We are at war. Never make the deadly mistake of thinking that all is well in our world and in our culture. It is not. Satan seems to have been unleashed and is working virtually unhindered – even by many in the Church – to destroy our country and you and me and our families.
For example, in the 1950s no one would have ever thought the killing of 2300 babies every day would be accepted so nonchalantly in our society. No one in 1950, a few years after we defeated the Socialists in Nazi Europe, and we were entering into a cold war with the Socialists in Russia, no one would have thought that in 2021 we would vote Socialists into our US Congress, and various state houses. Nor would anyone have believed in 1950 that even the Supreme Court of the United States would elevate sexual perversions to the place of what a growing number of Americans consider normal sexuality in our culture.
And certainly, no one even five years ago would have thought portions of our culture – such as in Washington State in April 2023 – would seek to force parents to allow their minor-age children to undergo sex-change mutilation.
Proverbs counsels us to ‘wage war by wise guidance” (Proverbs 20:18). And so, today, and for the next several weeks, we turn our attention to the supernatural armor that God has given the Christian to successfully wage war in this supernatural battle.
One of the best-known passages of the New Testament dealing with this subject of supernatural warfare nis in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. It is here where the Holy Spirit makes clearest to us what are the defensive gear and offensive weapons God supplies to us. And it is the wisest AND the safest follower of Christ who not only knows about the gear, but who practices with them.
Starting with verse 10 of chapter six, Paul writes these words – and I quote the entire section for context:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”(Eph 6:10-18)
Although I cited the entire section for context, today’s message focuses only on the first several verses, beginning with verse 10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
First: We are not alone in our battle. Like the undetectable radio and television waves that surround us in this building, do not wonder for a moment if we are surrounded by undetectable supernatural, godly forces. Not only does the Holy Spirit live inside each follower of Christ, but unseen angels never leave our side.
The psalmist tells us: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them (Psalm 34:7). Hebrews 1:14 assures us God’s angels are “ministering spirits sent out to render service to those who will inherit salvation” And again, Psalm 91:11 “For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”
Angels surround us in this room. If we could see them, we’d see their swords unsheathed, their eyes watchful, their ears attentive, sent by our Father in heaven, creator of all things visible and invisible, to protect us.
Some of you might remember the story of Elisha and his servant in Dothan. The Syrian king was at war with Israel, and Elisha – the protégé of Elijah – was at the top of his list of enemies. When the king learned Elisha was hold up in the city of Dothan, he sent his army to surround the city. We find the story in 2 Kings 6. We pick up the story in verse 15:
“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15ff)
Again, I will say it: Never let the thought remain in your brain for even a nano-second that you are alone in this battle. You are NOT ever alone. You do not ever, ever, ever walk that so-called lonesome valley all by yourself.
The lyrics of that song – many of you have heard it sung for years, even in churches across this country – the lyrics of that song are the most heretical lyrics of any so-called spiritual song I have ever had the displeasure to listen to:
You gotta walk that lonesome valley
And you gotta walk it by yourself
Nobody else can walk it for you
You gotta walk it by yourself.
Let me stop here a moment and proclaim to you that nowhere in all of Scripture does God ever tell His children bought by the blood of Jesus, NOWHERE does God even hint that we’re alone in our struggles and our trials. Never. Not one verse. Not one sentence. Not one word.
The song continues:
Jesus walked this lonesome valley
And he had to walk it by Himself
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk, walk it by Himself.
Are you kidding me? Even during that 40-days of wilderness trial, the Holy Spirit was with Him. And just before His capture and subsequent crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples: Jesus answered them . . . Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:31-32)
Jones’ lyrics continue to wash over the hurting and frightened child of God like battery acid:
You must go and stand your trials
You have to stand it by yourself
Nobody else can stand it for you
You have to stand it by yourself.
Listen, child of God by your faith in Jesus’ blood to cover your sins, the Holy Spirit lives within you – and He has given His angels charge concerning you to protect you. Never forget that, despite your circumstances. You NEVER walk alone, and you NEVER fight this spiritual battle alone.
And so, St Paul tells us in this 6th chapter of Ephesians, “Be strong in the LORD.” In other words, do not depend on your own strengths or resources in this fight. Just as no soldier approaches a field of battle in gym clothes, we dare not enter this battle thinking ANY of our own abilities and talents can ever prevail in this supernatural battle. Many of you will recognize the lyrics of Martin Luther’s hymn:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
No, never trust your own battle gear, your own skills and talents. Resort only to the gear provided us by the Holy Spirit – the belt, the breastplate, the helmet, the footwear, the shield, the sword – and prayer.
So, today, as we begin our examination of that battle gear, let’s first look at the belt of our armor. Here is verse 14 of Ephesians six: 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.
The belt worn by the Roman soldier did more than simply keep his pants from falling. The belt also held in place his dagger and his breast plate that protected his heart and other vital organs. If his belt was not secured against his body, his weapon and the breastplate would fall away – leaving him defenseless against an aggressor.
That’s why Paul’s analogy of ‘girding our loins with truth’ is so instructive for us. Truth is the foundation of our faith. Truth – not philosophical truth, or psychological truth, or cultural truth, or emotional truth – But only Biblical truth is the foundation of our faith.
If we let truth slip away, if we compromise God’s absolute and authoritative truth, we lay ourselves open to deadly attack by our enemy and we cannot protect ourselves or those we love.
I can’t tell you how many times during our lives together when I was under some sort of spiritual attack that Nancy helped me through the battle by reminding me of some relevant text of Scripture. Likewise, how often I helped her wend her way through her own spiritual battles by reminding her of some passage in God’s infallible and inerrant word.
Without the belt of truth that undergirds our faith we are always in danger of the lurking evil. That’s why Paul wrote to the church at Colossae: 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”(Colossians 2:8-9)
The Greek work Paul used here for captive has the idea of being carried off as a prisoner of war. And that is what happens to anyone who gets seduced by humanistic explanations of the supernatural – they become a casualty of the war, they become a prisoner of war and lose their ability to stay in the fight.
Pilate asked Jesus during that trial, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). And then as soon as he asked the question, he turned and walked away without so much as a moment’s hesitation.
If Pilate really wanted to know what is truth, he’d have waited for an answer. But he didn’t, just as so many others through the centuries have not bothered to hang around for God’s answers, likely because they didn’t want to hear His answers. And of those who do hang around, many refuse to humbly and obediently receive what God says.
That was the main problem among many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They heard the word – they heard PLENTY of the words Jesus spoke – but they would not receive His word. Jesus touched on the root of their problem here in John 5:44 – “No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. (NLT)
“Gird yourselves with the belt of truth,” Paul wrote. So, what is truth? The answer to the question is captured throughout the Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation. Here is psalm 119:60 – The sum of God’s word is truth. Ultimately, Truth is embodied in the Word of God made flesh – Jesus, who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) And in the Lord’s High Priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
My brothers and sisters, the equation is so simple, a child can grasp it. The better you know AND OBEY the Scriptures, the better you know the truth. Lots of pastors and pew-sitters know the Scriptures. But without obedience to God’s word, their knowledge is worthless for any good. As St. Paul warned Titus, such people “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16)
It is God’s truth alone that will set us free – free from fears and doubts and seductions – and yes, free from sin. The maxim has been repeated many times over: The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.
So, be careful and conscious to hold truth close to yourself – the kind of Truth that leads to action and a godly lifestyle. The psalmist asked, How can a young man [or an old person] keep his way pure?” You’ll find that question in Psalm 119:9. And he immediately answered the question this way: “By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9-11)
I need to bring today’s exhortation and encouragement to a close, so, let me sum up my message this way. There are four things I hope you will take away from what I have said this afternoon.
First: God is in absolute control of the battle AND the battlefield. From the front cover of the Bible to the back cover, the Holy Spirit assures those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to receive Truth – God’s authority over every created thing – seen and unseen – God’s authority is absolute.
Second: We are never, ever alone in this battle. The Holy Spirit lives within each believer, And His angels always surround us. Be assured. Be confident: We do not walk a lonesome valley – regardless of how it seems when life’s storms pummel us. God has not lied to us when He said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Third: Put on GOD’S armor – and never rely on our own strengths, abilities, talents, education, wealth, or any other things we might fall back on as protection against the enemy. NOTHING natural, nothing of this creation, can even be effective against the supernatural. Put on God’s armor every day when you wake up in the morning.
Fourth: Don’t let anyone seduce you into thinking we can somehow accurately know truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment apart from God’s word. Intentionally seek Him in the Scriptures. Learn to love truth about God. And do not neglect to set yourself to LIVE what God says is truth.
Next week we will continue our look of the other elements of the Christian’s supernatural armor.