Game Plan – Offense
Ephesians 6:10-13, 17
Preached at Chapel NeXt Fort Stewart on January 10, 2016
- Introduction – So we’re now less than two weeks into 2016. I know that with a new year comes the traditional making of resolutions, right? Things like eating better or exercising more or maybe reading through the Bible or praying every morning before work. But what is the problem that we often run into when we make these resolutions? You say you want to eat right…but you’ve got six tubs of ice cream sitting in your freezer and not a shred of anything green in your fridge or on your counter. Without a game plan we can have the best intentions and jump into something with energy but if we don’t understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, chances are we are going to miss the mark. We aren’t going to reach our full potential.
Now, if you do that with a diet the results might be some extra weight. Maybe less energy. But what if you approach the Christian life the same way? You know Jesus saved you but to what purpose? You know you should have confidence in your faith and confidence in God’s plan for your life but you’ve never taken the time to start learning about and understanding the tools that he’s given you to accomplish that task.
So over the next few weeks you are going to be hearing sermons from several of the Chapel NeXt pastors related to developing a game plan for your life as a Christian. Our hope as your pastors is that by the time we’re done you’ll have a clearer picture of what it means to live an intentionally Christian life where you don’t just sit back and hope for the best but rather get some skin in the game, start growing in your faith, and engaging our community with the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The piece of the puzzle that we are going to be looking at today is what it means to be a Christian on offense. Now being on offense implies a few things: it implies there is someone enabling and guiding our efforts, that there are forces we are hoping to push back, and that there must be some sort of weapon or tool that we can use in our offensive efforts.
So let’s take a look at Ephesians 6
- The Source of Our Strength (10)- Have you ever tried to do a task by yourself that really should be done by two or more people? Most of us here have probably moved once or ten times. You’ve probably had this conversation with yourself at some point, “I can move that dresser down the stairs. I mean, I took all the drawers out so how heavy could it be?” Some of you know what I’m talking about. Now, if I’m being honest, it wouldn’t be dresser for me. I know, that’s surprising especially when you look at how massive my arms are…But you see what I’m saying? Just going through everyday life we encounter things that we can’t do on our own. Things where, in our own strength, we’d miss the mark if we attempted the task. So at the beginning of this passage about doing battle with the forces of darkness the very first thing that Paul reminds Christians is that you aren’t facing this battle on your own strength and, honestly, would you really want to? Facing down the forces of darkness on my own just doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. So before we look at anything else in this passage we’ve got to grasp this idea that it is all because of God working through us and empowering us that we have the ability to stand toe to toe with the forces of darkness.
- God gives us our MISSION- There are a couple of other things that we need to keep in mind that we also get from the Lord. We don’t just get the strength to stand and push back against darkness but we also get our mission from God. What good would it do us if all we knew is that we are supposed to stand strong but we didn’t know what to do to in order to keep pushing back the darkness and bringing the light of Jesus into the world? One of the most frustrating things for me is to feel like I don’t have a sense of purpose. To feel like I don’t have a goal to work towards or a mission to accomplish. As Christians, we don’t have to worry about that. God has laid out very specifically what it is we are supposed to be doing.
In the Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus issues a command and tells his disciples to go into the whole world and make disciples! That command is still in force today for those of us who follow Jesus! So as Christians we know exactly what we need to be doing to be on offense. It is to make disciples! This is how we change the world. Not through having the best music or children’s program but rather through the proclamation of the Gospel, that Jesus died and rose again and that he offers grace and redemption to those who would believe. No matter where we find ourselves, this command remains in effect. It doesn’t matter whether you are a brand new soldier in a combat arms MOS, a Chaplain, a spouse…it doesn’t matter. If you are a Christian, Jesus has said to each one of us…GO! MAKE DISCIPLES!
- God gives us our MOTIVATION- Now I know that many of wrestle with that command, right? We look at it and wonder if it’s worth the struggle. If it’s worth the time. If it’s worth risking a friend or a colleague maybe poking some fun at us or belittling us for our faith. In some countries they wrestle with the fact that following the Great Commission might cost them their lives. But wherever you find yourself, many of us would probably agree that this command to go on the offensive and make disciples is a challenging one. So what drives us? What’s our motivation other than the obvious, “Well, God said I should do it, so, yeah, probably need to do it?”
I won’t go into a ton of detail here because I preached a full sermon on this topic a few months back..but the gist of it is that all of us probably look at the world around us and often find ourselves going, “Man, things are bad out there. Is there any hope? Is there anything that I can do to help change things?” With the Great Commission, God has given us his plan for bringing about his kingdom on earth. He doesn’t first tell us to go and protest or to go and vote or to go and form a new political party or to go and boycott a secular company because their cups weren’t Christmasy enough…No. He says to MAKE DISCIPLES. Want to change your family? Make disciples. Want to change your workplace? Make disciples. Want to change the government? Make disciples. Want to change the world? MAKE DISCIPLES! That, Christians, is first and foremost the way that God has given us to push back darkness in the world. So as we think about being on offense in the Christian life and about how we’d love to see things change…this is where we start. Making disciples.
- The Target of Our Offensive (11-12) – Now as we move into the next couple of verses, Paul goes from telling us what drives us as Christians to describing the foes that we face when we step out into the world. Now, why do you suppose it might be important to understand the enemy we face? Since our theme is “game plan” let’s think about athletes. One of the things that athletes will do to prepare for a game is they will study film. A quarterback in football is going to want to watch and see how defensive players respond to certain actions so that he can anticipate what they might do when he calls a play. A cornerback is going to want to study opposing receivers and quarterbacks to learn their cues and the moves they like to make to get open so that he won’t get burned on his coverage. If it’s important for athletes to spend hours studying their opposition for a game how much more important do you think it is for us to have a firm grasp of the forces Satan throws at us? For us the stakes are far higher than any game.
- A Spiritual War…(primary) – The first, and most important, thing Paul stresses here is that we aren’t in a fight against flesh and blood. As Christians, the enemy is not other people. The enemy is the forces of darkness pushing, influencing, and manipulating. As much as we might think that annoying neighbor or coworker is an enemy, in the grand scheme of things they aren’t the ones we are fighting and wanting to push back. We might think of certain groups of people across the globe who would wish to do us harm as our enemies, and that would be true from the perspective that they are the enemies of our country, but from a Christian perspective they are people who have been deceived by the forces of darkness and it is by sharing the Gospel with them and God causing their lives to change that we can push back against what’s really driving them. Bullets and bombs can destroy bodies but they can’t destroy the darkness of demonic ideas. The only thing that can do that is the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So in this spiritual war, our weapons are spiritual. And the amazing thing about this war is that we can engage in battle anywhere and anytime through our prayers.
- Pitfall – Now I want to offer a word of caution. There can be a temptation to think that because we are fighting a spiritual war that the physical requirements of us are minimal. We might think we can fight this battle from the bench. That we can just sit back in the relative safety of the pews and never set foot on the playing field right outside. The problem is that is what too many Christians do. They show up to fight the battle on Sunday morning and then hang up their uniform for the rest of the week. Christians, that’s not how it works. To be a follower of Jesus is a 24/7 commitment and it means that we are always on guard and always ready to engage in this spiritual battle. Satan would absolutely love it if we were a bunch of Christians who only showed up to the battle once a week. Well, let’s not do that. Let’s be Christians who suit up every day and are ready to push back the darkness.
- …Which Satan Wages Using Physical Institutions (secondary) – So we’ve established that our battle is not against flesh and blood and that we need to be in the game every day. But there’s something else we need to understand about this battle…Satan will use people and institutions to sew chaos, disorder, and destruction in the world. There is nothing he loves more than a genocidal dictator or an organization systematically murdering the unborn or stoking the fires of racism. These are things Satan loves and tools of the darkness he’d love to see spread far and wide. So as Christians it is important that we engage these types of issues on two fronts. We engage them first and foremost on the spiritual battlefield through our prayers and our intercession. But we don’t stop there. We also engage them through the physical institutions that God has given us to work through. Through great sacrifice, genocidal dictators can be brought to justice. Through tireless work in our legal and political systems and through supporting things like crisis pregnancy centers and adoption we can push back against the evils of abortion. Through our attitudes and conversations and the love we demonstrate to those who have skin darker or lighter than our own we can push back against the evils of racism.
Even though our battle is first spiritual there is far from nothing to do. So as Christians we need to be engaged in both spiritual and physical activities that will help advance the kingdom of Jesus and push back the darkness.
- Pitfall – We focus solely on social issues and the neglect the spiritual things that are driving them
- The Offensive Weapon We Wield (13, 17) – As much as I’d like to look at each part of the armor of God, my focus for this sermon is just on offense. So when you read through the passage you clearly see one weapon that can most easily be described as offensive. Now there’s always someone who says, “Well, I could turn a shoe into an offensive weapon!” I got it. But for the sake of what Paul is trying to get across let’s stick with the obvious and call the sword the most clear piece of equipment in this passage that is for offensive purposes.
- Armor OF God – Before we look any further at our offensive weapon, the Word of God, we need to understand something about all the things that Paul lists here. You probably caught that these things are called the armor of God. They are not called the armor of Caleb or Laura’s armor. This is so important because it tells us that just like we aren’t fighting this battle by our own strength we also aren’t using offensive and defensive weapons that come from human hands. I can’t just go out to the backyard on a Saturday afternoon and build myself a shield of faith. I can’t just decide to add a few notches onto my belt of truth after a few too many goodies at Christmas time. These are weapons given to us by God and he sets the parameters for how they should be used. And remember that since our battle is first and foremost spiritual, we will need spiritual weapons and we will need to be well-versed in how to use them to push back darkness.
- Word of God – And this brings us to the Bible. I’m willing to bet that most of us have multiple copies of the Bible at home. Plus, we have access to God’s Word on our phones in any number of translations. With all these copies of the Bible so readily available to us, you’d think this would be a weapon that we were well versed in using. Sadly, that’s often not the case. Too often we know more about what’s trending on Twitter than we know about what’s contained in the pages of our Bibles. And you know what’s ironic? One of the things that I’ll often hear Christians say is that they just wish they could hear from God. “I just wish God would speak to me!” Well! Look at your lap! Take a pause on uploading that selfie to Instagram and open the Bible app on your phone and peruse one of the dozens of translations you have at your fingertips!
- Reliability – As we’re considering spending more time in God’s Word this morning, I think it would be helpful to address one of the common concerns people have about the Bible. I mean, the New Testament is two thousand years old and the Old Testament even older. So many people will ask the question, is the Bible trustworthy. This is supposed to be God’s Word so how can I know that what I’m reading is an accurate representation of what was actually written down thousands of years ago. Well, I’m glad you asked! You might recognize some of these names: Homer, Plato, and Aristotle. Maybe you read the Illiad or the Odyssey in high school or college. You might have taken a philosophy class somewhere along the way and read some works of Plato or Aristotle. One of the things you probably never read in the forward to your textbook was how strong the manuscript evidence is for those works. Well, for the Illiad there are around 2,200 different original language manuscripts that have been discovered. That’s impressive! The Illiad is some really old writing! The oldest manuscript from the Illiad dates to within 500 years of the original composition. So…I’d feel pretty confident if I was reading the Illiad that I was reading what the author originally wrote down. Now for Plato and Aristotle? Those standbys of college philosophy texts? One work of Plato has 49 manuscripts still in existence with the earliest copy being 1300 years after the original was penned. Aristotle? How about only seven original language manuscripts and a 1400 year span between them and the originals. That’s pretty big, right? Yet, you won’t hear a lot of folks questioning whether or not they can trust the reliability of Homer, Plato, or Aristotle.
So what about the Bible? Well, the New Testament over 5600 manuscripts available. 5600. That’s a lot. And archaeologists are discovering new manuscript fragments even today! But what about the time between the manuscripts we have and when the originals were written in the first century? 1,000 years? 500? 200? Try a maximum of 90 years! There are some manuscript fragments that get much closer than 90 years! I say all that to hopefully help allay some of the fears that we have. Because honestly, we are staking our entire lives on what is contained within the covers of our Bibles so we want to know we can trust what we are reading. You want to know what is even more amazing? Even with 5600 different manuscripts and fragments, time and time again the scholars who examine these have found that the best translations we have today are accurate. New manuscripts don’t muddy the theological waters, instead they prove time and again that God has faithfully preserved his Word down through the ages.
- Putting it to use – So we can trust the Bible’s we have are reliable but what good are they if we never use them? Can I make a Star Wars reference? Probably everyone in here minus a few has seen the new Star Wars movie so you handful of folks…get with the program! So a Jedi has a pretty sweet weapon, right! An elegant weapon from a more civilized age? Some of you get that. Some of you need to go home after this and watch Star Wars. But if you have a lightsaber and all only keep it clipped your belt you are completely missing the power and potential of that weapon! In the movie’s it’s an incredibly powerful piece of equipment that allows those trained to wield to do pretty incredible things. What if the only thing we do with our Bibles is keep them on the shelf except for once a week on Sundays? Do you think we are going to be able to use the Bible to help us when times are difficult? When the Satan bombards us with lies and with hardship and we cry out to God asking him for help and for peace and for comfort our first instinct should be to look to the very words that God has spoken to us and preserved across the millennia! What you hold in your hands when you hold a Bible is not just a book but it is the life giving Word of God. The one and only place where you can find salvation. The place where you can learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The place where you can learn what it means to live a holy life. The place where you can turn to be equipped to do battle against spiritual darkness. And yet we often fail to even crack the cover. Christians! Do you want to go on offense? Do you want to get in the game? Do you want to see Satan pushed back? The place where you start is in your Bible.
- Conclusion – Standing Firm