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A Winning Uniform

Who is it going to be tonight? How many of you are rooting for the Patriots? How many are pulling for the Rams? I’m not a football girl, but if I had to root for one of the teams just based on their uniforms, call me a Patriot. I love the red, white and blue. I think the outline around Brady’s number 12 looks sharp. I love the emblem on his helmet. I know it isn’t supposed to be a fashion statement, but uniforms ARE pretty important in football.

Your jersey tells everyone what team you are on. Imagine if teams didn’t wear coordinated jerseys how much easier it would be to throw the ball to the wrong person or to tackle the wrong person! Your gear provides protection for the times you will take a hit. To forget one or more pieces at home would leave you vulnerable to the possibility that you could be significantly hurt. Players need each piece from the shoulder pads, gloves and thigh and knee pads to the mouth guard. The shoes give them the ability to dig in and gain traction as they move on the field.

The Apostle Paul has something to say about the uniforms we are to wear as believers so that in this game of life, which is really a game of spiritual warfare, we will know how to stand firm in difficult times and to stand firm when our enemy, Satan, comes against us.

Ephesians 6:10-18 10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12  For 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. 13  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

“Put on the FULL ARMOR of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Can I suggest this morning that perhaps one reason some believers aren’t experiencing the stability and forward movement in their spiritual lives is because they aren’t wearing the full armor? Maybe they have parts of the armor on, but parts are missing which exposes them to the devil’s schemes. Just as in the game of football which provides full body coverage for the players, the Armor of God provides extensive coverage for us as Christ-followers. We can’t leave pieces out and stand firm against the devil’s schemes.

Everything begins with the Helmet of Salvation. That is where you start! Imagine taking a blow to the head in a football game and not having your helmet on. You can sustain concussions WHILE wearing a helmet. Imagine what could happen without one! The Helmet of Salvation is the most important piece of gear you could wear because it will give you what you need in eternity as the blood of Jesus will cover your soul. That’s right. The Helmet of Salvation covers your soul.

It isn’t by accident that salvation is represented here by the helmet. Listen, God wants your mind to be protected at all times because what you think will impact how you feel and will define how you behave. Once you become a Christian by having the blood of Jesus applied to your life, you can ask God for a transformed mind. You can ask for the mind of Christ to be placed in your mind. When we are made children of God through salvation, we have a right to think about our lives the way God thinks about our lives. Once we have become children of God, we have a right to think about ourselves the way God thinks about us.

But that isn’t what the enemy wants. If Satan can get your mind in a dark place, if he can get you fixated on sin through fantasy or paranoia or by depressing you to the point where you think your only option is to medicate with drugs or alcohol or sexual exploration, he can lead you away from the team. He can isolate you. He can become the coach you start to listen to.

Allow Jesus to not only become your Savior through His shed blood on the cross, but learn to start claiming that His blood will keep you secure, His blood will empower you to think correctly, His blood will enable you to overcome when temptation comes knocking at your door! Do you understand this morning that salvation comes in and through the blood of Jesus and that by pleading the blood of Jesus over your mind, you can keep yourself from sinking into wrong thinking which will lead you astray? Some may say there is no evidence for pleading the blood of Jesus in Scripture, and I understand that there isn’t an actual account where we read of someone doing so, but for me, the blood of Jesus represents the power of God to overcome everything, so for me, the blood of Jesus is symbolic that I am an overcomer and that I am not going to be taken down by any thought the devil wants to place in my mind.

Satan wants your mind. If he has your mind, he can go after your soul. If he gets you down and out, you won’t want to come in here and praise the Lord which is one of the ways chains are broken in our lives. If he gets you mad at God and gets you blaming God for everything that is going wrong in your life, you won’t want to nurture your relationship with God; you won’t want be able to pray in faith and you won’t see the results prayer could yield in your life. He wants you distracted and fixated on the darkness of sin so that you aren’t free to serve the Lord and to witness to others about Him. The Helmet of Salvation isn’t only good for your soul’s protection, but it is good for the protection of your mind as well.

Let’s walk down the rest of Paul’s list.

The Belt of Truth-A belt is supposed to hold everything together, to hold everything in place. It secures our bottom half! Walking in truth is so important for us as believers. I think Paul listed the Belt of Truth first because it was truth that was under attack in the Garden of Eden. Satan came against Eve with lies, with the manipulation of semantics, trying to twist God’s words and trying to pervert her understanding of the truth. He wanted Eve to question the meaning of God’s Words and for her to rationalize and justify sinning against God.

When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating from the tree they were told was off limits, they tried to hide from God. Whenever we are trying to hide from God, we aren’t walking in truth. Whenever we try to rationalize and justify any behavior that God says is wrong, we aren’t walking in truth. Truth doesn’t change based on our feelings or our personal evaluation of whether we like the truth or not. Accepting the truth as it comes from God means we understand and accept that we don’t get to make the rules. He does.

Listen to the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 86:11Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Learning to walk in the way of the Lord is how we learn to walk in truth. We can’t be halfhearted about wanting to know the truth or wanting to live it out. We will only honor God when we walk in truth which means living in accordance to the revealed Word of God. God doesn’t leave us to guess what He wants from us. For the most part, He has spelled it out. If something isn’t known to us or isn’t clear, the Holy Spirit will make it clear, if we are seeking to know and understand truth. When we sin, as believers, we will know it. We may rationalize it in the moment, but we will know what we have done after we sin, and it is in that moment that we need to stop and say, “You are right, God. I have done wrong. I am sorry. I need forgiveness. I need a fresh start.” The longer we wait to confess, the more we blame other people for the reasons we aren’t walking in truth, the more divided our loyalties will become, the more divided our hearts will become. Let me just boil it down this way: You can’t walk in truth with a divided heart. We can’t want to be a Christian and also want to run with the world. We can’t want to be a Christian and also bow to the god of our flesh whenever it flares up.

The Belt of Truth ensures we are “all in.” It is the anchor for our daily lives. Everything else in our Christian life flows from being committed to the truth. We have to desire to know the truth. Do we know this morning that it is for our benefit to know the truth? John 8:32 helps us understand that knowing the truth helps us to live free. Truth sets us free. When you are in a spiritual war, you have to be free to move, free to run, and free to take a stand whenever it is called for. Without the Belt of Truth, our spiritual lives unravel. We begin to fall apart. When Eve started to give her ear to the lies being told to her by the devil, her faith began to unravel and when her faith in the Word of God unraveled, her commitment to it unraveled and her obedience unraveled and she found herself broken and in hiding.

If you can’t tell the truth you will hurt your relationships. If you can’t tell the truth, you will compromise your job. If you can’t tell the truth, your reputation will suffer. If you can’t discern the truth, you will constantly be pushed around by the devil. God wants us to live well and to be able to defeat the devil when he comes to try to trip us up. The belt of truth ensures we won’t give him a listening ear.

The Breastplate of Righteousness is next. How important is the area of our bodies that is covered by a breastplate? Why do police and military persons wear bullet proof vests? Protecting our hearts and vital organs is a must, right? The Breastplate of Righteousness offers us a must-needed protection. Let me be clear, however, about one thing. The righteousness we wear isn’t our own righteousness. We can never protect our lives because of good works that we do. We can’t be spiritual enough or learned enough in the Scriptures or holy enough to offer ourselves a protective covering. The Bible says that there is no one that is righteous; that our personal goodness or righteousness is as filthy rags. The righteousness we wear is the breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness. It is something that is gifted to us; imparted to us. We cannot stand against our enemy in our righteousness, but we can stand IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND POWER OF JESUS CHRIST. That is the righteousness we are talking about.

Before Saul became Paul, he had worked hard to earn a reputation of being a zealous and righteous Pharisee. He had worked hard to obey the law and to memorize the Scripture. He was dotting I’s and crossing T’s in the religious world, but when he met Jesus he realized that nothing he had done, nothing he had achieved, nothing he had acquired made him worthy to be a force against satan and a force for the Kingdom of God. This is what he said in Philippians 3:7-97  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

If we try to stand against the devil in our own righteousness, he will always find a way to find fault with something we say or do. Satan will always have a flaw or failure to throw in our face. We cannot keep the law perfectly, but Jesus did. We can point Satan to the perfection of Jesus and tell him to get behind us and be removed from our situation because we are covered by the perfect righteousness of Christ. Satan cannot accuse us of anything and win because when he does, if we have Christ’s breastplate on, he is not accusing us, he is accusing Jesus, and Jesus is the Sinless, Perfect, Son of God. Do you see how it works?

The next piece of the uniform we are to wear are the Shoes of Peace. Football players can dig into the turf because of the cleats they wear. Their shoes help the players stay on their feet when they are being pushed and shoved by the opposing team. Believers, God can enable us to stay on our feet during times of difficulty if we will stand in God’s peace. We can experience God’s peace that passes understanding. We won’t panic when the game of life gets rough. We can be steady on our feet as we wear the shoes of peace.

Satan promotes dissension. We are to promote peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the Sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

We are in the game and on our game when we are seeking to live at peace with people. As we advance down the field of life we are to sow seeds of peace. In this politically charged climate, we have to be careful about how we express ourselves. We all have strong opinions about what goes on in Washington and here at home in our community. There is a peaceful way to express our concerns and to disagree with policies and procedures and processes that are being debated or set into motion in our courts, but it’s another thing to call people names or to question the motives of people’s heart. I can tell you who is behind the political upheaval of our day. It isn’t a Donkey or an Elephant. It’s a snake! His name is Satan. Lord, help us see what Satan is up to in trying to get us to make enemies out of even brothers and sisters in Christ who may have a different viewpoint from us.

When Satan can get us stirred up and even get us into petty arguments with other people over all sorts of things, we will be focused on winning the argument rather than on winning the world to Jesus which is what we are supposed to be about.

Don’t fall for it. My word to you believers is, “Keep your shoes on!” “Keep your peace intact and seek to be peacemakers with others.” Conflict is inevitable. I’m not telling you to sweep conflict under the rug or to try to avoid conflict. I am simply saying, “Don’t lose your peace and don’t try to take someone else’s peace” as you deal with whatever it is you must. And in addition to that, find ways to interject peace into every conflict in every way possible.

The Shield of Faith is next on the list. When Satan can’t take you down because you are thinking the way God wants you to think, when he can’t manipulate you with lies and get you to try to question God’s Word, when he can’t accuse you of wrong and condemn you when we mess up because you are standing tall in Christ’s righteousness, when he can’t get you to fall by disturbing your peace, he comes straight at you with fiery darts. Like, there is no more subtlety. He just launches an all-out assault. Anyone know what I am talking about this morning?

You have got to have the Shield of Faith up in these moments because the darts of fire can come fast and furious. When our health is attacked, when Satan messes with our kids, when our livelihood is in jeopardy, when the other shoe drops, when we are persecuted and treated unjustly, when it is one thing after another, when we start to question the love of God or the value of our own lives, we have got to get up the Shield of Faith. This is when you stand on the Promises of God. You can’t stand on your own understanding. There will be times when life not only doesn’t make sense, but when it is harsh and cruel. You won’t make it if you don’t have your Shield of Faith up.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith is being SURE of what we hope for and CERTAIN of what we do not see.”

You may not see how your situation could resolve or work out for God’s glory and your benefit, but when you trust the promise that God will work everything together for your good, (Romans 8:28) and when you carry that in your heart and mind, when you speak it over your situation, you can absolutely rest secure that a day is coming when the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and the all-clear will be sounded. Just don’t let down your shield. Don’t get out of the battle, and whatever you do, don’t retreat.

Do you realize you can keep moving forward when you have your shield up? When Satan sends a fiery dart at you, you have the power to extinguish it by speaking and acting in faith. Do you understand that the Christian has no armor for his back? It’s because we are never supposed to turn around and run from our enemy. It is because we are always to be moving forward in faith. In fact, your faith will increase and you will gain spiritual strength as you get your shield up and walk in victory in the face of your enemy’s attacks.

The Sword of the Spirit

Paul tells us that the believer’s Sword is the Word of God. The more exposed you are to it, the more you learn it, the more you quote it, the more you meditate on it, the more you rely on it for the answers of life, the more victory you will have in life. It will sink into your personality, it will transform your weakness, it will give you perspective, it will smooth off the rough edges, it will give you courage, and you will live in spiritual health. Imagine what could happen if we were as concerned about our spiritual health as we were our physical health. The Word of God has so much healing power and has total power over our enemy. How did Jesus defeat the devil when the devil was tempting Him in the desert? It was through the recitation of the Word of God. Child of God, you have a sword in your mouth. Open it and speak to declare the Word of God and watch your enemy be subdued.

The last thing Paul points to isn’t a piece of our uniform, but it is our communication with our coach, with our leader. He says prayer is a must if we are going to do battle. In fact he says in Ephesians 6:18 that we are to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit at all times. Prayer is an every day must. It is the breathe we need, the communication we need. It provides us with an empowering to stay in the game.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Do you have each piece of your uniform on believer? If not, it is time to get fully dressed. We have a game to win!