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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Supernatural Battle - Part Four


Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph 6:14-15)  

Alister Begg, a pastor in Cleveland, Ohio, told his congregation a sad but poignant story about former Beatle, John Lennon. 

In the 1960s, John Lennon, Ringo Star, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison were enjoying the limelight of near-worldwide fame. On February 9, 1964, the group made their American debut to a record breaking 73 million viewers on the Ed Sullivan show. It was in 1965 when Lennon wrote these lyrics of one of the Beatle’s more popular songs:

Help! I need somebody, Help! Not just anybody, Help! You know I need someone. Help!

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way. But now these days are gone and I'm not so self-assured. Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down. And I do appreciate you being 'round. Help me get my feet back on the ground. Won't you please, please help me?
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Some fifteen years later, a music magazine interviewed Lennon. When asked about the background of that song, Lennon, whose name was instantly recognizable in nearly every corner of the globe, said this about the lyrics: 

“’It's real. I mean it. When ‘Help!’ came out, I was crying out for help. Most people think it’s just a fast rock’n’roll song. I didn’t realize it at the time . . .  but later, I knew I really was crying out for help.”

We have already looked here, here and here at the evidence of the growing and encroaching supernatural evil all around us. We examined the ‘belt of truth’ with which we are to gird our loins, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shield of faith with which we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the supernatural enemy. 

Today’s message centers on our footwear in verse 15. The Christian Standard Bible translates this section from the Greek: (Verse 14): “Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, [and now verse 15]: and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.”

The Scriptures speak of many different types of peace – peace with our neighbors, peace in our homes, peace of heart . . .. It also talks about being at peace with God. It is on that peace I want to focus today – being at peace with God.

Most people probably don’t think much about being at peace with God. They’re too busy with their lives to let eternity get in their space. 

But – and this is important for our evangelistic efforts – let me be quick to say this about those who hardly ever think of God: There was a time when I lived for years not giving God even a passing glance. But then it happened;

In the stillness of the night, when I was all alone and far from home and friends and family, God broke through my self-imposed isolation from Himself. 

And I am today still serving Christ, nearly 50 years later.

You and I can never know what is going on in a person’s heart in the stillness of their night. As Augustine wrote in his classic book titled, Confession, “God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

I don’t know if John Lennon ever recognized, even to the day he died, his God-designed cry for help was, well, God-designed. His lyrics had their source in God’s move in his heart to look to the ONLY one who could ever truly help him.

Which circles us back now to Paul’s point to sandal up our feet with readiness to present to others the gospel of peace. 

The gospel tells the good news that you, I, and all the John Lennons of the world, can have peace with God. We can be reconciled with God. We can be adopted into His family of sons and daughters who’ve been purchased for Himself with the precious blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus our Savior, Jesus our Messiah. 

The soles of the Roman soldier’s sandals were studded with what would resemble cleats. Those cleats – like those on the bottom of some athletic shoes which help the athlete maintain a firm grip in the dirt or sand – the Roman soldiers’ ‘cleats’ helped them ‘stand firm’ on the dirt as they battled with an enemy. 

Today’s text is all about stability in the battle. That’s why Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2: 15).  When we battle for our souls and for the souls of others, we don’t want to be slipping and sliding from one philosophy or religious idea to another as we fight. Biblical truth anchors us, it roots us, it steadies us in the battle. 

The truth of the cross is God’s assurance to humanity of His desire that we all reconcile with Him. It is His affirmative answer to all who wonder in the stillness of their night and in the emptiness of their own isolation, “Is there hope for me in God? Is He forever angry with me for what I’ve done? Has He turned away from me? Does He even know my name?”

Don’t you know we interact every day with people who ask themselves those very questions? 

Christian, listen! Put on your God-given sandals and bring them the good news that the Savior not only knows their name, but that He longs for them to reconcile with Him. Hold this truth from Romans chapter five like a tight belt around your waist: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10)

Reconciliation with God. Peace with God. The Scriptures make that promise from one end of the Book to the other. And get this: Almighty God has privileged us to be His ambassadors, to bring that unfathomable truth to the perishing. 

Here is what He tells us through St. Paul: Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:20) 

Many of you know the words of Fanny Crosby’s hymn: Rescue the Perishing.

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.”

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”

“Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting, waiting the penitent child to receive; plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently. He will forgive if they only believe.” 

“Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore; touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that are broken will vibrate once more.”

“[Oh] Rescue the perishing, duty demands it. Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; back to the narrow way patiently win them, tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.”

Do you think you are unqualified to rescue the perishing? Don’t let Satan trick you into selling yourself so short. If you love Jesus, if you serve Jesus to the best you are able, then God will use YOU to rescue them. 

Remember, neither you nor I stand alone in this battle. If all we could do was read the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the Holy Spirit would use that list of names to draw someone to the Savior. 

We are not alone, and Satan’s prisoners need ambassadors for Christ – people like you and me – to tell them how they and all the John Lennons of the world can find peace with God. It really is so simple, a child can easily understand the process: 

1. We must tell God of our sins. That requires humility, to admit we are wrong, and God is right.

2. We must apologize to Him for those sins and ask His forgiveness. That also requires humility, to admit we are wrong, and God is right.

3. We must ask Him to help us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to serve Jesus the Messiah for the rest of our life. That, too, requires humility, to admit we cannot live for Jesus in our own strength and with our own resources.

4. We must follow the Lord’s commandment to be baptized. Again, humility, to publicly acknowledge to everyone that you are wrong, and God is right.

None of the Roman soldier’s armor was superfluous. Each piece was vital to his safety and the safety of his comrades-in-arms. And each piece was necessary to successfully wage battle against the enemy. 

In the same way, none of our supernatural armor is superfluous. Each is vital to our protection and the protection of others. And our armor is also vital to successfully wage battle against our supernatural enemy.

Gird your loins with truth – God’s inerrant and infallible word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Put on the breastplate of righteousness which God credits to us through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus the Messiah. Take up the shield of faith with which you will extinguish the enemy’s fiery lies and doubts and temptations and confusions. And put on your battle-designed shoes, prepared and ready to tell all the John Lennons of this world, “God loves you. God died for you, so that you and He might be reconciled forever.” 

Amen.

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