- Sermon Notes
Be Strong in the Lord
This weekend we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem in what is known as Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of the final week of Jesus’s earthly ministry. It will lead to the crucifixion of Jesus but will culminate in the greatest event in all human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I have to say, this will certainly be the most unusual resurrection celebration we’ve ever had. In more than 30 years of ministry, we’ve never had a resurrection celebration like the one we’re planning for next weekend. But these are unprecedented times and it requires an unprecedented response.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that day we call Palm Sunday, he came to confront the Jewish leaders who were standing in the way of those who wanted to worship, who wanted to honor God in their lives.
Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers!” It was a dramatic scene.
But behind all the events that unfolded that week, there was a spiritual battle. You get a glimpse into the spiritual nature of the conflict when, just days before all these events, Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
There is often a spiritual battle behind the things you see in the physical realm. Jesus was on a mission to seek and to save that which was lost, to give His life as a ransom for many, to become the captain of our souls and to lead many sons to glory!
In the crisis that is come upon the world today, there is also a spiritual battle unfolding and it’s a battle for souls. The enemy would very much like to sift you like wheat, to discourage, to weaken, to bring anxiety and fear.
But in the same way that Jesus prayed for Peter, saying, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail,” Jesus is interceding now. God wants to strengthen you, that your faith may not fail, and in your strength, you would strengthen others.
One of the questions I have recently been asked has to do with the question, “Does this crisis we’re experiencing relate in any way to the latter-day events?” I will address this soon in upcoming messages, but for now, let me say that it could well be setting the stage for latter-day events.
But it is also an opportunity for the gospel. Behind every spiritual conflict you see both sides to the battle. The enemy seeks for an opportunity. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” The apostle Peter wrote, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
But Jesus also said, “But I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
Today, I would like us to study from Ephesians 6 because God uses these verses to strengthen faith and to prepare you for spiritual victory. We have sensed for some time that troubles were coming upon the earth, but those who have built a strong spiritual foundation will stand and stand strong in the days of adversity and trouble.
In Ephesians 6, Paul gives insight into the nature of spiritual warfare and the keys for victory. This world has entered a dangerous time and the enemy would use this as an opportunity to sift you like wheat.
In order to be spiritually victorious, you need to have a spiritual foundation; you need to understand the schemes of the enemy. Many people are not spiritually prepared, they have no foundation, and they are discouraged and defeated.
We need to understand the schemes of the enemy which are against us personally. Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. The battle is for your soul. The enemy would desire nothing more than to shipwreck your faith and destroy your relationship with God. He wants to drive a wedge between you and God. The battle is for your soul.
Paul therefore is writing so we understand the schemes of the enemy, to be prepared against the spiritual forces of wickedness and to stand firm, having put on the full armor of God.
I. Strengthen Yourself in the Lord
- Notice Paul didn’t just say, “Be strong.” He said, “Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.” This is the key to victory.
- If a person thinks he is strong in himself, he deceives himself. Self-confidence is a great weakness and is easy for the enemy to exploit. It makes a person quite blind. A person who is self-confident doesn’t think he needs God. That’s the error.
- Therefore, Paul prayed in chapter 3 that you might be strengthened with power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit and to be filled with all the fullness of God. We need to be stronger in the Lord.
- When David faced his darkest hour and it seemed everything and everyone was against him, he knew the key to victory.
1 Samuel 30:6, David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered… But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Isaiah 40:31, Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not faint. Now is the time to be strengthened with power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit and to be filled with all the fullness of God. Now is the time for revival; that is the spiritual foundation we need.
A. God can make you able — to stand firm
- God can strengthen your soul so you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the enemy.
- First, he writes, you must put on the full armor of God so you may be able to stand firm. Without the full armor of God, there’s no hope of standing firm and you will be defeated.
- Secondly, understand the nature of the attack against you; understand the schemes of your enemy. As we understand each aspect of the armor of God, we also have insight into the attack of the enemy.
- Third, understand the importance of the battle. The battle is for your soul; the enemy seeks to destroy your faith and get you to doubt God.
- The phrase ‘stand firm’ suggests that there are forces coming against you from which you must stand firm. The world is changing before our eyes, and it is moving away from God.
- To stand firm is to hold your ground against the waves of discouragement, anxiety and fear coming against you.
- Spiritual forces of darkness are moving in the world today. In another place Paul called Satan the prince and the power of the air. The system is corrupted; the world is in rebellion against God.
B. Choose your battles wisely
- Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, Paul wrote, but against rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness.
- Too many are in the wrong battle. There’s plenty of conflict, but it’s with the wrong enemy. If you’re battling your wife or husband, or your kids, you’re in the wrong battle. In fact, you’ve already lost one aspect of spiritual battle.
- Our struggle is spiritual and there are rulers, powers, world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness. We have an enemy against us.
- There are commonly two responses when people consider spiritual battle.
- One is to blame the enemy for everything that’s wrong in a person’s life. It’s the old ‘the devil made me do it’ response. How convenient.
Illus – This is common in Africa where many believe that almost all problems are because of a demon. If a person struggles with lust, it must be because of a demon.
James 1:14-16, Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
- Another common response is to start rebuking the enemy at every turn and essentially, turn into Satan haters.
- Here’s the thing, Satan doesn’t care if you hate him. In fact, he’s all for it. He just wants you to hate. Hate something, hate your spouse, hate your employer, hate something, he just wants you to hate.
- Someone came to Jesus and asked what was the highest, the first, the foremost of all things that God has ever said. When Jesus answered he didn’t say, “You shall hate the enemy with all your heart.” No, Jesus said that the highest and foremost of all things God desires is for us is to love God.
- That’s why Paul began by saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” That’s the beginning of spiritual warfare and therefore spiritual victory. Love God first and foremost. That’s the beginning of spiritual victory.
C. Having done everything, stand firm
- Verse 13 – take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to resist in the evil day; and having done everything to stand firm… stand firm.
- The key is the phrase ‘having done everything.’ In other words, he’s telling us in advance that we will face spiritual battles and he’s telling us to take up the armor of God and be prepared.
Illus – When my son was serving in the Marines in Special Forces, when he wasn’t deployed, he was training, always training, always becoming prepared. That’s the key to spiritual victory as well.
- Great troubles have come upon this world and we will see many more troubles in the weeks and months to come, and it will purify the church. Those with strong faith who take up the armor of God will stand firm.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. And let all that you do be done in love.
II. Take up the Full Armor of God
- Paul keeps repeating that phrase, take up the full armor of God. It’s important.
- The battle is for your soul, but God prepares you for victory and equips you with everything you need so you will be able to stand firm in difficult days.
- Notice this is the armor of God. It’s not our flimsy armor, it’s God’s provision to stand firm.
A. Gird your loins with truth
- The belt of a Roman soldier identified him clearly as being ready for battle. It’s the first thing a soldier would put on to prepare for war. On his belt he would carry his sword. Even when not in battle a soldier would wear his belt. Wearing the belt made it quite clear what and who he stood for.
- Put on the belt of truth, Paul wrote. It’s the foundation on which everything else is connected. There’s a reason why truth is so important, because one of the main tactics and schemes of the enemy is to lie.
John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil,” Jesus said… He does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
- If the enemy can get you to believe a lie, he has won a great victory. If he can make you a liar, he gains an even greater victory.
- Satan does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. How much truth is in you? Jesus Christ is the truth and if you have asked Him into your heart then truth is in your heart, therefore, stand in the truth.
- If you have received the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit of truth is strengthening your soul.
- Lies hold many people captive and keep them bound and chained and imprisoned.
John 8:31-32, 36, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free… And he whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”
- The enemy wants you to believe lies about yourself and lies about God.
Genesis 3:4-5, The serpent responded, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
B. Put on the breastplate of righteousness
- The breastplate protected the heart. The key to life is the heart; it also represents the place from which we love.
- If the enemy can get you to doubt God’s love, he’s won a great victory. We love God because we recognize how much He loved us when He sent his Son to die on the cross on our behalf. And if Satan can get you to doubt that love, he’s driven a wedge between you and God.
- Put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect your heart. Remember, this is the armor of God, it’s not your armor, it’s His.
- There are two parts to righteousness. The day you ask Jesus Christ into your life you were made right with God, your sins were forgiven, it’s finished. Done.
- When you understand what God gave you, your standing before God has been settled, and settled forever.
- This is important because when you falter, when you sin, the enemy will accuse you and try to convince you that God is angry and is withholding His love.
- No, God works His righteousness out in your life. Day by day, we grow in that righteousness which He has given us. He patiently works on our heart.
C. Shod your feet with the gospel of peace
- If you don’t have shoes, you’re not going very far, because there are hard places you must walk in this life, there are difficult places before you.
Illus – When we were growing up, we would sometimes walk to a neighbor’s pond to go swimming. It was about a mile away on a gravel road. More than once, I walked the entire way on that gravel road in my bare feet. You try that one time and you realize the importance of wearing something on your feet.
In other words, if you do not have peace, you cannot walk in hard places.
In contrast, you put on boots and immediately you feel stronger; ready to walk on difficult terrain, or to use a shovel or swing an axe.
- It’s the preparation of the gospel of peace. It counters a scheme of the enemy. If he can bring conflict, if he can destroy relationships, he’s won a great victory. If he can bring war between you and your spouse or anyone around you, he’s won a great victory.
- The enemy wants conflict and he’ll stir it up. The enemy wants conflict, he wants chaos.
- Jesus is the Prince of peace. He speaks peace in the midst of the storm. He’ll give you peace with God so that you yourself can be a man or woman of peace.
- Jesus speaks peace to the troubles of your heart and heals those wounds which you carried so that you can grow in strength and you yourself can speak peace.
Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Ephesians 6:10-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [a]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;