to deliver the message. It is not a snail that carries its little house on its back and is so well off in it that only now and then it sticks out its feelers and then thinks that the “claim of publicity” has been satisfied. No, the Church lives by its commission as herald. Where the Church is living, it must ask itself whether it is serving this commission or whether it is a purpose in itself. If the church becomes a purpose in itself, then as a rule it begins to smack of the “sacred,” to affect piety, to play the priest and to mumble.”
The church runs like a herald to deliver the message. The Good News translation puts it this way.
2 Corinthians 5 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
God has made us Ambassadors for Christ. We are God’s heralds. So we need to put on our gospel shoes. Whatever will help us be ready to share the gospel of peace with a needy world. We heard lots of sermons two years ago about being prepared to give an answer to the questions our not-yet-Christian friends might have about Jesus and the Christian faith.
What is salvation?
What is the point of life?
How can we have a relationship with God?
How should we respond to the Good News?
Didn’t He used to be dead?
What makes you believe that God exists?
Just how did God create the world?
Can we trust the New Testament?
Is Jesus the only way to God?
How can we believe in God in a world so full of suffering?
What happens when we die?
How can we have a relationship with God?
We talked through answers we might give to questions like those. And we thought about how we can prepare ourselves to talk about Jesus.
Why we don’t and why we should talk about Jesus
Preaching the gospel necessarily includes using words
Praying about talking about Jesus
We thought about Sharing my story
And we talked then about what it means to be Ambassadors for Christ
Everything we said then is in my book Prepared to Give an Answer. If you didn’t receive a copy last year, please do take one this morning. Read it and use it to help you to be ready to talk about Jesus when God gives you the opportunity.
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Put on your Gospel Shoes!
At school and university I used to play a rather dangerous sport called lacrosse. It involved running up and down a field throwing and catching a ball in a stick. Lacrosse is the national sport of Canada and it is rightly called the fastest sport on two feet. Good players can throw the ball at more than a hundred miles an hour. It is said that the only rule of the game is that you aren’t allowed to hit your opponent if he hasn’t got the ball. Like any field sports, we played in all weathers, rain hail and snow. And by the end of the winter season the pitch was always more mud than grass especially around the goal area. So like soccer players and rugby players next to a good lacrosse stick and a good helmet, the most important piece of kit were good boots. To stop us falling over in the mud our boots had studs to keep us on our feet – the very best footwear for the job!
But studs on football boots are not a new invention. For Roman soldiers, the most important thing about their battle shoes was that they wouldn’t slip when the enemy charged. So they also had nails in the soles of their boots to keep them on their feet in the heat of battle. And that is the picture here. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Just as sportsmen need good boots, in the same way Christians need our Gospel Shoes to stop us from slipping and falling over in the middle of sharing the gospel. The best equipment to help us talk about Jesus is to know what the Good News is, inside out, and to have experienced the life-changing gospel of peace in your own life. Knowing the gospel and living the gospel will keep your feet steady. When we are confident that we won’t slip or trip ourselves up when we are talking about Jesus then we will be more wise and bold and effective in sharing the gospel with other people.
Proclaiming the gospel will be a spiritual battle. We need to prepare ourselves. The devil will do everything he can to distract us from doing the job God has given us to do. He will try to convince us that we aren’t good enough to be God’s Ambassadors, or that we will make a mess of talking about Jesus. We may feel unworthy or inadequate to do the job of telling North Springfield about Jesus. Indeed we are. But we are the people God has put here and that is the job God has given us to do! So we shouldn’t try to duck out of the task God has entrusted to us.
There is a lovely story about Hudson Taylor, the missionary who took the gospel to mainland China in the nineteenth century. One day Hudson Taylor was approached by a man with only one leg who said to him. “I want to go as a missionary to China.” “But, how do you think you can be a missionary?” Hudson Taylor replied. “When you’ve only got one leg.” “I have to,” said the man, “Because I don’t see any men with two legs going.”15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
We must get ourselves ready to share the gospel! Put on your Gospel Shoes! A story is told of a competition in hell for ways to keep human beings away from God. 3rd prize went to the suggestion, “Tell them there’s no heaven.” 2nd prize went to, “Tell them there’s no hell.” But the 1st prize was won by the simple suggestion, “Tell them there’s no hurry.”
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Put on your Gospel Shoes!

The Breastplate of Righteousness Ephesians 5:1-20

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
There’s a war on! Two weeks ago we started to think about the spiritual battles we face and the challenge to stand firm for God in today’s world. We thought about the battles we have to fight to proclaim the truth of God in this post-truth world. This morning we are continuing to think about the armour of God as we look at the second part of Ephesians 6:14.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Truth and righteousness actually belong together and we will think about that in a few minutes. But let’s start by focusing on “the breastplate of righteousness.” The Old Testament tells us that God Himself puts on a breastplate of righteousness.
Isaiah 59 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

God wears righteousness as His breastplate. In the Old Testament, righteousness refers to the righteous actions of the God who is always holy and just. Isaiah 11 contains a prophecy about the Messiah which we often read at Christmas.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD –
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash round his waist.

Here righteousness is God’s belt. God judges the world with righteousness and justice. The Hebrew word for righteousness comes from the word for straightness, in other words actions which conform to the standards which God has revealed in His commandments. English uses the word “upright” in a similar sense. Absolutely everything that God does is always righteous and pure and upright and just and fair. God always does the right thing.
God is righteous. That is the background to the breastplate of righteousness in the armour of God. There are other places in the Bible where the same word for righteousness has a different meaning. We have thought before about the letter to the Romans where Paul talks a lot about righteousness. In Romans Paul is concerned with how sinful human beings can move to the status of being righteous before the Holy God. How can we be “right with God”? So in Romans Paul talks about the gift of righteousness which God gives to everybody who puts their trust in Jesus. There the idea of righteousness means being in a right relationship with God – a right standing before God who is Creator and Judge of all. But that isn’t the meaning of the word here in Ephesians. Instead here putting on the breastplate of righteousness is concerned with right living – doing the right thing.
Isaiah 59 tells us that God puts on righteousness as His breastplate. It makes perfect sense that in our battles with the devil and all the powers of evil, Christians should also put on righteousness as our breastplate. We show we are in a right relationship with God by our righteous actions, by living upright and blameless lives.
What does that actually mean in practice? Paul is calling Christians always to do the right thing and never to do the wrong thing. Ephesians says very similar things elsewhere.
Ephesians 4 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So Christians should take of the old shabby clothes associated with their old sinful lives and put on the new suit which God gives us – the new self, characterized by righteousness and holiness. We should be righteous in all our actions. Paul says the same in Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 5 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
As children of light goodness and righteousness should characterize all our actions. We thought about what that might mean this time last year in our series of sermons on the Ten Commandments.
No putting false gods before the one true God. No compromise with other religions. No worshipping today’s false gods of Money, or Shopping, or Entertainment, or Celebrity. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No misusing the name of God by claiming to speak for God when you aren’t, or claiming to be acting for God when you aren’t, or hijacking God’s name to promote some particular cause of your own. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No murder – because killing people is wrong. And no thin end of the wedge when it comes to abortion or euthanasia either. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No adultery. No sexual immorality. Christians should never compromise when it comes to God’s standards of morality. Marriage is between one man and one woman. And sex belongs within marriage. That has been the Bible’s teaching and the church’s understanding for 2000 years. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No stealing. Christians should be known to be scrupulously honest and trustworthy. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No coveting – no sinful thoughts. No greed. The battle to live a holy life begins with holy thoughts. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
The devil likes nothing more than deceiving Christians into committing sin. And there are many more ways of disobeying God beyond breaking the Ten Commandments. Ephesians contains several warning lists of sins to avoid.
Ephesians 4 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. ….
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. ….

5 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. …. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.

So many sins to avoid if we are to live holy lives. But, of course, righteousness is not just about avoiding doing bad things. It is also about intentionally doing good things. Living a righteous life is not a life full of negatives but rather a life full of positives. Righteous living means loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. Righteous living means showing God’s compassion for the widows and the orphans and the refugees. Righteous living means fighting for justice and fairness on behalf of the marginalized and the oppressed and the forgotten. Righteous living means loving our enemies and forgiving other people as God in Christ has forgiven us. Every time we try to do the right thing in this world which has rejected God, it is part of the great unseen spiritual battle. Every time we let our light shine forces back the darkness. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness means devoting our lives to doing the right thing.
Ephesians 6 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
It is not a coincidence that truth and righteousness sit side by side in this one verse. Righteousness is usually expressed in our actions. Truth is usually revealed in our words. God calls Christians to be holy both in our actions and in our words. We should always do the right things, and at the same time we should also be careful always to say the right things.
This same combination of righteous actions and speaking the truth is very clear back in Ephesians 4
24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.
Righteousness and holiness in our actions must be accompanied by speaking truthfully and rejecting any falsehood or lying. And we saw the same in Ephesians 5.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
Goodness, righteousness and truth all go together. Our words must match our actions.
No lying. Back to the Ten Commandments and to the Ninth Commandment – no false witness. Always tell the truth. No lying! In the words of Ephesians 4:15, we should always be speaking the truth in love. Christians should be known as people who can be relied upon always to speak the truth, whatever the circumstances, whatever the pressures or temptations to lie. No bending the truth or stretching the truth. We must be truth-tellers. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,
Matthew 5 37 All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one
More than that, beyond truth and falsehood, all our speech must show God’s righteousness.
Ephesians 4 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths …
Ephesians 5 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
Righteous and pure and upright in all our actions and righteous and pure and upright in all our speech. These are the qualities of character which every Christian needs. Absolutely everything we say and do should be worthy of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ! If we want to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle of everyday life, this is the armour God gives us. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
In his commentary on Ephesians, my old professor Max Turner sums up these first two pieces of the armour of God like this. “The church’s basic equipment in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living, and they are effective because these qualities bear the stamp of Jesus and the new creation he brings.”
Integrity and righteous living – because that is what Jesus is like. That’s a very high standard to live up to! The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Put on the armour of God !!!

The belt of truth Ephesians 6:10-20

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

I have never fought in a war. I was too young to fight in the second world war, although my parents did, or to do National Service, although I do have friends who have served in each of the forces and seen combat in Northern Ireland, in the Falklands and in Afghanistan. But most of us have never fought in a war.
Actually, that’s not correct. Because the Bible tells us that we have all been in the middle of a war for our whole lives. The Bible tells us that there is a war which has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue until time ends. This war is unseen – but just as real and just as deadly as all the human conflicts we could name. There’s a war on between good and evil, between God on the one hand and the devil and all the powers of evil on the other hand.
Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.
Here is the battle which is raging behind the scenes of human history and behind the scenes of our own lives, 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 good news is that Jesus has already won the decisive battle. Through his death on the cross and the triumph of his wonderful resurrection Jesus has defeated the devil and all the powers of evil once and for all. The outcome of the war has been decided, but until Jesus returns in glory we are still caught up in the mopping up operations. Although they have already been defeated, the devil and his demons are still fighting to drag Christians down. So the Bible calls us all to put on the armour of God.
Ephesians 6 13 Therefore put on the full armour 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.
This is all that God calls us to do. To stand. To stand our ground. Not to let the devil drag us down. Not to let the devil drag us away from God. To hold firm to our faith. To hang on to the victory which Jesus has won for us. And to stay standing.
To help us to stand firm, God has given us armour to wear. This is a picture from the Roman army of the kind of armour they used to wear. And Paul spiritualises these pieces of armour and says here are six things all Christians need if we are going to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle we are caught up in. Six things which will keep us safe from the attacks of the devil and his minions and which will give us victory.
13 Therefore put on the full armour 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The armour of God. Six pieces of spiritual armour Christians need to “put on” to help us to stand firm against the devil and all his evil schemes. And the first piece of the armour of God is the belt of truth. Truth. In a way, truth is not only a piece of our Christian armour but it has also become part of the battleground. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He deceived Adam and Eve and the devil has been deceiving people ever since. Truth is a great defence and a powerful weapon in our battle against the all lies the devil tells. So it is not surprising that the devil has attacked truth and people’s understanding of what truth is, especially in recent years. We can recognise at least three ways in which the devil has tried to distort the importance and the meaning of truth.
PLURALISM
We no longer live in a world where everybody we know believes the same things. Through widespread travel and migration and modern communications we live in a multi-cultural multi-faith world. This is what is meant by pluralism. There are different world religions believing different things to be true. This has produced a supermarket of beliefs which gives people the impression that it doesn’t matter what you believe – the impression is that all those different ideas are true. And that is the lie the devil wants people to believe. It is a lie because these competing world religions are NOT the same. Different ideas about God are NOT all true.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, has revealed Himself through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Other gods are false. We only find the truth in Jesus! Aldous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Just because lots of people believe in other religions does not mean that all religions are true. The facts of the incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus cannot just be ignored. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
PRIVATIZATION
For thousands of years everybody knew that if something is true then it is true for everybody everywhere. Truth is universal. The lie the devil is telling today is that truth is no longer universal. Instead truth is relative. The devil wants to deceive people into thinking that truth can be different for different people. What is true for me need not be true for you. That is what is meant by privatisation. Truth is now personal and private and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We are expected to be tolerant of other people’s opinions. And it is politically incorrect to tell people that you are right and they are wrong.
Among other things, this leads to the pressure on Christians to stay silent about our faith. The devil had been telling the world for decades that it is rude for Christians to be forcing their “opinions” on the world. And the world is falling for that lie.
Last week the Junior Common Room of Balliol College Oxford banned Christian Union representatives from taking part in their Freshers’ Fair over concerns over the potential harm Christians might do to new students.
JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative: “We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”
He added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” (Guardian 9/10/17)
That is just one example of the impact of privatisation on Christian freedom, in Oxford, a centre of learning where freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be championed, not stamped on. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
PLAUSIBILITY
We live in a world of spin and an age of image manipulators. It doesn’t seem to matter what is actually true any more – all that matters is what seems to be true. What appears to be true. What feels like it is true. What is most plausible. It is as if we have moved beyond truth.
A year ago Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year,
“Post-truth” is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.
Oxford Dictionaries said: “Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time,” he said. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. … I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” (BBC News website 16/11/16)

Post truth - emotional appeals over-riding objective facts. We are indeed living more and more in a “post-truth” world! 30 years ago you could ask people to consider the life of Jesus and answer the rational question, was Jesus mad? Was Jesus bad? Or was Jesus God? Using CS Lewis’s words, was Jesus a lunatic, or a liar, or was He really Lord of all? You could ask people to think logically about who Jesus is. But nowadays if you ask somebody to think about whether Jesus was mad, bad or God, you will probably get the answer, “who cares?” In this post-modern world reasoning is irrelevant. Image is everything. People make even important decisions in life not based on logic but based on their feelings which depend on outward appearances. Whether something is true or false doesn’t matter. What matters is how it makes people feel. It this plausible? Is this convincing? What is my gut feeling about this? People really don’t care about whether Jesus’s teaching and his claims to be God were true or not. All most people will care about is whether your presentation of the gospel is entertaining. Plausibility. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
So the devil has attacked truth which is true for everybody with pluralism, lots of different truths, with privatization, truth is just a matter of opinion, and with plausibility, does something feel like it is true. We can see the battlefield in places where Christians are not allowed to speak about their faith in public, in case somebody gets offended, and in this world of political correctness offending people has been redefined as “harming” people. .
We can see this erosion of truth in debates about Same Sex Marriage and the next big issue, gender transition. Stores are removing gender distinctions between boys and girls in their ranges of clothing. Children are being encouraged not only to explore their sexual orientation but even to explore their gender. All this is only possible because truth is no longer universal. Truth is relegated to a matter of opinion and everybody’s opinion and everybody’s choice has to be respected. But in all these debates we really do not need to hear lots of different opinions. Christians need to understand and listen to God’s truth revealed in the Bible and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
And even within the church, post-truth has begun to get a hold. The Bible clearly teaches the reality of hell – but to some Christians that doesn’t “feel” right, so they ignore what the Bible teaches and say, “there is no hell.” The Bible clearly teaches that judgment day is coming – but that makes some Christians “feel uncomfortable” so instead of sticking to what the Bible says some people are teaching that everybody will be saved in the end. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
The founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, said this in a sermon in 1531.
(The Church) must have people who can beat down their adversaries and opponents and tear off the devil’s equipment and armor, that he may be brought into disgrace. But for this work, powerful warriors are needed, who are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures and can contradict all false interpretations and take the sword from false teachers—that is, those very verses which false teachers use and turn them round upon them so that they fall back defeated.
But as not all Christians can be so capable in defending the Word and articles of their creed, they must have teachers and preachers who study the Scriptures and have daily fellowship with it, so that they can fight for all the others. Yet each Christian should be so armed that he himself is sure of his belief and of the doctrine and is so equipped with the sayings from the Word of God that he can stand up against the devil and defend himself, when men seek to lead him astray.
Truth is under attack more than ever before. We all need to stand up for the truth. We all need to put on the belt of truth which will protect us from the lies the devil is telling. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”