It's great joy again this morning to have the wonderful privilege of studying the sixth chapter of Ephesians, I would just call your attention to that and if you'll take your bible now and look with me at Ephesians 6. I feel like I cannot even begin to exhaust the depths of these tremendous truths that lie within the teaching of the armor of the Christian in verses 14 to 17, a teaching which we will be looking at this week and for several weeks to come. They're almost inexhaustible, they plumb the depths of so much Christian truth that we're going to have to build on some of your knowledge from the past and we'll anticipate even adding in the future to all that these thoughts contain.
But we've learned this much, for the last few weeks as we've come to the final section of the book of Ephesians we have noted that the believer is involved in a warfare, a battle. We have seen that this battle is against a formidable enemy, Satan and all of his host of demons. In fact, we've been trying to point out to you that the committed Christian and Satan are on a collision course. It is inevitable that your life will intersect with the forces of hell as you live for God. There is absolutely no question about that. It's only a question as to how that manifests itself and what specifics may occur, the collision is inevitable and by the way, it's rather constant as well. The adversary works hard, he works effectively, he works powerfully against the child of God. And as we have learned in the book of Ephesians the Christian possesses a tremendous resource.
To begin with we are said to have received all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus in Ephesians, chapter 1 verse 3. We have been given according to Ephesians 1, a place in the beloved one, we have been granted forgiveness of sin, we have been made a son of God, we have been given knowledge and understanding and prudence. We have been made a part of an incredible mystery that was planned before the foundation of the world. We have been given the Holy Spirit to seal us. We have been granted the power to do beyond what we can imagine. We have been given the capability of expressing that power through the indwelling presence and filling of the Holy Spirit. We literally in this world represent the awesome power of God. In us exists the very power which raised Christ from the dead and set him at the right hand of the Father and made all principalities and powers to be under His feet. And we have this tremendous resource and we are the people of God and we are set in this world to accomplish the goals and the plans and the purposes which God Himself has designed. To accomplish the ends which are the issues of His kingdom. And it's such an effort we are to be withstood for sure, for certain by the enemy. The very enemy who endeavored to withstand God in His own heavens. The very enemy who withstood man in his innocence in the garden. The very enemy who tried to wipe out the nation Israel. The enemy who tried to stop the birth, the life, the death, the resurrection, the second coming in the future of Jesus Christ. The enemy who tries to destroy the church. Who tries to hinder the service rendered by believers. The enemy who will someday try to hold the earth against the power of Christ as He comes to take His rightful place.
And so this formidable foe is pitted against the believer in this age. And a Christian who doesn't recognize it, who doesn't understand something of its significance, a Christian who isn't ready for battle is going to be a Christian who is victimized. Not only does he lose in his own life but he loses his effectiveness which causes the loss of that which God would desire him to fulfill.
So the glory of God, at least in his life, is lost. And so we must be ready for the war, we must be aware of the battle. I guess it's a serious thing with anybody who really studies the bible, I'm afraid it's not as serious as it ought to be with many of you. So God has really exercised my own heart to reiterate this morning as we look at the first piece of armor the tremendous importance of this particular battle and what God is really asking of us.
Now to begin with let me just give you a little bit of an introduction in this manner. Since the believer and Satan are an absolute collision course, and, by the way, it's a collision that constantly goes on, we need to understand something of how Satan attacks us. I just briefly mentioned this to you last time and I want to go into just a little more of an explanation though not very long of how it is that Satan approaches the believer. And I want to give you a series of ways which I believe are not only biblical but I have seen manifest in my own life, in the church, in the lives of others, that give us an idea of how Satan attacks us. And if you would like to jot them down because I think they will help you guard yourself in these areas.
First of all, I believe the enemy attacks the believer to undermine God's character and credibility. To undermine God's character and credibility, and this really is the heart of the matter. In terms of Satan's efforts. He desires to undermine God. He wants you to doubt God. That's the thrust. He did it in the garden with Eve, "Hath God really said?" and then He impugned God's motive by saying the reason God doesn't want you to eat that is because God knows you will be like him and God can't stand the competition. In other words, he wanted to ascribe the God as selfish ulterior motive.
You can't really trust God, he was saying. You can't really believe God, He may say one thing but down deep inside means something else and so His word is not believable. In effect, in the New Testament it says - If you deny God His word you make Him a liar. And that's what Satan wants to do. He wants people to think God is the liar and he tells the truth. When in fact, Jesus said - Let every man be a liar and God be true. And he said also, that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
So while God tells us He is truth and Satan is a liar Satan tells us he is truth and God is a liar. You can't trust God. You have to doubt God, doubt His word, doubt His power, we do, you know. We're tempted in a difficult situation to worry and fret and fume and lose our control all because we don't really believe God can get us out of it. We question His power. We doubt God's grace sometimes and His mercy and His forgiveness. We sin and we get all kinds of anxieties and guilt feelings and we get into neurosises and psychosis and all of these things, there are people who actually commit murder against themselves by taking their own lives because they cannot accept the forgiveness of God which is nothing but a denial of His promise and His word. We also frequently doubt God's love and we think to ourselves that God doesn’t really love us to care for us and how would God possibly love me when He let this happen to me, my husband left me or my kids are turning out bad, or whatever or whatever, and Satan pushes us to the place where we doubt the love of God. He invariably wants us to doubt God's love. He attacked Peter one time and caused Peter to doubt the truth of God and Jesus said to him Peter be careful, Satan desires to sift you. And so Satan attacks us to undermine God's character and God's credibility and as soon as you begin to doubt God at any point in terms of His character or His credibility consider the source.
Second thing, I'm convinced that Satan attacks us to make it hard to live the Christian life, to make it hard to live the Christian life. He doesn't want it to be easy. He wants it to be very difficult. To really live the Christian life, he wants it to be hard. And I think he attacks at three ways to make it hard to live the Christian life, one would be through persecution. That would be the most extreme way. Just living the Christian life is hard because some people are so antagonistic.
A fellow was telling me this week that he was talking about his new found faith in Christ to his brother and he took his bible out and he showed his brother his bible and began to talk about it and at that point the brother took the bible and threw it across the room into a corner. He said, “Don’t ever push that book on me.” And that would be an illustration of persecution. There are a lot of other illustrations throughout the history of the church. The persecution of those who have tried to live the Christian life. It may come on the job; it may come from your friends, and so forth.
Second to that I would say he makes it hard to live the Christian life by a lesser kind of persecution in a way that I call peer pressure. Some people really don't want to come out for God because they don't want to lose their friends, they don't want to move out of the circle they're in and they don't want to be thought to be different. They don't want to have to change their relationships with people, they are very comfortable with the acceptance they have. They like being liked. And they're just not ready to take a different tact which may alienate them. This is something of what the writer of Hebrews was dealing with when he was writing to those who were sitting on the fence in the Jewish community never having committed themselves to Christ though they believed it was true for fear of what their friends and their family would say and that they would be ostracized. And so Satan makes it tough in that area also. As well as in the outright persecution such as Paul referred to when he said all that will live godly in this present world will suffer persecution.
There is a third way he makes it hard to live the Christian life and that's by making it easy to live the Christian life if you know what I mean. I think sometimes the hardest place to live the Christian life is in the easiest place to live the Christian life. Here we are in America, being a Christian is acceptable, respectable, everybody is a Christian, everybody is getting born again, religion is the mood of the hour. Christianity is kind of the cool thing and it's alright. You know, it's so easy now, there's no price to pay. And maybe that's what makes it hardest of all, to live the Christian life. It seems as though we can react to peer pressure, we can react to persecutions, the tough, thing is to react to acceptability. But Satan moves in and endeavors to make it hard to really live for Christ as well as undermining God's character and credibility.
A third thing that Satan does when he attacks the believer is he confuses the believer with false doctrine. He confuses the believer with false doctrine. You know, I talk to Christians all the time who don't really understand what the Bible means by this passage that, a fellow asked me yesterday, “what is sanctification; I'm so confused I don't understand what it means to be sanctified.” And yet he's been a Christian for a long time. The confusion of different books, of different teachers. People say, “Why do so many people disagree?” Well, I think it's partly a ploy of Satan to confuse Christian people, to frustrate them and so many people say, “Well, you really can't be dogmatic about the Bible you just kind of have to take it in general.” I have people say to me, “You're so dogmatic all the time; you can't be that dogmatic about the Bible.” Well, I believe that if you study it, it isn't that tough.
Frankly, folks, I'm not the smartest person around I'm just very average intelligence. I hate to admit that, some of you thought I was smart all this time. But I'm not. I'm just a person who knows where the Bible is and knows how to dig in a little bit and find out what it means, it isn't that tough. But Satan confuses believers one way by presenting a plethora of interpretations that leave everyone kind of baffled. He also confuses believers by having false teachers move in sowing all kinds of wrong doctrine. There are many Christians tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. There are many Christians who are deceived by the false teachers who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves. There is a problem today because the doctrines of demons are so rampant and Satan confuses the church. There are many Christian people sending millions of dollars to the wrong causes. There is just confusion about what is true in the Bible. The confusion of false teaching. So Satan tries to undermine God's character, he tries to make it hard to live the Christian life; he tries to confuse Christians with false teachers and false doctrines.
Fourthly, he tries as hard as he can to hinder our service to Christ. He wants to stop effective service. He wants to stop Grace Church. He wants to stop my ministry and your ministry and the ministry of anyone who is serving Jesus Christ. He wants to do all he can to stop it and to prevent it as we see throughout the Old Testament he tries to hinder those who are the prophets of God. As we see how he tried to hinder the Lord Jesus Christ, as we see how in the case of Paul says in I Thessalonians what proves to be a wonderful insight into this particular problem in chapter 2 verse 8, he says - "Being affectionately desirous of you we were willing to have imparted unto you not the gospel of God only but also our own souls because you were dear to us." In other words, to the Thessalonians he says we wanted to give you not only the word but our lives and so we endeavored to minister. And how was it he says? It was labor and it was travail, we labored night and day preaching to you the gospel of' God. And to the Ephesians he said - we labored night and day with tears presenting to you the truth. Why? Because it is so hard, it is so resistant. It isn't easy.
Young men sometimes say to me, the longer you minister, does it get easier? No, it doesn't get any easier, it just gets different and the string of victories get more wonderful and you have a better past history upon which to build your faith for the future but it never gets any easier. Cause he hinders our service. Roadblocks. And so, Satan attacks God's credibility, he attacks the Christian making it hard to live the life; he confuses us with false doctrine and hinders our service.
Number five, I believe Satan does all he can to cause division in the body. He works hard causing division in the body. Fracturing us. That's why our Lord was so explicit when He said as we read last week in Matthew on Sunday night, that if you have anything against your brother go and be reconciled before you come back to worship Him. So, he causes division. I Cor. 1, 1 Cor. 2, 1 Cor. 3, talks about the division in the church. In Ephesians 4 Paul says -"Endeavor to keep the bond of the-unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, do all you can to maintain unity." Paul exhorts us in that because Satan rips us apart, brings friction and factions into the body of Christ.
Sixth, and this is another area where Satan really hits us hard, he urges us to trust our own resources. This is subtle. I Chronicles chapter 21 tells the story about David and David wanted to find out how strong he really was so he counted his soldiers and God says to him, David, that's a terrible, evil sin. Your strength is not dependent upon the number of your troops; it's not dependent upon the number of your people, your strength is dependent upon God. And it's easy, you know, even in a spiritual area for the believer to count up all of his knowledge. You know, I've memorized this book and I've mastered that and I've got all these principles and look what I know and I've been to seminary and I've got all this data in my mind, I'm really ready and I'm able to handle the problems. And what happens is his prayer life becomes non-existent the depth of his devotion is lost and he becomes shallow and theological. Very dangerous. There are some people who think that because they go to church all the time they are alright. And we can become so confident in our own resources. So easy for us as the psalmist says, “Lean on our own understanding. Depend on our own knowledge, wisdom, insight, erudition on, education.” And we fail to cast ourselves upon the power of God with the sense that Isaiah had when he said, “Woe is unto me.” He knew he had no resource apart from God.
A seventh way in which Satan attacks us and I think this is also common is that he causes us to play the hypocrite. To be hypocritical. Satan is literally populated the church, including this one, but he populated every church with people who are phony, not real. Even Christians can do that. You know we can go along smugly, glibly with a smile, the mask, spirituality letting the whole world think we are fine and all we do is pollute the fellowship and all we do is mask ourselves so well that we never deal with the real problem, we never let anybody see what we are really like, we never open up and tell the truth so that nobody can ever, come and wrap their arms around us and help to deliver us from the problems, you see. We hide behind respectability. We hide behind our hypocritical so-called spirituality, like Ananias and Saphira we want to lie to the Holy Spirit because Satan has really entered our hearts. Satan has come and played something on us and told us it is better to be thought respectable then to be respectable. It's better not to face your sin and deal with it it is better to mask it and cover it and play a game. And Satan is so subtle and he fills the church with hypocrisy. And so does Satan come, first of all he works on us to undermine God's character, to make it hard to live the Christian life, to confuse us with false doctrine, to hinder our service, to cause division, to urge us to depend upon our own resources and to cause us to play the hypocrite.
Just two other things. Number eight, Satan attacks us to make us worldly, to shove us into the mold formed by the world. And I mean, he is so successful at this, people, the church today is so worldly, affluent, materialistic, self-indulgent, self-satisfied, smug, so much like the system around it that it's even hard to separate the two. And yet does John say to us, Love not the world neither the things that are in the world.' If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in Him for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world and the world passes away and the lust thereof and he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. He is saying - Look, you have no business having anything to do with the world. The world is passing and you are eternal. The very dimensions of life are incoherent, incongruous-and can't come together. What are you doing with the world? And yet the church gets engulfed because Satan constantly pushes us into the world.
Final thing, I think Satan wants to cause us to act in disobedience to what we know is God's word. This maybe is the pinnacle of it all. Satan wants us to act immorally; if God is moral and God sets the moral law then any act against God's law is immorality. Whether it is sexual or social. Whatever it is. Acting immorally is acting against the moral law and God is the one who established it. And so he wants us to disobey God. That gives Satan an opportunity, that gives him his advantage.
Well, there you are people. In these areas Satan works. Undermining God's character, making it hard to live the Christian life, confusing us with false doctrine, hindering our service, causing division, forcing us to trust our own resources, to play the hypocrite, to become worldly and to act in disobedience to God. That's how it is going to come. That's how it's always come. That's where the battle lies.
Now you say - Well how do I deal with it? That's a pretty big order of attacks. Well, the wonderful thing, people, and this is what I am so thrilled about is that all nine of the things I gave you can be dealt with in one simple way. Look at verse 13 of Ephesians 6. "Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand." How are you going to resist all of these? In all of their complexities and with all of Satan's subtlety and with all of his cleverness and with the wiles of the devil and the cunning craftiness and the deceitfulness being what it is, how can you deal with these? Simply, you don't concentrate on what he is doing you, concentrate on what you are doing.
It doesn't matter that you can categorize those attacks. It doesn't matter that you know the definition of each one. It doesn't matter that you spell out every subtlety of what he is doing, you can't do that. That world is too sophisticated, too remote, too superhuman for you to deal with or me either. What does matter is that we get our armor on, you see. So that when the battle starts whatever his attack might be we're defensible. It doesn't matter where the enemy comes from, it doesn't matter how subtle his attack is in war, if when he gets there you're ready for it. That's all. It doesn't matter what attack Satan takes, it doesn't matter what path he comes on, it doesn't matter if he is crawling on his belly or flying overhead, it doesn't matter how subtle his attack or how blatant it is if you are ready when he gets there that's all that matters. And the believer with his armor on will stand whatever the attack. So, having said all that, I have just said to let you know where he comes from, be aware of those areas but the major issue is not how he is coming or what the attack is but are you ready, are you ready? Because if you have your armor on, you can handle it.
Now this morning I want us to look at just the first piece of armor. It's very simple. But very, very important. Verse 14, there are seven pieces of armor, a believer must have on when Satan and his hosts arrive. The first one is in verse 14, - Stand, therefore. And that takes us back at the end of verse 13, "Having done all to stand." In the middle of verse 11, "That you may be able to stand." The idea is to stand against the attack of Satan to be firm against his onslaughts, to be victorious when he comes. Therefore, if you're going to stand against those things you must have your loins girded about with alethea, truth or truthfulness.
Now, let's talk about this. The word aleethia can be translated truth as content, truth as opposed to falsehood. Truth as defined as the word of God, the revelation of God, the content of truth. Or it can be defined as an attitude of truthfulness, or, non-hypocrisy, or sincerity or honesty or integrity, or commitment. Let’s take the first element.
Let's say that latent in the thought here is the concept of truth in content. If Satan attacks me it is incumbent upon me, first of all, to have the belt of truth. Why? Well, in the first place, Satan is going to come with his wiles, verse 11 says. And wiles is the same word translated cunning craftiness in chapter 4 verse 14. And there it refers to winds of doctrine. The word doctrine is teaching. Now he says this, then, Satan will come and he'll blow along certain teachings which are cunningly deceiving, which are wily, crafty, doctrines of demons. And here comes these false truths, they are the wiles of the devil. And the only way you can resist the falsehoods and the lies of the devil is to have the truth. That is why it is so important for us to teach and teach and teach the word of God.
In II Tim. 4:1 Paul talks about the doctrines of demons and seducing spirits, who come to deceive. In I Cor. 10:20 and 21 Paul looked at the Corinthian society and said the Corinthians have this big worship structure and they go to their-pagan temples and they worship their pagan gods and they exorcise themselves in all of the rituals and the ceremonies and the rites of worship but he says the things the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not unto God. In other words, behind their whole system are demons, their whole worship is demonic, their whole system of religion is demon inspired, it is the doctrine of demons and seducing spirits. And what I'm saying is that gives us an insight into all false teaching. It comes from Satan. Jesus said in John 8:44, he is a liar, as I said, and the father of lies. And so the basic thing that Satan does is come with lies, with untruths. And a believer if he is going to war must know truth. Now that's basically behind this concept here in a sense.
Now let me describe the belt so you'll get the image a little better. In Paul's day a Roman person, even a soldier, wore a tunic. A tunic was a big square piece of material for the most part. Had a hole in it for your head and two holes for your arms. That was about it. You just threw it on. It was kind of a non-gathered piece of material. But if you were going into a war you wouldn't go into a war with that thing flying around. In fact, you didn't even take a journey with...in that situation, For example, it says in Exodus that when the children of Israel were called upon by God to leave the promised land in the 12th chapter leave for the promised land, in the 12th chapter of Exodus and the 11th verse God said to them, in effect - Gird up your loins, we're leaving Egypt. So, we learned then, that that was a common phrase for a person taking a journey.
In Luke chapter 12 our Lord, in verse 35, is talking about His second coming and He says, “Be sure you have your loins girded and your lamps burning.” In other words, girding your loins was gathering up all this loose material so that you could get ready to go. What that means, then, is readiness, preparedness. It's the idea. The belt was preparedness. The Roman soldier wouldn't go into a battle with his dress flapping in the breeze, somebody would pull it over his head and that would be the end of it. You wouldn't fight a battle with that flopping all over the place.
You know, I remember from, and you see it too, from television, when you watch football games, how tight all the uniforms are because they don't want anybody grabbing anything. You know, the thing that used to make you mad is you'd be running and your shirttail in the breeze, and you'd be off and gone and somebody would grab your shirttail and yank you down from the back. Finally they invented what they call break-away shirts. You see them nowadays in the colleges and they just keep ripping them off people. And they'll run down there with their shirt gone. And the guy will have a handful of shirt and that's it. That's because they don't want anything that is flopping around in the combat. And the same thing is even more important in a warfare. You want to make sure in hand to hand combat - those wars weren't fought from bunkers, 200 yards apart. They were fought in hand to hand combat and you did not want something tangling you up and wrapping you up.
In fact, in II Tim. chapter 2, the apostle Paul said that “you must endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ and you must not become entangled with the affairs of this life.” What he is saying is you can't fight if you are all tangled up in your robe and the affairs of this life will do that. You've got to cut the cord with civilian life. You've got to break with the world.
You know, when a guy is drafted into the service, you know. They don't say, “Now we've drafted you and it would certainly be nice if you could join us. It would be wonderful if you could wear our outfit, our kind of clothes because they you'll match everybody else. It would be so nice if you could take orders from us and eat our food and live in our place.” They don't ask you that. You just do that. When you are drafted you cut off yourself from, your girlfriend, your wife, your home, your family, your car, your job, civilian life is gone and you do what they say. And that's how it is if you are going into a war, it's serious. And so when a soldier went into a war, if a man on a journey would do it you can imagine a soldier would. He would take a belt, he would cinch it around his waist, it could be made of a sash material, most likely a soldier's out of leather, he would tighten that leather belt up, take the four corners of that tunic, pull it up through that belt, make it into kind of a mini-tunic. He would have mobility, flexibility, be able to move and it wouldn't be in his way. That's really the imagery that is in the mind of the apostle Paul.
Further, on that same belt it was common for a Roman soldier to have a strap. It would come down, connect to the belt and go over his shoulder and connect in the back. He would attach his sword to it so that later on we'll see the sword of the spirit which is the word of God is attached to the belt of truth. In other words, truth is revealed in the word. You have the truth as it were; you take it out to fight the battle. Right? So that the sword of the spirit which is the word of God is attached to the belt of truth. But, over the shoulder was this strap. And on this strap were emblems and insignias of previous victories. You could - just like decorations. You see a soldier and he's got all this stuff over him. From the battles he has fought and the things that he has done and the accomplishments.
Well, that's where they put them on a Roman soldier. All of the medals and the awards of his accomplishments were placed there. And it connects with the belt of truth. And beloved, this is it. When you wear the belt of truth and you draw the sword of the spirit, you're going to win the battle and get the medals. You see? This is where it all begins. It became the emblem of accomplishment in battle. A fitting combination. Only those ready girded up. Only those with the sword of the spirit hanging on the side were the ones who won the medals. And he went into battle as having been victorious. And so, this is the heart of the term.
Now, listen to me. It does refer to truth. I think you can take alethea in the sense of content. But that's not the primary thought here because that's dealt with in the sword of the spirit. That will be dealt with in that last piece of armor. The main thrust here is the idea of truthfulness which the word also could mean. And there it is speaking of attitude, not content. What he is saying is put your belt on, that shows an attitude of readiness. An attitude of commitment. An attitude that says I am ready for the battle, I'm dressed, I'm alerted, I'm ready. See? Now that's the issue I want to share with you for a few closing moments.
What it means is you fight without hypocrisy. It means you're going in serious. You know, frankly, most Christians never get the belt on. They just sort of flop through their lives, blowing in the breeze, you know? There is little commitment, never sash on that truthfulness, never get committed. Listen, when a soldier put on his belt, put that strap over, hooked on his sword he was saying I am ready to fight. And I think that most Christians lose because they don't care that much. They don't care that much. They just as soon flop around. They're like Hebrews 12. "Seeing we are compassed about by so great a crowd of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and run the race," right?
Could you imagine a guy in a track meet running in an overcoat and combat boots? I mean, that's absolutely stupid. Don't do that. Those guys wear so little it's embarrassing. They're out there running around with a little on, they're going to be mobile, they want all the flexibility there is and yet there are Christians trying to run the Christian race with combat boots and an overcoat. And they wonder why they get so tired, boy this is tiring. Never seem to get very far. Five years later they are ten feet from the starting line. That's because there is no commitment. I think the greatest synonym for truthfulness is commitment. What Paul is saying here is - Look, you've got to realize this is war and get serious. You've got to go in without hypocrisy, sincerely with the right attitude. Having a heart for the battle, I am a soldier; I will endure hardness for the cause of Jesus Christ, as Il Tim. 2:3 says. I will endure hardness. I'm willing to pay the price that I may please the One who chose me to be a soldier. I have a heart for battle. Listen, the true Christian loves the fight and the true Christian loves the Lord so much he won't lose, he won't give up.
Look at I Cor. chapter 9. And you know, I can't relate to a Christian who is content to be defeated all the time. To just flop through his life. Falling to temptation, falling to all the sins that come to the flesh and the mind. I don't understand that. How you can give in so easily. In I Cor. 9 Paul says, “Don't you know”, in verse 24, “that they who run in a race all run. When the race starts everybody runs but only one receives the prize. So run that you may win.” Look, he says, “if you're going to get in this deal, win it.” Who wants to lose? And what Paul is talking about here is desire. We use to say in athletics, “desire is 90% of the issue.” It's true. If you want it bad, it's there. Our coaches use to say, “If you want it bad enough you can get it. You want victory bad enough you can get it.” You know something, that was a good thought but it always wasn't true.
Sometimes I'd get across from a guy that was tougher than I was and I wanted it bad, in fact, I wanted it worse all the time but nothing I did ever worked. I was eating dirt all day just cause I couldn't get it. Some of the greatest effort was against the worst adversary and I couldn't win but you know, in the cause of Christ if the desire is there the victory will be there because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Right? So it is always available.
And so Paul is saying the desire has to be there. And he says in an athlete, he runs and a lot of people run but only one gets the prize, so if you're getting into this deal, win it. Win it. Oh, God, give us people with this commitment. God, give us people who want to win in the Christian life. Not so they can stack up their own crowns but that they can give them to Jesus Christ, so they can say this is my act of love, this is my act of worship, this is my act of praise that I gave my life, a living sacrifice.
That's what he is after commitment. He says, every man that strives for the mastery, he uses the Greek verb “athleo,” athletics, every athlete is temperate, in other words, he disciplines his life, he is careful what he eats and how he trains and he does it to obtain a corruptible crown but we are incorruptible. He says, if these guys can work that hard to win a corruptible crown, can't we have the desire to be victorious in our lives for God's glory? And so he says - I run not as uncertainly, I don't flip-flop all over the track, running half speed, running three-quarter speed, resting awhile, I run full bore down the track, I fight not as one who beats the air, I'm not just bouncing in a ring punching around the air, I'm hitting my opponent right in the chops. I'm going after the fight, he says. And in so doing, I keep under my body, I bring it into subjection.
See here is the disciplined life of a winner. This is what God wants. And frankly, people, in the spiritual area God has given us the resource to win. In Romans 12 Paul says "I beseech you, therefore by the mercies of God," and what the mercies of God are - the first 11 chapters of Romans. In the first 11 chapters of Romans he says that God has set us aside from the evil world, God has redeemed us in Christ. God has given us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God has through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ called us into His family and adopted us as sons. God has given us love and joy and peace. God has granted unto us the tremendous power of the spirit of God in resurrection life. God has given unto us all of the resources we need, set apart unto an eternal plan which is unchangeable and undeniable and all of these wondrous mercies of God have been given to you, therefore present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Hopefully acceptable unto God which is only your spiritual service, only you’re reasonable, it isn't any great thing it's just what you ought to do. Then he says in the next verse, be not conformed to this what? This world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Now, first your mind is renewed and when the word is in your mind and you have the truth, then you can live with commitment. And make a sacrifice with your life. Frankly, most of us don't know the meaning of a living sacrifice. We haven't got the faintest idea what it is to sacrifice our lives. We might be able to be burned at a stake and die for Jesus; it's just tough trying to live our whole life for Him sacrificially. We wouldn't ... you know, most of us wouldn't mind if they took it away in death we just want it while we are alive. What kind of a dichotomy is that? We are to be committed. And that's what the Scripture is saying.
Look at Phil. 1 verses 9 and 10 for just another thought. And listen to what it says. Phil. 1:9, "And this I pray that your love may abound yet more and more." Now Paul isn't saying the Philippians don't love, and I'm not saying you don't love. You do love. What I'm saying is that I pray that it will abound more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment. I want ... you have knowledge; I want you to have more. You have discernment; I want you to have more discernment, this is a hinna purpose clause, with the purpose that you may test things that are excellent. I don't want you to be satisfied with what is good. I don't want you to be satisfied with what is better. I don't want you to be satisfied with anything but what is excellent. I know you have love and want you to have more, I know you have knowledge, I want you to have more, I know you have discernment but I want you to have more that you can prove the things that are the most excellent. And that you will be sincere, that means committed, truthful, without hypocrisy, genuine, committed and thus without offense till the day of Christ. And the result of living a committed, truthful, sincere life is in verse 11 - "You will be filled with the fruits of righteousness through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."
You know, I've been preaching a lot on commitment because it keeps coming up in the passages. You know why I want you to be committed? Not because I have some personal ambition. Not for your sake. It's right there in verse 11, to the glory and praise of God. And He will be glorified when you are filled with fruit. And you will be filled with fruit when you approve what is excellent. And you will approve what is excellent when you are genuinely committed to Jesus Christ in the deepest part of your life.
So, the call of the armor of the believer is for commitment at the very start. You're not going to beat Satan. He's going to come at you in all of these nine ways and a few others that I haven't even figured out yet. He's going to come at you in all these combinations of ways and you're not going to know what to do unless you are really ready to fight. Commitment, oh beloved, only one thing matters in this world and this life and it's the dimension of the Spirit. All of the rest of the stuff doesn't matter a bit.
You know, I'm concerned about a lot of things in our world but, frankly, I could care less about most of the things unless they relate to the things of God, I'm not even interested. Because only the spiritual matters, only that God be glorified. We need to get our focus on the right things. How badly do you want to win? How badly? Do you really want to win? I've been in athletics all my life and I've seen people who didn't care about winning. We talk about that a lot when we work with pro-athletes, the fact that you can lose the desire, you've been there it's not that hot, you just go through the motions. If that can happen in the world it can happen to us because Satan pumps it into us all the time. You can be content with mediocrity. You can be content with lethargy; you can be content to just keep your life the way it is going. You come week after week, go home, nothing changes, nothing is different, attitudes are the same, reactions are the same, your home stays the same. Nothing ever happens, you just come and go, come and go, come and go and the commitment never changes. God help you. And help me if that happens. We must be committed to fight. So the apostle says the first piece of equipment is the belt of truthfulness. It's based on content but it's an attitude he is after.
Let me close with the words of John Monzell who wrote this hymn, listen to it; "Fight the good fight with all thy might, Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right. Lay hold on life and it shall be thy joy and crown eternally. Run the straight race through God's good grace and lift up thine eyes and seek His face, life with its way before thee lies, Christ is the way and Christ the prize. Cast care aside, lean on thy guide. Lean and His mercy will provide, lean and the trusting soul shall prove Christ is its life and Christ its love." Then he said this, "Faint not nor fear, His arm is near. He changeth not and thou art dear. Only believe and thou shall see that Christ is all in all to thee." Beloved, the victory is there, it's ours to the glory of God no matter how sophisticated Satan is, if we have the belt of commitment. I pray, God, it's so in your life.
Father thank you again this morning as we have gathered to worship your holy name, as we have sung Your praises, as we have thought of Your virtues, as we have listened to Your tremendous truths out of the Word. Father we fill we have been drawn into your presence. We sense that you’re here, and that the message is not my message. It's not a human message. It is not simply the message of paper and ink, any more than the message of a human voice, but it is the breath of God. The call to commitment is not from us, it’s from You. The consequences are not to be dealt with by us, but by You. Oh Father help us to hear Your voice. Somehow drop aside all the human elements, all the physical factors and may we know that God has spoken through His word, calling us to commitment. Oh Lord Jesus, make us the kind of people You want us to be. That You might be glorified, that we might stand as a beacon light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, holding forth the Word of life. That we might so live to silence the critics. That we might not be of those who use Jesus, and abuse Jesus. But of those who give Him glory. Lord help us to win the battle, because more than anything else, we want to win. And we depend upon Your power for it. In yieldedness we pray, for Christ's sake, Amen.
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