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The Struggle Is Real

"10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
 
Good Morning Beloved,
 
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day
We're so glad you're here 
 
The attacks on our country on September 11, 2001 were a wake up call for our country. The 9/11 Commission and others cited the main reasons that we were attacked was that, as a country, we didn’t recognize that these Islamic extremists were at war with us. And since we didn’t realize that we were in a war, we hadn’t made adequate preparations to prevent such an attack.

Unfortunately, especially in this country, our Christianity has become so comfortable that I’m afraid that many of us have either failed to recognize that we’re in a war, or we’ve long forgotten. Somehow, when we get in our air-conditioned cars to drive to an air-conditioned place of worship, where we enter into fellowship and sing joyful songs of praise, listen to a 20 - 30 minute sermon, sing a few more songs, throw a few dollars in the offering plate to pay others to do ministry on our behalf, and then get together to eat, that just doesn’t feel like being at war. However, it doesn't change the reality.

Beloved, Satan is committed to your destruction. Satan is committed to your destruction. When we come to Christ, He literally rips us from out of the kingdom of darkness and the clutches of the enemy. From that moment, Satan brings to bear upon us all the forces of hell as if to undo everything Christ has done. You have become the enemy of Satan, and indeed, an enemy you are, and you are an enemy to his cause, since you have come to Christ, having the true knowledge of God, he is an enemy to you. A loss he doesn't take lightly.

To make matters worse, the unregenerate people dominate the world. As we saw in Ephesians 2, they are under the power and control of the prince of the air. Satan and his army, which are operating against the people of God through a sinful system that we call the world.

The advantage of this system is that Satan appears as an angel of light, disguising himself as an angel of light, working most often in the ministry. Infiltrating Christ's church with false religion, which is concocted by Satan as a part of his system to mislead God's people into religious deception.
 
Let's bow our heads.
 
Heavenly Father, 
 
Father, thank You for the clear instruction in Your Word for us today. Father, we plead with you to be gracious unto us that we might know the fullness of Your Spirit, that we might overcome these debilitating attacks on doctrine. We pray for Your church, the congregations, which have become like the world, tolerating sin, compromising with the world and for the pastors, not wanting to deal with sin, not wanting to confront anyone. Help us to be warned and aware. Remind us that Your judgment will start with Your people.

Help us to be uncompromising of the truth, stand firm on Your Word, remaining faithful and obedient to Your commands. Create in us a boldness, to always speak the truth, with grace and in mercy. Help us to be a grateful and humble people, caring for those in need, loving our neighbor as You have loved us. 
May our lives bring to You the glory You deserve.
In Christ's name
Amen
 
Today's Message: The Struggle Is Real
 
Many major corporations today hold seminars annually to teach their sales forces how to dress so as to make the right impression. Some even offering a clothing allowance. I'm sure that you've heard the expression, "Dress for success." The concept is that so that employees can dress the part to make the best impression possible.
 
I would like to suggest, the same is true in the Spiritual success. We must also dress accordingly. Because we know the truth about the resurrection and the power it makes available in our lives, we still can’t take things for granted. Just because we understand the principles about how to conduct our lives doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be able to apply them effectively. The power is there and the principles are there, but there is also one more thing we need to be aware of. 
 
The enemy is there also, and he will do everything he can to thwart God’s will in your life. Whether we recognize it or not, we are in a war! And therefore we need to make sure that we are prepared for the battles that we are going to face each day. The moment that we committed our lives to Jesus Christ, we enlisted as soldiers in that war. So we had better be prepared to fight those battles. 
 
One of the most important aspects of this war is that God doesn’t expect us to fight it alone. He has brought us all together in one body, the church, so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder and encourage and help each other as we fight. That is the overriding principle we’ve seen all throughout this letter. I think one of the mistakes that many people have made over the years is that they approach this section on spiritual warfare as merely an individual battle. But I would suggest to you that Paul had a much more corporate approach in mind. The United States would never send just one soldier to fight a war. 
 
For instance, in the Middle East, we have thousands of soldiers fighting the war against terrorism. God never sends just one of His children to fight a spiritual war, either. He joins us together with the rest of His body, the church, in order to fight that war.  However, it is the responsibility of each soldier to go through the proper training in order to be prepared to do his part in the battle as part of his brigade. And then he must do his job to the best of his ability once the battle begins. 
 
A well-trained soldier who decided he wouldn’t go into battle because he was more comfortable hanging out in the barracks watching TV wouldn’t be of any use at all. The same is true for all of us. We must not only make sure that we are properly prepared for war, but we must also be willing to leave our places of comfort and get involved in the battle.
 
Open with me your Bibles to the sixth chapter of Ephesians, as we continue with what I believe has been a wonderful journey through this great epistle, full of great truths and instruction. Paul begins verse 10, he talks about the armor of the believer, a Christian's War, if you will.

I would like to encourage you to follow along with me as I read from our text, to get it set in our minds. Ephesians 6:10-13.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
 
We live in a age where we not only deal with the temptation that is in us, as all believers have, but we must also deal with a sinful, sophisticated system that operates outside of us. Which I dare to say, is far worse today, than it's ever been. This nation, and the world as a whole is going down the path of destruction, and immorality at warp speeds. We are literally being inundated with every immoral behavior and activity, once condemned, now being hailed as a constitutional right. Satan is having a field day. I don't believe that it is by chance, that the world system is more formidable than it’s ever been, and the church is weaker than it’s ever been.
 
In verse 10, Paul begins with "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." Most of our English translations don’t reflect Paul's point very well, but the command Paul gives here in verse 10 is in the passive mode – it literally reads "be strengthened in the Lord..." In other words, I can’t strengthen myself. Someone else has to do that for me. We also see clearly that it is God’s mighty power, and not our own, that is required. We have to rest in Him, however, I'd like all of you to know, that power is already yours! It is none other than the very same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It is also the same power that caused Him to put all things in subjection under His feet, made Him His head over the church, which is His body, and the church as His body.
 
Whether we realize it or not, we are strong! The power is there. Christ is there. The strength is there. Everything that we need is there in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus strengthens us with resurrection power as we allow Him to dwell in our hearts through faith. In other words, as I allow Jesus to take up residence and control every area of my life, he will supply my life with His power. We need to be strengthened by God is a life-long, continuous process. It is not just something that we do from time to time.
 
Far too many Christians have been deceived into the practice of “praying on the armor” each day as if it is some kind of magical shield of protection. But they have failed to yield the control of their lives to Jesus consistently and constantly so that He can empower them with His resurrection power. And then they are surprised to find that the armor they thought was protecting them isn’t effective at all, because there is no power behind it.

Understand the enemy, 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.

In order to be successful in this spiritual battle, it is essential that one has an accurate understanding of the enemy. If we hope to be successful, it is critical that we have a proper understanding of our enemy. Even though the enemy is not made up of flesh and blood, he is very real.

In The Garden, Adam and Eve found out just how real he is. And I'm quite certain that Job certainly would testify to the reality of Satan. Jesus certainly believed that he was real when He met him face to face in the wilderness. And Paul makes it clear in this passage that our enemy, even though we cannot see him, is very real.

I’m convinced that the biggest difficulty we face in the spiritual battle we’re in is that so many Christians, don’t even realize that we’re in a battle. And even among those who do realize that there is a battle taking place, they relegate it to some mystical battle between the concepts of good and evil, rather than a real battle against a real enemy.

The apostle Peter warns us in I Peter 5:8, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
 
The spiritual battle we engage in may not fought with long-range missiles and smart bombs, but it is face to face combat against a powerful enemy. mistake we make in evaluating our enemy is that we underestimate his power. The Bible clearly portrays him as a powerful enemy. And, if we try to take on that enemy in our own power, he will defeat us.

The devil’s main weapon is deceit, and while it is dangerous to underestimate his power, we can however, also be guilty of overestimating his power and therefore responding inappropriately as well. The Bible is clear that Satan, and his demons, clearly have limits to their power. Satan is, unlike many believe, is not the opposite of God. He is not the Creator, but the creation. Unlike God, they are not omnipresent, they can only be in one place at one time. They are not omniscient, like humans they can only know what God has revealed to them. And unlike God, they are not omnipotent, they only have the power to do what God allows them to do in the life of a believer. That is quite evident in the book of Job.

And so, Satan and his army of demons must to resort to deceit. Notice that Paul writes in verse 11 "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

The Greek word, "methodeias," conveys the idea of cleverness, crafty methods, cunning, and deception. That is exactly the same tactic that Satan used in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and it is still the tactic he employs today. And though Satan’s deceitful schemes today are not quite as personal or as easily discerned as direct assault on Adam and Eve, he uses the world system to carry out is schemes.

In verse 12, Paul tells us that "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Paul’s reference to “rulers”, “authorities”, “powers of this dark world” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” may very well describe a hierarchical structure of Satan’s demons, Paul also seems to be writing about how Satan uses the structures of this world system to exert evil influence against the followers of Jesus. We can easily observe this in our culture today where the media, those in places of prominence and even our government promote that which is in opposition to the standards that God has established in His Word. 

I know there are many Christians, who believe that people are not really our enemy. I know sometimes we think that immoral people and people who advocate immoral things are our enemy, but they are just pawns. Satan is the real enemy and he is far more powerful than those he uses who belong to his kingdom of darkness. And, as a footnote, some of them are high ranking. Spiritual wickedness in very high places, even among governments and nations.

Beloved, we must therefore understand that we have a formidable enemy who has developed a very successful world system. This is not a battle we win in our own strength, we must therefore depend upon the strength of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul says in verse 13, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" "You will be able to resist on the evil day." What is the evil day? Any day that evil comes! In fact, I believe that it would accurately describe the present day, in which we live. Take a look at the world around, this is certainly a very evil day. Notice Paul says "so that you will be able to resist." If we are able to resist, that means there's victory!

In Closing...
 
I'd like to submit, when the battle is over, the dust has settled and the smoke has all cleared, we can be seen "standing firm." What a wonderful picture that is! The enemy has been defeated and we're there still standing. You see, this battle we’re in is a battle for our minds, that's why our spiritual armor is designed to protect our minds.

II Corinthians 10:3-5 says "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ"
 
Unfortunately, even as followers of Jesus, we are often tempted to use what Paul refers to as "the weapons of the world." We think that we can use our intellect, or our logic, or our willpower to defeat the evil one. However, Scripture makes it really clear that those weapons are totally ineffective against the schemes of the devil. In fact, it is so crucial that we use the right weapons, that Paul not once but twice commands us to put on the "full armor of God." 

A very common practice taught in many Christian circles that we need to get up each day and "pray on our armor" before we go out to face the day. The fact is that the battle we are engaged in is ongoing and that we need to put our armor on once and keep it on so we’ll be prepared whenever the enemy chooses to attack. One of the great lies of Satan is that we just have a battle here and a battle there, so we really don’t need the armor on at all times. Let me tell you this, the moment we take it off, that’s when he is sure to attack.
 
I believe the day has come, for us a Christians, we must leave our comfort zones and prepare to war.
We don't need to go about seeking Satan and his army, rest assured they will find us, therefore we must be ready! And when the smoke clears and the dust has settled, we'll be standing firm in victory.
How do I know? Because victory is promised, victory is promised.
 
The struggle is real, but so are the blessings.

May it be so...
 
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
Amen

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