Life Sunday – 2017 LSB #’s 575, 668, 585
Text – Ephesians 6:11
Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
HERE WE STAND
If we did not have the Word of God, wouldn’t we wonder what is going on in our world? Life, as many of us have known it, is under attack. Over 40 years ago, our Supreme Court legalized the killing of babies in the womb. In several states, people have been given the right to end their lives. The devaluing of the elderly continues to escalate.
Marriage has been redefined by the vote of only 5 people on the Supreme Court. The sex that anyone is born with is now totally up for grabs. Thankfully, Jesus unmasks for us what is happening in the words of John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal & kill & destroy. I came that they may have life & have it abundantly.” (ESV)
There are two opposing forces in this world: One is the culture of death & one is the culture of life. What a contrast is revealed between these two ways of living! The world offers destruction. Jesus offers abundant living. That we live on a battlefield is becoming more apparent to us all the time. Denying it is foolishness.
Our previous president made a point of saying that we were not at war with Islam. While that might be partially true, it is absolutely true that some elements of Islam are at war with us. Denying that is foolishness.
Remember, as St. Paul writes under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he’s writing to believers in Ephesus; thus, he can exhort them with the action required to stand. The believer has spiritual armor available. (Ephesians 6:14-18) Do you put it on each day? Denying yourself its power is foolishness. We have zero strength of our own.
The Word of God was given to remind us daily of our tremendous need for the armor
given to us. Verse 12 of chapter 6 reveals that “we do not wrestle against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities… against the spiritual forces of evil…” We are no match for Lucifer. We need the strength of another. That is why Paul’s exhortation in verse 10 is to “…be strong in the Lord …”
When Jesus Christ shed His blood for us on the cross He destroyed the devil’s victory. If we focus honestly on ourselves we see failure & sin, but in Jesus there is righteousness & perfection. He is our complete substitute & we are strong in Him. The rest of verse 10 says to be strong “in the strength of His might.” We need that strength simply to be honest.
As we think of young people being educated today, especially those right here in our schools, we remind them of who they are, of their identity, in Christ. Young people, you will face a very different world than your parents & grandparents faced. It will be critical for you to put on your armor because the battle for your soul will be fierce.
In addition, people need to consider the resources we have available. When a nation goes to war, they may so focus on the enemy they forget all the resources they have available for the battle. If you have enough firepower, you need to fear no enemy. So what are those resources? Lutherans refer to them as the “Means of Grace.”
God didn’t write His love & mercy in the sky, but chose to bring it to us in three ways. We have the chief means of grace in the Bible, God’s holy inerrant Word. There, God detailed for us His plan to save mankind from sin by sending Jesus into this world. In verse 17 we are reminded that we have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
When assaulted by doubts or mistakes in our past, we stand on the Word of God. In your past you may have “played around” in the devil’s minefield sexually, but if you repent of your sin, God’s Word says that sin is gone. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) You can stand for life today, even if you have had an abortion. When you bring any sin out of the darkness & into the light, Jesus disarms the enemy. The devil can no longer hold that sin over you.
Christ is your righteousness, & you stand in Him. God’s Word declares it to be true, but not only has God given His Word; He’s given us two powerful & visible means to remind us that in Christ we are new creatures. We are washed clean. When we were baptized into Christ’s death & resurrection, the death of Jesus became our death to sin.
At Baptism, Jesus’ resurrection became our resurrection to a new life. On earth, we stand in that relationship with our Savior by faith. When you are with others & a life issue comes up, don’t fear to speak up for the blessing of life because God’s Son is alive in you.
In addition, God assures us when we come to the Lord’s Supper that Jesus gave His righteous, spotless, blameless life for us. His body & blood are offered & given to you as the guarantee that in Christ your sin is forgiven. We come before the altar as repentant sinners, confessing no confidence in ourselves, nor in human nature.
Rather, we have the utmost confidence in God’s Son who, in our place, took all that the devil could muster. It is Jesus who stood against every single temptation of the devil as He quoted the Word of God, “It is written.” (Matthew 4:4a ESV) Yes, you are in a battle, but because of your great resources, you can stand as you put on the armor of God.
Secondly, although we need the armor required in order to stand, there’s no need to take out a loan to get it. The armor has been supplied by our Savior, & it’s not missing a single part. We need the “full armor” (Ephesians 6:11 NASB) & that’s repeated in verse 13 for emphasis:
“…take up the full armor.”
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, & having put on the breastplate of righteousness, &, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; & take the helmet of salvation, & the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer & supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:14-18 ESV)
Think of how vulnerable a soldier is who is missing protective equipment. You, who are in Christ, take up the armor! Parents have an important role to play with their children. You brought them to the Lord in baptism, but have you taught them how to use the armor God has given? God’s Word is absolute truth, yet most of our culture doesn’t believe in any such thing.
Your children are growing up in a world of relativism. Teach them what truth really is when they hear the news media, & how to deal with a suggestive advertisement during a TV program. Fathers, instruct your sons to turn their eyes away from scantily dressed women & to reserve their sensitive minds for the one woman to whom they will vow their life before God.
It’s helpful if we realize this armor comes from God. It’s been tested by Jesus, who dealt with the devil for 40 days & nights in the wilderness before beginning His ministry. He dealt with the devil by using the Word of God. “It is written” was His main defense. It is good armor.
In the OT, you remember when David was going to battle Goliath he was offered Saul’s armor. David tried it on, but it was untested. He could not go to battle with it. Instead, he used his sling & stones. Believers, we must use the Word of God as our standard of truth – what God calls good. He created life & called it “good.” After He created man, He called it “very good.”
Who would have thought that such fundamental issues of life would ever be challenged in our world, but we have God’s Word to stand on. And stand we must, for there’s a war going on. The two opposing forces of death & life are very active. St. Paul describes the activity of the devil as “schemes.” (4:11 ESV)
These are not arbitrary situations we believers face, but well-calculated schemes. There’s thought & planning behind the activity, along with an evil strategy. In a game between children of the neighborhood, there is no well-thought-out strategy. In professional football, the thought & planning goes on into the wee hours of the morning. So it is with the devil. Lucifer was a high-ranking angel before his fall. He knows strategy very well, & always plans out his schemes. We don’t live in a neutral world, so we pray against his strategy every day.
That is the last, but not least, piece of armor we put on. In our churches, we pray against the forces of evil in Jesus’ name. Daniel 10:10-21, give a picture of the schemes of the devil. It appears like a spiritual chess board with princes of kingdoms in this world doing battle with the heavenly angelic realm. Consider verses 11-13 (ESV):
“And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, & stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.’ And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand & humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, & I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me 21 days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.’”
Daniel was in prayer, humbling himself before God, & it had influence on the spiritual realm. What power the believer in Christ has available by using the armor of God! And let me remind you that God has not changed, nor has the point of access to His throne been altered. His children have direct access through Jesus their Savior.
Lastly, with what attitude should we stand? Ephesians 6:13b tells us: “…stand firm!” What picture comes to mind when you think of someone standing firm? Perhaps a U.S. Marine? How about a person trained in karate? If you watch carefully, they don’t stand with feet together but apart, so they can withstand an attack from any direction.
That is what the armor of God does for the believer. It makes us invincible in Christ! The devil cannot overcome one who trusts in Jesus. Remember: It is the strength of our Lord & Savior that empowers us. What a blessed place the believer has to stand – in the perfect righteousness of Christ! So, believer, daily put on the armor that is supplied to you in Jesus. You have no strength of your own, but the Word of God tells you of all the armor that is required to stand – the full armor of God. We stand here against the schemes of the devil, & against those schemes any one of us can stand firm in Christ.
Augustine, when tempted to plunge into the old life, said: “Thou fool, dost not thou know that thou art carrying God around with thee.” Oh how the believer in Christ needs to remember that God’s Spirit lives within. This is no longer my life, it belongs to Jesus.
Yes, you live in the midst of a battle between the culture of death & the culture of life. Stand firm in Christ, where the abundant life has always been & always will be! Amen.
Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; for Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious; against all foes be thus victorious, for God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield to Christ, our shield, & we, the victors, hold the field. Amen. LSB 668:1
Pastor Dean R. Poellet