Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Enemy

We Are Victorious, 13 April 2014

Big Idea: We are victorious!

Introduction

Whether you know it or not, we are at war. It is not a war with Russia or North Korea or Iran—though that could be in our nation’s future. It is not one of the estimated 14,500 wars that have been fought in the past 5300 years (3600 BC to the present). We are at war with a real enemy, satan and demons. Ever since satan’s coup attempt to overthrow God failed, he’s been seeking every opportunity to destroy us.


C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis,
The Screwtape Letters). 

Many Christians ignore satan and demons. In fact, more people believe in angels than demons. Satan is not an impersonal force or a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork! At the same time, we must not give him too much credit. He is not God. He is powerful but not all-powerful.


How do I know satan is real? Pick up a newspaper. Check out CNN.com. Open your eyes and ears! Death and decay is all around. Homelessness, abuse, divorce, murder, violence, injustice, starvation, slavery, pride, self-righteous religion…this world is messed up!


A few weeks ago I spoke with the father of my friend who died from cancer. He told me never before has he felt death as an enemy. It’s not right! Present reality is a far cry from the Paradise God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Ever since sin entered the world through satan’s temptation we have been surrounded by pain, depravity and brokenness.


Often people talk about spiritual warfare in either a creepy or corny way. They get spooked about demons or think the armor of God is a costume for kids to wear on Halloween. Because satan masquerades as an angel of light, spiritual warfare is often subtle—so much so that more people believe in angels than demons, God than satan. Yet something has to account for the brokenness, pain, suffering and death we are exposed to every day on this planet that God originally called good.

After spending more than five chapters telling the early church about its identity in Christ and offering instructions for Godly living he concludes

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. (10-13)

We are to be strong not in our strength or wisdom or experience or knowledge but in the Lord and in His mighty power. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). “Be strong” literally means “be strengthened.” The battle is the Lord’s, but we are not to merely hide. The devil is real and he is scheming. He is smart and crafty. He destroyed Job. He tempted Jesus. He plots destruction. The greater your passion for Jesus and the Kingdom of God, the greater threat you are to the enemy.

Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth…

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

Part of the reason people are unaware of the battle is it often rages in our minds. Paul continues…

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Paul says that battle is not against flesh and blood. People are not the enemy. Atheists or other non-Christians are not the enemy. They are merely deceived pawns of the enemy. The enemy is a spiritual creature that tempts humans to sin. There can be no greater contrast between the two sides of the spiritual battle.

God loves you.
Satan hates you.

God is life.
Satan is death.

God is true.
Satan is the father of lies.

God is light.
Satan masquerades as light.

God is for you.
Satan is against you.

God forgives sin.
Satan tempts us to sin and then accuses us of doing it.

Why, then, are we surprised when trouble enters the lives of Christians?!

We are at war and must know our enemy, be prepared to fight and be ready to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (14-17)

belt of truth
(against the father of lies)

We are to have the truth wrapped around us. If you don’t have your belt, you can lose your pants! Keep it on!

breastplate of righteousness
(say no to sin and yes to righteousness)

The breastplate is defense for the front torso and vital organs. It was often composed of a solid piece of metal, but it could also contain many small pieces that were sewn to leather or cloth that overlapped much like the scales of a fish. These scales could number as many as 700 to 1,000 per “coat.” When the sun shone directly on the armor, it could become very hot. So to avoid being burnt, or even pinched, by the moving metal plates, the soldiers always wore a sturdy robe under the armor. We are to wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.

The breastplate covered the front, but not the back. We are to stand firm and never retreat, never run away, never surrender.

boots of peace
(Jesus is the Prince of peace, our most powerful weapon)

Keep your boots on! Soldiers wear them to bed, always ready for battle.

shield of faith
(an internal conviction that leads to an external action)

The shield was the first line of defense for a warrior. It could protect the entire body when the soldier crouched down. Jesus’ blood is our first defense against satan’s arrows of deception, temptation, and accusation. When temptation lodges in our body, it’s too late. We must be alert, anticipating the schemes of the enemy that will entice us toward greed, lust, envy, rage, discouragement, fear, and worry.

helmet of salvation
(helmets guard the mind; never forget your salvation)

The mind controls the body. It is our most vital organ. All of our actions begin in our mind. What do you think? What do you feel? Who do you think you are?!

The sword of the Spirit.
The other tools shield and protect. The sword is the weapon. It is what we use to fight. The Word of God is truth. It is offensive to the lies of the world. It spreads truth and sets captives free.

The sword of God’s Word will give the beast of Revelation 13 a deadly wound (13:3, 14).

Some have called the two edges of the double-edged sword the Old and New Testaments. It is used against the enemy and for personal use. The Bible is a practical tool—like a Swiss Army Knife—that can be used for every area of life.


And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (18)

Communication is essential in any battle. We need to know what our Commander is saying. We need to listen for His voice.

Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians by saying

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (19-20)

We must pray for God to give us words to declare the Gospel, the good news, in word and deed.

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. (21-22)

This is an interesting note as Paul sends Tychicus to Ephesus. Finally…

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (23-24)


Peace
Love
Faith
Grace

Amen!

Conclusion

We have come to the conclusion of the book of Ephesians, this incredible book written to instruct us on how to know and live out our identity. Paul arguably saved the best for last, reminding believers that we are not to lounge around in comfort and luxury, but instead be engaged in the battle that has been raging since the beginning of time, a battle that will someday end with a victorious God and a defeated enemy. We caught a preview of this defeat at the cross, a moment we will remember this Friday. It is called “Good Friday” because

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Through sin, we all surrendered to satan and were taken as captives in war. Though we were legally satan’s possession because of our debt to him through our sin, Jesus redeemed us through his victory on the cross. His final words from the cross, “It is finished,” declared our liberation. And his resurrection to life signifies His complete victory over Satan, sin, and death in the life of all believers.

In Christ, we are forgiven.
In Christ, we are clean.
In Christ, our captivity has been replaced with a new identity.

Who do you think you are? If you love and follow Jesus, you have a new identity in Christ. serve him, follow him, and call him your Lord and Savior. There’s good news: you have a new identity…in Christ. That means we are…

We are in Christ
We are saints
We are blessed
We are appreciated
We are saved
We are reconciled
We are included
We are heard
We are gifted
We are new
We are forgiven
We are adopted
We are loved
We are rewarded
We are victorious

Grace and peace to you…in Christ.

Credits:

Some ideas from

Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Voice, John 10:1-21, 24 February 2013

Big Idea: We can choose to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd or the voice of the their that wants to steal, kill and destroy.

Sound is an amazing thing. Whether you realize it or not, there are sounds around us constantly. True silence is rare. What do you hear right now?

There are a few sounds that stand out from the rest. An alarm usually gets our attention, unless you’re a tired teenager in bed! Living across the street from the Cleveland Clinic, the sound of an ambulance was a frequent interruption to the mundane traffic tones. The human ear is able to process a wide variety of frequencies and noises. Now think about human voices. We have the ability to recognize people that we cannot even see, just by their voice.

There’s something powerful about one’s connection to a familiar voice. Yesterday I was in Meijer and a friend was telling me about his grandson. They live several states away and video chat frequently, and when the little boy hears the voice of his grandpa, he gets so excited!

Perhaps nothing seizes our attention more, though, than the most captivating word to our ears—our name. What is your name?

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus’ close friend and biographer tells us a lot about sound, voice, and your name.

Shepherds

Are you a shepherd? Have you ever met a shepherd? Sheep and shepherds are not common images in our culture today. They were very popular in the Middle East 2000 years ago, and remain so today. It’s not wonder that the Bible is filled with references to shepherds (e.g. Isaiah 40:10-11; Psalm 23). Moses and David were shepherds. There are several references in the scriptures to “false shepherds” (1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-2).

Context

Last week in chapter nine, Jesus healed a blind man and the religious leaders went crazy because it was on the Sabbath. Biblical writers did not include chapter and verse references. Those were added centuries later, so from what we can see, Jesus is continuing His interaction with these self-righteous critics of His. The tenth chapter of John begins with red-letter text, words spoken by Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. (1-6)

Can you imagine the scene?

First, the setting is the
desert, a desperate place. Today Arab and Jewish children tell stories about the desert much like some cultures talk about deep, dark forests. In the desert food is rare, water is scarce, and deadly creatures roam. In addition, the terrain is often filed with steep cliffs, some with drops of over 1000 feet!

Sheep are prone to wander. The shepherd’s job is to keep the sheep together and safe. A sheep could be harmed by thieves, wild animals, and injury from wandering.

Just like my friend’s grandson recognizes my friend’s voice, and just like dogs typically know their owner’s voice, so sheep know the voice of their shepherd.

The Middle Eastern shepherd even today talks to and sings to his sheep. They often carry a short flute and the sheep learn both the voice of the shepherd and the sound of his flute.

“During the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s the Israeli army decided to punish a village near Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (which, the village claimed, simply financed their occupation). The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a large barbed-wire pen. Later in the week he was approached by a woman who begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood. He pointed to the pen containing hundreds of animals and humorously quipped that it was impossible because he could not find her animals. She asked that if she could in fact separate them herself, would he be willing to let her take them? He agreed. A soldier opened the gate and the woman’s son produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again—and soon sheep heads began popping up across the pen. The young boy continued his music and walked home, followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep.”

  • NIV Application Commentary

In the desert, sheep need to follow the shepherd if they are to survive.

Jesus doesn’t lead any sheep, but “his own” (3b). Notice that
the shepherd knows His sheep...by name. He knows your name! How cool is that?! The Creator of the universe knows your name.

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (7-10)

That last verse is one of my favorites. Do you see the contrast between Jesus and satan, the thief and the Shepherd?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (11-13)

How far will the good shepherd go in caring for his sheep? All the way! To death!

Who influences you? So many respond to the teachings of people who are dead, celebrities with chaotic lives, or even friends that can be fickle. The Good Shepherd is willing to die for you...and He did!

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (14-18)

Throughout Jesus’ life, we see Him submitting to the Father and the Father’s timing.

As usual, Jesus upset the religious people.

At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
(19-21)

We’ll unpack the reaction of the Jews further next week.

So What?
Like sheep, we live in a dangerous world. It might not seem dangerous, but there is a real thief who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He will do anything and everything to speak lies, kill your passion for Jesus, and ultimately destroy you and everything good in your life.

The thing is, because he’s sneaky and because we often fail to spend time with the Good Shepherd, we mistaken the voice of the enemy for the voice of Jesus. We justify our behaviors because everyone else is doing it. We rationalize the importance of being politically correct and flee from controversy. We want to blend in, be liked, and do what’s popular.

We all need guidance to navigate through life, but we must make sure we are listening to the right voice. The only way to do that is to spend time with the Good Shepherd.

I can’t do that for you. Your parents or spouse cannot do that for you. Discerning the voice that brings abundant life requires time in prayer, solitude, silence, and study. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Whose voice matters to you? A recent study asked high school students where they would turn first in times of crisis or confusion. Mothers came in around number eleven and dads around 25. Friends and music were at the top!

Students, daddy often knows best. In the case of our heavenly Daddy, He always knows best.

Friends are influential, not only to students, but adults as well. When is the last time you experienced a tension between popular opinion and the teachings of Jesus? Do you even know the difference?

As we continue our annual theme of b.l.e.s.s. I want to encourage you to remain on your knees in prayer, listen to God, and study His Word. It’s not rocket science. The more time you spend with someone, the more you’ll know their voice.

C.S. Lewis said that there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you follow it?

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