Pastor Sherry’s message for August 22/2021, 

Scriptures: Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

In his 2013 book titled Did the Devil Make me Do It?, Mike McKinley asks us to consider what would happen if the Devil told us the truth when he tempted us. He says it might sound something like this:

    Satan:  You should cheat on your spouse with that good looking gal/guy at the office/coffee shop/church, etc..

    Us:  I don’t think so.  It’s wrong and it would hurt my spouse.

    Satan:  Fair enough, you make a good point.  But look, I’ve run a cost-benefits analysis for you.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

        Benefits:  

            1.) A few moments of physical pleasure;

            2.) A temporary boost to self-esteem.

        Costs:  

            1.) Disobedience to God;

            2.) Sin, so separation from God;

            3.) Ruin or possibly even end your marriage;

            4.) Humiliate your spouse;

            5.) Mess up your kids’ lives;

            6.) Public embarrassment and exposure;

            7.) Could cost you your job (especially in a church);

            8.) Might mess up the life of your partner in sin;

            9.) You might get a sexually transmitted disease;

            10.) There could be an unwanted pregnancy;

            11.) Wreck your Christian witness to others…

    Us:  Wow, hmmm, a ratio of 2:11…No thanks!

But the problem for us, unfortunately, is that Satan is never honest with us. Jesus tells us in John 8:44 [The devil]…was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Later, in John 10:10, Jesus contrasts Himself, the Good Shepherd, with the devil, “the thief”, saying The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they [the sheep; us] may have life, and have it to the full.

    Both Jesus and Paul were very concerned that we believers would not be done in by the evil one.  In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul reminds us that we who love Christ are always, daily, sometimes moment to moment, in a spiritual battle!  The devil doesn’t have to work hard with those who belong to him anyway.  Instead he works tirelessly to pull the Lord’s faithful away from Him.  Thus, when we are frustrated in life, we need to consider not just what we see with our eyes or understand with our minds.  We also need to remember we live in a spiritual realm, in which both angels and demons operate.

C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Screwtape Letters: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors ….. So, one mistake is to deny the existence of Satan and his demons. We may think he is a myth, a superstition, a made up entity—like the “Boogey Man”– intended to scare us into doing right. This is a grave and a naive blunder! A second error is to see demons, the Devil’s minions, behind every bush, and to deny our own personal responsibility for our actions. When Satan fell from heaven he took 1/3 of the angels with him. These became the demons he now commands. We need to remember, then, that God is both more powerful than he is—after all, God cast him out of heaven– and that the legions of angels outnumber demons by at least two to one. Regardless, we can’t just excuse ourselves by saying, “the Devil made me do it.” We have to remember that the Devil tempts us to sin, but we only sin when come into agreement with him and succumb to the temptation.

    To me the best proof for the existence of the Devil is that fact that Jesus, Peter, Paul, James and the Church—up until the Age of the Enlightenment, about 250 years ago–all believed that Satan and his demons were real:

    1.) I have already quoted to you from the Gospel of John what Jesus had to say about Satan.

    2.) After having been reconciled to Christ, Peter wrote (1 Pet 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith….

        3.) Paul Ephesians 4:27-27: In your anger, do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

        4.) James, the brother of Christ Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you.           

    So let’s look, verse by verse at what Paul is telling us in our New Testament passage today (Ephesians 6:10-20):

    Verse 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Our strength, in any conflict, in any attack from the evil one, comes from God.  We do not have the power to fight Satan on our own.  But God does!  Jesus does!  We know that Jesus does because He continuously cast out demons during His earthly ministry, and because as Paul reminds us in  Philippians 2:10 the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Satan and all of his demons must submit to Christ’s authority.  This is why we daily tell Satan to cease and desist from any temptation by calling upon the name of Jesus.

    Verse 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  God has given us spiritual armor because we are in a spiritual battle.  He has not left us defenseless.  He has provided protection for us.  We are to appropriate the armor and STAND We don’t have to beat a retreat.  We don’t have to engage in combat in our own strength.  We just have to take on a stance of strength and wait upon the Lord.  So often in the Old Testament, we see how God won the battle.  Numerous accounts of Israeli forces during the 1967 “Six Days War” tell of how they were outnumbered, but became invisible to their Arab foes; how they caused superior numbers of Arab soldiers to surrender, even though the Israelis were out of ammunition; how large angels dressed as soldiers protected them, etc.  The battle belonged to the Lord.

    Now why are we to stand?  Verse 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of wickedness.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood people!  Or even events!   It’s against the demonic.  As in any army, there are organized ranks in the demonic realm:

    1.) Rulers (principalities; king/princes) They have oversight of nations.

2.) Authorities (generals, lieutenants) demons who operate through seduced individuals and plague humankind;

3.) Powers of this dark world Satan; the power behind darkness;

    4.) Spiritual forces of wickedness these are pagan gods; witchcraft; wiccan; and voo-doo.

    Despite this army of evil, God expects us to stand verse 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when [not if] the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand.  We are meant to utilize the armor He gives us (I put it on daily, in the name of Jesus).  We are told to stand 4 times in this passage.   

    Next Paul names the components of our protective armor:

    Verses14-15 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  The Belt of truth is The Word of God (the Bible).  To be armored up, we need to be reading our Bibles.  The Breastplate of Righteousness guards our heart.  Jesus Christ is our righteousness.  In baptism and in confirmation, we have put on Christ, we have been clothed in His righteousness.  As Peter says in today’s Gospel reading, (John 6:68-69)…Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.  It’s only in and through Jesus that our hearts are protected.  Our feet are shod with the readiness or preparation that comes from the Gospel of peace.  In other words, our feet are anchored when we stand upon the firm foundation, the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ, as revealed to us in Scripture.

    Verses 16-17 in addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  The Shield of Faith probably refers to the shields carried by Roman soldiers of the time.  They were about the size of a door and made of leather that was soaked, before battle, in water so as to douse any flaming arrows that flew at them.  Similarly our faith keeps all of us fully protected against the “fiery darts” which are all of Satan’s schemes to defeat us.  The Helmet of Salvation is meant to protect our mortal minds.  When we are under spiritual attack, we want to focus on our faith in Christ, not on what Satan whispers or mutters in our ears.   The Sword of the Spirit, again, refers to the Word of God written.  Scripture and prayer are our only offensive weapons!  In His temptations, Jesus modeled for us defeating Satan’s attacks by quoting God’s word.  We can do this too.

    Verse 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Again, prayer is our second offensive weapon in our spiritual battles.  It is truly the Christian’s nuclear option.  We are to pray for our families, our friends, our church, our state, our nation,

We do this each Sunday when we offer up our “Joys and Concerns” at the beginning of our worship service.  But we can also pray while driving our cars, taking a walk, cooking, washing dishes, weeding the garden, taking a shower.  This week, please be sure to pray for our soldiers and citizens stranded in Afghanistan, as well as those Afghani civilians who partnered with us over the past 20 years.  Pray for their safety and their rapid rescue.  Also, I urge you to pray for the protection of Afghani women and children under the control of the militant and often abusive Taliban.

    This side of heaven, we are in a spiritual battle.  This week, let’s take a look at our personal struggles.  Think about whether they are due to our own poor choices, or to some attack from the evil one.  Then, put on the full armor of God and stand firm, using your spiritual weapons, Scripture and prayer.  Amen!

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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