THE UNSEEN WAR

EPHESIANS 6:10-13

 

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            During one of the darkest periods of World War II, after the collapse of France and before the United States officially entered the war, the question on people’s minds was, "Will Britain surrender too?"  With that question in mind Winston Churchill made a speech.  In the speech he said, "The Battle of France is over.  I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.  Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization."

            As Christians, we too, are in a battle; and upon this battle depends the joy of our hearts, the happiness of our marriages, the welfare of our children, the security of our homes, and the influence of our lives.

            This morning we begin a new sermon series on the Armor of God.  Do you recall a few weeks ago my asking for requests for a sermon or sermon series?  Well, this was one of the requests, and never having preached on the topic before, I thought this would be a good time to do it.  So this morning we begin a seven week series on the subject. 

            Take out your pew bible and turn with me to Ephesians 6, beginning in verse ten.  I believe it’s located on page 952 of your pew bible. 

 

            Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, stand firm.

 

            According to the Apostle Paul we are at war, specifically a spiritual war.  Of course, many Christians, perhaps most, do not realize it.  I read about a fellow who had too much to drink, and he was driving the wrong way on a one-way street.  A policeman stopped him and said, "Hey buddy!  Didn't you see the arrows?"  He said, "Arrows?  Man, I didn't even see the Indians!"

            I'm afraid a lot of us are oblivious to the spiritual arrows coming our way.  We do not realize a war is going on.  We don't understand that everyday, at every moment, we are fighting for our spiritual lives. 

            Douglas MacArthur, one of America’s greatest generals, said, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” and that applies to spiritual warfare as well, and it’s high time we took it to Old Redlegs instead of Old Redlegs taking it to us. 

            Maybe you heard about the football player who graduated from college, and the coach asked him if he would like to come on staff and be a scout and try to find other good football players.  He said, "Sure coach, what kind of a player are you looking for?"

            The coach said, "Well, there's a kind of guy that when you knock him down he just stays down." 

            The graduate said, "We don't want him do we, coach?"

            The coach said, "No, we don't want him.  But then there's the kind of guy that when you knock him down, he gets up.  But if you knock him down the second time he just stays down."

            The graduate said, "We don't want him either do we coach?"

            The coach said, "No, we don't want him either."  He said, "But there's the kind of guy that when you knock him down he gets up; you knock him down and he gets up; you knock him down again and he just keeps getting up."

             The graduate said, "Now, that's the guy we want, right coach?"

            The coach said, "No, we don't want him either.  What I want you to do is find the guy who's knocking all these other guys down.  That's the guy I want."

            Well, it's high time began knocking down Old Redlegs, and as we begin this seven week series, I want to make some general statements about how to win the war.  On the subsequent Sundays we will consider specific pieces of armor we are to wear as we fight this battle, but today we will take a big picture look at the battle itself.

            First, if we are going to win the war we need to realize the attack we face.  This war is unlike any other war fought in history because it is a spiritual, rather than a physical war.  The Apostle Paul put it this way in verse 12:

 

            For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

            This is a spiritual war, not a physical war, and this war is going on at every moment of every day.  It’s going on this very moment right here in this sanctuary.  It will be carried to your car on the way home.  It will follow you into your garage and into your home.  And then on Monday morning it will follow you to your place of work.  This war is not being fought on foreign soil.  This war is being fought right here, at home.  Oh, we may not be able to see the bullets whizzing by our ears, or bombs exploding over our heads, but the war is real just the same.  It's being fought in our homes.  That's why marriages are falling apart at a record rate, and why children are rebelling against the authority of their parents.  It's going on in our heads.  That’s why we fall into negativity and cynicism.  It is going on in our hearts. That’s why all of us have to battle everyday to do what is right instead of doing what is wrong.

            Now, some of us may be sitting here right now wondering what I'm talking about, because we don’t feel like we're in a war.  To those of us who fell that way, let me offer a possible reason for that.   If we do not feel we are in a war it’s likely because we have laid down our weapons.  We have surrendered to the world.  We do not feel like we are in a war because we are traveling in the same direction as Old Redlegs.  He doesn’t have to fight us any longer.  He’s already won us over.   

            As for the rest of us, if we are Christian we are in the war against an invisible forces.  We may be a deserter, we may be AWOL, but we're in the war.  Furthermore, we cannot straddle the fence in this war.  We cannot be Switzerland; we cannot be neutral.  We're either on one side or the other.  C. S. Lewis once said, "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan."  So, every day, at every waking moment we are at war.

            Second, in addition to realizing the attack we face, we also need to realize the adversary we fight.

            I quoted General Douglas MacArthur earlier, and I’ll quote him again.  He wrote an article entitled "Requisites for Military Success," and he gave the four principles that he believed were most important in order to win a battle.

            He said, first of all, there must be morale. He said a fighting force must be united by an esprit de corps, a will to win as a sense of a cause worth dying for.  Secondly, there must be strength.  The soldiers must have adequate training and must be well equipped to do the job.  Third, he said there must be an adequate source of supply. Lines must be kept open so that those at the front receive all that they need to win.

You know what he said was by far the most important principle?  He said in order to prevail you must have a knowledge of the enemy.  MacArthur wrote, "The greater the knowledge of the enemy, the greater the potential of victory."

            Paul tells us who our enemy is.  In verse 11 he writes, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  Now I want to be very careful here.  As I talk about the devil, I want us to avoid two extremes.

            On the one hand, many people ignore the devil.  In this regard, I'm reminded of the prize fighter whose opponent was beating him half to death.  Every time he would come back to sit on the stool between rounds, his manager would say, "Go get him tiger.  He hasn't laid a hand on you!"  Well, for seven rounds this guy was getting beat from pillar to post and every time his manager would say the same thing.  Finally, with one eye closed shut, bleeding from the nose and lips cut wide open, when that manager said, "Go get him tiger, he hasn't laid a hand on you!" the fighter looked at the manager and said, "Then I want you to keep your eye on that referee because somebody is beating the living daylights out of me!"

            The other extreme we need to avoid is being obsessed with the devil.  Some people see a demon under every rock and a devil behind every tree.

            I heard about a woman who went to a church picnic.  Another woman walked up to her and asked what she had brought to the picnic.  Did she bring a side dish or a dessert to share?  The woman said, “I brought deviled eggs.”  The other woman immediately flung her hands in the air and said, “I bind every one of them in the name of Jesus!”

            Now we want to give the devil his due, but we don't want to give the devil the farm.  So, we need to know who he is, and one thing Paul says about Old Redlegs is very informative.  Paul encourages us “to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  That word “wiles” is a very interesting word in the Greek.   It literally means trickery or deceit, and the Living Bible translates it this way: “Watch for the tricks of Satan.”  In other words, “Watch out because Old Redlegs fights dirty.”

            Furthermore when Paul instructs us in v.11,  “to put on the whole armor of God," the actual verb tense in the Greek means, "Put on the whole armor of God and keep it on."  In other words, “Don’t ever relax.”  We can never let our guard down because just as surely as you do, Satan will sucker-punch us.  He will hit us at our weakest moment when we least expect it.  He fights dirty, and will use every trick in the book to get the better of us.

            Then third, in addition to realizing the attack we face, and realizing the adversary we fight, we also need to realize the advantage we field.

            I will never forget how frightened people were of Saddam Hussein at the start of the first Gulf War.  Most people thought Saddam Hussein would be a formidable foe.  But after the war was over, in just a matter of hours, General Norman Schwarzkopf stood before a press conference and gave this assessment.  He said, "Saddam is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art of war, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier; other than that he is a great military man.”

            Well let me offer a similar assessment.  Satan is not omnipotent.  Satan is not omnipresent.  Satan is not omniscient, but God is all three.  But other than those qualifications he is a powerful foe. "But greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

            You see, we have an advantage over Old Redlegs. We have the armor of God.

I want you to imagine sitting on a warship and putting your hand against the wall, which in navy language is called the "bulkhead."  Now hold your hands 24 inches apart, that is how thick some of the walls are on older battleships, and armor on a ship is placed in areas where the ship is the most vulnerable to enemy missiles.  Normally, an armor belt is placed around the sides of the ship from about ten feet below the water line to just above the water line.  Theoretically, a torpedo hitting the armor belt would not penetrate into the hull and cause flooding.  Likewise, armor-plating would be placed along the upper surface of the ship to repel bombs dropped from airplanes.

            Well God has given us armor guaranteed to repulse the most powerful missiles, the strongest bombs, and the mightiest torpedoes that Satan can fire at us.  We’ll say more about that in the weeks ahead.