You’ve got to wonder about little shepherd boy David, standing there aghast as a literal Goliath bellowed out his blasphemy: Why do you men huddle in your tents? Do you think you can stand against me? Send out a man to fight!
Forty days of ridicule, blasphemy, terror; and the Israelites quaked with fear and shame. The army of the living God, serving the king God has chosen! And there stands Goliath, ready for battle…and no opponent is found, except for this one shepherd boy; one shepherd boy who seems so utterly weak and helpless, compared to the giant of a man opposing him.
The scene has been often repeated throughout history; the people and circumstances may be different, but the scene is repeated.
- The dejected man, staring at a giant of a bottle – a bottle which speaks, not with a bellow, but with the alluring promise of respite from pain, a few minutes’ relief. It’s spoken that way before, and just this once, just one more time…Surely you cannot stand against me. Give up, drink up!
- The young teen, sitting in class as a giant of a teacher openly and publicly ridicules the Christian faith as logically indefensible or simply restrictive…the setting may be different, but the scenario is quite similar to that shepherd boy. The one-sided discussion only grows in blather and blasphemy: Surely you cannot believe THAT…
- The retiree on a fixed income, hearing the giant whispers of fewer opportunities and multiplying health maladies…Surely your God has forgotten about you.
Fill in the blank with any scenario, any situation, any circumstance – because the reality is that Satan stalks his prey wherever and whenever he can, whether it’s very public temptation reinforced by peer pressure – or whether it’s private agony and Satan’s promise of relief, with the additional lie that it doesn’t matter and no one will know.
But it does matter.
And even if no one else knows, the conscience knows. God knows - and that’s a terrifying thought, because this is the God who created us to love and serve him in holiness – yet we are anything but holy.
And in all of those scenarios, it’s easy to get distracted by the skirmish, the little battle, the comparatively minor outward sin.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the visible, outer, obvious sin that we might even think that the problem is the alcoholism, or the ridicule of a world that hates Christ, or a simple budgeting problem, or a problem that a stronger internet filter could fix.
But if an alcoholic goes on the wagon without hearing of Christ – the battle may be won, but the war for that person’s heart has been lost.
Don’t get me wrong. Sin is still there; drunkenness is a sin, as is doubt, and worry, and gossip.
But behaviour modification never is, never has been, and never will be the point - the purpose - of Christianity. And Biblically speaking, the only sin that condemns is unbelief; that’s the big picture, the warfare we face. Unbelief cuts a person off from the only source of forgiveness or holiness. And that’s what Paul says here:
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.
Sin isn’t a matter of simply trying to do better, or having a better system in place. Sin is never an outward problem that can be solved by outward efforts. And I know sounds foreign to you and me, even though you may be well-acquainted with that fact; but it sounds foreign, because our human hearts never quite comprehend how serious sin really is – or how tremendous God’s grace really is.
They’re concepts which roll off our tongues so easily, yet the concept remains enclosed within its own little box; the concept of sin is in this little box over here, safely packed away where it can’t hurt me unless I open it up…the concept of grace in that little box over there, where I don’t really need it unless I open that first box.
Hopefully our walk through Ephesians has opened our eyes to God’s reality. We started with the huge overview, 50,000 feet in the air; and throughout the book, Paul is like the pilot slowly circling and descending, pointing out more and more of what God HAS done and CONTINUES to do through Christ:
- purely out of his grace, God had you in mind from eternity and brought you to faith through his chosen tools;
- he’s brought you into the same body of believers, as people from all backgrounds are being built into one united household of faith.
- God has entrusted that mystery - the mystery of his grace, really - God has entrusted that mystery to you and me, and it’s our goal & purpose to proclaim his praises by sharing that mystery.
And as Paul circles, slowly descending from the greatest, widest, biggest thought of God - the doctrine of election, taking us on a tour of God’s grace - Paul goes on to land the plane. He says that:
- your life and your actions matter to God – not to earn his favor, but simply because this Jesus Christ has freely and fully forgiven your sin.
- There’s no debt to pay back, no lingering guilt to pay for; you are a child of the light. That is who you are.
And he keeps walking closer and closer, until these final words are like God speaking to each one of us individually. And he says the most surprising thing. You’ve got to love it. After all these encouragements to Christian living, encouragements which are grounded and reinforced by the Christian truth of the person you are in Jesus, because of Jesus, through Jesus…after all these encouragements for the Christian home, the Christian life – Paul closes with this most splendid of pictures, as though he himself is standing to give some final encouragement before the big battle:
13 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 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.
Note the weapons: they are all God’s weapons, things which God has given to us: God’s truth. The breastplate, the kevlar vest of Christ’s righteousness. All these blessings, head to toe, reminding you & me of all that Jesus has done and won for us. Born at Christmas, dying on Good Friday, rising on Easter Sunday, stomping on the dead neck of death as he exited the tomb; ascending and ruling over all things, promising to return and raise you & me from the dust of death to eternal life – these basic truths are your defense for every day of your Christian life! All that God did to plan your forgiveness, all that Jesus did to earn your forgiveness - and you are forgiven, simply because you are a member of this world - all that Jesus did has now been given to you, handed to you, put onto you, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Think of it this way:
This past Wednesday we had some police officers at our VBS. They spoke to our parents about child safety, substance abuse, that sort of thing. Then they had a presentation for the kids - and those kids sat, silent, for 15 minutes. (Wow!)
One officer talked about his uniform - his boots, his belt, his gun, handcuffs, that sort of thing. Then he tapped himself on the chest: a bulletproof kevlar vest, with a reinforced steel plate, because he wanted to come home to his family every night.
About two years ago, he took a shotgun blast to the chest. It was definitely unpleasant, but he’s here today.
That’s what Satan wants to do. Erosion or explosion, his aim is to destroy your spiritual life - and the faith of as many as possible. Not necessarily a shotgun blast to the chest; but if he can get you to forget your armor, stop using your weapon of faith, ignore the sword of the Spirit that is the word of God
The entire army has been called out for battle: there’s no one left out, no Christian who doesn’t possess these weapons.
The newly-baptized have these weapons, as do the lifelong Christian.
Some weapons need polishing.
Some elements of the armor need dusting off, tying up.
It all happens at the same place, in the same way: spending some personal time with Jesus by opening your Bible.
That shepherd boy David stood facing Goliath; he was not alone, because God was by his side.
No doubt, you’ve got your own Goliath; anger? worry? misuse of God’s blessings, abuse of God’s blessings? Fear? Spiritual neglect? Grudges? Guilt?
I don’t know what it is; God does.
Dear friends: Our God has given his Son to win the war – and the war has been won! Your forgiveness has been earned! Even now, you enjoy the status of a holy child of God!
But we aren’t in heaven yet.
That’s why God gives these weapons. and he’s given you the tools to fight your battle as well. Take up the armour God has given to you, and fight the fight of faith! AMEN.