Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Joy of Obedience

I've been preaching through the book of Ephesians at our church for a couple of years now, I think, and I'm finally to the last major section, 6:10-20 which deals with spiritual warfare. My task this week was to deal with our enemy because of what Paul says at the end of verse 11 and all of verse 12:

"Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, over the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

To be honest about it, as I sat down to begin my studies earlier this week, I was very reluctant to deal with this subject in detail because, frankly, I’m deeply repulsed by Satan and I didn’t want to spend hours and hours meditating on him. When I think about things like war and genocide and AIDS and abortion and suicide and political tyranny and the exploitation of women and children, when I think about the anguish I’ve seen on the faces of so many saints because of his evil ways, when I think about how that old serpent has wreaked havoc on my own life and taken me captive in a variety of ways to do his will—I must confess that something deep within me despises him and everything he stands for and the last thing I want to do is give myself to meditating on him.

But, by the grace of the Lord, I humbled myself and followed our Father in the way he was leading me and as I did he helped me see anew that warriors who fail to understand their enemies well rarely win battles or wars. Thoroughgoing insight does not guarantee victory, but it is a necessary component of victory, especially when your enemy is much stronger than you are.

So, in order to display his power through our weakness, our Father has provided us with our enemy’s play-book, if you will. Our Father has revealed to us our enemy’s history and identity and purposes and tactics and weaknesses and destiny. Our Father has given us clear and effective countermeasures against him that, when used according to his wisdom and power, guarantee us the victory.

Now, you may think that’s an overstatement, but I would submit to you that the reason we lose battles with the enemy is not because God’s plan is flawed but because we fail to follow it to the “Nth” degree. If we will only take the time to comprehend what our Father has taught us, if we will only listen to his wisdom and walk in his ways, we will eventually find ourselves, in Christ, with our hands upon the neck of the enemy. So it turns out that taking the time to meditate on biblical texts that deal with Satan is less about him and more about our Father’s wisdom and purposes and passion for victory.

This truth became very sweet to me for reasons I'll be spelling out in my next three sermons, but for the moment what's most immediate for me is that I'm tasting something of the joy of obedience--and I'm grateful for our Father's grace!

If you want to listen to the sermons click here.

May you be made strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might!

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