Armed Forces Sunday – 2016 LSB #668
Text – Ephesians 6:11
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
STANDING FIRM AGAINST THE DEVIL
These are powerful words. Through St. Paul, the Holy Spirit tells us to “stand firm!” His apostolic tone is like a great military leader addressing professionally trained warriors before a battle. The Apostle knows the situation is desperate. Satan wants to win. Satan wants you to think you’re broken & defeated. Just quit! Give up! Surrender!
The Good News, the Gospel, is that Satan & his lies are defeated. We are washed in the blood of Christ! He won the victory on the cross. Jesus crushed & defeated the devil. He destroyed sin, death & the power of the devil – a promise made in Genesis 3 & fulfilled at Golgotha. The battle is won! Still, Paul orders us to stand firm, to hold the line.
The intense passion behind “stand firm” carries the tenacity & urgency to above all hold in place, fix bayonets & dig in! The command of Paul is more than a bright idea, a good piece of advice or a noble suggestion. As children of God redeemed under Christ we have purpose & meaning in our lives.
We aren’t supposed to sit around, leisurely meandering with friends while overlooking a nice restful scene. No! This is spiritual warfare with a cunning, deadly enemy. Stand firm means to be vigilant, keep alert, always be on guard. In a sermon preached 485 years ago, Martin Luther spoke about the urgency of being alert & standing firm:
“Therefore learn that the devil with his angels is not in India [or] in Ethiopia, but on the streets, in [your] room, in your house, in your bed, under your table, where you walk & where you stand. There they surround you like [a swarm of] bees.”
It doesn’t matter where you are, whether safe at home or deployed away from loved ones.
The devil prowls around seeking to find a breech in your perimeter. So whether standing watch aboard an aircraft carrier, working on an assembly line, or sending your children off to school… stay alert! Stand firm means “hold your ground – don’t let the enemy through.”
This is a desperate battle. It’s the spiritual Battle of the Bulge, the Thermopylae of conscience, the Midway of your soul, the Khe Sanh of truth, the Fallujah of eternal salvation & countless other battles where a determined enemy is held in place by a heroic stand of dedicated warriors. In our battle, the warriors are members of the Body of Christ.
Even though casualties are piling up, stand firm. You hold fast even as the enemy gears up for another assault. You hear the chanting, the brush rustling, enemy bugles in the distance. Stand firm! Do not run. Hold the line. Don’t abandon your post, rather lock your heels, hold your ground, show others to your right & your left that fear is just an emotion easily dismissed.
We fight battles every day. We know the victory belongs to Christ. It is God’s Son & promised Savior who suffered, bled & died for all humanity. It was by His death that Jesus crushed Satan & destroyed the devil’s schemes to place you firmly into his clutches.
You are a prizewinning champion. You are a member of the most victorious military force in world history. We are a triumphant army on a march through history. Christ Jesus stood firm & won. He leads the column! We share in His magnificent victory. He calls us through the water of Holy Baptism – the old Adam drowned & a new Adam brought forth.
Through the forgiveness of sins, Christ touches our inner being. We are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the sacrament of the altar, we partake of the great feast of His body & blood. We eat & drink, partake of forgiveness, eternal life, hope & peace. As redeemed warriors in Christ, we live a life of vigilance – a vocation where we stand firm.
Through faith, we forever trust in Him. We extend this trust & love to those on our left
& on our right. We reach out in mercy to our enemies extending a hand of grace & peace. The victorious Lord of all commands us to stand firm. And yet, this certainly is not easy. Many of you may think it’s not so much the battles but rather the daily living that makes being a “stand-firm warrior” so difficult.
It is a tough world out there, & even in here. Life has a way of dishing out ugly portions on your already crowded plate. You come to church Sunday after Sunday. You are tired. You bow your head in prayer & look at the person in front of you: “Why is his cancer in remission while my loved one is in the final stages of life?”
You think about a co-worker: “Why is that person debt free & happy? The only mail I get is from collection agencies.” You hear news of another loved one in trouble with the law or a friend struggling with a debilitating addiction. You may be working through deep issues of post-traumatic stress or loss of health. You wonder, “Is life is even worth it?”
You see the constant news of Tuesday’s elections & sigh. The world has gone haywire! Like the prophet you exclaim, “Evil is good & good is now evil!” But Jesus says, “Stand firm.”
Despite the vicious assault of Lucifer, there is good news. To stand firm without being told in what to stand firm is empty. Without the Lord Christ, it is all meaningless chatter, like the political campaigns. If Jesus is not the central figure of history the words are a senseless pep talk that ring hollow in the ears of those in a desperate battle; a sales pitch by a huckster.
The Apostle Paul highlights this in his letter to Galatia when he speaks of the futility of his zealousness for God’s law. Remember how he spoke of his high level of understanding of tradition? But it was all nothing & meaningless because it did not have Christ at its core. Standing firm without Christ is a disaster; with Christ, it has all the difference in the world.
We cannot beat the devil back or hold our ground alone. We must turn to God’s
promises found in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
We take up the call of living as a people belonging to God in spite of debt, danger, loss, futility, pain & countless other assaults thrown at our battle line. Our only hope is in God’s Son, Jesus our Savior. This isn’t about us being great, wonderful & victorious or having a smug pharisaic sense of self-importance or self-righteousness.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear: “And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)
It’s about Jesus & that fact alone emboldens us to hold our ground. We stand firm in Him! We persevere against attack by letting Christ take the battle to the devil’s doorstep. To put it another way, it is Christ alone. Look at the gifts He gives to us.
Our Baptism in Christ is a death knell in the ears of the devil. As newborns, we bring nothing to the fight. We’re helpless & in need of constant care, but Baptism is God’s activity. God transforms us through His Holy Spirit. Through water & the Word, we are made heirs of His kingdom & given the strength to stand firm even against the lies of the prince of darkness.
1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That Jesus rose from the dead emboldens us to stand firm.
In the Sacrament of the altar, we are nourished again & again with His body & blood for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28) This too emboldens us to stand firm. We continue the fight & see once more that the Lord is doing all the work at His table. The gift of forgiveness & absolution in Christ renews & restores us. In Acts 10, we hear Peter proclaiming to Cornelius & his household:
“And [Christ] commanded us to preach to the people & to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living & the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (10:42–43 ESV) Paul then elaborates on Peter’s sermon when he says in Colossians 1:
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance & patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness & transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
This too emboldens us to stand firm. We look again to our children, our spouse & co-workers, pardoned of our sins; able to lock arm & arm with our brothers & sisters in Christ. We stand firm as we continue to study God’s Word. (Psalm 1)
By meditating on His promises in Scripture, we are tied to the Body of Christ, which extends from the 1st Adam in the Garden of Eden to the 2nd Adam, Christ, who reconnects us to our heavenly Father. We see Yahweh moving through human history, redeeming His people & making them holy. This emboldens us to stand firm.
As warriors of faith, we know the joy & strength that prayer brings. Through Christ, we have direct access to our Creator. Through prayer, we enter into a Holy dialogue with our Strength & our Redeemer. King David wrote:
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, & He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, & the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, & He brought them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28–30) That Jesus has rescued us emboldens us to stand firm. We stand alongside the King of the Universe as victors. We have a responsibility then to tell the world how we stand firm. The world needs to know about this vast armada that belongs to God’s only-begotten Son.
We are called to bring in those who are crumbling under the onslaught of Satan & who are crushed by his evil schemes. Start at home by embracing your family with prayer. Take the Good News to the workplace. Tell those going through similar circumstances to put their trust in Christ. Be that city on a hill, that beacon of light to a world darkened by sin.
At all times, stand firm… in the love Christ Jesus has for you. 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. Cast afar this world’s vain pleasure & boldly strive for heavenly treasure. Be steadfast in the Savior’s might. Trust the Lord, who stands beside you, for Jesus from all harm will hide you. By faith you conquer in the fight. Take courage, weary soul! Look forward to the goal! Joy awaits you. The race well run, your long war won, your crown shines splendid as the sun. Amen. LSB 668:1-2
 Colossians 1:11–14 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet