“The God Who” Series
April 17 and 18, 2021
“The God Who Makes Us Strong”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Sometimes it just doesn’t go away. Sometimes the struggle, the temptation or the trial doesn’t go away. It sticks around way too long and has too great an influence on us. After Jesus was tempted by the deceiver, the liar, that awful prince of darkness, it tells us that His battle wasn’t done, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)
I hate those opportune times. They come too often and seem to be too draining. And if the devil did this to Jesus he will do it to me and you and every one who has blood flowing through their veins. Today I am going to end this sermon and this series with the most magnificent conclusion, I am going to talk about a God who makes us strong. But before He can do that we have to realize how desperately we need such strength.
We are engaged in a daily spiritual battle. Daily. Sometimes minute by minute. Paul, in this final chapter says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12) When we come face to face with some decision that could lead to our fall, or the injury of another, it is the devil who came back at the opportune time and tried to hurt us and them.
In the early chapters of Genesis the devil made a short trip from the Garden of Eden and his time with Adam and Eve, to where Cain was considering doing the most heinous of sins – the murder of his own brother. We read the account, “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7) But he didn’t master it. Sin mastered him. He was in a spiritual battle and he lost. In his anger he killed his own brother.
Here is where the battle is fought: It is fought in your mind, in your body and in your soul. The devil would like to have those three parts – mind, body and soul – but our God isn’t such a weak opponent. God battles with what goes into your mind. Paul in Corinthians would tell us that our God fights for what fills our every thought, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5) For Cain it was the thought of anger and rage, for us it may be jealousy or lust, for others it may be discouragement and hopelessness. God battles for our mind. He desires every thought, by His design, to become captive to Christ.
The battle for us is fought over our body. Does God own all of your body or is some of it reserved only for you? Jesus is Lord over all of us at every moment. Paul, again in Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:18-20)
I think I’m talking to some people who are fully aware of the devil’s schemes. You know that he wants you to fail. You know that he wants you to hurt yourself and others by your sins. And then he wants to take you into the pit of despair. The devil hisses at us, “Look at you, you are a failure.” “Look at you, you screw up all the time.” “Look at you, you have messed up so bad this time, no one will have you back.” Once the liar, the deceiver, has your mind and body he will try to take your soul. Don’t give it to him. It belongs to Jesus. Peter would say with his mouth and then with his mind that he didn’t know Jesus. But this is what Jesus would say to him before he took his terrible fall, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) God does not give up on the prodigal.
Sometimes it just doesn’t go away. Sometimes the struggle, the temptation or the trial doesn’t go away. There is a battle for your mind and body and soul. As Peter tells us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8) And then he adds, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
The battle doesn’t go away but the one who won the battle doesn’t go away either. It always seems that some of the last words in the books in the Bible are the most direct. Some of the last words in Ephesians, our book, says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” “Therefore 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.” (Ephesians 6:10, 13) We can fight an ongoing battle because we know the ultimate victory.
Fight. With everything you have – fight. Don’t let the devil destroy your life and leave you beaten and defeated. But don’t fight alone. Our battle is not against flesh and blood and victory will only come with the Lord God fighting this battle for us and with us. When the people of Israel were being pursued by the Egyptians and they had the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh and his well-equipped armies closing in on them, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Your battle for living the full life is not fought in your strength and by your wisdom. God fights for you. Do you remember Gideon and how God was going to fight a battle for Israel? Gideon had 22,000 men ready to fight against their enemy – the Midianites. But God, who isn’t too good on military strategy but wonderful on the final outcomes, said “You have too many men to deliver Midian into their hands.” (Judges 7:2) God did not want them to think that they won the battle, he wanted them to know that He won the battle for them. 22,000 became 10,000. But that was even too much. He ended up with 300 and their weapons were trumpets and empty jars with torches inside. And they won. God won. It is like the Scriptures say, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit”, says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
Jesus fought for you. Jesus in the days before Good Friday was fighting for us. When He is on the cross He is there as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When victory comes on Easter morning, He is conquering the enemy who wants to come to “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10a) Jesus is the One who comes to bring life, abundant life, to us.
Ongoing battle. Ultimate victory. That is what this is. Now – be strong in the Lord. Fight with what God gives you so that your life follows the course of victory. You can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7) Let Jesus dress you for battle, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:14-18a)
This concludes the 12 different sermons I have preached on the book of Ephesians. I have spoken about predestination, grace, marriage, family and a bunch of other things. I made sure to mention the Broncos and the Rockies at least a few times in these last few months. About 20,000 words have been spoken and I want you to remember only three, those three that began every sermon – “The God Who…” The only hope for marriage and families, for battles against the devil, and for us to be certain about our forgiveness and our eternity is “The God Who…”
Thomas Winger whose commentary on Ephesians helped me to preach from this book says, “Finally, then, if the battle is the Lord’s, if Christ is still with us, if he has won the victory, if the arms are given by God, then it would be a mistake to presume that the outcome of the battle is uncertain. On the contrary, the Christian’s great comfort, his ability “to withstand the evil day”, derives from the knowledge that the enemy has already been decisively defeated and that Christ reigns in triumph at the Father’s right hand.” (Page 731)
You and I have a God, a great God, a Lord Jesus, who makes us strong. Amen!!