Online Text Sermon - The Christian's Armour, Ephesians ch.6 v.13
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Christian's Armour|
|Text||Ephesians ch.6 v.13 |
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"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6, 10-12).
Last week in our study of this passage of Scripture, we considered some of the wiles of the devil. Our particular concern was to notice how Satan has organised this world in such a manner that he caters for all sorts of persons in a manner to deceive them and to keep them from the true way that leads them to heaven. We noticed that you can really divide mankind into two- there are the religious and then there are the non-religious. For the non-religious, the devil has many entertainments, many interests, many pleasures. So that as people are born in to this world they naturally find these attractions take up their time and interest their minds so that they never really give attention to the claims of God upon their lives. They live and die and like the 'brute beast' (2 Peter 2, 12), knowing nothing and they perish eternally.
Then there is another kind of person. There are those who are, by nature, religious. They are not such a large group but they do exist. There are persons who do not scoff at the thought of God. There are persons who are interested in getting to heaven and in worship and in spiritual knowledge and prayer and churches and Bibles. The devil has organised the world to cater for them as well. For them he has false religion. Last week I gave you some marks and evidences of a false religion. These things are characteristic of false religion: they always have a low view of Christ; they always misinterpret the Bible. Religious people of that kind are quickly deceived. It may be by Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or liberal Christianity or false forms of the Christian faith which do not take their origin from the Word of God. The effect of all of this is that men and women are sadly deceived and deluded and they suppose themselves to be safe and bound for heaven when all the time they are in darkness and they too sadly perish like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old. This concerns the wiles of the devil. The word 'wiles' means cunning craftiness: the devil's ability to deceive men and women. I want to pursue that theme today in a slightly different form.
One of the wiles of the devil is his ability to attack our very minds. The devil is a spirit: he has no body; he is an angel who has fallen from heaven because of sin. He is not only totally depraved but absolutely depraved. That is to say, he is not just as simple men are - having sinned in every faculty and every part of his being - but he is as bad as bad can be: there is not a tissue of goodness left in the devil. There is not a shred of decency, kindness, mercy or pity. You do find these things in unconverted people - at least some of them, even many of them. You find there is at least a shred of niceness or decency. There is something of common goodness left in man; it is not a spiritual thing but it is the consequence of God's common grace in his life.
The devils however have none of this - neither Satan nor those myriads of evil spirits who, like him, were cast out of heaven. So they are absolutely depraved, one hundred percent wickedness. Their wiles and deceit and corruption involve a certain power that they have to influence our minds and to suggest ideas to our minds. I admit that this is a mysterious subject. What the devil cannot do, evidently, is to compel our will: he cannot force us to act contrary to our will. The will, if you like, is the steering wheel of the human life. He cannot force us this way or that but he can put ideas into our mind as to why we should turn this way or that and get us to exert our own wills in defiance of the Word of God. The best illustration I can give is the whole world of advertising. You know how advertising influences men's minds. You travel down the street and there is a big board with a picture. In the picture there is a suggestion as to why you should buy that particular brand of cigars or strong drink or something else. They can't force you to buy it, they can't compel you to go to the shop and they can't direct your steps to the nearest public house or cigar shop or whatever it is. However, what they can do is this. The advert puts the idea into your mind that you really can't afford to live without this thing. This is going to make you happier and a better person or it is going to transform your life. It may be a perfect lie, it may be deceitful but at the least it is influencing men's minds. In some such way the devil exerts his influence over our minds to bring suggestions and ideas into our minds. You see this in reading the Bible. I want to give you some biblical examples of this so you can see that this is exactly how the devil works. He somehow can inject thoughts into our minds. I will show you why I am putting this to you in a moment.
Take the case of Abraham. You recall that early on in the narrative of Genesis 12, he had come to Canaan and was there for some time when there was a famine and they had to go down to Egypt, which is a very wealthy, prosperous, dissolute and immoral land. Abraham knew that his wife was very beautiful to look at so he devised a device. He said to her not to admit that she was his wife but to say that she was his sister. It had a certain amount of truth in it in as far as she was a half sister to Abraham. There was, however, a suggestion of deceit in this and Abraham's motive was that of fear. He was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him and take his wife. That fear left something out of the equation, didn't it? That fear left out this fact: that God had called Abraham to the land of Canaan and God had sent the famine, and could not God look after him and his wife without this treachery, trickery and deceit. You see, he forgot that for a time. Fear came upon him and we need not doubt it was the devil injecting this fear and worry and concern in his mind. In the event, God looked after them perfectly.
Take another example. You remember the case of David in 1 Samuel 27, 1. David was being chased by Saul from place to place. There was never an occasion that God allowed David to be caught by Saul. It came at times very close to it but there was never a time when Saul actually caught David. He never actually did him any physical harm. God always protected David and put a distance between the two. Yet the time came when "David said in his heart, I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul". He immediately did something which was neither wise nor good nor profitable to himself: he went to the Philistines. That is again, you see, a case of sudden fear gripping him. There was no reason why he should have thought like that. He could have argued very rationally and sensibly and said that God had called him and anointed him to be king; he should be patient until God's time came. No, he didn't do that. He didn't argue that God had looked after him all these years and been with him. He forgot and said if he didn't shift himself and do something out of his own imagination to save himself, Saul would one day arrest him and kill him. That is the devil casting fear into his mind.
Let me give you a New Testament example. The disciples were with Christ in a boat on Lake Gennesaret or Galilee. They were crossing over when suddenly a squall of wind hit the lake. Our Lord was asleep you recall, His head on a cushion in the rear part of the boat. Waves came in threatening to engulf the ship and sink it. The disciples did their best to bale the water out without success. They came and roused our Lord out of His sleep and said, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4, 38). What a thing to say to Christ - Do you not care! It was this sudden fear - they panicked. The devil, of course, injected this panic into their minds and our Lord reproved them for this. He said, "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4, 40). We can explain this very obviously in terms of the devil injecting fear into them. You see, he has in some mysterious way the power to touch our minds directly. I can't touch your mind directly. I am not a spirit but I have a body. If I want to suggest something to you the only way I can do is with my lips speaking into your ear. There are these physical factors involved. The devil can bypass the physical side of man because he is a spirit and in some way he can cast ideas directly into our minds. We need to know that because all this belongs to his wiles, his craftiness, his cunning, his method of suggesting things to us and suddenly bringing fear and panic into our lives.
Even the great apostle Paul, at times, was acquainted with this experience. There is a case when Paul was in the city of Corinth in Greece when God said to him by a vision in the night, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city" (Acts 18, 9-10). Is it not very evident that God needed to say that to him because the spirit of fear had gripped him? He was confused and uncertain and the Lord reassured him. That is why I read to you from the book of Job. That tenth chapter is typical of many other chapters. What you get there is what you get in many other places in Job; it is that Job had suggestions cast into his mind by the devil. That is absolutely clear from the early chapters of the book: it was the devil that was behind it. He brought Job to such a condition and state of mind in which he was saying that God was against him and intended to kill him, accusing him, judging him, and chastening him all the time. In fact, that was far from the truth. Had he but known it, Job would have understood that it was God Himself who was praising Job. God commended him; He said, "...there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" (Job 1, 8). See the way the devil in his craftiness insinuated into Job's mind the thought that God was against him.
We must reckon with this factor in our own lives. We are all acquainted with this fear. We have all experienced at times a tendency to panic, to be alarmed, to doubt God's goodness, to misinterpret His ways. We must therefore understand this is a principal part of the devil's deception. If we don't know that, there is no way we can comply with the command to be strong in the Lord and fight and resist the powers of the devil (see text).
What are the factors that we are to notice in connection with the devil's deception and wiles? One of the things we must know is this. Satan has power to vex us, to annoy us and to trouble us; he has power to discourage us. His great technique is always to try to weaken us as Christians. He knows very well he cannot keep the Lord's people back from glory. He knows his Bible well enough to understand that he cannot destroy the souls of the elect for whom Christ died. He cannot do that but he can do many things to weaken us, to damage our progress in the faith. He can do a great deal to slow down our progress so that they lose their joy; life becomes a drudge if not a sheer misery. The devil is able to annoy us and here is another thing to notice: he is able to keep himself out of sight. Boys and girls, you would never do this, of course, but there are some mischievous children who when the sun shines in the classroom have a mirror and, when the teacher's back is turned, shine the light on the wall where the teacher sees it. The teacher turns round and says, "Who has got the mirror?" The mirror then very quickly goes into someone's pocket. When the teacher turns his back, it is done again to annoy and be mischievous. The devils are always acting in that kind of way - to annoy us, to trouble us, anything to discourage the people of God. The intention is to depress us, to hold us back and to make it more difficult for us to go on.
Another thing we have to reckon with is what we call our 'temperament'. Christians have different temperaments but most Christians are serious. The effect of the Gospel is to make men and women serious about life. Another thing the Gospel does is to make us conscientious - that is to say, Christians normally want to do their duty. They have a desire to please God and so, because they are serious and very often nervous, shy, conscientious people, the devil takes advantage of them. He turns their shyness into worry. He gives them things that trouble their minds. He burdens them with their thoughts. He puts words into their minds like this - "supposing this" and "supposing that" and "if this were to happen - then what?" or "if that were to happen - how would you manage?" You see, the suggestion, like the advertisement, is putting ideas into our minds. All this he does with great skill.
You remember how Timothy - that young man assisting the apostle Paul - was by nature nervous and shy evidently. The apostle had to continually encourage him because the devil took advantage of him and he was very afraid. When the apostle Paul was gone it would be hard for him to continue the work. So the apostle had to reassure him again and again to be strong and to fight the good fight of faith. The same is true in a different sense with Martha who was a very conscientious Christian. On a notable occasion, if you remember, this is what happened to Martha. She was cumbered with serving: overcome with conscientiousness preparing the meal in the kitchen. Unlike her sister who was sitting listening to the words of Christ, she was getting flustered as to why her sister wasn't helping her. You see the devil getting into her mind. Isn't it so like us all? She began to scold her sister asking where her needed help was. "I am doing all this on my own. Are you not coming to help me?" Martha was a good woman - a faithful woman - but she got overworked on that occasion. The devil tempted her and our Lord had to put her in her place: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10, 41). It is so like us all - we forget the balance of duties. The devil is behind all this. He wants us to be flustered and 'in a tizzy' to use a phrase. He wants to frighten us so we are paralysed.
Boys and girls I don't know if you are good at climbing trees. I don't recommend it. I hated it but I knew a boy who climbed a tree when he was quite young. When he climbed up this tree, he looked down and was so frightened at the height, his body simply froze. He couldn't use his muscles. It was with great difficulty he got down from the tree. His muscles simply froze solid with fear. We talk about freezing, don't we, with fear and fright. That is what the devil wants the Lord's people to do, to freeze with fear. "How dare you think of doing this!" "How dare you think of doing that!" He is always trying to confuse us. When you are a young minister you have an awful lot to learn; we still go on learning to the end, don't we? When I was a young minister this is what I learned about the devil. It took me a while to learn where it was coming from but this is what I discovered. If I set myself to pray and to go on my knees, a voice somewhere in my head said, "You should be reading." When I settled down to read the voice said, "You should be visiting." If I would set off to visit the voice would say, "This is a waste of time; you should get back and prepare your sermon." I didn't realise for a while where this clever voice was coming from but I later discovered it was from the devil himself. You are never doing the right thing by the devil's code. If you read he says you should be praying. If you pray he says you should be visiting. If you visit he says you should be in the hospitals caring for the sick. You can never please the devil, nor should you try; I am simply illustrating the wiles of the devil - always frustrating, discouraging and dispiriting you to make the going more difficult and to rob you of your joy. He gets your mind so hemmed in that you don't really see the whole picture of life. This is one of the devil's cleverest ideas, cleverest methods: he gets you so to concentrate on some tiny detail that your mind closes in and closes in until all you see is that little spot. Your mind becomes oblivious to everything else.
I could illustrate it like this. A lady is going to entertain friends in her home so she tidies the house, Hoovers the carpets, adjusts the curtains and dusts until everything is as good as she can make it as a very conscientious housekeeper. She notices to her horror that there is a stain on the wallpaper in a certain part of the room. She has never noticed it until now. Perhaps the grandchildren had done this the last time they were here. She hadn't noticed it before. What can she do? She runs around trying to remove the stain but in vain, it is there. Then, in the middle of all this, the guests come and she can't settle down to a conversation with these dear friends because her mind is worried that they will see this disgraceful stain on the wall. That is all she sees. She doesn't see or hear anything for the little stain on the wall. Her mind is absorbed by it. She is dominated by it. That is what the devil does. He can so get into your mind that instead of seeing the whole picture of what God is and what life is, you just see a tiny, tiny spot - like the view-hole on your front door to see who is on the other side of it. That is what the devil does, he gets us claustrophobic, so narrowed in our thinking that we are shut up.
Let me give you still another clever device of the devil. It is to work upon our imaginations. Some people are not imaginative - they don't think in pictures. How I envy them because I'm afraid I do and always have. A vivid imagination is a blessing but it can also be used against you. One of the things I have repeatedly had every so many months is a dream. It has been repeated all through my life. In my dream I am going to sit down to a Latin examination. I can see the desk and the paper. I've got to translate out of Latin into English. I am moving toward this desk. I am just about to sit down when I wake up. The thing that strikes me every time is when I say to myself, "Why did I not prepare for this examination?" I am never prepared. I never did the study necessary for it. I am going cold and unprepared to it. "Why did I not prepare?" The devil is using imagination to worry me. He can even get at us in our dreams; the book of Job tells us that. He was terrified by his own dreams.
The wiles of the devil, in a word, are to get into our minds. This is what he has done to the young people of Scotland and England today. He has got right into their minds and young people don't even begin to thing in terms of seeking God. Why not? Because the devil has told them that what really matters is not becoming a Christian - a waste of time; what really matters is getting on in life: to be a great sports person or to make a pile of money singing with a microphone and a guitar or even kicking a ball about a field. That, the devil says, is what matters. I am not saying there isn't a place for some of these things in the way of recreation, in their place. But young people are so filled with all of these things that they stop at the very thought of praying and seeking God. The devil has got into young people's minds to the extent that they won't even give a hearing to the claims of Christ. Thank God there are exceptions to everything. Thank God there are some young people - men and women - who are deeply devout. They are not deceived: the devil has been cast out of their minds; they have turned to the Bible and found grace. However, it is true of thousands and millions today. This is the way the devil has worked. He has got right into their minds through the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and others with a kind of lifestyle where they don't even begin to think about Christ or His cross. They don't think of their need of forgiveness - they don't even know what sin is! They don't realise there is a Heaven, a Hell and a Judgement Day to come. The devil has blinded their minds with these other things. He is always trying to confuse us, discourage us and make it very difficult for us to go on from day to day.
I don't know, my friends, if you have suffered in this kind of way but I can certainly tell you I have. Many times the devil has come into my mind with these wiles of deception and discouraged me so that it seems as though the sky is black and the sun itself doesn't shine. If you haven't gone through these things then lay up this information for a rainy day because you may need this yet before you are through.
How are we to fight against this? What is the answer to all of this? I am not just simply here to analyse the problem but to show you the answer: to show you the way out; how to stand against the wiles of the devil; to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might and to put on the whole armour of God.
The first thing to do is this. When this darkness and discouragement begins to attack your mind, you must stop and say to yourself, "I know where this is coming from." The devil will try to make you feel it is coming from yourself and from your circumstances. He'll paint it all in a false way. He'll try to convince you that it is God who is against you and God who is chastening you, as Job did, whereas, in fact, the invisible hand is the hand of the devil suggesting ideas in our minds. We are too slow to realise that. You must say at once, "Get thee behind me Satan. It is written, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22, 37); "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalm 23, 1); Be gone Satan! He will have to go - he can't resist the Word of God. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you"(James 4, 7). He cannot stand up to the Word of God. That is why we have got to know this Book. The ancient Book called the Bible is the devil's adversary; he hates it. He knows it's true and that is why Jesus Christ quoted it to him as the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6, 17). The devil can stand up to encyclopaedias and universities and professors and geniuses but he can't stand up to the Word of God. It overcomes him at once; it is the very truth of God. It comes in the power of the Spirit with all the energies of God, and he knows it is too much for him. So then we realise, first of all, where all this mischief originates. Not with ourselves, not with our circumstances, not with God - but with the hidden and with Satan.
The next thing we are to do is this. We are never to believe the devil - never! The devil never tells the truth; he is the "father of lies". That is not quite true - he sometimes tells the truth. Or better, he is good at telling half-truths. But remember this formula - a person who presents a half-truth for the full truth, is carrying an untruth. A half-truth presented as the whole truth is an untruth. The devil is an expert at half-truths presented as whole truths. Let's put it like this. He will say to you, "You have got this thing that is worrying you, haven't you? Well you are finished really, aren't you? There is no hope. There is no way you are going to get past this mountain in your life. It will fall on you and crush you." You don't see anything at all. Your vision becomes smaller and smaller until all you see is the problem on the wall like the woman in the illustration. We become locked in to our problems. When we are locked in to our problems we are in real difficulty. the way out is this: we are to realise that the devil is only telling us half the truth. If he was telling us the whole truth we wouldn't be worried. The whole truth is this: God is greater than our problems; God is able to emancipate us and deliver us from all trouble. He is with us always, even unto the end of the world. There is no problem that He cannot surmount or overcome, no mountain that He cannot cast into the sea. We forget that and we believe the devil's lie. That is why the Word of God here tells us to have our 'loins girt about with truth' (6, 14) - that is the military belt that the soldiers wore, and it is part of this armour provided by God. The truth, always walk by the truth, not simply a half-truth but the whole truth.
We must go on from there and say to ourselves two things. First of all, "When I come into this spirit of discouragement, what have the promises of God to say to me?" You will find that that is a great help. Sit down with your problem when you are overwhelmed, confused, worried or anxious and ask yourself what the promises of God have to say to your situation. They have a tremendous lot to say. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. God is able to make a way of escape through every difficulty. We are never in a situation as Christians in which we have got to sin to get out of it. I once heard a very great man say that and I never forgot it. However, I didn't realise that at first as a young Christian. I repeat, God will never place a Christian in such a situation that the only way to get out of it is to sin. There is always a safe and a right way out of situations. The promises of God will help us. This is what Bunyan is talking about in his wonderful book The Pilgrim's Progress. Remember how the two men were thrown in Giant Despair's dungeon for several days with utter confusion and misery. They were in turmoil and torment of mind. They were kicking themselves for their folly in having strayed off the path and there they were locked up in a dungeon. What was the way out? "Wait a minute," said Christian, "I have a key. I forgot. It is the key of the promises of God." The promises of God are the way out of the dungeon of despair. The Christian has them in his bosom. "I will help thee," says God; "I am for thee," says God; "I will deliver thee," says God - a thousand times in a thousand places of Scripture.
The other thing we are to do is this. When these troubles come upon us we are to remember our past experiences. Many a time the Lord has delivered us in the past. We mustn't forget that and yet, we do. How the devil must marvel at our weakness. The devil doesn't need to use anything new; he hasn't got new tricks: it's simply the old tricks he uses and the old tricks always work because we are so gullible and forgetful. We must say to ourselves when the depression comes, "I have been here before and the hand of God has delivered me out of this situation, just as He delivered Israel out of all His troubles." They were in Egypt but they got to the Promised Land, going through a whole catalogue of trials along the way. But the Lord helped them through. You and I are going to go through a catalogue of trials thicker than the telephone directory: all the problems, difficulties, discouragement, confusions of life - but the Lord will take us through. Look at Job; none of us have gone through what he went through. He lost all his children, all his property, his health, sat down to scrape his boils with a potsherd, sitting in the dust (Job 2, 8). He had been extremely wealthy before and now had nothing. His family gone, his friends ignored him; could any change be greater? His wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2, 9), but he wouldn't. He held fast to his integrity before God.
What is the end of all that sad story of Job? The Lord turned again the captivity of Job so that in the end he had twice as much as he had before (Job 42, 10). The devil didn't tell him that - did he? No, no. The devil told him he was finished; God was against him, men were against him, his wife was against him, his children were gone and his money was gone - "Die!" That is what he says to ministers every day pretty well: "It's time to retire"; "It's time to resign"; "It's time to go away". Every missionary, preacher and minister feels the same every week if not every day. He tells every Christian that they are a dead loss and that they might as well die. Friends, all this wicked teaching comes by an insinuation of the devil into our minds. We must remember the promises of God and our past experiences of deliverance - "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Samuel 11, 12).
Let me, as I close, remind you of some of these promises. "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1, 7). "Judgement shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it" (Psalm 94, 15). "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved" ( Psalm 55, 22). Dear friends, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (text).
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