Armor for Spiritual Warfare!
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost Trinity Lutheran Church
30 August 2015 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Well, brothers and sisters, dare I say it again? I will. With this sermon you had better BUCKLE UP. HOLD ON TIGHT. Here we go.
At your baptism into Christ you purposely turned your back on Satan and you told him to, “Stick it!” You denounced Satan, all his works and all his ways. At the same time you announced your total and complete dependence on Jesus. That you belong only to Jesus. That you’re His disciple. One of His hangers-on! For life. For ETERNAL LIFE! Then, you publicly repeated all this when you renewed your baptismal vows the day of your confirmation.
Do you think for one second that Satan takes all that kindly? Or sitting down? Not hardly. It’s GO TIME. You have been marked for big time spiritual warfare. In your baptism you were conscripted into Christ’s army. So St. Paul flat out says it: “Put on the full armor of God.”
Why? Here’s why. “So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Satanic schemes like not depending on Jesus for salvation. Like: not receiving His salvific gifts in the divine service: absolution, the preaching of the gospel, or the Lord’s Supper. Like: depending on yourself – as if you’re in the salvation driver’s seat, as if you can save yourself! Satan would have you live outside your Baptism and deny Jesus.
This is the unseen war of which you are a Christian soldier. It is described this way in the text: “We are not contending against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the present darkness, AGAINST THE SPIRITUAL FORCES OF EVIL IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS.”
You, the baptized, daily fight against the red dragon Satan, unbelief, false doctrine, and our own sinful flesh. It is spiritual warfare. It is very important that you KNOW YOUR ENEMY. When you know your enemy you then know what you need to wear for the battle. Choosing the right weapons.
All this reminds me of the little shepherd boy David that volunteered to fight the mighty 9 ½ foot tall giant Goliath. King Saul put his royal armor on the boy. A hefty too-big-for-the-boy’s-head bronze helmet. A bulky oversized coat of mail. A cumbersome sword. King Saul was a large man. David was a little boy. Saul’s helmet, armor and sword didn’t fit the shepherd boy. Had David wobbled out to fight Goliath outfitted like that, the only way he would have won the fight would be if the gargantuan Philistine died laughing!
So David took off the armor. Took up his familiar shepherd’s staff. Went down to the river. Pulled from the water five smooth stones and put them in his pouch next to his slingshot. With just one stone propelled by his slingshot David killed Israel’s most dreaded enemy, Goliath of Gath.
Brothers and sisters, in your spiritual warfare you are tempted to use the wrong armor. Choose the wrong weapons. Like military muscle: call the Marines! Political power: get out the vote! Economic pressure: boycott businesses. Green power: environmental warfare. But none of those things work in spiritual warfare. The church of the Middle Ages tried military muscle: crusades. The church of today, especially in America, tries political, economic, and green power whether it’s the religious right or the religious left. It all winds up looking as ridiculous as David toddling around in King Saul’s cumbersome armor.
Let me say it again. The warfare you as Christians are involved in is SPIRITUAL. Against the devil, his hordes of demons, the powers of darkness, sin and death. Do not think for one moment that any of you won’t be tested. Do not believe for one second that you will be spared the battle. This is a war that includes every Christian: man, woman and child. No one is exempt from combat in Christ’s militia. If you’re baptized, if you confess Jesus to be the Lord, you are the devil’s hated enemy. You have a bull’s eye on your forehead. You are a marked target of the dark and demonic forces in this world.
However, your problem is that you only see the front side of things – the visible side. You see someone struggling in their marriage, a career, or family. You see a person abusing his body with alcohol, heroine or immoral sexual behaviors. You see violence and gangs. Breakdown in families and society. The crumbling of civilization’s institutions. Chaos. Anarchy. Darkness. Despair.
What you don’t see, what you seldom realize, what you must hear and believe, is that behind all this chaos and breakdown is SPIRITUAL WARFARE! Family, work, social, health, personal problems, addictions, despair, hopelessness and helplessness are all part of a great spiritual battle of cosmic proportions. War is being waged in the heavenly places and you and I are in the thick of it! This is a SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE between life and death, light and darkness, faith and unbelief, Christ and Satan.
But I’m here to tell you that the battle has already been won! Jesus has done His Good Friday death. He has pulled off His Easter Sunday resurrection. Jesus reigns! He is the Lord! However, the losers haven’t given up yet. Satan and his demons still fight. And the fight goes on smack dab in the middle of your lives. It’s a last ditch effort to get you on the losing side before Jesus reveals Himself in glory on the Last Day to claim His universal victory.
So, that’s where you need to be alert. Satan is still the master of the deception. He still is the father of all lies. He knows how to throw you off the scent of God’s true Word. Satan knows the stakes. He knows that if you don’t have the proper armor and weapons, you’re ripe for the picking!
Spiritual warfare, therefore, demands spiritual weapons and armor. That’s precisely what you’re given in the text today. Did you do the count? Six pieces of equipment for doing spiritual battle so that you can stand in hand-to-hand combat against the devil and his demons. God gave them to you when you were baptized.
The first is the belt of truth buckled around your waist. A Roman soldier in St. Paul’s day wore three belts. One had a leather apron to protect his lower body. The other held his sword. The third showed his rank. St. Paul is talking about the belt of protection. You are protected by the belt of “truth.” That’s God’s Word. When Jesus prayed for His disciples He asked, “Sanctify them in the truth [Father]; your Word is truth,” (John 17:17).
Did you hear that? God’s Word is truth. The truth of God’s Word is your protective belt against every false teaching, every phony gospel peddled by the snake oil salesmen on the internet and TV. The truth of God’s Word is your protective belt against every attempt by Satan to get you to trust in what you do or don’t do for salvation instead of what Jesus has done for you on the cross. You are particularly vulnerable here to Satanic attack. I have noticed over the years that when people get religious, they try to bargain with God, to win Him over by their promises to be better or change their lives. The bargain goes like this: “Lord, if you get me out of this mess, I’ll change my ways. I’ll give my life to you. I’ll do whatever you ask.” The truth of God’s Word guards you from such false religion. The truth of God’s Word categorically tells you that you can do nothing to please God but that Jesus has! He died FOR YOU. God is please with you because of Good Friday Jesus. That’s all. So stop trusting in yourselves and trust only in Jesus. That’s the truth!
God has also given you the breastplate of righteousness. The average Roman soldier wore a piece of metal to fit his frame. Those who could afford it wore chain metal that covered their upper bodies. Like a Kevlar vest. Well, the righteousness of Jesus is your protective breastplate. It is this: God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin as He hung on the Good Friday cross bearing all your sin. In exchange for your sin Jesus, who baptized you into His death, gave you all His good. His purity. Holiness. Perfection. Righteousness. In other words, you’ve been clothed with Christ in your baptism (Galatians 3:27). You’ve been given Jesus to wear like a coat of armor. Like a bulletproof vest that the devil cannot penetrate. Your heart is protected with Jesus – His righteousness as your covering.
There’s more. There is the swift readiness of the gospel of peace strapped to your feet. Scripture says, “Blessed are the feet that bring good news,” (Romans 10:15). You are soldiers of PEACE! You are sent to bring peace! It is the peace that comes from sins forgiven for Jesus’ sake. It is peace with God through Jesus and His death on the cross. The peace of His bloody wounds. His peace propels your feet into the battlefield of this world. His peace moves you to announce the good news of forgiveness and salvation to those who are not at peace – your neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family.
Then there is the shield of faith. A Roman solder carried a very large shield shaped like a door. It had thick layers of leather soaked in water before battle to quench fiery arrows shot by the enemy. Your faith in Jesus, soaked in Baptism’s water, shields you from the burning darts of the devil. The hot arrows of lust, greed, anger, prejudice, hatred, drunkenness, jealously, rage, foolishness, arrogance and idleness. Without the shield of faith in Jesus, you are the devil’s pin cushion. However, carrying baptism’s shield, you march confidently and boldly to battle. Satan cannot harm you.
You also have been given the helmet of salvation. St. Paul has in view the Roman soldier’s heavy and costly helmet of burnished bronze. A helmet so strong that only an axe or a huge hammer could pierce it. You helmet is the sure hope of salvation, the certainty that you have been rescued from eternal death by the death of Jesus at Calvary.
Into you hands God has given you the sword of the Spirit. That is God’s Word. Again, God’s Word is your weapon in this spiritual warfare. It is your only weapon! Only the word works repentance and faith. Only the Word, especially the preaching of the gospel, is the power of God to save the lost from hell. That humble word may seem like five smooth stones and a slingshot before Goliath, but it is the mightiest weapon in the universe.
Finally, St. Paul says, “Pray. Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayers and petitions. Keep on praying for the saints and for me.” Troops in the battlefield need to be in communication. They need to be in touch with their field commander. They need to support one another and have each other’s backs. Prayer is the seventh and last piece of the Lord’s equipment to protect you in spiritual warfare. It is how you keep in touch with God. It is how you support one another.
Pray. Pray for each other constantly. For the members of this congregation, her pastor and for the church all over the world. Pray in the divine service. Pray in your own personal prayers. Be aware of what’s going on and intercede for your fellow believers with all kinds of petitions. Be bold about it. Be persistent. Pray for me, your pastor. In need it. Seriously. Pray that whenever Kuhlman opens his mouth, that he speaks faithfully God’s Word, especially the gospel of forgiveness for Jesus’ sake.
And while you’re at it, while you’re praying, remember that you are engaged in SPIRITUAL WARFARE. Your enemy is the devil and his demonic hordes. But also remember that Jesus crushed Satan’s head in His Good Friday death when He declared: “It is finished!” That Good Friday victory will be revealed for all to see when Jesus reveals Himself in glory on the Last Day.
In the meantime, you live on the battlefield, fighting the pathetic loser Satan, who deceptively tries to get you on his losing side. So, beware. You live in days of evil and days of testing in this world. However, have no fear. Satan cannot harm you as you wear God’s armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the swift feet of the gospel, the shield of faith and have the sword of the Spirit – the Word – in your hand. You have prayer. You have everything you need. Baptized, you are equipped in Jesus to withstand the evil one. In the end you will stand!
In the Name of Jesus.