Sermon – March 4, 2020 – Lent Wednesday
Printable PDF: 3-4-2020 Midweek 2 Sermon
Pastor John Sprain ~ Ephesians 6:12 ~ March 4, 2020 ~ Lent Midweek 2 Sermon
Reconnaissance Report: Know Your Enemy
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When you Google something, that search engine actually only searches about 4 percent of everything out there in cyberspace. Something called the deep web has the other 96 percent—all of which is hidden to most people. There is some technical stuff and some military stuff on the deep web, as well as secret communications and more.
The really scary part is that there is another hidden part of the Deep Web. That hidden part is called the Dark Web, where you can find stolen credit card numbers for sale, mail order street drugs, killers for hire, sex trafficking, and much more. To read about it sends shivers up your spine!
When God tells us there is a darkness to this world, he includes SOMEONE in that darkness—an enemy who is both invisible and evil. We are in a struggle with this darkness. We should not enter battle without knowing something about the enemy whom we will face. Let’s look at God’s reconnaissance report. We are…
- Facing off against the ruler of darkness
If a thug is trying to rob you on the street or invades your home, you will defend yourself in whatever way you can. You have a flesh-and-blood person to deal with, somebody you can see and strike. But listen to St. Paul’s chilling words. Our biggest battle isn’t with our neighborhood gang. It’s with an invisible, mysterious, sinister, evil force. He warned us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). St. Paul urges Christians to arm themselves with God’s armor, especially his Word, because we are facing a huge struggle—a battle that is a lifelong wrestling match—a battle that if we were to lose it, would result in eternal death and damnation.
We face a dangerous enemy. We’re not talking about fictional ghosts. We’re talking about the devil and demons, which are all evil, and real angels, who are 100 percent on the dark side. As unrepentant followers of their leader, Satan, the goal of demons is to destroy you and me and everyone else—destroy our faith, destroy our life, destroy our hope, and destroy our soul. There is nothing fascinating or attractive or funny about Satan, whose very name means “enemy.”
Paul’s references to rulers, authorities, and powers indicate that the evil angels are organized in a military fashion with leaders and soldiers who follow the ringleader—Satan. He is the chief ruler, head general, authority, and power. We call them demons because there must be no confusion between them and the millions of angels still in heaven and around us here on earth who are always working for our good. On the other hand, the demons bring darkness with them—a spiritual darkness that can smother our souls like one of those blanket’s firemen use to cover a person on fire.
The goal of all demons is to remove saving faith from the earth—to steal it from you and me and to prevent unbelievers, who are already cut off from God by their unbelief, from hearing about God’s grace for them. That’s what spiritual darkness is—being separated from our Savior. It’s walking and talking and appearing to be doing the things of a normal life but having a dead soul inside. It’s being dead to God. No desire for him. No love for him. No faith in him. Satan hates you. He is actively waging war on you. The devil wants your soul to be dead so that you end up dead eternally.
God’s reconnaissance report goes on to compare our enemy to a hungry wild beast. The apostle Peter said it like this, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It’s startling to see this picture because it means this dark world is not a static thing. It doesn’t just sit there like your bedroom’s darkness, which goes away when you turn on the light. Lions don’t stay in one place. They are on the prowl. So the spiritual darkness is like a blackness creeping out of your bedroom to put out all the lights in the house and on your street and beyond. It’s an active, evil darkness!
God’s report also tells us that we are…
- Caught in this battle with a liar
At some point in your life, somebody lied to you. You are more careful now when people make promises, right? That’s sad, because if someone is not honest, we know we can’t trust that person. Jesus told the Jewish people who were plotting to kill him about who was behind their dark plot, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Jesus knew Satan. He knew that he has the blackest, vilest, most deceitful heart. He is a hater of God, and he hates you and me. He even wants to murder us eternally in hell.
If a person speaks English or Spanish or another language as their native language, they use that language all the time. Satan’s native language is lying. The name devil means “slanderer; one who brings charges with hostile intent.” He’s angry and jealous of what God has given us in Jesus. He lies in order to get us to doubt or question God’s Word. He especially encourages us not to read or study it. That’s why we have Bible classes here in order to keep him off balance.
He likes to use two favorite and effective lies. First, he tells you that you are such a good person that you don’t need Jesus because God could never damn you to hell. The second lie is just the opposite but no less effective. He will tell you that you are so bad that not even God would ever want you. Both lies. He wants us to believe that God is not fair and doesn’t care about you or me. He wants us to get deeper into his darkness: to be angry at God, to reject God’s promises, and to hate God. He wants you to abandon God’s Word so that you will be totally, spiritually dark and dead.
That’s why the Son of God went forth to war! It’s not hopeless. Our reconnaissance report for battle includes a clear report on what God has done for us. He has put a . . .
- Light in the darkness
We turned the lights on for worship today. And light always defeats darkness! Even a small candle pushes back the darkness of a big cave. More important, another light shines here, far more powerful than the bulbs shining forth above our heads! That light led you here. That light has pushed out the very darkness that Satan has tried to shove into your heart. That light has given you hope and faith and a future in heaven so bright that the Bible describes us as no longer needing the sun or moon for light at all for eternity! St. John is talking about Jesus when he says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Did you catch the battle in that verse? “Darkness has not overcome it.” Our hero, Jesus, fought against our dark enemy Satan many times, as we find it recorded on the pages of the New Testament. Most of the time, Jesus used his Word to defeat him. Sometimes he used miracles to undo the damage of illness and death that Satan had caused.
In the Star Wars movies, Luke Skywalker defeats the evil Darth Vader in a battle of light sabers. In real life, both Jesus and Satan used the cross as their war weapon. Satan thought he had beaten Jesus when Jesus died on the cross. Of course, we know that Jesus used the cross as his ultimate weapon to beat all the forces of darkness—the devil, the world, our sinful flesh, and death itself. Satan is defeated eternally, but like a terrorist who is cornered, he wants to take as many of us as possible with him to hell.
Thank God that you and I have been given the wonderful gift of faith in Jesus. Through that faith we see Jesus for who he really is—the Savior of the world who brings forgiveness and freely gives eternal life to those who believe in him: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4).
I can’t see anything when I’m in the dark, so I need to get my flashlight to walk around without smashing into something. But it’s much worse for those who do not trust in Jesus, because they are existing in spiritual darkness. There’s only one flashlight for that kind of darkness, and it is Jesus. Jesus is life, the source of all light and life.
Our vision is precious to us. Our mothers always warned about poking out an eye. Jesus once healed a beggar man who had been born blind. After Jesus had healed him, he came home seeing and, even under fierce questioning by those who hated Jesus, kept saying the same thing, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25).
As wonderful as that sight is, to come out of spiritual blindness and darkness into the light is infinitely better. It means that I can be totally honest with myself and admit the mess of my life. I see what sin really is and how much damage it does to me and others. I see why God hates it so much because it damns. I confess it freely to my Lord and trust him to forgive every last evil thought, word, and deed, because I see HIM! He’s the Light of my life, the one who has bought and paid for me with his own life! He has shown me what grace is. He has opened my eyes to see all God has done for me because he loves me.
As we follow Jesus, the Son of God this Lenten season, we will hear many reports, but remember his words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Amen.