Monday, January 23, 2017

Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-18, for Life Sunday, "Here We Stand"

[The following sermon is adapted from sermons from Rev. Lyndon Korhonen and Rev. Michael Salemink on  You can find more encouraging, life-affirming materials and resources on their website].
If we did not have the Word of God, wouldn’t we wonder what is going on in our world? Life, as many of us have known it, is under attack. Over 40 years ago, our nation legalized the killing of babies in the womb. The “right to death” is seemingly being treated as an enshrined right, rather than the “right to life.” In several states, people have been given the right to end their lives through legal suicide. The value that we place on the elderly continues to decline. Marriage has been redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court. The sex one is born with is now up for change. The world is ever pushing to redefine even fundamental realities. And yet with all this so-called “progress” in getting what we want, people are profoundly unhappy and discontent.

Jesus unmasks the confusion: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). There are two opposing forces in this world: One is the culture of death and one is the culture of life. What a contrast between these two! We see around us the restlessness, the immorality, the despair, the violence, addiction, and how death is treated as a solution in this culture of death. Meanwhile, Jesus offers to us abundant living, and calls us to stand up against evil. Jesus opens our eyes to the spiritual battlefield that we live on, and equips us for the schemes of the devil.

We must remember that Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is writing to believers in Ephesus when he calls them to stand. The believer has spiritual armor available (Ephesians 6:14-18), but it must be put on, if it is to protect us. But it’s not by our strength that we stand. Vs. 12 reveals that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities …”. Our enemies are not other people, but the devil. And we are no match for the devil. We need the strength of another.

That is why Paul’s exhortation in verse 10 is to “[B]e strong in the Lord …”. Our Lord Jesus Christ disarmed the devil of his victory when He shed His blood for us on the cross. If we focus on ourselves we see sin and failure, but in Jesus there is righteousness and perfection. He is our perfect substitute, so we are strong in Him. The rest of verse 10 says to be strong “in the strength of his might.”

Our youth especially need to be constantly reminded of who they are in Christ. Young people, your world is a very different one than your parents and grandparents faced. You will need to put on your armor because the battle will be fierce. The easiest thing to do is slip into the comfortable ways of the sinful world. It takes no effort to ignore the lessons of God’s Word or the morals and values you have been taught. On the other hand, it takes a determined effort to learn God’s Word and to hold to what you believe. Few people in life will encourage you to strive for sexual purity, or to make the tough choices to take responsibility for the mistakes you have made, and to seek always to do the right thing. The “easy” road of the world leads to a lot of heartbreak; bad consequences, and a guilty conscience. But taking instead the path of Christ Jesus, we can seek a life that conforms to Him, and not to the world—a life that is blessed with better choices and consequences, and a clean conscience that finds forgiveness for our sins. A life that knows to find reconciliation with our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ His Son. A life that can find restoration and healing, even when we have made the worst choices, and lived to regret them. Every life is valuable and precious to God, and He alone can restore and forgive.

Look at our resources for battle. If you have enough firepower, you need not fear any enemy. Wow, does the believer have resources! As Lutherans, we call them the “Means of Grace.” God didn’t write His love and mercy in the sky, but He gave it to us through means. Chief among the means of grace is the Bible, God’s holy inerrant Word. In His Word, God detailed for us His plan to save us from sin by sending His only Son into this world. In verse 17 we are reminded that we have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Because of this, we need to stand up for what God says about life. When assaulted by doubts or sins in our past, we stand on the promises of God. In your past you may have given into the devil’s temptations sexually, outside of the sacred bond of marriage, where God intends. Perhaps you have a guilty conscience that the devil still holds a claim on you, because of your past sins. But if you have repented of your sin, God’s Word says that sin is gone.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The devil has no claim on you; but Christ does! “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You can stand for life today, even if you have had an abortion. You can stand for the sanctity of marriage, even if sexual sins are in your past. Whenever you bring any sin into God’s light, Jesus disarms the enemy, and sets you free. The devil can no longer hold that sin over you. Christ is your righteousness, and you stand in Him. God’s Word declares it to be so.

Not only has God given His Word, but He has given us two powerful, visible means to remind us that in Christ we are forgiven and new creatures. When we were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, His death became our death to sin. Also, His resurrection became our resurrection to a new life. We can only stand by faith in that relationship with Jesus. When you are with others and a life issue comes up, don’t fear to speak up for life because Christ lives in you. It’s His courage and strength that enables us to stand in the gap.

Furthermore, God assures us when we come to the Lord’s Supper that Jesus gave His righteous, spotless, blameless life for us. His body and blood are offered to us to guarantee us that in Christ our sin is forgiven. We come to the communion table as repentant sinners, confessing no confidence in the flesh but utmost confidence in our Savior who took all that the devil could muster in our place. It is Jesus who stood against every temptation of the devil as He quoted, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4a).

So, yes, we are in a battle, but Here We Stand as we put on the armor of God. There’s no need to go and take out a loan to get such armor. It too has been supplied by our Savior, and it is not missing any parts. We need the “full armor” (Ephesians 6:11 NASB) and it is repeated in verse 13 for emphasis: “take up the full armor.”

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints …” (Ephesians 6:14-18 ESV). Think of how vulnerable a soldier is who is missing protective equipment. Every missing piece is a weak spot that the enemy will exploit.

You who are in Christ, put on the armor, take up the full armor! Parents, you have an important role to play with your children. You have brought them to the Lord in baptism, but have you taught them how to use the armor they have been given? God’s Word is absolute truth. Most of our culture does not believe there is any such thing as absolute truth today. Your children live in a world of relativism. Teach them what truth is when they hear the news. Teach them how to deal with a suggestive billboard or an advertisement during a television program. Teach them how to defend themselves against the fiery arrows the devil launches at us. Plant their feet solidly on the truth of God’s Word. Fathers, instruct your boys to keep their eyes and minds away from turning women into objects; to hold women in honor and reserve their sensitive minds for the one woman to whom they will cherish and to vow their life before God. Mothers, teach your girls the value of modesty, and how precious they are to God, and not to accept dishonorable treatment or to objectify their own bodies, but to seek a godly husband.

We also must realize this armor comes from God. The armor to choose the better way than the broken path the world offers. This armor has been tested. Jesus dealt with the devil for 40 days and nights in the wilderness before He began His public ministry. He dealt with the devil by using the Word of God. “It is written” was His main defense. That’s good armor. Believers, we must use the Word of God as our standard for what God calls good. He created life and called it “good,” and after He created man, He said it was “very good.”

Who would have thought that such fundamental issues of life would ever be challenged in our world, but we have God’s Word to stand on. And stand we must, for there is a war going on. The two opposing forces of death and life are very active. There’s no neutral ground to hold and we are not called to hide or escape in fear, but to stand firm with the full armor of God.

Our text says the activity of the devil is described as “schemes” (6  :11). These are not random situations that believers face. These are clever and strategic schemes. The devil was a high-ranking angel before his fall. He schemes are planned and age-tested through many human failures. So we must pray against his strategy today. That is the last, but not least, piece of armor that we need to put on. In our churches, we need to gather to pray against the forces of evil in Jesus’ name. What power the believer in Christ has available by using the armor of God! And let me remind you that our God has not changed, nor has the point of access to His throne changed. His children have direct access through Jesus their Savior.

And lastly, with what attitude should we stand? Ephesians 6:13b tells us: “Stand firm”!  What picture comes to your mind when you think of someone standing firm? Perhaps a U.S. soldier in combat? How about a person trained in karate? If you watch carefully, they do not stand with feet together but apart, so they can withstand an attack from any direction. That is what the armor of God does for the believer. It makes him invincible in Christ! The devil cannot overcome the believer. Remember: It is the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ that empowers us. What a blessed place the believer has to stand—in the righteousness of Christ!

So, believer, daily put on the armor that is supplied to you in Jesus. You have no strength of your own, but the Word of God tells you of all the armor that is required to stand—the full armor of God. Here We Stand against the schemes of the devil, and against those schemes we can all stand firm in Christ.

Here we stand, neither stampeding nor strutting. Here we stand in joy and not out of anger, in hope and not out of fear, because we stand to forgive and not compare, to save and not compete. Here we stand to relieve and release, not to accuse. Here we stand to listen, assist, accompany, embrace, and befriend, not to attack. Here we stand speaking truth and sharing love because we stand overcoming sin and selfishness, death and the devil, and not against one another. Here we stand firm but gentle, strong but humble, even against such great enemies as the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. Here we stand, Gospel-motivated voices, Lutherans For Life, because we can do no other, God help us. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points

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  1. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and John 10:10. What do these passages make clear to the believer about what challenges we face in this world, and where they come from? What are the devastating consequences we experience in life when the devil comes to “steal, kill and destroy?”
  2. In what ways could one describe our culture today as a “culture of death?” How does the Bible promote a contrasting culture of life?
  3. Where does the believer’s strength come from? Ephesians 6:10. Why do youth need to be constantly reminded of their identity in Christ? What challenges do they face? Are you praying for them?
  4. What are the ways in which God arms and equips us for the spiritual battle? What power and comfort come through God’s Word? Baptism? Communion? Prayer?
  5. How do we know the devil has no claim on us? 1 John 1:9. Who does have a claim on us, and what does that mean for us? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
  6. Ephesians 6:11, 13 both exhort us to put on the full armor of God. Why should we be wary of leaving a “chink in our armor” or not being on guard? How does the devil work, and what are his aims? Ephesians 6:11; 4:14; 2 Corinthians 2:11.
  7. When we stand as believers, why does taking our stand take on a humble, hopeful, helpful, and courageous nature? Who is at the center of our Christian identity, and how did He help the suffering and lost?

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