“A Mighty Spiritual Fortress”
Psalm 84; Ephesians 6: 10-20
Pearl: Power of a far different variety for a battle different from any the world sees.
Function: To motivate worshippers to take up their spiritual armor and spiritual weapons which are more powerful than physical armor and physical weapons because they are from the powerful spiritual arsenal of God; we fight from victory not for victory.
There is plenty of evidence that evil exists in our world today. But our day is not a worse day than previous days. Human history is full of evidence that there are unseemly spiritual forces giving rise to much of the worst things that we see happening in our own lifetimes.
- So we are wise to take note of Martin Luther’s playbook. When Luther was holed up in a castle translating the Greek Bible into German so that for the first time people could read the Word of God for themselves, he struggled mightily with doubt and discouragement from what he understood to be the devil. He was known to not only throw the occasional ink pots at whatever was tormenting him and causing him to doubt God’s promises, but while doing so he could be heard throughout the castle shouting “I am baptized.”
- Luther held onto something which we also can hold onto: the fact that we are baptized and therefore the fact that we are surrounded by spiritual realities and benefits which can withstand everything that life deals us.
- Today little Hazel was baptized and was therefore sealed into spiritual realities and benefits which she knows not but which she will be able to claim all through her entire life.
- This is because our baptism is always a reminder of who we are and of whose we are. We belong to God. Through the saving work of Jesus Christ and our trust in that divine accomplishment we partake of an identity which can withstand all of the flaming arrows of any enemy and any adversity in life.
Who we are in Christ through our baptisms affords us a spiritual fortress to surround us as we live in a perilous world.
Evidence of the peril in which we live is not only seen in the most popular depictions.
- Our enemy is crafty as Martin Luther described in his famous hymn “A Might Fortress Is Our God”:
- “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate; on earth is not his equal.”
- The peril in which we live is not just seen in the obvious ways. We see the real advance of the enemy among the people of God’s world in the following ways:
- Simmering anger with others over small issues.
- Distrust of each other.
- Bitterness over past differences.
- Difficulty discussing disagreements in friendship.
- Believing bad things about others.
- Prejudice and prejudgment of the motives of others.
- Lack of unity and separation from other children of God.
- These are some of the most destructive perils that threaten our peace.
This letter of Paul to the church in Ephesus was to warn them and it warns posterity of the nature of the tenacious and relentless presence of a crafty and cruel enemy. It was a warning and an encouragement to be ready for it and to be prepared for it and a reminder to live from the power of God.
- Human history is a sad chronicle. This is why God overlaid human history with his good chronicle. In and through Jesus Christ God did something about the sad chronicle of human history.
- He established his reign which will culminate one day in the eradication of all that opposes God’s goodness.
- Nonetheless, we continue to live in this perilous world.
- So Paul reminds us of the elements of the spiritual fortress which protects us.
But we fight an unconventional battle!
- Since we fight an unconventional battle our armor and our weapons are unconventional—subversive—counterintuitive. Recall the various elements of our armor: truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer.
- rom this famous passage on the “armor of God” we usually focus on the details of the armor and try to understand the functioning of each piece that Paul described as we try to understand God’s message of how to be prepared for life in this fallen world.
- When it comes to describing something of the spiritual fortress which surrounds those who are baptized, Paul’s put the emphasis where it should be: on God’s armor and God’s weapons which are subversive, counterintuitive elements…truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, word of God, prayer.
This is the nature of our spiritual fortress.
And hear me now on this unique fact: We do not fight the battle to win; the battle is already won! We fight from victory not for victory! That truth turns everything around. That is the essence of our subversive gospel, our counterintuitive gospel.
- Years ago the South African government canceled a political rally against apartheid. Desmond Tutu led a worship service in St. George’s Cathedral. The walls were lined with soldiers and riot police carrying guns and bayonets, ready to close it down. Bishop Tutu began to speak of the evils of the apartheid system—how the rulers and authorities that propped it up were doomed to fail. He pointed a finger at the police who were there to record his words: ‘You may be powerful—very powerful—but you are not God. God cannot be mocked. You have already lost.’
- Then, in a moment of unbearable tension, the bishop seemed to soften. Coming out from behind the pulpit, he flashed that radiant Tutu smile and began to bounce up and down with glee. ‘Therefore, since you have already lost, we are inviting you to join the winning side.’
- The crowd roared, the police melted away, and the people began to dance.
- We are invited to put on our armor and dance. We dance because we live on the winning side.
Spiritual forces try to attack our joy—our faith—our peace—and try to steal our love away.
Remember we fight from victory not for victory! The battle is won! Our strength comes from the unconventional weapons of truth, faith, peace, salvation, prayer. We wear joyful armor. Joyce Meyer wrote, “Loving people is the highest level of spiritual warfare that we could ever do.” We might be physically struck down and killed. There is that other line in Luther’s hymn: “The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still.” The battle is already won!
Put on your armor and dance with the winning side!
When you need to remind yourself; “I am baptized!”