Ephesians 6:17b

Ephesians 6:17b

Sermon preached on May 16, 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.

Bobby Orr was the greatest hockey player ever. One of the reasons I believe that is because he single-handedly changed the way the game was played. Before Bobby Orr, defensemen were just that—defensemen. They stayed back and left the offense to the forwards. But Bobby Orr was so fast that he became an offensive defensemen. He was interested in scoring goals and instead of stopping at the opponents blue line, like defensemen before him did, he would rush in the opponents end like a forward and try to score or to set up one of his teammates. He was so good at it that he won the NHL scoring title in the 1969-70 season. He was the only defenseman ever to do that—and he did it again in 1974-75.

But what was interesting is that Bobby Orr also won the James Norris trophy for best defensemen in the NHL for eight straight years, including the years that we won the scoring title. There was no better defensemen. Even though he was often up with the forwards, out of position for a defenseman, if the opposing team got the puck he was so fast that most times he could get back in position and stop the other team from scoring.

But he was also great defensively in other ways. Before Bobby Orr, if a defenseman was killing a penalty, he would just attempt to shoot the puck down the length of the ice so that the opposing team would have to start their offense all over. When Bobby Orr was killing a penalty sometimes he would keep the puck and stake in circles around the ice and no one could get it from him. Then he would try to take a shot on the opposing net. Bobby Orr was once asked about how when he was killing a penalty he would keep the puck and he said something to the effect, (not an exact quote)

"The other team can't score when I have the puck."

He used his speed for both offense and defense.

In our spiritual battle against Satan that is exactly what we are to do. We are to use our sword, the Word of God, for both defense and offense. We a sword you can both defend yourself and also strike a blow against your enemy. Our text says,

"Take… the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God."

In your battle to stand and shine for Jesus Christ you are to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. You are to take up this sword. It is indispensable if you are to stand against Satan and temptation.

This morning we're going to look at how we should be using the sword of the Spirit defensively, next week, Lord willing, we'll look at how we should be using it offensively.

So the main point this morning is that

you are to use the Word of God as a defensive weapon to protect yourself.

You'll remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan that He met every temptation of Satan with the appropriate quotation from God's Word. When Satan urged Him to turn the stones into bread, Jesus replied, (Matthew 4:4)

"It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

When Satan told Him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and told Him to throw Himself down, because it was written that God would give His angels command over Him, that He would not strike a foot against the ground. Jesus replied,

"It is also written:
'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Then Satan took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Satan told Jesus that if He bowed down and worshiped him, he would give Him all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus replied,

"Away from me, Satan!
For it is written:
'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

It is written… it is written… it is written. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God to defend Himself. He used it so effectively that at the end He commanded Satan to leave Him. What we have there reminds me of James 4:7 which says,

"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

Just as Jesus took up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, so you, too, are to take it up and use it to overcome Satan's temptations.

The great application from this is that

you need to believe the Bible and use it as a sword. You need to hold onto it tightly and know how to effectively use it.

You are to love God's Word. You are to hold it close to your heart. You are to meditate on it. You are to stand on it. Christians, you are to know God's Word. You are to know how to apply it to the situations that you meet in everyday life. You are to carry God's Word as a sword.

In Deuteronomy 6:5–9 God said to His people,

"These commandments that I give you today
are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands
and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes
of your houses and on your gates."

In other words, you are to live in the midst of God's Word. It is to be the environment that you live in. As David said in Psalm 119:11,

"I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you."

Many people today will tell you that the Bible isn't God's Word, that it was written by mere men and that it doesn't reflect God's will for our lives but merely the cultural norms of the society in which it was written. They will tell you that it's not reliable and that it's not trustworthy.

They have a view of the Bible similar to what Thomas Jefferson had. Jefferson didn't like what much of the New Testament taught. So he made his own bible by using a razor and cutting out the verses which he didn't agree with. In the New Testament he cut out all the supernatural—the miracles of Jesus and the apostles, all references to the Trinity and all references to the resurrection of Jesus. His bible ended up being a paraphrase of the parts of the Bible that he agreed with.

Many people have his attitude about the Bible. They don't like what the Bible teaches about divorce, about sexual sin, about lying, about gossip, about only saying what is helpful to others, to build them up according to their needs—so they ignore and disbelieve them. They will tell you that God didn't write the Bible, that it was written by mere men and contains, not so much the Word of God, but the ideas and teachings of men.

How different was Jesus' attitude about the Bible. He stood on it firmly. "It is written… it is written… it is written."

In 2 Peter 1:20–21 the apostle Peter said,

"Above all, you must understand that
no prophecy of Scripture came about
by the prophet's own interpretation.
For prophecy never had its origin
in the will of man, but men spoke from God
as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets of old. He guided the pens of the prophets and apostles, giving them the very words of God.

In 2 Timothy 3:16–17 the apostle Paul said,

"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."

The Bible is true. It is reliable. It is trustworthy. You can use it as a sword and it is absolutely dependable.

So what we need to do is to hold onto this sword tightly and use it effectively. Don't be like Eve who didn't hold her sword tightly. When Satan said to her, (Genesis 3:1)

"Did God really say,
'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Satan's question expresses amazement and casts doubt on God's goodness, implying that any prohibition on mankind is unworthy of God. Eve replied,

"We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree
that is in the middle of the garden,
and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

Eve had the sword of the Spirit in her hand, but she wasn't holding it tightly. It seems that Satan's slander had gotten to her, and she seemed to be starting to doubt God's command, adding the word, 'touch' to it. She said that God forbade them to even touch it. Instead of flatly rejecting Satan's false insinuation, she left the door open, just a bit. Then she let Satan knock the sword of the Word right out of her hand. Satan said to her,

"You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it
your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil."

Satan told her that she would be better off by eating. She believed him. She fell into sin. The sword fell from her hands. We read,

"When the woman saw that
the fruit of the tree was good for food
and pleasing to the eye,
and also desirable for gaining wisdom,
she took some and ate it.
She also gave some to her husband,
who was with her, and he ate it."

How different was Jesus when He was tempted by Satan. When Satan took Him to the top of a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, Satan said to Him,

"All this I will give you,
if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus did not for a moment entertain that temptation. He knew it was a lie. Satan didn't own all the kingdoms of the world. They didn't belong to him. Everything was created by Jesus and for Him. Satan was a usurper. He didn't rightfully own anything of those things. He was a sinner in rebellion against God. His rightful place was in the lake of burning sulfur where he will be cast at the end of time. There he will be tormented forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

Not only that, but even if Satan was the rightful owner of all the kingdoms of the world—do you think for one moment that he would have kept his word? Do you think for a moment that he would have given them to Jesus? Remember what Jesus said about Satan in John 8:44? He said,

"He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."

But even more than all that. Even if Satan owned all the kingdoms of the world, even if he would have kept his word and gave them all to Jesus, Jesus knew that what Satan was asking Him to do was sinful. What's really interesting and noteworthy about Jesus' response to Satan was that He never used any of those arguments against Satan. He never said to him, "You don't own the kingdoms of the world." He never said, "You're a liar, you wouldn't give them to me even if I did bow down to you." No. Although those arguments were true—Jesus never used them. Instead, he mentioned God's command that related directly to Satan's temptation. He said,

"Away from me, Satan! For it is written:
'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

He firmly held to God's Word.

The world today wants you to let go of the truth of God. They tell you that you're foolish to live by what the Bible says. They tell you that you're better off following your heart. It's better to follow what society tells you.

It's a lie. God's commands are the way to happiness. Sin, promises that it will lead joy and happiness—but it leads to misery and ruin.

You must hold the sword of the Spirit tightly. One of the sad characteristics of much of the church today is that we don't love and adore God's Word as we should. We only hold the sword of the Spirit loosely, if we don't like what it says we think that it's dispensable.

Unfortunately, many of us have the same attitude as Balaam. When Balak, king of Moab, saw the Israelites on the way to the promised land, he was terrified. He sent messengers to Balaam and said, (Numbers 22:5–6)

"A people has come out of Egypt;
they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.
Now come and put a curse on these people,
because they are too powerful for me.
Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them
and drive them out of the country.
For I know that those you bless are blessed,
and those you curse are cursed."

The messengers Balak sent had money and gifts for Balaam. When Balaam heard their request, told them to spend the night and that he would give them their answer the next morning. That night God said to Balaam,

"Do not go with them.
You must not put a curse on those people,
because they are blessed."

So the next morning Balaam told Balak's messengers that he couldn't go with them. When Balak heard about Balaam's refusal, he send a second group of messengers, more distinguished and numerous than the first. They offered Balaam a great reward if he would come. Instead of telling them that he couldn't go with them, Balaam said to them, (Numbers 22:19)

"Now stay here tonight as the others did,
and I will find out what else the LORD will tell me."

That night God said to him,

"Since these men have come to summon you,
go with them, but do only what I tell you."

Does anything strike you as being really wrong in all that? It all seems pretty normal to us. That's why what happens next is so surprising. We read, (Numbers 22:21–23)

"Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey
and went with the princes of Moab.
But God was very angry when he went,
and the angel of the LORD
stood in the road to oppose him.
Balaam was riding on his donkey,
and his two servants were with him.
When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD
standing in the road
with a drawn sword in his hand,
she turned off the road into a field.
Balaam beat her to get her back on the road."

After that the angel of the Lord moved to a place in the middle of the way, between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. The donkey saw the angel she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. Then the angel stood in a place where the road was narrow and there was no place to turn. At that point, the donkey laid down under Balaam and Balaam beat her. Then angel of the Lord opened Balaam's eyes so that Balaam could see him. The angel of the Lord said to him, (Numbers 22:32–33)

"Why have you beaten your donkey these three times?
I have come here to oppose you because your path
is a reckless one before me.
The donkey saw me and turned away
from me these three times.
If she had not turned away,
I would certainly have killed you by now,
but I would have spared her."

Why would God tell Balaam to go and then almost kill him? It perhaps seems illogical to us. But that's only because we have such a low view of God's Word.

When the first messengers came God told Balaam not to go with them. He told Balaam that he was not allowed to put a curse on the Israelites. So when Balak's second group of messengers came, for the same purpose, Balaam didn't need to ask God again. God had already told him not to go with them. Balaam's consulting God the second time was sinful. He was disrespecting God's Word and making light of God's Word. He was being reckless. His heart was not right before the Lord. As 2 Peter 2:15 tells us, he,

"loved the wages of wickedness."

He really wanted to go to Balak. He really wanted Balak's reward. He loved those things more than God's commands.

One of the great lessons we should learn from Balaam is that we are to greatly revere and respect God's Word. You play fast and loose with it to your peril. You must not think that God's commands are mere whims on His part, that we don't have to pay heed to them. Quite the contrary, thinking that any of God's commands are dispensable is the way to destruction. Balaam perished. He's in hell today because he didn't value God's Word.

We are taught the same lesson in Exodus 4. You'll remember that in Exodus 3 Moses saw the burning bush and God told him to go to Egypt to lead His people out of Egypt to the promised land. In Exodus 4 we read that Moses started on his way to Egypt. Then, in Exodus 4:24–26 we read these shocking words,

"At a lodging place on the way, the LORD
met [Moses] and was about to kill him."

How could that be? God had chosen Moses and Moses was doing what God told him to do.

It was because Moses wasn't strict about one of God's commands. He hadn't circumcised his son according to the commandment given to Abraham. It was only the quick intervention of Moses' wife Zipporah that saved Moses' life. She circumcised her son and so Moses was saved.

What does this teach us? It very clearly teaches us that God wants us to take His Word seriously and apply it rigorously to our lives. We are called to be holy. We are called to obey God's commands. We must love them and hold on to them tightly. "It is written… it is written… it is written." God's written Word should be close to our hearts and we should hold onto it tightly. Don't let Satan knock it out of your hands. Live by it.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this means for you is that

you should believe in Jesus.

1 John 3:23 says of God the Father,

"And this is his command: to believe
in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,"

You need to believe in Jesus. You need to ask Jesus to save you. You need to ask Him into your life. The Words of the Bible are the very words of God. Believe them, trust them—do what they say and believe in Jesus. May God give you grace to do so.