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Walking in Armour

Published: 4 weeks ago- 17 March 2024
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SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Big Idea: God has given us everything we need not to be naked and afraid.

There is a reality show on one of the streaming services called “Naked and Afraid.” Don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Season 17. Participants are taken to a remote location, with absolutely no clothing, minimal resources and paired up with a stranger just as naked and just as nervous as they are. The challenge is to survive these conditions for a certain period, sometimes up to 40 days.

They face harsh environments, lack of food and water, and potential encounters with dangerous wildlife.

The show emphasizes the vulnerability of the participants as they strive to overcome their fears and survive in the wild.

An interview with a past contestant divulged the startling news that it really is as bad as it sounds. I know … a total surprise!

Turns out that being naked and afraid is not that much fun.

It’s the basis of those horrific dreams where you appear under-dressed in front of a crowd of people. School in your pyjamas, preaching in your undies.

But this shame and fear is more than a bad dream, it’s at the heart of our very existence.

“Naked and Afraid” could be the title for Genesis 3. Having disobeyed God Adam and Eve realising their nakedness, carefully arranged some fig leaves and hid from God. Naked and Afraid, shame and fear, the immediate and lasting effect of sin is to constantly look for covering and find a place to hide.

We see it in our own lives. Our sin creates in us a shame and a fear which we desperately try to hide from the world.

We develop an Avatar, an outward personality which we present to the world. But all the time we know it is as thin as a tissue and could tear at any moment. We are vulnerable.

We dread being found out. That the world may know we are naked and afraid.

While we can avoid signing up for the reality show, we are real-life participants in something far more challenging. We can’t just look into the camera and say, I want to go home.

Is there a solution to our shame and fear?

Paul in Ephesians says, yes! The solution is in Christ. In Christ we are not left naked and afraid. In Christ we have the cure for our Naked, the cure for our Afraid.

Let’s take a look.

In Christ, we are …

NOT LEFT NAKED and AFRAID (V10-13)

Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher, in his classic work “The Art of War” recommends to his readers to “know your enemy.”

And Paul says we know our enemy and the fight. Read v12

12 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.

Our fight is a spiritual battle. We are not fighting an enemy that we can see and touch. The theatre of this war is not out there … but in here. Where we are most vulnerable, where we feel most naked and afraid. But we are not left naked and afraid.

Read v10-11

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power [be strong in the strength of his might]. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand [that you may be able to stand] against the devil’s schemes.

‘Be strong’ – no need to be afraid. ‘Put on’ – no need to be naked. ‘Take your stand’ – Paul says that in v13 as well.

13 Therefore put on the full armour 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.

Notice that we are not called to take down the strongholds of Satan; we are not storming his fortress. There are no wall-scaling ladders or ropes included in the full armour of God.

We are called to stand. To stand our ground; not be moved; not to retreat; not to give up any territory to the advance of this enemy.

This is guerilla warfare in the spiritual realm.

2Cor 4:4 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.

Just as he works in the minds of unbelievers he will be at work in our minds as well to keep us distracted and diverted in our Christian lives. To make it all seem too difficult and everything else so much more attractive.

Our efforts to read the Bible and to pray will be met by distraction – wandering minds and other activities becoming more pressing or attractive. Stand your ground. Lord help me. My strategic defence: Read first thing in the morning with a journal and a pen. Write my prayers. That’s part of my stand.

Our efforts to be patient will be met by challenging situations. People will be so annoying! Stand.

Our desire for godliness will prompt all manner of alternatives. Stand.

When you would like to convince yourself that it is alright not to forgive, that harbouring a little bit of bitterness against someone is acceptable… Stand. Our enemies are not human adversaries. It’s a spiritual battle.

Paul is not saying pull yourselves up by your bootlaces. Paul is not telling us to do the impossible.

Be strong in the Lord – the strength of his might. This is the same strength, the same power that we read of earlier in Ephesians which raised Jesus from the dead, defeating the hold of sin and overcoming the power of Satan.

We are new creations, we have the Holy Spirit, in him, by his power we have victory over sin and Satan. Trust in him.

Proverbs 24:10

If you fail in adversity how weak is your strength.

If we are standing in God’s mighty strength we will not fail.

In Christ, we have not been left naked or afraid.

Christ is

OUR CURE FOR NAKED (V14-17)

A Greek historian, Polybius wrote that a Roman centurion had to be the kind of man who could be relied upon, when hard-pressed, to stand fast and not give way.

And we read here stand firm in soldier’s armour. Read v14-17

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The imagery used is the armour worn by a Roman soldier in Paul’s day.

Paul wrote this from a Roman jail, he is a prisoner guarded by Roman soldiers. It’s easy to imagine him being inspired by that image as he writes this part of the letter.

Each piece of armour represents a different aspect of spiritual preparedness and defence against the schemes of the devil. – Belt of truth – Breastplate of righteousness – Shoes of the gospel of peace – Shield of faith – Helmet of salvation – Sword of the Spirit

He is talking of warfare, he is talking of armour, of a steadfast soldier. Here is a sermon illustration sitting right in front of him.

But as a man so thoroughly soaked in Scripture the message of Isaiah is more likely informing his instruction.

In Isaiah 59 we read of God himself putting on his armour, specifically the helmet of salvation.

The emphasis is on God Himself as the One who is clad or clothed in righteousness and who through his action brings salvation. The imagery portrays God as a divine warrior delivering His people.

At Bible College my first OT essay topic was “Yahweh as a Warrior.” I thought how dopey, as if Yahweh is a warrior. Turns out that he really is, he fights for his people.

Isaiah 59 highlights God’s role as the ultimate source of righteousness and salvation, actively intervening on behalf of His people.

Isaiah’s message is foreshadowing Christ, the one true warrior King who won salvation and righteousness for his people on the cross, defeating our greatest enemies of sin and death and the devil.

Paul probably was inspired by the very common sight of a Roman soldier.

But it is God’s work in Christ that he is describing as our armour for the battle and he is calling on us to dress in Christ.

In Revelation we read that when Jesus returns we will get white robes, same as what he will be wearing. But for now, the church is in a battle, the church militant. We need to dress appropriately, in the armour of God.

Jerry Bridges. Preached the gospel to himself every day. What’s the truth of the gospel? What’s the basis of my standing before God? What’s my hope of salvation? What will faith look like for me today? Standing in the Armour of God.

Christ is

OUR CURE FOR AFRAID (V18-24)

Paul gives two cures in this section. One as instruction, the other as an example.

Instruction – Pray. Read v18-20

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Pray in the Spirit. Dependency on the Spirit – Rom 8:6 Aligning with God’s will – Keeping in step with the Spirit; praying God’s word back to him, Answering God, Eugene Peterson. Perseverance and Vigilance – by his enabling.

Pray for all kinds of things (v19) – world peace to a lost button (my theology lecturer).

Be alert (v18b) – a watchman on duty. Disciples in the garden: Stay awake and pray, fell asleep without prayer. Afraid and desserting Jesus.

Puritans: pray until you pray. On all occasions (v18)… Routine and pop-corn prayers. Situational – birthdays, dinners, family time Model your prayers on Paul’s prayers.

Pray for the gospel going out (v19-20). Pray for our ministry as a church – insightful, entrepreneurial, persistent, Christ-focussed.

“No person is greater than their prayer life.The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying … fail here, we fail everywhere.” Leonard Ravenhill.

Instruction.

Example – People. Read v21-24

21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

I don’t have much to say here other than to notice the warmth and love of the community in Christ. Look around. This is our platoon, part of the MPC company (using military language), part of the worldwide army of God. We are here to encourage and refresh, to love and care for one another so that we are not afraid in the midst of the battle. Church matters. You matter. Band of Brothers…

I have no desire to be a contestant on “Naked and Afraid.” And I really don’t want to live my spiritual life this way either … what about you? In Christ, we have not been left naked or afraid.