Robert Jeffress - Storming The Gates Of Hell
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It's been said that there are two different ways to approach a task, reactive and proactive. A reactive approach responds to problems as they occur, while a proactive approach, aims to eliminate the problems before they arise. And when it comes to spiritual warfare, God wants us to employ both methods. For the past few weeks we've been learning how to defend ourselves against Satan's attacks. But now it's time to turn the tables, and take an offensive position. My message is titled "Storming The Gates of Hell," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One of the truisms of football is also applicable to warfare, and that is the best defense is a good offense. You know, when a soldier hears the bullets zinging or the bombs bursting overhead, his first instinct is to drop to the ground, to look for cover, to try to protect himself. And while such a response is natural, it's not enough. Eventually, the soldier has to stand back up, dust himself off, and start moving forward against the enemy, if he's going to win the battle, the best defense is a good offense. That principle also applies to spiritual warfare.
You know, in our battle against Satan, it's not enough to try to protect ourselves from the enemy's attack. It's not enough to just hunker down and hope, somehow, either we or our family survives the attacks of the evil one. God wants us to do more than simply survive Satan's attacks against us. He's actually calling upon us to get up and to start moving offensively against Satan. Very simply, God wants you to be a part of his force that is going to overthrow the kingdom of the evil one.
In fact, he says that very clearly in Matthew 16:18. Remember Jesus' words to Peter and some of the apostles? The Lord was taking an opinion survey. He said, "Who are people saying that I am"? And the apostles gave various opinions where some people say, "You're John the Baptist". Some say, "You're Elijah". Then he said, "Well, Peter, who do you say that I am"? And Peter said, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God". And Jesus said, "Bingo," that's in the Greek text, "Bingo". He said, "That's right. And upon this rock, Peter, upon this confession of faith that you've made, I will build my church". Can you recite the rest of it? "And the gates of hades will not prevail against it".
Now, you know, we've said that verse so often we get the wrong idea sometimes of what it means. When we say the gates of hades will not prevail against it, many of us picture the church behind these iron gates. They're shivering in fear, hoping that we're going to survive Satan's battering ram against us. But read the verse carefully. That's not what it's saying. It's not the church behind the gates. It is Satan and his forces who are behind the gates, the gates of hell. And they're cowering in fear at the church that is advancing towards Satan and his kingdom. God wants you, he wants me, to be a part of his force to overthrow the kingdom of Satan.
And by the way, we don't wait until the second coming to begin the assault against Satan. Every time you make a step forward, that represents a nail in the enemy's coffin. So, don't be surprised when he doesn't start bombarding you with discouragement, with doubt, with deception, to try to get you to stop or retreat in that plan. How can we keep moving forward in the plan that God has for us? That's what Ephesians 6 is all about. If you have your Bibles turn to Ephesians 6, beginning with verse 16. God has given us some armor, some spiritual weapons, to help us move forward against the evil one.
Now we've talked about three of them already. We've talked about the belt of truth. Paul said, "First of all, put on the belt of truth". Remember that strategy? Recognize destructive thoughts and replace them with God's thoughts. And then he talks about, "Put on the breastplate of righteousness". He's talking about obedience there. He says, "Do the thing you know you should do. Do what God has commanded you to do. That will protect you from the evil one". And then we've looked several weeks at the boots, put on the right spiritual boots, the preparation of the Gospel of peace. That strategy is make God's business your business.
Now, when we get to verse 16, we're going to find three more pieces of armor that are especially helpful as we move forward offensively against the enemy, as we follow God's plan for our life. And the first piece of armor we're going to look at today is the shield of faith. Look at verse 16, Ephesians 6:16. Paul says, "Taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one". Now, Paul's audience understood exactly what he meant by the shield. And their shield was a piece of wood that was 4 1/2 feet tall and two feet wide, and it was covered in water-soaked leather.
You say, "Water-soaked leather? Why would you cover a shield in that"? Because when the Roman soldiers started Marching toward the enemy, the enemy would take his arrow, and the tip of that arrow would be dipped in pitch and then set on fire, and the enemy would shoot that flaming missile, that arrow, at the Roman soldier. And when that Roman soldier saw the flaming arrow coming toward him, what did he do? He simply lifted up his shield. And when that flaming arrow tip hit the water-soaked leather, it would be extinguished immediately. Now that's the imagery Paul is using here. He said, "When you're advancing in in the plan God has for you, don't be surprised when the attacks come much more intently and much more frequently".
By the way, ladies and gentlemen, one way you know you're in the center of God's will, is when those attacks start coming. When those attacks start coming, you can know you're headed down the path God has for you. Same thing, true for a church, Satan doesn't attack a church that's not doing anything. It's when a church starts making progress in the plan that God has for it that those attacks come. Those attacks can include the flaming arrows of discouragement, or deception, or distraction. And Paul says, "Whenever you face those attacks, what you need to do is hold up the shield of," what? "Faith". And when you hold up faith, immediately, those attacks are extinguished.
Now, faith is not believing God will do what we want him to do. You want to know what real faith is? Glad you asked, turn to Hebrews 11:1. The definition of it is in the verse we read just a moment ago. Here is the definition of faith, Hebrews 11:1. The writer says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for. It is the conviction of things not seen". Well, you notice in this verse, nowhere is faith equated with hope, wish, or desire. The word is hope, is used in the verse, but that's not what is acquainted with faith. The Bible says faith is the assurance, underline that, assurance of things hoped for. It is the what? Conviction of things not seen.
Now those words are key to understanding what faith is. The word assurance in Greek refers to a concrete foundation on which pillars would be set in a great structure. Faith is a concrete assurance, not a hope, wish, or desire. It is the assurance of what? That God will do what he's promised to do. Not that God will do what I want him to do, but that God will do what he has promised to do. But not only that, faith is a conviction. That word, conviction, refers to outward behavior. Faith is the outward behavior that stems from assurance. It's outwardly demonstrating we believe in the promises of God. Faith is an assurance, it is conviction.
Now here's the definition of faith, write it down. Faith is believing that God will do what he's promised to do, and acting accordingly. Faith is believing that God will do what he has promised to do and acting accordingly. In Hebrews 11, after that definition of faith, you find examples of men and women who exercise true faith. They believed what God said, and then they acted accordingly. How do you respond when those flaming arrows come your way?
You know one of the greatest illustrations in the Bible of someone who took up the shield of faith is the character of Job in the Old Testament. Remember Job, he was a man who loved God. He obeyed God, he followed God, but that did not exempt him from periods of intense suffering. In fact, probably no man who's ever lived, or woman, has suffered as an intense attack, and as a short amount of time, as did Job. Remember, what could have been a 24 hour period, Job lost his 10 children in a freak storm. And not only that, he lost all of his possessions. And not only that, he lost his health. He experienced Satan's flaming arrows that were launched against him. And yet, how did Job respond? He believed what God had said, and he acted accordingly.
And from Job's life, what I'd like to do this morning is to share with you three truths about God you have to believe, and have to act upon if you're going to survive Satan's attack against you, and not only survive, but move forward in the plan that God has for your life. First of all, God is in control, trust him. That's what Job did. Job believed that God was in control and he trusted him.
Now to believe that God is in control of the world in general, or of your world specifically, is not always easy, because when you look around, all of the evidence seems to be to the contrary that God's really in control. I mean, after all, I mean, if God is really in control of your life, why did God allow you to lose that job? If God is really in control of your life, why are you going through this financial difficulty? If God is really in control of your life, why did he allow this illness to strike you or a loved one? If God's really in control of your life, why did he take that loved one from you? It's very difficult to believe that God is in control.
Job struggled with that. You know, it's after those great times of suffering, when Job had lost everything, that the enemy slithered up to him in the person of his wife and his three best friends, and started to discourage Job. "Job, if God is really in control of your life, why would he allow you to lose your possessions, your family, everything important to you? Job, maybe God doesn't care about you. Maybe God isn't interested in your life. Maybe God doesn't even exist". Don't be surprised, ladies and gentlemen, that the enemy doesn't launch those same kind of discouraging attacks in your life as well. How did Job respond to that? When he was at the very bottom, Job 42:2, you know what he said? He said, "God, I know you can do all things, and no one can thwart your purpose".
Job believed that God was in control of his life. Job believed that God had a plan for his life, even though that plan was hidden in the darkness. God is calling you, some of you today, to believe that he really is still in control of every part of your life. He's asking you to trust him because of that. There's a second truth that Job believed in and acted upon. And that is that God rewards the righteous, therefore obey him. You know, that's another one of those truths that is invisible, and it's hard to believe at times that God really rewards righteous people and that it's really worth obeying him.
Again, we look around us and we say, "There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence for the fact that God treats righteous and unrighteous people any differently". I mean, think about it. Unrighteous people, contract cancer, and so do righteous people. Unrighteous people have trouble in their families, but so do righteous people. Unrighteous people die, but guess what? So do righteous people. So, if there is no difference in how God treats the righteous and the unrighteous, where's the payoff for obeying God. Job wrestled with that. In fact, in Job 21:17, he lamented, "How often is the lamp of the wicked put out"? "Or how does their calamity fall on them"?
You know what he was saying, "God, why doesn't the wicked person suffer like I'm suffering right now? Oh, when are they going to get their comeuppance? What's the purpose of serving you, if you're not going to treat me any differently than you treat the unrighteous"? But in James 5:11, the half brother of Jesus, as he wrote this letter, talked about the endurance of Job. Even though he had momentary doubts, and we all have them, Job persisted in obeying God, because he had this hint, he had this belief, this persuasion, that there was going to be a payoff one day for his obedience to God.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will never obey God completely or consistently, unless you believe there's a reward someday for doing so. The good news is, there is such a reward. Hebrews 11:6 says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after him. God rewards the righteous, obey him. Third, Job believed that God's kingdom will prevail. Therefore serve him.
Abraham Lincoln said, "I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail". Lincoln was saying, "I'd rather be a part of a team that is winning in the short run, but it's going to win in the long run, rather than to be a part of a team that's won the first half of the game, but ultimately it's going to lose". Wouldn't you rather be that part of a team, a part of that kind of team? We want to be on the team that wins in the end.
Sometimes it's hard to believe that we're on the winning side right now when we're serving God. I mean, after all, all of the evidence, again, seems to be to the contrary. Look around you. Doesn't it seem like Satan's kingdom is the kingdom that is winning right now? As Job sat on the ash heap and cataloged all of his losses, as he thought about his 10 children that he loved just as much as you love your children, as he thought about all of his wealth that had evaporated, as he thought about and felt this terrible pain from the illness that had afflicted him, he started asking himself, "Am I really on the right side in this deal"?
Again, you will never say no to the discouragement of the evil one until you believe that God's kingdom will prevail. But again, when Job was at the very bottom, when Job had sustained such terrible losses, remember what he cried out in faith in Job 19:25-26? He said, "As for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and that one day he will take a stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed yet from my flesh, I will see God". In spite of the losses he had incurred, Job believed that Christ was coming back one day to establish his eternal kingdom on the earth. And Job said, "I want to be a part of the winning team. I want to be on the part of the side, that's going to prevail for all eternity. And therefore I am going to serve God".
You have to make that same choice today. You have to come to the point to decide whose side you're going to be on, which team you're going to play on, whose kingdom you're going to serve. Are you going to serve the Kingdom of God? Are you going to serve the kingdom of Satan and all the things of this world? It's one or the other, it can't be both. There's no room for neutrality in this battle. It's time for some of you this morning to quit hesitating and make up your mind about who and what you're going to serve. Some of you are double-minded in your pursuit in life. You want a little bit of God, but you want a little bit of this too, and you end up unsatisfied. Today, it's time to quit hesitating and to make up your mind.
If money is your God, if the thought of making it, spending it, stacking it up on a pile and sitting on it, if that is what you think about and obsess about, why not go ahead and serve money with all of your heart? Quit trying to play like you love God and love money too. You can't do that. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters. He'll either love the one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other. No man can serve God and Mammon". If money is going to be the center of your affection, the Word of God says, "Go ahead and serve money with all of your heart". Don't try to serve money and God. If your career is your God, if making a name for yourself, this is yourself succeeding in your business, if that is your God, go ahead and give it everything you've got.
Quit wasting time coming to church or on your family, and feeling bad that you're not giving your job everything you could. If your Job is your God, go ahead and serve it with all of your heart, not with just half a heart. If pleasure is your God, and that's really what you're about in life, trying to see how much pleasure you can extract out of life, quit putting these artificial inhibitions on, restrictions on. Quit saying, "Well, I'm going to do this, but I'm not going to do that because I'm a more", quit all that stuff. Go ahead and live the kinda life you really want to live. Give yourself to every type of immorality you want to give yourself to. Quit trying to serve pleasure and God.
If coming to church is a drag for you, if you'd rather be out on the golf course, or at a game, or doing something else, quit making yourself miserable, and all of us miserable as well. Just go ahead, quit coming to church. Go where you want to do. Make pleasure your God. How long will you hesitate between two opinions? But if God is truly God, then serve him with all of your heart, not with half a heart. Serve him with all of your heart, believing that one day his kingdom will be the one that prevails.
What does it mean to hold up the shield of faith? It means to believe that God is going to do what he has promised to do, and then acting accordingly. Holding up the shield of faith gives us the confidence to move forward in God's plan for our life, by trusting, by obeying, by serving God. The writer of Hebrews said it this way, "For the person who comes to God must first believe that he exists, that he is, and, that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after him".