Ephesians 6:10

Sermon preached on February 21, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

It's interesting how people in our armed forces serve our country in different ways. One of the most interesting developments on the battlefield in the last couple of decades has been the use of unmanned drones. I think there are different models and I believe that one of them is named, Predator. These drones fly over Iraq and Afghanistan and they have very powerful cameras on them. If they see something that looks suspicious they check it out. They can fly closer and their cameras can zoom in. If they see something that needs to be taken out they can launch a Hellfire missile that is powerful enough to destroy a tank.

What's really interesting is that the people flying those drones are not in Afghanistan or Iraq. They're somewhere in the US. Awhile back the TV program "Sixty Minutes" that did a segment on it and interviewed one of the men who pilots a predator. He works in a building in the US and flies the predator from there. The aircraft is something like 11,000 miles away and yet he's the one that's flying it. At times he's very much involved in the battle, he's perhaps even killing people, but he sees the battlefield through computer screens and he uses buttons, switches and a joystick to fly the drone and launch the missiles. When his shift is over he goes home to his wife and kids like any of the men here would. In a certain sense it's surreal.

On the other hand there are the guys on the ground. Yesterday Ruben was showing us some pictures from his time in Afghanistan. He spoke of roadside bombs, snipers, grenades and assault rifles. At times they faced great danger.

Which of those is the Christian life like? Many people today would tell you that the first one is closer to the Christian life. Indeed, they don't think that the military references to describe the Christian life are appropriate at all. A few years ago I remember reading how one vicar in England came out against the hymn, "
Onward Christian Soldiers". The Rev David Herbert has vowed to never again sing the hymn because he believes the words make those that sing them sound like religious fanatics. He said the language of the hymn conjures up 'images of militaristic triumphalism' which are inappropriate at a time of war in Afghanistan.

But the apostle Paul here teaches us that the Christian life is very much an on the ground battle. He urges us to put on the whole armor of God. He warns us of the great dangers we face and the powerful and deadly enemy that is arrayed against us. Indeed, he urges us to be prepared. That's what we see in verse 10. Paul wrote,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power."

Our text is a call to battle readiness.

Paul is finishing up his letter to the Ephesians and leaves them with an important message—that they need to be battle ready. E. K. Simpson tells us that we are addressed here as part of 'the church militant'. (Ephesians p. 142) He goes on to tell us that there is a,

"holy war afoot with the powers of darkness."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says of our text,

"It is a stirring call to battle… Do you not hear the bugle, and the trumpet? Ö We are being roused, we are being stimulated, we are being set upon our feet; we are told to be men. The whole tone is martial, it is manly, it is strong."

It is a call to battle.

So the main point that our text makes is that

you need to be prepared for battle. You need to be strong in the Lord. In order to be safe you need to draw close to the Lord and draw upon His mighty power.

If you're a Christian you have many great and formidable enemies. When you became a Christian you were translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's dear Son. (Colossians 1:13) That really upsets Satan. You are now his enemy and you are opposition to him. He hates and wants to destroy you. We see this in verse 11 which tells us that the devil is scheming against you. We also see it in verse 12 where Paul writes,

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

The apostle Peter knew all about Satan's hatred. You'll remember that just before He was arrested Jesus said to Peter, (Luke 22:31–32)

"Simon, Simon,
Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail."

Peter went through a horrible experience of denying the Lord. Afterwards he warned us about the devil's hatred. In 1 Peter 5:8 where the apostle Peter wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour."

The devil hated Peter and wanted to destroy him. You'll also remember from the Old Testament that Satan hated Job and wanted to destroy him.

Now I'm not going to go into that any more today. Lord willing we'll look at that topic next week. It is enough for now to know that because we are facing a great and resourceful enemy so we need to be prepared for battle. If you're a Christian this life is going to be a battle. We see this as well from Acts 14: 22 we read that Paul and Barnabas went about strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. Specifically they said,

"We must go through many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."

If you're a Christian this life is going to be a battle. Satan wants to destroy you. You're going to have to fight battles against spiritual forces.

But the great question is:

How can we be strong in the Lord and in His mighty strength?

The following verses detail much of that. It essentially consists of putting on the whole armor of God. But our verse is preliminary to that it gives us two general principles that can be a great help to us.

First of all, our text tells us that you are to be strong

'in the Lord and in His mighty power.'

You are directed to God's power, not your own. We are urged to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. We cannot rely on our own resources to defeat our enemies and stand.

You'll remember that in John 15:5 Jesus said,

"I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

Thus you should understand that your ability to stand comes from outside you. It comes from the Lord, from His power. As the great puritan John Owen says, (Vol. II, p. 109)

"Men's contending to do it in their own power, comes to nothingÖ All strength to walk with God is from him."

This means that you need to be careful that you don't trust in your own strength. Here's what John Owen wrote on this, (Of Communion with God, Works, Vol. 2, p. 110)

"Any step that is taken in any way, by strength that is not immediately from Christ, is one step towards hell."

Satan is too much for us. Indeed, he has experience in destroying people that goes back at least to the Garden of Eden. It was Satan who deceived Eve and got her to sin. It was Satan who used her to get Adam to sin. Since then Satan has had thousands of years experience in tempting and destroying people.

Not only that, but it seems that he has great experience on a much higher level. In Revelation 12:3–4 we read,

"Then another sign appeared in heaven:
an enormous red dragon with seven heads
and ten horns and seven crowns
on his heads.
His tail swept a third of the stars
out of the sky
and flung them to the earth."

Sinclair Ferguson suggests that this possibly refers to Satan's leading a pre-fall rebellion in the heavenly world. In other words, Satan has had success not just against Adam and Eve and human beings, but also in tempting and leading astray approximately a third of the angels of heaven!

How can you expect to stand against him on your own strength? We cannot. We need God's power. We need God's power to be made perfect in our weakness.

Sinclair Ferguson writes, (Ephesians, p. 173)

"the more we read the New Testament, and the longer we experience the pressure of spiritual warfare, the more clearly we will see that to remain standing—after all the heat of the battle—is the result of a work of supernatural grace in us."

It's like that scene from the movie, Private Ryan. Near the end of the movie, one of the heroes, the guy played by Tom Hanks, is wounded and he's on one side of a bridge and all he has left to defend himself is a pistol. But what's coming against him is a great big tank. He decides to shoot at the tank with his pistol. He slowly takes aim and fires a shot off. His bullet doesn't have any effect. It just bounces off and the tank keeps coming. But he shoots again anyway. But that bullet just bounces off too. But he shoots again. The very last time he shoots at the tank with his pistol the tank erupts in a giant fireball. It's totally destroyed. Now I'm not sure if my memory is correct here, but if it is, the I think the guy looks at his pistol with astonishment, with the look, "How could this be? How could one little bullet do that to a tank?" But then you hear the sound of an airplane and see a low flying allied airplane fly over. You suddenly realize that it wasn't the bullet from his pistol that destroyed the tank, but a bomb from the airplane. For a second there the guy got it all wrong. He thought he had destroyed the tank by himself. But it wasn't him at all. It was the bomb from the plane.

He did his part, in not running away, but the reason he was saved was because of that airplane. John Stott writes, (Ephesians, p. 266)

"Some Christians are so self-confident that they think they can manage by themselves without the Lord's strength and armor. Others are so self-distrustful that they imagine that they have nothing to contribute to their victory in spiritual warfare. Both are mistaken. Paul expresses the proper combination between divine enabling and human co-operation. The power is indeed the Lord's, and without the strength of his might we shall falter and fall, but still we need to be strong in him and in it…”

We are weak but we can stand. We are weak but we can be victorious. Why? Because of God's mighty power. John Owen writes, (p. 110)

"We that can do nothing in ourselves, we are such weaklings, can do all things in Jesus Christ, as giants;"

There are two things about God's mighty power that we should not miss.

First, you Christians are called to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. What you should understand here is
the great unstated truth that stands behind this assertion. It is:

God will surely help you. God will make His strength available to you. God will not let you down.

Hebrews 13:5–6 says what is unstated in our text. God has said,

"'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'
So we say with confidence,
'The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'"

God will not let you down. There will never be an instance where you need God's power and it will not be available to you. God is faithful. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is absolutely and totally committed to you. Never forget that.

The phrase 'his mighty power' that is used here has already been used in Ephesians in 1:19. Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would have the eyes of their heart enlightened so that they would know,

"his incomparably great power
for us who believe.
That power is like the working
of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,"

John Calvin tells us that the phrase, 'in His mighty power',

"greatly increases our confidence, particularly as it shows the help which God is accustomed to bestow upon believers."

This means that you Christians should be confident of God's help. God is not going to let you down. God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) Just before He ascended into heaven Jesus said to His disciples, (Matthew 28:20)

"surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."

You'll also remember that Jesus told His disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.

The second thing we should realize is

the extent or greatness of God's great power.

We are to be strong in the Lord and in His 'mighty power'. Ephesians 1:20–21 tells us that the Father seated Jesus,

"at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come."

Even though great and powerful foes are arrayed against us, we should understand that their power is nothing against the power and might of the Lord. They have no power at all compared to Him. This is shown in the last chapters of the book of Revelation. The enemies of God gather together to do battle against Him—but the battles are no contest. The battles are not even described. Consider for example, Revelation 19:19–21. We read,

"Then I saw the beast and the kings
of the earth and their armies
gathered together to make war
against the rider on the horse and his army.
But the beast was captured,
and with him the false prophet
who had performed
the miraculous signs on his behalf.
With these signs he had deluded
those who had received the mark
of the beast and worshiped his image.
The two of them were thrown alive
into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth
of the rider on the horse,
and all the birds gorged themselves
on their flesh."

It was no contest. We see the same thing in Revelation 20:7-10. We read,

"When the thousand years are over,
Satan will be released from his prison
and will go out to deceive the nations
in the four corners of the earth
—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle.
In number they are like
the sand on the seashore.
They marched across the breadth
of the earth and surrounded
the camp of God's people,
the city he loves.
But fire came down from heaven
and devoured them.
And the devil, who deceived them,
was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur,
where the beast and the false prophet
had been thrown.
They will be tormented day and night
for ever and ever."

That's the power that is available to you. Rejoice in it. It is much more than adequate.

The second great preliminary principle that we see in our text that can help us stand is the fact that we are to be strong 'in' the Lord and 'in' His mighty power.

What is implied here is that

if you are going to stand, you need to stand 'in the Lord'.

It's like this. The Lord is right behind you. And it's like He has His arms around you. It's like someone is behind you teaching you how to box. His arm is there at your side and he's showing you how to swing it to punch. You're swing can follow His. You're safe and you have His power.

But you're only like that if you stay with Him. If you wiggle out and move away from Him, you're don't for.

Consider Peter in Matthew 26:33. You'll remember that just before He was arrested Jesus told His disciples that they would all fall away on account of Him. At that Peter replied,

"Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will."

Jesus then told Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. In reply to that Peter declared,

"Even if I have to die with you,
I will never disown you."

Peter had all the confidence in the world. He loved Jesus and knew that he was willing to die for him. Peter was determined to marshal all his strength and stand on the side of Jesus. Peter was convinced that nothing was going to stop him from standing by the side of Jesus.

I think that Peter had it well thought out as well. He was determined not to forsake Jesus or deny Him. So when they arrived to arrest Jesus Peter took action. You'll remember that he took out his sword and starting swinging? Peter was determined to stand. Peter probably thought that he was going to do it.

But he wasn't standing with God. Circumstances and other things conspired against Peter and his plans. I don't know exactly what Peter expected to happen. Perhaps he thought that the other disciples would quickly join him. But they didn't and Jesus stopped him, told him to put away his sword, and then Jesus healed the man Peter had attacked.

You see, if you're going to stand, you need to be 'in the Lord'.

This means that you need to accept the will of the Lord for your life. When something bad or difficult happens to someone it's very natural to ask, "Why me?" People ask it all the time when they face difficulty. You who are Christians don't have to ask that. You're in the Lord's army.

Yesterday when Rueben was showing us some pictures of when he was in Afghanistan and he was telling us about some of his activities over there. When they first got there they had to build their base. Then they had to go out on patrols and sometimes they got shot at, sometimes bombs blew up near them. I'm pretty sure that if you asked Rueben how many times he thought, "Why me?" when he was over there he would probably reply, 'Not very often,' or 'Not at all.' I'm pretty positive that when his superiors told him to go on a mission or something he never once responded, "Why me?"

We live in enemy territory. We are in the middle of a battle. It should not be, "Why me?" but rather we should echo the words of Jesus when He came to this earth, (Hebrews 10:7)

"Here I am… I have come
to do your will, O God."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

recognize that you're lost without Jesus.

You don't have God's help. You don't have God's power available to you. You are vulnerable. Satan can easily crush you.

You need God and His power to save and protect you. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you.