We Struggle

Sanctity of Marriage

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Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 28:13-19 Sermon Title: We Struggle Sermon Text: Ephesians 6:10-12 Memory Verse: John 10:10 MAIN IDEA: Stand firm in the struggle for your soul. Five truths we need to know about the struggle for our soul 1-We Struggle with an Enemy 2-The Struggle is Planned 3-The Struggle is Spiritual 4-The Struggle is Vast 5-The Struggle has a Victor   NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio message will differ because the manuscript is not followed word for word. Thanks for understanding. This morning, we continue looking at the closing words of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against 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. (Eph. 6:10-12) In all the Apostle Paul’s writings, this passage is the clearest description of the spiritual battle we face as Christians. We struggle as God’s elect because we are under attack. There are powers and forces we must resist. And we are to be strong in the Lord. The aim of this message is not to give tactics to stand firm, that is what the armor is for, but to identify the scope and nature of our enemy. Know your enemy. Know the struggle. He is real, his work is very extensive and extremely damaging, and it is sometimes difficult to identify. Five truths we need to know about the struggle for our soul

1-We Struggle with an Enemy

We are created in the image of God. Our enemy hates God, and because God made us in His image, he hates us. Our enemy hates every man, woman, and child. Our enemy is tricky and deceitful. Just like criminals who seek to do evil have many aliases and identities, our enemy goes by many names. In the book of Genesis, Moses identifies him as the serpent in the Garden (Gen. 3:1). In Job, his name is Satan. The prophet Isaiah refers to Him as Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12). The prophet Zechariah and the Apostle John identify him as the one who stands before the Lord as the accuser of the brethren (Zec. 3:1-2). Jesus calls him Satan (Lk. 22:31), the devil (Lk. 8:12), Beelzebub (Luke 11:18), which is a false God called the Lord of flies in 2 Kings (2 Ki. 1:2), the evil one (Mt. 13:38), the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn.10:10), and the ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31). New Testament writers call him Satan, the devil, prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), the serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). Our enemy is disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15), he is our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Pe. 5:8-9) and the evil one (1 Jn. 2:13). In John’s Revelation, he is the serpent of old (Re. 12:9), indicating him to be the one in the Garden from the very beginning of creation. Our enemy does not work alone. The enemy’s army is composed both of spiritual beings, who are fallen angels, and humans under the influence and control Satan. Jesus identifies the spiritual beings who work with the enemy as unclean spirits, angels, and demons. Those who are humans under the influence of Satan are referred to as false Christs; they attempt to appear as Christ. Jesus also calls them false prophets and teachers who make believe they speak for God. Jesus also refers to them as ravenous wolves (Mt. 7:15); giving us the image of a pack of wild beasts who seek to tear apart and kill their prey. The writers of Scripture give many names for those who accomplish the will of Satan. The fallen angels are referred to as demons (2 Pe. 2:1). The humans of Satan’s army have many names. Job refers to them as the sons of pride (Job 40:34). They are: the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), messengers of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7), servants disguised as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15), evil men and imposters (2 Tim. 3:13), false teachers (2 Pe. 2:1), children of the devil (1 Jn. 3:10), the dragon, beast, and the false prophet (Re. 20:10). We struggle with an enemy, a general who oversees the attack. Our enemy wears many hats and his army is wide and diverse. The second truth we need to know about the struggle for our soul is:

2-The Struggle is Planned

The struggle for our soul is not haphazard, and it does not occur on a whim. Our enemy plans his every move. His plan begins before the Garden of Eden. Satan announces his plan before the Lord God Creator of the Universe. He said: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14) Satan’s plan is established before the Garden of Eden. Since the beginning of time, Satan has been sinning and plans on sinning forever (1 Jn. 3:8). His plan is to raise his throne above God making him like the Most-High. He seeks to be the most valued and cherished being in the universe. Everything he does is according to his plan. We are called by God to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Stand firm against his plan. Satan is a schemer. In the Garden of Eden, he is identified as being more crafty than any other beast of the field the Lord made (Gen. 3:1). The prophet Daniel says he is shrewd as he causes deceit and he succeeds in yielding his influence (Dan. 8:25). His plans include workings of signs and wonders (Mk. 13:22). He forever seeks to make crooked the straight paths of the Lord (Acts 13:10). He stands waiting to take advantage of those who are ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Like a hunter who goes to the woods and tracks animals, Satan sets snares and lays in hiding waiting for his prey (1 Tim. 2:26). Satan sought out Jesus to tempt Him in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1). He waits for the word of God’s kingdom goes forth and he immediately (Mk. 4:15) works to snatch away the seed sown in the hearts who don’t understand (Mt. 13:19). Satan sows false teachers in the church and teaches them heresies they may secretly introduce. He studies us and exploits our lack of understanding by speaking false words and enticing us with greed (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Those who underestimate his craftiness will fall victim to his plans. His schemes and strategies are targeted, focused, and well-thought out. We must never think for one minute we are free from his plans to wreak havoc on our life. Even now, as we are sitting here, he is thinking of ways to trick us, deceive us, and make us fall victim of a scandal, temptation, or a lie. No saint of God should ever misjudge or think lightly of the enemy. The struggle is planned. The third truths we need to know about the struggle for our soul is:

3-The Struggle is Spiritual

We are told in this passage that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. In other words, the real struggle is not taking place in the material realm; it is taking place in the spiritual realm. God’s glory is being challenged by Satan. It is a battle in the heavens; the spiritual realm. Satan does not look upon the glory of God and say “woe is me.” Satan sees the glory of God and seeks to be more glorious. Satan seeks for creation to worship him. His plan is to usurp God’s heavenly throne. God’s throne is a place of worship. The One who sits on the throne is deemed the most valuable and Supreme being. He is to be recognized as worthy of our praise, center of our affections, and treasured above all things. We are to be like David and say, “Who have I in heaven but you.” God is to be worshiped. God created us as beings made to experience and enjoy. Those things we enjoy the most, we love the most. What we love, we worship. Our love is an affection of our heart. We need to understand the relationship between the spiritual realm and the material realm. Our life takes place in the material realm. We eat food. We experience life with our senses. We feel pain and pleasure. We drive in automobiles made of steel and plastic. We live in houses of wood and stone. God designed our world as a material world with elements comprised of molecules and atoms, gravity, and nuclear forces of attraction. The Apostle Paul says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” In other words, we war against spiritual forces of the evil one. We may think our struggles are everyday struggles. They are not. The schemes of the devil are not about struggles with health, fitness, broken automobiles, challenging weather, or trying to stretch our paycheck. The battle is not about the material world. The battle is about our worship. Satan’s desire is to change our worship from God as the most valuable being to himself as the one we treasure and adore. His goal is to have our heart treasure anything but God the Creator. The battle takes place in the heart. Satan seeks to steal the hearts of people. The goal for Satan is that God is not valued. Satan desires for us to see Jesus as having no value. He is just a man who lived 2000 years ago. Righteousness, holiness, and justice are of no value. Because we have a fallen sin nature, the ways of Satan are more attractive to us than God’s ways of righteousness and holiness. Satan rebels against God’s glory, and he endeavors to have us rebel as well. There are many ways Satan schemes to have our worship be distorted, and he uses the physical realm to affect our worship. Satan’s two biggest weapons are temptation and deceit. God never lies and God never tempts. God is not a man, that He should lie (Num. 23:19) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13) If it is a lie or a temptation, it comes from Satan. Everything else may come from either Satan or God. It’s complicated. Think of all Satan does to Job in his attempt to make him curse God. Satan controlled the weather by bringing a wind to collapse the tents of Job’s children. Satan brought disease upon Job’s body. Satan may bring us rain all week to show God that we will curse Him. As the god of this world, Satan will give us a promotion if it will take our heart from serving God. He will have our spouse get in an expensive accident if it makes us angry and bitter. He will give us success in sports if it makes us think highly of ourselves. He will take away our friend, so we will slander and gossip about them to everyone. Satan will tempt us to enjoy sin by putting in front of us physical enticements. He places before us the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. He seeks for us not to value the holiness of God, but to instead find our joy in the sensual pleasures of this world. He tempts us to think immorality brings joy. He tempts us to think stealing is good because we deserve what we do not have. Each temptation is specific and targeted. Satan learns our likes and dislikes to perfect his temptations. Satan deceives. He is the father of lies. He blinds the eyes of all people. In the end times, he will be so persuasive and deceptive; he may even mislead, if possible, the elect (Mt. 25:41). He will put forth false teachers and prophets who disguise themselves as servants of righteousness to prey upon those who are lazy in the Scriptures. I fear for those of you who do very little to understand the Word of God. You coast through in your Christianity making yourself a prime target. He will ask you, as he asked Eve, “has God really said?” In his pursuit to deceive, He presents a false Christ to have us worship a man-made image of God. He will have the false Christ and false prophets perform many signs and wonders. He puts forth a show of shows. He presents God as evil, uncaring, unjust, ineffective, and unimportant. Ask people to describe God and listen to how distorted their understanding of God is compared to Scripture. The devil presents drugs and alcohol as a source of joy and fun. It’s all joy and fun until the death caused by drunk driving or until the young teen ends up laying on a mattress in an abandoned house with needles scattered on the floor. The addicted for their next drink or fix. There is no joy in their faces. The promise of joy is gone once they are slaves. The devil presents sensual pleasure as a source of joy. Wear the world’s fashions regardless of modesty. You worked hard to get your body in shape, show it to the world so they may marvel at your figure. Show off those biceps and that six-pack. Let us see those legs. Find satisfaction in having people admire you. Become an object of desire. Indulge the flesh. Never mind the STD’s or the unwanted pregnancy. Those are minor risks. If it feels good, do it. The devil presents sin as popular entertainment. He uses our celebrity culture to make it look attractive. They sing about their sexual exploits and flaunt their immorality and people, including Christians, buy it up. The more immoral they are, the more money they make on their movies and music. Don’t take joy in holiness, enjoy the party friends! Parents, don’t worry, there’s no harm in those children’s books about casting spells. I am sure the five-minute boring devotion you share with them will far outweigh the 2-3 hours a week they spend reading about the exciting witchcraft and divination exploits of children their age. It’s all for fun. What’s the big deal? It’s only a battle for their mind and heart. Let’s not get all legalistic. Let’s remind ourselves what Paul says, all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable (1 Cor. 10:23). Underneath every job, material object, relationship, and action is a spiritual purpose. Let me say that in a more practical way. Underneath every high-school friend, Facebook post, block-buster movie, yard sale book, Red Sox game, automobile, and piece of pineapple on a pizza is a spiritual purpose. (“Allen, you had me until you said pineapple” but let me remind everyone it was a piece of fruit in the Garden that started everything.) God seeks to work everything for good and Satan seeks to work everything for evil. If you don’t believe that, I have just one thing to say, “Satan has you fooled.” We need to understand the battle for our heart affections. God is the source of joy, and the thief seeks to steal, kill and destroy our joy. Spiritually dead people are not influenced by God, but by the enticements put forth by the god of this world. They are blind, deceived, tricked, tempted, and led astray on the wide road which leads to destruction. We are not blind. God opens our eyes. Therefore, stand strong in the Lord. Stand firm against the schemes of the devil. The fourth truth we need to know about the struggle for our soul is:

4-The Struggle is Vast

The struggle is vast in every way we may imagine. It is vast in numbers, vast in time, vast in methods, and vast in destructive power. We do a disservice to ourselves when we minimize our struggle. Our enemy is not just Satan. We face an entire army listed off in verse 12; rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness. Who is who? Who are the rulers or powers? We cannot know for certain. What we do know is Satan’s forces are comprised of human and angelic beings. We are aware of the angelic hosts as being fallen angels. The Bible tells us Satan took a third of the angels with him when he was cast out. How many fallen angels are there? We don’t know. But we may know the number is large. Angels are not to beings which we have any business fighting against. How many humans are serving Satan? Many. He is at work influencing and controlling every human who is spiritually dead. Satan is the “spirit working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). His spirit is ‘working’ in people. Not mean every non-Christian is demon possessed. However, spiritually dead people have no spiritual discernment and obey him without understanding the consequence. The natural man does not understand the spiritual realm. They listen to evil influences. Without God’s intervention, as we learn in chapter 2 of Ephesians, all people are dead in trespasses and sins, are sons and daughters of disobedience, and are by nature children of wrath. None seek after God, no not one. But God, by His grace, rescues us, so we are no longer captive and slaves to sin, but we become His children. The struggle is vast in that it involves every human and every angel created by God. The sheer numbers of beings engaged in this battle are enormous. The struggle is vast in time. Satan is a murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44). The struggle begins in the Garden of Eden and continues until the end of time when God throws all of His enemies into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 19:20). When this occurs, we do not know. It may be a long time from now, or it may be weeks. As we get closer to the end, Paul tells Timothy that evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13). In other words, through the course of time, we may expect the struggle to grow in intensity, not lessen. Not only is the struggle involving every human through all of history, but there is also no deference given to people. There is no person out of the reach of Satan. He attacks babies and grandmothers, orphans, and widows. For him, there is no such thing as putting women and children on lifeboats. He takes delight in destroying them all. He preys on the weak as a prowling lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pe. 5:8). For 18 long years, one of Satan’s spirits caused a sickness making a woman bent over doubled so she could not straighten up (Luke 13:16). He throws missionaries into prisons (Rev. 2:10). He seeks to prey upon young widows in the church who go through the tragedy of losing their husband by tempting them and seeking to get them to fall into reproach (1 Tim. 5:14-15). He attacks men who desire to serve in leadership in the church by tempting them in the marketplace, so they will stumble and lose their reputation (1 Tim. 3:7). He sent Paul a messenger seeking to harass him as a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). He sent a demon into a young girl so she would be a slave to her master (Acts 16:16). Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat. His methods are vast and specific. Satan tempts Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world as a prize. But, with Judas, the price of allegiance is only twenty pieces of silver. He offers Muslims 70 virgins in the afterlife if they murder. Some murder for a pair of Nikes. Some people receive worldwide fame, and others will sell their soul for a few views on YouTube. Here is a list of a few of Satan’s methods. Satan murders, tempts, performs signs and wonders, lies, makes straight paths crooked, leads astray, snatches away planted seeds, magnifies himself, wears sheep’s clothing, puts up hindrances to block the gospel, sets up false prophets, accuses the brethren, makes demands, takes slaves captive, performs villainy, blinds eyes, feeds our greed and sensual desires, stokes the flames of our pride, sets out snares and traps, and disguises himself as an angel of light. His goal is not to harm or hurt. His goal is to kill. He is not finished with someone until he destroys them completely. He is not happy unless there is ruination. His goal is not to bruise but to kill. His goal is not to bring discomfort but total poverty. Do not for one minute think our struggle is minor, temporary, or inconsequential. It is vast and encompasses every second of every day, every human we know and love, and takes place in ways in which we are often blind to the method and the outcome. If you think lightly of the struggle, if you think this is no big deal, you are already deceived! You are blind to Satan. You are blind to eternity. You are blind to the importance of the glory of God. Nobody may say, I have not enemies. We all have an enemy who seeks our complete and utter destruction. Our enemy’s plans and schemes with attention to detail and tactics rivaling the most gifted general. The struggle we face is vast. Every inch of ground we walk upon is a battlefield. Every moment of time is filled with flying ammunition. There is no rest from the battle. The battle is not being waged so that the enemy may enjoy the bounty of our material goods; he doesn’t seek to own our automobiles or houses. Our enemy is not trying to make us bleed. Our enemy seeks to turn have our hearts worship everything but God. The struggle is a spiritual struggle for our soul. It is a struggle with which we have only one of two outcomes; eternal life in heaven with God or eternal life in hell with our enemy. The more we understand our enemy, the more we should realize we have no hope of defeating him on our own. We are born captive to his schemes, and we are powerless to escape his darkness. On our own, we are blind slaves doing his bidding. The walls of his kingdom are insurmountable. There is no hope for escape. This leads us to the fifth, and most important truth we need to know about the struggle for our soul.

5-The Struggle has a Victor

When reading scripture, our eyes are opened to the greatness and power of our enemy. But even more great is the strength and power of our Savior. He is mighty to save us and rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and bring us to the kingdom of light. We are encompassed in a dungeon with insurmountable walls. We are weak and frail in the clutches of our enemy. And we hear the name of Jesus, and we bend our knee and call upon Him to save. Our hope is in Christ. Jesus opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captive free. Satan may be the god of this world, but Jesus is the Lord of Lords. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) Jesus tells His disciples the enemy has nothing on Him (Jn. 14:30). Jesus resists every temptation. Jesus is the truth, and there is no lie or deception in Him. Jesus spent His days of ministry proving His power over the enemy. Jesus casts out demons, (one time an entire legion!), heals the afflicted, and preaches the gospel to the poor. Jesus proves Himself to be the truth and the way to eternal life in heaven to be with God; who is our treasure and reward. In His ultimate act of proving His worth, Jesus overcomes the greatest challenge in the crucifixion. He remains humble and does not succumb to the temptation of pride. He remains obedient to God and does not succumb to the temptation of rebellion. He remains loving, even though He is shamed, ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Instead of succumbing to the temptation of hating His enemies, Jesus chooses to forgive. While on the cross, He leads a mocking criminal to an eternal life of joy. It is on the cross that Jesus disarms the rulers and authorities; He makes a public display of them and triumphs over them (Col. 2:15). This is our example: Jesus does not fight back, Jesus stands firm. After the cross, Jesus rose from the grave, walks up to Satan, the one who once held the power of death in his evil clutches, and Jesus destroys Satan’s power over death (He. 2:14). He declares to Satan that the power of death no longer belongs to him. Jesus power is so immense and victorious over His enemies that Scripture tells us, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” Our struggle has a Victor, and His name is Jesus. He will ultimately throw the enemy into a lake of fire for eternity. As He does, Satan will bend his knee, and his tongue will declare Jesus is Lord. We do not conquer because we have power or because we are religious. We do not have power over our enemy because we are smarter or physically overpowering. We are mere weak mortals. The reason why we have power to defeat the hateful attacks is because, although our enemy hates us with a vengeance, our Savior loves us with a perfect, holy love. It is only because of His love we have victory. But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro. 8:37-39) Don’t fight the enemy. You will not win. Follow the example of Christ. Fight to stand firm. Stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might! Plant your feet firmly on salvation in Christ. Don’t trust your works to save you. Stand firm in listening to the truth of God’s Word and don’t listen to the lies of the enemy. Resist the temptations and enticements of the devil, and he will flee. Do you have friends and loved ones under the clutches of the enemy? Don’t tell them to fight on the own power. Don’t encourage them to fight temptation or try their best to be good. They don’t stand a chance. Instead, tell them of Christ. Tell them of His strength and power. Tell them He is the only one who may save them from the dungeon of darkness. Let your proclamation be, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Worship Christ by setting your affections on Him because He alone loves your soul. He alone makes us alive, raises us up, and seats us in the heavenly places. There is no other name in heaven or earth worthy of praise for He alone saves. Sing songs of praise. Speak of His greatness. Proclaim His victory. Stand firm in the struggle for your soul by standing strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.