January 15, 2017 – Life Sunday Sermon 2017
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Grace and peace to you as you live in the assurance of God’s love, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Read Ephesians 6:10-20
In Cambodia, they have set up memorials for the hundreds of thousands who were killed by the Khmer Rouge in what is known as the Killing fields. The people of Cambodia with these memorials have declared that every life and especially the lives of infants and elderly are precious and need to be cherished. Today and every day of our lives we need to ask ourselves, “Where do we stand for life and what are we standing upon?” Life, as many of us have known it, is under attack. Over 40 years ago, our nation legalized the killing of babies in the womb. In several states, people have been given the right to end their lives whenever they can’t handle it any longer. The devaluing of the elderly continues to escalate in our country. Marriage has been redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court. So, we really have to ask ourselves on this Life Sunday, “Where do we stand on life?”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Thankfully in this verse Jesus unmasks for us what is happening in our lives, in our country and in our world. There are two opposing forces in this world: One is the culture of death and one is the culture of life. The world offers destruction and Jesus offers abundant life. It is becoming more apparent to us all the time that we are living in a battlefield, and we need to be equipped for the schemes of the devil. The Apostle Paul reminds us “For 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.” (Eph 6:12) We are no match for the devil. We need the strength of another and that strength comes to us through Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul’s exhorts us by saying, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” (Eph 6:10) Our Lord Jesus Christ disarmed the devil by his victory when He shed His blood for us on the cross of Calvary. If we focus on ourselves we see sin and failure, but in Jesus there is righteousness and perfection. He is our perfect substitute, so we are strong in Him alone.
We all are facing a very different world than what your parents and grandparents faced. We all need to put on our armor because the battle will be fierce and you have no chance without wearing the armor of God-given to you. As believers, we have spiritual armor available, but it must be put on.
So, look at the resources we have available. As Lutherans, we refer to this arsenal of firepower as the “Means of Grace.” The chief means of grace is found in the Bible, God’s holy inerrant Word. In His Word, God detailed for us His plan to save all mankind from sin by sending His Only Son into this world. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph 6:17) as one of our weapons and resources for the battle we are facing.
When assaulted by doubts or mistakes in our past, we stand on the promises of God’s forgiveness. Oh, in our past we may have “played around” in the devil’s minefields of sexually and other temptations, but the Apostle John reminds us “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Yes, you can stand for life today, even if you have caused death by your thoughts, words or deeds. When you bring any sin into the light of God’s Word, Jesus disarms the enemy. The devil can no longer hold that sin over you. Christ is our righteousness, and we stand with Him. God’s Word thus enables us to Stand for life.
Not only has God given His Word, but He has given us two incredible, powerful, visible means to remind us that in Christ we are forgiven and a new creature. When we were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, His death became our death to sin. His resurrection became our resurrection to a new life. By our baptism, we can stand by faith in our relationship with Jesus. When we are with others and a life issue comes up, don’t be afraid to speak up for life because Christ lives in us so that we can stand up for life.
God assures us that when we come to the Lord’s Supper that Jesus gave His righteous, spotless, blameless life for us. His body and blood are offered to us to guarantee us that in Christ all our sins are forgiven. We come to the communion table as repentant sinners, confessing our utmost confidence in our Savior who took all that the devil could muster in our place. It is Jesus who stood against every temptation of the devil for us. It is Jesus who lived a perfect life for us. It is Jesus who gave His life for us and rose again on that third day to give us life forever. So, yes, we are in a battle, but because of our great resources, we can stand up for life as we put on the armor of God.
Yes, we need the “take up the full armor” as the Apostle Paul reminds us over and over again to, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”(Eph 6:14-18).
Think of how vulnerable a soldier is when he is missing protective equipment. You who are in Christ have no excuses, put on the armor of God given to you! Parents, you have an important role to play in your children’s lives. You have brought them to the Lord in baptism, but now you need to teach them how to use the armor they have been given?
God’s Word is absolutely truth, yet most of our culture doesn’t believe there is any such thing as absolute truth today. Who would have thought that such fundamental issues of life would ever be challenged in our world, but still we have God’s Word to stand upon? And stand we must, for there is a war going on. The two opposing forces of death and life are very active. The Apostle Paul describes the devil’s activities as “schemes” (4:11). These are not arbitrary situations that believers face. These are well-calculated schemes. There is strategy behind the activity that the devil is working out in our lives. In a game between two neighborhood football teams, there may not be a lot of well-thought-out strategy, but in a professional football game, thought and planning goes on into the wee hours of the morning in preparation for the game. So, it is with the schemes of the devil. He knows his strategy very well, and his schemes are planned. So, we must pray for help against his strategy each and every day. Prayer is another piece of armor that we need to put on. In our churches, we need to gather in pray against the forces of evil in Jesus’ name.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Eph 6:13) What picture comes to your mind when you think of someone standing firm? Perhaps a U.S. Marine? Or How about a person trained in karate? If you watch carefully, they do not stand with their feet together but apart, so they can withstand an attack from any direction. That is what the armor of God does for the believer. It makes him invincible in Christ! The devil cannot overcome the believer. Remember: It is the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ that empowers us. What a blessed place the believer has to stand—in the righteousness of Christ!
“So how do we put on this Armor of God?” There are many examples of how believers in the past have used and put on the armor God given to us in the Bible and one of the most famous of them all is found in the battle of David and Goliath. The young man David volunteers to take on the battle against Goliath when no other Israelite is willing to battle against this evil one. King Saul gave David his armor to wear but David refuses it and says, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. (1 Sam 17:39 – 40) To the mighty Goliath this looked like David had no armor on, but David knew that he had but on the right armor given to him by God and he proclaims, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Sam 17:45 – 46) As David grew up his parents had taught him God’s Word and he had but it to use in his life daily in preparation for the battles to come. What battles are we preparing our children for so that they can stand for life? What battles are we preparing for to stand for life?
Believers, daily need to put on the armor that is supplied to you by Jesus. You have no strength of your own, but the Word of God tells you of all the armor that is required to stand—the full armor of God. Yes, we stand against the schemes of the devil as we stand firm in Christ our armor.
St. Augustine, when tempted to plunge back into the old life of sin he once indulged in, said to himself: “You fool, don’t you know that you are carrying God around with you.” Oh, how the believer in Christ needs to remember that Christ lives within us and is our armor. This is no longer my life, it is Christ’s. Yes, you live in the midst of a battle between the culture of death and the culture of life. So, stand firm in Christ, where the abundant life has always been and always will be! For in Christ we stand for life, now and forever. Amen.