Sermon, Sunday November 29, 2020 We are at War

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December 7, 1941, September 11 2001, April 15 2013. These dates will always be remembered as days when America was attacked by a foreign enemy. Dates when the distant war was brought close to home. But for the majority of people living in America in 2020, war is something that is glamorized in the movies or watched on the news from distant lands. The horror and the pain of war is not a reality that we are familiar with, and that is something to be thankful for this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, as Christians, we need to be reminded that we are on the frontlines of a real war with a vicious enemy who does not adhere to conventional rules of engagement. I am talking about the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in daily, whether we realize it or not.

Our enemy is an ancient one. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Satan was the most beautiful and anointed of the angels (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But because of his pride, the root of all sin, he fell and was cast out by God (Isaiah 14:9-20). But Satan still has access to God, and he is the accuser (Revelation 12:10), the deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) and the destroyer (1 Peter 5:8–9). The enemy of our souls and the enemy of the church is powerful and real.

The Apostle Paul closed the letter to the Ephesians with an encouragement to stand firm against the enemy of our souls. He began the letter by teaching on our identity as children of God in chapters 1 to 3. Then he continues with instructions of how we are to live and walk in our new identity as followers of Jesus in chapters 4 to the first part of chapter 6. This final section is not simply a closing paragraph, but is rather the capstone of this incredible letter.

Many people claim to be Christians because they have gone through the motions of some religious tradition, but they are not aware of the spiritual forces of evil that surround us on a daily basis. The Bible is clear that as true children of God, we are in a war. We are in a daily battle of life and death. We are fighting for the lives of our children, our co-workers and our neighbors. We are at war against spiritual forces that have the primary objective of taking souls with them to hell.

But there is good news, this enemy is raging because he is already defeated. When Jesus died and rose again, the victory over Satan was accomplished (John 12:31 and John 16:11). The apostle Paul does not urge us to fight for victory, rather we are fighting from the victory that is already completed. Satan is described in the Bible as the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We live in a broken world, eagerly waiting for Jesus to come again and finally cast Satan and his demons into the eternal fire of Hell (Revelation 20:10). But until that time, we are called to stand firm.

The encouragement to stand firm is echoed through verses 11 to 14. The key to standing is found in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” We are standing not in our own strength, but in the strength of the all-powerful God of the universe. He is our strength, His is the victory (Romans 8:37).

The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of his dependency on the strength of God, he embraced his weakness because he realized that this was the key to victory (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

If dependence is the objective, weakness becomes an advantage. Beware your strengths, not your weaknesses, because your strengths are those places you are most likely to forget God.” JD Greear

We are dependent on God for our salvation and for our daily strength to stand against the enemy. We do not fight for victory, rather we fight from victory.

The key to living the victorious Christian life is living from the first three chapters of Ephesians. If we are not sitting before Jesus in worship, knowing our identity and walking in that, we will never be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Only those who sit can stand.

Our spiritual warfare is defensive, standing firm on the ground that Jesus has already secured with his victory over sin and death. As we stand firm, we have been given a defensive armor as we will see in the following verses of Ephesians 6.

Satan primarily attacks believers through our thoughts and feelings. Our emotions and our will. As we sit at the feet of Jesus and know our true identity as children of God, we are able to stand firm against these attacks.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. We frequently ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray, thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm.

This requires faith. Praising God for the miracle of victory even before we experience it. When you feel oppressed and attacked by Satan and his demons, simply praise God for what He has done and thank Him for the victory. Allowing God then to bring about the experience of that reality.

What is our reality? Remember that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Our limited faith and weak flesh struggles to accept this reality and we somehow feel that we have to win battles that have already been won. We have been saved to declare the truth of our position, by being Christ’s ambassadors here in order to bring glory to God.

If only the modern church grasped the truth that we stand from a position of victory. The victory does not occur in the book of Revelation, it has already occurred in the resurrection of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels.

Revival Part 9 – Pride hinders revival

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Continuing this week on the topic of humility as we are encouraged in 2 Chronicles 7:14; “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves……..”

God commands us to humble ourselves by judging our thoughts and motives by the standards of the Bible. We acknowledge that as Christians we need to submit ourselves to the authority of the Word of God.

One of the most alarming problems in the church today is the lack of Biblical literacy. Not just having access to the Bible, but studying it and bringing our lives under the authority of the Bible. The Bible is the infallible word of God, we need to acknowledge the standards of the Bible for our lives, even when the Supreme Court and others lower the standards.

Isaiah 66:2b states; ““These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

But what does it mean to tremble at God’s word? It does not mean to physically tremble when we read the Bible. It means that when we read the Bible we allow the Holy Spirit to let the words penetrate into our lives, so that we feel the vibrations of conviction when the Word of God reveals to us an area of our lives that falls short of God’s standard.

Pride is the primary reason why we wait for revival. The 4th Century theologians came up with a list of 7 deadly sins, pride is the first. So if pride is the biggest hindrance to revival, what do we do about it? 2 Chronicles 7:14 says we have to humble ourselves. We have to do our part and let God do his part. We submit ourselves to the sharp sword of the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin (see Hebrews 4:12).

As we read God’s Word we are forced to take an honest look at ourselves and determine how much pride we have. Pride in our self-sufficiency, is quickly melted away when we realize that we have nothing without the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The Welsh revivalists used to sing a song that goes; “Bend me lower, bend me lower, bend me lower, lower down at Jesus’ feet” They understood the need for humility and recognizing our dependence on the Gospel message.

Psalm 139:23 reminds us;

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Revival Part 8 – Humility

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Looking once more at 2 Chronicles 7:14; “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves……..”

 “Shall humble themselves”, how do we humble ourselves? As we think about that, what is humility?

Some people think that humility is putting yourself down, but sometimes that is a subtle way of getting people to notice you.

Humility is first and foremost having a right estimation of ourselves. We are not God, but then again we are not worms either. God created mankind in his own image and we need to live up to that image. Humble people see themselves as they really are in light of God’s created order.

Humility also has a certain amount of self-forgetfulness and people who are humble do not spend a lot of time thinking about themselves.

Humility recognizes that without God we can do nothing, those who are not humble somehow believe that without them God can do nothing.

People often put themselves down to give the impression that they are humble, but deep down inside they are hoping that someone will contradict them and tell them that they are great.

Humility is better understood if we look at the converse of humility – Pride.

CS Lewis wrote; “If you want to know how much pride you have ask yourself how much you dislike it in others. If you think you’re not conceited, it means that you are very conceited indeed; first step toward acquiring humility is to realize that one is proud. We are full of pride but we can’t see it. It blinds us to our own condition. So it is wise to admit it even though you do not see it or feel it. There can be no surer proof of a confirmed pride than a belief that one if sufficiently humble.”

Pride is the original sin. Daniel Rowlands, a famous welsh revivalist said; “we most resemble the devil when we are proud and we most resemble Christ when we are humble.”

Ps 138 verse 6 says; “though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.”

Unfortunately there is plenty of pride among Christians. We are proud that we are saved and not like the poor sinners! (See what Jesus said about that in Luke 18 verses 9-14). We are proud that we know the Bible, we can be proud about our ability to pray or we can even be proud of our humanitarian service.