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Stand Firm

April 10, 2016 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 6:13

49-070

We gather this morning self-identifying as Christians, as those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; that's what the church is, it's the corporate gathering of those individuals who believe in Christ. And if you're not a Christian today, we welcome you; we're glad that you're here to join with us in our meeting, in our gathering together, and we pray for you and pray for the Lord's work in your heart, but our goal here today is to speak to those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and to clarify exactly what it is that we are to do as we go through life here on this earth. And to be a Christian is to be someone, in one sense, there are multiple ways you could define this, but one of the central aspects of being a Christian is to be committed to truth. Scripture says that God is seeking true worshipers and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, that apart from truth there is no true worship of God. So the whole concept of truth is central to a right worship of God; to be in error is to worship God wrongly which is to worship him not at all, you might say. In the passage that we just read in our Scripture reading, Jesus asked God to sanctify us in the truth, to set us apart that we would belong to the realm of truth, that we would believe it, that we would know, that we would walk in it. Our Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." So as we see the broad scope of what Scripture says, we see the centrality of truth to the very identity of what it means to be a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no salvation apart from Christ and there is no Christ apart from the revealed truth about him. We know him by the doctrines which are revealed in Scripture and in Scripture alone, I might add. So for us, the truth has a preeminent priority in our lives as believers in Christ. You know, it's not without purpose that our body is named Truth Community Church. We named the body that way deliberately to put truth front and center in our very corporate existence.

Now, this priority of truth, we recognize, contradicts the spirit of our age in just about every way imaginable. We realize that we are swimming upstream. We realize that this sets us in opposition to the spirit of the world which either denies the existence of God altogether, says that he cannot be known, or in direct contradiction to their own spirit, says that all paths lead equally to whatever God it is that exists. So there is either this denial or there is this wide openness that says all paths lead to him and therefore truth in that spirit, truth in that realm of philosophy, really doesn't matter because the outcome is all the same. That's in the world. Step into the broad realm of the church, broadly speaking, and what do you find? Well, you find a group of people in one sense claiming the name of Christ but gladly diminishing the priority of truth, gladly diminishing the authority of Scripture. For what? For the sake of external unity? For the sake of numerical popularity? It's a lot easier to draw a crowd if you toss the Bible off to the side and then just put on a show. You can get numbers that way but you can't get truth that way. So you diminish truth for external unity, numerical popularity, or for intellectual prestige which is the whole thing driving behind a denial of 6 day/24 hour young earth creationism. It's just an appeal to, "Please like us. We believe what you do." Well, all of that is contrary to the spirit of what Scripture calls us to.

What the Bible calls us to in Jude, verse 3, is to contend for the faith that is once for all delivered to the saints; that there is this recognition of the primacy of truth, a priority of truth that leads us to contend for it, to be true to it, to not compromise, to not be willing to move off of the Gospel of the revealed truth that saved our souls and changed our lives. We realize that truth came to us, that God came to us through the truth of the Scripture and he saved us from sin. He delivered us from judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and he intends to carry us, as it were, on his wings into heaven based on the truth that saved us. So when we realize that, we can only ask the question: how could I do anything other than give my highest allegiance, my highest priority to this truth? How can I do anything else? It would be treason. It would be cosmic treason, in one sense, to claim the reality of salvation based on revealed truth and then to make it something that I easily step away from when it's to my convenience and popularity to do so. What kind of life is that? What kind of character is that? What kind of integrity is that for an individual Christian or for a corporate body or for the church at large to be like that? To ask the question is to answer it, isn't it?

And yet, as we recognize the priority of truth and contending for the truth and being faithful to it, we realize that that's not as easy as it might sound to be; that fidelity is not quite as easy and simplistic as you might think. It is somehow woven into the nature of corporate life of the church, of young believers who are growing, to find that they are unstable; that they waiver; that sometimes just because they don't know sometimes through moral culpability. But the whole point of the existence of the New Testament Scriptures, the whole point of a New Testament teaching is that we would move from that kind of instability to a firmness in what we believe.

Look at Ephesians 4. How is it that we contend for the faith? How is it that we are faithful? Well, you have to realize the priority and the preeminent place that biblical instruction has in the life of you as a Christian. In chapter 4, verse 11, all of this is going to tie together, Ephesians 4:11 says that Christ "gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." Notice that, the role of instruction central to the role of church leadership. Why? Why is that necessary? It's "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ," verse 13, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." You see, when God saved you, his intent was for you to become a mature Christian that was strong and stable in your faith, and in verse 14, because that is the purpose of God in salvation that he would save you not simply to one day get you into heaven but that you would grow into a mature believer in Christ during your time here on earth, verse 14, watch this, Paul says, "As a result," so that, for this purpose, "we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." Paul says, "God saved you for this purpose. God gave the foundation of the apostles and prophets, he has given church leadership to instruct us in biblical doctrine so that you would grow; so that your roots would grow deep and that you would not be easily cast about by shifting opinions on the nature of truth and on contrary doctrines that might be taught to you." You're not to be easily deceived. You're not to be easily flustered. You are to know the truth and to be strong in it is the point of biblical salvation.

So with this priority of truth, with this call to contend for the truth, for this warning not to be easily tossed about by shifting winds of doctrine that come and go and blow through the church over the course of time, beloved, now we can get to the question of the day: what does God call you to do in light of all of these things? In light of the priority of truth? In light of the nature of Christian immaturity leaving people unstable and bouncing about and changing their minds again and again? What does God to call you to do? What kind of Christian are you to be? Look at Ephesians 6:13 which is our text for this morning. Ephesians 6:13. Oh, this is so important. This sets a trajectory that defines everything that we do. Ephesians 6:13 says,

13 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.

To stand firm. You are to become the kind of Christian that is firm in what you believe; that is not easily deluded; that is not easily deceived; that you understand what you believe; you understand the source from which it comes in God's Scripture and you say, "This is what I believe. This is where I stand. I don't move from here." That's the goal of Christian life. What we're going to do from this text is to show you three principles that should define the way that you think about your relation to Christian doctrine and the way that you approach the Christian life. Remember from what we said last time, that part of the reason that this is so urgent is because we are in the middle of a dark battle, better stated, a battle with dark forces that are opposed to Christians and Christ himself.

Look just up one verse at verse 12 of Ephesians 6, verse 12, he says, "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." There is a demonic battle that goes on in realms that we can't see, supernatural, wicked demon forces that are opposed to the very things that we've been talking about here. So here we are in our humanity, in our human strength, facing a supernatural foe that is designed to move us off of the position which we hold; to shake us off of the ground that Christ has given to us. What then are we to do?

Well, verse 13 gives us the direction of God for the people of God for how they are to walk with God and the first thing that we're going to say here this morning, point 1 of our message this morning is to recognize the danger. To recognize the danger. Paul describes us as soldiers in the midst of a battle, soldiers who need to be equipped for the fight that is at hand and if you look at verse 13 with me, he says, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God." It's a picture of Roman equipment for a soldier going into battle and he explains that more in the verses that we'll look at in the future but he says, "Take up this armor of God. Prepare yourself as a soldier going into battle and realize that there is a battle at hand." What is the battle? The one that he had just mentioned in verse 12. He says, "We battle against these spiritual forces therefore," here's the flow of thought. I always want you to see the flow of thought. If you can recognize the flow of thought and the way conjunctions relate passages to one another, you're going to be miles ahead in understanding the Bible. Because, verse 12, there is a dark spiritual battle against you therefore as a result of that, as an implication of that, on account of that dark spiritual battle that is arrayed against your soul, therefore because of that, do this. And what are you to do? Therefore, the word "therefore" tells you what you are to conclude from Ephesians 6:12. It is designed to wake you up. It is designed to alert you to danger, to alert you to the fact that this Christian life will come with conflict inside and outside; that there is a battle designed to keep you from living out successfully the daily realm of life that he had been talking about in chapters 4, 5 and 6; that this isn't an easy skate into glory; that there is conflict engaged in it. That's why he said in verse 10, look at verse 10 with me, he says, "Finally," he says, "You have to be strong in the Lord." And in this verse, in that particular command, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might," it has the idea that take this up as your way of life; that this is the pattern, this is your mindset that governs the whole way they you go forward, to be strong in the Lord and to clothe yourself in the might of the spiritual resources that God has given you in the Holy Spirit, in the revealed Scriptures, in the resurrection power of Christ. He says, "You be strong in those things and you take that up as the whole way that you approach the entirety of your life."

So we pause for a moment and just kind of let that sink in. I ask you: do you take the Christian life seriously? Is it something that occurs to you throughout each day? You see that if it's going to be like this, if there is an unbroken battle against your soul and you are called continually to be strong in the Lord, you realize that you can't be haphazard in this and expect to succeed in the battle. If you like to dabble in sin, if your Bible is like that and then you're wondering where you left it since last Sunday, you haven't put on the armor of God so that you are protected in the nature of the battle. This stuff matters. So you see that a Christian when Scripture comes to us like this, a true Christian hears the trumpet call of his Lord and in his heart he says, "I've got to respond to the battle." If you can hear that kind of trumpet call and say, "That doesn't really matter to me," then you've just got to step back and really ask yourself the more primary question: am I even a Christian if this isn't important to me? If I don't hearken to the call of my Commander-in-chief, in what sense am I even in his army? You have to ask those kinds of questions and for you young people, you've just got to be mindful of the fact that you may be in a Christian family but that's a different question from whether you belong to the army of the Lord, whether you belong to Christ by true repentance from your sin and faith in him because if you can be indifferent to these things and act like it's just a matter of preference as to whether you put on the armor of God or not, you're really missing the point and I wouldn't want to be in a position of encouraging you to think you were a Christian when you don't bear the urgent marks inside your heart about these things, "These things drive the way I conduct my life." Paul says, "Be strong in the Lord," as a continual matter of life.

Now as you go on in verse 11, he uses a different form of a command; you can't see it in the English, it's evident in the original language, that brings about a sense of urgency. He says, "You've got to be like this. Now, put on the full armor of God. This is urgent! You need to respond to this now! You need to recognize the serious nature of what I'm talking about. Be strong in the Lord so put on his armor. Why? So that you would be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Don't you recognize that the same devil who tempted Eve and Adam into sin and the whole world collapsed, humanity fell into sin against God in the response to the temptation of the devil, that same one is active? And in verse 12, there is a struggle against his forces that are aligned against us? So it's urgent for you to put on the armor of God." Therefore look at verse 13 now with that little bit of review and background. He repeats himself. "Take up the full armor of God." Verse 11, "Take up the armor of God." Verse 13, "take up the armor of God."

Now, why do you think, ask yourself a question, why do you think that Paul would repeat himself on something like that? He repeats himself because we're so prone to miss the point. We are so prone to lose focus. Twice he says, "put on the armor of God," I want you to see the urgency of all of these things that are wrapped together. Twice he says, "put on the armor of God." He said be strong in verse 10 and look at how often he says stand firm. Verse 11, you need to "be able to stand firm." Verse 13, "having done everything, stand firm." Verse 14, "stand firm therefore." It's like the Apostle Paul is pleading with you again and again, "Be strong. Put on the armor of God. Stand firm. Stand firm. Stand firm." He couldn't have...to say it any more, the repetition would have, it wouldn't have done anymore good to repeat it any further than what he has already done. Scripture comes to you, pleads with you, commands you, "Stand firm. Stand firm. Stand firm." He says it so many times that you can't miss how centrally important this is to your Christian life. You parents know what that's like, you repeat the same thing to your kid over and over. You say, "Don't go out in the street," and they take a step that way, "No! Don't go out into the street!" They take another step, "Stop!" you say to them to protect them from danger. Paul here, protecting us from danger says, "Stand firm. Stand firm. Stand firm."

So that's what you are to conclude from the whole nature of the letter of Ephesians chapters 1 through 6:9. In light of all of these things, in light of the truth that saved you, in light of the duty that you have, in light of the spiritual opposition to the fulfillment of your duty, you adopt a mindset that says, "I must be strong in the Lord. I must clothe myself in the strength of his might. I must put on the armor of God and I have to stand firm in light of the truth that has delivered me to this blessed spiritual position that I hold in Christ." And you have to, in order to do that, you have to recognize the danger that opposes the successful walk of the Christian.

Now, God protects us. Jesus says he keeps us in his hand but, beloved, you must understand this, you must understand this, that in the midst of the provision of God, in the midst of our security in Christ, the same God who saved you, the same God who keeps you, commands you, "You take up the armor of God." He's not going to do it for you. You have a responsibility in your Christian life to appropriate, to consciously bring on yourself, to rely on, to immerse yourself in the spiritual resources that God has given to you for your spiritual protection. You must accept the responsibility to respond to the call of God to put on the full armor of God and having done so, to stand firm. It is not optional. God is not giving you a multiple choice answer here as if God said on an exam, "I have commanded you to put on the full armor of God." Your response is, "I'll think about it. A. B, yes. C, no. D, I'll consider it later." No, no, no. It doesn't work that way. You see, we are under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This letter to the Ephesians is written by his appointed apostle who speaks the word of God to us and in that word of God, the command is, "Do this because it's really urgent," and your only response as a Christian is, "Yes, Lord. You tell me to jump? How high shall I go?" So we must recognize the danger and respond to it urgently.

Beloved, here's the point: God has provided you the means to walk through the Christian life in a way that stands firm, that glorifies him and protects you from Satanic attack and failure. You have everything that you need but you are commanded to take it up and put it on and immerse yourself in it. Scripture says, "Take these provisions up so that you won't be a casualty in the conflict; so that you won't come to the end of your life and we see that the outcome of your life is someone who abandoned fidelity to the Gospel that saved you in the first place." What a horrific outcome to life that would be if you were a Christian and at the end of the time and you stand before the Lord, you don't have a life of faithfulness to offer to him at the conclusion of it all. Wouldn't that be a sickening result to the outcome of your life? Wouldn't that be horrific that after Christ in faithfulness to you came and gave his life on the cross and shed his life blood to cleanse you from sin you found, and the testimony of your life was a that you loved the applause of the world and you were like Demas who loved this present world and walked away. You see, beloved, what we're talking about here, what we're after, what Scripture is driving us to is such a love for Christ and such a love for truth that fidelity to him, loyalty to him, faithfulness and obedience to him becomes the preeminent priority in your life no matter what it cost you, and you live out that obedience and fidelity to Christ in whatever the circumstances of life is that he has providentially given to you, and that you hold to the truth in your heart and you hold to it in what you proclaim, and that you don't go along with the crowds that reject the truth. So you recognize the danger that there are all kinds of forces that you can't see to tempt you away from it.

Now secondly, you recognize the danger and say, "Okay, the demonic realm, this is frightening, this is sobering. What do I do?" Point 2: you prepare for battle. You prepare for battle and what is your responsibility in this battle for truth? Well, verse 13; we've already been talking about it, really. Look at verse 13 with me again. In light of the struggle, the face-to-face battle that we face, verse 13, "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." What is your responsibility? You take up the armor of God with the goal that you would be found as one who stood firm, that you stand firm, that you did not move away. In other words, you uphold truth and you follow it in your life. The authority of Scripture, the exclusivity of Christ, are things that you are loyal to, that you don't move off of even when others abandon their station in the battle; even if you see prominent teachers disqualify themselves morally. If, as if that was even something that was possible that we weren't going to see. We see it all the time, men who fall in the battle, men who proved themselves to be duplicitous, who stood in a pulpit while morally they were despicably two-faced, pretending to be one man in the pulpit, another man in their life behind. Google Billy Graham's grandson some time and see what that looks like. And you see that men drift from the truth and abandon the things that they once said that they believed and you say, "Do you know what? Those other people claiming the name of Christ, they may drift, not me," you say to yourself. "I will stand firm. I will not be moved," must be the primary fundamental conviction of your heart. "I will stand firm in the midst of this battle clothed in the full armor of God."

Why is that necessary? Look at verse 13 with me again. Verse 13, "take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day." Now, in one sense, beloved, you say, "Well, what is the evil day?" Well, in one sense Paul has already said that all the days are evil. Look over at Ephesians 5:16. We'll look at verse 15 because the context is helpful. Paul is anticipating this closing climax in Ephesians 6 when he says this, he says, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time." Why? "Because the days are evil." We are living in evil days. We are living in days where Satan is the head of the world system. We are living in days where there is a struggle against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms. We are living in this day where our bodies are not redeemed and there is still the remnants of sin that tempt us from within and the environment temps us to sin from without. There is so much evil around us and in us. So there is that sense of it.

In chapter 6, verse 13, Paul says, look at it again with me, he says, "so that you will be able to resist in the evil day" as though there are times where there will be a particular assault that you must respond to; a particular temptation to compromise; particular seasons that tempt you to sin where the reality of the assault on you is in a heightened awareness; an evil day in that sense that seems to be an acceleration of the general realm of evil that we face. Now, beloved, look, Paul doesn't really spell this out in a lot of specificity. We saw last time that he's addressed the total realm of our life and so the whole realm of our life within the church, in our marriages, in our families, in our workplace, all of these areas exposed to temptation and sin and assault and demonic influence that you can't see and so we realize that the potential realm of it is vast. And here's the way that you think about it: you may face it personally, we will probably face it sometime as a church: we'll face it from the world, we'll face it from professing Christians who come in the name of Christ and make things difficult for us. Well, here's what we need to understand, beloved, here's where you need to have your heart settled on: that is not designed to make us quiver and fear the future. We recognize the risk, we recognize that there will be people, individuals who will come to us and assault us and attack the truth we believe and manipulate us in order to try to get us to move away from the truth that we have confessed and we recognize that when that time comes, we're going to stand firm, we're going to resist, we're not going to cave in and sacrifice the truth that saved our souls. We're not going to do that. But in recognizing that, it's sobers us up but, beloved, here's the point: the pivot point of this is not to push you into fear of the future and to say, "Oh, this is going to be so bad. How am I going to stand when the time comes?" and in weakness have our knees knocking in fear that somebody is going to challenge us. Why would we do that? This isn't designed to drive us into fear and trembling and hiding. Paul alerts us to the battle so that we would understand what our responsibility is that we would prepare for it. He says there is this battle, he doesn't say therefore run and hide so that you won't get hurt, he says, you stand up like a man and take up the armor of God because God has given you what is necessary to stand in the battle and to be a victorious soldier, triumphant in the end. So this doesn't drive us to fear, it drives us to dependence on God and an embracing of our responsibility to walk closely with him in his word, in the Spirit and in prayer. So the point of the battle is not to scare us, it's to make us walk more closely with Christ and to realize that when we are close with Christ, we have everything that we need to walk through the battle to stand and do what he has called us to do. God has given us armor. He says, "There's a fight coming. You're in a fight." You say, "Oh, that wakes me up. Now what?" God says, as it were, "Here's the armor I have provided for you. Take that on and you'll be safe. You'll be strong. This is what you need. I know about the battle. I've made provision for it. Now pick it up and stand." So you prepare for battle that way.

What is the armor of God? Well, we're going to see that more in coming weeks. Paul explains it more in verses 14 through 17; we're not getting there today. Basically we could summarize it this way, it's not about attacking Satan and binding him with demonstrative prayer. Beloved, in light of everything that Paul said in the prior six chapters, in light of what he says about the armor of God in verses 14 through 17, we can summarize it this way: do you know what prepares you to stand firm? Do you know what prepares you to withstand and resist the assault of satanic forces designed to undermine your faith in Christ? To tempt you into infidelity and sin and disobedience? Do you know what it is? It's simple. What is the armor of God? It is the simplicity of holy living that is rooted in the truth of God's word that strengthens us as we prayerfully depend on Christ. It's available to all of you. This isn't unique to the pastor. This is what God gives to every soldier in his army whether it's a private or a sergeant or a corporal or a captain, a general. We're all given the same resources that are absolutely sufficient for us to stand firm as Christians: God's holy word, the 66 books of the Bible, the indwelling Holy Spirit, access to the throne of God in believing prayer. That's the armor of God. And as you walk through that, you turn away from sin, you resist temptation and that's the armor of God. You clothe yourself in the resources that he has already given you. You saturate your mind with revealed truth. You humbly pray to him and ask as Jesus said, "O God, deliver us from evil."

You know, beloved, it's not the stuff that they're going to make spectacular Hollywood productions about. You're not going to be on the evening news with this but you'll be on center stage in the purposes of God as you walk that kind of humble life saturated in his word, saturated in prayer, living an obedient life to him, remembering Christ, remembering his perfect work, remembering the perfection of the word of God and saying, "This is my life. I kiss it in humble submission. I hold it close as that which alone is my spiritual protection." You say, "What are you doing? I'm not even talking, I'm standing, standing firm on these things that we believe." This is how you prepare yourself for battle. You take on this armor of God which is the spiritual resource provided in his word, in Christ, in the Spirit and prayer. There is no mystery to it. There is nothing hidden. There is no secret knowledge that you need that isn't contained in Scripture that would help you succeed in the battle. God has given us perfect armor to walk in.

Paul explains the armor later, verses 14 through 17, but first he gives us an overview of what we are to do with it and that brings us to our third point here this morning: you stand your ground. You recognize the danger, there is a spiritual battle going on. You prepare for that battle by taking on the armor of God. He gets into the detail a little later. And you say, "Okay, now I've got the armor, what am I supposed to do then? What is my duty as a soldier in the army of God?" Point 3: stand your ground. Stand your ground. Our Christian duty – oh, I'm so glad we can finally get to this and I'm going to restrain myself from going off on interesting but comparatively unimportant tangents. Our Christian duty is to resist the powers of darkness with spiritual stability. With spiritual stability.

I'll read these passages to you again. Look at Ephesians 6, 10, 11. Actually, before you go there, let me just remind you that Paul foreshadowed this issue in Ephesians 4:14. He foreshadowed the nature, the need, the necessity of stability by pointing out its opposite in verse 14. He says in verse 14, chapter 4, verse 14, I want you to look at it with me. If you haven't turned there, please turn there. Paul says in chapter 4, verse 14, "we are no longer to be children." What are children marked by? They are marked by immaturity, instability, emotional swings. Sometimes they obey, sometimes they don't; sometimes their minds are focused, sometimes they are off in left field. Paul says, "You are not to be like that as a Christian. You've been like that, you are no longer to be like children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine." Notice what he's saying there, "Don't believe everything you hear. Stop following after every teacher who brings something new and you're running here and there and there." I know people in other places, I know churches in other places that every new 40 day fad that comes along, that's central to their existence; and whatever the unregenerate Christian publishing industry puts forth as their latest marketing ploy so that they can make money off of you, that's what these churches go after. Is it 40 days of purpose; is it 50 days of prayer; is it six days of fasting. Boom. Boom. Boom. They're everywhere. Completely unstable and just responding to every dog whistle that somebody blows; a dog whistle in one hand and a hand ready to empty your wallet in the other. Paul says, "Don't be like that. Don't be tossed about and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men."

So he says, "Stop being unstable like this," and then he goes into the realm of Christian life but he comes back, notice that he comes back to that theme in different language here as he concludes his letter in chapter 6, verse 10. He says, "be strong in the Lord. Put on the armor of God. Stand firm," verse 11. Verse 13, "take up the full armor of God. Resist. Stand firm." Verse 14, "stand firm therefore. Put on the armor of God and keep it on," is the sense, the spirit of the passage. Take it up and keep it there with stability. What are we doing, then? What's happening as we do this? Well, remember who Paul is writing to, Paul is writing to the church of Jesus Christ. Chapter 1, he's writing to those who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, chosen by God, adopted into his family, redeemed by the blood of Christ, sealed by the Spirit, that happening as a result of a spiritual resurrection in which chapter 2, verse 4 and 5, "God made us alive together in Christ, by grace you have been saved." That's who he's writing to. He's already declared the truth that led to your present position. This is the holy ground in which we stand. This is the terrain that belongs to us and that we occupy by grace through faith in Christ. Holy territory. The flag of Christ, as it were, planted in the ground that Christ has established in your heart when he saved you. So in a noble trumpet call, God having said this is who you are, this is what you are to do says, "Stand. Don't move off of that which gave you such a great salvation." And you look at the flag and you remember the cross and you say, "I'm here. I'm not moving." We keep the ground that Christ has already won.

Now, a parallel text is going to illuminate this for us. Where does the attack come? This is one of the things that I think a lot of commentators could do a better job helping us with, to be honest with you. It's one thing, isn't it, it's one thing to say there is a spiritual battle and therefore you are to stand firm. Everybody agrees with that in one sense, "Yeah, okay, good." Well, what does that mean? What does that look like? Where might this battle be engaged in my mind? We saw last week that it's engaged in our life, in the realm of life: in the church, in the family, in our character, in our workplace. We realize that this is where there may be flareups but does Scripture tell us anything else? Does Scripture help us know where to anticipate and expect a battle to take place? Can other Scripture enlighten us so that we know how to stand our ground? Scripture interprets Scripture, doesn't it?

Look over at Colossians 2. We'll spend the rest of our time here. Colossians 2, a book that is written at the same time that Ephesians was written during Paul's imprisonment; a book that follows the same basic flow of thought even; that repeats the same themes in the same sequence. This helps us understand what Paul has in mind and we're only going to bounce on the surface like a boat bouncing along the waves. But notice in Colossians 2:5, for example – no, no, go to verse 4, just go to Colossians 1:1 and we'll save ourselves the effort, won't we? Paul says in chapter 2, verse 2 of Colossians, he says, "I want you to have all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's ministry, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." So he puts Christ front and center just like Ephesians did. Why is he saying this? Verse 4, "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." Okay, now we're starting to get a clue here. We are Christians. We are in Christ. He is fully God. In him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and in this spiritual realm, people come and make persuasive arguments that are designed to delude you to deceive you, to distract you from Christ. What does that look like? Notice how Paul even in Colossians was concerned about the stability that we've been talking about today. Verse 5, "even though I am absent in body, I am with you in spirit, I rejoice to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ." He says, "I want you to be stable. I see evidence of that. I rejoice in the stability of Christ. Now I want to reinforce it to you." Verse 6, how can we reinforce this stability? "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus, walk in Him. You have been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith." Do you see it? Firmly rooted, stability, established, built up, all of these things that speak of a Christian as being one who is mature and stable and doesn't move or quiver from the truth.

Now, going on and recognizing the dark realm that opposes that stability, look at verse 13. Stay with me, I know it seems like I'm way off track here but I don't think so. Verse 13, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Stop right there for just a moment. Paul is saying this is what happened to you in your salvation. Christ took your transgressions away. They were nailed to the cross never to be brought up against you again because he bore your sins in his body on the cross. They were nailed to the tree. They are never going to be unvnailed and laid to your charge again. Now, when Christ did that, what had he done? Watch how this connects with what we've seen about the dark battle from Ephesians 6, "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities," those spiritual forces of wickedness in high places, "When He had disarmed them, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." He said that victory on the cross, that sacrificial death, that substitutionary atonement accomplished a victory over demonic forces and delivered you into a safe spiritual position in Christ.

Now, what you do with that? Verse 16, there is the word again, "Therefore," as a result of that, here's what flows from that, you say, "Therefore what do we do?" In light of the cross – watch this – where do we stand firm against evil forces? Where is the battle for truth played out in light of the cross? Paul is going to lay some things out here but write this down, where do evil forces attack the truth? Where does demonic undermining of our foundational stability in Christ come from? What do they do? Two things, although I'm going to explain it in three points. What do they do? You boil it all down and it becomes pretty simple: they attack the truth with false righteousness and with false revelation. I'll show that to you in Colossians 2 here. They attack with false righteousness and false revelation. Now, stay with me because I'm almost done. I say that and I've still got a third of my notes left. What is it that establishes our position before God? It's the righteousness of Christ. We rely on the righteousness of Christ alone, nothing within ourselves. We are justified before God on a righteousness that belongs to someone else, namely our Lord Jesus Christ. That's where we are reconciled. That is what gives us entrance into the holy place of God, the righteousness of Christ received by faith. Beloved, where do we know about that righteousness? Where do we find that? We find it in this sweet book called the Bible, the 66 books of the Bible: 39 books in the English Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament. The revelation of God tells us about the righteousness of Christ which can reconcile sinners to God. That's the Gospel. That's things distilled to their essence. Now, if there was going to be a supernatural demonic assault on those pillars of faith, the righteousness of Christ and the revelation of Scripture, where are the attacks going to come? Well, they attack with false righteousness and with false revelation, either diminishing the word of God, denying its authority, or adding something to it and with righteousness, suggesting there are things for you to do that must be necessary for you to be right with God.

So where do we stand firm against evil forces here in Colossians 2 with that little overview? First of all, where do we stand firm? Well, first of all, we reject legalism. We reject legalism and stay with me here. This animates me. False teachers speak for demons when they impose Old Testament legislation on the church as a means to be right with God. I'll say it again: false teachers speak for demons when they impose Old Testament legislation on the church. Look at Colossians 2:16, "Therefore." Colossians 2:16, Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities through the cross, therefore flowing out of that, "no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day." Let no one impose those things on you when you already have the perfect righteousness of Christ on your account. That can't add anything to his perfect righteousness, all it can do is distract you from the glory of the righteous Christ on the cross interceding for sinners with his shed blood. Reject that which tells you you must do these works of your hands in accordance with Old Testament calendars and regulations in order for you to be right with God. Reject it out of hand. Stand firm. Say, "No, that's not the Gospel that saved me from my sins. That's not the Gospel that reconciled me to God. That's not the righteousness of Christ. You're talking about something I do to make me right with God. I stand firm. I reject that because I'm clinging to the flag of Christ planted in the ground of the cross." We reject those things. Verse 17, they "are a mere shadow," the substance belongs to Christ. We reject those things because we understand Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law for us. I don't need the yoke of the law to try to add to the righteousness that Christ has already secured on my behalf. I can't improve on his righteousness with the filthy rags of what I do. So we don't accept a legalism that says you must do this in order to be right with God. If I have faith in Christ, I am perfectly right with God and there is nothing I can do to improve on that.

Secondly, we reject new revelation and here's a battleground even in reformed circles. Unbelievable. We reject new revelation. Beloved, let's just be real candid here: false teachers speak for demons when they claim that they have new revelation from God. "God spoke to me. I saw a vision. Joseph Smith got this book. Mary Baker Eddy has this. We have Catholic tradition that is equal to Scripture." It's all demonic. Every bit of it. Why? How do we know that? Look at chapter 2, verse 18 of Colossians. Paul, flowing out of the cross says, "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind." He says, "Don't abandon the revelation of God that's been given to you. Don't go hankering with itching ears off every person who says they've died and gone to heaven and come back. That's not where God has revealed truth. God has revealed truth in the Scripture." So we resist, we reject, we ignore out of hand everybody that says, "I've got a new word from God. God spoke to me in my devotions this morning. God gave me a vision for you in my audience and it includes you giving money to my ministry." Funny how those things are always tied together, isn't it? Have you ever noticed that? God has given his final word in Christ and in the completed Bible so Scripture says, "Don't let someone defraud you of your prize in Christ, who takes his stand on visions that he has seen, on new revelation from God." Don't do that. Stand firm. Recognize it for what it is, it's an attack on the revelation of God and say, "I'm not moving off of my commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. I won't move off that," you say to yourself.

We reject legalism. We reject new revelation. Finally, we reject asceticism. We reject asceticism. Asceticism is the idea, oversimplified, that we can gain righteousness through self-denial; that if we just don't do this, this and this, then we improve our righteous standing. False teachers speak for demons when they call for that. Look at Colossians 2:20. Paul says, "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world," if you belong to Christ and you're righteous in him, he says, "why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) - in accordance," here it is, "with the commandments and teachings of men?" Why do you root yourself, why would you go after that kind of self-denial which cannot improve the righteousness of Christ and which is based on things that mere men are telling you to do? Stand firm in Christ. Stand firm in the Scripture. True, it looks pious, verse 23, "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." Then in chapter 3, verse 1, he says, "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Beloved, I am pleading with you to take these things seriously because this is the health of your soul that is being laid before you here today. To reject teaching that says, "I've got a new word from God." Or to reject that teaching which attacks its truthfulness, inerrancy and infallibility. You say, "I'm not going there. I'm not buying that. That's snake oil. I know not to buy snake oil. What does the snake represent but the serpent? Snake oil. You're not going to move me off God's word," you say to yourself. You say, "I'm rooted and grounded in the righteousness of Christ. I can't improve on that by something I do or by something that I don't do. Christ is perfect. He is sufficient. His death on the cross was everything. His perfect life answers the law of God on my behalf in the court room of heaven." You say, "I stand there." You say, "But these things can sound so good," and when people list it out, they give me lists to do, that's kind of appealing." No.

1 Timothy 4. Don't turn there because I know I'm way over on time again but listen to me, listen to 1 Timothy 4:1-3 and you can write it down and go to it later. Where does the doctrines of demons manifest itself? In exactly these areas of false righteousness and false revelation. Chapter 4, verse 1 of 1 Timothy says, "the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to," what? "To deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." And what are those doctrines? Verse 3, it's "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth." He says they'll tell you not to do this. Don't eat this. Don't touch that. Don't eat meat on Fridays. The Bible says it's demonic. Why is it demonic? Because it's a false righteousness that distracts you from the only righteousness, the true righteousness of Christ which alone can answer the holiness of God.

So don't go there. And, you know, Paul says here and, beloved, I'm just pleading with you now, I'm just begging you to take this to heart. Paul says men will come to you and they will be persuasive. It will sound appealing. It may even sound right but come back to the question: is this the righteousness of Christ preached to me or righteousness of my own making that they call me to? Is this based on the clear revelation of God explained in its context from the four corners of the 66 books of the Bible or is this something that they've made up and added on? Demonic visions interpreted through gold plates or offered by men in pointy hats with lots of gold jewelry on them? Discern them and when you recognize it for what it is, reject it and say, "No, do you know what? I'm satisfied right here. I'm satisfied in Scripture. I'm satisfied in Christ. I ain't moving." You see, the demonic realm calls you to focus on what you can do and what men say. It opposes the Gospel of Christ in its pride and self-reliance. You say, "I've abandoned my pride. I've abandoned my works. I've abandoned trusting in my own opinions. I trust alone in Scripture. I trust alone in Christ. I will not be moved. I will stand firm." That's the call of God. Beloved, do you trust in Christ? Do you trust in his word? Do one thing then, stand firm.

Let's pray together.

Father, give us the clarity of mind, the discernment to recognize when these issues are at stake. Thank you that in Christ we have a perfect righteousness that cannot be improved on and should not even try to be improved on. Thank you that in your word we have a trustworthy revelation that tells us everything that we need to know about life and godliness. Help us to understand it rightly and to be true to it. Thank you that in prayer we have direct access, free, confident, bold access to the living God, the holy God of Israel, the righteous God of the New Testament, the gracious God presented to us in the Gospel; we have direct access to you in prayer. Thank you for the indwelling Spirit who illuminates these things to us and helps us understand and assists us in our efforts to walk with you. Father, we realize that in those things, those simple things that are the property and birthright of every true believer in Christ, we have the full armor of God which protects us against all Satanic assault. And Lord, I pray for each man and woman, boy and girl in this room and those that will hear in subsequent media, Father, I pray that they would receive Christ for salvation if they don't know him and that having received him, they would take up this armor of God and have the sense of assurance and confidence that says, "I'm equipped. I am prepared. God has enabled me to stand even against forces such as that." So, Lord, help us to stand firm and thereby to glorify you with our lives. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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