Monthly Archives: May 2015

Ephesians – Breastplate of Righteousness – Getting To the Heart of the Matter

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Breastplate of Righteousness – Getting To the Heart of the Matter

May 24, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Last week we looked at the belt of truth and the need to be have the truth of God in our lives so as to establish the security that comes from having the belt of truth firmly secured. This week we will look at the breastplate of righteousness. In this study, in regard to the breastplate, there are three elements that must be considered. First, we must consider the breastplate itself and how it is used. Secondly, we must consider the idea of righteousness and what that means to us. And, thirdly, we must consider the idea of the heart and its relationship to this discussion.

In regards to the breastplate itself, the breastplate was a defensive weapon that guarded and protected the vital organs of the warrior. The heart, the lungs, the diaphragm, and the major arteries were all protected by the breastplate. In particular, the breastplate covered and protected the heart. In essence, you might say that the breastplate protected the very life of the warrior because if a sword or spear were to penetrate this area of the body, or an arrow was to find its way around the armor, it would mean certain death or at least it would mean a serious wound that could disable the warrior. Without the breastplate being properly secured, the warrior would be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. The fact is no self-respecting soldier in his right mind would ever go into battle without his breastplate being securely fastened.

For the warrior, the breastplate was usually a suit of mail, metal, or heavy cloth that was layered to provide the necessary protection he needed in battle. In our modern day, we would think of a bullet proof vest or an umpire’s vest as a comparable piece of protective gear. It is also noteworthy that while some have suggested that the breastplate only covered the front area, the reality is that the breastplate most often covered the front and the back of the body.

For the believer, Paul states that their breastplate is the breastplate of righteousness. This would mean that righteousness is a necessary element that is required for our spiritual protection. But what is righteousness? Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, suggested that in regard to understanding righteousness mixed messages are often presented. One such message which is presented by today’s media is that righteousness is a negative attribute. It is something to be avoided. It is perceived to rigid, unbending, and out of touch. But the Biblical definition of the word means something so different. In fact, two words are used for righteousness in the Hebrew which is carried over into the Greek. The first Hebrew word means to be straight. This word carries the idea of meeting the specifications of another person. In other words, it is to measure up or to meet a standard. The second Hebrew word means to be right with someone. It means to be presentable. It carries the idea of passing inspection by someone who is significant in our lives. It is to be pleasing and to attempt to please that person so as not to be ashamed. Specifically the word righteousness means to meet the specifications that God calls us to which pleases the one who calls us.

With that in mind let us look what righteousness means for us today. First of all, to understand righteousness, we must understand the righteousness of Christ. On the cross, two things were accomplished on behalf of the believer through Christ’s death. First of all, the believer received forgiveness of sin. On the cross, Christ took the penalty of sin for us and placed it upon his shoulders. He died that we might live. Through the cross we are forgiven. We all know this aspect of the cross, but, sometimes we miss the second aspect of the cross. Not only do we have forgiveness of sin but He also gives us righteousness positionally. In other words we are accepted as righteous even though we are not perfect because of the work of Christ and our faith in that work.

Paul in Philippians 3:8-9 speaks to this reality. Hear Paul’s words. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. You see it is not our righteousness that matters, it is Christ’s work on the cross that fulfills the righteousness requirement in me. While I may not be perfected yet, Christ sees me as righteous. I trust that you can grasp these two powerful truths. I am forgiven by Christ and I am seen as being righteous because of what He has done.

Secondly, we must understand the Christian’s righteousness. Though we are positionally seen as righteous, we must also work out Christ’s righteousness in our lives. This work is known as sanctification. David Jeremiah stated that someone has defined the work of sanctification as becoming in practice what we already are in position. In other words, it is not enough to be positionally righteous but we must also live righteously. We must understand that the act of living righteously is not some automatic pilot that we turn on and off. While we can be in a state of righteousness positionally but fail to live righteousness out practically. It is like being a pastor positionally but not live or act like one. For this reason, we can be a believer and still struggle with addictions. We can be a believer in Christ and struggle with anger and truthfulness in our lives. But, this is not the reality that God seeks or desires of us. The goal of pursuing righteousness is to align our positional righteousness with our practical righteousness.

John understood this when he penned these words. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. The determining factor of our pursuit of righteousness is evidenced in how we practice our righteousness. Paul states in 1 Timothy 6:11 that we are to pursue righteousness. We pursue righteousness so that there is a balance between what He has done on our behalf and what we are to do. We live as righteous people because we are not longer sinners but saints. Because we are not perfect we continue to pursue righteousness.

The third aspect of righteousness is that it is a consistent righteousness. The wording of this verse proposes the idea that we are to continually put on the breastplate of righteousness. If we are to effectively battle against the forces of the enemy we must not forget to put on the breastplate of righteousness. To fail to do so is a formula for certain failure and spiritual injury.

The fourth idea is that we must make it a habit to be righteous. What we practice we become. What we strive for we will accomplish. We begin to change the course of our lives by practicing the art of righteousness. Our nation can begin to change if we begin to practice righteousness and right living. We can see our families change if we begin to understand our righteousness not only positionally, but also practical righteousness.

There is one more element to the breastplate to be considered. It is just as important to know what the breastplate is as it is to understand why it is worn and what it protects. The breastplate as noted is specifically worn over the heart. The warrior knows that if the enemy can reach the heart with his weapon that he can snuff out the enemy’s life. Biblically and physically the heart is the seat of our emotions and the seat of our affections. Jeremiah knew this when he proclaimed that the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 19:7). What Jeremiah was saying is that the heart cannot be trusted. That is why we need the breastplate of righteousness. It is protect our emotions and affections. The writer of Proverbs understood this when he wrote Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). The heart must be protected because it is the life spring of everything we do.

To walk in righteousness we must fall in love with Christ all over again. Our affection must be squarely focused on Him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). How is your love for God? The sad indictment of the Church at Ephesus was that they lost their first love. They abandoned the very principles that caused them to be  great church. As we walk in true righteousness, we understand that our affection must be on Him. If we do not set our affections on Him we will perform and act to look righteous, but our hearts will be far from where they need to be. It is here the idea of legalism is best evidenced and if we are not careful legalism will trump righteousness.

How important is it to protect our emotions? It must be a priority in in our life. Why is this? The Bible tells us that where our treasure is there our heart will be also. The treasure of our hearts determines our priorities. What we treasure will motivate us to action. For those that golf, you may be tired and weary but your love for golf will motivate you to play the game no matter what. It will motivate you to spend money on nice clubs and the right attire. We need the breastplate of righteousness to protect and guide our hearts toward the right actions in our lives. We are in a battle for our souls and wearing the breastplate of righteousness is one of the steps we must take to secure our history.

On this Memorial Day let me close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Let us resolve that Christ did not die in vain. Let us resolve that we will have a new birth of freedom that transforms us and positions us for great things in God because we are dressed for success.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

May 17, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

This morning we continue to look at the idea of dressing for success by putting on the whole armor of God. It is to be noted that Paul begins this passage with the command to stand. The term standing expresses the idea of not giving up any ground that has been gained, especially by way of Christ’s victories in our life. When watching football, you will hear the commentator say that the defense is taking a goal line stand. What they are saying is that the defense is setup to stop the advance of the offense whose desire is to cross over the goal line for a score. This is the idea of standing and standing strong. It is to position ourselves so as not to give up any territory to the evil one. Many a football game has been won and lost from this position. The word also expresses the idea that when we have done everything we know to do, we keep standing against the schemes of the enemy to avoid his advancement in our lives. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. While not inclusive let me give you a couple of thoughts here. We give up ground when we believe the lies and half truths spoken to us and about us. We give up ground when we live with unconfessed sin. We give up ground when we continue to rehearse and live in the past experiences that have brought us pain and hurt. And, we give up ground when we give into the temptations that come our way.

In this passage, Paul begins to describe the armor that is necessary to take this stand. The first piece of armor in Paul’s list is the belt of truth which is fastened around the waist. To fully understand what the belt of truth is, we must understand the use of the belt in Paul’s day. First of all the belt was used to secure the tunic or the robe of the warrior. This was necessary because the tunic or robe was a long loose fitting garment. If not secured, the tunic would impact the ability of the soldier to effectively do battle as it would get tangled in the soldiers legs or in the armor itself. If this occurred, the soldier’s ability to fight the enemy was diminished and his focus would be on the problem with his armor and not on the ability to fight.

The second purpose of the belt was to secure the rest of the armor. The belt was that piece of the armor that tied everything else together. Without the belt, the armor would not fit properly. The result would be a lack of protection for the soldier because there was the potential of vulnerable spots being exposed. Without the belt being in place during a fight, the soldier might find himself in an awkward state as he would have to hold his tunic, or clutch his armor with one hand, and fight with the other. Such a situation would expose the soldier to the tactics of the enemy.

In this passage, Paul is relating to a well known visual for the Ephesians so that they could grasp the spiritual application of the principle. Paul emphatically states that we must put on the belt of truth. We have discussed the belt but we must also understand the meaning of the word “truth.” The word for truth is “althaea” and it speaks to both the intellectual aspect of truth as well as the attitude of truthfulness and integrity as a character trait. Truth, therefore, is not just the accuracy of specific truths held by a person but it is also the quality of truthfulness. This simply means that the Christian is to not only have an understanding of truth intellectually, but the Christian must be truthful in every area of their life.

The best way for me to illustrate this is with a story that is found in Chuck Swindoll’s book Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In the book, Chuck tells the story about a man who bought a bucket of fried chicken for himself and his date one afternoon. However, when the fast food restaurant gave him his order, they inadvertently gave him a bucket of money from the day’s sales instead of the fried chicken he ordered. After driving to the picnic site, he sat down with his date to enjoy some chicken when they discovered that instead of chicken, they had been given over $800! Once they saw the error, the man quickly took the money back to the store, because he considered himself to be an honest man. As you might imagine, by this time the manager of the restaurant was frantic. The man who had taken the money got out of his car, walked into the store to return the money. He became an instant hero. The manager was so thrilled. He was so thrilled in fact that he wanted to call the newspaper to have them take a photo and have this real life hero’s story published. The manager being excited was quick to compliment the man on his honesty. However, the man was also quick to respond “please don’t do that!” Then he leaned in and whispered to the manager, “You can’t do this because the woman I’m with, is another man’s wife.” The moral of the story is that the belt of truth must be applied to every area of our life and not just to some areas for it will expose us to the tactics of the enemy who will use such an opportunity to attack and destroy our testimony and our life.

As with the soldier in battle, we must secure the belt of truth around our waist. This is needful because for the believer the belt of truth brings security. You see when a believer does not have the belt of truth in place we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. We will walk in fear because we are not dressed for success. Conversely, when the belt of truth has been secured, the believer in Christ will be complete, stable, and ready for every battle. The fact is, when the arrows of deception are flying around and unjust accusations explode around us, we need the truth and we need the truth of character to keep us from falling apart.

Spiritually, we must understand that security and truth is found in the Word of God and that real security is only discovered when the word of God comes alive in our hearts. This is the idea represented by Paul in this passage. To be secure, we must bind the word of God to our hearts. We will be ineffective in our walk with Christ if we are not allowing the word to transform and change us. If our character is not being changed by the truth of the Gospel, there is a good chance that we are not fastening or putting on the belt of truth. Without the belt of truth, we end up living an inconsistent life. Without the belt of truth, we will be entangled with issues and problems that will hold us back and trip up us. We will in essence be trying to hold onto the issues of life and fight a battle at the same time.

In our current culture we do not have to look very far to see that biblical truth is no longer a viable concern in most lives. In fact, truth is no longer valued as the basis of one’s actions or thinking. Too many live as if anything goes. Rather than fastening on the belt of truth, society rejects truth. |And the sad commentary is that many churches and believers today are also rejecting truth. The result is that the acceptable boundaries of God’s word are being moved and reestablished. As a result, society has become unstable. It is interesting to note that people who have forgotten the belt of truth in their life often scratch their heads wondering why life is filled with confusion and why there is such evil in the world.

A second idea is that the belt of truth prepares us for battle. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 1:13-16. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. The word used in this text for “prepare” is the same word in Ephesians for “fasten.” It gives us the sense of preparing for battle. In Peter’s case, we prepare the mind and in Paul’s case we fasten the belt of truth to our inner most being. Notice that Peter calls the follower of Christ to not conform to the passion of one’s former ignorance, but live as one who has been called to holiness. Peter understands that our passions are not always based in truth. We can never measure the validity of truth by virtue of our feelings or our emotions. Our feelings can come and go and they can change so quickly. Feelings and emotions are most often based on our circumstances and the environment that we are experiencing at the time. Truth does not change, while one’s feelings continue to ebb and flow. The point is, we must always let truth dictate our actions and not our emotions.

Jesus also recognized the need for being prepared when he stated the following. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks (Luke 12:35-36). What Jesus is communicating is that we must be continually dressed for action as we do not know when we might engage the enemy. The children of Israel before leaving Egypt were called to prepare themselves as well. Moses wrote. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11). They were to eat and work but they were also to be prepared for the Exodus. As believers, we must put on the belt of truth so that we are prepared to face whatever battle, temptation or concern comes our way.

Finally we must understand that the belt of truth is more than just head knowledge! In John 8:31-32 we find that Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him,“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Here is a point that must be made. The factual reality of truth does not free anyone. We must know the truth and properly apply the truth into our lives. It is the truth properly applied that sets you free and not the truth itself. Notice the key here. It is the abiding in the word of God that allows us to fully know the truth and it is that truth that sets us free. Therefore, truth rightly applied is the source of our freedom, our stability, and our victory. We too can experience the freedom, stability, and victory that comes from having the belt of truth fastened and by rightly applying the truth to our lives.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Dressed for Success: Wearing the Whole Armor of God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Dressed for Success: Wearing the Whole Armor of God 

May 10, 2015

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

I have entitled this message “Dressed for Success, Wearing the Whole Armor of God.” This may seem like a strange Mother’s Day message, but I hope you see where I am going with this before too long. Scientific studies have shown time and again that what one wears effects their attitude, how they respond to life, and how they respond to those around them. One study completed a number of years ago showed that one’s attitude about life and their personal concept of self is changed depending on the clothes they wear. For example, people were asked to wear white lab coats who normally did not wear such coats. What they found is that the subjects who wore the lab coats tended to speak more intelligently, carry themselves more professionally, and act as if they had something important to do. The only difference was what they wore. Spiritually, dressing for success in this world by wearing the whole armor of God is critical because it sets us apart and it positions us for greatness in the kingdom of God.

As we look at this passage this morning, let me, by way of reminder, review what we looked at last week as we focus our thoughts particularly on moms, today. First, as we noted last week, we must realize and moms today, specifically, must realize we have an enemy. He is a real foe and he has a real desire to take us out. As a mom, he desires to neutralize your role as a mother, a wife, and whatever other roles you may serve.

Secondly, we must remember that the battle we face is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. These forces include but are not limited to mindsets about motherhood, thoughts that hinder our growth, reminders of our failures, regrets about decisions, missed opportunities, forgotten dreams and so on and so on. The enemy is good at reminding us of what we have done wrong and where we have failed. These schemes present a real and present danger, if we do not counter them with the whole armor of God.

Thirdly, Paul in our text, today, challenges us in verse 11 to take up the whole armor of God and in verse 13 to put on the whole armor of God. When we leave the house, none of us would leave half dressed, or at least any sane person would not do so. What Paul is saying is that we need to put all of the armor on before we begin our day. To forget to do so, sets us up for an unnecessary assault from the enemy. You see just wearing one part of the armor is insufficient to sustain the attacks of the enemy and it diminishes our ability to be victorious over his schemes.

The first thing to notice about the armor of God is that it is God’s armor which He has supplied for our use. As many of you know, I have joined the Selbyville Fire Department. I finally went on my first call with them on Tuesday. I must admit, I answered the call in part because I was curious about the call, as it was the house fire across the street from where we live. When I arrived at the station, my first assignment was to dress for the fire. I put on my gear before I got on the truck. I had on my boots, I had on the fire suit. I had my the helmet and gloves with me in case I was needed to pull a hose or help carry anything to assist the firefighters who where fighting the blaze. Without the suit, I would be setting myself up for injury. The second idea presented in this illustration was that I was assigned a set of gear by the fire department. It is not my gear, it belongs to the Selbyville Fire Department, but I have the privilege of using it. In fact, it is mandatory for me to be dressed for action when we respond to a fire or car accident. We too need to realize that the armor of God has been given to us by God for our use against the enemy. But unfortunately, the armor of God has been too underutilized to have any effect in our lives.

The second thing about the armor is that it has to be put on. God has given it to us but, we must utilize it for it to be effective. The armor does not do us any good unless we put it on. The fire suit would not help me if it were still at the fire station or on the truck. By the way, the way Paul words this means that putting on the armor of God is a choice we make. The armor does not just appear on us. We are not somehow magically clothed but the command is to take up and put on the armor. We must choose to be clothed in the armor God has provided. We can also choose not to be clothed, but we will suffer the consequences if we make such a choice.

So why is it necessary to put on the armor. To be honest, it is necessary because it is a matter of life and death spiritually. One of the things we learned last week is that the enemy loves to create an atmosphere where we are weakened and we begin to believe the lies that he has spoken to us. He also uses his schemes to attack us in other ways. Without the armor of God, we are more prone to an attack than without it. Let me give you some examples.

First of all, we are more prone to attack when we are tired. This is why I believe that after we are dressed for battle, Paul states that we are to stand firm. When we are tired, we can make bad choices and we can respond negatively to things that would not usually bother us. It is when we are tired that our minds often run amok. We begin to believe things and feel things that are not true. When we are tired, upset, or exasperated we are more easily offended. It is for that reason we must put on the helmet of salvation and the belt of truth. On a side note, sometimes the best spiritual warfare we can do is take a nap.

Second, we are prone to attack when we are alone or we experience loneliness. Note that we can be in a crowd and still feel lonely. The enemy loves to isolate us and separate us so that we feel alone. The enemy knows that we are more vulnerable when we are alone or the feeling of loneliness comes over us. In the wild, the predator knows that it must isolate its prey to kill it. Our enemy also loves to isolate us. So, when you are walking through a difficult season be careful and do not isolate yourself. The fact is we need each other. In this regard, remember that we are a part of an army of believers who make up God’s army.

Third, we are more prone to attack when our expectations have not been met. When this occurs, we can begin to feel that we are a failure and that we or the people in our life are not what they ought to be. The problem is that we begin to try harder and worker harder to be a success or to solve problems. It is not wrong to have expectations, but there is a problem when we allow unmet expectations to control how we respond to others and how we react to circumstances in our life. It is here that Paul commands us to have our feet shod with the gospel of peace. One aspect of peace is contentment. When we serve God and dress for success, we will live in contentment and we will have our hearts filled with gratitude.

Fourth, we are prone to attacks when we begin to compare ourselves to others. The fact is we will always find someone who is more beautiful, skinnier, more popular, more intelligent, richer, who have better kids, someone with a better husband and so on. If allowed, this will cause us to be ungrateful and to lack a heart of thanksgiving. We must understand that each of us are a creation of God. We have been formed and shaped in His image. I can guarantee you that many of those you compare your self too are also comparing themselves to others, as well. And if the truth be known, they are not as great as you think they are. For this reason, we put on the breastplate of righteousness that protects our heart and how we feel about ourselves.

Fifth, we are prone to own the lies and half-truths the enemy presents us. As we said last week, we believe the lies that we are not good enough or smart enough. We believe that God does not love us. We believe that we are not a good parent, a good spouse, or a good friend. We beat ourselves up without merit, but we must take these thoughts captive to the glory of God. That is why we put on the helmet of salvation and the belt of truth so that our thought life will be surrendered to God and that the basis of our decisions and our emotions are in truth and not half-truths or falsehoods.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 had this to say. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. So how does the armor of God play a role in all of this? To be dressed for spiritual success means that we are clothed with the armor of God which is truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and the power of prayer. How powerful are these tools? They are mighty and powerful. They have the ability to counteract the forces that are at play against us. Rather than being neutralized, we in turn neutralize the effects of the enemy’s tactics, schemes and plans he has against us.

When we wear the whole armor of God, we can be assured that no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17). But remember, it is our choice to be dressed for success. So today, take up and put on the whole armor of God and dress for success. It is worth it.

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Ephesians – Be Strong, Get in The Game

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Be Strong, Get in The Game

May 3, 2015

Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Tony Evans in his book, “Victory in Spiritual Battle” tells the story of a painting that hangs in the Louvre in Europe that is entitled “Checkmate.” If you looked at the painting, you would see two characters playing chess. On one side of the chessboard is one player who resembles the devil. He is seen sitting in confidence that he has won the game. On the other side of the board is a frightened, scared young man. Sweat covers his brow and on his cheek is one solitary tear. The game is obviously drawing to a close and the winner appears to have already been decided.

But one day, there was a chess champion who visited the art gallery. As he paused to look at the painting, he was captured by the two figures in the painting. He also began to study the game which was being played. The champion stood before the painting for some time before he asked the curator if he had a chess board. After the champion insisted on finding one, the curator finally emerged with one. The champion immediately began to duplicate the game on the board as it was in the painting. He then began to finish the game by making a move and then countering that move with the move the devil would have made in order to avoid checkmate. He then made another move and then another. Each move put the devil on the defensive. Eventually, the champion cried out with relief and joy… “I did it, I did it!” The champion in that moment turned to the painting and proclaimed, “Young man, your enemy miscalculated a very important move. I uncovered it, and as a result, you don’t have to lose! You win!”

Let me tell you something this morning, Paul has looked at the chess game called life. He has looked at all of the moves possible and he is proclaiming through the final words of Ephesians that we win and that we do not have to live a defeated life any more. There have been some calculated moves that have taken place to put the enemy on the defensive and to neutralize his power over us and with that we are victorious.

As we look at this Scripture, we must first understand that we have an enemy that is out to destroy us. He not only wishes to destroy us and but to also neutralize our effectiveness in the culture in which we live. The enemy will use our past experiences, the false teaching we have received, the personal wounds and hurts we have received to accomplish this. But, it does not have to be that way. The great news is that we have power over any and all of our enemies.

Paul understood this principle. It is for that reason Paul calls us to “be strong in the Lord and to be strong in the strength of his might.” The word used for strong is “endunamousthe” which means “to endue with power, to become able, or to have strength.” The literal interpretation of the passage is “Be empowered with God’s strength.” The root of endunamousthe is “dunamis,” from which we get the word dynamite. The idea presents by this word is that the power of the dynamite is inherent to the dynamite itself. This means the power is not revealed until the fuse is lit or it is exploded in some way. It has to be used for its power to be recognized.

By using this word, endunamousthe, Paul is saying that we have already been given an inherent power that resides in us and is ready to be used. That power must be exercised in order to be effective. We must use this power to overcome the darkness and the evil that is all around us. How is this possible? It goes back to the passages at the very beginning of the book of Ephesians where Paul details the benefits we have received as believers in Christ. He, Christ, has given us everything we need to overcome the obstacles of life and the forces exerted by the enemy against us. Through Christ we have been given spiritual blessings and have been equipped with spiritual weapons for battle. We have an enemy, but we also have great weapons in our arsenal to bring victory.

Secondly, we must understand this battle is a spiritual battle. This war is waged in the invisible, spiritual realm. Paul, for that reason, assures us that this battle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers in the heavens. While the battle is spiritual, the results of the battle are revealed in the physical realm. You cannot see the warfare, but you certainly experience it, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Therefore, the battle you face is not against your neighbor, your spouse, coworker, child, or even the weakness of your flesh. The battle is against the spiritual forces that fight against us. Be assured of this, the enemy will use people, emotions, experiences, circumstances, and thoughts to pick a fight.

Thirdly, we must be aware of the schemes the enemy uses. The battles that go on inside of us are must often motivated by the schemes of the enemy who desires to destroy us or at least neutralize us. Someone has correctly said, “if you are having a spiritual battle, then you are in a good place. That means God wants to use you and that the enemy is attempting to thwart the work you have been called to.”

If you know anything about sports, especially football, you will know that coaches and players spend hours pouring over films of the teams that they are about to play. They want to know their opponent and they want to know the plays their opponent will use against them. Paul gives us the assurance that we can be prepared for the enemy’s schemes. But we must recognize them.

The first scheme used by our opponent is lies. Remember, there is no truth in the devil. He is the father of a lie and his greatest asset is the untruths and half truths we begin to own. He knows if we own it, we will accept it as truth. What are some of the lies presented? He uses one single failure in our life to make us believe that we are a total failure. He gets us to believe that God’s silence is a sign that God does not love us any more. The enemy will convince us that we have sinned the great sin and there is no hope for us. He gets us to believe that forgiveness is for the other person and not us. He convinces us that the negative experiences we have are normal and there is no hope for change.

A second scheme used by the enemy is accusation. Accusation is just another step in the scheme of lying. You know how this works. We feel we are not not good enough! We feel are not pretty enough! No one likes me! Everyone hates me! I can’t change! I can’t control my anger! You are a loser! You are a bad father or mother! You are not worthy of God’s blessings. The accusations go on and on and are the echoes of a thousand perceived failures but it does have to be that way.

A third scheme used by the enemy is false hope or as I like to call it a counterfeit vision of the future. The enemy uses this one in subtle ways but it is very powerful. He might communicate to you that its ok if you sin because no one will ever know. If you ever make a decision with this thought in mind then I can tell you that it is a wrong decision that will negatively effect your future. He will lie to you that one affair will not hurt you. He will lie and give you false hope that Christianity is a farce and that you are missing out on the fun in your life. He will say its ok to live however you want to during the week but act holy and righteous on Sunday.

Remember when Jesus was on the mountain top after He spent 40 days in the wilderness. Satan came to Him to offer him the world if he would bow to satan. Jesus was being tempted to accept a counterfeit vision of the future (Matthew 4). But there are a couple of problems here. One, Jesus already owned the whole world. He created it. So satan was offering something he could not give. Secondly, if Jesus had succumbed to this temptation, He would have lost much more than what He would have gained by rejecting satan’s offer. Know this! Whatever the enemy is offering, he will not be able to pay up. Whatever you may gain in following the vision the enemy gives you, in the long run you will lose much more than you gain.

Let me bring this closer to home. This week we have seen the unbelievable pictures and video coming out of Baltimore. The distorted vision of the future for some agitators and rioters was misdirected. Homes were destroyed. Businesses that were the life blood of the community were looted and burned. A senior center that had been needed in the community was burned to the ground. A CVS that originally did not want to be in the community, but agreed to come after the community worked with the corporation, has now been burned and destroyed with the potential of the corporation pulling the store out of the community for good. The very thing many were fighting for was destroyed in a matter of minutes. So how is that vision working out? But there was another vision we saw as well. On Tuesday morning after the bulk of the riots were over, we saw members of the community with brooms and garbage pails in hand cleaning the streets, removing debris, and starting to rebuild hope. There’s is a hope for the future. But that is how the enemy works in our hearts. We fight the wrong battles and invest in the wrong future vision.

As we have noted, the the problem of giving into the enemy’s schemes is that we give up what we already possess and we lose much more than we gain. But there is a battle plan. Over the next few weeks we will review the game tapes and see how we should be ready for battle. Are you ready? Let’s go! The game has already been won. All we have to do is dress up and get in the game. We can yell checkmate for he is a defeated foe. Amen! PTL!

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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