Friday, April 6, 2012

Ephesians 6:19-24

and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Final Greetings
But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.

As Paul closes his letter, we are reminded that he is a prisoner as a result of his obedience to God. Yet Paul does not ask for prayers for his freedom, rather that he will continue to be bold to speak the gospel even while in chains. I am often guilty of asking God to deliver me from my circumstances rather than pleasing that He would use me for his glory in my trials.

Paul sent Tychicus to give specific updates to the churches about Paul, sharing information about Paul’s wellbeing and ministry as well as encouraging the saints. Tychicus was from the Province of Asia, perhaps even from Ephesus itself! Tradition holds that he was one of the 70 disciples of Jesus and eventually became bishop of Colophon. Knowledge of Paul’s missionary work would strengthen the church of Ephesus in the same way that modern churches are encouraged by missionaries’ stories today. Paul closes with a benediction that his readers would have peace, love, and grace – a climate of the Spirit of God that would be present if the churches followed the precepts in this letter inspired by God.

It is crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought in Phil. 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first. Christ is faithful first!

It is HIS mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). - John Piper

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ephesians 6:18

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Pray without ceasing! No matter how strong the armor, our defenses our down without the power of prayer. No matter how fierce or calm the invisible battle seems, we are to be in constant communication with the Commander. Prayer gives us strength to continue and direction in how we are to fight. Without prayer and the direction of the Lord we will simply swing our swords around until we faint from fatigue.

John MacArthur defines prayer as “the soul of man moving in the presence of God.” We pray not merely for physical deliverance, but that the saints would persevere, the lost would be found, and those in spiritual bondage would be redeemed. Prayer is a spiritual discipline, and the more attuned we are to God the more natural prayer becomes. Every situation we encounter should cause us to either glorify and praise God, intercede for those in spiritual and physical need, or fervently confess sins revealed in our own lives. And when we do not have words we feel the Spirit groaning within us in communion with the Father. Prayer changes our hearts and helps us focus on the will of the Father and the kingdom of heaven. As the song says, “The things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ephesians 6:16-17

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

No matter how strong the attack we know that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you! And how do we resist the devil? We take up our shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. You may have seen the shield referred to here if you have watched movies from ancient Rome. The soldiers of the marching army would march together protected by these shields. When enemy archers shot arrows toward the phalanx, these soldiers would duck together behind the shields while the arrows hopefully bounced off. A flaming arrow would be soaked in pitch, and if it hit a target the pitch would splatter and start fires on anything flammable. Well made Roman shields would have leather or metal on the front that would extinguish the flames.

Just as these shields were more effective when the soldiers marched together, our spiritual shields are more effective when we march with fellow believers – holding each other accountable, encouraging one another, and watching each other’s backs. The dark forces of the earth will throw darts of temptation in a constant barrage, hoping that one will find a break in the shields to start a destructive fire in our lives.

Roman helmets would be either like the molded plumed helmets you see in movies or leather with metal attached. It protected the soldier from attack by a broad sword swinging down from above. As the forces of Satan try to smash us with doubt and depression, the helmet of salvation is our protection. We know that no matter what happens to us on earth, our hope is in heaven. We know that a place is prepared for us there. Our treasure and reward are not of this earth. We fervently believe that one day evil will be destroyed and good will triumph. Our salvation is secure.

The sword carried by Roman soldiers for hand to hand combat would be sheathed in the belt that held together their tunic. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God, and it is carried in the belt of truth. Swords are both offensive and defensive; they can strike a blow as well as parry. We must be knowledgeable about all of Scripture in order to use the weapon effectively. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus immediately quoted verses from Deuteronomy that contradicted the tempter’s twisted theology. He didn’t have to pull up the ancient scroll app on his Smartphone and search for “temping the Lord your God.” Word here is rhema which means a specific utterance. You have to know the scripture that applies to the specific battle you are in. You can’t just go around quoting John 3:16 all the time and expect to battle effectively.

I don't know if we even understand the fullness of what it means to have the sword of the Spirit. I'm quite confident we don't. This incredible, matchless, incomparable book is the final weapon, the final element of armor given to the believer in the battle against Satan. And the sad fact is that so many Christians do not really know how to use it. We fall victim to Satan because of ineptness with the sword. Do you realize what kind of a book this is? Do you really realize what you have in your hand as you glance at its words and its pages? Let me just tell you. Let me tell you what the Bible claims for itself… This book can bring you to salvation and bring you to perfection. There is nothing other than that that is needful. So the Bible is infallible in total, inerrant in part, complete, authoritative and sufficient… effective and divine… What a person does with a Bible reveals his relationship to God. You can’t just pick your Bible up and flail it in the air. It’s not some great broad sword. It has to be used with precision - John MacArthur

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ephesians 6:13-15

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 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;

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I am somewhat of a slacker when it comes to fashion. On the rare days when my only responsibilities are homeschooling and running the household I am often known to stay in my pjs all day. I would find it absolutely tedious to have to dress with the precision of a Roman soldier. This quirk among other facts would likely leave me not standing firm at the end of a battle.

I can be equally ambivalent about checking my spiritual armor, forgetting that each day this side of paradise is an evil day in which I will be under some sort of attack. When I begin my day in the Word and live through the power of the Spirit I have the ability to resist any attack. No matter how beaten I may feel after a battle, in the end I will stand firm.

I love the expression “gird up your loins.” The phrase is used in the book of Job when God addresses Job’s complaints and tells him to “gird up his loins like a man.” It is also used in Exodus when the Hebrews were told to eat the Passover with their “loins girded.” In biblical times men wore robes, and if you were going into battle or taking a journey you would want to tuck in the extra material to have it out of the way. So to “gird your loins” is to get ready and be prepared. And the “belt” that holds the material of your life together is “truth.” The Greek word aletheia can be translated as "unclosedness," "unconcealedness," "disclosure" or "truth". So we are to be sincere, with nothing to hide through hypocrisy or falsehood. The truth of God should strap together all the loose ends of our lives. This strap also held the weapons of a soldier, so truth holds our spiritual weapons.

A Roman soldiers’ breastplate would protect his most vulnerable areas whether engaged in hand to hand combat or being shot with arrows from afar. The heart was seen as the center of man’s thinking and his bowels the seat of emotions. So righteousness protects both your mind and your emotions. Righteous living based on a complete knowledge of Scripture protects believers in both these areas as we strive to live as Christ would live.

Thick leather straps were bound together to create a shoe that would protect a Roman soldier’s feet from being punctured and rendering him incapable of fighting. The shoes might also have spikes on the bottom to help the soldier dig in  and stand his ground. The feet of believers are protected with the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” As we are assaulted our shoes keep us firmly planted on the promises of God as revealed in the gospel, and we believe them to be true no matter what occurs in the battle raging about us. We have peace with God no matter what storms assail us In life.

From the cradle to the grave, life is war. Your soul, your mind, your body, your family, your career are fields of conflict. Until Satan is finally thrown into the lake of fire our peace with God will have to be a vigilant peace. Because Satan will certainly give us no peace if we are at peace with God. – John Piper

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ephesians 6:10-12

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.

In my opinion Pilgrim’s Progress should be required reading throughout the life of a Christian. In this book, the main character, Christian, suffers many trials on his way to the Celestial City. Midway through his journey he climbs the Hill of Difficulty and stops at the House Beautiful. After three days he leaves clothed with armor. Travelling through the Valley of Humiliation he battles for over half a day with Apollyon, the destroyer who is king of the Land of Destruction from which Christian had fled. After a fierce battle in which he suffered much injury, Christian wounds the monster with his two-edged sword, and the monster spreads his wings and flees.

This is a clear allegory for the spiritual battles surrounding us daily. Are your spiritual eyes open to those in darkness all around you? We often treat it with indifference, and those most invested in the war will often feel the battle more strongly. I wonder how things would change if we could see the battle with our own eyes as Christian did. We would most certainly take it more seriously. The power we need and the battles themselves belong to the Lord. We do not have the strength and resources to fight and win apart from Him. We are fighting a spiritual battle and therefore need spiritual weapons, the Christian disciplines listed in the following verses.

In the original Greek the phrase “put on” means put on once and for all, not put on when you hear the battle, or when you expect a fight, or in certain places, or on special days of the week. Although we are charged with using the armor and becoming more adept in it, we constantly are clothed for battle. Protected by the armor of God we are able to resist the devil, and he will flee from us. When we are not living our lives in the armor of God, the devil can exploit our weaknesses. Perhaps you can think of some who were used mightily of God but fell by the wayside because of just such a circumstance.

We struggle against rulers and powers and the world forces of the darkness. Political systems and religions around the world are led by those who follow the whispers of demons. Even some who masquerade as Christians or churches may be ruled by darkness and disavow such things as the deity of Christ or the truth of Scripture. The war rages around us, and we should grasp tightly our swords and open our spiritual eyes.

I like what old Uncle Bud Robinson said - he looked at the Christian life as a war and he said - All my life I'll fight the devil and when I've lost my teeth I'll gum him till I die. It's relentless. It never ceases to be warfare, living for Christ is not waltzing through a meadow picking daisies; it's walking through a mine field with snipers all around you. Snipers you can't see or perceive because they belong to a supernatural realm beyond your ability to conceive. This is war and the enemy is hell-bent on destruction of every divine purpose. 
– John MacArthur