Pentecost 14, 2015
“We are at war!”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In 2012 Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released from prison after serving 3 years after being charged with apostasy [desertion or rejection of the Muslim faith]…a crime carrying the death penalty in Iran. According to Sharia law, an apostate has three days to recant. That same year the Iranian government arrested another former Muslim turned Christian pastor, Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, who remains in prison to this day for sharing his faith in Christ. While Saeed's conviction carries an 8 year prison sentence, the family fears for his life. These two Pastors were arrested and imprisoned solely because they were confessing their Christian faith.
My brothers and sisters in Christ we are at war. Listen to Saint Paul’s words: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)
As Christians we are at war with sin, Satan, those that reject Christ, and with our very own nature. We are at war with rulers, authorities, and a society that sides with Satan against God and His Word. These are tough words to hear and accept. Do you feel like you’re at war? When you go to the store, to school, to the doctor’s office…does it look like we are at war? Many will try to say that the world isn’t at war with Christianity. Tell that to our brothers and sisters in Christ that are being imprisoned and killed for their faith in Africa and the Middle East. Tell Christians that are called “sexist, bigots, homophobic, or hateful” that the world is not at war with their faith when they are called these things for believing that homosexuality is a sin, that women should not be pastors, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that the world was created in six twenty-four hour days or that Christ is the only way of salvation. Tell our children that aren’t allowed to pray in school, hear about creation in school, or have Christmas or Easter breaks that the world isn’t at war with the Christian faith.
Satan uses every means possible in his war against Christians. If you want to know how powerful, cunning, and deceitful Satan is…read the Bible. Satan does not attack each of us in the same way…he goes for our weakness. According to the Greek myth, Achilles, the great hero of the Trojan War, was dipped as a child in the waters of the river Styx by his mother, Thetis, to make him invulnerable. The result of that plunge was that every spot on Achilles’ body was protected against wounds except the heel by which his mother had held him. For many years Achilles escaped unhurt, but at last the poisoned arrow of the Trojan Paris found the weak spot and inflicted the death wound there. So Satan tempts Christians where they are the weakest. Having found their pet inclinations, passions, and desires, he attacks them at their weak spots.
Satan will try anything to get you to lose faith. Remember how he attacked Job with the weather, his wife, diseases, and his friends, to make his life very miserable. Some people suffer from physical ailments. Some from mental illness. Some from emotional problems. Some suffer innocently because of terrible diseases and calamities. We all suffer. We are all tempted. We are all at war with Sin and Satan.
But what do we do? Satan is stronger than any of us…he is stronger than all of us combined. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)
God gives to the Christian the means of protection, defense, and attack. The protections are three: the breastplate, the girdle, and the shoes; the defenses are two: the shield and the helmet; the weapons are also two: the sword and the spear. Literally these seven items are: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, the faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. These items are given to us because we cannot win the battle on our own. God has given us these weapons not only to keep us in the faith but to share the faith with the world. The Gospel must prevail and will prevail for all generations.
Four years after Jesus had died on the cross, Stephen was stoned to death for being His disciple; for sharing the good news about Jesus. Christianity was in the midst of heavy persecution to the point of death. The truth about Jesus seemed to be in jeopardy. God’s Word prevailed…Stephen’s confession of faith and preaching of the Gospel was not in vain…God’s Word created faith in a person that was responsible for the deaths and persecution of Christians; the very same person that incited the crowds to murder Stephen. 30 years after the death of Stephen his deadliest opponent Saul died for the same holy faith; We know him as Saint Paul the Apostle.
Saint Paul wrote our Epistle to the Ephesians. He wrote as someone that had both persecuted Christians for their faith and was persecuted for His Christian faith. Paul wrote knowing the power Satan had. More importantly he wrote of God’s power to save. My brothers and sisters in Christ we are at war. We are being attacked on every side by Satan. We must stand firm. Our faith depends on it and more than that the faith of our children and our children’s children depends on it.
You and I can’t win this battle alone. Left to our own devices we fail and fall away from the faith. But God does not leave us in this battle alone. He has given us the full armor of God. More than that He has given us a Champion; He has given us His Son. Jesus Christ has defeated sin, death, and the devil. The war has already been won. By faith…stand firm…defend the faith, share the Gospel to future generations, and pray for each other. Continue coming to this place…to God’s House. Here God forgives your sins. Here you stand together with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Here you receive Jesus body and blood. Here we share with all the saints in the foretaste of the victory feast to come. Here we receive the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.