The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville
“The Whole Armor of God”
Sermon Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I give thanks to God that I have never been in a physical war. I can barely imagine being overseas in battle in World War I or II, in the trenches facing death everyday with bombs and cannons going off and bullets whizzing by your head. Or being in Vietnam where the enemy and death could have been behind any bush or tree. Or being in the Middle East where any car could be a threat, any person a suicide bomber, any step on a land mine and its all over. Thanks be to God for the peace that this nation does have.
But just because we are not in a physical war, in the trenches, the forest, or the desert, does not mean we are not at war, in battle, fighting and wrestling with and against those who seek to take our life. I, you, each one of us are in a fight for our life every day. It is a fight not against bullets or bombs, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This is a battle and a war that is even greater than any war fought between nations. This is a war and a battle with consequences that last not just for a generation or an era, but for all of eternity. The stakes of this war are not just your life, but your eternal life. The results of this war last forever and are never overturned or changed.
Yet so often, we do not take this spiritual war as seriously as a physical war. Soldiers are trained for weeks, months, even years to prepare them for battle. They are taught strategies for fighting their enemies, they study the history of war and the defining battles that have been won and lost. They are trained, mentally and physically, to be the strongest, best soldiers on the field. They are forced to run, do push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups to get their bodies into shape and their minds able to overcome the obstacles when their bodies tell them no. They are taught how to use their equipment, clean a gun, even blindfolded, and use some of the most cutting edge technology that money can buy.
And they never stop. Even after graduating basic training, they continue to work out to keep their minds and bodies sharp so that they can perform the task set before them. They continue to clean and keep up their equipment. They continue to learn about and study their enemies. They do all of it because they know half a step, or half a second sooner could be the difference between getting out of the way of a bullet or getting hit. They do it because one piece of sand or dirt can be the difference between defeating the enemy or their gun jamming and their life being over.
And if we train this way, and discipline ourselves, our bodies and minds for a war against flesh and blood, how much more should we train ourselves, discipline ourselves, our bodies and minds for a war against an enemy that is greater than flesh and blood and with consequences greater than life and death, but eternal life and eternal death, everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.
And make no mistake, you are in this war “against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Some of us may know it. Some of us may feel it. We may feel the draining, exhausting fighting as we fight cancer, sickness, and disease, or facing addiction and temptation, facing the overwhelming difficulty of this life. The devil will and does attack us in obvious ways we can easily identify, in a full-frontal attack.
But his best strategies and the wars and battles he is just as likely to win are those where he sets up a false front and flanks us, or those where he sneaks up behind us, plants his trojan horse, and rises up to defeat us even before we know we are under attack. So if you think you’re ok, if you think you’re not at war or in battle, if you are comfortable and content, not worried, thinking you have everything under control and that war and death stuff is for someone else and not me, at least not right now, be careful, you may have already lost or you might be a lot closer to losing your eternal life than you think. Because if you are a Christian, if you do have faith, if you are at peace with God, you are most certainly at war with the devil.
And he doesn’t care if he defeats you with a decisive blow and cuts out your heart and passion for God, or if he defeats you with a death of a thousand cuts, slowly draining your lifeblood without you ever realize it. All he cares is that he gets you. And make no mistake, if you are not careful, he will. He is stronger than you, smarter than you, greater than you in every way. As Luther says in his most famous hymn, “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.” Our might does not and cannot stand in a fight with the devil. We can do nothing by our own power and strength, but soon we would lose our war. We, you need help.
And we, you, have been given help. Actually, not just help, but victory. “For us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, of Sabaoth Lord.” He fights for us, on our behalf, in our place. He gives to us what is necessary to stand in war and endure against the attacks of the devil. He is and He gives to us the whole armor of God. He gives to us “the belt of truth… the breastplate of righteousness… the shoes… of the readiness given by the gospel of peace… the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
He gives us this armor in many and various ways, again and again that we might always be ready for whatever attack the devil might launch, that we might never be caught unaware, that we would never realize we are under attack until its too late and the battle has already been lost. “Put on the whole armor of God,” as He delivers it to you in Word and Sacrament. Put on the armor of God as you hear that the victory of Christ crucified and risen from the dead is for you. Put on the armor of God as you hear the words of Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven.” Put on the armor of God as you hear the Scriptures spoken and repeated and read through our liturgy, our hymnody, our readings from the Old and New Testaments. Put on the armor of God as you hear the Word of God applied in Law and Gospel to you through the sermon. Put on the armor of God as you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, your valiant one, the commander and chief of all of the armies of heaven whom he orders to fight for you and defend you from the evil one.
But don’t stop there. Put on every piece of armor, receive God’s Word and his gifts every way that he gives them to you. Put on the armor of God as we gather together and study Scripture together in Bible class. Put on the armor of God as you have your own personal or family devotions, even if they are as simple as reading a few verses of Scripture, confessing the creed, and saying the Lord’s Prayer. Put on the armor of God and pray. Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you! Don’t miss once piece of the full armor of God.
You wouldn’t go into battle without a helmet, a bulletproof vest or full blown body armor. You wouldn’t step into the ranks without a gun or sword. Do not go into battle against the devil unprepared or unaware. For every time you miss one of these things, you are missing a piece of armor. If you miss service, miss Bible class, neglect devotions and daily prayers, you go into battle vulnerable and ill-equipped. You put yourself at risk, put not just your life, but your eternal life at risk and on the line with a gaping hole in your defense.
Put on the whole armor of God, all of the pieces that God gives you in many and various ways, often and much, to protect you, to clothe you with the victory of His Son for he alone can, and does, stand and preserve you in your every day of battle. No matter how subtle or obvious the devil scowls fierce as he will, that he would be able to harm you none. “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.