Last week, Lori and I along with our colleagues were in New York City for a Conference. On Monday night, we decided to see some of the sights in Manhattan. First stop, after getting off the subway was Ground Zero. What we were not aware was that the Occupy Wall Street protestors were in Zuccotti Park, a block from Ground Zero (see picture). The protestors were dancing and seemed to be exuberant but I don’t think it was so much about fighting capitalism as much as it was about a chemically induced “happiness”. (This was confirmed by other “Occupy” protestors experiencing drug overdoses.)
May I suggest a better way to those who are unhappy with our present economic situation whether you are on the left or right of the issue? This suggestion comes from a Revolutionary who took down a more powerful government than the U.S. or other G8 Countries. This Revolutionary changed the world because He changes human hearts. This Revolutionary even died for the Cause! If you don’t know who I am talking about, please read about Him in The Gospel of Matthew. His name is Jesus and He taught, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows you need them. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33) I know people are interested in finding holistic solutions to our problems. Lori and I even met some of the young protestors on the subway and we overheard them talking about God. We were able to engage in this conversation and they were willing to consider our thoughts. Friends, whether you are indifferent, protesting or protesting the protestors, Jesus is the only solution to our money problems, our injustice problems, and most importantly our desire for life change. You might want to Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Toronto but why don’t you let Jesus occupy your life and see what might happen?
Going into the Lion’s Pit & Leaving with a New Rug (2 Samuel 23:20-23)
(Adapted from Mark Batterson)
Calvary Baptist Church, November 6, 2011 PM
Many of you have heard of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. If you recall, Daniel disregarded King Darius’ edict that everybody in the Medo-Persian Kingdom only pray to King Darius. The punishment was for Daniel to be cast into a pit of hungry lions overnight. Amazingly God protected courageous Daniel through the night and he was lifted out of the pit unharmed! As brave and courageous as Daniel was, I think there is a story in the Bible that takes courage one step further. What if instead of being thrown into a lion’s pit, you went in there on your own volition and killed a lion? That is the story we are going to study tonight! Turn in your Bibles to 2 Samuel 23:20-23! Read 2 Samuel 23:20-23! This is one of the craziest stories that I have ever read in the Bible. It is even repeated in 1 Chronicles 11:22-25. Who has heard of it before? I hadn’t! In fact, it wasn’t until this year when mother-in-law passed on a book to me by Mark Batterson In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day did I really pay any attention to it. His book was so inspiring that I have started to tell some of my friends about it and I heard that Pastor Kelvin taught it to the Boys Brigade recently. He even brought a club called a rungu that tribal people use in Africa to kill lions. We heard this morning that you have been given the armor of God and my hope is that God will give you all the courage to become “lion chasers.”
Lion chasers? Yes, God wants you to become a lion chaser. Don’t shoot for just being a lion-tamer as Daniel was through his prayers. Don’t be just a lion-killer as Samson was who tore a lion apart with his bare hands, “Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat” (Judges 14:5-6). Samson was both reactive and protective. That is what good leaders do – they protect those entrusted to them. As a pastor, my job is to protect the sheep from what might harm them. However, there is another level and those are ones who hunt down lions. And when I say hunting, I am not talking about been 200 metres away with a .375 Holland & Holland Magnum rifle. I am talking about sneaking up on a lion and chasing it into a pit. Who does that?
Now think about this for a second. Who has the advantage in this story? The lion weighs roughly 500 lbs. and Benaiah will generously estimate at 220 lbs. The lion can see in the dark five times better than Benaiah. The lion has claws in the slippery snow and Benaiah presumably has sandals, not Canadian-made boots. “If the lion is trapped in a pit amid snow, he would have been particularly dangerous because of hunger and he was agitated.” Notice Benaiah didn’t just throw a spear into the pit and kill the lion. Verse 20 declares, “He also went down into the pit.” We don’t know why Benaiah chased that lion into a pit. Every time I say that, it just sounds crazy doesn’t it? I don’t think he killed the lion just for sport. Benaiah wasn’t just looking to mount a trophy in his tent. Maybe this lion was a troublesome lion and Benaiah needed to take it out before it harmed anybody else?
You see, Benaiah was responsible for two whole clans. He was the leader of the Kerethites and Pelethites. Check out 2 Samuel 8:18! Maybe the lion was attacking the Kerethites and Pelethites and Benaiah took care of the situation once and for all. This is important for you to know if you want to be a lion chaser! Lion chasers do not shirk their duties! They feel responsible and are faithful with what and who they have been entrusted. They take action when there is a threat to their people. Lion chasers are not just dream chasers and put those who they have charge over at risk. No, lion chasers risk their own lives to eliminate that risk for others!
This is why Benaiah was also known for another responsibility – he was King David’s personal bodyguard being in charge of Israelite Secret Service. 2 Samuel 23:23 records, “And David put him in charge of the bodyguard.” There were actually more famous fighters: Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazer son of Dodai and Shammah son of Agee the Harrarite (2 Samuel 23:8-12) but David didn’t choose any of them for his personal bodyguard. Why? David wasn’t for looking popularity but a partner. Benaiah would have been a kindred spirit to David because David himself had killed lions (1 Samuel 17:34-35) and killed giants (1 Samuel 17:51). Remember, Benaiah had killed a huge Egyptian. 1 Chronicles 11:23 describes the Egyptian as 7’6” tall. As Batterson points out, “I can picture David flipping through a stack of resumes. ‘I majored in security at the University of Jerusalem.’ Nope. ‘I did an internship with the Palace Guard.’ Nada. ‘I worked for Brinks Armored Chariots.’ Thanks but no thanks.” David wanted a lion and giant killer, if he was going to trust him with his life and the throne. Remember, this was the throne that the Messiah was to come from. David was protecting more than just himself! He was protecting what God had promised. God does that. He gives us His promises and calls us to do our part in fulfilling it through His strength and power. In the case of David, he knew he could trust Benaiah as much as he could trust himself! Lion chasers are not loners, they are fiercely loyal to God’s people and His Work! We find this evident in Benaiah even when his assignment as personal bodyguard to David was over. In 1 Kings 1:8-10, Adonijah, one of David’s sons tried to make himself king, even through the throne had been promised to Solomon. Adonijah invited all the important people to his coronation ceremony except for Nathan the prophet, Benaiah (and special guard) and Solomon. Adonijah knew how fiercely loyal Benaiah was to David and would stand up against anyone who tried to thwart God’s promises, even David’s own son. Benaiah was even made the general over Israel’s army for such loyalty (1 Kings 2:31-35). Maybe this is why Benaiah was given the name he had? Benaiah means “God has built.” God was building the throne of David’s ultimate son Jesus through Benaiah.
Later on, we find that this loyalty turned to humble service. After David died, Adonijah tried once more to get the throne by marrying Abishag, David’s concubine, which would convey to all the people who really had power and blessing from David. Solomon had had enough of Adonijah after initially showing him grace (1 Kings 1:52) so who do you think Solomon sent to fulfill his promise to get rid of Adonijah when Adonijah tried to cross him again? Benaiah! 1 Kings 2:25 records, “So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died.” There was nothing beneath him. Benaiah would do the “dirty work.” Lion chasers humbly serve those above them!
Let’s go back to what made Benaiah famous! Benaiah chased a lion and he killed two of Moab’s best men along with a giant Egyptian. It says in verse 20, that Benaiah was a valiant fighter…who performed great exploits. It is easy to read that and think well some people are just born brave. As I watch some of my kids, I see that the younger ones are braver than the older ones at that same age. Why? Bravery is not genetic; it happens by osmosis! Bravery, courage and valour are contagious! My younger sons have learned bravery from their older siblings. For example, two summers ago we were at Yosemite National Park in California and we decided to hike up these huge boulders to get to the lower falls. It was just going to be me and my eldest son Josiah but then Jessie want to go and then Noah who was 4 years old at the time. It was an incredible bonding experience because there were many adults who turned back. However, we helped each other out as a family and made it to the top (see pictures). Bravery is contagious. I think Benaiah learned bravery from his king. Remember in 1 Samuel 22:1-2, David collected “all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented…about four hundred men were with him.” The text doesn’t explicitly say that Benaiah was one of those 400 men but it is likely he was. So for 13 years while David was on the run from Saul, Benaiah learned bravery from his king. He learned how to kill lions! Lion chasers learn bravery from other lion chasers! Want to be brave? Want to do amazing things for God? Go find some other brave, risk takers! This is why I love hanging around missionaries! They are on the mission of Jesus and we in the church need the missionaries to hang around us to strengthen our bravery for God’s kingdom. Furthermore, one of the reasons why we need to plant churches is because it emboldens us to do mission and show us how to seek the lost. If you think about, the established churches do most of their learning from the new missional churches. We learn bravery from other brave churches.
Now that does not mean that the brave are not scared. Benaiah was probably still scared as he faced the lion, and the Moabite warriors and the giant Egyptian and the king’s son Adonijah. He just knew that the greatest experiences can be the scariest. For example, we had a great time in California. We even slept with lions, not in a den like Daniel. We were at a campground and just down the road was a wild animal park that had lions. All night their roars kept us up. It was awesome! Think about your life. The scariest times are also the ones that were your greatest. The scariest time in my life is when I almost lost my wife Lori in childbirth to Jessie. And yet that was also one of the greatest experiences of my life. Lion chasers chase fear with love. As Batterson says, “You can’t reason with irrational fears” but you can overcome them with an overmastering love. I teach my children to overcome their fear of the dark by encouraging them to think of what they love. Do they love their stuffed animal more going upstairs alone? They overcome fear by an overmastering love. Isn’t that what 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love drives out fear”? “Lion chasers have a high threshold for fear because they have built up a fear immunity.” Yes, lion chasers are afraid but they are more afraid of two things: 1) God’s opinion – “Lion chasers aren’t afraid to do something ridiculous in front of others because they know anything is possible with God” It is so freeing when you know that as long as you are following God, what does it matter what people think? This is not a cavalier attitude but a proper perspective on whose opinion counts the most; 2) Regrets – They don’t want to get to the end of their lives and have regrets. This is why Benaiah left such a legacy. Others wanted to name their sons after him and this is why there are other Benaiahs mentioned later on inIsrael’s history (Ezra 10:25, 30, 35, 43; 11:1, 13; 1 Chron. 27:34; 2 Chron. 20:14; 31:13). Those genealogies are not boring in the Bible. They often describe a name of somebody God used in a powerful way. Your name might be used in the future as a reminder of a life courageously lived for God. Think about that! Do you want that type of legacy? Live for God’s opinion only and live without any regrets!
In review, lion chasers risk their lives to eliminate that risk for others, they are not loners, but they are fiercely loyal to God’s people and His Work, they humbly serve those above them, they learn bravery from other lion chasers, and they chase fear with love. Lastly, lion chasers have big scars but larger victories. Don’t you think Benaiah had a few scratches from his bouts with the Moabites and Egyptians? Don’t you think that he got nipped by that lion? He didn’t pull a Jackie Chan on the lion that he literally was quicker than a cat nor was he like Daniel untouched by the lions. Benaiah had some old war wounds. Which is why Benaiah is so important for us to learn about? You see, Benaiah points to the greatest lion chaser Jesus Christ! What lion did Jesus kill? The devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus mortally wounded the devil on the Cross (c.f. Genesis 3:15), which also explains why the devil as wounded lion is so dangerous. Jesus didn’t just risk his life; he gave his life to eliminate the risk for others. Jesus was fiercely loyal to God’s people and God’s Work. Jesus served others doing the most humbling of tasks by washing others’ feet. (John 13:1-17). And Jesus chased fear with love; love drove Jesus to the Cross. Unlike Benaiah, Jesus did not learn bravery but teaches it to His followers! Are you one? Don’t let this sermon just become an inspiring one. Let the Gospel and Jesus motivate you to chase lions. I taught you this morning how to put on the full armor of God. Now, let’s go get some lions! Anything evil around let’s go chase. Any injustice! Any sin! Anybody in the grips of the evil one! Let’s go and spread the Good News that Jesus will chase and kill the lions in people’s lives!
 Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Sisters: Multnomah Books, 2006).
 Joyce Baldwin, 1 & 2 Samuel – Tyndale OT Commentaries (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1988), 293.
 Batterson, 13.
 Batterson, 49.
 Batterson, 34.
NOTE: You can listen to this sermon at the sermons link of Calvary Baptist Church!
This past summer my family and I had an opportunity to visit family and friends in the Canadian Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. It was very cool to see people that I hadn’t seen for 32 years since I moved from Halifax to Ontario. One of the places we visited was the Citadel in Halifax. Check out these pictures! It was fun to see the soldiers dressed in their Scottish uniforms, play with the large canons and tour the military museum. Apparently, the citadel was so well designed and fortified that it never was attacked. It sits there on top of a hill overlooking the Halifax harbour and during the summer there are even sunbathers outside its walls demonstrating that we are a country at peace. In fact, our combat mission in Afghanistan ended this past July. It would appear that what we are doing here today and this week with Remembrance Day is recalling history. However, to think that the battles are all in the past would be a huge mistake. We are in a battle.
If I could take you up in an airplane and see the carnage that is really going on in our world and even in our own city and homes, you would all get up and do something about it. Please visualize the carnage; for some this won’t take much of an imagination. The carnage is broken lives, marriages, children enamoured with what this world has to offer and walking away from their faith, abortions, people in despair cutting themselves, suicide, addictions to porn, drugs and alcohol. All of this is the wreckage of a battle that we can’t see with human eyes; just the aftermath, sort of like how the world, even the German people, who were ignorant of what was going on in the Nazi Concentration Camp but were horrified after visiting these death centres. As a pastor I see lives torn up by an enemy that we have been lulled into thinking doesn’t exist or is kept overseas. That enemy is here! He is far worse than Al Queda or the Taliban! This enemy is the kingdom of darkness and its leader is Satan! We are in a cosmic battle!
But some of you think I need to take a chill pill. What battle? What enemy? You think the devil is a myth, others of you are overly fascinated with the subject and some of you get scared thinking about the devil. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Which are you? If you are here at church and you’re not sure that Jesus exists let alone demons, may I suggest you ask God to reveal Himself to you? Sincerely, ask Jesus to show you Himself in an undeniably powerful way. And if you are totally interested in the spirit world, could I suggest to you that you focus on Jesus as well. When He was on earth, we read in Luke 11:20 that Jesus cast out demons to show that theKingdom ofGod had come to them. Therefore, we must acknowledge that Jesus came to get rid of demons, even giving his disciples the authority to do so when they came across demonized people (Luke 9:1), but Jesus never gave us a specific model to follow in casting out of demons except calling us to fast and pray (Mark 9:29). Exorcisms are not supposed to be the focus of our ministry, Jesus is! You need to know Jesus and not the devil. When my father used to work in the bank, they would teach him how to spot counterfeit bills. You know how? They got him to study genuine bills, to know the real thing so that when the counterfeit came it was easy to spot. Do you know what is real? Do you know Jesus?
One more question before we are trained how we are to engage in this spiritual battle. Some of you are going to ask, didn’t Jesus come to earth to die on a Cross and rise three days later “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) Yes, Jesus did win the ultimate war against Satan on that Cross, but there a still many battles to fight as there were between D-Day (June 6, 1944) and V.E. Day (May 8, 1945). I like how Pastor Erwin Lutzer describes Satan’s role in the world, “Satan is like a dethroned king who keeps on giving orders to his subjects; he is like a thief who has stolen virtually everything he owns and who tries to persuade you that it was always his. He is like a warrior without authority who keeps recruiting mercenaries to fight a battle he has already lost.” Therefore, Satan’s main role is to deceive and discourage us and to get us to fight with one another. He is still powerful but not invincible. This is why the Apostle Paul gave us specific instructions on how to fight him. This is really important and explains a lot of the evil out there and what sometimes goes on in here. As my father has taught me, “The devil is the most faithful church attender.” Let’s read Ephesians 6:10-18 on how to defend against and fight him. Read Ephesians 6:10-18!
We are not just helpless victims caught in the middle of the clash between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light! No, we have been called by the King to be active participants in this battle! We have been given instructions in how to engage this enemy and have been given specific battle gear to wear in this battle. Are you ready to put it on? First, you need to know the background that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian Christians from Romein 61 AD. That is significant because Paul would have been in prison for his faith, put there by a Caesar very hostile to Christianity by the name of Nero. My friends, even listening around the world on the internet, you may have a human oppressor in your life. Remember who the real enemy is. In fact, that boss, teacher, difficult person, maybe even the person who you are sitting next to you right now is not the enemy! Paul declares, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (v. 12). Jesus commanded us to love our human enemies, to pray for them and to bless them. To know that the difficult person in your life is not the ultimate enemy is so freeing. They are just a pawn being used by Satan, still responsible for their actions, but nevertheless overwhelmed by the Evil One. Doesn’t this cause us to extend them much grace and compassion? This truth should act as ballast in your heart, letting out a lot of unforgiveness and bitterness that has built up in there towards people who have hurt you. You don’t want to join with the Devil in being a fellow accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
We must also remember that our battle is a wrestling and on-going struggle. Even the demons didn’t roll over for Jesus when He was on earth but argued with and fought with Him. There was a battle! Understanding this truth, we can go back to the command in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” Wow! That immediately should cause us to think, am I utilizing the strength that Almighty God is giving me or am I trying to fight things on my own? God’s strength is available to stand up to evil. Verse 11 requires that we “put on the full armor of God, that we may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” We must stand up and the victory is assured. We learn the devil’s schemes by being strong in the Lord and put on the armor of God. However, if you don’t stand up and put on this full armour of God, then you will stay defeated in your life. How sad? This would be like the Toronto Maple Leafs having all that is needed to win but not utilizing the resources they have to be a champion, hypothetically speaking of course!
Seriously, many of you are living defeated and discouraged lives because you are not utilizing the resources God has given you. Ephesians 1:3 describes that if you have become a follower of Jesus Christ then you have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ” all the way up to heaven and down. However, these spiritual blessings are being contested by “the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) We are not sure how the Org Chart works for the Kingdom of Darkness but we do know that Satan is on top and then there are all these ranked rulers in the spirit world. They seem to be able to even go into the Council of God (Job 1:6ff; 15:8) and accuse us of what we have done (Rev. 12:10). Scripture doesn’t give us much detail about these “dark knights of the round table” so we are only left to imagine what they are like, though I wouldn’t spend much time trying to figure it all out. Just know that there are powerful beings in a fight against God and His children!
So what are we required to do? Put on the full armor of God! Huh? What does that mean? Paul goes to explain the six pieces of the armor of God. If you put these defences on and pick up your weapon, when, not if, the day of evil comes you will be able to stand up against the kingdom of darkness. The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. That makes sense if you play hockey. What do you put on first? Your garter belt and athletic support and protection. Spiritually, you are putting on truth. Truth holds up your emotions and passions. Truth comes first because it is the center of the battle. In fact, many battles are lost because you don’t protect your emotions. For example, I may not have all my facts straight and immediately give an emotional response. If you stop and pray and think what is really true about this situation, you are putting on the belt of truth. Attached to the belt of truth via the scabbard is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. God’s Word is part of the truth that will help you determine what is really reality!
Next, you must put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate for a Roman soldier that Paul would have seen everyday would remind him that the vital organs, especially the heart needed to be protected. It “extended from the base of the neck to the upper part of the thighs, so it covered what we would now call the thorax and abdomen.” We are not able to have heart and ultimately live unless God’s righteousness that He gives us purely by grace is firmly fastened to us. Romans 3:25 says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all believe.” When you and I put on the breastplate of righteousness, we both mentally and spiritually believe that God has done the work of saving us and the new heart that He has given us is being protected by Him.
After putting on the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness, we ready our feet with the gospel of peace. We must be ready to share the love of Jesus Christ with others. This requires going on the offence. Your feet were never meant to be put up for very long. God created them for movement. They are meant to be a blessing to others, “How beautiful are the feet of those who share the Good News!” (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15) However, your feet also take you to places that bless you. I love how my friend Ian Vaillancourt puts this, “When a person is active in sharing the gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ)…they are so protected and built up spiritually.” The irony is that God’s peace makes you ready for war! If you aren’t ready, maybe you don’t have peace with God?
Next we need to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16). Paul had in mind the Roman Legionary’s scutum, a huge wooden shield lined with metal, “four feet in length and two and half feet wide” that could be used for offense as well. According to Markus Barth, the shields were “dipped in water before battle to extinguish the cotton tipped arrows that were set on fire by the enemy.” Satan often sends out fires into your life that take the form of trials or even tempting thoughts. Only by trusting in God and His plan for your life do these trials die down and are extinguished.
By this time you are pretty protected but something is vitally missing – your helmet. It does little good to put on only half the armor. Some of you tough guys out there may want to still play hockey without a helmet but I know I had a wake up call last weekend. First, one of our players lost a couple of teeth playing Men’s Hockey. No, it wasn’t fight, he just ran into somebody accidentally. Then I was sitting in a coaching clinic on Saturday and the instructor asked, “Have any of you seen a guy lose an eye on the ice because I have? It was nasty.” Note to self, switch from a visor to a cage! In our spiritual life, the helmet of salvation is put on when we remind ourselves that we are saved by Jesus Christ. Do you have doubts about your salvation? Remember, the words of Paul, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
Now we are all covered up, but forgot our weapons. There are two: the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer (v. 17-18). These were the same weapons Jesus used against Satan despite Jesus’ overwhelming power. In Matthew 4:1-11, when the devil came and tempted Jesus; Jesus used Scripture, the Sword of the Spirit to fight him off. My friends, we must memorize Scripture to be warriors for Jesus! As Hendrickson describes, Paul had in mind a sword that was “short, swift and versatile.” That is what the Word of God does – “divides soul and spirit; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) You need to wield the Sword of the Spirit when the devil gets close and puts those temptations in your life. I recommend memorizing this passage – Ephesians 6:10-18 and then tell it to each other!
The other weapon is prayer. “Without prayer, we are dressed up with no place to go.” We have no marching orders from God. Even Jesus used prayer to cast out demons. Mark 1:35-39 describes how Jesus would go off to a solitary place to pray to His Father and then when He came back he would preach the Gospel and drive out demons. Prayer is so vital to our spiritual life. The Apostle Paul uses the word “pray” or “prayer” five times in verses 18-20! The truth is we need to use all kinds of prayers and pray at all times in the Spirit. What does that mean? I like what Philip Yancey says, “To search for the Spirit is like hunting for your eyeglasses while wearing them…The Spirit is what we perceive with rather than what we perceive, the one who opens our eyes to underlying spirit-ual realities.” Therefore, when little promptings come to pray for somebody that is the Holy Spirit! We do this for all the living saints on earth. I love how Lenski creates the picture in his commentary, “This is one army standing against one other army.” And we need to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41) for each other being constantly on the alert for our Enemy! In fact, soldiers who are alone are in deep trouble. It is vital that you belong to a group of fellow Christian soldiers who can fight with and for you. Please join a small group and become a spiritual fighting unit!
When you are putting this armor you are protecting our vital areas. However, we must stand up; face forward and not turn our back to the enemy because there is not the same coverage for our back-halves. We are not to be in the retreat position. Jesus made that clear when He declared that “I will build My church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) We are to be on the offensive. Yes, facing the devil and his minions may still mean some pain like the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, but Satan can’t destroy you.
So are you ready to put on the armor of God? The problem is you won’t because you will tend to think the solutions to your problems are by other means. You will think that you are wrestling against flesh and blood. You will doubt the truth. You will start to trust in your own self-righteousness and your heart won’t be guarded anymore. You will lower your shield of faith and try to live by sight. You take your helmet off and are seduced in your mind by the philosophies of this world. You will sit down on the job and take a break from the battle. I have before and I bet you have as well.
But there was one who did not sit down on the job. He actually got up from His Throne and charged out to defeat this Enemy. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings – His victory is our victory. May I suggest the only way to put on the armor of God is to think of Christ? You are really thinking about the Jesus and His Cross every time you put on the armor of God. You are standing just as Jesus stood on that Cross for you. You are declaring that Jesus is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life. (John 14:6) You are saying that Christ alone is your righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). You are ready with the gospel of peace because Christ is your peace! When you put up the shield of faith, you are trusting in Jesus who is your Shield and will help you overcome your fiery trials. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 7:10; 18:2, 30; 28:7; 33:20; 84:11; 115:9-11; 144:2) Why will He be your shield? Because He was punctured on the Cross but squashed death’s sting! Jesus is the Sword of the Spirit, because He is the Word of God (John 1:1). Jesus is also your weapon when you pray because He is continually interceding on your behalf before the Father! (Hebrews 7:25)
This Remembrance Day we are grateful for those who died for us. However, unless we are grateful for the One who died so that there would finally be peace between us and God and in the future humankind it is not a true Remembrance Day. We will return to war with God and each other. I challenge you to turn to Jesus who will fight for you. Let Him lead you into battle against evil. Don’t forget Him!
And what better way to remember Him than by having Communion. This is for all those spiritual warriors who have trusted in Christ and what He did for them on the Cross to save them from their sins and destroy the devil’s work in their life. Let’s eat and drink gaining sustenance for God’s battle.
 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1961), 3.
 Erwin Lutzer, Living with Your Passions (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 126.
 Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1977), 222.
 From e-mail correspondence, October 31, 2011.
 Lloyd-Jones, 298.
 Markus Barth, Ephesians – The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 760.
 Hendrickson, 279
 Denis Wiedrick, A Royal Priesthood (Hamilton: Wiedrick & Associates, 1997), 31.
 R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians (Columbus: The Wartberg Press, 1946), 677.
Talk given at Sweets Cafe Social October 29, 2011
I love nights like this! It’s a chance to take a break from real life! Normal everyday life is just stressful, busy and with four kids very, very messy! This year things just got a little busier for the Stairs household. I just have four words for you, “Two boys in hockey!” Oh, and a husband coaching this year! Today alone was pure craziness. You know when I go to the ice rinks and I talk to other parents I say, “Wow, this sure does make for a busy Saturday! This is a lot of running around! They usually look at me with a smile and say, “Yeah, but it’s so good for the boys and besides what else are you going to do on a Saturday?” I dutifully nod my head in agreement, “Yeah…yeah, you’re right.” But inside I’m thinking, “Really? Really? Am I the only selfish parent here? Because I can think of a lot of other things I would like to do on a few of my Saturdays. Like maybe sleep in at least one day of the week! I mean, I love my boys and they love hockey so I’m there, but I come from a warmer climate and sitting in a freezing ice arena all day is not “a few of my favourite things”! But I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy here on this one am I? Because almost everyone here is crazy busy! Needless to say we’re all extremely busy and have more on our schedules then should be crammed into a 12 hour day! But you did not come here to hear me tell you how busy and stressful your life is. And that’s not where I want to go with this.
You know, I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to go out for coffee with a dear friend of mine and as we were talking about our lives she raised a good question, “What is your first response?” Not, what would you like it to be, or what are you striving for it to be. But what is your first response to things in your life, especially the things that aren’t working out. You know, I thought a lot about that and I if I’m honest, I would have to say, it’s anger. For example, when my kids, within 5 minutes of arriving home from school, completely undo all of my hard work of cleaning the house, I get angry. When I finally finish painting my daughter’s new headboard only to find that it doesn’t fit the existing bed frame and my project is not done, I get angry. When my child decides to pitch a fit (for those of you who are not from Kansas that means threw a temper tantrum) right in the middle of Wal-mart, I get angry. Oh, I may appear calm on the outside at that point but on the inside I’m seething. Because this kid is making me look bad and if he doesn’t stop soon, he’s goin’ down!! …Oh, I could go on, but I’ll stop, this is getting embarrassing and you get the picture- I get angry!
But you know what? As I look around I notice that many people are struggling with this one, we just don’t like to talk about it. You can see it on the 401 highway, those crazy drivers honking at everyone, mother’s yelling at their kids in the store. It’s gotten so bad that I think they’ve come up with a disorder for it! What’s it called? Rage disorder or something like that. You even see it on the play ground. Because that’s what bullying is about, and one of our children has become the victim of bullying this year- and that makes me angry too! But that’s different- that’s a righteous anger! You parents will know what I’m talking about here! But the more I think about it, what makes those children so angry that they must take it out on others. There must be something else going on in their young lives that drives them to it. But what about us adults? Some of you may be sitting here thinking well this really doesn’t apply to me. I really don’t lose my temper that much! But wait just a minute. Anger takes on so many different forms. Take marriage for instance, my husband was reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink in it Gladwell sites the studies of a psychologist named John Gottman. Gottman through a series of calculations can just observe a husband and wife talking for an hour and with 95 percent accuracy can predict whether or not that couple will still be married 15 years later. Can you believe that? He’s looking for four key emotions as indicators of whether a marriage is in trouble. But do you know the single most important sign he’s looking for? It’s contempt. You would think that it would be criticism, but no, it’s contempt. Contempt is a kind of “studied anger” that lashes out at the spouse from a superior plane; it looks down on the person with disgust. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a person’s contempt you know how damaging it is! Why are we so angry? Some people use anger to cover up an unspeakable fear. Others are living in bitterness because of how disappointing and tragic their life has turned out. Some maybe started out angry, but their circumstances stayed the same for so long they didn’t have the energy to sustain the anger so they became depressed. Sometimes, not always, that’s what depression is, turning your anger inward. So you can see anger affects us all in so many different ways. So where does that leave us? Sounds kind of bleak, doesn’t it? Where does God come into all of this? Is He angry too? Is He angry at me?
Well, let’s look briefly at a story in the Gospel of Mark about a time that Jesus himself was angry. This is actually the only instance in the Gospels that explicitly says that Jesus was angry. Read Mark 3:1-6
Here we see Jesus doing what Jesus does going around teaching and healing people. But this time the religious leaders of that day, called the Pharisees, were watching Jesus closely to see if he would dare break one of their precious rules again, so that they could use it against him. But Jesus puts the question of their own law to them in verse 4. But they remained silent. So Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand and it is completely restored and made whole. But the Pharisees were so furious they immediately went out and plotted how they could kill Jesus! What is going on here? Jesus just asked them whether it was lawful to save life or kill on the Sabbath and here they go out and plot how they might kill Jesus!
You know, it’s here that I’m reminded of the definition of sin that Martin Luther once wrote; he said “Sin is man curved in upon himself”. Can you picture that? What does Luther mean by that? Sin is that we have made everything about us! So do you see what Jesus is showing the Pharisees as he had the man with the shrivelled hand stand before them? He’s saying you’re the shrivelled ones! You have made everything about yourselves, your laws, your system, your effort! I have come to set you free from your shrivelled existence. I alone can restore you and make you whole. But they held on to their anger. But the text says that Jesus was angry too. But his anger was different than theirs. It says that he looked around at them in anger deeply distressed or grieved at their stubborn hearts. There was a grief in Jesus’ anger. He was grieved for their sakes, that they would not believe him! Do you see the difference between Jesus’ anger and ours? Jesus even in his anger was others focused, we like the Pharisees, have made all of our anger about ourselves! We too desperately need Jesus to come into our shrivelled lives that are all curved in upon ourselves! We need him to uncurl us from our anger that has made everything about us!
So what am I asking you to do? Go home and work on not being angry! You know, just count to ten before you speak. Take a deep breath when you feel angry with your kids or your husband or that annoying co-worker. You may try for a while but you can’t keep it up. We can’t stop being angry. Because we will eventually have those times when we feel totally justified in our anger. That surly teenager will come home and mouth off to you when you were trying so hard to be nice. Your husband (or wife) will neglect to notice all the things you did that week and focus instead on the one thing you didn’t do and you will be angry. Your boss will critisize your hard work again and you will be angry. And you won’t be able to let go of your anger because something else will be more important to you; getting the credit you deserve, or justifying yourself, or being the one in control. Do you see there are countless reasons for why we hold on to our anger and all of them are about us!
So, God must be pretty angry at us! Does our sin make God angry? Absolutely it does, it’s an affront to his holiness! To his perfect nature! And our sin deserves to be punished! But that’s why Jesus came! He came to willingly put himself in a position where all of God’s wrath at our sin was poured out on him. Don’t you see? Jesus bore the full weight of God’s anger, so we could be free from ours! And you will never really change; you will never really be able to give up your anger and making everything about yourself and until you are moved and melted by what he did for you!
Jesus wants to uncurl us from our shrivelled existence and restore us and make us whole again. So that we can be free to look out at the world around us through new eyes and love the people around us, really love them for their sakes and for His sake!