Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Full Armor of God


Father God, we praise your name for all that you have done for us in the past, present and future. I ask that you give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:15-19 (revised by me)).
In the name of your precious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

I want begin by telling you a little about me. I grew up in South Alabama, where I attended, was confirmed and baptized at the First United Methodist Church. I worked there at the age of 16 as the Chancel Choir Director. The next year, I worked at Blue Lake Methodist Church camp in Andalusia, Alabama. I went to work at various jobs, during which time, I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Troy University. I got married, had 3 children and then divorced. I moved to Texas 3 years ago, whereupon I immediately joined Buda United Methodist Church. Since then I have served as an usher, a liturgist, a choir member, a member of the Evangelism Committee and the Recording Secretary for the Administrative Council at BUMC. I became a Certified Lay Speaker in May of 2010 and began serving on the Austin District Board of Lay Speaking at the same time. I also serve on the Hays Praise Emmaus board, the Greater Austin Emmaus Board, the Lay Director of the Austin/Crossroads District Chrysalis board and the Secretary and Executive Committee member of the Southwest Texas Conference Chrysalis board.

As a friend of mine once said, it has taken me a long time to learn not to make eye contact with the person approaching me with pen and clipboard in hand.

Old Testament Reading: Proverbs 20:18 Make plans by seeking advice, if you wage war, obtain guidance.

New Testament Reading: Ephesians, Chapter 6, v. 10-18

I mentioned that I had served as a camp counselor at a Methodist Church camp at the age of 17. After that, I entered into college, and gradually fell away from the church, as many college students do. I refer to this period as my period of wandering in the wilderness. I would stay in the wilderness for a long period of time. Not until after the birth of my first son did I return to the church. The reason that I returned was a desire to raise my children properly: with a foundation upon God.

When I returned, I did so with a hunger for the word of God. I wanted to deepen my spiritual understanding.

During this period, I ran into a challenge. This challenge came in the form of a conflict with a family member, who shall remain anonymous.
I am thankful to tell you today that I don’t remember the reason for the disagreement. But I do remember the frustration and anger.

And it was only a small conflict because, in spite of my great anger, I kept my mouth shut to her about the matter. Instead, I had decided to try to take the Christian approach to this difficulty. I wanted to behave as Christ would have me to behave. And I have to confess that it was difficult. But I was determined. I had heard that all of the answers to life’s problems are found in the Bible, so I decided to go to my Bible to find the solution: that unique thing or things that I needed to withstand this trial in such a way that would be pleasing to God. And hopefully, I would not have to compromise anything that I cared deeply about. Being out of fellowship for many years, meant that I could not pick up my Bible and go straight to the scripture that I needed. It meant that I would have to search. So search I did, because I was determined. And I searched, and searched. When finally, I found the important scripture that would become a turning point in my faith.

I found this in Ephesians, Chapter 6, verse 10-18.

“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. 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. 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.”

I was amazed! This is just what I was looking for!

First, I was told to be strong in the Lord. I was trying.
Second, I was being told that the devil has schemes that he will use against me, and for which I can be prepared with the following weapons:

1. Belt of truth. This is the word of Jesus Christ. John 14:6 tells us that “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

John 14:16 -17 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

2. Breastplate of righteousness: Righteousness means right standing with God. How do we do this? We have to be sinless. This is impossible for us. So, we can be released from the spiritual death of sin through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The blood that he shed on the cross provides the atonement for our sins and only through the acceptance of him do we receive this atonement. Only in atonement do we receive right standing with God. So our righteousness is not of our own doing, but through grace; through Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. Feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Gospel means good news and/or God-story.

4. Shield of faith-Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is when we know, that we know, that we know, that we know that we know.

5. Helmet of salvation- Salvation is being saved from sin or receiving a way to keep sin from ruling us: There is only one way to salvation and that is Jesus Christ.

6. The sword of the spirit-This is the word of God. John 1:1-2

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

This refers to Jesus Christ. He is the word.

This also refers to the Bible. We need to read our Bibles to provide a sword of the spirit, or ammunition and weapons.

7. Prayer-Pray always for all of the saints. This is our conversation with God. Hopefully, it occurs daily, hourly, and/ or minute by minute.

First Thessalonians 5:17-18 tells us to “pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (combination of different versions of the Bible)

I have found that a lot of pastors do not like the subject of spiritual warfare. I hear many different reasons given for this. One reason that they give is that they don’t want to glorify the devil. They don’t want to dwell on the negative. They would rather focus on the love of God. And some will even go as far as to say that they don’t believe in a devil or evil spirits or spiritual warfare. It is because of the goodness and love of God that I am able to address this issue.

Interestingly, I have heard some Methodist pastors say that they don’t believe in a devil that wages war against us. I have gently reminded them that when we joined the church, we had to answer a series of questions. One was a question of whether we renounce evil. If you answer yes to that question and a few others and ask to be admitted to membership, you are admitted. If you renounce something, you are also declaring your belief in it, for we can not renounce that in which we do not believe.

I said earlier that we had moved to Texas over 3 years ago and immediately afterwards, I joined BUMC. A couple of weeks later, I sent my oldest son on a mission trip with the youth group, which was kind of mean of me, because he didn’t know anybody at the time. He learned a lot on that mission trip. One of the main things that he learned was how to text. He came home texting like crazy. I remember thinking, “that wasn’t exactly what I wanted you to learn when I sent you on a mission trip”.

I heard a devotional one time encouraging us to pray with the frequency with which teenagers text. They are continuously talking to each other all day through texting. If we were to pray like our teenagers text, we would have a relationship with God that is beyond our imagination.

I mentioned that I had learned three things from this scripture. I already addressed the first two things. The third thing that I learned from this scripture is that it is OK to get frustrated. We just need to focus our frustration in the right direction. We shouldn’t get angry with the individual. But with the powers and principalities and rulers of flesh that the individual allows to run his life or to influence him.

That was a solution that we can readily accept. See, I needed to put my anger aside and forgive my family member. That is hard to do when we are angry at someone. But when we can look at the situation from the perspective that our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against the Prince of Darkness or Satan, then we are able to separate the cause from the person and accept that we can still walk in love with one another even when we are struggling with the actions of others. That is a path of forgiveness that we can accept. We can pray for anyone that we are angry at with sincerity by praying that the powers and principalities that are influencing their life be overcome. We can sincerely ask for a blessing for someone who would otherwise be an enemy.

And to do this, we must rely on Jesus. Here is a review of the seven spiritual weapons:

Our belt of truth is Jesus Christ.
Our breastplate of righteousness is Jesus Christ.
Our covering for our feet is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our shield of faith is our belief in Jesus Christ.
Our helmet of salvation is Jesus Christ.
Our sword of the spirit is Jesus Christ.

He is our truth, our righteousness, our salvation and our good news. Through faith and obedience in him, and prayerfully establishing a daily relationship with him and prayerfully studying his word, we will be ready to fight against evil.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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