28 June 2020, 11 a.m


Standing Firm in the Lord

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Text: Ephesians 6:10-24

Head – a biblical worldview (v10-12)

Heart – divine resources available (v13-17)

Hand – action of dependence (v18-22)

Reflection Questions

  • What does it mean to be ‘strong in the Lord’? How would it look like in our attitudes and actions?
  • Where is your weakest area in your spiritual armour? How can a fellow believer support you?
  • How has Eph 6:18-20 changed your perspective of prayer? How might you pray differently now?
  • What is one defining take-away for you from Ephesians? 

 

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-24 (ESV)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For 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. 13Therefore 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. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. 21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. 23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Transcript:

Blessed Sunday to all. We are now into Phase 2 of our post circuit breaker period. We are all functioning close to normal. When we look back at 2020, the main event worldwide I’m sure we will all agree will be COVID-19. Three things I’ve observed so far.

Firstly, that the virus was amongst us long before we knew it.

No doubt we named it in 2020 but there are ample reasons to believe that it was already around in the last quarter of 2019. Secondly, it is never always obvious when a person is carrying the virus. We have now come to understand the meaning of asymptomatic.

And based on a Singapore study that tested the household close contacts of COVID19 patients has found that about a quarter of those infected were asymptomatic. Thus, contact tracing, wearing of mask and washing our hands are important. Finally, the virus can come back. Countries that were declared free of COVID have had new cases. In Singapore we are not looking at zero cases but to contain the number. Globally, it is actually spiking in some countries still and the only way it can really be contained is through a vaccine which may take a few years.

So, we hear the constant advice, don’t let our guard down, be vigilant. Keep up the good habits and know your vulnerabilities. May I submit that we should also have this same frame of mind as we come to the 2nd part of Ephesians 6. As much as we are at war with COVID-19, we are also in a spiritual war. It’s unseen around us like COVID-19. We don’t live only in a physical world, but there is an unseen spiritual world that exist as well. The people around us, especially the non-believers, they don’t know they are asymptomatic and so they can unknowingly entice us towards our old ways.
And finally, as a community, we need to keep vigilant because if we let our guard down, it will resurface.

But unlike COVID-19, the vaccine for our fight against the schemes of the devil has already been found. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan has already been defeated at the cross. And a day in the future is coming when Jesus will return as King and Judge and will establish His rule fully upon all creation.

But we live now in the in-between time. It’s the now and not-yet. So as we wait for the 2nd coming of Jesus, God says to all of us, we are to be standing firm in the Lord. I’ve taken today’s sermon title from v13. 3 times the word ‘stand’ is used and once we are asked to ‘withstand’. So as Paul rounds up his letter, in keeping with his warfare metaphor, he says, as soldiers of Christ, stand firm. And I submit we can stand firm through 3 areas. We can stand firm with our Heads having a biblical worldview, when our hearts are in tune with God’s divine resources and when our hands, live out our dependence upon God.

Head – a biblical worldview (v10-12)

Let’s begin with our heads.

Paul says, ‘Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.’ In using the word ‘Finally’, Paul links this section with everything else in the letter. Everything with regards to the doctrine of God and the duty of believers, have a link to what Paul is saying here.

In case we have not noticed, Paul has been consistent in telling us that we live in a 2 dimensional world – both a physical and a spiritual world.

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The implication from these verses are:
Firstly, the spiritual realm in which we are blessed with every blessing is also the realm in which we have to battle. Secondly, because God has ordained the church to display the multi-faceted wisdom of God, it means as a church we should face this spiritual battles together. This is the biblical worldview that Paul wants us to have.

We need to view the world with both our physical and spiritual eyes. And when we use godly discernment, we will see that the schemes of the devil stand behind the temptations and trials of society. In v12, Paul uses many descriptive terms – rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil, it is to give us a sense that there is a vast army of enemies that are strong and very determined to war against believers of Christ. So let’s recognize that Satan and his kind, are powerful and they hate Christ, hate
God’s children and His church.

Like our approach to COVID-19, many are clueless about Satan and his threats. Only when we have a correct biblical worldview, will we recognize that all of the sins of these world have Satan’s touch and signature behind them. And that should lead us to the next response – that we realize that Satan, within creation, will outmatch any of us. He is far cleverer than us, far more powerful and has greater resources.

A correct biblical worldview will make us realized; we cannot fight and defeat Satan. We cannot depend on our individual strength; we cannot even depend on our collective strengths. As humans we are no match for Satan. But we know that is not the end of the biblical worldview. For if it is, we would despair and live in absolute fear. We would be still stuck in:

Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

The biblical worldview is however:
Eph 1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. God’s surpassing power has placed Jesus far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and all things have been placed under his feet. Christ has been given absolute power and authority. And that extends to over Satan and his kingdom as well.

This resurrection power of God, Ephesians says has also raised us up and seated us with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places. And Paul has significantly prayed that believers know this same power that is at work within us.

So Paul says, know this biblical worldview. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Many of us live as if Satan does not exist and view ourselves as untouchable. Let this be a warning. For others, we may live in fear of Satan’s attacks and may this then be an encouragement.

Church, if we want to stand firm for Jesus till He comes again, our heads need to have a biblical worldview. Heart – divine resources available (v13-17) Since v10 is linked to all that is said earlier, then the duties of a believer should be situated in the context of spiritual warfare.

And so, rest assured that Satan will viciously attack the unity in the body of Christ that we see in Eph 4. Satan will relentlessly strike when we desire to walk in love, in the light and wisely in all our relationships. Society will scream at us, saying, that’s not how you should live, it’s not progressive. Our own sinful hearts will be tempted to shout, I don’t want to live according to God’s word, it doesn’t meet my needs. Even as a church, we may attempt to justify, let’s make the bible more palatable for ourselves, it’s too unrealistic. To our struggles, Paul says Eph 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. The encouragement for our hearts is that we can stand firm for Jesus, because God generously provides His divine resources. Just 1 point before we go into the details. This amour of God may appear to be deemed extra or that it can only be attained by elite believers.

If so, we may think that when we first believe, we are at the most vulnerable, because we did not know about this armour. 2 examples I would like to show that this is not so. Firstly, in our CG bible study material, in studying God’s armour, it has made reference to Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

Eph 1:13 Eph 6:13

Word of Truth
Belt of truth
Gospel of salvation
Gospel of peace
Believed (faith) in him
Shield of faith
Sealed by Holy Spirit
Sword of the Holy Spirit

The bible study question was to help us see that there are many similarities and so God’s armour is already provided when we believe and put our trust in Jesus Christ. So the moment we become a child of God, God already provides it. We may not have so clear an understanding, or may not comprehend much, but nevertheless,
the armour is already given.

Secondly, Paul uses the same language, in chapter 4 – putting on the new self, Eph 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

I submit that Eph 6 basically expands and gives greater nuances to what has been said in Eph 4.

Let’s now go back to Eph 6:10.
Many would associate it with that of the Roman soldier during the time of Paul. Yes, that is the most visible link. But many commentators are in agreement that Paul actually is modelling it on the Isaiah’s picture of God as the Divine Warrior.

And that image is significant.

In Isaiah, God is the one who fights for His people and defeats the enemy before them. And that is a great comfort. We do not depend on our ability to use the amour, but our dependence is on the armour itself.

Each piece of God’s amour is able to defeat the enemy. The power to withstand the attacks never rest with us, but with the divine armour that we put on.

1. Belt of truth
• Eph 4:21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
• So Jesus is Truth and who we are and how we are to live is related to the truth found in Jesus.
• And Isaiah’s picture of God is Isa 11:5 He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. (NLT)
• And this is completely opposite to Satan for Jesus said in Jn 8:44, Satan is a liar and the father of lies
• To stand firm against the devil, have Jesus as your plume line. The devil’s schemes are to confuse and trap you with lies and half truths.
• But when you navigate with Jesus as you point of reference, you will not go wrong.

2. Breastplate of righteousness
• Isa 59:17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head;
• This righteousness belongs to God. Now God puts on us His righteousness.
• How does that happen? It’s when we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
• Then, God justifies us. God says we are right with Him.
• That’s the imputed righteousness of Christ.
• This is important because the devil is going to throw at us the lie that we are not good enough for God.
• He will place doubts in our hearts constantly, that you and I have failed him big time and we can never make it up to Jesus.
• This is where we tell Satan, yes, I’ll never be righteous enough. But what makes me right with God is not what I do, but what Christ has done.

3. Gospel shoes –
•Isa 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
• We are at war with Satan because we proclaim that Jesus is King. And Satan hates that.
• Yet our message is that of peace. In Christ, we who were once enemies of God are now reconciled.
• In Christ, the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles have been torn down.
• Not only are we at peace with God, we also have the peace of God.
•Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
• This is our answer when Satan taunts, when he says, are you sure God knows you? Are you sure God will remember you when He comes again?
• We have peace because the Holy Spirit is our seal and deposit.
• And the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is not just defensive. It’s offensive as well. We are to be ready to advance God’s kingdom through our witness.

4. Shield of faith
• King David experience first hand God’s protection over his life and he writes,
•2 Sam 22:31 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
• Paul says place your faith in God because when Satan attacks, he is going to launch a sea of flaming arrows against believers.
• Satan is going to raise up persecution in your workplace, sow discord amongst your family, instigate us to curse God when we get cancer.
• In those times, it is our faith in God that will keep us standing firm and trusting in God.
• In such times, we need to remember, God has chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons.
• And remember, the object of our faith is our Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Helmet of salvation

Isa 59:17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head
• Remember, Paul says in Eph 2 that unbelievers follow the prince of the power of the air, and have the spirit of the sons of disobedience.
• But God rich in mercy has made believers alive in Christ Jesus. It is through God’s grace that we have been saved.
• God the divine warrior in Isaiah has the power to raised Jesus from the dead and that same power has made us alive.
• What comfort this is for our hearts. We are alive and now have a new identity in Christ.
• When Satan tempts us that we need to work hard and sacrifice to God to earn salvation, Scripture reminds us, our salvation is achieved only by the blood of Jesus.

6. Sword of the Spirit
• A very clear example is modelled by Jesus at his temptation. Each temptation by Satan is rebutted by a quote from Deuteronomy.
• The imagery from Isaiah is found in
•Isa 11:4 and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
• Indeed, God’s word is powerful for when He spoke, creation came to be.
• Now God has through the Spirit, given us the written word and we believe
its power described in
•Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
• Let’s believe that the temptations and trials of Satan cannot stand before
the power of God’s word.
• And from the Gospels, Jesus, tells us that the written Word points us to
Him.

If your heart fearful that you are left in the deep end of spiritual warfare, take heart, God has provided His divine resources, right from the start of our relationship with Him.

And I hope we have observed and realized that in summary, the armour of God is a living relationship with Christ Jesus. As good hygiene steps are encouraged in our fight against COVID-19, what are your spiritual disciplines to deepen your relationship with Jesus?

Hand – action of dependence (v18-22)
Paul begins in v10 to tell us that we can only depend on God in this spiritual war. He then ends by emphasizing the same principle but in a different way.

What our head understands, our hands must follow through. And so there must be the action of dependence. Paul says, we are to be prayer warriors. Notice that there is a repeat of the word ‘all’ 4 times

So firstly, we are at all times to be praying in the Spirit. Are we always prayerful? Do we have a regular time of prayer daily? Do we pray at the start and end of each day? Do we pray before every meal, do we pray before exams, before office meetings, before any serious discussions as a couple?

And please note that to pray in the Spirit of v18 should be guided by v17. Meaning that praying in the Spirit would be according to the Word of God.

Secondly, with all prayers and supplications. Meaning there must be a variety of prayers. Confessional prayers, thanksgiving, intercession, meditative, adoration, laments and for the advancement of the gospel. If we reviewed our past prayers, would it only be for personal requests?

Thirdly, with all perseverance. One of our 6Ws is watch and pray. As a church, we must encourage each other, don’t go to sleep or give up. Instead we must not cease to pray. Many of us have been praying for decades for our loved ones. Be encouraged, God delights in our perseverance.

Finally, for all the saints. Do we pray for believers around the World, in Singapore and in Hermon? Do we remember our mission partners and the Gospel work in ASEAN?

Do we remember our colleagues, classmates and neighbours who are believers? Do we even bother to know if they are believers? COVID-19 has shown how vulnerable the world is even in the 21st century. That reflection should spur us as believers towards greater dependence upon God. As prayer shows dependence, may I add that Paul ends by showing us interdependence as well.

Two ways he shows us.

Firstly, he himself requested for prayer support.Paul recognizes that he is made of dust just like we are. He is in prison and so he asks for boldness to testify of the Gospel Leaders in Hermon, are we humble enough to request for prayer, to share that we struggle and are in need of God’s grace as well?

Members, would you keep our leaders in the Session and in our CGs in prayer. They are a more prominent target for Satan. Prayer protection is very much needed.

Secondly Paul mentioned Tychicus. I submit Tychicus is answered prayer. To Paul, he was a beloved brother and a faithful minister. To the Ephesians believers, he carried the letter and could gladden their hearts with the news of Paul’s condition.

Ministry is interdependence. We are God’s channel of blessing to one another. As we pray, God will move our hearts to align with His will and when that happens, we will be a Tychicus.

Church, to stand firm with regards to our hands, is to clasp it in prayer.

Conclusion
The writer of our closing hymn is John Henry Yates. John was born in New York, in 1837.

Growing up, John endured many near-death experiences:
• At the age of 8, he fell from a high set of stone steps in a hotel and tumbled down into the cellar, fracturing his skull. He was unconscious for a long time and his family thought he might not wake up. For that he had a broad scar on his head as a lifelong souvenir of the incident.
• 3 years later, when his family was traveling by ship, a storm struck so powerfully that John was thrown across the deck, breaking his leg.
• 5 years later, at 16, John was participating in a school play when during a particular dramatic scene, he accidently fell on an open double-edged knife, piercing his right lung. For three weeks, his life hung on a thread.

Despite these terrible accidents, before John turned, he was serving as a lay preacher in his Methodist church. He also wrote poetry and some of them were turned into hymns. As an adult, for many years, he travelled through New York State, preaching in churches of all denominations and sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. He also became a Baptist pastor. John’s faith was severely tested in February 1878. That year, his wife and two sons contracted diphtheria.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection, that causes fever, breathing difficulty and even death. Currently there is a vaccine but it is still spreading in developing countries as vaccinations levels are still not high. John’s wife and two sons all died within the space of one week from the infection. After going through a deep period of grief, he eventually remarried and kept going.

His life a living illustration that our faith in the promises of God and in our Lord Jesus gives us overcoming victory. When John passed away the marker that rests over his grave: In Memory of the Poet-Preacher Rev. John H. Yates… Born 1837 / Died 1900… Faith is the Victory, Oh, Glorious Victory, That Overcomes the World.

Copyright