7. Relating To One Another In Harmony, Pt. 2: The Harmony Of Children And Parents (6:1-4)Related Media
Our subject in this series is “Living Together in Community,” one aspect of which is “Relating to One Another in Harmony.” Harmonious relationships are the natural result of mutual submission: submitting to one another in the fear of Christ (5:21).
The epistle of Ephesians that we are studying has as its central theme the “unity of the church” in our position (ch. 1-3) and practice (ch. 4-6). Relationships play a vital role in unity in any organization and my proposition to you is that “unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships.”
Having addressed “The Harmony of Wives and Husbands” (Eph. 5:22-33), the apostle Paul now addresses “The Harmony of Children and Parents.” We’ve seen that a harmonious relationship in marriage depends upon a Spirit-filled wife willingly submitting to the leadership of her husband and a Spirit-filled husband sacrificially loving his wife.
Now, the subject turns from the relationship of wives and husbands to children and parents. As in marriages, so in families, submission is central to harmony.
Who are the “children” Paul is addressing? Well, in one way it includes all of us since we are all someone’s child. But specifically, it refers to those who are:
1. Old enough to be admonished and appealed to, but young enough to be still in the process of being brought up.
2. Old enough to make a personal commitment to Christ, but young enough to still be under their parents jurisdiction and authority (i.e. living at home).
I. The Obligations Of Christian Children To Their Parents (1-3)
Christian children have two basic obligations:
1. Christian Children Are To Be “Obey” Their Parents (1)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Spirit-filled wives “submit” to their husband; Spirit-filled husbands “love” their wives; and Spirit-filled children obey their parents. To obey literally means to “hear under” - i.e. to put yourself under the words and authority of your parents; to listen up attentively ; to listen with the purpose of responding positively.
How should Christian children obey their parents? …in the Lord. The interpretive question here is: “Does in the Lord modify obey or parents? Since in the Lord is followed by for this is right, it would make most sense that in the Lord qualifies obey rather than parents. In other words, the children’s obedience is to be characterized as in the Lord (for such obedience is right), rather than their parents being in the Lord, about which it would hardly be said, for this is right.
So, the statement here is about the obedience of the children, not the Christianity of the parents. The obedience of Christian children is described as in the Lord because their attitude to their parents displays their relationship to the Lord. If their obedience is in the Lord they will obey their parents for the Lord’s sake.
Obedience to parents is part of Christian discipleship. Have you been raised in a Christian home? Are you in the Lord? Do you want to walk as Jesus walked? Do you want to demonstrate the reality of Christ in you? Then, show it by being obedient to your parents!
In their obedience to their parents, Christian children show their reverence for the Lord (21) by submitting to the authority and responsibility that God has given to their parents. Your Christian home is where you should first demonstrate your faith by being obedient to your parents. So, obey your parents because your are in the Lord. Be obedient to them because you are a Christian and because you want to be obedient to the Lord! To obey your parents is to obey the Lord, so obey them for the Lord’s sake.
The first motivation to obey your parents is to do so in the Lord - that’s “how” you should obey them. But…
Why should children obey their parents? …because this is right. This is the second motivation to obey your parents. Obedience to parents is right because the Lord commands and expects it, not because society or because psychologists say so. Human behaviour isn’t motivated by what is right before God but by what seems right to them in their own eyes. That’s why so many children are disobedient to their parents – they have no fear of God; they aren’t concerned with what is right before God. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).
Obedience to your parents is right because God says so. It is right as before the Lord. It’s God’s standard of right and everything that God commands is right. “For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hos. 14:9). “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).
When you obey your parents you are doing what is right because (1) you are doing what God wants you to do; (2) you are obeying him; and (3) you are doing what pleases him. Conversely, when you disobey your parents you are doing what is wrong because you are disobeying God and displeasing him. Disobedience to parents is a sign of a depraved society (Rom. 1:30) and a sign of the evil of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2).
The first obligation of Christian children is to obey their parents. The second is…
2. Christian Children Are To “Honour” Their Parents (2-3)
If obedience is a right act, honour is a right attitude, the attitude of valuing your parents highly, holding them in high regard. Notice two important things about this obligation and commandment…
The key to all human relationships is the relationship with your parents. Honour your father and mother (2a). Children are to honour their father and mother. Notice it does not say “honour your parents” as a couple, but honour your father and mother as individuals (i.e. you are to honour them equally individually and for who they are - representatives of God’s love and authority).
This principle is so important that Moses said that physical or verbal abuse of a parent is a capital offence punishable by death (cf. Ex. 21:15; Lev. 20:9; Matt. 15:3). What if that standard were applied today?
All human relationships grow out of the relationship of children to their parents. Hence, children who are undisciplined and disobedient will contribute to a society that is chaotic and destructive. But children who obey and respect their parents will contribute to the ordering of a harmonious and productive society. Children who honour their father and mother will also honour other authority figures. If you want to know why young offenders are the way they are, take a look at their attitude and relationship to their parents. Obedience and honour are learned at home.
This is the first commandment with a promise (2b), namely, “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (3). Under Jewish law there were rewards for keeping certain laws. Keeping this law brought with it the rewards of prosperity and long life. Perhaps there is a connection between long life for obeying and honouring your parents vs. death by capital punishment for those who abused their parents under the O.T. law.
But Christians aren’t under the law in the same sense that the O.T. Jews were and we certainly have no promises concerning material prosperity or length of life. Why then is the promise quoted here? – probably two reasons…
1) Because the promise reinforces the significance and importance of the commandment.
2) Because honour for your parents does bring with it certain rewards. They may not be material prosperity or long life, but you’ll enjoy a lasting, rich, healthy, happy, satisfying, harmonious relationship with your parents and family; you’ll prosper in your relationships with others; you’ll develop a good attitude to life; you’ll live in peace and with respect others. That’s a great reward for honouring your father and mother! Many people would give anything to have that kind of relationship with their parents.
Such, then, are the obligations of Christian, Spirit-filled children to their father and mother. Now notice…
II. The Obligations Of Fathers To Their Children (4)
There are two commands to fathers - one negative and one positive. First the negative:
1. Fathers Are Not To Anger Their Children
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath (4a).
In Greco-Roman culture, fathers were power figures. They had virtual life and death power over the household. They could sell their children as slaves (even kill them) and certainly didn’t show much love to their children. A newborn baby was placed at its father’s feet to determine its fate. If he picked it up, it stayed but if he walked away, it was disposed of by being taken to the town forum where it would be picked up and raised as a slave or a prostitute. Children born weak and deformed were drowned. Baby girls were left outside, exposed to the weather so that they died.
Is that so different than today? No! Today we have live-birth abortions and so many children abandoned, neglected and mistreated. Fathers are the most likely to provoke their children to anger. To provoke to anger suggests a pattern of treatment that generates a deep-seated exasperation, anger, resentment that erupts into outward hostility.
What treatment can generate this kind of response?
- Showing favouritism (e.g. Isaac re: Esau; Sarah re: Jacob).
- Pressuring them to excel, to achieve in schoolwork, sports etc.
- Discouraging them by criticizing them, never complimenting or encouraging them.
- Not letting children be children. Structuring their lives so tightly that they have no time to play, or to use their imagination, or to relax.
- Physical and verbal harshness, improper discipline, sarcasm, put downs, bitter words.
Do you know the three things that fathers say most to their children?
1) “I’m too tired”
2) “We don’t have enough money”
3) “Keep quiet” 1
Did you know that 66% of teenagers spend less than 30 minutes a week talking to their father about things that really matter to them? 2
How do you avoid provoking your children to anger? By avoiding attitudes, words, and actions which would drive a child to such exasperation or resentment. This rules out excessively severe discipline, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, unfairness, nagging, condemnation, humiliation, insensitivity to a child’s needs and sensibilities. Fathers hold great power but there are bounds to the use of that power. Children are not chattels that you own but human beings.
After the negative command comes the positive:
2. Fathers Are To Train Their Children
…but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (4b)
It’s a father’s responsibility to discipline his children. Discipline means correction. It has the sense of what is done to and for the child. Nobody finds discipline (in the sense of chastisement pleasant), neither the father nor the child. In fact it can be downright painful but it yields long term benefits – namely, the “peaceable fruits of righteousness” (Heb. 12:6-11).
Fathers, bring up your children in the discipline of the Lord! Chasten them as the Lord chastens us but without generating bitterness. Train them. Instruct them from the Word (2 Tim 3:16) so that they learn righteousness. But don’t exasperate them in the process.
Teach them rules and regulations, rewards and punishments, but not so that they resent it and become angry (Prov. 13:24; 22:6). Punish them if necessary but not so that they hate you for it. Correct them but don’t harm their attitudes and emotions. Nurture them in Christian character and conduct so that they love what you love.
Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, raised seventeen children and had these words to say about raising children: “The parent who studies to subdue (self-will) in the child works together with God in renewing and saving the soul. The parent who indulges it does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body forever.” 3 These are strong words from someone who knows the importance of discipline.
So, it’s a father’s responsibility to train, discipline your children. And...
It’s a father’s responsibility to “admonish” his children. To admonition (lit. “put them in mind”), means to instruct them in what they need to know. It has more the sense of what is said to the child. Admonition is more verbal correction and instruction – warning, encouraging. It has to do with right attitudes and principles of behaviour.
Fathers, raise your children in the admonition of the Lord! Warn them of things that are wrong without breaking their spirits. Counsel them from your experience without lording it over them. Instruct them but don’t be burdensome. Encourage them, reprove them, remonstrate with them but don’t breathe down their necks all the time; don’t turn them aside.
Notice that discipline and admonition are both of the Lord. The Lord is the reference point in all of this. This is the key. It is specifically Christian training - training by instruction and example, training according to God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “The very heart of Christian nurture is…to bring the heart of the child to the heart of his Saviour.” 4
Young people, what’s your response to this message? Do you need to change your attitude to your parents? How’s your behaviour been lately? If I talked to your parents, would they say you’re obedient or disobedient? If you want to please God, obey your parents, not begrudgingly but joyfully in the Lord, out of honour for who they are.
Fathers, how’s your relationship with your children? Do you have time for them? Are you patient, loving, and kind to them? When they need help, comfort, and advice, do they come to you? Are you their best friend and hero? Are you the one they want to be like when they grow up?
In Ramsey County, Minnesota, ninth and tenth graders were interviewed about their dads. They were asked this question: “What comes to mind when you think of dad’? Answers came immediately from both ends of the spectrum. One end of the spectrum said, “I think of the word ‘jerk.’” Others thought of words like angry, mad, and absent. On the other hand, some of the young people said, “I think of wholeness, kindness, security, safety.” Dad is an immensely powerful word. 5
Fathers, you’ve got a big obligation to your children. Make the most of these formative years when their young minds and hearts can be moulded by Christian values. None of us knows how our children will turn out so what a motivation to raise them for God in the training and instruction of the Lord!
1 Cited in Christianity Today, August 27, 1976.
2 Barna Research Group (2/94). “To Verify,” Leadership.
3 From the Journal of John Wesley
4 Hendriksen, Ephesians, 263.
5 Roger Thompson, Becoming a Man, “Preaching Today,” Tape no. 140.
8. Relating To One Another In Harmony, Pt. 3: The Harmony Of Servants And Masters (6:5-9)Related Media
This article continues our series on “Living Together in Community” based on Ephesians 4 to 6 (please see the previous articles). Ephesians 5:22-6:9 deals with harmonious relationships in the Christian community.
Relationships in the ancient world were not always harmonious. Husbands lorded over their wives, fathers were harsh with their children, and masters abused their slaves.
In addressing each relationship, Paul isn’t trying to change the social structure of the day but to change the perspective of his readers by pointing them to Christ. We’ve already noticed that (1) wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord; (2) husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; (3) children are to obey their parents in the Lord; and (4) fathers are to raise their children in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Today, we come to the last relationship in this passage, the relationship of slaves and masters. We don’t have slavery here in Canada, fortunately, but it still exists in some countries. The influence of Christianity finally helped to eradicate the system of slavery in England through statesmen like William Wilberforce and William Pitt and through preachers like John Wesley and George Whitefield. The root of the problem wasn’t the social system but the human heart. And that problem is still with us today.
Since we don’t have masters and slaves anymore in our society, I’m going to apply this passage to relationships in the workplace, servants (employees) and masters (employers) where the human heart is still a problem
Harmonious relationships stem from a Christian perspective, a Christian perspective of who you are and whom you serve. Even with slavery, Paul didn’t try to change the existing social structure but he tried to change their perspective so that Christian slaves and their masters could enjoy harmonious relationships in Christ.
The Christian perspective is (1) that you are a child of God and that your life’s work is to serve the Lord; (2) that you respect the authority structure God has established in the family, the church, and society; and (3) within that structure you practice mutual submission.
Remember our thesis for this section: “Unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships”. The key to harmonious relationships is mutual submission and mutual submission stems from the perspective of seeing ourselves “in Christ”. When mutual submission is practiced in the workplace, employees and employers work together in harmony.
Harmony in the workplace is generated firstly by…
I. The Obedience Of The Christian Employee (5-8)
Bondservants, be obedient to your masters according to the flesh (5a) - i.e. earthly masters. If you’re employed, be obedient to your superior. This isn’t conditional. It’s not based on fair or kind treatment by your employer. Rather, you are to keep on being obedient no matter what. 1 Peter 2:18 says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
Christian obedience is radical. If you’re told to do something, then do it joyfully, willingly, and obediently. Don’t grumble and complain. Don’t say: “It’s not my job!”
The term earthly masters infers …
1. That our submission to them is temporal
a) Our obedience to earthly masters only lasts for a while – it only covers our earthly employment
b) It has nothing to do with spiritual or moral matters.
2. That we also have a heavenly Master to whom we owe final allegiance and who is perfectly loving and just and kind.
So, how do we show this radical, Christian obedience?
1. Christian Obedience Is Shown In Your Attitude
It’s an attitude of respect - with fear and trembling (5b). This doesn’t mean that you cringe with fear before your employer. It doesn’t mean that you cower like a scared puppy in fright. Rather, it means that you honour and respect your employer, that you revere them, you acknowledge that the source of their authority is God.
It’s an attitude of sincerity - in sincerity of heart (5c). You are to be undivided in your loyalty, devoid of hypocrisy, with no ulterior motives. Your attitude is marked by integrity, wholeheartedness, uprightness, purity of motive.
It’s an attitude of submission - as to Christ (5d). This is the perspective that makes such obedience possible. Your obedience to your earthly master is actually obedience and submission to Christ. Your work becomes an opportunity to work for Christ and to submit to Christ. This is the fundamental Christian attitude – one of submission and obedience to Christ.
It has nothing to do with the character of your boss or his treatment of you. It has everything to do with submitting to Christ. Christians ought to be the most obedient, upright, respectful employees because they work as to Christ. This can make your testimony very believable and powerful. If your work ethic is different from unbelievers, if you speak, think, and act differently, you can have a powerful testimony. But if you always arrive at work late and leave early, do poor quality work, take long lunch breaks, and constantly complain about your boss, your testimony won’t be believable.
If your employer is a Christian, don’t think that you are entitled to special treatment. Christian employers are entitled to even more respect and obedience because they are brothers or sisters in the Lord. Give of your absolute best no matter who your employer is and in so doing you glorify God. If you can’t tolerate your work, then find something else, but don’t slack off so long as you work there. Keep on working as to Christ, be punctual, reliable, and co-operative.
First, then, Christian obedience is shown in your attitude. And second…
2. Christian Obedience Is Shown In Your Diligence (6-8)
A diligent Christian does not work with eye service as men pleasers (6a). You don’t seek to be the boss’s favourite. You don’t curry his attention or his recognition. Your objective is not just to make an outward impression. You don’t work just to catch the boss’s eye.
Don’t be superficial. Don’t “obey” in order to curry the boss’s favour. Don’t just work hard when the boss is looking and stop when he turns his back. That’s deceit. Integrity of heart excludes such behavior. Don’t do a good job just to make an impression or to please men for your own selfish ends, but rather, work hard whether you are recognized or not. Work diligently whether you are rewarded for it or not. A diligent Christian doesn’t work to please men.
Rather a diligent Christian works as a servant of Christ (6b). Regardless of denominational loyalties and official creeds, your true god is the one you serve. We are servants of Christ. A servant of Christ does the will of God from the heart (6c). You’re not just going through the motions at work. You’re not just attentive on the outside but miles away on the inside. Rather, you’re engrossed in doing the will of God from your innermost being, from your soul. Your heart’s desire is to glorify God in doing his will on the job.
Doing the will of God from the heart is part of your everyday life – at home, at work, at school, or at church. God’s will is all-encompassing. It is generated inwardly in your heart and soul and it is expressed outwardly in your attitude - your diligence, your wholeheartedness. What a contrast with those who do eye service, those who pay lip service, but have no inner conviction about how they work!
A servant of Christ serves with enthusiasm doing service as to the Lord and not men (7). The one who does the will of God does the work of God with all your strength (Eccl. 9:10), being fervent in spirit (Rom. 12:11), doing it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23). Your enthusiasm comes from a new perspective. You no longer see yourself as a slave of men but as a slave of Christ, doing service as to the Lord and not men.
A diligent Christian, then, does not work to please men but as a servant of Christ.
And a diligent Christian works for God’s reward: …knowing that whatever good you do, you will receive the same from the Lord, whether you are a slave or free (8). This is the assurance that sustains the right attitude. Your boss may not adequately or properly compensate you for all the extras you do but God will, “for all things are open and naked before him” (Heb. 4:13). Work diligently because you know the Lord is the final judge - not your boss, not your Board of Directors, not your principal, not your manager, but God himself.
Rewards for doing good aren’t a matter of social position. It’s not just management people who are rewarded for results. We all have a profit-sharing plan with God whether you are an employee or employer. It’s this end-view perspective that makes it all worthwhile. You know that when you do the will of God for the glory of God that God will take note, that no good deed will go unnoticed or unrewarded. Whatever good deeds you do for the glory of God are never done in vain.
Many years ago, an elderly missionary couple returned from Africa to retire in New York City. As their ship steamed into New York harbour, they were cast down because of their bleak situation – they had no pension, their health was broken, they were discouraged and fearful about the future. What made it worse was that on board their ship was President Teddy Roosevelt, returning from a big-game hunting expedition in Africa. As the ship pulled into the harbour, a band was playing on the dock and a huge crowd had gathered to welcome the returning president, including the mayor of NY. But no one was there to meet the missionaries. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap apartment on the east side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city. That night the man’s spirit just broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this. God is not fair! We don’t even know anyone to help us, or where to go. If God is faithful, why doesn’t he meet our need?” “Why don’t you ask him?” replied his wife. “All right,” said the man, “I will.” He went to his bedroom and prayed for a while. Later, he seemed completely changed. His wife asked him what happened. “Well,” he said, “the Lord settled with me. I told the Lord how bitter I was that the president should receive this tremendous homecoming when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord simply said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’”1
That’s a great truth, isn’t it? We may not receive just rewards in this life from our earthly masters but God will hand out the final reward when we get home. Any deed done for God will receive its just reward in the day of judgement.
Harmony in the workplace is generated by the obedience of the Christian employee. It is also generated by…
II. The Example Of The Christian Employer (9)
Christian masters need to demonstrate 3 principles…
1. Do To Others As You Would Have Them Do To You
Masters, do the same to them (9a). Treat your employees the way you want them to treat you. The culture in any organization stems from the top. If you want them to show a good attitude toward you, then you better show a good attitude toward them. Respect them, be sincere toward them. If you want obedience from them, make sure you show a submissive spirit yourself. Demonstrate mutual submission. If you want them to be conscientious and genuine toward you, then you make sure that you treat them honestly. Don’t you try to dupe your employees into doing what you want for your own selfish motives. If you want them to work diligently for you, then you’d better be diligent in providing them with good working conditions, wages, and benefits. If you want them to work with enthusiasm, give them something to be enthusiastic about - a happy environment, fair treatment.
Don’t get a high opinion of yourself because you’re the boss. Don’t think that you can practice different standard of ethics from everyone else. You aren’t protected by your position. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t exempt you from showing courtesy, respect, fairness. Do the same to your employees as you expect from them.
Make sure that you do the will of God from the heart, that you carry out your duties with zeal, that you conduct your business with God’s reward in mind. Give yourself a reality check once in a while. Ask yourself if you are working to please the Lord or self, if you want the Lord’s favour or man’s.
The first principle to be practised by Christian masters is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The second principle is...
2. Don’t Misuse Your Power
… giving up threatening (9b). Don’t use threats to get your own way. Slaves were powerless before their masters – they had no legal rights. To be threatened was a frightening thing for them. They had no place to turn.
But a relationship based on power isn’t a proper Christian relationship. Threats push people apart. Threats are a weapon of the powerful over the powerless. So, don’t use your position of authority unlawfully or to the detriment of those under you. Don’t provoke them like some fathers do their children. Don’t throw your weight around. Don’t lord it over them.
The third principal for Christian masters is this...
3. Remember, You’re Accountable Yourself
…knowing that your own Master also is in heaven (9c). You have a master as well - the ultimate Master in heaven. He holds ultimate power. His decision is final. You’re accountable to him. He’s your Master as well as theirs, so you are fellow servants of Jesus Christ together. You and your Christian employees are accountable to the same Master.
You aren’t any more important to God than your employees because there is no partiality with Him (9d). Your heavenly Master isn’t influenced by position, rank, or power. You may be used to being pampered and favoured by others because of your position but your heavenly Master shows no partiality to anyone. So, don’t be deceived into thinking that somehow He will favour you. He plays no favourites: He’s an impartial Judge. He loves you equally with those who work under you.
Harmony in the workplace is a matter of Christian perspective. It’s a perspective that allows you to see all your relationships differently and that you’ve been liberated from the slavery of pleasing men to the freedom of serving Christ. It’s a perspective that makes it possible for a housewife to order her household as though Jesus were her guest, for a teacher to teach children as if Jesus were in the classroom, for an accounts payable clerk to pay the bills as if Jesus were her customer, for a secretary to type correspondence and a factory worker to operate machinery as if they were serving Christ, for that is exactly what they are doing – serving Christ.
This is a perspective that generates harmonious relationships:
1) Because the superiority of the boss and subservience of the worker is replaced by mutual respect and admiration.
2) Because the worker obeys his boss wholeheartedly and the boss is kind to his workers.
3) Because the ill-will and dishonesty that was so prevalent in slaves is replaced by willing service, integrity, and industry; and
4) Because the cruelty and brutality of masters is replaced by consideration and love.
That’s what we must work for - a community of faith that is gloriously transformed into a new community in Christ where inequities are abolished, where we share our possessions, where we are all equal before God, where we practice mutual submission, where individuals are respected for who they are, and where harmony reigns supreme in all our relationships, a harmony toward which we are moving and which will ultimately be displayed in all its beauty and perfection in the New Jerusalem where we will be one with each other and with the Lord
1 Ray Stedman, “Talking with My Father,” 27.
Related Topics: Christian Life
9. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 1: The Power and Provision for Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:10-13)Related Media
My wife and I have been to Romania many times to minister to pastors and churches there. One of the places we have visited is the City of Timisoara. Timisoara has a fascinating history, particularly for its part in the 1989 revolution against President Ceausescu’s cruel regime. Laszlo Tokes was the pastor of a fast-growing reformed church in the city of Timisoara. So powerful was his preaching that the communist officials began to strategically suppress him. They stationed police officers around his church and hired thugs to attack him. Finally, just before Christmas 1989, they decided to send him into exile but when the police arrived to take Pastor Tokes away, they found the church surrounded by a wall of people. Christians from all over the city and from all denominations had united together to protect Pastor Tokes and to protest the communists’ actions against him.
All through the day they stood their ground. As it grew dark, a student named Daniel Gavra pulled out some candles, lit one and passed it to the person next to him. Then he lit another, and another until the December darkness was pierced by the light of hundreds of candles. When Pastor Tokes looked out of the window of the church, all he saw was a sea of faces lit up by a warm glow.
Two days later, armed forces finally broke through the crowd and dragged Pastor Tokes away. But that was not the end. Thousands of people streamed from the church across the bridge leading into the city square, where they began a full-scale demonstration against the communist government.
Struck with panic, the communist officials ordered the troops to shoot at the crowd. Hundreds were shot that day, including Daniel Gavra, whose leg was blown off. But the protest wasn’t supressed by bullets. Within days, this demonstration in Timisoara sparked a nation-wide uprising, such that the army that once obeyed Ceausescu’s orders actually turned against him. As he and his wicked wife tried to escape by air, airborne troops surrounded their helicopter and forced them to land. On Christmas day 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were publicly executed.
My wife and I have seen Pastor Tokes’ church. We’ve seen the bullet holes in the walls of the buildings in the city square. And I have met the General of the Army who called off the troops and who turned against President Ceausescu and his government.
For the first time in half a century, the people of Romania celebrated Christmas that year in freedom. In the hospital, Daniel Gavra celebrated while learning to walk on crutches. When his pastor came by to offer his sympathies, Daniel said: “Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg. After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”1
This touching and brave incident in the history of Romania reminds us of what the church can do when we stand together as a community, ready to fight evil, and “having done all to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
The concept of the church is referred to in Ephesians as a “mystery” (3:3) because God’s plan for the church was incomprehensible and because the union of Jews and Gentiles together in one body was inconceivable. But now, what was previously incomprehensible has been made known and what was previously inconceivable has been accomplished in Christ.
So now, all Christians share a common position in Christ (Eph. 1:1-3:21). The separation between Jews and Gentiles is gone. We have common blessings (1:3-23), a common transformation (2:1-10), and a common relationship in Christ (2:11-22). But it’s not sufficient to claim a common position in Christ without showing it in a common practice. That’s why Paul urges us to live together in community in a way that’s worthy of our position. So far we have learned that our lives are to be characterized by…
1. Walking together in unity (4:1-6)
2. Growing together in maturity (4:7-16)
3. Pursuing purity together (4:17-5:21)
4. Relating together in harmony (5:22-6:9)
Lastly, our life together in the community of faith is to be characterized by “Standing Together in Victory” (6:10-20). In our life together in community, we face a real spiritual battle. While the relationships of Christian husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters is to be marked by mutual submission and, thus, harmony, there is one more relationship which cannot be reconciled, will never be peaceful, and to which we can never submit nor obey. That’s our relationship to the devil.
Our relationship to the devil is characterized as a spiritual battle. Our spiritual life in Christ is not always smooth sailing. We have an enemy, the devil who is hostile to everyone who submits to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The devil is doing everything he can to destroy what God has established - namely, the united community of the church. Our passage in this article teaches us that “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection.”
I. Our Power For Spiritual Battles Is The Lord (10)
The admonition, Finally, my brothers, be strengthened in the Lord and in his mighty power (10) reminds us of God’s encouragement to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). It also reminds us of Paul’s exhortation: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
Be strengthened (10a) is the passive voice. This indicates that, since we cannot strengthen ourselves, our strength comes from a source outside ourselves. Where does it come from? How are we strengthened? Firstly…
1. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Position - In The Lord (10b)
God provides us with the strength to withstand the onslaughts of the enemy. We derive our empowerment for battle through and from the Lord. Because we are in the Lord, we are strong. He strengthens us. We can’t do it for ourselves for we have no strength of our own. We are like a baby in the mother’s womb which derives its life and strength and nourishment from its mother. We are in the Lord - his riches are our riches, his life our life, his wisdom our wisdom, his strength our strength. On our own, we are weak; without him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). But in the Lord we are strong: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
We are strengthened by our spiritual position – in the Lord. And…
2. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Resource - His Mighty Power (10c)
Because we are in the Lord we have access to God’s mighty power. The mighty power of God is ours through Christ. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20). It’s the same power that transformed us from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1). That same mighty power is ours. That’s our resource for spiritual battles.
The Hibernia oil platform is located in the Atlantic Ocean 189 miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, in 80 meters of water. The total structure is 224 meters high from ocean floor to the top of the derricks. Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, a platform that sank in 1982 with all 84 men on board lost at sea, the Hibernia’s design incorporates a gravity based structure which anchors it to the seabed.
The Hibernia was built as a stationary platform because it is located right in the middle of what scientists call “iceberg alley”. The icebergs that ply these waters can be as large as ocean liners.
Sixteen concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth can distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed. The Hibernia is built to withstand a 1,000,000 ton iceberg (expected every 500 years), and designers claim it can actually withstand a 6,000,000 ton iceberg (expected once in 10,000 years) with repairable damage.
Even with all these protection measures, Hibernia’s designers take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles. Any that come close are towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship’s high-pressure water cannons. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, Hibernia will never allow an iceberg even to come close; it does not rely on its own strength. 2
We need to take the threat of spiritual danger just as seriously. Don’t place your confidence in your own strength. Don’t think that you are able to deal with spiritual icebergs that may come your way. Your strength is hopelessly insufficient.
Our spiritual strength comes from our position in the Lord and our spiritual strength comes from our resource in his mighty power. So, Be strong in the Lord! Don’t give way to doubts. Don’t waver in your faith. Be steadfast in the truth. Be strong… in his mighty power! Draw on his strength. The Lord’s power is greater than all the forces that we face. King Saul and the people of Israel cowered in fear before Goliath; nobody thought that he could be defeated. But in God’s mighty power David slew the giant with a sling and a stone. It’s not the amount of strength we have that’s important, it’s the source. The Lord is our source of strength and power, so draw on him.
Our power for spiritual battles is the Lord. And secondly…
II. Our Protection For Spiritual Battles Is God’s Armour (11-12)
We need God’s power and we need God’s protection…
1. We Must Put On God’s Armour (11)
We are only protected if we put on the armour. Armour is no good unless it is worn. God provides it and we are responsible to put it on.
God’s armour covers us from head to toe. Put on the whole (complete) armour of God (11a). There is no part of us that is exposed to the enemy if we put on the whole armour of God. Therefore, to be fully protected we must put on the whole armour. God provides us with a full suit of armour, full protection. It includes every weapon, every tool, every resource we need for battle.
Paul wrote this from a prison cell so he knew what full armour looked like. So many Christians seem to think they don’t need all the armour. Some think that all they need is the helmet of salvation – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the belt of truth – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the shield of faith – and you do need that - but you need more than that. What good is a helmet without a breastplate or a breastplate without a shield? If you have one without the other you are vulnerable to the sharp arrows of the enemy; you leave part of yourself exposed to being hit, perhaps mortally wounded.
You may think you know all the spiritual truth there is to know, but if you don’t have salvation, what good is it? You may think that your faith will protect you in times of testing, but if you don’t have the truth, what good is it? God’s armour is a complete package.
This is no ordinary armour. It’s the full armor of God. Our own armour is no good for this kind of battle, we need God’s armour. “David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off’” (1 Sam. 17:39). God’s armour was very different from Saul’s armour. Saul’s armour was no good for this battle; it was no match for Goliath. It’s no good trying to devise your own way of fighting the enemy. Don’t try to tackle him with your own weapons or wits. Instead, put on God’s full armour. Remember the apostle Paul’s injunction: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God” (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
God provides us with his armour for a specific purpose: … so that you may be able to stand against the cunning schemes of the devil (11b). Our enemy is the devil. The battle began with Christ’s appearance on earth. As soon as he began his public ministry he began to cast out demons and the reversal of Satan’s takeover of the world began. The battle climaxed at the cross and was won when Christ rose from the dead so that we have been liberated from the devil’s bondage. Satan has been defeated, even though he has not yet surrendered. 3 He is still waging war with God through God’s people, but God enables us to stand firm together against our common enemy, to hold our position while under attack. Now, in order to win the battle we must know the enemy, his tactics, his schemes.
The city of Aqaba lies at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba which is at the northern end of the Red Sea. In 1917, Aqaba seemed impregnable. Any enemy vessel approaching the port would have to face the battery of huge naval guns above the town. All around Aqaba (to the west, the north, and across the gulf to the east) lay barren, waterless, inhospitable desert, so hot that it is referred to as “the anvil of the sun”.
The Turks believed Aqaba to be safe from any attack. But against all odds, Lawrence of Arabia led a force of 50 Arab cavalry across the desert and they managed to rally support among the local people. On July 6, 1917, they swept into Aqaba from the north, from the blind side. The gigantic naval guns were completely powerless to stop them because they were facing in the wrong direction. Aqaba fell, and the Turkish hold on Palestine was broken, to be replaced by the British mandate and eventually by the State of Israel. The Turks failed to defend Aqaba because they made two mistakes - they did not know their enemy, and they did not have the right defensive weapons. 4
Make sure you know who the enemy is and what his tactics are. Our enemy is the “devil”, the chief of the opposing army. Be assured of this, the devil is a real, personal being who “walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The tactics that the devil uses are cunning schemes. His methods are crafty because he is the arch-deceiver (2 Cor. 2:11). He uses cunning strategies, deceptive methods designed to trap us.
So, what are some of Satan’s most deceptive schemes and outright lies today? The lies that lust is love, that suicide is better than life, that sex is good between consenting adults regardless of gender or marriage. The scheme that pornography is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. The deception that what is shown and said on TV is the truth. Malcolm Muggeridge said: “Of all the inventions of our time, TV is likely to prove the most destructive. (It) grinds us down to spiritual dust so fine that a puff of wind scatters us, leaving nothing behind.”
Satan lies that religious pluralism is favourable to Christianity; that moral relativism is good because it doesn’t assign guilt; that humanistic materialism is all we have to live for. He even deceives people into thinking that he (Satan) doesn’t exist!
Beware of the lies and seductions of Satan. He will use any means possible to access your life. If you open the door of your life to him, just a crack, he will take advantage of it and hound you to death. It’s much easier to not allow Satan entrance than to try and drive him out.
How does Satan gain entrance to people’s lives?
a) By illicit sex - pornography, extra marital sex, perverted sex, trivialized sex etc. These practices are seductive and obsessive. They can take over your life, which is what Satan wants. If you engage in illicit sex it can destroy you spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally.
b) By drugs and alcohol. Yes, alcohol is a drug. According to The Addiction Center alcohol is one of the top 10 addictive drugs in our society (along with cocaine, heroin etc.). 5 And it is number 1 in terms of its damage and destruction to individuals, families, and societies. That’s the work of Satan – to destroy your life! Satan wants you under the control of a power greater than yourself, not God’s power but Satan’s.
c) By false teachings like evolution, which is taught in school as scientific fact when it isn’t. Evolution is the invention of man’s atheistic imagination to try and explain the world without God. False teachings like pluralism, that all roads lead to God, and like postmodernism, that there is no knowable absolute truth – that it’s all relative.
Basically, anything that deceives, destroys, or steals is from Satan (Jn. 10:10). Anything that tempts you into sin is from Satan, because God does not tempt anyone with sin (Jas. 1:13). Satan’s methods are crafty, shrewd, ingenious, and viciously destructive. The only way we can deal with them is through the protective armour provided by God. Make sure you put it all on!
Our protection for spiritual battles is God’s armour. And…
2. God’s Armour Protects Us Against Our Spiritual Enemy (12)
We need armour because we are engaged in a conflict. We struggle (12a) – literally, we are in a wrestling match, a personal, intense hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
It’s not a conflict with human forces. We do not struggle against flesh and blood (12b). Flesh and blood speak of humanity in its weakness and mortality (1 Cor. 15:50). If we were fighting against mere men there wouldn’t be the urgency or perhaps even the necessity to put on this armour, for the fight would be much easier, less devious, more visible, identifiable, physical. But our conflict is not with human forces.
We are in a conflict with spiritual forces. We struggle…against rulers, against authorities, against world powers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (12c).
Who are these rulers and authorities and world powers? Verse 12 sets up a sharp contrast - on the one hand, flesh and blood (human enemies) and on the other hand, rulers and authorities (spiritual enemies). This is who our spiritual battle is with, rulers and authorities. From this description and the other references to the same beings in Eph (1:20; 3:10; cf. also 1 Cor. 15:24), I conclude that these are spiritual forces or beings, not human; they are malevolent, evil forces, not good and benevolent.
One question is whether there is a distinction between rulers, authorities and world powers on the one hand and spiritual forces of evil on the other? They appear to be different descriptions of the same evil enemy, descriptions that indicate that they are real spiritual beings who rule over the unseen world, who exercise real power that extends throughout the cosmos. The rulers, authorities and powers then are spiritual forces of evil. These spiritual forces wield cosmic power. They have sweeping power and tyrannical control. They are called rulers, authorities and world powers 6 because they wield the very power that Satan claimed when he offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world.
These spiritual forces are evil. Our enemy is not human but demonic. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see but the world we can’t see - the devil and his demonic empire. We are fighting against evil spirits - the devil and his fallen angels. These spiritual forces are wicked. They operate in and exercise power over the darkness of this age. They operate in the sphere of lies, craftiness, deception, ignorance and sin (i.e. spiritual and moral darkness) among those who “love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (Jn. 3:19). They operate in the sphere with which we were once associated but from which we are delivered when we trust Christ. “For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8), so that we no longer have “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).
When God appeared on earth there was an unprecedented outburst of activity in the realm of darkness. They knew who Jesus was and why he was here: “Have you come to destroy us?” (Lk. 4:34) they asked, and they hated him for it.
These spiritual forces operate in heavenly places - not the heavenly realm where Christ reigns far above all these forces - above all “rule and authority and might and power” (Eph. 1:21). The heavenly realm where Christ reigns supreme is the source of our spiritual blessings. It’s where the saints are seated with Christ (Eph. 2:6). No, these evil spiritual forces operate in a heavenly sphere below that realm but above the earth, what Eph. 2:20 calls the “domain of the air”. That is where these evil forces carry out their clandestine operations.
You may be saying, “Yes, I know that demons and satanic activity is evident in other cultures but not here in our country.” That’s another lie of the devil. He wants you to think you don’t have to be concerned about him and his activities – that’s just something you read about or hear about from people in other countries. Let me be clear: The forces of evil are real and the battle is real right here where we live.
So, don’t just stand there, Paul says, “Do something!” Therefore, take up the whole armour of God (13a). The provision has been made: God has provided us with his armour. The purpose has been explained: we are in a battle and we need protection. The reason is clear - we wrestle with unknown spiritual forces of evil – and the result is anticipated - … so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and, having done all, to stand (13b-c).
In the next article, we’re going to find out how we prepare for spiritual battles and what our spiritual armour actually is. But for now, the exhortation is: “Take it up! Put it on! You’re responsible to put on the armour. Nobody else can do it for you. Don’t rationalize this away. Don’t be complacent about it. Don’t think that this is ‘much ado about nothing’. Take it seriously. Don’t be deceived into thinking that there is no battle.”
William Wilberforce, that great advocate for the abolition of slavery, once said: “When religion is in a state of quiet and prosperity ... the soldiers of the church… will then tend to forget they are at war. Their ardor slackens and their zeal languishes.” 7
John Owen has made an apt comparison: religion in a state of prosperity is like a colony that is long settled in a strange country. It is gradually assimilated in features, demeanor and language to the native inhabitants until at length every vestige of its distinctiveness had died away. Our spiritual battle is the “forgotten war”.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that you don’t need armour. Don’t be deceived into thinking that victory is yours without a battle. You can’t dodge the draft into this war.
We are living in the evil day which will get worse (1 Cor. 7:26; 1 Thess. 5:2-4). It’s the evil day because the devil and his angels are fiercely attacking. They are attacking Christians trying to deceive them into renouncing their faith. They are attacking non-Christians deceiving them that all is well and bringing them under Satan’s power.
The evil day will only end when God throws the devil (the deceiver, Satan) into the abyss. In the meantime, remember the thesis of this article: “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection”. They alone are sufficient to keep us, sufficient for us to withstand in the evil day.
When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms he was accused of heresy. After being condemned for stating that men are saved by faith in Christ alone, he declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God…here I stand, I cannot do otherwise”. In the end result, it’s not about fighting but about standing. It’s not about what you did but whether you stood firm. Having done all things means having done what we had to do, having prepared for battle, having been fully armed for battle.
Having done all things stand firm in battle to the very end. Paul’s overriding desire for himself was to be found standing firm at the end and not be “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). God hasn’t asked us to do the impossible. Without God’s power we would stumble and fall. Without God’s armour we would be fatally unprotected. But in God’s power and with God’s full armour of protection we can stand against the devil.
We must stand united together as a community of faith because there is strength in unity. When everyone pulls in the same direction there is great power. Let us stand together, therefore, shoulder-to-shoulder against our common enemy.
1 Some details obtained from “The One Year Devotions for People of Purpose,” by Charles Colson, page 712.
2 “Avoiding False Security”, https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/december/12147.html, Todd Dugard; references Robert Kiener, “Marvel of the North.
3 See Rom. 15:18-21; 1 Cor. 15:56-57; Heb. 2:14
4 Citation: Michael Boyland in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership, in Christianity Today.
6 This description of evil forces is probably not meant to categorize them but to warn us of the variety and scope of the enemy’s power and resources. Satan claimed ownership of “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9; Lk. 4:5-7; cf. Luke 11:18) in his temptation of Jesus. Jesus ascribed to Satan the title “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; cf. also Jn. 14:30; 16:11; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).
7 Citation: William Wilberforce in Real Christianity. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 4.
Related Topics: Christian Life
10. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 2: The Preparation For Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:14-17)Related Media
This article is a continuation of our series on “Living Together in Community”, a sermonic exposition of Ephesians 4 to 6.
We are in a spiritual war, not with human enemies but demonic; not with visible forces but invisible; not with physical enemies but spiritual. The theme of my last article on Eph. 6:10-13 was: “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection.” And we noticed that (1) our power for spiritual battles is the Lord (10) and (2) our protection for spiritual battles is God’s armour (11-12).
We are to be ready for spiritual battle by putting on God’s whole armour, armour that enables us to “stand” firm in the battle. We aren’t called upon to “fight” but to “stand”; to take the stance of the soldier in combat; to stand firm, to resist the enemy, to never retreat or back up.
We cannot stand in our own strength. Those who think they can stand on their own, better take heed lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12). We stand only in God’s power and protection. We are to stand in the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1); stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13); stand in grace (Rom. 5:2); stand firm in one spirit (Phil. 1:27-28); stand firm in the Lord (Phil. 4:1); stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Col. 4:12); stand strong and fully protected in God’s armour (Eph. 6).
So, we experience spiritual victory in our Christian lives through spiritual power (10) and protection (11-12). In addition, we need spiritual preparation (14-17). In this article we will examine spiritual preparation by understanding what the six pieces of the Christian armour are, their functions, their qualities, and the actions you must take in order to “withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
Our theme for this passage is: “In order to stand for God, we must be prepared with all the armour of God.”
Just as armour is essential for success in physical battle, so spiritual armour is essential for success in spiritual battles. Armour is no good if you don’t know what it is, how to wear it, and what it is for. All of this is described for us in Eph. 6:14-17, where the pieces of armour are described in the order of how actual armour would be put on. First…
I. The Armor Of Truth
Stand, therefore…having girded your waist with truth (14a).
Roman soldiers wore a loose outer tunic, a large square piece of material with holes cut out for the head and arms. To move around quickly and avoid getting all tangled up in the tunic, it needed to be girded around the waist by tucking it into a belt. A girded waist was the mark of one who was prepared for vigorous activity, for service with nothing to hinder or trip them up.
In order to have victory in battle, we must be prepared. We must be like the Israelites who were to eat the Passover with their belt around their waist, sandals on their feet, and staff in their hand (Ex. 12:11).
Don’t be caught unawares, undressed, hindered by things that reduce your spiritual vitality and preparedness. Don’t let the tunic of daily responsibilities and cares entangle your feet, interfere with your service for the Lord, or distract you from the war. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Remove every weight of sin which so easily ensnares us (trips us up, takes us captive).”
Don’t be distracted or held back by the affairs of this world. Don’t let them absorb you so that the things of God take second place. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life so that he may please the one who enlisted him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4).
The belt or girdle represents truth. It’s the first piece of spiritual armour to put on. It is, in fact, part of your undergarments. The truth of God makes us ready for the onslaught of evil. Without the knowledge of God’s truth revealed in his Word we may be “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14); we may give heed to “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1); we may be seduced by the doctrines of the “rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12).
Jesus said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make your free” (Jn. 8:32). It’s God’s truth that frees you from the snares of the devil and releases you into the glorious liberty of Christ.
Furthermore, truth is the characteristic of the new self, the new creature in Christ. To stand in this war against wickedness, as ambassadors of Christ we must be people of honesty, integrity, sincerity. The world is full of lies and deceit because the world is like their father, the devil, who is the father of lies. The only way to counteract lies is with truth. We can only be effective in battle if the enemy recognizes that we are different from them. If they see hypocrisy and deceit in us they will consider us one of them!
Are you known as someone who stands for truth? When people look at you do they see the truth of God in your life? Is that what keeps you on an even keel when everyone else is panicking or depressed? Do unbelievers identify you with uprightness, absolute trustworthiness? Are you the person about whom they say: “I would trust him / her with my life”? If not, then what power do you have in the battle?
Kim Duk-Soo will never forget November 20, 1950. That was the day Communist troops found him hiding with his father in a root cellar. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Christians, Kim made up the human wave escaping from the oppressive communist regime of North Korea for the free South. “When we heard the soldiers coming, I was sure we would be killed,” says Kim, his eyes filling with tears. “My Daddy told me we could not tell a lie to save our lives.”
Kim’s father had pastored the same church for 42 years. He had helped his wife hide their children by covering them with rice bags and dirt. But after two days of hiding, Kim uncovered himself. Just then, Communist troops approached the house. Kim and his father ran to the back yard and hid in the root cellar. “I told God I would serve him all my life if I got out of the root cellar alive,” he said. The soldiers found Kim and his father and took them off to a makeshift prison to be executed the next morning.
That evening, a captain approached Kim. “Are you a Christian?” he asked. For a fleeting moment, life for a lie seemed the only logical way to go. But the young boy remembered his father’s instruction. “I am a Christian,” Kim said. The captain drew closer and whispered, “I am a Christian too. I used to be a Sunday school teacher before the war. You must escape tonight. I will help you.”
Kim fled that night, having to leave his father under heavy guard awaiting his eventual death. Young Kim reached an American army base, where he taught himself to play the organ in the chapel at the base. Now for 30 years, he has played the organ at First Presbyterian in Taegu where 2,000 Koreans worship. 1
That’s the result of faithfulness to the truth, having no gaps in your armour, standing firm for God in the face of conflict. So, to stand firm for God, you need to be prepared with the armour of truth. The second action we must take is to be prepared with…
II. The Armour Of Righteousness
Stand therefore…having put on the breastplate of righteousness (14b).
The breastplate is the piece of armour that protects the body on every side. If you’ve ever studied some of the outstanding works of poetry in school, you will know Alfred Lord Tennyson’s well known poem about the Balaclava charge of the British to certain death called “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Half a league, half a league, half a league onward,
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’ Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply, their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them, volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell, boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death, rode the six hundred.”
That’s the bravery and confidence with which we can stand in battle despite the cannons of Satan’s artillery on every side.
We are protected by the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is the character of God himself. God is righteous because he is perfectly upright, just. He always does what is right, never acting contrary to his own standard and character, nor to what he has said or promised. That’s what righteousness is - perfect consistency with God’s character, being just, taking right action, thinking right thoughts.
The righteousness with which we are to be prepared is practical righteousness. Not the imputed righteousness that we received from God at conversion (all Christians have that righteousness), but the ethical righteousness of an upright and holy walk before God. This is the righteousness that stems from a life lived in obedience to the Word of God, in holiness before God, in the fullness of the Spirit of God.
This righteousness covers our spiritual body so that nothing can penetrate. It’s “the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left”, Paul says in 2 Cor. 6:7. It protects us against attack from all sides, front and back.
Is your life characterized by practical righteousness? There is much unrighteous living among Christians through conformity to the world, compromise with the world’s system and standards, sinful habits, un-Christlike behaviour, thinking, and attitudes.
Strive to live righteously! Stand firm in the godly armour of holy living, a devout life, moral integrity. Confess sin when it occurs, keep short accounts with God. Live in the conscious presence of God every moment of every day. Put into practice righteous conduct that you have learned from Christ. Don’t let Christianity be a charade or a ritual of going to church and giving to charity. But let your Christianity spring from the roots of conviction about the horror of sin, about repentance, about God’s holiness, about the kind of life that’s necessary to engage in conflict with evil.
Stand firm with the breastplate of righteousness. Don’t leave home without it or you may be hit with a lethal blow. “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13).
Only by holy living are we protected against Satan’s attacks. Be sure of this, his entire occupation is attacking you. That’s why he is called by various names or titles. He is Satan, our adversary, our opposer. He is the adversary of God and Christ. He is the adversary of God’s people. He is the adversary of the whole human race. We can expect opposition every time we make a move toward God. 1 Pet. 5:8 says, “…your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”
He is the Devil (diabolos), the accuser, a slanderer. If you’re a Christian, the devil is your accuser. He accuses you to God (Job 1). He is called the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He says, “Look at him / her! Look what they’ve done. How bad is that! They can’t possibly be a Christian. They can’t possibly go to heaven.” That’s Satan accusing you to God.
And he accuses God to you (Gen 3). He says, “Has God really said, you will not die? Is God really all-loving and all–powerful? If he is so good, how come he allows sorrow and death? If he is omnipotent, how come he doesn’t stop all the sin going on in the world?”
In addition, he accuses you to others; he accuses others to you; and he accuses you to yourself: “I’m no good. God can’t use me. In fact, God doesn’t love me. I might as well give up.”
Remember, Satan is the tempter. He tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He tempts Christians into sin and away from God, trying to get them to fail, be weak.
He is the deceiver, the father of lies (Jn 8:44). He deceived Adam and Eve and he continues to deceive human beings the same way today. But John 8 says that the truth shall set you free!
He is the destroyer (Apollyon). Notice a number of ways in which Satan destroys:
1. He destroys through distraction. Someone has said, he loves weapons of mass distraction. Perhaps it’s your job, your hobby etc. There is a whole lot of distraction going on - worries, cares, riches, pleasures of this life. Distractions that keep us from being fruitful for God.
2. He destroys also through division. It’s so easy to divide the people of God and rob us of our power for God.
3. He destroys through discouragement. Discouragement is one of his primary tools in his arsenal, causing Christians to give up, stop fighting, concede to the enemy.
Christians can live in victory over our enemy, the devil, but we need to be spiritually prepared with all the armour of God. Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (Jn.10:9-10).
What a contrast between their missions! Jesus saves; the devil destroys. Jesus imparts life; the devil kills. Jesus gives; the devil steals. Jesus said of the devil that “he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44). But Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (Jn. 14:6). That’s the gospel!
What a contrast between their characters! Jesus is the truth; Satan is a liar, no truth in him. Jesus is the life; Satan is a murderer. Jesus is the way to God; Satan is the barrier to God.
Satan loves to attack you in the area of righteousness. That’s his primary method of taking Christians out of the battle. By distracting them from holy living he neutralizes them, stops them dead in their tracks. You can’t battle against evil powers if you tolerate evil in your own life. Make sure you have on your breastplate of righteousness.
To stand firm for God you must be prepared with the armour of truth, the armour of righteousness, and, thirdly, to stand firm for God you need to be prepared with…
III. The Armor Of The Gospel
Stand therefore…having shod your feet w/the preparation of the gospel of peace (15).
Good footwear protects your feet, especially when you stand on hard ground or step on something sharp. Thick-soled boots protect the soles of your feet against weariness, cuts, and blisters. Today you can buy footwear for all kinds of activity - tennis shoes, golf shoes, hiking shoes, steel-toed work boots etc. Each type of footwear is designed to help your feet in a particular activity.
Christians need to wear spiritual footwear for spiritual warfare. Don’t be caught barefoot! You won’t be ready for attack. You’ll be unprepared and vulnerable. You won’t be able to stand for long. It takes good footwear to stand in one place for a long time. If you don’t have your spiritual footwear on, you may stumble, your feet and legs will get tired, and all your other armour will be useless.
Our spiritual footwear is the preparation of the gospel of peace. Notice it isn’t the proclamation of the gospel of peace but the preparation. It’s a matter of readiness - readiness to stand firm in the day of battle, a readiness which is derived from the gospel of peace. We can stand against the onslaught of the devil because the gospel of peace provides a firm footing for us. That’s our eternal security - we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1), which nothing can shake, not even the powers of hell.
Peace generates security and confidence in the face of any enemy. No matter what may transpire, the most important relationship is secure. No matter what may transpire, our eternal destiny is promised. We stand in the security of our relationship with God, that we are one with him and he with us. That’s peace!
The burden of sin has been removed and we stand in complete unity with God himself because the gospel of peace has reconciled us to God. That’s peace!
He has “reconciled us to God in one body through the cross” (2:16). The gospel of peace is a gospel of reconciliation by removing the sin-barrier between us and God in the death of Christ. That’s the gospel we preach: “We are ambassadors for Christ… (so) we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
The gospel of peace assures us that God is for us, “And if God be for us, who can be against us?…In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31…)
Just as God fought for Gideon (Judges 7), so he fights for us. We can stand against the onslaught of the devil because peace delivers us from the great burden of sin. The weight has been removed, we are prepared for conflict, nothing is holding us back.
In order to stand firm in battle you have to be prepared. And Christians prepare by knowing their armour and by taking certain actions. As we have already noticed, you need to be prepared firstly by the armour of truth; secondly, by the armour of righteousness; thirdly, by the armour of the gospel, and, fourthly, we need to be prepared to stand firm for God with…
IV. The Armour Of Faith
Stand therefore…having taken up the shield of faith (16a).
This kind of shield was a large shield, 4’ wide x 2’ long, generally made of wood covered with leather soaked in water. The enemy would often attack with arrows whose tips had been dipped in pitch and set on fire. The shield not only protected against the sharp points of the arrows but the wet leather extinguished the flames.
The shield protected the vital organs of the body, particularly the heart, lungs, and intestines. In the ancient world the heart was equated with the mind, the place where decisions and choices were made. And the bowels (intestines) were considered to be the seat of the emotions.
These are two areas Satan regularly and viciously attacks - the mind and the heart. He fills your mind with wrong thoughts, false doctrines, confusion about issues, the cares of this life that choke you, and with moral filth that defiles you. And all of this is designed to confuse you, to generate more questions than answers so that you doubt your faith.
Satan also attacks your heart with perverted feelings, immoral choices, and defiling lusts. His object is to replace upright living with immoral living, contentment with greed, and love with hate. He tries to lower the standard of holiness and make us more and more comfortable with sin.
Our faith is the shield with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (16b). The shield of faith will protect your vital organs in the day of battle - your heart is protected and your intestines are shielded. When the fiery darts of Satan’s attacks are hurled at you, you can extinguish them with the shield of faith.
So, take up your shield of faith in God! Trust God for daily protection in battle: “He is a shield to all who trust in him” (Ps. 18:30). Trust the faithful promises of God’s Word. Trust God’s resources for standing in the day of battle - his faithfulness, strength, protection, trustworthiness.
Take up your shield of faith in Christ! Trust Christ to preserve you in the joy of your salvation. Trust Christ’s power to protect you, body, soul, and spirit. Trust Him with such deep, abiding conviction that it extinguishes anything the enemy throws at you. “Who is he that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:5). When fiery darts / missiles come from the enemy, pick up your shield of faith.
Satan attacks you through the problems of life. You don’t know where to turn. You don’t how you’re going to deal with financial stresses, health worries, marriage difficulties, and the like. You find yourself entertaining sinful thoughts, selfish desires, immoral passions, impure conduct.
Satan attacks you through your trust in God. He questions the existence of God and his reliability. He generates doubt about what you believe - your faith in Christ, your eternal security. He encourages you to despair of God, to give up on him. He infiltrates your mind with false teachings and fills you with fear.
In May 1995, Randy Reid, a 34-year-old construction worker, was welding on top of a nearly completed water tower outside Chicago. According to writer Melissa Ramsdell, Reid unhooked his safety gear to reach for some pipes when a metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding he stood on. The scaffolding tipped, and Reid lost his balance. He fell 110 feet, landing face down on a pile of dirt, just missing rocks and construction debris. A fellow worker called 911. When paramedics arrived, they found Reid conscious, moving, and complaining of a sore back. Apparently the fall didn’t cost Reid his sense of humor! As paramedics carried him on a backboard to the ambulance, Reid had one request: “Don’t drop me.” Doctors later said Reid came away from the accident with just a bruised lung. 2
Sometimes we resemble that construction worker. God protects us from harm in a 110-foot fall, but we’re still nervous about three-foot heights. Satan fills us with irrational fears but faith in God will preserve us. He never changes. He saved us from hell and death and he protects us from the smaller dangers we face each day. We need to trust his protective care by being prepared with the shield of faith that he has provided.
When Satan attacks, you can’t deal with it alone. So, take up the shield of faith which can blunt Satan’s attacks and quench those fiery missiles. No wonder it says: …above all else, taking the shield of faith. This is the primary piece of armour. There is protection in the shield of faith like no other: “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4).
What do Christians most frequently seem to give up when Satan’s attacks are vicious and prolonged? Their faith! That’s where you are most vulnerable. You think that by giving up, Satan’s attacks will stop, but that’s not the solution. The solution is to “resist (the devil) steadfast in faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). That’s our greatest protection, for “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him… and we know that we are of God and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:18-19).
David took refuge behind the shield of faith. With five smooth stones and a sling, he approached the giant and said: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield; but I come to you, in the name of the Lord” (1 Sam. 17:45). That’s the shield of faith! That’s trust in the Lord!
So, be prepared for battle with the armour of faith. And then the fifth action is to be prepared with…
V. The Armour Of Salvation
And take… the helmet of salvation (17a).
The commanding officer gave each soldier his helmet. All the Roman soldier had to do was accept it and wear it. The helmet protected the head from the blows of the enemy’s swords. The Christian’s helmet is our salvation. It is God’s gift to those who receive it through faith in Christ. The helmet of salvation performs two primary functions.
First, the helmet of salvation proclaims our identity. It is a banner on our heads for all to see. It identifies us as belonging to God, that we’re fighting in God’s army, we are on God’s side in this spiritual war. It identifies us as Christians - we’re born-again people; we’re saved by the blood of Christ; we’re on our way to heaven; we’re waiting for the return of Christ at any moment.
Second, the helmet of salvation protects our minds. It protects our minds from Satan’s attacks; attacks that generate doubt, uncertainty, and scepticism; attacks that question our security in Christ; attacks against the foundations of our faith. The helmet of salvation protects our minds concerning what we know to be true. We know that God has rescued us from the tyranny of Satan and given us liberty in Christ. We know that we’re forgiven. We know that God loves us with an unchanging love. We know that Jesus Christ is God manifest in flesh. We know that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is completely trustworthy. We know that the Holy Spirit indwells us and has sealed our salvation for eternity.
The helmet of salvation is worn on the head to proclaim who we are (our identity) and to protect what we know. Satan is obsessed with dealing us blows to the head. He strikes at the very foundation of our faith by challenging our knowledge of God’s Word; by casting doubt on our eternal security in Christ; by plaguing us with discouragement and doubt; by pointing out our failures and sins. There is never a day when Satan’s attacks stop. That’s why we need to always wear “the whole armour of God” until the end of the battle (2 Tim. 4:7). Satan attacks us when we are on a spiritual high as he did Elijah - right after his great victory at Mt. Carmel – and made him suicidal. And he attacks us when we are in the spiritual gutter as he did Job. But Job stood firm: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15),
The helmet of salvation gives us confidence, confidence concerning the outcome of the battle, confidence that that victory is ours in Christ. It protects us from giving up the fight. It strengthens us to continue on no matter what. It assures us that the good work that God has begun in us he will complete (Phil 1:6).
That’s why we need to wear the helmet of salvation because in the heat of the battle we need to be strong and of good courage; because in the heat of battle we need to stand firm – not back up or retreat; because in the heat of battle we need to be able to “endure affliction as a good soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3). That’s when we need to make sure the whole armour of God is strapped on tight.
MSNBC.com reported on John McCain’s return to where he was imprisoned as a POW in Vietnam. During his captivity, McCain twice tried to hang himself, using his shirt as a noose, but was caught both times by the guards, who then beat him. “I couldn’t control my despair,” McCain wrote in his autobiography. “All my pride was lost, and I doubted I would ever stand up to any man again. Nothing could save me.” 3
Sometimes you may feel like that in your spiritual battles. But the helmet of your salvation will preserve you from discouragement and despair and doubt . The helmet of salvation will preserve you in moments of doubt, even when things look hopeless, when Satan casts doubt on the truth of God; when he questions your salvation, suggesting it is misplaced trust; when He undermines God’s goodness, power, trustworthiness; when he whispers that life is hopeless.
That’s when you need the helmet of salvation. That’s when you need to boldly display your unswerving faith in God. That’s when you need to quote those confidence verses that you memorized in Sunday school. “These things I have written to you…that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).”I give to them eternal life and they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:28-29). “Nothing can separate us from the love of God…” (Rom. 8:38-39).
So, boldly wear the helmet of “salvation”, a salvation that was secured in the past; a salvation that is being worked out in the present; and a salvation that will be completed in the future. Our helmet is the “hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8), that hope that motivates us to press on when the going gets tough.
Be prepared for spiritual battle with the armour of truth, the armour of righteousness, the armour of the gospel, the armour of faith, the armour of salvation, and, lastly, by be prepared with…
VI. The Armour Of God’s Word
And take…the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (17b).
This type of sword was short and sharp. It hung from the Roman soldiers belt in a sheath and was used in close combat. The believer’s spiritual sword is the Word of God, the Word which God spoke through his holy prophets and apostles and which we now speak through the gospel. The sword is the Word of God that is made effective by the Spirit and derives its character and origin from the Spirit of God. The Spirit gives the Word its power, its sharpness, its penetration, its application.
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance,” Paul says in 1 Thess. 1:5. The Spirit of God reveals the message that issues from God, a message that separates all people, a message of salvation and judgement - salvation to those who receive it and judgement to those who reject it.
The Word of God is a sharp sword that divides “soul from spirit…and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It cuts to the quick of the conscience and it exposes the hidden recesses of our sinful hearts.
The sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon. It is offensive when we use it against Satan. We use it against him when we preach the gospel for the conviction of those who are lost, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). “In him you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (1:13). “The word of the Lord endures forever. This is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25).
It is also a defensive weapon when Satan attacks us. Jesus used it to defend himself against Satan’s temptations by quoting it. If you don’t know the Word of God you can’t use it to defend yourself. If you’ve never read it or memorized it you will never be able to recall it when you need it. You have no excuse for not knowing the Scriptures.
Victory is assured when we wield the sword of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit. God still speaks powerfully through his Word revealing the truth of the human condition, persuading people to receive Christ for salvation, warning people of the horrors of hell.
When God speaks, Satan cringes in fear and is put to flight. When we speak the Word of God, Satan also cringes because we announce that he was defeated at the cross and we have been set free. Be armed with the sword of Scripture! Martin Luther once said: “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or cardinal without it.” 4
The theme of this article is: “In order to stand for God, we must be prepared with all the armour of God.” Is there anything stopping from you standing firm for God? Have you put on the whole armour of God? It’s up to you. God has provided it but you have to be prepared by putting it on. If you don’t put the armour on you’re vulnerable! This is a war of hand-to-hand combat against a deadly, powerful, spiritual enemy, an enemy who operates in heavenly realms.
Make sure you have all the armour on! You need it. Gird yourself with the belt of truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Prepare your feet with the gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Make sure there are no gaps in your armour. If any pieces are missing, it’s not God’s fault: it’s because you haven’t taken the action required to wear it. If anything is missing, you’ve got a gap in your armour which may expose a vital organ.
Will you make sure first of all, that you know the peace of God and that you’re covered with the righteousness of Christ? Second, will you make sure that you are immersed in God’s truth, that you are known as a person of truth, protected front, back, and sides with practical righteousness (holiness of life), and that you stand on the firm foundation of the gospel of peace. That’s how you can stand firm for God in the evil day and having done all, to stand.
When I used to teach at the Stephen Olford Centre for Biblical Preaching, I got to know a beloved brother who worked there. As I understand the story, a mother used to watch her girls play ball after school at a certain ball field. After a while, she noticed that a man was always there. Finally she discovered that he was homeless – he lived at the concession stand in the ball field. Eventually he came to the Olford Centre where he ran errands, picked people up at the airport etc. He would do anything for you without being asked. He gave me little tokens of his care and affection – like a pen, or an insulated lunch bag to hold the snacks he bought for me to eat on the plane ride home. If you called him to ask for something, he would usually say: “I’ve got you covered pard’ner.”
Make sure you’re covered with the whole armour of God! Are your spiritual organs protected against Satan’s fiery darts by the shield of faith? Is your head (mind) protected against the sharp sword of the enemy? Are you confident in the knowledge of your security in Christ? Are you strong in your motivation for the cause of Christ? Do you hold tightly in your hand the sharp sword of the Spirit? Are you using it to defend your beliefs and to convict unbelievers?
If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, aren’t you afraid? Don’t you tremble to think that you are so vulnerable?
Colin Chapman, in The Case for Christianity, quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere’s account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese:
“February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there to watch. I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me. They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?
“We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: ‘Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did.’
“The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands which rattled their handcuffs. I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men’s faces!
“The three faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired, and the three were with Jesus.
“We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.”
Those men, though new believers in Christ, were wearing the whole armor of God. Their waists were girded with the belt of truth. Their chests were covered with the breastplate of righteousness. Their feet were shod with the gospel of peace. Their hearts were shielded by their faith. On their heads they proudly wore the helmet of salvation, the truth of which beamed from their faces and out of their mouths. And, even in death, they tightly grasped the sword of God’s word. That’s the kind of protection we can enjoy too!5
If your faith is weak, read the faithful promises of God’s Word. Get plugged into a Bible study where your faith can be nourished. If you’re not sure about your salvation, talk to any of the leaders in your church. Let them explain it to you simply and clearly. If you aren’t regularly reading your Bible, start a daily program right now. Discipline yourself to read it, study it, and memorize it.
Don’t be left unprotected in the hour of battle or you may be seriously wounded. You may join the casualties in the spiritual battle and be no good for God. Don’t try standing on your own, it won’t work. We can’t stand on our own. We need the protection of God’s armour. So, let’s put it on now and be fully prepared for battle.
1 Citation: Lyn Cryderman, Christianity Today, Nov. 20, 1987, submitted by Don Maddox, Corona, CA.
2 Citation: Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4, in Christianity Today
3 Citation: “McCain Struggles with the Past,” MSNBC.com (4-28-00), in Christianity Today
4 Citation: Martin Luther, “Martin Luther--The Early Years,” Christian History, no. 34, in Christianity Today.
5 Citation: Ray Stamps, Los Gatos, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1, in Christianity Today
Related Topics: Christian Life
11. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 3: Perseverance In Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:18-20)Related Media
Wearing the proper armour in battle is essential but what good is it if you don’t know how to use it or what to do with it? Wearing armour does not of itself assure victory. To be victorious we need strength, protection, and wisdom - wisdom to know how to act and think in battle; wisdom to listen to our Commander and understand His tactics. All of this we derive from persevering in all the power of prayer.
Prayer is the fuel that makes our armour effective and useful. Prayer is the link between God’s armour and God himself, between God’s provision and his person, between God’s care and his commands. Prayer is the source of wisdom and power in battle. Satan’s strategies in battle are cunning; our strategies are spiritual, prayerful. Prayer is the expression of our dependence upon God for direction, wisdom, and courage - that’s how we are able to persevere, to “stand in the evil day”.
In order to stand firm for God, we need to be spiritually empowered and protected (10-18), we need to be spiritually prepared (14-17), and we need to persevere in all the power of prayer (18-20). Standing for God requires constant and vigilant prayer. In particular, when we take hold of the sword of the Spirit (Word of God), we must do so in conjunction with the power of prayer if we want spiritual victory. The combination of the Scriptures (the Word of God directed to men) and prayer (the word of men directed to God) can withstand any enemy. This section of our passage teaches us that “Continuous and vigilant prayer is the key to spiritual vitality and victory”.
A doctoral student at Princeton, 1952, once asked: "What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?" Visiting lecturer, Albert Einstein, replied: "Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer." 1
Notice six important characteristics of true prayer. First…
I. The Variety Of Prayer
…praying with all prayer and petition (18a)
Prayer refers to prayer in general, including the adoration of God, confession of sin, profession of faith, thanksgiving. Petition refers to specific prayer - entreaty, supplication. If we sign a petition, we are entreating someone in authority to act in a certain way, to make a decision or to prevent something from happening. We plead for specific benefits or needs. That’s petition.
Used together, prayer and petition encompasses all forms of prayer - adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, general requests and specific requests for people and problems. The injunction is that we must pray using the complete variety of prayer, every type of prayer.
The first characteristic of prayer, then, is the variety of prayer. The second is…
II. The Frequency Of Prayer
…praying always (18b)
This means praying in all seasons, at all times, in every period of life. Don’t just pray when you’re in trouble, or when you’ve failed, or when you want a “favour” from God, or when you don’t know which way to turn. Don’t just pray when you’re happy, or when you’ve just won a spiritual battle, or when you feel close to God. Don’t just pray at certain seasons of the year – like Christmas, thanksgiving, Easter, or on Sunday.
There is never a time when you do not need to pray. “God is my witness…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Rom. 1:9; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:3; 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:11). Like the early church we are to continue “steadfastly” in prayer (Rom. 12:12; cf. Acts 2:42). We must pray with regular devotion, “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We must pray at all times of the “night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3).
Our prayer life is what generates our relationship with God. Spirituality is not a function of what you know but who you know. You may know a lot about the Bible by reading it and studying it, but you can’t truly know the God of the Bible without regular prayer. Knowing God is the key to deepening your spirituality. Intimacy with God is the sure sign of a spiritual person. And this intimacy with, and knowledge of, God stems from your prayer life coupled with your study of the Word.
When we pray we get to know God, we commune with him. Then our desire for God and our love for his Word deepens because the more we know him, the more we grow spiritually. That’s the motto of my ministry at the Institute for Biblical Preaching, “to deepen people’s desire for God and love for his Word”.
Praying always doesn’t mean formal prayer all day long. It’s not about bowing to the east five times a day. True prayer isn’t about ritual or repetition of words (Matt. 6:7). True prayer is an abiding consciousness of God’s presence, living in the awareness of God, making our whole life a matter of walking with God, lifting up our situations and decisions to God throughout the day, thanking God throughout the day, an attitude of prayer in our reactions, thoughts, and motives. In other words, our whole life is a looking to God – “setting our mind on things above not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
The third characteristic of prayer is…
III. The Means Of Prayer
…praying in the Spirit (18c)
The Word of God came through the Spirit of God and our prayers go back to God through the Spirit of God. “For through Him (Christ) we ... have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
To pray in the Spirit is to pray in harmony with the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27); to pray through the intercession of the Spirit (Rom. 8:15, 16); to pray as the Spirit prays – to have our requests, thoughts, desires, line up with his and so to be in tune with God’s will; to pray with the Spirit’s help; to submit to the Spirit, depend on Him, be yielded to Him.
Prayers in the Spirit are inspired prayers, guided prayers, effective prayers, prayers according to God’s will because the Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
To be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) you must pray in the Spirit. One commentator has said: “Those who are united in their access to the Father through the Spirit (2:18), who are built into God’s dwelling place in the Spirit (2:22), and who are being filled with the Spirit (5:18) can and should pray constantly in and through the Spirit.” 2
The variety of prayer, the frequency, the means, and fourthly…
Iv. The Manner Of Prayer
…to this same end, being watchful in all perseverance and petition (18d)
To what end? To the end of praying always and in the Spirit. To that end, we must be watchful (alert) in prayer.
If you want to pray always, you need to be watchful in prayer. If you’re not alert in prayer you might fall asleep spiritually. That’s why Jesus urged the disciples to be alert, watchful: “Stay here and watch…(but) he came and found them sleeping… Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Mk. 14:34, 37-38). How could they pray for him in his hour of trial if they were asleep? How could they pray for strength, grace, encouragement if they were asleep? How could they be consistently in prayer if they were sleeping? How could they enter into his suffering? How could they be on the alert for danger? How could they be aware of his needs? How could they prayer for his comfort? What Jesus wanted more than anything else at that time was for his nearest and dearest friends to be alert in prayer, to be watchful in prayer, to persevere in prayer.
If you want to pray in the Spirit, you need to be alert in prayer. Then, you’ll be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You’ll be aware of the needs around you. Your spiritual radar will be active. So, how do we keep alert and watchful in prayer?
We keep alert in prayer through perseverance. Jesus taught us to “pray always and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1). It’s easy to lose heart, to lose motivation in the battle, to become discouraged and give up. When we lose spiritual motivation, one of the first things that disappears from our lives is prayer.
Don’t become sloppy about your prayer life. Don’t think you can pray effectively after you fall into bed at night. You can’t. Your mind will wander and you’ll become sleepy. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t pray in bed - I often pray during the night and early in the morning in bed. But it should not replace disciplined, alert prayer. Be disciplined in prayer. Set aside particular times for concentrated prayer and maintain a constant attitude of prayer throughout the day.
Perseverance in prayer is steadfast devotion to prayer (Col. 4:2), constant, persistent, and purposeful prayer. “Be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7).
“Continue earnestly in prayer; being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
We keep alert in prayer through perseverance. And…
We keep alert in prayer through petition. Petition is heartfelt supplication, pleading, earnest intercession about something that weighs heavily on your heart and mind.
Many Christians don’t become serious about prayer until they have a serious problem. Then their prayer life becomes much more focused and earnest and intense, fervent. But we should always pray in the same manner, not so much for ourselves but for others, petitioning God for the needs of others, interceding on their behalf.
We need to be constantly petitioning God for victory over temptations, for forgiveness of those who have wronged us, for reconciliation with those who are estranged from us, for holiness of life amid all the temptations around us, for salvation for unbelievers before it’s too late, for spiritual protection, strength, and courage in spiritual battles.
One of our most pressing prayer concerns ought to be spiritual warfare, that we “stand firm” in the “whole armour of God”, that our missionaries be protected against evil spirits, that our Christian school teachers be protected from Satanic attacks, that our church be preserved in spiritual wellbeing and unity.
V. The Object Of Prayer
…for all the saints (18e)
All the saints means the church (both Jews and Gentiles), all who have been united in one body, the church (cf. Eph. 1:15; 3:18; 4:4). Prayer for all the saints is the practical expression of the unity that has been formed by the Holy Spirit between all believers. We are to pray continuously for all the saints because they are engaged in spiritual warfare, in the process of which they experience struggles and victories, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. To petition God on behalf of other believers is a privilege that every believer can and should participate in. It requires no spiritual gift, just a heart for God’s people.
If you love God’s people, you’ll care about their spiritual health. You won’t be absorbed with yourself but with others. Their spiritual welfare will be your concern. You will rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).
How much do you care about God’s people? It is directly related to the amount you pray for them. Praying for others also has a direct benefit to you. It takes your attention away from your own circumstances and onto others. Apparently, “before the onset of the Spanish civil war, Spain was experiencing such an epidemic of neuroses that psychiatrists could hardly handle them all. However, despite the devastation and horror of the war, it had the unexpected effect of curing many of Spain’s thousands of neurotics. When they became concerned about the welfare of their families, friends, and country instead of their own, their own anxieties disappeared.” Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones writes: “These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety” – an anxiety that reached beyond their own selfish welfare. 3
When we think less about ourselves and more about others, it has a spiritually therapeutic effect. Through intercessory prayer, we petition God to strengthen the weak, to stimulate their spiritual growth, to meet their spiritual, physical, and psychological needs. That should be the object of our prayer.
VI. Specifics Of Prayer
Pray for individuals by name. That’s why Paul says: (Pray) for me! (19a). “ I need your prayer support,” he says. When you pray, don’t just say: “Lord, bless your people. Heal those who are sick. Amen” Name them, visualize them, speak of them personally and affectionately. Pray for their needs specifically, for their problems, worries, obstacles, burdens, sorrows, victories, joys. And pray accurately; know what you’re praying about.
Pray especially for those who labour in the gospel. Satan wants to close their mouths so that they do not speak for God. Paul says here: (Pray) for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak” (19-20).
Let me suggest four specific things to pray for those in ministry and leadership:
1. Pray that they will have the words and opportunities to speak at the right time.
2. Pray that they will have the courage to speak the gospel boldly.
3. Pray that nothing will prevent them from serving Christ - not even prison - that they will act as ambassadors for Christ even in chains.
4. Pray that they will fulfill their obligations in ministry, to speak as I ought to speak. It’s a duty. It’s compelling.
Their success for God is directly related to our prayers for them. Do you want the gospel to reach the uttermost parts of the earth? Then pray for those you know who are engaged in this task. Do you want victory for the ambassadors of Christ? Then pray for them in their spiritual warfare. This doesn’t just apply to missionaries in foreign lands but to all who are engaged in ministry, particularly those in leadership. The leaders of our churches are very susceptible to the enemy’s attack. Who do you think Satan is going to go after in order to weaken the war effort? Church leaders!
In his book, “Dying for Change,” Leith Anderson recounts an important incident in the American Civil War. In 1777 the battle of Saratoga was fought. Some believe that this skirmish was the turning point of the Revolutionary War. On the eve of the battle, patriot troops recognized that the British regiment had more soldiers, more gunpowder, more muskets, and more gun shot. Daniel Morgan of New Hampshire was commanding a ragtag group of farmers known as “Morgan’s Rifles.” He met with his men the night before the battle, and said to them, “Don’t waste your shot on those who fight for six pence a day. Save your shot for epaulet men.” Morgan’s point was simple. Patriot troops could not afford to waste their limited shot on the ordinary solder. Instead they were to target the officers, the ones with the epaulets on their shoulders.
This strategy devastated the British. By the second day of the battle the British officer ranks were decimated. The British regiment still had plenty of men, fire power and supplies, yet they surrendered because the principle is true: as goes the leader, so goes the battle.
This illustrates what is happening in churches today. Leaders are being taken down right and left by the enemy. Programs and human strategies do not counteract the roaring lion who seeks to devour the officers of this spiritual battle. Ministry today is a war zone. “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). So, pray for your church leaders and your spiritual mentors, for those who preach the gospel, for those who teach in Bible Colleges and Christian schools. It’s not easy.
What could be more difficult to speak for Christ than prison? Imprisonment for your faith would tend to make you quiet. If you think your situation is difficult for witnessing what if you were in prison because of the gospel (as Paul was). But it didn’t change Paul’s view: he was an ambassador in chains (20). Isn’t that a contradiction in terms - an ambassador in chains? An ambassador is supposed to be free, to enjoy diplomatic immunity. But he was an ambassador in chains because his imprisonment was an opportunity to further the gospel as a representative of Christ.
Notice, Paul didn’t ask for prayer for his release from prison but that God would empower and use him effectively in prison, that he would boldly speak as he ought to speak. And he did speak boldly so that the guards heard the gospel and as a result other believers were inspired to speak boldly (cf. Phil. 1:12-14).
If you want to be victorious in spiritual battles - overcoming sin, growing in your relationship with Christ – then persevere in all the power of prayer. The truth is what theme of this section: “Continuous and vigilant prayer is the key to spiritual vitality and victory”. We all know that, but we have to admit that sometimes it’s hard to maintain because our spiritual enemy tries to prevent it.
In order to stand for God, we need to wear all God’s armour. Prayer is a vital part of that armour for fighting spiritual battles. If you don’t put it on, you’re vulnerable. This is a war of hand-to-hand combat against a deadly enemy – powerful, spiritual, operating in heavenly spheres. So, make sure you have all the armour on.
Are your spiritual organs protected by the shield of faith? Is your mind protected by the helmet of salvation? Are your feet protected by the shoe leather of the gospel? Is your heart protected by the breastplate of righteousness? Do you wear a belt of truth around your waist? Do you fearlessly wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God? If you don’t have all these on you’ve got gaps in your armour.
In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric, invading hordes to the north. To get this protection, they built the Great Wall of China. It's 30 feet high, 18 feet thick, and more than 1,500 miles long! The Chinese goal was to build an absolutely impenetrable defence - too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. But during the first hundred years of the wall's existence China was successfully invaded three times. It wasn't the wall's fault. During all three invasions, the barbaric hordes never climbed over the wall or broke it down and they never went around it. They simply bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right in through an open door. The security of the wall was penetrated because of a separation between truth and practice. The truth was that the wall could provide ample protection - that is how it was planned and what they claimed. The practice was, however, that there were gaps in the wall that made them vulnerable. 4
Don’t let there be any gaps in your spiritual wall, your spiritual armour. Make sure that your practice of truth aligns with your profession of truth. Ensure that there are no gaps in your armour of truth which the enemy can penetrate.
If your church is to be a healthy, growing, vibrant church, leading people to Christ, baptizing believers, training people to serve the Lord, impacting your community, manifesting joy and unity, then prayer is the key (both corporate and private prayer). So, you need to commit to praying for the pastors, the elders, the deacons, the property, the congregation, your visitors. Why not become part of a focused prayer effort of your church by praying with a group around the building and grounds, by praying with others over the pews in the sanctuary, by praying for the pastor on Saturday night and Sunday morning, by praying for the Spirit to protect your young people etc. etc.
When was the last time you attended a prayer meeting? When was the last time you had a powerful encounter with God in personal prayer? When was the last time you prayed with your spouse? If you find it hard to answer those questions you need to discipline you prayer life; you need to get right with God.
Perhaps you’ve wandered a bit recently in your relationship with the Lord - you’re discouraged; you’ve suffered spiritual defeat. You need to renew your relationship with the Lord in prayer. Perhaps your prayer life just isn’t as disciplined as you’d like it to be; you don’t feel the intimacy as you once did; the freshness of your relationship with God has faded. You need to get back where you were. Or, perhaps your prayer life is regular and earnest and you don’t want to lose that.
There’s no better time than now to that make that commitment, to strive for constant, vigilant, persevering prayer in the Spirit. Why don’t you make that commitment now, publicly? There’s no need for embarrassment, just make a public declaration: “I want continuous, vigilant prayer to be characteristic of my life. I want the key to spiritual victory.”
1 Citation: Unknown, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.
2 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians (Dallas, Word Biblical Commentary, 1990), 252
3 Cited in MacArthur, Ephesians, 383.
4 Citation: James Emery White, You Can Experience a Purposeful Life (Nashville: Word, 2000) in Christianity Today.
Related Topics: Christian Life
Q. Does The Bible Contradict Itself In 1 Samuel 15 And 27?
So let’s begin with a word about presuppositions, and how we approach apparent contradictions in the Bible. Then we will turn to the actual texts of Scripture in question.
I come to the Bible with the assumption (firm conviction) that it is the Word of God, and thus apparent contradictions are just that, apparent. With this in mind, I look at the pertinent texts in order to find the solution or explanation for the apparent problem. In other words, I assume the Bible is right, and that my perception or understanding of the text is what is flawed. I look more carefully to see what I’ve missed.
With this assumption in mind, let’s take a look at the actual texts of Scripture:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “I was the one the LORD sent to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now listen to what the LORD says. 2 Here is what the LORD of hosts says: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposed Israel along the way when Israel came up from Egypt. 3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death– man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’” So Saul assembled the army and mustered them at Telaim. There were 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 5 Saul proceeded to the city of Amalek, where he set an ambush in the wadi. 6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go on and leave! Go down from among the Amalekites! Otherwise I will sweep you away with them! After all, you were kind to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from among the Amalekites. 7 Then Saul struck down the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, which is next to Egypt (1 Samuel 15:1-7, NET).
David said to Achish, “If I have found favor with you, let me be given a place in one of the country towns so that I can live there. Why should your servant settle in the royal city with you?” 6 So Achish gave him Ziklag on that day. (For that reason Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah until this very day.) 7 The length of time that David lived in the Philistine countryside was a year and four months. 8 Then David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. (They had been living in that land for a long time, from the approach to Shur as far as the land of Egypt.) 9 When David would attack a district, he would leave neither man nor woman alive. He would take sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing and would then go back to Achish. 10 When Achish would ask, “Where did you raid today?” David would say, “The Negev of Judah” or “The Negev of Jeharmeel” or “The Negev of the Kenites.” 11 Neither man nor woman would David leave alive so as to bring them back to Gath. He was thinking, “This way they can’t tell on us, saying, ‘This is what David did.’” Such was his practice the entire time that he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 So Achish trusted David, thinking to himself, “He is really hated among his own people in Israel! From now on he will be my servant” (1 Samuel 27:5-12).
First, note the size of the two battles. Saul’s battle involved 210,000 men of war (1 Samuel 15:4). His attack was against the “city of Amalek” (1 Samuel 15:5). We should keep in mind that Saul was not zealous to precisely fulfil the command of the Lord, and thus he left alive the finest animals (1 Samuel 15:9). Saul seems to have killed all the Amalekites he encountered in that city, but he was not zealous to fully carry out his mission. His focus was on the one city, where obviously a large number of Amalekites lived, but there is no indication that he sought to seek out and kill the Amalekites who lived elsewhere. (How could you completely kill of an entire population of Amalekites? There would always be a scattering of them in a number of places. So, when it says Saul “killed all the people” I believe it means that Saul killed all the Amalekites who were dwelling in “the city of Amalek,” but a number of others would be living in various location in the land.
David, on the other hand, is not living in or near Shur, but in Philistine territory, in the city of Ziklag. A number of Amalekites were living nearby. Apparently they had migrated there from Shur (1 Samuel 15:8). There were other peoples nearby as well – the Geshurites and the Girzites. Saul would not have gotten to these people, especially in Philistine territory, and so they survived. David killed all of these peoples in the places he raided.
Also, note the size of David’s army – 600 men (1 Samuel 27:2; 30:9). Obviously David’s army was a much smaller one, and the number of Amalekites killed were much fewer as well (only 400 escaped – 1 Samuel 30:17).
So in 1 Samuel 15 Saul waged a major campaign against the Amalekites, but in just that one city of the Amalekites. I take it he killed all of them, except Agag, their king (1 Samuel 15:9). Thus “all of them” does not mean “every Amalekite who was alive at that time,” but rather “every Amalekite in that city that was defeated by Saul.” So also in 1 Samuel 27, for those living in places David raided.
So the “all” who were killed by Saul was all of those in the “city of the Amalekites.” But it was not “all Amalekites.” Some of those Amalekites who remained alive were killed by David, who killed all that he encountered.
Thus, there is no contradiction.
Hope this helps,
Related Topics: Bible Study Methods
1. Are All Religions The Same?Related Media
One of the most basic claims of Christianity is that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Jesus Himself declared this very clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This was the message that the apostles preached; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). The Apostle Paul in one of his letters writes, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:5).
John in his letter writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Paul makes a very strong statement, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9).
But how many people accept this truth today? If not, why not? I remember a story from a collection of moral stories in Sanskrit. A Hindu Brahmin priest is returning home after buying a goat kid to offer as a sacrifice to his family deity. He is passing through a jungle area and is spotted by three cheaters. The cheaters do not want to harm the priest; their only intention is to get the goat. So, they devise a scheme. As the priest is merrily walking along on the jungle trail, holding the goat kid on his shoulders, one of the cheaters comes to him and tells, “Shame on you! You are a priest. A holy man! Are you not ashamed to carry this dog on your shoulder?” To which the priest replied, “Are you blind? Do you not see? This is not a dog, this is a goat kid!” The cheater shakes his shoulders and quietly walks away.
As the priest is walking along, now looking at the goat on his shoulder, wondering what the fellow told him, another cheater comes along and tells him the same thing. This time the priest looks at the kid and hesitantly responds, “No. This is not a dog. Is it? No, this is a goat”. The cheater shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Now the priest is really wondering. Repeatedly looking at the goat and not sure what he is carrying. And then the third cheater shows up telling him the same thing. Before anyone can see him in this defiled condition, the priest quickly throws away the dog, no, the kid, and runs away.
The moral of the story is: When a lie is repeated several times, it does not become a truth; but it does become easily acceptable and convincing. Today we live in a pluralistic, polytheistic, agnostic or atheistic culture and have been bombarded with all the lies from all the directions so the very truth of God and His Word is questioned not only by people of other religions, but by some of the very people who are known by the name of Christ. We hear that all the roads lead to the same place. All religions are just different ways to reach God. One God, but people choose to worship Him in their own different ways. You can believe in anything as long as you are sincere.
But if this was true Jesus was the greatest liar and the Bible the most deceiving book! The basic question is; do all the world religions teach the same thing? Do all religions have the same concept of God and worship the same God? Just a cursory observation will tell us otherwise. Let us consider few theological points and do some comparison.
Theology: The Concept Of God
Every religion differs as to what they think about God. There are some religions, like Buddhism and Confucianism that are agnostic. They do not either reject the existence of God or accept it. Then there are some who are atheistic, like Jainism, who outright rejects the existence of God.
Religions that do accept the existence of God do not have the same concept of God. Hinduism, for example, one of the major world regions, has a concept of God who is so impersonal, unknowable, and indescribable so that they have invented many gods and deities, many of whom are nature gods, like fire, rivers, trees, or animal gods. God of Islam is a capricious God who is ready to zap unbelievers.
Contrast this with the concept of God in the Bible. A personal God who is interested in the world affairs, who loves the people of the world and who orders the events of the world and moves the history according to His plans and purposes to bring the humanity in closer relationship with Himself. A God who has revealed Himself and so can be known, can have personal relationship with Him.
Anthropology: The Concept Of Man
One of the major aspects of any religion is their concept of man, who is man, where did he come from. Hinduism, for example, puts man and animal on the same line. in the theory of reincarnation a human being in this life may be born as an animal in another life and also the other way around; an animal in this life can be born as a human being in other life. But it provides no explanation how the cycle of incarnation began, when and how man came into existence in the first place.
You can see how Hindu concept of man matches with Darwin’s theory of evolution, human being evolving from an inanimate cell. How this leads into devaluation of human life. How that comes into real practices like abortion, euthanasia and survival of the fittest that leads to horrible results like genocide carried out by Hitler and others.
Darwin deserves far more credit than we give him. We usually think of him in reference to creation vs. evolution. But basically what he has done is put man in the same line of animals. Let me give you a couple of examples. Garrett Matthias story was featured in May 2019 issue of The Reader’s Digest. He died of rare brain cancer at the age of five. A very smart kid. Before death he wrote his own eulogy.
He writes, “My favorite hero is: Batman…and Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Cyborg… When I die I am going to be a gorilla. I want to be burned (like when Thor’s mommy died) and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m gorilla”.
What a sad story! The best hope a dying five year old has is to come back as a gorilla. Gives you a picture of the family he grew up in. Gives you picture of the culture in which our children and grandchildren are growing up.
Another example. We get Our Daily Bread in our email inbox every morning. On May 21, 2019 devotion this was cited. “In 2005, the London zoo introduced a four-day exhibit: ‘Humans in Their Natural Environment.’ The human ‘captives’ were chosen through online contest. To help visitors understand the humans, the zoo workers created a sign detailing their diet, habitat, and threats. According to the zoo’s spokesperson, the goal of the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One participant in the exhibit seemed to agree: ‘When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we are not that special’”.
The way the trend is going today, I would not be surprised if in few short years all the zoos in all the countries follow this example and the distinction between humans and animals is erased, and no surprise, the West would be in the lead.
If we are not different from animals, we would live like animals. Actually, we would live worse than animals. Animals do not go against nature in their lifestyle, we humans do. And the Bible says so, as Isaiah noted God’s complaint, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
On the one hand, man is not any better than an animal. On the other, The New Age movements like Transcendental Meditation and Yoga put emphasis on inner personal resources. They emphasize that man is the master of himself and that he can master the whole universe. Yoga, for example, although it begins with physical exercises has as its ultimate aim first to master one’s own inner resources and then to master the whole universe. Ultimately one can play himself as god. Eastern cults have gained a strong hold on the Western society because they offer false hope and give permission to live your life your own way without having to obey God.
Contrast this Bible gives the balanced view of man. Only human being is created in the image of God. In the Book of Genesis in the creation account, when God created the animals and birds and trees and plants, fish and sea creatures, in every case it is noted, God created them “after their own kind” (Genesis 1:11-25; those words used ten times). But when it came to the creation of man, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:16). Every other living thing was created “after its own kind”. Only human being is crated after God’s kind.
Being created in the image of God separates human being from any and every other living being. Only human being, because created in the image of God has soul, has conscious, has the concept of good and evil, and has eternal life. Man created in the image of God is over and above every other created thing.
Psalm Eight describes:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (NIV)
No other religion puts such a high value on the human life. Man before God is nothing; but man under God is everything. Man is over and above all and every created thing, only lower than God. Jesus described the value of human being, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). That is why the Bible allows capital punishment, life for life, there is no other even exchange.
Hamartiology: The Concept Of Sin And Evil
No other religion has a clear concept of evil; how it came into the world and how it will end. Good and evil are considered coeternal; good can overcome the evil for some time, but is not able to do it completely and forever. That necessitates the repeated incarnations of Hinduism.
No other religion has the concept of inherent sinfulness of man, the moral depravity of man. The concept of morality is comparative; I am okay as long as I am not as bad as the other people. Person can always find someone who is living worst kind of moral life than himself and feel good about him. There is no standard of morality, or the standard of mortality is different for each person.
This provides a false sense of basic goodness of human being. The general idea is I am good enough, I am not bad. One of greatest hurdles that prevent people from coming to realization of the need of a savior is their assumed goodness.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly spells out how sin entered into mankind and how the evil took control not only of the human heart but the whole creation was tainted by the evil. It is not the environmental pollution, but the moral pollution that creates all the major problems we face in the world today. There will be time when the evil will be completely and permanently taken care of; the evil will be destroyed and the good will prevail. The world is not what it was basically created to be, and cannot be until the evil is ultimately taken care of. And there certainly will be time when God will finally take care of it and we will live happily ever after.
Soteriology: The Concept Of Salvation
The concept of salvation is different in different religions. Not all religions believe in life after death. The Sadducees of Jesus’ time, for example, did not believe in afterlife.
The Hindu concept of reincarnation means endless life cycle from birth to death to birth. “Moksha” is the traditional Sanskrit term for release or liberation from the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths which is the supreme goal of human strivings. Reflecting the diversity of Hinduism, liberation can be attained in a variety of ways, from performance of certain rituals to highly disciplined forms of yoga, or by self enlightenment. In Moksha the individual Atman (soul) is believed to merge into the cosmic Brahma. A traditional image is that of a drop of water that, when dropped into the ocean loses its individuality and becomes one with the sea, or a spark of fire put back into the fire.
Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated.
In Sikhism it’s been a matter of great debate amongst the Sikhs about Sikhism’s belief in afterlife. Many believe that Sikhism endorses the afterlife and the concept of reward and punishment, but a large number of Sikhs believe otherwise.
Most religions do not have the concept of eternal punishment. It has been argued that God is a loving God and cannot send anyone to eternal punishment.
All religions, except Christianity, are based on work salvation. Since there is no concept of inherent sin and the moral depravity of human being, morality is relative, works are weighed as good works versus bad works, and if the good works outweigh the bad, the person is a step ahead. Person is bound in the reward and punishment of good and bad Karmas (works) and there is nothing outside him that can help him.
That is where the Biblical concept of grace comes into picture. Because sin has taken control of the human nature, man is not able to save himself. And so not by works, but only by the grace of God a person can be released from the bondage of sin and its eternal consequences. Those who come into the relationship with God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross will live in the presence of God for eternity. And those outside that relationship will suffer endless time in hell.
Eschatology: How Everything Will End
The general concept, as can be seen from the concepts of sin, evil and salvation, is cyclical; everything keeps going into never ending cycle. Evil and good coexist and there is no ultimate end of the evil. The Hindu concept of the four ages, for example, is a repeated and endless cycle. It begins with the age of truth and then it progresses into downward spiral into more and more evil and at the end of the fourth age the world is destroyed and then it begins again with the age of the truth. In the same way human birth, death and rebirth cycle never ends, trapping human being in endless cycle with no hope of escape.
Solomon expresses this idea very vividly:
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them (Ecclesiastes 1:3-10, NIV)
Although Solomon is speaking here about life on earth, under the sun, the same cycle goes on forever and there is no end, no way out.
On the other hand the Bible presents linear history; history moving from one point to the other point and bringing everything to the end as desired by God. It began with the creation, the Fall, God’s plan of salvation and will end when the current evil world system is destroyed and God’s Kingdom begins which will never end and people of God who have come into the relationship with God through Jesus will happily live with Him forever. No other world religion gives us this happy ending!
So, we do not believe any of the lies we are bombarded by all around us. We believe the Bible as inerrant and inspired Word of God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Or, as Solomon said, “Every Word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverb 30:5). The psalmist says similar thing, “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
And this Bible presents the unique unparallel claims of Jesus as the only Savior, no other way to receive salvation but through the grace of God on the basis of person’s coming into the relationship with Christ.
So, it is obvious that all religions are not the same. They do not all worship God and do not worship the same God. They do not all strive to reach the same destination. Each religion has a different concept of God, nature of man and his need of salvation, ways of salvation and the result of salvation and how the present world system will end.
There may be some similarities in all religions: for example, all religions teach goodness, serving others, living a moral life devoid of greed and malice. But these are only superficial similarities. It is believed that there is a common thread among all the religions. But when it comes to stating more precisely just what that common thread is, conversations usually become vague or contradictory. They all offer major theological and metaphysical concepts that are radically different from each other. “All religions are the same”, is a statement of ignorance and a complete lie that we hear so often that it has become acceptable.
Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship; relationship with the personal loving God. There is life after death. The soul that is born shall never die. Salvation is to come into a relationship with this God through Jesus Christ and to live eternally in the presence of God. Man is not able to save himself from eternal death. God loved mankind so much that He Himself provided the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christ is the only way - there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
So, what? How does all this relate to me personally? The very first thing, of course, is to accept the truth. You have to think logically and come to the conclusion that what the Bible says has to be true. If Jesus said there is no other way to come into the relationship with God, to receive eternal life of blissful existence, except through Him, we have to accept that as a true statement and so if that is true then come to trust Him who said that.
Secondly, if I have come to accept this truth and have come into relationship with Jesus, I need to continue growing in this truth, to be grounded in this truth so not only I am not deceived by the lies I hear all around me, but am able to defend it with full conviction. As Peter told, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The goal of every believer’s life is continued growth in the knowledge of God through daily personal study of the Word of God with a purpose of becoming more like Christ which would be evidenced in daily life.
Third, guard the truth. Do not let the lies you hear rob you of your confidence in the truth. Occasional doubt is normal and we all have moments like that. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his doubt, but gently provided him the proof. It was only Thomas, however, among the disciples that called Jesus Lord and God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). And, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Four, share the truth. Seek opportunities to share the truth with as many people as you can. When someone says all religions are the same, just ask him to name two religions and let him tell what both those religions think about God, and some of the other points mentioned above. People have just heard the lie; they have not thought through it, have not really considered it carefully.
Finally, live by the truth. If we claim to know the truth, we have to live by the truth. Peter writes, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peer 3:11-12). John writes, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
John ends his First Epistle by these words: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols”. This statement kind of seems out of place. But one of the Hebrew words for idol literally means a lie. So, in a sense he is saying, guard yourselves from all the lies you hear. Do not let anyone defraud you of your precious goat!
There is just one way for you all to come;
There is just one road that will lead you home;
There is just one gate to the realms of day—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way.
Jesus is the way—the only way;
Lovingly He calleth, thus the Scriptures say,
Whosoever will, let Him come today—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way!
There is just one fount—there is just one cross—
There is just one help for the sinner’s loss;
There is just one hope—all in all to me—
O blessèd Jesus, it is none but Thee!
Arthur J. Hodge (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1843)
2. The Mountain Too High To ClimbRelated Media
We are familiar with the Peanuts cartoons by Charles Schulz. Some of the cartoons present good theological insights. For example see this cartoon. Charlie Brown and Lucy are sitting inside their home and it is raining heavily outside. Lucy expresses her concern that this may flood the whole world. To which Charlie responds, No, that cannot happen, because God promised Noah that He would never do that again. Lucy’s response, you have taken a great load off my mind. To which Charlie responds, Sound theology has a way of doing that.
You see, theology impacts life. What you believe determines how you live. Your worldview, your value system, your lifestyle, and things you do and do not do; all is determined by your theology. That is why we have to make sure what we believe and what we believe is the truth or not. We are people of convictions. And our convictions are not formed by the lies we hear in the world, but the truth we learn from the Word.
There are two problems with religion, especially with Christianity. One, you have to take it by faith; you cannot prove it by imperial scientific evidence. It is not physical, it is metaphysical. And two, there are many things that we cannot understand. And this is true of all religions, but most for Christianity.
There are two results of these two problems. One, many have invented their own ways, manmade religions and two, we, believers, sometimes doubt our own faith. And so it is always good to think about what we believe, what is the Truth.
From our first lesson you remember the story of the three cheaters? A Hindu priest carrying a goat. One of the cheaters comes and tells him, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? To which his response, are you blind? This is not a dog! This is a goat! Few minutes later another cheater tells him the same thing. Now the man is confused. Not sure what he is carrying. A little later third cheater tells him the same thing, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? The man throws away his prized goat and runs away.
The moral of the story is: When a lie is repeated several times, it does not become truth; but it does become easily acceptable and convincing. Today we live in a pluralistic, polytheistic, agnostic or atheistic culture and have been bombarded with all the lies from all the directions so that the very truth of God and His Word is questioned not only by people of other religions, but by some of the very people who are known by the name of Christ. We hear that all the roads lead to the same place. All religions are just different ways to reach God.
Last time we noted some of the major differences between Christianity and the major world religions: the concept of God, the concept of man, the concept of the sin and salvation and how to attain it, the concept life after death; and so on. Today we want to talk about one more major point that sets Christianity apart from any other world religion. The topic today is the mountain too high for anyone to climb.
Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
Gods Seated On The Mountaintop!
For nine years, we lived in a small mountain town in India located in the foothills of the Himalayas. During this time, we travelled to different mountain areas. At one time, we took a bus for two days and reached a small remote village in the mountains. From there we walked three miles crossing a valley filled with beautiful flowers known as The Valley of Flowers (you can look up online under the same name) situated at about 10,000 ft elevation.
Then we began climbing up a steep mountain crossing numerous glaciers. After hours of trekking about four miles and climbing about 4000’ of elevation finally we reached the top, 14,000 ft. There we saw a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain peaks and fed by glaciers. This place is called Hemkund, literally, bowl of ice. There on the top of the mountain is a temple. Approximately 150,000 pilgrims travel to Hemkund every year.
Every mountain peak you climb in the Himalayan mountain range, there you will see a temple. People go there not for the natural beauty and the joy of being surrounded by God’s awesome creation, but for a pilgrimage. We visited other places like Hemkund, such as Gangotri, the mouth of the River Ganges (10,200 ft.). And Badrinath (10,170 ft.) and Kedarnath (11,755 ft.), that we did not visit, are some of the most popular pilgrim places in India (you can view all these sites online). All these mountaintop venues have major temples and are pilgrimage destinations.
Many civilizations are notable for mountaintop temples. The Incas built their temples on high mountain peaks and steep slopes. My wife and I recently toured Peru and saw some of these sites. The Mesopotamians built ziggurats and the Khmers built temples on mountains. Taoists and Buddhists also built their temples on high mountain peaks and ridges. Some are located on mountain slopes so steep that access is very difficult.
The ancient Greeks believed that their gods lived on Mount Olympus. The Hindus believe that Mahameru (Great Mountain) is the abode of gods. Ancients often looked to the skies and believed their gods resided there. As the gods lived in the heavens, places that were closer to the gods would have been considered as sacred.
The ancient Canaanites and other nations worshipped the heavenly bodies and their idols upon hills, mountains, and artificial elevations. The Israelites were commanded to destroy these places of idol worship, but instead, they imitated the heathens and worshipped the idols at high places (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 17:10-11). These places of worship were known as the Bamah (High Places, used 105 times in the Old Testament including Numbers 33:52; Leviticus 26:30; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 20:29), because they were literally situated on higher grounds, on high hills or small mountaintops.
Clearly, mountains have an important place in spirituality. The use of mountains and high places for worship is so widespread as to be almost universal. From the dawn of human civilization man has somehow imagined that the higher you climb, the closer you are to God. It’s as if God is sitting on top of a high mountain and by climbing that mountain you can reach God.
Not only is there a belief that the higher you climb the closer you are to gods, but also the higher you climb the more significant you are. The closer to the stars, sun and moon you get, the more significant you become. By climbing physically higher, man has imagined becoming spiritually greater; not just being closer to God, but being more like God; attaining more of His power and spiritual attributes.
Biblically, the Tower of Babel served this purpose, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves’” (Gen. 11:4). Towers serve this purpose as do many other tall structures. There is constant competition in the world to build the tallest building.
Eternity In Their Heart
Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes presents the contrast between the things above the sun and the things under the sun in Chapter Three. By using the formal structure of couplets of the Hebrew poetry, he very vividly portrays that everything under the sun is for a moment:
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance (3:2-4, NIV)
What Solomon is saying here is that there is nothing under the sun that is permanent, everything and every event has a brief appointed time. There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the sun (3:1), and, He has made everything appropriate in its time (3:11a).
Although everything under the sun is temporal, God has set eternity in man’s heart (3:11b). Every culture, no matter how primitive or developed, has a concept of eternity, of something that will last forever. Because of this sense of eternity in his heart, man is looking for something that will last forever; most of all, something that will make him last forever.
Our Futile Attempts To Climb The Mountain
Because of this eternity in his heart, man, from the beginning of civilization, has been trying to reach God and has come up with various ways to climb the mountain that no one can climb. All world religions are man’s futile attempts to climb the mountain to reach God.
For example, the Mormon theology is that God was just like us, humans, but he attained his godship by climbing up a ladder to divinity. In the same way we can attain the same high and exalted position that God now has. The central tenet of Mormon theology is: God once was what we are now (just like us human being), we will be what God is now (just like God, the same high and exalted position).
The central tenet of Hindu theology is: I am Brahman! Man is divine. The only problem is we do not know our full potential. Like a burning coal covered by ashes, our divinity is covered by our ignorance. So, the Yoga provides an eight-step path to reach that full potential and become one with God.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve; “When you eat of it (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:5). Does it not sound very much like Hindu theology? You are just like God, only that you do not know it. When you eat this fruit, your eyes will be opened, your ignorance will be dispelled and you will realize that you are just like God! From that point on man is in constant search to find ways to develop his divine potential and reach the ultimate heights.
Even Socrates, considered as father of the Western philosophy, said, “Know thyself” and “Knowledge is virtue”, meaning if you knew yourself, if you really realize who you are, if you knew how good you are, you will be really good.
The Mountain Too High To Climb
But the obvious problem is, if God is really God, a Supreme Being, transcendent, infinite, over and above every created thing, including humans, any attempt to physically reach God will leave a person frustrated and unsure of what is possible. God says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). If God were seated on a high mountain, that mountain is too high for anyone to climb.
Similarly, Solomon said, “When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover” (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17). What he is saying is that man just does not know and cannot know. And if you think you know, you do not even know that you do not know!
One Sunday afternoon my family and I were cleaning up a church building. I was vacuuming children Sunday school area and found a small piece of paper. I keep that piece of paper in my Bible; keeps me humble. It reads, “If you have any question ask someone else because I’m stupider than you. My name is Rick”. He is not shy in giving his name. Too bad the Sunday school teacher did not get hold of it.
Out of the mouths of babes! Come to think of it, that is all of us before God! Actually, the Word of God says the same thing. On the other side of that piece of paper I have written Proverbs 30:23. Agur, one of the wise men, says, “Surely I am more stupid than any man, and I do not have the understanding of a man. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One”. And this was a wise man, whose words are recorded in the Word of God!
Do you know how much we know about the physical universe? Even with all the progress of science in the twenty-first century, scientists know only about five percent of the universe; the ninety-five percent still remains unknown. We don't know why the universe exists, what dark matter, or dark energy, is, or whether life exists anywhere else. We don't fully understand our own biology. We would never fathom how the human brain works. We don't know how the Earth works. There’s a lot we don’t know. All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just five percent of the universe. The other ninety-five percent is made up of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend. “The overwhelming majority of the universe is: who knows?” explains science writer Richard Panek, “It’s unknown for now, and possibly forever.” My question is if we do not know ninety-five percent of the universe, how can we know that we know five percent of it?
Isaac Newton, who discovered the Law of Gravity when he saw an apple fall from the tree, was once complimented for his genius. His humble response, “I am like a boy collecting sea shells on the seashore while the vast ocean remains unexplored”. Almost three hundred years later (he died in 1727) we have not much progressed. That is true of the universe. But even more so of the God who created the universe. Because God has to be far greater than the universe He created.
How can the finite human being reach this God? How can you know Him? How can you have a relationship with this Inaccessible God? How can you fill the hole in your heart? How can you have a meaningful and joyful life? There is no way a puny human being can do that by his own human efforts.
“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there was someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” (Job 9:32-35, NIV)
God Comes Down The Mountain
The only way a finite human being could reach God, and have access to the infinite and transcendent God, is if God Himself came down to the human level and made Himself accessible. The only way man can know God, can have a relationship with Him, is if God revealed Himself to man.
And that is exactly what God has done in Jesus Christ. The Word that existed from the eternity past, the Word that was with God and the Word that was God… all things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. This Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14).
The Creator of the entire universe became flesh, incarnated Himself in human body and made His dwelling among people. Instead of man trying to reach God and failing miserably, God Himself reached down to man. There is no other way for man to reach Him or to have the relationship with Him, apart from Jesus Christ as God’s provision.
“Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11, NIV)
A few years ago, we received a Christmas card. On the outside of the card there are pictures of some of the most prominent men of the history: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hitler, Lenin, Napoleon, Mao, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Buddha. The caption over those pictures reads: “History is crowded with men who would be gods.” Opening the card inside is the picture of baby Jesus in the cradle and the caption reads: “But only one God who would be man”.
History is crowded with men who would be gods. But only one God who would be man. This is what makes Christianity unique among all the world religions: instead of man trying to reach God and failing miserably, God reached down to man and made Himself accessible to whoever wants to come into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God so loved people that He provided the way of salvation, the way to come into a relationship with Him, by sending Jesus Christ into the world. By first coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ any one can attain the relationship with God and live eternally in the presence of God.
“No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders that God became man. Alongside the brilliance of holy night there burns the fire of the unfathomable mystery of Christian theology” (Bonhoeffer in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010), P. 472).
We would never fathom the mystery of incarnation. But we do not have to understand it. We have to believe
One, it is only in Christ that we have access to God. There is no other name. Christianity makes sense. All other religions are man-centered. Christianity is God-centered. In all the other religions man takes the initiative and fails miserably. In Christianity God takes the initiative and fulfils the plan of salvation. Only through Christ we have access to God. As Christ Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). And as Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Two, we do not have to understand; we have to believe. God is transcendent, infinite, beyond our reach and understanding. We will never understand Him fully. Even the eternity would be too short to understand Him. But not being able to understand is no excuse for not believing. Now we only see dimly like in a mirror (1 Corinthian 13:12).
Paul said “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He was speaking in a spiritual sense. But we apply that more in our physical life than in our spiritual life. When we board an airplane, we do not know the pilot, we do not know the security personnel who checked everything and everybody, we do not know any of the ground crew, we do not know the mechanics who checked the engine; and yet we sit in the plane and just relax reading a book or dozing off.
When we drive we do not know the other drivers around us, their driving habits, their mental and emotional condition, whether they are drunk or not, physically impaired or not, their driving capability; whether our car would hold up; whether the road or the bridge hold up. But we go seventy-eighty mile speed trusting all things going well and keep driving, even though things do go bad, bridges collapse and we and other drivers make mistake.
We can take example after example in physical realm where we live by faith and just assume everything is alright. Because there is no other way! We would go insane if we did not. But when it comes in the spiritual matters, we want proof. We want to put our fingers in the hole.
And God in His grace does provide proof. But we have to accept that and believe that. Those who believe there is ample evidence of the truth. But those who do not want to believe, no matter how much proof is there, they will not believe. As in physical realm, so also in our spiritual realm we have to live by faith and not by sight.
Three, not being able to understand everything in the Word of God is no excuse for not trying to understand. The Old Testament prophets were intently searching Scriptures and were trying to understand what God was revealing to them in His Word (1 Peter 1:0-12). Similarly Peter instructs, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).
Four, not being able to understand is not an excuse for not obeying. God does not expect us to understand everything, but He does expect us to obey. Certain things we will never understand, but the Word of God is plain and simple that demands our obedience. Mark Twain said, “I am not bothered by the things of the Bible I do not understand, what bothers me most are the things that I do understand” Because then you have to obey them!
Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
We have to be grounded in the Word of God. We have to study it, try to understand it, cherish it, share it and live by it. Do not let anything rob the joy of your salvation.
Yes, there are two problems with religion. You have to take it by faith and many things we cannot understand. This creates obvious problems; many have invented their own ways-religions and we sometimes doubt our own faith. But God has given us enough light in His revelation that we can trust Him and be grounded in the Truth He has revealed so that we are not beguiled by all the lies we hear around us and doubt our faith, but live life as a believer confident of the truth and living by the truth.
The Man And The Birds
by Paul Harvey
The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Come all ye faithful – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
And he sank to his knees in the snow.
A man becoming a bird is nothing compared to God becoming man. But that is exactly what God did. Because otherwise to reach Him is a mountain too high for man to climb (Phil 2:6-11).
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
3. A Valley Too Deep To CrossRelated Media
This has been very special weekend for my wife Violet and me. This Friday we celebrated our 53rd anniversary. God has tremendously blessed us through the years. Last 45 years in full time ministry together. God has blessed us with three happily married sons and eight grandchildren; ranging from age seventeen to two.
By now you all know how much I enjoy the opportunities to share the Word of God with you all here. One of the joys of the ministry is to have opportunities like this to share the Word of God.
Hopefully you remember our topic, Jesus the only way. I am sure you remember the story of the three cheaters. A Hindu priest carrying a goat. One of the cheaters comes and tells him, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? To which his response, are you blind? This is not a dog! This is a goat! Few minutes later another cheater tells him the same thing. Now the man is confused. Not sure what he is carrying. A little later third cheater tells him the same thing, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? The man throws away his prized goat and runs away.
Remember the moral of the story? A lie when repeated several times does not turn into a truth, but it does become convincing. One of the lies in our contemporary culture we hear is that all religions are the same. You follow whatever path you want to, it does not make any difference; it leads you to the same God.
This may sometimes lead us to doubt our own faith. So we have been taking few points to dispel that lie so we would be confirmed in our own faith and also be ready to share the Truth when opportunity arrives.
All religions are the same is a lie from the very depth of hell. As Paul said, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
In our first lesson we took several concepts and saw that Christianity is drastically different and unique among all world religions. The concept of God, concept of human being, concept of sin and salvation, the concept of life after death and how everything will end; all these are unique in Christianity.
In our second lesson our topic was Mountain Too High to Climb. We saw that the concept of God in Christianity is different from any other religion. God, in other religions is thought of as seated on a high mountain and man is trying to climb that mountain. But God is so highly exalted, transcendent, unfathomable and beyond human reach, that no one can reach up to Him. The only way we can reach God, can have access to Him, can have relationship with Him is if He Himself came down to our level.
And that is exactly what God did in Jesus Christ. God, who existed from the eternity past, became man and dwelt with us so through Jesus we can now know God and have relationship with Him. There are many men who would be god, but there is only one God who would be man.
Today our topic is A Valley Too Deep to Cross
Isaiah 6:1-7; Revelation 4:8
As we read think about what is the one central attribute of God and the one central attribute of man that is in focus here, the problem this creates and how it is resolved
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (NIV)
Each of the four living creatures day and night never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (NIV)
Most of us, I suppose, have visited the Grand Canyon. It is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 6100 feet deep. Now imagine God and man standing on the opposite rims of the Grand Canyon. Can any human being jump that 18 mile gap to reach God?
Bob Beamon in 1968 summer Olympic had long jump record of 29’ and two and a quarter inch. It took twenty three years to break that record, which was done by Mike Powell in 1991, who jumped 29’, four and a quarter inch, just two inches longer than the first record. Until today (2019), twenty eight years later, that record still stands. No one has been able so far to reach thirty feet!!
But the valley between God and man is far wider and deeper than the 18 miles width and 6100 feet depth of the Grand Canyon.
Most Significant Attribute Of God
What, do you think, is the most significant attribute of God? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” as both Isaiah in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament saw. These words, the word holy three times, are used only these two places in the whole Bible. But these words emphatically bring out the most significant attribute of God.
In Hebrew language there are no comparatives or superlatives. In English we would say holy, holier and holiest. But since there are no comparative or superlative, the Hebrew language uses repetition. Twice is better and three times is the best, the most. We sometimes use similar language. For example, when you are buying a property three most important things to consider are location, location and location! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty. There is no one who can reach the level of His holiness. Only Thou Art holy, there is none beside Thee.
The holiness is God’s intrinsic quality. That is what makes Him God. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is “Holy”, just plain Holy. The phrase “Holy of Israel” is used 34 times in the Old Testament, 28 times in the Book of Isaiah. Holy of Israel means God of Israel, where Holy and God are synonyms.
The holiness of God supersedes His all other attributes. Holiness of God puts limitation on God’s all other attributes. For example, being all powerful and inability to do something cannot go together. That would be oxymoron! But because of his holiness the all powerful God cannot do some of the things that we can do. He cannot lie, he cannot cheat, He cannot commit any sinful act. He cannot do anything that is against His holy nature.
Similarly, an omnipresent God cannot be with evil. Or, all knowing omniscient God does not know many things, like He does not know the feeling of guilt.
When we think about the attributes of God, we think of Him being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These are actually not intrinsic attributes of God. These are some of His abilities. What makes God God is not being omnipresent or omniscient or omnipotent. But what makes God God is His holiness.
Think about Jesus. While on earth omniscient God grew in wisdom and knowledge. Omnipresent God limited His presence. Nowhere in the New Testament we see Christ present at more than one place at the same moment. Omnipotent God became obedient to His parents. In everything He was just like us. There was only one thing he could not give up and still be God; His sinlessness, His holiness. What separated Him from the rest of the mankind was His holiness. He was God because He was sinless. During His earthly life He laid aside all His abilities we assign to God, except His holiness. He could not have been God without His holiness.
Most Significant Attribute Of Man
On the other hand, what is the most significant attribute of man? You know the number given to the Antichrist, right? 666! There are more speculations about the meaning of that number than that number itself! But one of the most convincing interpretations is that if the number seven is for perfection, for God, the number six is for imperfection, for man. The text does say that this is the number for man. If God is holy, holy, holy; man on the other hand, is unholy, unholy, unholy.
One of the commonly accepted principles of Christianity is the total depravity of every human being. Total depravity does not mean that every person is as depraved as he could be; there are comparatively good human beings. But it means that every aspect of being is tainted by evil, by sinful nature. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). And that applies to every human being ever born on the face of the earth.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi official who helped Hitler to carry out the mass murder of six million Jews during World War II. For years, he had evaded the authorities and lived in relative peace in Argentina. He was hunted down and on May 11, 1960 he was in the custody of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service and brought to trial, sentenced to death and hanged in May 1962.
One of the key witnesses at the trial was a Jew named Yehiel Di Nur, who suffered under Eichmann and witnessed firsthand all the atrocities. At the trial after his initial brief testimony Di Nur fainted and could not continue.
In an interview on 60 Minutes, some twenty years later, aired on 6 February 1983, De-Nur recounted the incident of his fainting at the Eichmann trial to Mike Wallace the host.
Wallace asked him, why did he faint? Was he overcome by hatred? Was he overcome by fear? Was it because of his horrid memories? No; it was none of these, he answered. Rather, Dinur explained to Wallace, “All at once I realized Eichmann was not the god-like army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. Man just like me. So I was afraid about myself. I realized that if he can do such things, what prevents me doing those things? I am capable to do this. I am ... exactly like he.”
The Valley Too Deep To Cross.
Holiness of God and sinfulness of man creates the vast valley between God and man that cannot be crossed. The valley too deep to cross.
It was not like that from the beginning. God created man upright. But they sinned and that created that vast and deep valley. Since then every human being is born with sin nature and is prone to sin. As David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:6).
The Bible says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrew 12:14). And so the command, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, “Be holy because I Am holy” (Leviticus 11:45, 46; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8; 1 Peter 1:15, 16).
Can anyone be holy as much as God is holy? Our goodness is comparative. We compare ourselves with those who, we think, are worse than us and we feel better. Compared to people like Hitler, we all can pat our backs and feel good. We can compare ourselves with what is going on in the world around us or in the culture we live and feel ourselves far better than them. The Pharisees did the same, “I am not like….”. And there is a Pharisee in every one of us. We all have that holier than thou feeling.
But who can meet that standard of holiness that God expects? The standard of righteousness that God wants us to meet is His righteousness that we can never attain. From the beginning of mankind humans have been trying their own ways to meet that standard, to cross that valley too deep to cross. Adam and Eve made clothes from fig leaves. Our good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our religious activities are like clothes made from spider webs, “Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands” (Isaiah 59:6).
In 2009 a movie Slumdog Millionaire was very popular. It is filmed in India featuring slumlord who is capturing street kids and maiming them and forcing them to beg, exploiting them to get rich. I have to warn you, this is very repulsive. In the movie there is a scene of two boys goofing around. One of them goes in a public latrine. The other boy just for the fun of it latched the door from outside.
Then they hear loud shouts welcoming Amitabh Bacchan, a famous and very popular Hindi film actor. The boys are great fan of him. The boy outside, forgetting his friend, runs away to see his favorite actor. The boy inside wants to do the same but has no way to get out. He does not want to miss the chance of seeing his favorite actor. So he takes extreme measures. The latrine is made of a cement slab with a hole with the sewer running below. He slips through the hole, walks through the sewer and comes out at the other end completely covered with the filth.
This is the picture of every human being covered with sin! In the book of Isaiah God tells, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil” (Isaiah 1:6).
The valley between God and man is too deep to cross by any human being unless, of course, God Himself provides the bridge to cross it. And that is what God has done in Jesus Christ.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head (Is. 59:15-17, NIV)
There is only one Mediator between man and God who has provided the way to come into relationship with the holy God. Now the curtain is torn and we can enter into the holy of holies and have relationship with the holy God. The valley too deep to cross can now be crossed by the cross, by everyone who comes to Christ by faith.
He took all our filth and gave His clean robe of righteousness to us! That is exactly what happens when a person comes to Jesus by faith. It is mind boggling. God in Christ took away our filthy garments and robed us with His own righteousness: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Or, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
One of the things that prevents people from coming to Christ is their assumed goodness. Unless and until you realize the valley too deep to cross, you will not see the value of God reconciling mankind to Himself through Christ
Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. The only difference is the grace of God that takes hold of me and prevents me to go that extreme. It is only His mercy that does not zap us every time we sin.
A couple of weeks ago we had a pest control person to take care of ant infestation in the house. When the young man came I asked would it be okay if I walked around with him and talked. When someone comes to our home for any service, I stay with him and talk. I observe how he does it so if possible I can learn and take care of that particular problem next time. It also helps me to make sure that the thing is done right.
But that gives also me opportunity to share the Gospel. No one that comes to the Christian home goes without hearing the Good News. After few initial get acquainted questions I ask do you go to church. This man said he does not like religion. I said, I do not like religion either. Then I had almost an hour with him to talk back and forth and share the Gospel. At the end when I asked him if he had any question, he asked, why God did not punish those people in the Bible who committed rape, incest, adultery, murder.
You see, when people hear the Gospel most of the time they do not want to commit themselves and want to avoid the topic and so come up with some question or point. The Samaritan woman did the same thing. The fellow who asked who is my neighbor also was just trying to avoid the main issue.
I told him, for the same reason that He does not zap you and me when we think bad thoughts or commit a sin. If God zapped every one every time they did something wrong, no one would be alive in the world. We think about sins of other people and think why does God not punish them, but we forget that before God we are sinful people. Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. But God in His mercy through Christ overlooks our sins and in His grace has provided the way for forgiveness.
No other religion speaks about the holiness of God in these terms. Sinfulness of man and the wide gap that creates making impossible for man to come into the relationship with God. A valley too deep to cross.
No other religion provides the way to fill the gap between God and man.
No other religion provides the way of forgiveness.
No other religion provides the way to attain the holiness that God requires.
One, It is only in Christ that we have access to God. There is no other name.
Christianity makes sense. It is logical religion. Obviously there is no other way to bridge the gap between God and man except through Christ.
If you have not yet come to that point, you can do that right now. Until and unless we come into the relation with God through Christ and receive His forgiveness and His holiness, we all are like Hitler destined to the same eternal fate.
Two, those of us who have received the righteousness from God, now demonstrate the righteousness of God in our daily life. God has robed us with His righteousness, now it is our responsibility to keep that robe clean. You know the story of the king Hezekiah who got sick and prayed to the Lord to heal him and the Lord granted him fifteen years more to live. In his thanksgiving prayer he muses to himself, how can I thank the Lord for this? He answers his own question, “I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul” (Isaiah 38:15). All my life I will walk so carefully that I do not defile myself, do anything that displeases the Lord.
It was God who first put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. And now it is our responsibility to put on the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation.
Three, be assured of the truth of the Gospel. Study it, understand it, cherish it, share it. Do not let what we hear around us doubt your faith. Do not let anyone steal your goat!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Reginald Heber (1783–1826).