Ephesians 6: “Armor of God”

Battle Axes

Hanging in the entryway of my family home was a large picture of a man wearing a full suit of armor. The armor was even complete with chainmail around the face. Hanging as an adornment behind the large picture were two fairly large brass battle axe’s with a spear on the end of each one. I didn’t figure it out until I was older, but the man in the picture was the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce. Even though it took me a while to learn who Robert the Bruce was, it didn’t take me long to figure out how to use a pair of battle axes hanging on the wall.

I for sure remember the time my friend Andy and I decided to have an old fashion sword fight around the house. Everything was going well until I ran our couch straight through. I did my best to hide the evidence, but the stuffing of the couch peaking through the seat cushion made it a little obvious. Come to think of it, I’m thankful the couch was the only thing that got run through.

One of the most quintessential analogies of all of Paul’s letters is found in Ephesians 6, The Armor of God. These are the last recorded words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, the culmination of his entire letter to a people striving to live out the Christian life in a pagan nation. Three different times in this chapter, Paul instructs the Ephesians to “stand firm (v. 11, 13. 14).” His instruction isn’t for an arbitrary reason, but because, “our battle is not against flesh-and-blood (v. 12).”

The Armor of God

Here’s the thing about the armor of God: God gives it you, but we’re instructed to put it on (v. 13). In fact, many of you may have the armor of God, but it’s useless because you, not God, haven’t put it on. You gotta know: A pile of armor sitting in the corner of your room will do nothing to ensure your safety against the attacks of the devil! God gives it, but you have to put it on!

Here’s the other thing about the armor of God: You don’t get to choose what pieces. The scripture doesn’t say to put on pieces of the armor, it says, “put on every piece of God’s armor (v. 13).” Notice who’s armor it is? It’s God’s armor, not yours. Your armor stinks! Your armor is what got you into this mess. We are in need of God’s armor.

The Armor

  • (v. 14) Belt of Truth
  • (v. 14) Breastplate of Righteousness
  • (v. 15) Shoes Ready to Share the Gospel
  • (v. 16) Shield of Faith
  • (v. 17) Helmet of Salvation
  • (v. 17) Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word)

Here’s the last thing about the armor of God: We tend to forget that Prayer is a part of the armor.

Prayer

The last weapon might not seem like a weapon at all, but it is! We’re told in God’s word to pray with the Spirit’s power. We may ask, well how powerful is the Spirit of God? Well, Paul uses the word “boldly” or dunamis in the Greek. Like you’ve read before, this word is where we get our English word “dynamite.” Let me ask you this: Would it be helpful if you walked into every battle knowing the you had a stick of dynamite in your pocket you could use at any time? We’re told by Paul to, “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere (v. 18).” 

Know that you have been given power and authority over the evil of this world. We fight this battle in the heavenly realms wearing the armor that God gave us. The only trick is that YOU have to put it on.

Ephesians 5: “There’s Nothing to be Afraid Of”

Growing up I never wanted to go to sleep in the dark. In fact, it was common in my house that the hall light always had to be on before I would even think about going to bed. What was interesting though is that I would wake up in the middle of the night and the hall light would be off. I didn’t get up or worry about it, I just knew that it meant my parents had gone to bed and were asleep in the next room. 

I can remember the days when I would go to sleep and wake up and the light was still on. All this meant was that my dad was still at one of the lengthy board meetings at the church. For some reason, not really strange to me now, but the light in the hallway was always a comfort to me. You gotta know, the hall light is completely annoying to me now! Now, just like in high school and college, I need the room to be virtually pitch black in order to get any sleep.

But think about that. Think about the tumultuous affair we’ve had with the hall light growing up. As a baby, you sleep in complete darkness, no problem. You hit three-four years old and suddenly there’s things in the closet and under the bed. You get to about 12-13 and suddenly darkness is acceptable again and may even be preferred. Either way, the thing to realize is that the light in the hallway hasn’t changed at all, it’s always been there, always on or always off, but faithfully it hasn’t changed… you have.

This reminds me of the words we read in Ephesians 5:8-14 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

Picture this with me: There was a stage in life, spiritually speaking, that we too were overwhelmed and fearful of the dark. We might not have even realized it, but the darkness was creeping in and beginning to play tricks on us. You see, this is actually the reason why children, who once weren’t afraid, are suddenly afraid of the dark. At three to four years old, something wakes up in them, it’s called… an imagination. The normal developmental process of growing up sparks the use of their imagination, and they believe that what they see is very real. The reality, spiritually speaking, for adults however, is that what you see actually is real.

As we sleep in our spiritual beds, we begin to look around and realize that the shadows cast on the wall seems to be getting closer and closer. We enter into a proverbial, “Did you see that?” or “Did you hear that?” type of existence. But there’s good news for this spiritual condition.

There’s Nothing to be Afraid Of

Do you remember that moment when your parent walked into your room and said, “look there’s nothing to be afraid of!” Maybe you didn’t need that as a child, but if or when you do have a child, guess what, you’ll be there. In that moment the parent doesn’t just come in and say, “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” they do something very important; they turn on the light! The light is what exposes the truth! The light became the safety mechanism to help identify the reality. Here’s not only a scientific fact, but a spiritual fact as well: It’s impossible for darkness and light to co-exist.

Folks, for once our spiritual bedrooms were filled with darkness, but now we have the light of Jesus! So now we’re called to live as people of the light! There’s no reason to go back to sleep, we can now live with the light on!

Spiritual Bedroom

Today I want you to look around your spiritual bedroom and I want you to ask yourself, and God, this question: Is there anything in my spiritual bedroom that I need to allow God’s light to expose? Are their shadows on the wall or things under the bed?

When God sheds his light in us, on us, and through us; then we can truly say, “there’s nothing to be afraid of.” For the light makes everything visible.

 

Ephesians 4: “APEST”

Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in all of Paul’s letters. In this single chapter alone, Paul gives Christian leaders some incredible insight into solid leadership functions that should be used in the church. It’s important to note that although Paul is referencing those who have experienced a call by God to perform a special function in the life of the church, Paul’s not being exclusive here.

Paul states in Chapter 1, “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. He goes on to say in 4:11, “These are the gifts Christ gave to the CHURCH.” He doesn’t say, “These are the gifts Christ gave to the PASTORS!” And what is the role of the church? Remember yesterdays reading in Chapter 3? 3:10-11 (NLT) 10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, believe that each role indicated in Ephesians 4:11-12 should be identified and utilized for an authentic multiplication movement of God in our church.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT) 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Breakdown of A.P.E.S.T.

The list given here is by no means complete (for other types of gifts, see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12)

APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

SHEPHERDS/PASTORS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

Something You Can Do Today

I would love for you to take a few minutes and go through a FREE FiveFold Ministry Survey and discover your ministry gifts.

 

Ephesians 3: “The Power of Prayer”

I haven’t met too many Christians who don’t believe in the power of prayer, just Christians who don’t pray with power. Now, I don’t believe it’s because people don’t want to, instead, I think it’s because people don’t know how too. Think about what most people pray for:

  • Beauty contestants pray for world hunger and peace
  • Like a person who prays, “Be with me,” but God’s like, “But I never left you.”
  • Like a person who prays, “Bless me,” but God’s like, “Do you see where you live?”
  • Like a person who prays, “Protect my family,” but God’s like, “Protect them from what?”

Because here’s something I learned a long time ago about prayer, general prayers don’t move God to specific action.

I Command Thee…

In 1540 Luther’s great friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. On his bed he wrote a loving farewell note to Luther with a trembling hand. Luther received the letter and sent back a reply: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church…. The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”

Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s letter came, he recovered completely and lived six more years to survive Luther himself by two months.
(MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The – MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Colossians and Philemon.)

Luther didn’t say, “Lord, be with my friend Myconius…” or even, “Lord heal my friend Myconius…” Luther prayed with power and prayed specificity! And who got the glory? God! God got the glory!

Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians

One of Paul’s most powerful prayers in all of his letters is located in Ephesians 3. As Paul sits in a dark, nasty, prison in Rome, he pens these powerful words to Christians in Ephesus.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT) 14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 THEN Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. THEN you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Paul fell on his knees, which is interesting considering the common posture for Jews while praying was standing with their arms outstretched and palms pointing toward the sky. But even in the midst of praying for his brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul gives incredible glory to God.

You see, the key to praying with power is not only realizing that general prayers don’t move God to specific action, but to brag on God to get all the glory. Remember today the words of Jesus to his disciples in John 14:13 (NLT) 13 You can ask for anything in my name (Jesus), and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

 

Ephesians 2: “But God…”

Hey, Wait a Minute…

Like most high school guys, I took a shop class in high school. Actually is was a drafting class with an added element of building what you were drafting. Actually… there were times when we just sat at the computers and played a racing game while the teacher waited for someone to take the initiative. I remember my teacher Mr. Garrison always saying, “you’re only waisting your time.” Followed by, “All I got is time.” So that’s what we did, wasted time. Until one day I was tired of wasting time, and wanted to design and build stuff. I loved being in the shop! In fact, I had a reputation of making some of the best bongs and bowls in the entire school (it was high school, don’t judge me. Besides, I made them, not used them).

I finally went to Mr. Garrison and started to ask him to teach me how to draft. It was awesome! I would draft a project, then I would take them to the shop to build. There was really two types of students in the class; those who wanted to be there, and those who were just wasting time. At one point Mr. Garrison had to get on the group who was just messing around. He said, “You knuckle heads haven’t done anything for this class! All you do is sit hear and waste your own time! Look at Steve! If he can do this stuff, anyone can. I remember thinking, uh… thank you? Truth is, he was right.

The shop was a safe place, a place where I didn’t have to worry about trying to cover up a learning disability. You see, the very fact I went to college, received a Masters, and am pastoring a church is evidence of God’s grace… and that miracles do happen. Trust me, it’s not lost on me the number of times I feel God pointing to me and saying, “If I can use Steve, I can use anyone.”

This is exactly what Paul is saying here in Ephesians 2:7 (NLT) 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

When we read this we first think: Wow, what a great God we serve. But then when we let all that we just read from the beginning of the chapter sink in, we think: Hey, wait a minute… It’s kinda like God’s saying, Look at how broken, messed up, distorted this person is. They are standing here, redeemed, because of my incredible wealth of grace and kindness. Truth is, God’s right.

But God…

My Admin shared in staff meeting once the powerful truth she learned from one of her pastors along her journey. The simple phrase is, “But God.” Everything’s going to Hades in a hand-basket, but God… Life seems pretty tough and the world is crashing in around you, but God…

Ephesians 2:1-6 9 (NLT) 2 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

4 But God… is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

Everyday is a day when we get to experience the simple, but compelling truth, But God…

 

Ephesians 1: “Introduction and Prayer for Wisdom”

Introduction

By this point in Paul’s journey he’s finally made it to Rome! One problem, he’s still in prison… BUT! This gives Paul ample opportunity to write letters to the churches he started during his other missionary journeys. It’s been seven long years since Paul was in Ephesus, basking in the glow of a three year revival, so Paul takes time to write a letter back to the church there. His goal is not only to encourage them, but he also wants to make sure they’re staying rooted in the teaching they learned while he was there. While reading this letter together, we will see that some of Paul’s concepts are becoming more honed (i.e. Armor of God in Ephesians 6), we’ll also see a patter emerge in this letter: He’ll start with an overview of God’s history, beginning in the past, moving to the present, and then looking to the future. So, like I say every so often to my congregation, “buckle your seatbelt,” welcome to Ephesians.

Prayer for Wisdom

After Paul’s opening words and greetings, he begins to share the details of his prayer for the church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 1:15-19 (NLT) 15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.

Look at how/what Paul prayed for:

  • (v. 16) prayed non stop, thanking God for them
  • (v. 16) prayed constantly
  • (v. 17) prayed for spiritual wisdom and insight
  • (v. 18) prayed that there hearts would be flooded with light
  • (v. 19) prayed for them to understand God’s incredible greatness

Look at what Paul didn’t pray for:

Equally important isn’t just what Paul prayed for, but what he didn’t pray for. Notice that Paul didn’t pray for a change in their circumstance. What’s interesting to note is that Christians in Ephesus are experiencing incredible persecution and suffering. Having this information, look back and read the passage above from a persecuted Christians perspective.

Note in my Bible: “Paul didn’t pray for safety or a change to their circumstances, instead, he prayed for: (v. 17) spiritual wisdom, (v. 18) to understand the confident hope, (v. 19) God’s incredible greatness.”

There are times in scripture we see people praying for a change to their circumstance, there are other times we see people accepting their circumstance and praying for God’s wisdom and insight. Whatever the case for you today, there’s one things that consistent… Prayer! I said this the other day in my message, “I’m not God, but I can tell you how He’ll answer the prayer you never pray every time.”