Faith Church

The Armor of God – Sermon from 7/21/2013

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All week we have been encouraging the children to stand strong in their faith by trusting in God’s love and God’s word and by leaning on God through prayer and leaning on the people God places in our lives.  As you can see, it has been an awesome week and I know the children have learned a lot, but let me say this as clearly as I can, our children and youth will not be able to stand strong in their faith unless we are standing strong in ours.  Children cannot stand strong in their faith unless their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and mentors, friends and neighbors as well as leaders and members of their church are standing strong in our faith.  So people, we need to stand strong because again, let me also say this as clearly as I can – there are forces working to pull our children, and all of us, away from God and the life God has for us.

 

There are cultural influences in music, movies, advertising, television, social media and the internet that are working to destroy the integrity, honor and value of our children and our children and youth cannot stand strong in their faith against these forces unless we are standing strong in ours, so today what we are going to hear isn’t a message for the children – they got their message this week, this is for us.  This is a message for parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, leaders and members of God’s church, for the benefit of our children, for the future of the church, for the salvation and restoration of the world and for the sake of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom, we need to learn how to stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of God’s power, and we learn how to do this from the Apostle Paul.

 

Paul was being held as a prisoner in Rome when he wrote letters of encouragement to the followers of Jesus in churches throughout the region.  These Christians were going through very difficult times.  The church was young and small and the cultural and political forces working against them were strong.  In many ways, the people in those churches weren’t any different from us today as we fight the forces working against God’s kingdom, and like us, they needed to learn how to stand strong in their faith so Paul told them how to do this in his letters to the church in Ephesus.
As we read from Paul’s letter, it’s helpful to know that when Paul was led to Rome as a prisoner there would have been times he was actually chained to a roman soldier.  Even as a prisoner in Rome there were times when Paul would have been chained to a guard, so Paul spent a lot of time looking at soldiers dressed in armor and as he looked at that armor and how it not only protected them but helped them strong in their fight, Paul began to think about all the things the followers of Jesus needed if they were going to stand strong and be faithful in their own fight.  So Paul tells us to put on the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-17.

 

Paul begins by making clear that the battles we are fighting are not with people, we are fighting spiritual battles – look at 6:12.  We are fighting forces of darkness and evil.  We are fighting cultural battles against forces that want to cheapen life and relationships and over-sexualize our children and youth.  That we are in a real battle became really clear to me when I served a church in Altoona.  Most of the children who came to our after-school program came from the neighborhood around the church which was a rapidly declining and troubled area.  The children who attended had little or no parental support or supervision and the behaviors we saw were really troubling.  One of the most disturbing events for me was one day when a group of little girls no more than 7 or 8 started yelling at me from across the street and telling me how sexy I was.  Their suggestive language and actions were clearly inappropriate and then I started thinking about the places where they were picking up these messages, it was from music, TV and the culture around them.

 

We are fighting spiritual battles.  We are fighting powers of darkness that have taken over so much of our culture that we don’t even notice it anymore but our children and youth are absorbing it all and it is shaping who they are.  It is against these kinds of forces that we need to stand strong and to do this we need some armor.  We can’t stand unprotected; we are not strong enough on our own: we need this armor of God.

 

The first three pieces of armor Paul mentions are things that he would have seen the soldiers wear all the time, which means they are things we need to make part of our daily lives.  The first is the belt of truth.  We are living in a world where people want to say that there is no truth or that truth is what you want it to be and while we can agree to disagree on many issues, and we can hold many different social, political and economic views, if we are going to stand strong in the Lord and help our children stand strong then there are some truths we need to see as absolute and I want to share just two that I think are the most important.

 

The first is that there is a God who created us in His image – which means that each and every adult, child and youth has value and worth and dignity.  Every child, from the ones gathered in this building today to the ones on the streets of Altoona to the ones who struggle to survive in Sierra Leone and Syria, every child is created in the image of God which means they have value, dignity and they are worthy of love, respect and belonging.  In a world that wants to cheapen the value of life, we need to share this truth with our children daily and let them know just how valuable and precious they are and how important they are to us.

 

Dr. Brene Brown, who will be speaking at the global leadership summit in a few weeks, talks about how important it is for everyone to understand that we are all worthy of love and belonging.  Dr. Brown says all of her research on relationships leads her to one conclusion, we are hardwired to connect with others – I’d say we were created this way because we are created in the image of God who wants to be connected to us.  God wants to be in a relationship with us and there is just one thing that can explain this and it is our second absolute truth - God loves us.

 

Sometimes this is more difficult for us to comprehend than children because I hear more adults say, I don’t know how God can love me.  Over time we take on the baggage of disappointments, brokenness and shame and we have believed the world tell us we aren’t good enough, strong enough, rich enough, pretty enough and smart enough and as we focus on all our imperfections we begin to be filled with shame which makes us wonder if God can or does love us.  Here is where some absolute truth is needed.  God does love us.  We are imperfect (sinners) but that doesn’t keep God from loving us.  God’s love for us is unconditional and eternal and Paul shared this truth to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 3:18-19.  The love of God for his imperfect children is seen most clearly in the person of Jesus and the absolute truth of God’s love is made clear to us in John 3:16-17.

 

It is this belt of truth that needs to be the foundation of our lives.  We need to write these out and put them where we can read them every day and allow them to shape our hearts and minds and then we need to share these truths with our children.  And since it is a battle where the world speaks lies over and over and over again, we have to be just as strong and persistent is sharing these truths over and over again.  This truth needs to be the foundation on which we build.  If it is not, then no other truth will matter or make any sense.

 

On top of the belt is a breastplate which covers and protects all the vital organs and Paul says that this breastplate is righteousness, but let’s be clear it’s not our righteousness – but God’s.  If we try to live a righteous and Godly life on our own, we will fail.  It is the righteousness of Jesus that stands strong and brings us life which means that we need to trust not our ability but God’s ability and God’s desire to help us live the right way.  The key to all of this is humility.  Soldiers wore armor because they knew their own skin wasn’t strong enough.  They humbled themselves and trusted in the breastplate.  We need to humble ourselves and trust the righteousness of God.  In James 4:10 it says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  I like how it is translated in the Message: get down on your knees before the Master, it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet”.  In our VBS language we might say that kneeling before the King is the only way to Stand Strong.

 

To go with our belt and breastplate we need boots for our feet and Paul calls these boots our willingness to proclaim the gospel of peace.  Of all the pieces of armor we are lacking, I think it is these boots.  Too often we are afraid to talk about our faith and share the truth of God’s love with others because we don’t feel like we know enough or are good enough to say anything.  It is this attitude that is undermining the faith of our children and youth because if our children and youth don’t hear us talk about our faith in God they will never learn how important faith in God is.

 

Children learn what is important by watching and listening to the totality of our lives.  They learn sports are important because we talk about sports all the time and we sign them up to participate in sports several times a week and we spend lots of time and money enjoy sports, so for many of us the way we live our lives communicates the importance of sports.  So let me ask, from the totality of how we live our lives – what are we teaching our children about God?  Do they hear us talking about God, praying to God and getting involved in serving God, worshiping God, learning about God and giving to God on a regular basis?  If we are not able to talk about our faith to our children, then they will never see it as something important to their lives, so we need to work on having strong boots.  We need to be bold and talk about our faith and this gospel of peace with our children and youth so they understand it is something which can help them stand strong.

 

Now the last three pieces of armor Paul talks about are items that would only be used in battle, a shield, a sword and a helmet.  The kind of shield Paul is talking about is not a small personal shield but a much larger shield that would be able to protect a soldier from all the arrows and even flaming arrows that would come at him and what Paul says protects us is our faith.  It is our faith in God and trusting in the name and power of Jesus that helps us overcome all things in this world.  Because our faith is important in the battle, it needs to be as strong as possible.  This is why we encourage people to be involved in some kind of small group study because it is through small group discussion, study and the prayer and encouragement we get from others that our faith get’s stronger.  Remember, we were created for connection, so spiritual growth will take place in relationship and connection not only with God but others.  If you are not part of a study, we would invite you to be part of one and you can stop at the connection table to learn about opportunities to deepen and develop your faith.

 

The sword, Paul says, is the word of God.  It’s important for us to know what God’s word says and doesn’t say so we can stand strong and help our children and youth stand strong.  For example, the Bible does not say, God helps those who help themselves.  In fact, the opposite is true, God helps those who can’t help themselves.  The Bible says when we are weak then God is able to be strong in us, look at 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  So we need to know God’s word and we can grow in our understanding of it through personal devotions as well as small group discussions.

 

And then the last piece of armor Paul talks about is the helmet of salvation.  A helmet protects our head which is the most vulnerable part of the body in battle so the helmet is vital to survival, but it is also the helmet that gives a soldier confidence to go into battle.  What gives us the confidence to stand strong in our faith and to share our faith with others and to fight for our faith in this generation is knowing that our salvation comes from Jesus Christ.  We stand strong not because we are perfect but because we are forgiven and redeemed.  We stand strong and talk about truth not because we are better than others but because our lives have been changed by the truth of God’s love.  We don’t stand in our own strength and goodness, we stand in the shadow of the cross – the cross from which Jesus said, Father forgive them, the cross on which Jesus died so that we might be forgiven and able to enter into a new relationship with God.

 

It is our salvation through Jesus Christ alone that gives us confidence to stand strong and it is this salvation through Jesus Christ that we need to talk about and share with our children and grandchildren and the children of our church and community.  But we can’t talk about what we don’t know.  If you have never accepted the salvation that God offers us through Jesus Christ, then we invite you to accept it today.  It’s a simple process; we humble ourselves before God and confess our sins and imperfections and all the ways our lives don’t reflect the life we know God wants for us, and then we ask God to forgive us.  We then open our hands to receive the gift of God’s grace which not only forgive us, but sets us free from the guilt and shame and burden of sin so we can live the new life God has to give.

 

If you have never accepted this gift of salvation – we invite you to accept it today, and if you have accepted it but feel the need to put on the helmet once again, we invite you to do that as well.  Let us all ask God to once again pour out on us his mercy and love so we can be assured of his forgiveness and our salvation.  I can’t tell you how important this is for us today.  There are serious battles going on in the world and the lives of our children and youth hang in the balance.  They need us to stand strong in the Lord.  They need us to put on the full armor of God and more than anything they need us to be certain and sure of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  So let us make Jesus king in the kingdom of our hearts and lives.  Let us make Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  I invite you to pray with me.

 

Almighty God, I confess that too often I try to live my life without You.  I try to do things my way and survive on my own strength and power.  Forgive my sin and selfishness.  Today I accept Jesus as my Savior and Lord and place my faith and trust in His work on the cross.  Thank you for the forgiveness You offer me through Christ.  Send Your Spirit into my life so that I can turn from this world and live for You.  Help me stand strong in the truth of Your love and the power of Your word.  Finally, give me the courage to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with my children and the children and youth of this church and community so that together we might be able to stand strong in our faith and experience the fullness of life You offer.  In Jesus name we pray. AMEN

 

Next Steps
The Armor of God

1.  If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and King, or if you need to recommit your life to Jesus, take time to reflect on and pray this prayer:

 

Almighty God, I confess that too often I try to live my life without You.  I try to do things my way and survive on my own strength and power.  Forgive my sin and selfishness.  Today I accept Jesus as my Savior and Lord and place my faith and trust in His work on the cross.  Thank you for the forgiveness You offer me through Christ.  Send Your Spirit into my life so that I can turn from this world and live for You.  Help me stand strong in the truth of Your love and the power of Your word.  Finally, give me the courage to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with my children and the children and youth of this church and community so that together we might be able to stand strong in our faith and experience the fullness of life You offer.  In Jesus name we pray. AMEN

 

2. Place these two absolute truths where you can read them daily.  Recall them when the thought “I’m not good enough” enters your mind.  Share them each week with one other person.
·         There is a God who created me in His image.
·         God loves me.

 

3. To strengthen your faith and understanding of God’s word, join a Sunday School class or Bible Study or make plans to join a Small Group this September.  Information on all small groups can be found at the connection table.

 

4.  Pray for the opportunity to share your faith with your children or grandchildren, or the children and youth of the church.  Then step out in confidence and DO IT.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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