Greg Laurie — What You Don't Know Will Hurt You
The title of our message this morning is, "What you don't know will hurt you". Ephesians 6. I heard a story about a pastor that went to visit a member of his congregation who was in a convalescent home. He arrived in her room. He had missed lunch and he was hungry. This lady was asleep. He thought, "I don't know when she is going to wake up, but I am sure hungry". There sitting right next to her bed was a bowl of peanuts. "I really shouldn't eat her peanuts, but I am hungry". He was so tempted. He thought, "I will just eat one". He had one peanut. It was delicious. He had two. Then he had three. She kept sleeping. A little while passed and he ate the whole bowl. She finally woke up. He said, "I am so sorry. I was hungry. I missed lunch. I ate all of your peanuts". She said, "Oh that's ok sonny. I already sucked all of the chocolate off of them". That is just so bad. Now confession. I was that pastor. No. I wasn't.
You know temptation is everywhere. In fact temptation and spiritual attack and conflict as a follower of Jesus is going to follow you to the last day of your life. It doesn't stop until you get to heaven. You are going to be tempted. You are going to be harassed. You are going to be hassled. You are going to be attacked. Why? Because bottom line. Satan does not want you to follow Jesus Christ. The good news is God knows our breaking point and he won't give us more than we can handle.
It has been said Christians are a lot like teabags. You don't know what they are made of until you put them in hot water. You can handle more than you think you can handle. You are stronger than you may think you are if you are trusting in the Lord. God will not give you too much. Really we are in a battle and there is no getting out of this. Here is our choice in this spiritual conflict. We are going to fight or we are not going to fight. Thus we are going to win or we are going to lose or we are going to be victorious or we are going to be defeated. Sometimes we feel like we are losing.
Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone is a fighter until they get hit". That is true. You can talk about resisting temptation but when it hits how will you do? If you have ever watched any film of Mike Tyson boxing you know when he hit someone he took years off of their life. I remember watching one match I don't think it was holyfield but someone else Mike Tyson was fighting. He hit them right in the jaw. The other boxer literally just sort of shook and then collapsed to the ground.
Maybe you feel that way at times. You are just getting hit. You don't know if you can take anymore. God will be with you to give you the strength to get through it. Sometimes we may wonder why the devil does do what he does. Why is he so depraved? Why is he so wicked? Why is he so persistent? Here is the simple answer. Because he knows his time is short. He knows his days are numbered. A fascinating passage from revelation 12:12 that talks about the devil on sort of a rampage in the end times. It says, "Rejoice you heavens and you that dwell them but woe to the earth and the sea! The devil has gone down to you. He is filled with fury he knows his time is short". Satan is full of fury and he knows his time or his days are short. Knowing Christ is coming is a good thing for Christians. It is an incentive to share our faith and to live holy lives. But for the devil it is an incentive to attack our faith and try to make us stumble and fall and to take as many with him as possible.
Listen folks. This is not a church picnic. This is a war that we are all in. The Bible often uses the imagery of soldiering and war to describe the Christian life. We are told over in 2 Timothy 3 we should be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, "I fought the good fight". That is why I called the series the good fight. We face a formidable foe. Martin Luther had it right in his great hymn a mighty fortress is our God when he writes, "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe: his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal". That is true. There is no equal of the devil on earth. But then Luther goes on to say, "But a mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing". Our God is far greater than the devil. "Greater is he that is in us than he that is this world". We know this. We win in the end. So that is good news.
Let's read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. I am going to read verses 10-18. "Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the the heavenly places. 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. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace: above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints".
Ok. So we have some Roman armor that showed up while we were reading. This is a pretty accurate reproduction of the armor that a Roman soldier would wear. This, by the way, is what Paul is referring to because Paul spent a lot of time hanging around Roman soldiers. That is because he was sent to prison for preaching the Gospel. On more than one occasion he was chained to a soldier. He figured out how all of this armor worked. We have the helmet of salvation. The breastplate of righteousness. The shield of faith. The sword of the spirit. Here is a smaller shield that I will explain in a moment.
Every piece of Roman armor was important. Why? Because we are in a battle. This helps us to face those fiery darts of the wicked one. Years ago I was giving one of my first messages as a young preacher. I was very nervous. I decided to preach from Ephesians 6. The same text we are looing at. People still remind me of this blooper I said that day. Some of you may already know it. I am reading through Ephesians 6 and instead of saying the fiery darts of the wicked one I said the diary farts of the wicked one. That will probably be on my tombstone. He said diary farts of the wicked one. I did. Now I just said it again. Those are the flaming arrows of temptation and attacks that come our way. What are we supposed to do?
1. If you are taking notes you might write this down. We need to stand in God's strength and not our own. Verse 10. "Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might". Know this. You are no match for the devil. You would never want to take him on in your own strength. You are not fighting for God. You are not being strong for God. You are not fighting for victory. You are fighting from victory. You are resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ for you on the cross where he said that word tetelestai which is translated it is finished which means it is accomplished. It is done. It is completed. What was accomplished? He purchased our salvation. Satan was defeated at the cross. I don't come to satan in my own strength. I come in God's strength.
This is a very important distinction to make. A decisive blow was dealt against the enemy at the cross. Satan knows your closeness to God and fellowship with him is your power base. His objective is to separate you from God in fellowship. His chief aim is to get between the soul and God and to separate man's heart from God and inspire confidence instead in himself. I want you to notice what Paul says here. He doesn't say put on the armor and be strong. He says be strong and put on the armor. You see you have to first be strong in the Lord. Everything we will talk about with this armor is meaningless if you are not standing in God's strength and not your own.
2. We need to put on the whole armor of God. Every piece. Paul uses the various pieces of armor that a Roman soldier would wear to make his point. Each piece is interconnected. It is the helmet of salvation. It is the breastplate of righteousness. It is the shield of faith. It is the sword of the spirit. Each one has its place. Here is what we need to know. We don't pick and choose what pieces of the armor we want to wear or don't want to wear. We wear it all because every part is important. You are saying, "Ok. Good. But what does this mean in real life"?
Listen to this now. The armor represents both our position in Christ and what we should do with that position. The armor speaks of what God has done for you and then what you should do for God. This is standing on what God has provided for me. Every piece is important because if you leave one piece off that is where you are going to be vulnerable. If I am facing a guy in battle and he is not wearing a helmet, what am I going to go for first? Or if I come up against a guy and he doesn't have his breastplate on I am going to go right here. That is where the vital organs are. I am going to look for the areas that are the weakest so I can be successful in my attack.
In the same way that is what the devil does. You might say, "I am really strong in this area of my life, but I am kind of weak here, here, and here so I don't have to worry about that. I will just work on this". Hold on. The area where you think you are the strongest that is where you could end up being the weakest. Why? Because an unguarded strength is a double weakness. Let's say you say, "I would never be unfaithful to my spouse. I would never consider that temptation. I know I am weak here and here but that area I have got covered". Guess where you are going to get hit? Guess where you may fall? The Bible says, "Pride goes before a fall". You have to keep your guard up in every area of life. You could always be vulnerable in a way you don't' realize.
Let's start with the first piece of the armor. This one isn't reflected in this armor I have here. I will call it the utility belt of truth. Look at verse 14. "Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth". Everything a Roman soldier needed was interconnected with the belt. In this belt that the soldier would wear the breastplate was connected to it. The sheath for the sword was connected to it. So it was vital. If you pulled his belt off, his toga would drop down below his knees. His breastplate would fall off. His sword and sheath would fall off. Obviously that soldier would be vulnerable. Maybe the belt is not the most exciting part of the armor but it is an essential part.
Also it is interesting he said girding your waist with truth. What does that mean? Girding is not a word we generally use. It is a biblical word. The Bible tells us on more than one occasion to gird yourself. In fact Moses told the Israelites in Exodus 12 that they were to eat their passover meal with haste. Eat it quickly. The Israelites were to eat their meal quickly and then have their sandals on, their staff in their hands, and their loins girded. What are loins and how do you gird them? Think of this. It is like your robe and you pull it up above your knee here to give you mobility. To have your loins girded means to have your belt tight. Your armor is on. You are ready for battle. When a Roman soldier would relax he would take off this bulky armor, which was not comfortable, take off this helmet and loosen up his belt, let the garment down. Just kind of hanging out. Time to go to battle. Tighten that thing. Pull it above the knees. Get everything fastened on and off you go. What it means is you are in a constant state of readiness. You never know when an opportunity will come to share your faith. You never know when an attack will come against your faith. You are in constant readiness.
If we were to put it in modern vernacular we would say something along the lines of have gas in your car, have your cell phone charged, and have your running shoes on. I am ready to go. That is the idea being conveyed here. This utility belt that the soldier would wear is similar to what a police officer wears. The officers call it their Sam Browne. On the Sam Browne are all of these items that an officer needs when they are on duty doing their job. They will have their holster for their gun. They will have the place for their extra magazines for their gun. They will have handcuffs. A flashlight. Maybe a walkie talkie. Maybe a baton or an asp as it is called. A little metal thing that extend out to whack someone if you want them to behave. They might have some pepper spray. They have a little place to hold a doughnut right here. It is just a joke. Ok. You take the Sam Browne the utility belt off of an officer and they are vulnerable. This is where they keep all of their stuff to do their job.
We need to keep our belt on. What does this mean? The utility belt of truth represents a life and a mind that is pulled together and ready to serve for God's glory. Let me repeat that. The utility belt of truth. The belt of truth represents a life and a mind that is pulled together and ready to serve for the glory of God. That starts with the truth of what the Bible says about everything. truth is in this book. We need to believe what this book says and we need to learn to start thinking and acting biblically. Far too often we will be moved by our emotions and our feelings. It is the Word of God that we should be living by. You start with that truth. Listen to this. Then you live by that truth and you live truthfully.
That brings us to the breastplate. There were different versions of the Roman breastplate. This is one with these layers of metal. Others were sometimes made out of leather. They would be sort of like in the shape of a very muscular guy. Right. Sometimes they were metal. I wish they would bring those back by the way. Even if you are out of shape you look good wearing that breastplate this breastplate is important because what is it called? The breastplate of righteousness. Listen to this. Don't miss this please. This righteousness is not speaking of all of the good things we do for God. It is speaking of all of the good things that God has done for us.
This righteousness that is our breastplate that protects our vital organs is the imputed righteousness of Christ. If this guy has his breastplate on, his vital organs are protected. If I hit him in the leg, he could survive it. If I hit him in the arm, he could live through it. Even without an arm. If I hit him here and he doesn't have a breastplate on, he will die. The breastplate is essential protecting those essential organs that we need to live. What it means is that I understand that Jesus Christ at the cross purchased my salvation and he not only forgave me of my sin but he put his righteousness into my spiritual bank account. It is called the imputed righteousness of Christ. That is what justification is. Justification is God removing my sin and putting Christ's righteousness into my account so now I stand positionally righteous before God.
Honestly there are times I don't live as I ought to but that doesn't mean I am not positionally righteous. Sort of like your kids. If your kids do something wrong they don't cease to be your kids. They are just your naughty kids. They are still your kids. As a child of God with my salvation purchased by Jesus I am his child. Maybe I am a wayward child. Maybe at times I am a prodigal child. I still stand in relationship with him. That is the breastplate of righteousness that Christ gives to me. You say I don't get how this works in battle. Here is how it works. The devil comes and he attacks you. First he tempts you. He will say, "Why don't you try this little sin". You say, "I won't do that". "Try it once". "No. I am not going to do it". "Just try this free sample". Ok. You try it one time. You are like the preacher with the peanuts. You eat the whole bowl.
Then payday comes. Then the devil comes and says, "You miserable hypocrite. You are such a sinner. Don't even consider reading the Bible. Don't even think about going to church on Sunday. Don't even consider praying. God would never listen to someone like you". You go, "It is true. I am so bad. I can't approach God". Hold on. I can approach God any time not because of the good I have done but because of the sacrifice that he made for me. That is the breastplate of righteousness.
Listen to this. Satan will always try to keep you from the cross and the Holy Spirit will always draw you to the cross. When you have sinned, that is when you run, not walk to church to get help from the Word of God and from God's people. When you have sinned, that is when you open the Bible and read it. When you have sinned, that is when you pray and ask God to forgive you of your sin and call it what it is. I wear this breastplate and it protects me from the attacks of the enemy. I am standing in his righteousness. This verse sums it up perfectly. 2 Timothy 2:22, "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead pursue righteousness living, faithfulness, love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts".
What it means is hang out with godly people who do godly things. Listen to this. Show me your friends and I will show you your future. What kind of people do you hang around with? godly people? Or are you uncomfortable around godly people? You would rather hang around with people that don't care about God. No. Pursue righteous living. You know you are righteous in Christ because of what he did. Now live a life that reflects that. Otherwise you can remain forever in a self-imposed prison.