Twelfth Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 256

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

St John’s Church, Walton

10.00am Morning Service

23rd August 2015

Bible References :

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Prayer to Start

 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

AMEN

 

INTRODUCTION

 

One of the most successful films of the last fifteen  years – has been the film ‘Galdiator’ – filmed in the capital of Malta –  Valleta – which was also the home of the nights of St. John

 

It depicts the fate of those who had to do battle against fully armed men or wild beasts in the Amphi-theatres of the Roman Empire – with only a trident – and net – as a weapon –

 

Such individuals usually – had little or no chance of survival –

Imagine then in our Christian lives putting ourselves in a similar situation – not in terms of physical safety – but in terms of our Spiritual battles –

 

Each day brings a succession of temptations – influences – demands and pressures – that threaten to undermine our faith – how do we cope? – who or what do we turn to for help?

 

Point 1        Decide whose side you are on

 

 

A man was coming out of church – one Sunday morning and the rector was standing near the door as usual ready to shake hands – He took him by the hand and said – ‘You need to join the army of God!” –

 

the man quickly replied, ‘ But I’m already in God’s army.’ – The rector then questioned him further – ‘How come we don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?’ –  the man whispered back – ‘ I’m in the secret service.’

 

Whatever role we think we play in God’s army – Paul tells us – we have to be well prepared for what lies ahead –

 

The letter to the Ephesians was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome – and tells of God’s plan for us all –

 

and in our passage Paul reminds us of our spiritual responsibilities – and how important it is to use all that God has made available to us –

 

Paul tells us – we have been placed in a supernatural battleground – one in which our own capabilities are dwarfed – and where  hidden forces are at work – constantly trying to undermine and avert the spread of God’s kingdom

 

And if we are to succeed – our battles must be fought using God’s strength – and not our own –

 

Of course – it can be a surprise to many – that there is a struggle at all – the general public – as C. S. Lewis calls them in his introduction to his famous Screwtape letters – prefer to either ignore the forces of evil altogether – or pretend they don’t exist – (and interpret the devil as a sort of cartoon image – that they can classify – as stuff and nonsense) –

 

And worst still some can take an unhealthy interest in things demonic – which can be just as bad in the long run-

 

Many Christians too don’t see their individual efforts and struggles as part of a larger campaign – they worship and pray together as a community in church – but outside church feel like soldiers fighting in a fog – never seeing or knowing what others – in the same line of battle – are doing – or having to face –

 

In most major conflicts soldiers rarely know much about the rest of the war –  that’s for the generals – but it’s important as Christ’s army –  that we at least accept that there is a war going on – and maintain our bit of the line – against attack – and Paul gives us plenty of advice on how to do it –

 

Point 2        Put on the Armour of God

 

We must ‘Put on the whole Armour of God’ – says Paul – so we can stand firm against the wiles of the devil’ –

 

We must use God’s weapons and defenses – to resist the influences of evil –

 

Hold fast to the – ‘belt of truth’ –  to enter battle ignorant or doubting – is like entering blind and lame – a firm belief in the truth of the Gospel – can give us strength and confidence for the everyday conflicts ahead –

 

We need to wear  – the ‘Breastplate of righteousness’ – it protects us from frontal attack – its our bullet proof vest – righteousness is given to us through the cross – Jesus’ blood makes us right with God – by accepting God’s righteousness – we accept the need to remain free from sin –

 

Then there’s the ‘shoes of the Gospel of peace’ – the enemy will do all he can to knock us off our feet – holding fast to the message of peace- will make us sure footed –  and ready to stay upright-

 

The shield of faith – is a shield that completely covers us – repels those fiery arrows  of sharp temptation – is essential to safety – faith will quench all – our doubts and fears

 

The helmet of salvation – protects and enables us to hold up our head with confidence – like others wearing the helmet – we know we are part of the heavenly family – and have been rescued and saved-

 

But its not enough to defend –  we also have to fight back – and we do this with the sword of the spirit – which is the word of God – the word of the Gospel is the way – God accomplishes His powerful cleansing of people’s hearts and lives –

 

The forces of evil which put Jesus on the Cross have been seriously upset by the victory of the resurrection – they are panick-stricken at the thought that Jesus’ message is challenging their power and authority- everywhere – they are doing their best to oppose and distract – trying to blow us off course – with false teaching and temptations

 

Prayer too is one of our most powerful weapons – it accomplishes things we cannot do by our own efforts – we should use it constantly – not for tasks equal to our own strength – but strength equal to the tasks we face –

 

Putting on the armour of God is about clothing ourselves with the Gospel itself – its about knowing it – and trusting it – and speaking out – wearing it like a suit of armour – and we are to stand together – and pray for one another – and especially for those battling in the front line –

 

Paul asks the Ephesian church to pray for him – so that even in chains – with clipped wings – he will go on announcing the good news of Jesus – and the word and Christ Himself – will sore above it all

 

Point 3        Jesus with us

 

So prepared and fully armed – and ready for battle – we now – need to take with us – our most important weapon and Ally of all –  Jesus Christ Himself – We are fighting Spiritual forces so we need  Jesus – there with us –

 

And as our reading from St John reminds us – by consuming all of Him – we get all His Spiritual power – and ensure that there is no foothold left for the enemy to take hold –

 

We need to use all that Jesus’ sacrificial death has achieved –  accept Him fully – as God’s Holy One  –  and give ourselves completely to Him – because as Peter says – for the true Christian followers –  there is no where else to go –

 

In our reading – Jesus confronts two groups of people – those who find the teaching too hard – and take offence – and do not believe –  and those who seek to stay with Him and be loyal –

 

We too are given the opportunity of turning away from Him  –  or committing ourselves to follow – it’s not a one off choice – it’s one that we have to make every day –  and sometimes many times in a day

 

Sometimes – when it’s time to defend our faith and the truth of Jesus Christ – it may feel like we are the only Christian on our street – or in our home – or in our place of work  – we worry that we might be ridiculed – lose our friends – our family  –

 

A Christian separated from Christ is like a branch cut from the vine – or a limb cut from the body – Anyone who rushes into this conflict without putting His trust in Jesus and without looking to Him for strength – will barely make the battlefield

 

But when we do stand for Jesus – we use our witness in a most amazing way – to us it may not feel as if much is coming out of it – but God will use it for His glory – the Spirit brings many people to Christ through the faith and commitment of His people –

 

It is the Spirit of Christ – that gives life – the flesh can achieve nothing – and with Jesus – on our side we have nothing to fear – Jesus has already defeated the enemy and will ensure that He is defeated again –

 

Conclusion

 

So have we joined the army of God yet?

 

Are we members of the secret service – or is our faith visible for all to see ?

 

Are we clothed with Christ – and fully prepared – for the battle ahead?

 

Before entering the arena – to fight – the Gladiator – calls out the words – ‘strength and honour’ –

 

as soldiers of Christ – when we join the Spiritual battlefield – we know on whose strength and honour we depend –

 

Prayer

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

AMEN