Nobody likes to fight, but why does it feel that being a disciple of Christ puts you in the ring facing a giant? How do we live as disciples of Jesus in the world today? What is going on around us that makes us feel like we are under assault? In a pluralistic, post-modern culture, how do we know what is true? And what are we supposed to do with the truth once we know it?
Paul has a peculiar ending to his letter to the Ephesians. In this letter he has set out to remind Christians like you and me of the grand dimensions of God’s eternal purposes and how those are lived out practically in our daily lives. He begins by reminding us of the many blessings that we have in Christ. How we at one time were aliens, dead in our sin and far away from God, but that by grace through faith we have been saved and made alive. He explains that we are now part of God’s household. He goes on to encourage them and us to grow up and become like Jesus. To be done with sin, to grow in holiness, and to be imitators of God – especially in our marriages and home.
And then Paul gets peculiar. He closes the letter by telling us to gear up because we are in a war. Obviously no one likes a fight, much less a war, but I wonder if that is something we really believe. Do you think you can be done with sin, grow in holiness, and be imitators of God without a fight? Do you think we can follow Christ without being opposed by the world, our own sinful inclinations, and the devil himself?
I think a good number of well-meaning Christians do. It might be because they hold the notion that being a Christian is just about being a better person. It is how one can self-actualize. They see faith as a climb and not a fight.
Paul knew that being in Christ meant being smack dab in the center of the cosmic battle between good and evil. And so he tells us, 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. Eph 6:10-12.
When I was in high school I was on the wrestling team. But I was terrible. My record on the mat was 1 and 6. I was so bad that the only time I won, the coach actually thought I lost. Now I knew the moves and was quick, but when I faced an opponent they realized something I didn’t. It was a fight. I would think “Ok, I’ll do this move, if he counters then I’ll do that move.” My opponent just tackled me and pinned me before I could do anything.
Many Christians today do not realize we are in a fight. Mostly because they don’t believe there is an adversary. The concept of a devil is outdated. It is a myth, a way for primitive people to explain bad things that happen. But today, an actual devil – no way. We think we are too sophisticated for such things. We claim enlightenment when the Bible says to believe there is no devil is to be blind.
But Jesus, the Son of God, Truth incarnate, spoke of the devil several times and even fought with Him. Paul, far from being a superstitious guy, spoke of the devil and his tactics. Jesus and Paul both understood what kind of fight we are in and with whom. Can you think of a better strategy than to have your enemy think you don’t exist? Imagine if the Patriots could get the rest of the NFL to believe Tom Brady doesn’t exist.
Paul is very clear that we wrestle not with 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. He spells it out for us so that there is no guess work.
Do you believe it? You’d better or you are going to get blindsided every day. We are in a fight. If we want to be disciples of Jesus we must understand that truth. We must know who we are up against. So, what are the tactics and weapons used against us and what is the battle plan for victory? We’ll talk about that next.