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July 30, 2023
We’re at War – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 6:10-13

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series


Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians chapter six. If you’re visiting with us, we’re in the book of Ephesians. We’re working our way through this text verse by verse. We’re in the closing stages of Paul’s correspondence to the saints of Ephesus, and for some weeks, we’re going to look at verses 10 through 18. This is the passage that deals with spiritual warfare and the need to put on the whole armor of God because you’re in an evil day and we want you to remain standing for Jesus Christ during this evil day. Now, we’re going to look at verses 10 through 13 in the first message that’s going to take us two weeks. This is only part one of a message I’ve entitled, We Are At War. I hope you realize, we are at war and it’s got a spiritual dimension as well as a physical dimension, and I want to make you aware of that. So open your Bible and we’ll begin a two-part sermon here on Ephesians 6:10-13.
I’m reading from the New King James translation of scripture. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand.” So reads God’s Word. William Wallace was probably introduced to you in the movie Braveheart. He was a Scottish patriot and his life came to an end in August of 1305. On that day, August 23, 1305, he was tried at Westminster Hall in London. He was charged with treason against the English crown.
He had no legal rights during the trial. In fact, they tried to silence him ,but he wouldn’t be silenced. And history tells us that he responded to the charge eloquently and courageously. And I want to just quote his words. Imagine this scene. 1305, he stands alone. He’s being condemned by the English crown, charged with treason. Here’s how he replies, “I cannot be a traitor for I owe him,” that is the king, “no allegiance. He’s not my sovereign. He never received my homage whilst life is in this persecuted body. He shall never receive it. And to the other points of which I’m accused, I freely confess them all. As governor of Scotland, I have been an enemy to its enemies. I have slain the English, I have mortally opposed the English king. I have stormed and taken towns and castles which were unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done in jury to the houses or ministers of worship, I repent me of my sin. But it is not of Edward of England, I shall ask pardon.”
Nor did Edward give him. It before the day was done, August 23, 1305, William Wallace was dragged behind horses through the streets of London, the right side of the city. He was hung until he was semi-conscious. Then he was disemboweled while he was alive. Then they hung and quartered him. They tied him to four horses which tore his limbs from his body, and for good measure they beheaded him. It’s a staring story. I think we catch some of that in the emotion of the motion picture Braveheart. But as I’ve reflected on both the movie and the history behind it, the story of this Scottish patriot is staring. William Wallace was not found wanting in the fight for Scotland’s freedom. Her enemies were his enemies. That’s the phrase that jumped out there as he spoke to the English crown.
And he described himself as the governor of Scotland and he says, “I admit her enemies are my enemies.” He had stood up and morally opposed the English king and his dragons during what he considered to be an evil day in the land of Scotland. The resolve and the bravery of William Wallace is to me a call to duty for all Christians, because ours is an evil day during which the truth of the gospel, the glory of King Jesus, the cause of righteousness and the lives of God’s people are under attack. A.W. Tozer, the Christian writer reminded us and we need to be reminded lest we forget that this world is not a playground. It’s a battleground. You and I are living behind enemy lines. This world is not friendly to the righteous.
It is our called to duty to show a brave heart to oppose that which stands in opposition to the Kingdom of God. That’s why Paul in writing to young Timothy says in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith.” And as Paul describes his own end in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, looking back over his life, he says, “I have run the race, I have kept the faith. I have fought the fight.” Folks, you and I are in a fight for our lives. Know it or not, like it or not, we’re in a war and we need to begin living as if we were in a battle for our lives because in fact we are, for our spiritual lives, for our moral health. So with that in mind, that’s come a begin to look at verses 10 through 13 of Ephesians chapter six, a message we have entitled, We Are at War.
This is the longest passage anywhere in the New Testament dealing with spiritual warfare. So we would do well to sit up and listen. Now in chapters one, two and three, Paul has concentrated on the Christian’s wealth. In union with Jesus Christ, we have many, many blessings, forgiveness, the ceiling of the Spirit, God’s help and strength. In chapters four, five and then to six, verse nine, we looked at the Christians walk. See in the first three chapters, the grammar of the Greek is the indicative and it’s a description and a statement of all that God has done for us. And then it moves to the imperative, which is what God expects of us, given what God is doing in us. The outworking of our faith in practical ways, we’re not to be given the anger, we’re to fight lust. We’re to love our wives, we’re to submit to our husbands, we’re to obey our parents. We are to work with an eye to our master in heaven.
And now, the second half of chapter six, we look at the Christian’s warfare, the Christian’s wealth, all that we enjoy, the Christians walk, all that God asks of us and the Christian’s warfare, what we’re up against in seeking to live for God’s glory. Now let’s put the text in its context a little bit more. Here we are dealing with the devil and spiritual warfare. Here we are dealing with spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Paul’s picking up themes he has already introduced to the Ephesians back in chapter one, verse 21. He talks about the fact that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has exalted him above principalities and powers. In Jesus enthronement, at the right hand of God, there’s a declaration that sin and hell and Satan have been defeated and Christ is victorious.
Chapter two, verse two, he reminds them that before they were saved, they were dead in their sins. And they walked according to the course of this world, and according to what the prince of the power of darkness. Chapter four, verse 27, they’re warned that if they give way to unbridled anger and unrighteous anger, the devil will be given a foothold in their life and will manipulate that situation to everybody’s heart. So he’s already introduced Christ’s victory over spiritual powers. He’s already talked about the devil and his ministry against God’s people. Another thing about why we’re looking at this and why Paul is speaking long and hard about spiritual warfare is that in chapter four, he told them to put off the old man and to put on the new man.
And he’s still thinking about that because he tells us here, doesn’t he, to take up or to put on the whole armor of God, verse 13. Here’s another thread we can tie to this passage in chapter five, verse 18. He told us to be filled with the Spirit, to come under the control and influence of the Spirit just as a man can be controlled by alcohol. So you and I are not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled and influenced by the Holy Spirit who indwells us and who wants to lead us if we will walk in step with Him. And the reason we have got to be filled by the spirit because our Christian life involves spiritual conflict and our foe is powerful, and it’s going to require us as you see in verse 10, to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might, given the wiles of the devil, given the wicked one who has wicked designs on us.
So that’s the context. Plus we could add historically, if you go back to Acts 19:18-19. This city was marked by the occult. We’ve already got the temple of Diana, we’ve got idolatry that dominates the skyline of the city. We see in Acts 19:18-19 when some people got saved, that they burned their magic books and all the paraphernalia that once had marked their life in the occult. So it’s not surprising that Paul’s not addressing that reality. They have left the dark side, they’re now walking in the light, and Paul wants to remind them what’s at stake. And then here’s another interesting little footnote historically, look at chapter six, verse 20. Paul describes himself as an ambassador in chains. I think that’s significant because here he is describing the conflict that you are involved in and just as a physical soldier has battle fatigues and equipment, you and I have been equipped by God for this warfare. And he describes the uniform and the equipment of a Roman soldier.
I wonder where he got that idea. Now, he certainly would’ve got it just walking the streets of the Roman Empire and the Middle East under Roman rule. But here he is an ambassador in [inaudible 00:12:06]. He was accompanied by a Roman soldier for a time wherever he went. And no doubt as he looked at that man, it reminded him of physical warfare and his helmet and his sword and his breastplate on his belt and his shoes, and he said, “You know what? There’s a spiritual parallel to that.” So here we are verses 10 through 13, we are at war. And before we’re done, we’re going to look at the exhortation, we’re going to look at the enemy, we’re going to look at the engagement, and we’re going to look at the era we’re in, the day of evil. But before we get there, I just want to spend a little bit of time with you pastorally reminding you of the reality of spiritual warfare, that you wrestle not against flesh and blood only, but against principalities and powers, that you’re up against it, that you have an adversary whose hot on your tail.
And I think sometimes we forget that. I think we sometimes, either knowingly or unknowingly, downplay this reality, even become ignorant of it. Paul warns us here, “Put on the whole armor of God.” Verse 11, “That you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” What are the wiles of the devil? I hope you know because they are reared against you, or are you ignorant of those? We’ll get into that. We’ll show you what that is. It’s interesting in 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul says this to the Corinthians, “You are not ignorant, or don’t be ignorant of the devil’s devices.” It’s a Greek word that means strategies, plans. Just as military have strategies, so Satan has got strategies because he’s in a war against God and His people and the nation of Israel. 1 Peter 5:8 says, what? “Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary, the one who opposes you.”
And we’re not talking about your boss or somebody in the street that’s fallen out with you. We’re talking about a benevolent figure with a lot of power, who’s a fallen angel. He’s your adversary and he’s got a host of helpers, malignant minions we call demons, and Satan is going about to destroy. And Peter says, “Are you consciously aware of that? Do you remind yourself as you go out into the world and live your life to be vigilant?” So here’s what I want to do for a few moments. This is kind of a sidebar, but a strategic one before we even get into the text. Why are Christians at times so ignorant of the nature of the Christian life and the spiritual warfare that’s attached to it? Why are we so ignorant of the devil, his nature and his works and his plans? I think there’s several reason. Sam Storms has got a helpful book on spiritual warfare. I don’t dot every I and cross every T, but on the whole it’s excellent. Understanding Spiritual Warfare by Sam Storms.
He suggested 12 reasons why we are often ignorant and I’m not going to give you the 12, I kind of collapsed them and did a little bit of my own thinking. But here’s some things that are helpful as to why you may not be as vigilant as you ought to be this morning. Think about this. Number one, ignorance of the Bible, ignorance of the Bible. Harry Ironside, the brethren writer, said that the largest denomination in the world was the church of the ignorant brethren. We’ve got a lot of ignorant Christians, illiterate Christians who don’t know their bibles and their theology. Thank God if you avail yourself of all we offer you here at Kindred, that won’t be you. And often Paul writes in his letters to remove ignorance. 1 Corinthians 12:1, “I write so that you’re not ignorant of spiritual gifts.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “I write so that you’re not ignorant of the condition of those who have died in Christ before the rapture.” And 2 Corinthians 2:11, he said, “You know what? I don’t want you to be ignorant of Satan’s devices.”
And if you are, that’s on you because the Bible tells you of his origin. The Bible tells you of his authority and his power. The Bible tells you of the demons that surround him, the devices and plans that they have, the hurt that they can inflict and yet the victory we can know through Jesus Christ. Don’t be ignorant of that. The great reformed theologian, Charles Hodge, said this, “If Satan is really the prince of the power of darkness, the ruler and the God of this world, if he is the author of physical and moral evil, the great enemy of God, of Christ, of His people, full of cunning and malice, if he is constantly seeking whom he may destroy, seducing people into sin, blinding minds and suggesting evil and skeptical thoughts. If all of this is true (and it is) then to be ignorant of it,” he says, “or to deny it or to enter into this conflict as though Amelia struggled between good and bad principles in her own heart, is to rush blindfolded to destruction.”
I watch war movies of red military history. I’ve been on military bases. I’ve interacted with the British army when I was a police officer in Northern Ireland. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen a blindfolded soldier because the whole idea of that’s a ridiculous image, isn’t it? How can you fight blindfolded? But what Charles Hodge is warning, there are Christians who are blindfolded soldiers, who have forgot that this world is not a playground and a battleground and they are blindfolded in their ignorance and indifference towards the enemy that is set against them, their family, their walk with God, their life. Number two, embarrassment and pride. It’s another reason why at times we downplay this issue. We don’t think about the devil as much as we should or we don’t understand what we’re up against. See, in this materialistic world, in this antis super naturalistic culture, in this technologically advanced society, the whole idea of a personal devil and a host of demons is mocked and ridiculed.
Try and talk about the devil next time at the coffee break at work. If you’re a PhD doctor or a PhD engineer, all of a sudden your friends will be beginning to wonder if you bought your PhD on the internet because nobody with the brain would believe in ghosts and goblins. And in this materialistic technologically advanced society, you can be embarrassed to talk about these realities. If you do, you’ll do them in quiet company and in hush tones. Paul doesn’t. He’s got a full throated defense of the reality of the devil and the war that he wages against God’s people. But we can be embarrassed at times. We know that people at our office or our friends will think, “They’re nuts. They might as well believe in the Loch Ness monster as believe in devils and demons.” And the fear of man becomes a snare, and pride and a desire to be accepted and seen as cool can sometimes get in the way of you and I reminding ourselves this is a reality.
That’s why I appreciate some of the words that were spoken by Justice Scalia, who was no intellectual slouch, brilliant man whose legacy we’re thankful for on the Supreme Court. He was a devout Catholic by conviction. He was once interviewed by Jennifer Senior, who was a writer for the New York Magazine. This was 2013, and in this interview this woman, Jennifer Senior, asked the Justice if he believed in heaven and hell, to which he replied, “Of course I do, don’t you?” She kind of shook her head no. “Oh my,” said Scalia. He pointed out that just because you don’t believe in heaven and hell doesn’t mean you’re not going to one place or the other. Everyone’s going to one place or the other. Senior was about to move on to another subject. She was kind of getting a little uneasy with the idea that she may be going to hell, yet he lean forward and said, “By the way, I also believe in the devil.” She was shocked. I mean it’s 2013. This man’s a very good thinker. She said, “You do?”
He says, “Of course. He’s a real person.” She come back, “Well, what’s the evidence for his existence?” And here’s what that man said. He said, “It’s curious. In the gospels, the devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off the cliff. He’s possessing people and whatnot, and that doesn’t happen very much anymore. It’s because he’s smart.” Senior asked, “And then what is the devil doing now?” To what he replied, “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or believe in God. That’s much more successful.” We’re in full agreement. Satan has produced a culture that’s embarrassed to talk about Satan. How smart is that? He’s the father of lies and the greatest lie he can tell is that he doesn’t exist. Here’s another reason why we tend to play this dine, we ignore spiritual warfare. The victory of the cross. At first that’s going to sound ironic.
What do you mean the victory of the cross gets in the way of spiritual warfare? Pastor, if you know your Bible, you’ll know that’s the ground of our victory in spiritual warfare. I get it. Right? We’ve already mentioned Ephesians 1:21-22 where Jesus has been exalted above principalities and powers. If we look at Colossians 2:15, we’re told that the Lord Jesus Christ, through His death and atoning work through His burial, resurrection, and enthrallment has declared victory over Satan. He has put that on display for all to see. Sin has been paid for, the domain of darkness and death has been conquered, and men who are in connectivity to Satan can be transformed and someday Jesus Christ will bring history to a close and He will redeem and glorify His people, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. So pastor, what do you mean that the victory of the cross can get in the way of our understanding of spiritual warfare?
Well, what I simply mean is that although Jesus has defeated and sealed the eternal fate of Satan, that does not automatically protect us against a tonic attack. He’s defeated, but he’s not dead. He’s defeated and he’s not yet imprisoned and he’s not yet downed. That comes at the end of history. So while I would maybe say in the light of the cross and the victory of Jesus, the devil is not alive and well, I would say the devil is alive and wounded, and knowing his fate, knowing that the end is coming, he’s desperate, he’s angry, he’s vicious. He still possesses power and he still presents a damaging threat. Your adversary is going about, wounded, angry, knowing that his fate is sealed, he nevertheless fights. In fact, many commentators and biblical preachers have used this analogy. The difference between D-Day and VE Day, are those terms familiar to you? D-Day is when the allies landed on the 6th of June, 1944 in great numbers on the beaches of Normandy, they created a beachhead and from there they advanced to Berlin and brought down the Third Reich.
Thank you to those brave men and women. But, that victory didn’t come until 8th of May, 1945, when you have VE Day when victory was declared in Europe, 336 days in between. And if you study second World War history, which we did in school in the United Kingdom, you’ll realize that for 336 days, Germany still fought. In fact, after the landing of the allies in France, which sealed the fate of the German Third Reich, some of the most vicious fighting took place during those 336 days. It was during those 336 days, they continued to implement the final solution in the destroying and death of 6 million Jews. The Germans were defeated in that sense. Their fate was sealed and it happened in 1945, but they fought, and although Jesus has dealt the death blow to Satan and all his malicious forces in this life, He has crushed Satan’s head, Genesis 3:15, his death has disarmed the pars and authorities that oppose us.
He refuses to give up. The Germans knew shortly after D-Day that the game was up, but they didn’t give up. And I think you and I need to remind ourselves, although we enjoy the victory that Jesus has won, and our enemy is defeated, and we can live in the victory of Jeses’ victory, Satan’s not about to give up. He wants to do some damage before the end comes, so be very much aware. Here’s another issue, a western worldview, that gets in the way. What do I mean by that? Well, in the world in which Paul and the Ephesians lived, it was a spiritually minded world. One of the commentators says across Asia Minor, both Gentiles and Jews who did not know Jesus pursued a variety of rituals that promised them protection within a dizzy and spiritual environment. We noticed in Acts 19 that when people got saved, they burned their magic books and paraphernalia.
But today in the west, in an anti-supernatural mindset, in a materialistic world, in a world dominated by scientific rationalism, the idea of angels and demons are just not part of the conversation. Life is still largely defined by enlightenment theory and scientific rationalism. Life is measured simply by what you see, what you hear, what you smell, and what you taste. And that gets in the way of our ability to appreciate Ephesians 6:10-13. What about the fear of imbalance? Is that not one of the factors sometimes in us staying away from this issue, not reading up in it, not getting serious about it? Because we know that within the church, there are professing Christians who are preoccupied with spiritual warfare. Those in the charismatic movement, in the midst of charismatic mania, they talk about demonic activity all the time. They see demons everywhere. There’s the demon of debt, there’s the demon of disease, there’s the demon of divorce.
And our understanding of indwelling sin reminds us, “Hold on a minute. If someone is in debt, it’s probably because of their own selfish decisions and living outside the boundaries of disciplined discipleship.” There’s no demon of debt. There’s people who get into debt. Now, the demon might tempt them, but their flesh is what brings about that lifestyle that imprisons them financially. So we react against that. Demons become the whipping boy to excuse Christians for disobedience. And so we see imbalance, we see extremes, we see extreme promises and extreme patterns, but here’s the problem. We tend to overreact and we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water. And so we move from their imbalance to our own imbalance, which is cynicism, indifference, ignorance, and unwillingness to wrestle through biblically to a place of balance. Their imbalance leads to an overreaction on our part leaning us to another imbalance.
It’s a pendulum swing. Jesus warns us, doesn’t He, just as a principle? Be careful about straining at gnats and swallowing camels, missing the big picture. C.S. Lewis talked of imbalance once and the need for balance. He drew this illustration of a drunk man on a horse who eventually fell off one side of the horse because he was drunk and then he clamored back onto the horse and because he was drunk, he fell off the other side of the horse, fell off both sides, couldn’t balance himself. You know what the balance is, folks? A healthy regard for the devil and his demons, and the reality of spiritual warfare. Here’s a last thought on this. I hope this is helpful. I thought it would be. If it’s not, don’t tell me because I’ve studied it and I’m spending about 20 minutes of my sermon on it, but I hope it is. I’m sure it is.
Here’s the last danger perhaps, belief that Christians cannot be demonized. Let me explain. I think sometimes our passivity or indifference towards spiritual warfare and the threat that we face comes through a conviction that you know what? The devil may be real and he may be powerful, but the Bible teaches me that Christians can never be possessed by demons. And by the way, amen. I agree to that. That’s the position here at Kindred. See, once you become a Christian, you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. In fact, you’re not only indwelled by him, according to Ephesians 1:13-14, we looked at it, you’re sealed by Him. When He comes into your body, into your house, so to speak, he closes the door and now it’s His house. Your body is His temple. And I can assure you, He’s not going to share space with a demon from hell. Plus, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Amen?
So you can never ever be possessed by a demon, ever. But here’s the danger concerning that wonderful truth. Don’t let it lull you into spiritual false sense of security because here’s the balance. While we cannot be possessed by the devil, we can be oppressed. He can attack. What did Jesus say to Peter? Satan has desired to sift you, [inaudible 00:32:19] you, bring you down. We’re told by Peter himself, the devil goes about seeking him he may desire. So while we cannot be possessed, we can be oppressed. He will attack, he will threaten. So don’t let the idea that although we can’t be demonized, that we can’t be threatened. All right, all of that said, do you want to look at Ephesians 6:10-13? Okay, let’s just begin looking. Remember at the exertion, the enemy, the engagement, the era. We’re only going to cover like one and a half points. Here’s the first thought, verse 10, just the first word.
“Finally.” I want to spend a bit of time talking about that one word, finally. Now, Paul uses that in several of his letters and in most cases it signals the beginning of his closing remarks. You get that in the beginning of Philippines 4, and I’ve always taken some comfort in the fact he says, “Finally,” and then he writes a whole other chapter, about 25% of material is left. So when I tell you here’s my closing thought, there’s probably about 25% of material that’s left and we’re going to squeeze it in. But typically this word means the final word, the last exertion, the wrap-up. Kind of like Paul would be saying, after all that I have said, here’s the one I’ve saved for last. And by the way, that could well be what he means here because he’s already reduced the person of Satan, their life apart from Christ, Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of God, and his triumph over the powers and principalities of powers.
I get that, but I think there’s another way of looking at this text because this word can be translated, hence forth. In fact, the same Greek word is translated, hence forth in Galatians 6:17. So here’s another way to read it, hence forth, or from now on, or here’s a better rendering, for the time remaining. I like that. Let’s read it that way. Here’s what Paul says in verse 10. “For the remaining time, the day of evil, the period between the first coming of Jesus and the second coming, when Satan reigns and hasn’t yet been chained or cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20-22, “For the time remaining, be strong in the power of God and put on the whole armor of God.” I like that. Here’s what Paul is saying, just in that one word in this one verse, going forward and for the rest of your life, you can’t afford to be weak spiritually. You can’t afford to be undressed without the armor of God. You’ve got in the remaining time to stay strong in God’s might.
Paul is saying this is the way it’s going to be the rest of the journey to heaven, a fight, a struggle. You’re going to wrestle not with flesh and blood. That’s the foreground. There’s something greater in the background. You’re wrestling against principalities and powers. You cannot lay your sword down. You cannot call a truce with the enemy. You cannot go AWOL. It’s a fight to the end, the whole journey home to heaven. The Christian life will never get that easy. It’ll be enjoyable, satisfying, what a blessing. But Satan’s going to fight over every inch of your spiritual growth and that’s going to require you to fight and push back each and every day. The Christian life is a struggle against the flesh, the world, and the devil. And we must keep putting on the whole armor of God for the whole of our lives, for we’re no much for the enemy. It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? It is, but it’s not defeating because we can be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.
Jesus will lead us in triumph. We can stand in the evil day, but I just want to make you aware of the fact that that’s the Christian life. It’s a fight. It’s a bit like Nehemiah 4:21-23, that was a physical fight against the enemies of Jerusalem and Israel. But there at the end of chapter four, Nehemiah says, “You know what? We worked in our clothes and we slept in our clothes, and we put men on the walls while some of us slept, and the only time we changed was just the wash of the clothes and put them back on.” It’s a 24 hour deal. They were vigilant around the clock. Remember what we said, 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Paul speaking about the end of his life and he says, “I have fought the fight right to the end,” because it is a fight to the end. I would never wanted to be a soldier that died in the last 30 minutes of any war. I’ve often watched movies and we know that even when truces have been made, men die.
Imagine if you watch Bond of Brothers and they fought their whole way through Europe. Some of them died in the last week or two until VE Day. My friend, I don’t want to die in the last few miles of my Christian walk. It’s going to have to be a fight the whole way in. It’s a long war. It’s a hard war. Let me try and illustrate it. I’ve told you before of my time in the police service in Northern Ireland, I was in the reserve force for six years in North Belfast. That conflict in Northern Ireland last for 30 years, from 1968 to 1998. It has been described as the Long War. It was the longest engagement Britain had to deal with in its history, dealing with counterterrorism and the war that the IRA waged on British rule in Ireland. I’ve told you that during my time in the police, we were as likely to be killed off duty as on duty, in uniform, out of uniform. In fact, the IRA killed policemen even after they retired.
You were always vigilant. You could never be not. You watched where you went, you took different routes to different places. You carried your service pistol wherever you went because in uniform, out of uniform, in church, on a golf course, in a shopping mall with your wife, you were always in danger and police officers were killed in all of those places and the steps of churches, golf courses, shopping malls. I have a friend here in America as a Northern Irishman, Paul, he ministers for Christ in Nebraska among Native Indians. He was in the force a lot longer than me, 15 years. He was full-time. I was a reservist. He worked in a very tough area called Newton Butler, which was an infested area of IRA activity. He told me about the day he joined the force. In fact, he was having some second thoughts because just a few days earlier, the IRA had killed nine police officers in one go, where they had bombed the police station.
It was a horrible day and the new batch of officers were thinking about that and that could be their end. And while they sat, they’re about to be sworn in. He said that the commanding officer come in with these words, “Welcome to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. You have just become a legitimate target for life.” Be warm and be filled. But it’s a true statement. When you put on an RUC uniform, you became to the IRA, a legitimate target, in uniform, out of uniform, in the service or retired, for the rest of your life. But men still stood up, women still stood up. It was a fight worth having. What’s the alternative, surrender to the enemy and their wicked plans for your country? My friend, you and I are involved in a long war, but it’s a fight worth having. Surrender’s not an option. You are a legitimate target for life, therefore, hence forth, given the time that remains, be strong, put on the whole armor of God. That’s the exertion.
For a few minutes, we’ll only begin to look at what I call the enemy. The enemy. You and I are up against it. I’m sure you know that, right? I mean, would you agree with me that prayer doesn’t come easy, that reading your Bible doesn’t come easy at times, that you’ve got to, I want to use the word force yourself, force but wrestle, fight your way there because there are so many things in life want to push you and pull you in another direction. I think you’d agree with me that to become a true and deep disciple of Jesus Christ, that doesn’t come easy. Soul winning doesn’t come easy, because we live in a context, the flesh, the world and the devil that fights against that. Everything we do for Christ, we’re up against it.
Here’s an image, because six times, did you notice? Six times in Ephesians 6:11-13, he uses the word against. In fact, I’ll read the text and I’ll emphasize it. “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Six times. He will remind you what you’re up against. It’s not easy. Picture a boat, picture an oarsman in the boat rowing against the current. He’s trying to make progress in one direction, but the current is pushing him in the other direction. Similarly, my friend, when you put your oar in the water for Jesus Christ, when you get saved and align yourself to the master, when you stick your oar in the water and seek to make progress in the Christian life, Satan turns the tide against you.
He creates resistance with every stroke of the oar. It’s just a reality. What and who are we up against? Well, verse 11, the devil, verse 16, the wicked one, just two titles of the devil. We’ll look at several more next time. The rulers of darkness, which speak of demonic hosts. In fact, verse 12, and they’re introduced as spiritual hosts of wickedness in the spiritual realm. Listen, devil, wicked one, rulers of darkness, spiritual armies of darkness or wickedness. None of that sounds good. It’s actually quite terrifying. The reality is we are truly up against it. That’s why we’ve got to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might for were no match for our enemy and enemies.
The devil is real and he is a real threat to God’s people. The devil is not an imaginary figure. He’s not a symbol for evil. He’s a person. He’s a fallen angel. He’s aware of people’s strengths. You see that in Job 1. You see that when he’s sifting Peter. He has emotions of pride, according to Isaiah 14. He displays wrath according to Revelation 12:12. He communicates with people including Jesus whom he tempted and looked for. We could go on establishing his personality and the reality of his existence. That’s the enemy. Now, there’s four things about him. I’m only going to touch on one very quickly. Finally. Oh, come on, listen up. Finally, his territory, his titles, his tactics, his team, we’ll look at that. Just touching on the first one, his territory. His territory is the world. Cities like Ephesus, that’s Paul’s addressing a church in a physical location, and he’s saying that they will feel the ire of the evil one and the armies that are lined up alongside of him, the devil and his demons.
In fact, the Bible tells us, doesn’t it, in 2 Corinthians 4: that he’s the god, small G by the way, of this world. He rules this world. In fact, 1 John 5:19, it says that the world lies in the lap of the wicked one. You can kind of paraphrase that, the world lies under the sway of the wicked one. Remember Samson laying his head on Delilah’s thigh having surrendered to the temptation? He lies in the lap of Delilah under her cunning charm. And the Bible says that when you look at the world apart from Christ, from politics to education, to entertainment, to medicine, to philosophy, it’s under the devil’s sway, isn’t it? I mean, think of our hospitals who butcher and abort children, who are now giving themselves to gender reassignment in defiance of God’s created order. Look at the entertainment world. It’s a sewer pipe of violence and sexuality. Look at our university campuses where philosophies are being raised up against God, atheistic, materialistic, secular philosophies.
You need to understand that this world apart from Christ, is a world under the sway of the wicked one. He influences thoughts and actions to better his kingdom, which promotes darkness. And notice that his rule as we close, is hidden. Now we’re told that he rules. Look at the rulers of the darkness of this age, verse 12, but he does it hidden. His rule and misrule is more hidden than it is seen. The effects are seen, but he’s not seen. That’s why we read in verse 12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” Paul is saying if you try to understand life apart from understanding the spiritual realm and the cosmic battles that go on behind the curtain of what is seen, you’re looking at life with one eye closed. You’re not understanding the reality you’re dealing with and you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. Listen, as we look at this text.
Behind all the wickedness and righteousness, which you see every day, and it discourages us no end, behind it, behind the flesh and blood politicians and doctors and entertainers and characters and gangsters or whatever, false ministers and deceivers, behind it all is the devil and his demons. Behind the opposition to the church and believers is a rotten plan and scheme of the devil that Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:11, not to be ignorant of. And he tells us here in Ephesians 6:11, “Be wise to the wiles, methods, and strategies of the devil.” Waking up to the reality. Stop looking at the world with one eye. When you scratch beneath the surface of suffering, sin, and strife, you will find his fingerprints and his footprints. By the way, remember that when you’re looking at the face of evil in a physical form, and no way I’m going to whitewash people’s culpability for their own sin and disobedience. But 2 Timothy 2:24-26 would remind us that people who oppose the truth are enslaved by the devil.
Behind their evil is an evil one. Our enemies of the devil, and that’s sad and should sadden us. Those who victimize us are themselves victims of the devil’s malignant entrapment, enticement and enslavement. Again, I’m not whitewashing sin or sinners, but I am reminding us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. We’ve got to look beyond people, those who hurt us, lie to us, cheat us, even want to try and kill us, and see the real enemy lurking in the shadows of the unseen world, using people as pawns on the chessboard of time. I think that brings a greater understanding and compassion to those who are held captive at his will. As the team comes up, let me finish with an illustration from Ray Stedman in his commentary on Ephesians. I think this is a helpful illustration.
He said, “Some time ago I heard of a mental hospital that had devised an unusual test to determine whether a patient was ready for release out into wider society. And here was the test. They would bring the different candidates for early release into a room and they would turn on a top and the water would just pour right onto the floor. And as the candidates come in, they would hand them a mop and the patient who had the sense enough to turn off the top and then mop the water they believe was ready for society. But in many cases, many of the candidates just endlessly mop the floor. And so they realized that had a little bit more work to do.” It’s kind of humorous, isn’t it? But the jokes on us. I’m in no way dissuading Christians to not get involved in the cultural wars, to stand up for righteousness because righteousness exalts a nation. But I would remind us, that’s mopping the floor.
The real issue is the faucet, the source of the pollution and the wickedness, and he’s real and he’s alive and he’s wounded, and that’s where the real fight is for our nation and our families and our communities of faith. Father, we thank you for our time in the Word this morning. We thank you for this briefing by our commander in chief. We thank you for this intelligence report to make us aware of the latest activity of the enemy, to realize that there’s an invisible struggle going on behind the scenes, behind the politics, behind the crime, behind the wickedness, behind the depression and suicide that is increasingly marking our society. There’s a spiritual war being waged on the souls of man, and those who are held captive by Satan at his will. Lord, we thank you for what we have learned today. Help us not to be ignorant. Help us to think through some of the ways in which we can downplay this reality and expose ourselves to danger or become complacent.
Lord, help us to who understand that from this time forth, for the time remaining between the first and second coming, it’s war. We’ve got to put on the whole armor of God. It’s going to take the energy of God to stand in this evil day. We thank you for the means of grace, for prayer and fasting, Bible study, fellowship help us to take that means of strengthening. Lord, thank you for making us aware of the enemy who likes to remain hidden, anonymous. His greatest lie is he doesn’t exist. Lord, help us to be aware that this world is his base of operations and we are in spiritual danger every hour of the day, every day of the week. Help us to be sober, vigilant. Help us to watch out for the bait on the hook in temptation. Help us to watch out for lies that come disguised in entertainment and philosophy. Help us to be aware of the one who controls the faucet, lest we just spend our time mopping up endlessly, for we pray and ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.