Monday, June 19, 2017

“Profiting from the Prophets” – Amos 7:7-9

Here’s the scenario.  We sing the last song of our worship time this morning and we all start to go out the front door and we see a car right in front of the church just sitting there facing the lake.  There’s a man none of us know sitting behind the wheel and he’s reading a large map.  For you youngsters here today, a map is what we used to use before GPS.  It was made of paper and could be folded up and put in the glove box of the car.  They were pretty handy sometimes.

Anyway, this guy is obviously lost and so engrossed in the map that he doesn’t notice that his foot slips off the brake and the car starts to slowly move forward.  We are all standing out front but nobody thinks much about it at this point but then as his car moves forward, he starts to go off in the field across the street.  He hits some bumps and his car starts to come back this way a little bit but then we all notice that his car is picking up speed and this guy is still just staring at his map, completely unaware that his car is rolling toward the lake.

At this point, what do you do?  Do you holler at him?  Do you run up to the car and knock politely on the window?  Uh oh, now his car is really picking up speed and you run along next to it banging on the window but he blows you off and tells you he’s too busy to listen to you, all the while trying to read his map as his car is now careening over the boat ramp and you know that in just a second this guy is going to crash into the lake and drown.  Now, what do you do?

You would do whatever you had to do, wouldn’t you?  You would run up and open his door.  Grab him and pull him out or maybe try to hit the brake yourself because you know he is about to die and only you can save him!

Now, here’s the question.  Why?  Why would you do this for a stranger that you have never met and know nothing about?  What’s in it for you?  You might even get hurt trying to help him so why would you do it?  You would do it because life is precious, right?  You know that life is sacred and that person is made by God and loved by Him.  He may be a father or somebody’s son or uncle but it doesn’t matter because ultimately you know that he is a human who needs your help whether he knows it or not or wants it or not.

Did you ask to have the job of saving him?  No.  Are you going around looking for a task like that?  Probably not.  It’s not something you want to do.  It’s pretty scary and you wish he hadn’t put you in that position but he did and because he did what he did, you had to do what you did. 

Welcome to the world of the Old Testament prophet.  That’s a lot like how it was for them.  Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Jonah, Moses, Jeremiah and a bunch more…the list is long; some are better than others at what they were called to do.  Some had longer careers than others and some saw more success than others but God called them all to help save a bunch of hard-hearted, stiff-necked people who may or may not listen or respect them.

I’m reminded of Jonah who probably had the worst attitude about it and yet had some of the greatest success in bringing people back to God.  He ran farther and farther away from God until he finally, grudgingly obeyed and then spoke basically one sentence and without breaking stride, walked out and the whole country repented.

Jeremiah, on the other hand, preached and prayed and wept for 40 years and never saw a single convert.  Prophets were rarely popular people, usually poor and without respect but all true, biblical prophets were called by God to be His spokesmen.  That’s what the word means.  It’s very similar to what preachers are supposed to be today.  We are called by God to be his spokesmen but today we have the full canon of divinely-inspired scripture to go by.  In the Old Testament they were living through it and so they spoke what God revealed to them in dreams, visions, angels, and revelations of sight and audible voice.

Today, the office of prophet is a little different and God doesn’t reveal Himself to people like that as much as He used to because we do have the Bible and God has revealed Himself in His Word.  All preachers have to do today is proclaim it.  But like the Old Testament prophets, preachers today have different levels of ability, different lengths of service and very different levels of so-called success.

We are not always popular or respected and we are usually poor but we can understand when Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”  Poor old Jeremiah said (20:8-9), 8Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

Turn, if you would please, to the book of Amos.  Amos is in between Joel and Obadiah, if that helps.  There’s no shame in looking at the front of your Bible to find the page it’s on.  You probably don’t hear many sermons preached from any of the prophets.  Your quiet time this morning probably did not include any comforting or motivational scripture from the likes of Joel or Haggai and to be honest, most people have not read much of the prophets for several reasons.

First, they’re boring.  They don’t apply to us.  We don’t understand them or even know most of the places talked about and when we do understand, you have to admit it can be pretty depressing sometimes.  I mean, other than that, they’re great, right?  Go Nahum!

The problem with that is that they do still apply to us.  Sometimes it may seem like they are even written directly to us just like in Amos this morning.  We are going to look at Amos 7:7-9 but the book of Amos might well start out, “Dear Christ Fellowship…” or at least, “Dear United States.”

It was written to the people of Israel 750 years before Jesus but it was written at a time when the country was corrupt politically, crime was rampant, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer.  Yet they felt comfortable living how they wanted to live because their superficial religion said that if they just went to church every so often, prayed when they needed something and threw God a bone now and then that was surely good enough.

Does that sound familiar?  I hope it doesn’t sound too familiar.  I hope that is not a description of you but it is definitely a description of the country we live in.  This country is about to go off the moral and spiritual cliff and drown in their sins all the while they are searching for a way through this nasty old world and they are not rushing into the church for help.  The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Well, we can complain about it.  We can shake our heads in disgust and blame video games, the school system and Democrats.  We can do what we have always done and continue to get the results we have been getting but when you get to Heaven, do you want eternal rewards that are “good enough”?  Do you want God to bless you a little bit in this life?  Or do you want to live a full and abundant life like it says in John 10:10 and be rewarded more than you can ever ask or imagine as it says in Ephesians 3:20?

Now, let me warn you.  We just got through with a very intense sermon series on the full armor of God in Ephesians and I’m pretty sure I heard Satan give a relieved sigh when it was over, thinking he could rest a little now that it’s done.  Or maybe that was your sigh that I heard because you are tired of Satan attacking you because you have tried to put on that armor every day.  Well, he’s not going to like this one either and if you are bored, it is my fault because these prophets have spoken things that certainly still apply to us today and should stir your spirit because their words demand life change for all of us today. 

Good grief, I’ve been building it up long enough.  Let’s finally dive into the little book of the prophet Amos.  God is in the middle of speaking to Amos and showing him visions and telling Amos that the time is up for God’s own chosen people, Israel.  They have been disobedient long enough and it is time to face the consequences.

Let’s read Amos 7:7-9.

7This is what he showed me: The LORD was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the LORD asked me, "What do you see, Amos?" "A plumb line," I replied. Then the LORD said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. 9"The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam."

This is a plumb line.  Some people call it a plumb bob.  I’m sure there is some kind of electronic device that builders today use to make sure their walls are plumb.  There’s probably an app for that.  I don’t know but this plumb line simply hangs down straight and one can see, once it quits swinging, if a wall or structure is straight up and down by comparing the wall with the line.  That’s important because if a wall is even a little off plumb then gradually it will start to lean and then finally just fall over.

The wall that God is talking about here is the nation of Israel and the plumb line God is using is His Word, which for them, was the Law of Moses.  That’s about all of the Bible that was written at this point but that was enough.  In fact, it was too much because the people couldn’t follow the law and had, in fact, turned away from it and turned to other gods and other rules and laws that they had made up because God’s rules weren’t any fun.  They were hard to follow and not very convenient so they just came up with other rules that sounded good and religious to them and they called themselves very religious.

A little boy ran into where his mother was and excitedly said, “Hey, Mama!  I’m eight feet, four inches tall!”  His mother said, “Really?”  He said, “Yea, I measured it myself with this.”  Then he held up one of those little six-inch rulers.

It matters what you compare yourself to, doesn’t it?  See, Satan wants you to compare yourself to people in this world, people on TV and in the news. It’s easy to feel pretty good about yourself when you compare yourself to them.  “I haven’t killed anybody all day.  I hardly ever rob a bank and while I am living with somebody I’m not married to, I haven’t cheated on them in months.  So, I would imagine me and God are cool.  Right?”

See what I mean?  Because right now you are comparing yourself to the fictional person saying those words and you feel better about yourself because of it.  Now, the point of this message today is not to make you feel bad about yourself.  Not at all.  I say all the time that I want to know truth and I think everybody, deep down, wants to know truth and that is the point of this message.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:14, “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.”

The truth is, my Christian family, that God is looking at your life.  Proverbs 5:21 says, For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.”  That ought to scare some of you to death.  Others it ought to at least motivate you to think about what God wants and what God expects from His children.  The good news is that He has told us in His Word.

Amos had to stand up and point to the Law of Moses as the standard.  That was the plumb line that God used back then.  In Romans 6, Paul says we are no longer under the Law, but are now under grace.  Thank you Lord for that.  We are to be like Jesus and do what Jesus said.  But…Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

That’s the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  He then goes on to say over and over again, “You have heard it said…” then He would quote part of the Law but then Jesus would go on to say, “but I tell you…” and then He would modify the Law for us today.

Let me give you an example.  Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

Uh oh.

That sounds pretty bad.  But hang on, maybe it gets better.  Let me read another one.  27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Now, wait a minute.  I thought this whole “under grace” thing was easier than that.  I thought it meant that if I tried real hard and went to church sometimes and didn’t commit the big sins too often that me and God were cool.  You know, surely He understands that I’m only human and everybody makes mistakes and everybody sins every day.

Is that what you think?  If that is what you think then you don’t know the plumb line that God is using to judge.  You don’t know what the Bible says or you don’t care.  If you don’t care then it’s probably because you think that because we live under grace then you can do what you want and then just ask God for forgiveness.  But, as we learned a couple of weeks ago, sin is actually the very worst thing in this world that can happen to us.

When we sin; when we do anything to displease God, when our life doesn’t match up to God’s plumb line, that puts a barrier between us and God and that’s a very dangerous place to be.  So it is imperative that we read, understand, believe and live out what Jesus said in places like the Sermon on the Mount.  We need to know what He said about divorce and how to treat our enemies and even about worry.

Let’s go back to the illustration we started with about the guy in the car with the map in front of his face.  Imagine for a minute if his foot slipped off the brake and you got to him in plenty of time to warn him but he just looked at you like you were crazy.  Maybe he said something to you about how this is the way he prefers to drive; that driving with a map in front of your face is now just an accepted alternative way to drive and you need to just accept people that drive this way and stop being so narrow-minded.

You would think he was crazy, wouldn’t you?  Because you don’t have to be a Driver’s Ed teacher to see that this guy is about to crash and burn.  Well, that is just what our society is doing to all of us today.  Every day we hear that homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle.  It’s not a sin.  How dare you!  You must hate people to say that.  Quit being so narrow-minded.  (Use toy blocks to build a leaning wall.)

Every day we are bombarded with messages in the TV shows we watch and the movies we see, the books and magazines we read that sex before marriage is just what people do nowadays.  Marriage is what our parents failed at so we just don’t do that anymore.  It’s not sin.  Marriage is too hard so we do it differently.  How is that attitude any different than Israel’s attitude when Amos was preaching to them that they were about to be destroyed?

Every day Satan and the world are telling us as individuals, as a church and as a country that God’s laws and the Bible, as a whole, is old fashioned.  It’s antiquated and out of date and nobody really lives that way.  Everybody cusses.  Everybody gossips.  Everybody overeats.  Every day Satan says this out-of-plumb wall is really plumb.  You are just looking at it wrong.

How much longer do we have as individuals, as a church or especially as a nation before God says, “Enough!”? (Knock down wall.)  So, here is what we have to do, starting today.  It is time to hold the plumb line of God’s Word up to our own lives and take a good, hard look. 

James 1 says, “22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do.”

We first have to make sure that we are plumb.  We have to be plumb walls before we can do anything else.  We need to be plumb as individuals and as a church then we take a stand against the schemes of the devil in this dark world.  The problem is, they don’t know they are in darkness.  A blind man doesn’t know what it means to see black and white.  Nor does this world want to know, most of the time.

Their foot is off the brake and onto the gas and their vision is blinded by what feels good and seems right but Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  I can’t just sit idly by, trying not to hurt people’s feelings and being politically correct when this world that our kids and grandkids are growing up in is so far out of plumb it is about to collapse.

Amos had a word from God.  He spoke the truth – it did come true, by the way – but he was obedient to what God told him to do.  He went where he was supposed to go.  He did what he was supposed to do and he said what he was supposed to say.

What is God telling you to do today?  Where does He want you to go?  What are you supposed to say?  Maybe you need to speak truth to your neighbor.  It has to be done in love or don’t do it at all.  It pained Amos to say what he did.  It was hard but he did it.  Where are you supposed to go?  What are you supposed to do?

Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes and spend some time asking Him right now.  Maybe you don’t have a relationship with God this morning but it can be had through His Son Jesus.  Just ask for forgiveness of your sin and turn away from that sin and believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  Then your life will be changed and you will live a new life.  Do that today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Part 8 – Eph. 6:10-18

In November of 2009, British sniper Craig Harrison made a world record shot with his rifle in Afghanistan.  Corporal Harrison, of the British army, holds the world record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at a range of 2,707 yards.  That’s about a mile and a half.  You can’t see a bus at a mile and a half but not only did Harrison make the shot, he did it twice, killing two insurgents with consecutive shots and then he shot the machine gun they had set up so that it couldn’t be used again.  At that distance, it takes over 6 seconds for the bullet to hit the target after the trigger is pulled.  He had to account for the wind, the humidity, bullet drop, even the spin of the earth at that distance.  No kidding.

If you are interested in such things, the rifle he used was an AWSM chambered in .338 Lapua Mag.  The letters stand for Arctic Warfare Super Magnum.  Super Magnum.  I feel manlier just saying it.  Super magnum, yea.

That’s the guy I want on my side in battle.  That’s the guy I want next to me, somebody that can reach out and touch the bad guys from a long distance because I don’t want to get any closer to the enemy than I have to.  It’s nice to be able to call on somebody that can break out the big gun and knows how to use it.

Today we are going to look at the big gun in our arsenal in defending ourselves in the spiritual war we are in.  In the passage that we are going to read in just a second in Ephesians 6, Paul warns us to be ready when the day of evil comes.  He doesn’t say if the day of evil comes.  He said it is coming and for most of us we have to fight the devil and his forces every day.  If we have to fight this battle every day we wake up then shouldn’t we be prepared?  Shouldn’t we make full use of every piece of armor and every weapon we have?

We have seen in Ephesians 6 that the armor available to us includes the belt of truth and that everything else hangs on that belt.  If the Word of God is not truth, if what Jesus said and Paul and the others wrote is not truth then every other weapon and piece of armor falls off and is useless.  But since the Bible has proven itself true over and over again, we know we can depend on it and it will not fail us.

We also have the breastplate of righteousness to protect our heart.  It includes the imparted righteousness of Jesus Himself that He gives to us when we believe on Him and accept Him into our lives to be Lord and Savior.  It also includes the imputed righteousness that we live out, with His help, by keeping ourselves pure and holy.

Our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace and that means that when we are obedient to God that we have horizontal peace with others, vertical peace with God and even internal peace but we have to choose the benefits of obedience or we suffer the consequences of disobedience.

Then we pick up the shield of faith and when we don’t understand why we are going through something, we don’t know why somebody else would treat us this way or we can’t imagine being able to get through this difficult circumstance but because of our faith in God we are able to survive and even thrive.  Because God, like His Word, has been proven faithful over and over again in our lives and in the life of our church, we know that He is in control of this situation and when we resist the devil then God is there to reward us.

We have the helmet of salvation strapped on tight knowing that our salvation from this world has not yet been realized but will soon be here when Jesus comes back riding His white horse with angels singing and trumpets blowing; and He will take us to our ultimate reward in Heaven.  Come, Lord come!

We also have the sword of the Spirit which means we have portions of scripture memorized and handy ready to pull out of the scabbard and fend off the attacks of Satan by telling him, not what we think, but what the Bible says just like Jesus Himself did in the desert.

All of that makes for some pretty formidable armor and weaponry.  That makes you a force to be reckoned with if you choose to wear it; if you choose to put it on every day and every hour because the day of evil is here and Satan is just waiting for you to forget to put on one piece of the armor and then the worst thing in the world happens.  Sin happens and we lose the battle.  We haven’t lost the war but our relationship with the Lord is broken, our witness is shot and our peace and joy lay bloody and dying on the battlefield and we are left to face the consequences of our choices.

I Corinthians 10:13 should be part of our sword, part of the verses we have memorized or handy.  It says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

So, let’s (finally) look at our passage for this morning and let’s look again at all the ways we have to escape with a concentration on the last part, the big gun.  You may already be there.  Ephesians 6:10-18.

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. 12For 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. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD's people.

Paul, being the good preacher that he was, knew that all good sermons have 3 points so he laid it out with three things for us to look at as we study what he says about prayer.  We are to pray:

·         In the Spirit

·         On all occasions

·         Always

Now I know some of you are tempted to elbow your spouse and say, “Oh no, he’s talking about prayer again.  I’ve heard this.  I could have stayed in bed and now I have to sleep here.”  And that’s fine but while Sam Colt’s revolver was called the “Great Equalizer”, it couldn’t hold a candle to the big gun of prayer but you have to know how to handle it.  Some of what will be said you may already know.  Some of it you may need a refresher and some of it you may already be doing and didn’t realize it.

But it is vital that we follow Paul’s guidance here and begin with praying in the Spirit.  I have probably a dozen different commentaries that talk about the armor of God in Ephesians and I’m disappointed with every one of them.  About the most I got from any of them about this was that we are to pray with the power of the Spirit.  That’s true and I hope that helps you come Monday morning when the day of evil comes and Satan starts hammering on you.  I hope those pretty words benefit you but for me I want to know more.

This is the most difficult of the 3 points to understand and the one on which I will spend the most time.  It is difficult because some people think Paul is talking about our own spirit or they think that to pray in the Spirit means you have to pray in tongues or that you have to work yourself into a frenzy for God to hear you but since I don’t see anywhere that Jesus did that I don’t think that’s true.

On the other end of the spectrum I see people who go long periods of time, sometimes their whole lives, without ever tapping into the power that they have available through the Spirit of God.  They try to live their lives on their own power, go to work, keep a marriage alive, raise kids, worship, even pray without ever connecting with and utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit should be a normal part of our lives not an extreme part.

The question before us now is, “How do we do that?”  Well, we have the Sword of the Spirit mentioned earlier.  What is that?  The Word of God.  It is called the Sword of the Spirit because as II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed…”  It is the inspired word and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and just like every passage of the Bible was written by a person who was inspired to write it, so can our prayers be inspired. 

How did the Spirit speak to the authors of the Bible?  With loud words and thunder and smoke and lightning using blood on the walls and clouds to form the words in the sky?  No.  He spoke like He spoke to Elijah; with a still, small voice; a voice so quiet that you have to be very close to Him to hear.  That is how the Spirit speaks to us today.  What we need to do to pray in the Spirit is to go to God and say, “God, your word says to pray for my friends and so I am.  It says to pray for my enemies and so I do that now.  It says to pray for my leaders and to pray without ceasing and to pray fervently and so I do all of that.  But right now, God, what do you want me to pray for?”

Have you ever done that?  Have you ever prayed about what to pray?  Do you think that is a prayer God wants to answer?  When you tell God you want what He wants and you want to pray for what He wants, do you think God will answer that?  When there is no barrier of sin between you and God and you are so close to Him that you can hear His still, small voice and you ask what prayer would please Him, He will answer you.

Especially in the context that Paul is telling us to pray so that we resist temptation, God wants to help you.  He wants to answer that prayer.  “God, I can’t do this.  I’m not strong enough.  I’m not tough enough.  I have to admit that it looks like fun but not my will but Yours.  Tell me what to do and how to do it and then help me do it!  Please God.  Amen.”

That’s praying in the Spirit.  That’s praying like Jesus prayed.  And that is a prayer God is anxious to answer.  Praying in the Spirit does not mean having just the right words.  In fact, it means just the opposite.  It’s not using your own words but the words God gives you, either from scripture or through prayer.  When the day comes that you think you really have this whole “praying in the Spirit” thing down and you know just the right words to say…then you don’t.

Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  The opposite of praying in the spirit is telling God what you want Him to do and how you have all this figured out and all He has to do is just answer your prayer and everything will be just fine.

When you really pray in the Spirit, you are falling on God’s grace and mercy and saying, just like Jesus did in the garden, “Not my will but yours, Lord!  Tell me how to pray.  Show me what to do and where to go and what to say and I will do it in your power, God.”  That’s praying in the Spirit.

The next two points are similar in that we are to pray on all occasions and to pray always but a little bit different.  I was talking to my Mom a while back about prayer and she told me she sometimes gets embarrassed because she finds herself at the store praying that God would help her find the best deal on something.  If you know my Mom you would believe that – not just that she prays on all occasions but also that she wants a good deal.

She says she prays and then feels like she needs to apologize to God for wasting His time praying about such trivial matters but I tried to assure her that Paul said we are to pray on every occasion.  Then she said she finds herself sometimes praying as she plays Solitaire that God would help her.  I said that’s probably pushing it too far. 

But that comes from a woman who is so used to praying about everything that it is just natural and normal to her no matter what she is doing to include the Lord.  That ought to be the way we all are that because God has proven Himself to us over and over again that we know the value of prayer.  We knows from where our salvation comes.  We know the truth. We have the peace.  Faith is our shield and while we are not perfect and we are still learning we know how to wield the sword and wear the armor.  We continue to make that choice.

Mama would also tell you to make the choice to keep on praying as Paul says.  Keep on praying on all occasions.  Keep on praying in the Spirit.  Don’t give up.  She has been known to keep on praying.  I won’t mention names for fear of embarrassing somebody (me) but she has been known to pray for long periods of time for some pretty stiff-necked people.

If you look at what is probably the very next page in your Bible Paul tells the church at Philippi that he thanks God for them every time he thinks of them.  He knew how to pray in the Spirit, on all occasions and how to keep on praying.  James 5:16 says those prayers are powerful and effective.  Isn’t that what you need in a big gun, one that is powerful and effective especially since we live in the days of evil?  Make the choice to put on all the armor every day and when the day of evil comes, then you can stand. 

I pray right now that you are a true believer in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  There is no other way to Heaven, no other way to peace and joy in this life other that making Jesus Lord of your life.  It won’t be easy.  First you have to repent of your sins – turn away from it – and then ask forgiveness of that sin and then live like it.

Then you will be able to put on the full armor of God that He wants you to have so that you can stand – in His power – against the schemes of the devil.  Do that today.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Part 7

My Uncle Bill tells this story of being in the Army.  If you have ever served, I guess you know that you have to hurry up and wait everywhere you go.  He said one day as they were waiting in some very long line, moving slowly forward on a sidewalk, he came to a tree on the side of the sidewalk and in that tree was a soldier screaming at the top of his lungs, “I WILL NOT CUT IN LINE!!!  I WILL NOT CUT IN LINE!!!” over and over again.
Well, he thought that was pretty funny until he moved forward enough to hear another man screaming at the top of HIS lungs from the next tree, “I WILL NOT MAKE FUN OF THE GUY IN THE NEXT TREE SHOUTING I WILL NOT CUT IN LINE!!!  I WILL NOT MAKE FUN OF THE GUY IN THE NEXT TREE SHOUTING I WILL NOT CUT IN LINE!!!”

How many of you have been in the military?  You have my sincere thanks and admiration for your service.  As a soldier, what is your basic function?  Your most basic function as a soldier is to fight the enemy, correct?  And as a soldier, what is the worst thing that can happen to you?  Injury or death; anything that takes you out of the battle is the worst thing to happen to you.  You are of no use to the team if you can’t fight.

Now, as a Jesus-loving, God-worshiping, Spirit-filled Christian, what is the worst thing that can happen to you?  I think it is important for us to see this morning that the worst thing that could happen to us as Christians is not death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.   The worst thing to happen to us is not an injury or physical ailment.  Again, Paul says in Philippians 4:11 that he is content in whatever state he is in. 

No, for a Christian, the worst thing that can happen to us is to be taken out of the battle.  The Bible tells us in several places that we are in a battle.  The passage we have been going through in Ephesians tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but that we are definitely in a battle and what is the only way we can be taken out of the battle?  Sin.

For a Christian, sin is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you.  Not death, sickness, disease, poverty, divorce, abuse, or persecution.  We don’t usually see it that way, do we?  Maybe when we see it in the life of somebody else but when we have sin in our life, it’s not that big of a deal.  We know that God will forgive us and besides it’s not like we did something really bad.  We are still better than the other guy, right?  God understands we aren’t perfect so what is a little sin among friends?

If sin is not that big of a deal then tell it to Adam and Eve.  All they did was eat an apple, right?  No, they disobeyed God and paid for it the rest of their lives.  Tell it to Uzzah, who in I Chronicles 13 touched the Ark of the Covenant and paid for it with his life because God had told them not to touch it.  Likewise, Annanias and Sapphira misled the apostles in Acts 5 and failed to take another breath because of it.  This should lead one to believe that God takes this sin thing pretty seriously.  It is that big of a deal.  It is, in fact, the worst thing that can happen to a Christian.

As we have talked about before, when there is sin in your life it effectively takes you out of the fight because sin puts a barrier between you and God, ruining your relationship, nullifying your witness and killing your joy and peace.  And for Satan, that’s a mark in the win column.  He gets a big kick out of that at your expense.  Satan laughs at you with great contempt every time you fall for his deception.

Now, what if I told you I had the answer?  What if I told you I know how you can keep Satan from laughing at you; how you can stay in the fight, keeping your relationship intact, your joy complete, your witness strong all the while furthering the Kingdom of God?  The good news is that it actually isn’t something I came up with.  It has been around for a few years and has proven itself to be a reliable form of defense against the schemes of the devil.  As good soldiers would turn to their military handbook, I ask you to turn to Ephesians 6:10-18 where we will continue our study of the armor of God.  Our focus will be on the second part of verse 17 but to keep it all in context and to remind us of the whole armor I want to read verses 10-18.

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. 12For 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. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD's people.

If we are to protect ourselves from the very worst thing in the world happening to us then we need to do exactly what Paul tells us here.  We have already put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, shield of faith and last week we put on the helmet of salvation.  We have seen that with all of this armor we are a force to be reckoned with.  We have the ability to fight off most of the lies of Satan, the deception of the evil one who is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting to kill you dead but we need to add one more piece of armor and this one is vital.

No Roman soldier would think about going into battle without his sword.  This was not the big broadsword mentioned in other places that took two hands to swing.  The word used for sword here in the original Greek is talking about a razor sharp, two-edged sword that was smaller (from 12-24 inches) and would be carried at all times in a scabbard, ready to go.  It was the same kind of sword Peter used to cut off the ear of the guard when they came to get Jesus in the garden.  It was small but very deadly and could be used with precision.

I continue to be amazed at how well this analogy works and how well Paul writes about how to defend ourselves from Satan.  I can just see him sitting there writing to the church in Ephesus thinking, “Now how can I illustrate what I want to say?” and then he looks at the Roman guard he was chained to and goes, “That’ll work.”  Every piece of armor the Roman soldier had was just the right analogy for what we should do to protect ourselves from sin, which is basically what Paul is helping us with here.  And this sword analogy is just perfect as well.

It says that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God and we all know what the word of God is, the Bible.  But the word used for “word of God” is not “logos” which means the whole Bible.  The word used is “rhema” which means specific parts of the Bible.  Now I tell you that mainly to impress you with my vast knowledge of the Greek language.  But since most of you know I can’t even speaks English gooder enough there must be another reason to bring it up.  It just goes to show how good the analogy is that instead of saying that when Satan attacks us we are to swing the whole canon of scripture around and hope we hit something when in reality, when Satan attacks us we are to bring up specific scriptures that apply to the specific attack we are enduring.

Don’t swing the big sword when the job calls for the dagger.  In practical terms: we need to have scripture handy or memorized that will pertain specifically to our struggle.  Bill’s joke.  I heard the story recently of the general store owner who was known to always quote scripture every time he rang up a sale.  A little boy came in one day and bought a piece of hard candy.  As the store owner rang up the sale he said, “Honor thy father and mother…”  Another time a man came in and bought a calculator from him so the store owner rang up the sale and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  A woman bought a lantern and as he took her money he quoted, “He came as a light unto the world.”  Then one day a fancy truck pulled up outside pulling a horse trailer.  A well-dressed man got out and came in the general store and told the owner he wanted a really nice horse blanket for his horse.  The owner went to the back and got the only horse blanket he had and took it to the counter.  He told the man, “That will be $10.”  The wealthy horseman said, “$10?  I have a thoroughbred racehorse out there.  I want the best quality, most expensive horse blanket you have!”  So, the store owner takes the blanket to the back with him, stands there for a second and then takes the blanket back to the customer.  He said, “Ok, sir, this is the best blanket I have.  That will be $500.”  The wealthy man said, “Good.  That’s better.”  He bought the blanket and walked out as the store owner said, “I saw a stranger and I took him in.”  That’s Bill Lightsey’s joke.

You see, there is an appropriate scripture for whatever situation you are in and the absolute perfect example of this is in Matthew chapter 4 when Satan tempts Jesus.  Jesus had been fasting by Himself in the desert for 40 days.  It is no accident that Satan picks this time to tempt Jesus.  Satan often tempts us when we are physically tired and hungry.  At the end of a long week, Satan often puts it in our heads that we deserve something and when we are tired reality starts to get cloudy and we start to believe that something is ok when other times we might know it is not.

So, Satan must have seen his opportunity and jumped on it.  3 times Satan tries to get Jesus to sin and 3 times Jesus quotes a specific “rhema” or part of scripture.  Note that Jesus does not tell Satan that he doesn’t think that would be right or even that the Bible teaches not to do that but he says, 3 times, “It is written…”  and then quotes scripture.  He draws his sword, which was hanging from his belt of truth and fends off Satan’s attack.

Jesus had on the entire armor of God.  He had His belt of truth.  He knew what truth was and he based everything else on that.  He had on his breastplate of righteousness as He was righteous.  His feet were shod with peace between Himself and God and Himself and men.  His shield of faith brought Him joy and peace and a strong witness.  His helmet of salvation was on tight as He knew when and from where His salvation would come.  And when Satan attacked Him with some flaming arrows of temptation they might as well have been spitballs.

And you have the ability to put on the very same armor and wield the very same sword of the Spirit.  But you have to do it.  I can’t do it for you.  Your mama can’t do it for you.  Just coming to church isn’t going to be enough.  Do you really want to avoid being taken out of the fight?  Do you really want to not hear Satan laughing at you?  Do you want to do your part in furthering the Kingdom of God? 

A good soldier would practice for hours and hours with his sword so that when the time came to use it, it flowed naturally out of the scabbard and felt like an extension of his own arm.  If you are not spending time in God’s word every day I don’t want to hear about how Satan keeps getting the best of you.  Of course he is! 

Dig into God’s word and find your passage or passages.  You know what I’m talking about.  Whatever your little pet sin or sins are, find in the Bible where it talks about that.  Memorize a “rhema” or small part and when Satan comes at you next time and says, “Hey, you really need to go into work this Sunday to help pay some bills.”  You can tell him that Deuteronomy 5:12 says to keep the Sabbath day holy.

When he tells you to look at something you shouldn’t on TV or online you come back at him with Psalm 101:3 that says, “I will put no vile thing before my eyes.”  He may come back at you with his favorite line about nobody ever finding out and you just tell him that Proverbs 5:21 says that a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord and He examines all his paths.

If you are tempted to gossip find a passage that will help you with that and jab it in Satan’s eye when he tells you it’s really just asking for prayer for someone.

If you are tempted to steal or cheat or do mean things to puppies with a fork, whatever it is, have a scripture ready when Satan comes calling.  I’m going to give you some homework.  There are 31 Proverbs.  One for each day of the month.  Perfect for reading as part of your devotional.  Go through Proverbs with an eye for finding a nugget or two every day that will help you in your struggle against the schemes of Satan.  Start today reading Proverbs 4 since today is the 4th and read it every day.  It’s something you can do the rest of your life, in fact.  Every day just read that day’s Proverb and see if the Spirit helps you find just the right verse for what you are going through.

I will tell you again that Satan hates you and wants only the worst for you.  It is time for us as Christians to realize that the very worst thing that Satan can do to us is lead us into sin.  And sin is that big of a deal.  If sin wasn’t that big of a deal do you think God would have allowed His only Son to die to pay the price for our sin?  It is that big of a deal and so Jesus did His part.  It is time for us to do our part.  Ask Him into your heart to be Lord and Savior and then live like He is.

Monday, May 29, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Pt. 6 – Eph. 6:10-18

So, I did some research on goals this week and by “research”, I mean I googled it, right?  Here’s a couple of quotes that I found about goals.  “Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”Paulo Coelho “If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.”Roopleen  “Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” Rabindranath Tagore

Now, what I learned from my “research” was that there are a lot more people who are good at coming up with quotes than there are at achieving goals.  Do you know what the goal of our church is?  It is not something we voted on.  The Leadership Team didn’t come up with it.  The goal of our church is to further the Kingdom.  That’s our goal because we are a church.  If any church has something else as their main goal then they are churching wrong.  We are not to try to further our church or ourselves but to do whatever it takes to promote the Kingdom of God.  That is the Biblical model of the goal of the church and we continue to strive for that.

If that is our goal, then what do you think is the goal of the enemy?  In our series the last few weeks we have been seeing that our battle to reach that goal is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his demons and all the dark forces of evil.  What do you think their goal is?  Their overall goal is to hinder the Kingdom.  They want to kill it, make it go away, distract it, whatever they can do to hinder the progress and the promotion of the Kingdom of God, and they should.  That’s a good plan for them.

Fortunately for us, we have the playbook of the enemy.  We have a powerful force in the canon of scripture and especially in this passage we have been looking at over the past few weeks in Ephesians 6:10-18.  This helps us to understand the schemes of Satan so we know not only what he has done in the past but we see how to expect him to attack in the future and I will say again that I believe that is one of the reasons why our church has been put to the test so often and so hard lately is because Satan has had to up his game and he is ticked off about us focusing on how to defeat him.

There are a lot of classic books on the art of war.  Sun Tzu wrote a book by that very name that is popular with military strategists.  Almost all other big names in military strategy have written books on how to be successful in battle.  Hitler had Mein Kaumpf.   Napolean, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great and Hannibal all had notes or writings explaining the best ways to be victorious over the enemy.  And do you know what they all considered to be one of the most vital parts of military strategy?  In fact, it is part of the strategy used even in the latest wars the United States has fought.  It is the strategy of deception.

Deception.  It is important to have the latest technology and the largest force possible and to be well trained with an excellent chain of command who communicate well but all these being equal, if you can make your enemy think you are going to do one thing and you do another, you can be victorious.  If you can deceive them into thinking they don’t have all the equipment they need or that you have more than you have; if you can deceive them into thinking there is no way they can win; if you can deceive them into thinking you are about to give up or that you are going to the left and then you go right; whatever you can do to deceive your enemy will benefit you, especially when you are overpowered.

Now, cue Satan.  That is exactly where he is.  He is vastly overpowered and will resort to doing whatever he can do to deceive us into thinking things that will give him an edge.  He knows that while he is more powerful than we are that we are protected by and provided for by the Almighty God Himself.  He knows he is doomed.  He has heard enough preaching over the years to know how all of this is going to play out for him but he won’t go down without a fight.  He wants very much to do his worst in your life as a Christian.  He can’t stand you and would kill you in a second if God removed His hand of grace from you.  We have several ways to protect ourselves from Satan, though, as we will continue to look at the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Turn there now and read along.

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. 12For 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. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD's people.

We will be focusing on the first part of verse 17 this morning.  We have looked previously at how to put on the belt, the breastplate, the shoes and the shield.  Today we are told to “take” the helmet of salvation and I want us to look at 3 things as we study this passage.  I want to first look at what the helmet of salvation is and then how to put it on and then what it protects us from.

For the typical Roman soldier that Paul was envisioning here, the helmet was made of a leather inner liner with an outer shell made of brass or other metal and for the officers it often had a plume or row of feathers on top for show.  Now, I guess if I was an officer I would have to follow orders and wear a row of feathers on top of my helmet but for me that just seems kind of silly.  I’m too proud to wear something like that on my head.  When I wear a helmet, I want to look tough and manly.  I don’t want silly feathers on my motorcycle helmet, I can assure you.  So, that’s why when I wanted to dress up my helmet I went for the natural look.  What do you think?

Yep, nothing says, “Don’t mess with me” like a real skunk skin.  It actually did save my life one time.  I fell asleep on a long trip and when I woke up in the hospital the front of the helmet was mashed together and there was rocks and gravel all in the front of the pelt.  There are also some scratches on the side.  Good helmet and pretty much one of a kind as far as I know.  And the skunk smell is almost gone so that’s good.

But for us today in our battle against Satan, what does it mean to put on the helmet of salvation.  I think we can get a little better view of what Paul was talking about by reading another of his references to the helmet of salvation in I Thessalonians 5:8 where he says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  You see here he says it is the hope of salvation but he is not talking about hoping that we are saved.  It is what is alluded to in Romans 13:11, when he says, "now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed." It is, says 1 Peter 1:5, "a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Note that this salvation is a hope. Paul says in Romans 8:24-25, "if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see?" In other words, hope looks to something we do not see or have rather than for something we already see and have. This is not the same kind of hope as hoping that it doesn’t rain or hoping something good will come on TV.  This is a confident hope.

So, the salvation of our helmet is something yet future, something as yet not possessed or not fully entered into. It is referring to a salvation that is to be ours when Christ comes again. Hebrews 9:28, "Christ…shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." In short, we can say that the salvation that we hope to receive at Christ’s second coming is, as it is stated in Titus 1:2, "the hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised long ages ago."

So, we have seen what the helmet of salvation is.  We have seen that we will be victorious through Jesus.  We have seen that we have a lot to look forward to.  We have seen that salvation is ours to come.  Now let’s look at how to put it on.  When I put on that skunk helmet I always fasten the chin strap tight so the helmet doesn’t fall off.  You can test it by pulling on it and see that it won’t come loose.  It is the same with the helmet of salvation.  We are told about it in the Bible and you all told me last week that you believe the Bible and it has been tested throughout all of history and has proven itself to be true and faithful.

Now the option is to rely on what you think or feel which may well be corrupted by the great deceiver, Satan.  How many times have you felt something that turned out to be false?  Sometimes you may have a gut feeling that helps you but oftentimes our feelings get us into trouble.  Have the prophesies of your feelings come true since the beginning of time?  The Bible’s prophecies have.  Have your feelings proved themselves reliable in every way every time?  The Bible has.

Satan loves for us to act based on our feelings. We’ve seen that the weapons that he aims at us are intended to attack our minds and our emotions and to try to get us to be discouraged and to doubt. And since our feelings are certainly impacted by the circumstances of life, they change all the time as our circumstances change.

But God’s Word never changes. So, if we base our hope on His Word, our hope will be consistent and we won’t be tossed around by our feelings. In fact, one of the reasons God has given us His written Word is so that we can know without a doubt that our salvation is secure.

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  John was writing to followers of Jesus so that they could know without any doubt whatsoever that they have eternal life.  That’s how you put the helmet on, by knowing, through that shield of faith, that you, as a believer have eternal life in heaven with Jesus.

If you’re like me, it might help to have some examples of people who have shown us in the past how to put on the helmet of salvation; how we actually do it and what it looks like.  If we are to take the helmet of salvation as Paul says with the expectant hope of our future salvation, I want to see how to do it.  Those are real pretty words but until we can apply them to our lives in action then that is all they are.

First stop is Psalm 28.  Most of you know that David is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love David because while he was king and a man after God’s own heart, he was also very human and had terrible heartbreaks in his life and we can all learn from his example how to survive difficult times.  He was going through one of those difficult times when he wrote Psalm 28.  Read 1-2 and 7-8.

To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

In these first two verses he calls out to God and says “If you don’t answer and solve this problem, I will die.”  But then in verses 7-8 (before God answers his prayer) he says,

7.The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. 8 The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

David had every reason to be depressed and discouraged.  And he doesn’t try to cover over his hurt with fake smiles and plastic platitudes but at the same time he knows that God and God alone is his salvation.  He doesn’t know when it will come.  He knows it may get darker yet, but ultimately he knows, because he has a relationship with the Lord, that he will be saved and that brings him joy and strength.

I have another example of how to put on the helmet of salvation and I think this one is pretty good as well.  It should be pretty good since it is shown to us by the words and actions of Jesus as recalled in Hebrews 12:2. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

How is that possible?!  How could Jesus, being God but at the same time being all man, endure the outrageous, off the charts physical pain and the emotional distress of taking on all of our sins and endure it with joy?  Because He knew what salvation was like!  He knew what heaven was like.  He knew the rewards and the benefits of being obedient even when your feelings say otherwise.  He could look forward to His own salvation but He also knew that He was our salvation and that through Him we could spend eternity in Heaven.

That should bring joy and praise like it did for David instead of discouragement and doubt that Satan wants to deceive us with and that brings me to my last point.  What the helmet of salvation protects us from is that doubt and discouragement that Satan uses in our lives every day to keep us from having joy and peace; that keeps us from living an abundant life as it says in John 10:10.

The thing that makes doubt and discouragement such powerful weapons for Satan is two-fold:  it keeps us out of the fight, sitting in our foxholes feeling sorry for ourselves instead of waging war but it is also similar to a virus in that whatever attitude we have is contagious.  When we feel down and discouraged because we have taken off the helmet of salvation and have relied on the view we have of our circumstances and how we feel about that then the other people around us tend to be dragged down into that as well.

The good news is that when people see us putting on our helmets and looking past our circumstances and feelings and looking forward to the salvation that is to come then they start buckling up their helmets as well and pretty soon we start to look like an army to be reckoned with.  People in the community will see us and see that we are going through difficult times but we don’t cave in.  We don’t start self-medicating.  We don’t start complaining and worrying.  Who wants to be around that?  There is enough of that in this world.  People don’t want to see it in the church.

Some of you may hear this sermon and think I am preaching a feel-good gospel where if we just believe and have goals then everything will be ok in this world.  You would be mistaken.  I wish I could preach something like that but I have to tell you that in all probability, as bad as it is in your life right now, things are probably going to get worse.  I promise you this world is not going to get any better.  As long as we live on this nasty, ugly, self-serving, every man for himself planet then things are going to get worse and worse.  There is not much to look forward to as far as the morality and standards of this world go.

But let me encourage you with one last thought from I Thessalonians 4:13-18:  13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

There is our salvation!  There is our helmet!  Put it on and don’t be deceived!  We know what is truth and we have that buckled around our waist.  We know that we have imputed righteousness that comes from God and imparted righteousness that comes flows out of us and it is protecting our heart like a breastplate.  We have peace that comes from knowing the Gospel.  When doubts and fears come, we just take up our shield of faith and keep moving and now we have the helmet of salvation – that hope of Heaven - to protect our minds from being deceived about this life.

We will still go through difficult times but as Christians we have all this armor and more that is not available to a non-Christian.  The good news is that everybody can have this armor and God wants us to have it.  But first, you have to make Jesus Lord of your life, not just a part of your life.  You have to commit your life to Him, believing that He is in control and He loves us and wants to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Repent of that sin today.  Put all that down and start taking up His armor.  Don’t be deceived any longer.

Invitation / Prayer

“Christian, meditate much on heaven; it will help you to press on and to forget the difficulty of the journey.” –C.H. Spurgeon

Paul said in Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

I say think about Heaven this week.  Think about what you are going to do, who you are going to see, and how, though we don’t deserve it, we are co-heirs with Jesus to all the good things Heaven has to offer!