Robert Jeffress - Stopping the Barbarian at the Gate
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Godly people rarely fall in one day, rather they dabble with temptation until one day they find themselves completely immersed in a lifestyle of sin. It's one of Satan's most dangerous and effective tactics. And today I'm going to teach you how to stop Satan's advances before he can get a foothold in your life. My message is titled, "Stopping The Barbarian At The Gate" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
If you have your Bibles, I wanna invite you to turn to Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6. So far we've seen that there is a very real, though invisible world that exists right alongside this universe. It is a realm in which God and Satan, angels and demons reside. It's a world that in many ways is more real than the world we see around us. You know, the Bible says everything we see is one day going to be destroyed by fire. That's what's going to happen to this physical world. But this unseen world is what will last forever. And though this world is unseen, it really explains everything that happens in the visible world in general and in your world in particular, the spirit world. And in the spirit world that we've seen, that we have both an advocate and an adversary. Our advocate is Jesus Christ.
Right now Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father, he is daily, hourly, making intercession for you before his Heavenly Father. But we also have an adversary in the spiritual world. First Peter 5:8 says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, for your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour". If you're a Christian this morning, Satan knows he can't have you forever in hell with him, but he's not given up on you. If he can't have your spirit forever, he wants to destroy everything important to you, your family, your faith, your influence for the Kingdom of God, your sense of well-being. He wants to destroy everything important to you.
And don't underestimate him, he has the power to be able to do that. And not only does he have the power to be able to bring great destruction into your life, the Bible says, he has a method, a scheme, a blueprint that is personalized just for you. He knows your weak points, he knows exactly how to take you out, and he's got a plan to do that. And Paul says in Ephesians 6 that is why it is important, it is essential that if we're going to have victory in Satan's war against us, we put on the spiritual armor that God has provided for us. Remember in Ephesians 6, Paul was in prison, and as he looked at a Roman soldier, he thought to himself, the same pieces of armor that this soldier uses to guard himself against the enemy, in a spiritual sense is available to every Christian. And we looked so far at the first two pieces of armor.
Now look at your outline, let's look at the first one, remember what it is? Paul said, "Put on the belt of truth". Before a soldier in Paul's day would go into battle, he would take his free-flowing tunic and he would tuck it into a leather belt. That would keep the enemy from grabbing hold of that tunic and gaining an unfair advantage in battle. And the Bible says in the same way we need to guard against loose thoughts in our minds that might give the enemy an advantage. If Satan is going to enter your life, the primary conduit is through your mind, through your thoughts.
That's why Proverbs 4:23 says, "Guard your heart," which in the Hebrew understanding meant, "Guard your mind with all diligence, for out of your mind flow all the issues of life". And what Paul is saying is when you come across this loose thought, a wrong thought, recognize and replace destructive thoughts with God's thoughts. That's what it means to put on the belt of truth. Write that on your outline, recognize and replace destructive thoughts with God's thoughts. That's the strategy Paul is talking about. Then secondly, Paul talks about the breastplate of righteousness. Again, before the soldier would go into battle, he would put on this molded piece of metal, the breastplate that would cover the heart and the lungs, and other vital organs. And in the same way, Paul says we need to put on a breastplate, not of metal, but the breastplate of righteousness.
What does he mean by righteousness? Obviously, he's not talking about self-righteousness, our attempt to earn God's favor before we become a Christian, that kind of righteousness is worthless. He's not even talking about imputed righteousness. That's the gift of righteousness that covers us once we become a Christian. When you trust in Christ as your Savior, God wraps you in the perfect righteousness of his son Jesus, so that when he sees you, he sees the righteousness of his son. Now that's an important gift, but that's not what Paul is talking about here. After all, if he were talking about imputed righteousness, why would Paul say, "Christians, put on that righteousness"? We're already wearing it.
No, the kind of righteousness Paul is talking about here is practiced righteousness. A good synonym would be obedience. He is saying one way to thwart Satan's advance into your life is by making obedience to God a part of your life. And if I were gonna summarize that strategy, as I did on your outline, I would simply say, "Do what you know you should do". That's what he's talking about putting on the breastplate of righteousness. Do what you know you should do.
Well pastor, how does that help protect ourselves against the attack of Satan? Let me point it out, first of all, obedience protects us from the consequences of sin. Write that down. Obedience protects us from the consequences of sin. If Satan were a salesman, he would be sued by the federal trade commission for false advertising. Because he's always making promises about his product that he cannot in any way fulfill. And not only that, he is ignoring very real dangers of his product that brings harm to his consumers. Think about what he did in the Garden of Eden. He said to Eve, "If you will eat of this fruit, from this tree, you can be just like God".
Now that's false advertising. There is nothing in that fruit that was going to make Eve just like God. But she bought the lie. But not only did he make a promise that he couldn't fulfill, he told Eve, "Now see that warning label on that piece of fruit, that warning label that says, 'warning, this fruit can be hazardous to your spiritual health'? You can ignore that. That's not true. Yeah, I know God said, 'in the day you eat of the tree you shall surely die,' that is not true, you can ignore that warning". Now he continues the very same tactic today. In today's world, he makes promises that he cannot fulfill. He says engage in this sin or engage in this sin, and everything you've ever desired will be fulfilled. And he also encourages us to ignore God's warnings.
God says, "If you do this, if you disobey me, it will result in the death and destruction of everything you care about". Satan says, "You don't have to worry about that. In the day that you eat of the tree, you shall not surely die". I think of Proverbs 7:21-23, where Solomon talks about how sin, especially adultery, can blind a person. Listen to what the fate is of an adulterer. "With her many persuasions she entices him. With her flattering lips, she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver, as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life".
I want you turn over to Romans 6 for just a moment. This passage, Paul explains a sobering truth that most Christians are unaware of. You know, we think that we are free agents, we're free to do whatever we want to do. That is not true. In Romans 6, Paul is going to explain that all of us serve someone, all of us are someone's slave. We either serve God or we serve Satan. We are either slaves to righteousness, or we are slaves to unrighteousness. No man can serve two masters, but all of us are serving one master. Look at what he says in verse 16 of Romans 6. "Do you not know that when you present yourself to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey? You're slaves either of sin, resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness".
This morning, every one of you listening to this message is someone's slave. Let me illustrate that for you. Let's say that you were considering going to work for a new employer. In fact, in your hunt for a new job, you had narrowed it down to two different employers. Now before you made your decision, you'd probably do some investigation, wouldn't you? You would wanna know the salary or the wage that each employer offered. You'd wanna know about health benefits. You'd wanna know the vacation policy. You'd probably do some investigation into the character of the employer himself. Is he honest, is he trustworthy, does he operate with integrity? And based on all of that, you would choose which employer you were going to serve.
Now in the same way, Paul is saying in this passage, we get to choose who our employer will be. Do we want to work for God, or do we want to work for Satan? Do we want to serve righteousness or unrighteousness? Now Paul said before you make that decision, consider the wages that each master offers you. What is it that God is offering you, and what is it that Satan is offering you? Paul specifically was writing to a group of Christians, not non-Christians, but Christians who were falling back into sin. And Paul says, "Before you change masters, before you give up serving God and go back to serving Satan, you need to do some careful examination". Look at verse 21 of Romans 6. "Therefore, what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin, and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification and the outcome, eternal life".
See what he's saying? He's saying, before you start serving Satan, remember what your life was like then. Think about the ultimate outcome of serving Satan, it's death. But the outcome of serving God is eternal life. Now here's the verse we're all familiar with, verse 23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". Now we all know that verse. Many of us have learned it since we were children. And we use that verse in the context of evangelism, talking to non-Christians, the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life.
Now that's a fine way to use that verse. And ultimately it's true, the ultimate payment for separation from God is hell, the free gift of God is eternal life. But that's not really the context of this verse. When Paul wrote this verse, he wasn't writing to non-Christians, he was talking to Christians about the wages, the payment, of sin. He said, "Christians, if you go on sinning, if you change masters and go back to Satan, consider what the wages are going to be that he's going to pay you. The wages, the consequences of sin is death, that is destruction of everything important to you".
Let me be real specific. Choosing pride over humility destroys our relationships. Choosing adultery over fidelity in marriage destroys our marriages. Choosing gluttony over self-control destroys our bodies. Choosing laziness over diligence and perseverance destroys our dreams. The wages, the consequences, the end result of sin is the death and destruction of everything important to you. But the free gift of God is eternal life. That's why Paul is saying it is insane to sin. I mean if you had a choice of either serving God, working for him, or working for Satan, who in their right mind would choose to serve Satan? It makes no sense whatsoever. And yet, when you sin, when you disobey God, you are choosing Satan to be your master. What Paul is saying is obedience to God protects us from the bitter consequences, the bitter wages, if you will, of disobedience.
Secondly, obedience protects us from doubt about our salvation. One reason we need to put on the breastplate of righteousness, that is obedience to God, is obedience protects us from doubt about our salvation. One of my seminary professors used to say to those of us who were going into preaching, he said, "Men, nothing will create more doubt in your life than trafficking in unlived truth. Nothing will cause more doubt in a pastor's life than trafficking in unlived truth". He was saying, you know, when you get out and preach about spiritual truths that are not a part of your life, if you do that over a long period of time, eventually you're either going to doubt your faith, or you're going to doubt the faith in general. That warning extends beyond those of us who are in vocational Christian service. It's true for you as well. You know, in our culture sometimes we extol the virtues of doubt.
We say, "It's okay to doubt". It's true doubt can be profitable sometimes, if it leads you to carefully examine the authenticity of your faith. But in the Bible, doubt is never presented in a positive light. And the reason is doubt leads to a half-hearted commitment to God, or what the Bible calls being double-minded. God doesn't want you to doubt your relationship with him. He doesn't want you to doubt, because doubt leads to being double-minded. Listen to what the Bible says about a double-minded person. Psalm 119:113, "I hate those who are double-minded, but I love your law". Or James 1:8, "Being a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways". Or James 4:8, "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded".
You know what the best antidote to doubt is? It's obedience to God. There is something about obeying God, doing what you already know you should be doing, that gives you assurance that you are truly a child of God. We read about that this morning in 1 John. Listen to 1 John 3:18-19. "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth," that we can give 100 reasons for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Is that how you know that the faith is real? That's not what it says. "We will know by this that we are of the truth, and we will assure our heart before him".
The way we know we are truly children of God is not because we've memorized a set of doctrinal truths. And I'm all for doctrinal truth, that's important. But the real way to assure our hearts that we are really children of God, John says, is by obedience to God. By this our obedience to God, not just talking about it, but living it out, that's how you know, that's how you are assured that you are a child of God. Here's something you might want to write down. Only professions of faith that lead to expressions of obedience will result in the guarantee of the possession of eternal life. Only professions of faith that result in expressions of obedience guarantee that we are in possession of eternal life. If you wanna know that you are saved, the way you know for sure is by your obedience to God's word.
A third benefit of obedience is this, obedience protects us from the loss of heavenly rewards. One way obedience protects us from Satan is that it protects us from the loss of heavenly rewards. What Satan wants to do is if he cannot rob you of your place in heaven, which he can't, he wants to rob you of your position in heaven. If he can't keep you from entering into heaven, which he can't, he wants to keep you from enjoying heaven to the fullest. But here's the good news. If you're sitting here today, if you're listening to this message, you don't have to enter heaven with any regrets at all, because there's time right now to make a change in your life. Obedience to God prevents the loss of future rewards.
Number four, how does obedience protect us from Satan? Obedience protects us from Satan's further entrance into our lives. Whenever I'm counseling with a Christian who's battling some strong addiction that has a stranglehold onto his life, or a Christian who's involved in an immoral relationship that he or she can't break free of, or talking to Christians whose life is so filled with doubts about God and the Bible, it doesn't seem that he will ever come back, I'm always reminded of C.S. Lewis's words. Lewis said, "The road to hell is a gradual one, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts".
When Satan wants to get entrance into your life, he doesn't wage a full-scale assault and come into your mind and hard and claim victory immediately. He's too clever for that. Instead what Satan does is he looks for an entry, an opening into your life, a place where he can get a toehold, remember, that becomes a foothold, and eventually a stronghold in your life. And that opening in your life that he's looking for is a compromise, a rationalization of sin. Because Satan knows, if he can get you to compromise the first time, it makes it much easier to compromise the second time, the third time, and the fourth time.
Samuel Johnson said, "The chains of habit are too small to be felt, until they're too strong to be broken". Proverbs 5:22 says, "He will be held by the cords of his own sin". Let me illustrate that for you. Remember the illustration of the string. If I take this string and wrap it once, or even twice, around my fingers, I can free very easily from it, it has no hold on me. But when I take this string and continue to wrap it around my hand, it begins to control my hand. You know, that first inappropriate conversation with somebody else's mate makes that second conversation that much easier. That first five minutes spent on an inappropriate internet site makes spending the next five minutes that much easier.
Taking that first item from my business makes taking that second item that's not mine that much easier. Forfeiting that first time alone with God in order to watch TV or do something else makes that second compromise that much easier, and pretty soon, I am so bound with sin that I cannot break free. He will be held by the cords of his own iniquity. How do I keep sin from having a stranglehold on my life? It's by saying no the first time. That's what it means to put on the breastplate of righteousness, to stop the barbarian Satan at the gate before he ever gains entrance and control over your life.