We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic forces over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God…
If the question 2 weeks ago was “Who are you wearing?” and the question last week was “What are you being filled with?” then the question this week is a wake-up call, “Did you forget that you are in a war?”
Scripturally speaking, and perhaps even militarily speaking, there are two main problems with soldier morale: boredom and fear. There can be a temptation to forget the danger of the enemy and be lulled sleep in a false sense of security. The enemies attack is most effective when it comes by surprise. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is a fantastic example and only one of many.
To this, our Lord Jesus calls us, “Wake up!” Do you see your enemy? Do you see what he wants for you? Do you see how cunning and creative and powerful he is? Sinning against God’s Holy Law is not something to mess around with. Neglecting the Sacrament, your prayers, and this Divine Service is not something to play with. Failing to teach your children is no small “oops!” You enlisted! “Do you renounce the devil, all his works and all his ways? Yes, I renounce them!” we wrestle against the cosmic forces over this present darkness. Luther says you can begin your day with two options: 1.) Either I’m going to read a small portion of the Bible today and pray or 2.) I’m going to be chewed up and spit up by the devil. The devil and his demons are as real and present as the air you breath. Ignoring how he works and that he works is opening to door to him to trample on your holy living and faith.
The other temptation with soldiers though is fear. Notice that these are not unrelated. When the promise that the war is dangerous is not taken seriously, when the soldier is ill-equipped and not ready, the true danger becomes a shock and the soldier can get frozen and panicked in fear.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, having done all, to stand firm.
The call to stand is a call to courage. Be courageous because you have been promises 3 things, in reverse order, 3.) You will stand firm and have victory because 2.) You are in the Heavenly Defender who has already defeated the enemy even though 1.) It seems like they are winning right now.
Consider the world, consider the church, consider your life – your holy living and the state of your conscience (guilt, fear, despair, and anger) – and ask, “Who seems to be winning?” Scripture reveals that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19), that the devil is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given to him over every tribe and people and language and nation (Revelation 13:7). There are powerful signs with decrease of sexual morality, the increase of divorce, the reality of a hostile Islam and the terror attached to it, the truth of racism in institutions and personal lives, less order in the family and thus as a result, less order in the schools, the workplace and government, and that’s just a start, that the Christian faith is losing and will lose in the world, in the Church, and in your own personal life. With the signs comes Satan’s only tool in the toolbox, though it’s used in multiple ways, his lies.
Thus, the first defensive weapon in the armor of God, Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth and the only offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. God reveals the truth, not your eyes, not your feelings, not the world. Christ has promised that He has overcome the world, that He has bound the strong man and has the devil under His authority. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2).
We are called, then, to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. O, and what might! He preaches His truth to us that He does not lose and He has us! He preaches to us that we have the only type of righteousness that can be used a breastplate – His declared and promised righteousness. That protects our heart. The devil cannot penetrate a breastplate that has no weakness. You are innocent and holy in Christ. He cannot accuse or find fault. He loses a favorite declaration of his, “You’re a sinner, now act like one,” by losing the first. You’re not a sinner in the sight of God. You stand before God in the strength of His might.
Violence and war was begun from the moment our Jesus was born and Herod slaughtered hundreds of children out of fear. It continued to the moment of our Lord’s whipping, nailing, and hanging. The sword pierced His side and from that violence showed the beautiful gifts in which you stand – the water and the blood of Christ which declares you holy and clean. Now, you are given a sword that pierces the lies of Satan – the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
It reveals that Satan looks like he’s winning and going to win, but Christ has overcome him, and promises to me that I stand in Him, victory is assured, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).