Spiritual Warfare, Pt. 11: Living in Faith

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Faith Bible Church, NY

April 20, 1997

Spiritual Warfare, Part 11

Living In Faith

Ephesians 6:16 & Selected Scriptures

Review: This morning we come again in our study of Ephesians 6 and Spiritual Warfare to the fourth piece of equipment given to us by God to prepare us for battle – The shield of faith. As we pointed out two weeks ago, Paul makes special emphasis on this extremely important item in preparing us for spiritual warfare.

Paul says in Eph. 6:16 “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” In addition to having girded yourself with truth, with having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, make sure that you pick up your shield.

We also pointed out that the particular word used for shield here referred to the very large shields used by the Roman Infantry to protect their front line against the archers and spear throwers of the enemy. They would typically be about 4 high and 2.5 feet wide, made out of tough leather, or even metal stretched over a wooden frame. As the army did its maneuvers, these shields held next to one another would become like a moving wall of protection.

Why is the shield of faith so important? Because faith is central to the Christian life and it is central to the other pieces of armor already mentioned. What good is truth if you will not trust it and live by it – that takes faith. How can you be made righteous before God and live in a righteous manner except by faith? How can you have peace with God except to accept the good news of Jesus Christ and by faith receive the forgiveness offered through Him and be reconciled with God. Notice too that our text says that it is “with” or more literally, “by,” the shield of faith that you extinguish the flaming missiles of the evil one. Faith is central to each piece of armor just as it is central to all of the Christian life.

Remember as well that two weeks ago we explained that the Greek word “pistis” and its verb form “pisteuo” are translated as faith, belief or trust because those are the three ideas inherent in the word and its cognates. Too many people have separated belief from faith, and faith from trust and ended up with an erroneous understanding of faith. You cannot separate out the ideas of belief and trust from faith. To have faith in something is to believe it is true, placing your trust in it and acting upon that belief and trust.

Biblical “faith” in Jesus Christ means that you believe certain things about Him. You believe that He is who He claimed to be, God in human flesh: that He lived a sinless life; that He died as a substitute for our sins; that He was raised from the dead on the third day; that He is now seated on the right hand of God the Father and that He will return one day for those that belong to Him.

In addition, the Bible also requires the belief in these facts not be separated from trust in Him. You cannot remain intellectually honest and claim to believe something without a corresponding trust in that object of belief. To say that you believe something and then refuse to act upon that belief by putting your trust in it is to demonstrate yourself a liar.

I gave the illustration of the tightrope walker, Blondin, last time, but your chair works just as well. If you tell me that you believe your chair will support your weight, but you refuse to sit down in it because you are afraid that it will collapse under you, then your claim of belief is proven false – in effect, you are a liar.

To believe what the Bible says about Jesus and then not trust Him and follow Him proves your claim of belief is false. If Jesus is God, then should there be any question about who is wiser and whether you should obey Him or not? If Jesus’ offer of forgiveness based on God’s grace is true, then any effort to earn your own salvation by whatever means only proves a false faith. If Jesus is going to return to Earth as the judge of all mankind with those who believe in Him being taken to heaven and those that do not sent to everlasting hell, then is there any question about how we should live and the importance of telling others the gospel?

Saving faith, that faith that by with God reckons you as righteous, places your future destiny completely in the hands of Jesus Christ. But the daily Christian life also requires faith, and this is what Paul is referring to here as the shield that extinguishes the fiery missiles of our enemy. But how do you pick up this shield so that it will be useful? In previous sermons we have already dealt with some of this in how the devil tries to get you to doubt God by slandering Him. Ultimately all of Satan’s lies are against God, but He also attacks us as follows of Jesus Christ.

There are three major targets that the devil aims for with his flaming arrows. He knows that if he hits them the fire will quickly spread to other areas. It is the shield of faith that can protect us.

In Ephesians 1:4 we are told we were chose by God before the foundation of the world so that we “should be holy and blameless before Him.” In other words, we were saved for the purpose of living in holiness.

In Ephesians 2:10 were are told that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In other words, we were saved for the purpose of serving God and doing what He has set before us.

In Ephesians 4:1-16 we are told that there is a unity among believers because God has gifted and placed every believer into the church, the body of Christ. We are to work together for God’s kingdom and helping one another mature. In other words, we were saved to be part of something greater than ourselves.

Satan shoots his fiery arrows all three of these areas – holy living, serving the Lord and unity within the body. How can the shield of faith protect us in each case.

1) Flaming arrows aimed at Holy Living

It is important to stress once again that God has not saved us so that we can escape hell. That is simply a wonderful side benefit of being saved from sin and its consequences. As Paul points out in Romans 6, we are to no longer be slaves of sin, but rather slaves of righteousness. A changed life is the natural fruit of true salvation because it is the very purpose of it. Satan will aim at this area because if he gets a hit, then he will nullify our purpose of existence.

What are some of the ways Satan can attack us here? He has two broad tactics. 1) Discourage you so that you give up or don’t think it is worth the effort. 2) Feed your pride so that you think you have already arrived. Our defense against both is living by faith.

When Satan tries to discourage us from pursuing holiness we must remember that it is God’s work in us that changes us as we step forward trusting in what He says and doing what He commands. If it were all up to us alone, then there would certainly be every reason to give up, but when we see that it is done by the power of the Holy Spirit given to those who continue to strive then we can always be optimistic and hopeful. You are not what you want to be, you are not what you are going to be, but you are not what you were either!

Paul understood this well. In 2 Cor. 5:17 he give us great assurance for change when he tells us that everyone who is in Jesus Christ is a new creature with old things passing away and new things coming. Why is he so confident about this? Because, as we have seen in Ephesians 2, we were once dead in our trespasses and sin. We were controlled by Satan without choice or hope. But God made us alive together with Jesus Christ. In the context of 2 Cor. Paul explains that the change in his own life is because he was now controlled by his love for Christ and was no longer living for himself, but for Christ who died for Him (vs. 14,15).

Does this mean that Paul never struggled? Of course not. We get a taste of his struggle and a good description of our own in Romans 7:14f. He explains there that he still felt like he was “sold into bondage to sin.” He did not understand what he was doing because he would do the very thing he hated (vs. 15). He would wish to do good, but his practice would be the very evil he did not want to do (18,19). He viewed this as a war going on within himself (23) and that he was a “wretched man” because of it crying out to “be set free from this body of death” (24). Yet in all this Paul was not without hope, and he was not discouraged. He understood that he was still fighting his flesh and the desire that were still within him for sin (17,18,20). He knew that the struggle itself is evidence of God working in Him for his desires have changed. He is also confident that it is Jesus Christ who will set him free (25).

Have you ever felt that way? Tired, frustrated and wanting to give up? It is by faith we continue the struggle onward to our high calling in Christ Jesus. I never worry about people who struggle because that just indicates that the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives. I worry about those that do not struggle. We continue to step out in faith, trusting God to empower our feeble efforts to be holy as He is holy.

Another source of discouragement comes when our eyes get focused on those around us. Have you ever looked at envy at those who are not Christians? I have to admit that there are times I have, and I resent the prosperity of the wicked. I want the world to work in the present reality according to the plan that the good are rewarded and the evil are punished. Asaph felt the same way and expressed it in Psalm 73. He was striving to live in righteousness, and life was hard. He says in vs. 14 that he was stricken and chastened. But what did he see when he looked around? The wicked were prosperous. Their bodies were fat (4). They did not have the trouble of other men (5). They were violent and arrogant (6,3), yet they lived at ease and their wealth increased (12). Asaph began to feel envious and that he was wasting his time striving to be good (13). Have you ever felt like that?

The devil can use envy and jealousy to move us right back into his camp, wearing the slave clothes of sin. It is the shield of faith that protects us, and it is what protected Asaph. He declares that (2) his feet had almost slipped into these sins, but then he remembered the truth and promises of God. The wicked may well prosper now, but what will their end be? He might suffer now, but what would his end be? It is by faith that we live for eternity instead of the present. The shield of faith, the trusting in God for our present and eternal futures, is what keeps us from being struck down with the devil’s flaming arrows of envy, jealousy and discouragement.

Another means by which the devil attacks our efforts to live in holiness is to feed our pride. I must be honest and say that in my own observations I have seen this more often in Christians than the discouragement of not being as holy as the individual would desire. We think we are good enough.

Extreme cases of this are those that think they no longer or very rarely sin anymore. A friend of mine that attended a seminary up in Canada one day had a chapel speaker come to his campus who said that he had no sinned in five years. Daryl went up to him after and said that the man had broken his record that morning. He was proud and arrogant, both which are sins. 1 John 1:8 says directly, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But praise the Lord that verse 9 goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I am sure all you have noticed that it is hard to tell the true color of something when it is dark. When I was in high school I used to get dressed in the dark so I would not wake up my brother who did not go to school until an hour after me. I often was surprised by what I was wearing when I finally got to school. The white shirt turned out to be yellow. The yellow shirt turned out to be tan. The black socks were blue, the blue socks were brown and the brown socks were black. The clean clothes turned out to be spotted. You cannot tell the true color or condition of something until it is brought into the light. If you ever think you are doing well and not sinning anymore, then you have walked away from the Lord, because the closer you walk with Him the greater the light of His holiness exposes the sin in your life. Even your passing thoughts are important to Him.

Extremely few people might be so arrogant to say that they have not sinned, but many professing Christians will say that personal holiness should not be such a big deal. Their lives are in much better shape then all the wicked people out there, and after all, we don’t want to be fanatics about this, do we? These flaming arrows have caused many casualties in the Church.

It is by faith that we understand what is truly important and what is not. We cannot know what God values by looking at how other people live. We cannot determine which sins are serious and which are inconsequential based on the judgements of others – or even our own. Men are very good at setting up standards of holiness based on their own weakness, by what they themselves do or don’t do. Murder, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, divorce, drinking, debauchery and idolatry are all considered to be horrible sins – but what about hatred, pilfering, pornography – including so much of the stuff in films, television and the magazine racks at the super market? What about not loving your wife or respecting your husband, or being a caffeine addict, a glutton or letting your hobbies keep you from church?

We cannot judge how well we are meeting God’s standards by comparing ourselves to other people. There is only one true standard of comparison and that is Jesus Christ. It is by faith we recognize who Jesus is, the validity of His commandments, and then by faith, step out in obedience. Since I believe Jesus is who He claims, then I entrust myself to Him and follow Him. He knows best and He will work out what my future will be.

By faith I refrain from lying, believing that keeping God’s command is more important and better for my future than trying to manipulate things myself. By faith I have eyes for my wife only, believing that God design for marriage is the means to the greatest interpersonal relationship between humans. By faith I ignore what the world claims to be so fun and entertaining and trust that personal holiness is most fulfilling way to live. By faith I seek first Christ’s kingdom and righteousness trusting Him to provide for my needs for daily life rather than stealing, lying, cheating, manipulating to gain for myself. The shield of faith protects me from Satan’s arrows shot to keep me from being holy and blameless before God – the very reason He chose me for Himself before the foundation of the world.

2) Flaming arrows aimed at Serving the Lord

Satan also aims his arrows at our service of the Lord, again, in his two major avenues of attack – 1) Discourage you so that you give up or don’t think it is worth the effort. 2) Feed your pride so that you think you can do it on your own. Your defense against both is living by faith.

First, Satan can try to discourage you. Try to make you feel that you are not good enough to serve the Lord. You have too many problems and hang-ups from your childhood. You stumble into sin too often. You’re not trained enough yet. You don’t know what to say or do. Other people can do it better, so let them do it. And finally, it does not matter anyway because you and what you do are so insignificant.

It is by faith that we understand that we are good enough to serve the Lord, because t Jesus Christ has washed us clean and clothed us with His righteousness. It is by faith we step forward despite our fears, problems and hang-ups, believing that if He created us in Christ Jesus for good works, then we need to go about doing them. It is by faith we continue to confess our sins and are cleansed by Him to continue on in serving from a position of increasing holiness. Remember that Jesus used crude, untrained fishermen to turn the world upside down, so by faith we get involved in the Holy Spirit’s on-the-job training. He directs the opportunities of service given to us, and when we were at a loss of what to say or do, He gives us the words and actions, just as He did the first disciples. By faith we rejoice that other people can do things better, but knowing that if each gift, each ministry and the power of those gifts and ministries are directed by God (1 Cor. 12), then we know we must simply use what He has given us and let Him take care of the result. I also know that every gift in the body is important, and though it may seem little to me, it works as part of the whole body to accomplish great things (1 Cor. 12) and so by faith I step forward to do my little part.

Satan can also attack here by feeding your pride. There is a condition among Christians known as the Messiah complex – often found in pastors. They feel like everything is up to them. The success of the church rides upon their shoulders. They are personally responsible to solve every problem, dream up every ministry, implement every program and save every sinner. Anyone with such thoughts actually accomplishes very little for Christ, because all of it is done in the flesh.

I must remember that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5). God is best glorified through my weaknesses, not my strengths (2 Cor. 12). It is by faith that I launch out, striving to simply be faithful, not successful (1 Cor. 4:2). By faith I will reject the wisdom of men in favor of the wisdom of God. It does not matter how great corporations do things, football teams achieve victory, political parties persuade voters, marketers sell products or armies win battles. By faith I do things God’s way and trust Him to accomplish His will. The preaching of the gospel is foolishness to men, but it is the wisdom and power of God to save sinners (1 Cor. 1:23,24). We are to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, not market it. The world esteems powerful, controlling individuals as leaders. The leaders of a church are to be meek, humble servants, leading by example. Armies stockpile hoards of supplies for logistical support and then seek to crush the enemy. Jesus simply told His disciples to simply go – He would supply their needs – and they were to love and pray for their enemies.

By faith I serve Christ – as feeble and unimportant as my efforts may seem – and trust Him to use them for His own glory. By faith in Him you must do the same.

3) Flaming arrows aimed at the Unity of the body

The third and final target of Satan’s arrows I want to mention is his attacks against the unity of the body. These two are aimed at two primary targets. 1) Division over petty things. 2) False unity which ignores significant doctrines.

First, division over petty issues. Most of us have heard of churches splitting over things such as the color of the carpet or paint for the walls, the architecture of the building or the location of a memorial gift. Those seem very petty and we may even laugh at them, but the underlying issues are real and the work of Satan. I have mentioned before that when I was growing up, I went through a lot of church splits. Only in one of them was I aware that the major issue was doctrinal. Almost invariably the reason for church divisions are because of pride. There are personality conflicts, differences in preferences and variations in strategy which easily become dividing points when those involved do not have enough humility to believe that God can use something or someone else other than what I thought. These kinds of divisions can be avoided if those involved would use their shields of faith.

Doesn’t the Bible clearly state that everyone in the body is needed because everyone has different gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4)? Doesn’t the Bible clearly state that we are to follow Jesus Christ and His example and that includes His humility (Phi. 2) which is the basis of unity in the church (Phil. 2:1-4)? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit dwell in every true believer (Rom. 8:9)? Isn’t there given to the church a structure of authority and responsibility (1 Tim., Titus)? If we believe these things then by faith we must know that the fullness of knowledge does not dwell in us, and we must then trust that God can and will use other people too. By faith we work alongside people who will do things in a different way than we would and trust that God will use that too.

In saying this, I must also say there are legitimate reasons for division in the church. When Paul and Barnabas split up in Acts 15 God used that to increase the number of missionary teams in operation. If humility exists and the shield of faith is up then such divisions can be made without anger but rather with quiet resolution – as did Abraham who walked by faith when he and Lot separated from one another in Genesis 13. Our long term goal here is to have a separation like this in the future when this church hives off a group to plant another church in a surrounding community. Such a division as that can be done with joy.

Division can also be appropriate when there is apostasy in the midst. One of the purposes of church discipline is to divide out those who are false in either profession of faith or doctrine. Those who continue in sin and will not turn and those who continue in heresy and will not turn have no place in the communion of the saints. But what should happen when heretics have the place of authority in the organization? Then those that hold to the truth must separate. That is the point of 2 Cor. 6:14-18. There is no partnership between righteousness and unrighteousness, no fellowship between light and darkness, no harmony between Christ and Bililal, nothing in common between a believer and an unbeliever. If such a situation exists then you must come out from them and separate. This is a major reason for the formation of many denominations and church associations in the last century. Our own association, the IFCA International, was formed because the organizations that pastors and churches had been in before departed from orthodoxy and began denying the fundamental doctrines of Biblical Christianity.

This is where another one of Satan’s arrows is aimed – a false unity based feelings and facade instead of truth. Unless two people are agreed, they cannot walk together (Amos 3:3), and there can be no true unity without truth. The supposed unity of the ecumenical movement is found only because no one is allowed to talk about anything controversial. The cry is heard that we should be united with all those who “name the name of Jesus Christ,” but unless there is a clear definition of what that means you have to include not just the various traditions of true Christianity in which salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but also all the cults and those that try to earn their salvation including Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholic Church among others. You would even have to include a lot of Hindus who esteem Jesus as they do their many other gods, and Muslims because they hold Jesus as a prophet.

You have to walk by faith in order to find true unity and avoid both the petty things that destroy it and the falsehoods that seek a false unity. It is by faith I hold to the great fundamental truths of Scripture without compromise and contend earnestly for them (Jude 1:3). It is by faith I walk with humility and enjoy precious and wonderful fellowship with those who would disagree with me on minor issues.

We are in a spiritual battle and Satan’s flaming arrows are aimed at you. Do you have for shield up? Are the things you believe according to God’s wisdom or the worldly wisdom of men and the devil? Are you walking by faith or by sight? Are you trusting in the promises of God or your own abilities to do for yourself? I pray it is the former in each case, and not the latter for you would surely be an open target for the enemy.

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