June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Core Values 2: We Value God’s Word Applied to Our Lives: Ephesians 6:10-18

The worldwide communion of the Church of England is in disarray. If you believe some people, it’s on the verge of splitting.

The press seems to think it’s about old-fashioned conservatives getting uptight about modern free-thinkers wanting to get up to date, and ordain women and practicing s as bishops.

But the issue is more about what different sections of the Church of England think about THE BIBLE.

Philip Jensen, the Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral, was in England a few years ago addressing members of the Church of England. And he made some comments attacking the primate of the church – the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who’s pushing an updating of ideas.

Philip Jensen was pretty full-on, as he NORMALLY is. But FAIR. After all, Dr Williams ALSO doesn’t believe in the virgin birth, or the physical resurrection of Jesus.

So you’ve got to wonder exactly what the Christianity he says he believes in LOOKS LIKE.

And there are similar debates going on in the Presbyterian Church in SCOTLAND at the moment. Over the same sorts of questions.

Two sides. Each one thinks they’re right. That THEIR version of Christianity is the right one. What it comes down to is YOUR ATTITUDE TO THE BIBLE.

On one side is Rowan Williams. To him, the Bible’s a useful tool. A guide. Helpful to enlighten us. A fascinating work to STUDY.

But it’s a HUMAN book, that’s fallible, open to error, able to be superseded, and corrected, and improved upon.

And so, when society, or common sense, or political correctness, or scientific research says that some behaviour is okay. Even though the Bible says it ISN’T. Then the obvious conclusion is that the church should go with the LATEST EVIDENCE, because the Bible can be updated. Just like a new computer – get rid of the old one, and bring in the new improved .

But to Phillip Jensen, and TO US, the Bible’s MUCH MORE than that. It’s MUCH MORE than a human document. It’s God’s Word, breathed-out. His personal communication to mankind. Which NEVER goes out of date.

The Creator of the Universe has condescended to speak to us in words we can understand. It’s the Manufacturer’s instruction manual for the Universe. For the human race. For salvation.

God thought it SO IMPORTANT, he caused it to be WRITTEN DOWN. So that it would be preserved and protected from misunderstanding, or loss, or dilution.

He didn’t just leave it to word of mouth. To tradition. To the memories of people, to make sure it made it through history. But he gave us A BOOK.

That’s Philip Jensen’s position. And so what GOD thinks about something, as described in the Bible, is much more important to Philip Jensen/ than what SOCIETY thinks, or public opinion, or science.

And it’s this emphasis on God’s Word that DEFINES / EVANGELICAL Christians. Technically, EVANGELICAL means those Christians who make the evangel – or the good news – or the gospel about Jesus and salvation – their priority.

But THAT really comes from a PRIOR commitment. A commitment to listening when God SPEAKS. He’s REVEALED HIS MIND in the Bible, and so evangelicals are committed to the Bible as God’s Word.

It’s THE MESSAGE of the BIBLE that COMMUNICATES the gospel. Without THE WORD, there IS no good news. There IS no salvation. So to be committed to God’s Word/ is to be committed to his gospel REVEALED in his Word.

And this commitment’s expressed this way in our second Core Value. “We value God’s Word applied to our lives”

C.f. Other branches of Christianity

It’s a commitment that separates evangelicals from OTHER branches of Christianity. From LIBERAL Christians, like Rohan Williams, who see the Bible as basically a HUMAN book.

It distinguishes us from CATHOLICS who see it as a HOLY book, but one which comes second in authority behind THE CHURCH. The official Catholic position is that if the church and the Bible contradict, then Catholics should listen to THE CHURCH.

And evangelicals would put that priority THE OTHER WAY ROUND. God’s words are ALWAYS more important than man’s words.

And it’s an attitude that would also separate evangelicals from some PENTECOSTALS. Their attitude is that Scripture is a useful backstop to God’s PERSONAL revelation.

Their view is that God speaks clearly and regularly and specifically to individuals today. We should EXPECT God to speak through dreams, or feelings, or special words of knowledge. Some think he can even make Scripture mean ONE thing to ONE person, and SOMETHING ELSE to another person.

Personal revelation is more important than his revelation through Scripture because they see it as MORE IMMEDIATE AND RELEVANT.

But evangelicals would say that God speaks MORE CLEARLY and MORE OFTEN through his WRITTEN WORD, than in other ways.

Life is a spiritual battle

And with that commitment, let’s turn to the Word. To see what it has to say about itself. In particular in the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians is a book that OPENS OUR WORLD UP. That shows us the true reality – the spiritual reality – that’s going on behind, and above, and through, the everyday events of the physical. Life is SPIRITUAL. The battles we face – like those between Peter Jensen and Rowan Williams – are SPIRITUAL ONES.

And it’s God’s Word that equips us for the SPIRITUAL BATTLE of life. If life were only about HUMAN opinion, and human interactions, and human logic and wisdom and ideas, then a HUMAN BOOK would be FINE.

But, in Eph 6, Paul reminds us that life is MORE than just this earthly plane – what we can experience with our senses. God and Satan are REALITY.

It’s SPIRITUAL. And so we need SPIRITUAL EQUIPMENT. Tools that only GOD can provide. Look at v10.

(Eph 6:10-12 NIV)  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 , 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.

The battles we fight are, ultimately, not against PEOPLE. When we stand up for TRUTH, we’re not JUST arguing with academics, or popular opinion. We’re struggling against POWERFUL, EVIL FORCES.

The devil has SCHEMES. POWERFUL schemes. Sneaky schemes. He works through the media, and legislation, and science. He works through well-meaning everyday people, who just want to be FAIR, AND TOLERANT, AND PERMISSIVE, AND PROGRESSIVE, AND INCLUSIVE.

Not just to do with ity, but in areas of and immigration, of poverty and education. Areas of inequality and injustice, of cutting edge science, of a woman’s right to choose.

Satan works his plans through a moral relativism that says there’s no such thing as WRONG. And through a religious apathy that wants nothing to do with God, with what he’s like, or what he wants of us. Satan’s plans are aimed at good, moral Aussies going about their lives doing the best they can, oblivious to the dangerous eternity they’re headed for.

His plans are sophisticated or simple. Pop culture or intellectual. Left wing or right wing. Inclusive or judgmental. New or old. Scientific or artistic. Technological or . In your face, or secretive. Satan’s got schemes for it all. And the common theme – they’re ALWAYS against God. Always encouraging people to choose THEIR way instead of GOD’S way.

And we’re to BE STRONG against them.

Put on God’s Armour

And against opposition like THAT/ what use is a HUMAN guidebook? What use are human strategies, or outlines, or programs?

And so Paul tells us to put on the full armour of God. The spiritual equipment God supplies for a spiritual battle. V13.

(Eph 6:13-17 NIV)  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.

Fully equipped. Standing firm. Not taking a backward step. A special forces paratrooper ready for battle. That’s the image.

And while our first instinct is to jump right in to the imagery. And to pull it apart. The main point is that it’s GOD’S equipment. Paul MIGHT have been chained to a ROMAN soldier as he wrote these words. But he was DESCRIBING a soldier of GOD.

It’s imagery that’s more from the Old Testament than from the Roman soldier he sees on the street corner. Like Isaiah 11. It prophesies about Jesus. The shoot of Jesse/ The one on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests. And it says this in v4.

(Isa 11:4-5 NIV)  but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. {5} RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.

The Messiah – the servant and agent of God – will have a belt of righteousness, a sash of faithfulness, and his words will be like a sword.

And Isaiah 59.17 describes GOD HIMSELF in these words. He’s responding to the LACK of truth and justice and righteousness in the nation.

{14} So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. {15} Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. {16} He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked SALVATION for him, and his own RIGHTEOUSNESS sustained him. {17} HE PUT ON RIGHTEOUSNESS AS HIS BREASTPLATE, AND THE HELMET OF SALVATION ON HIS HEAD; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

It’s GOD HIMSELF who’s the warrior clothed in righteousness and salvation, vengeance and zeal. They’re the PERSONAL QUALITIES he brings to the battle. The techniques he uses to defeat an enemy who’s qualities are LIES, and DARKNESS, and EVIL, and INJUSTICE.

And Paul’s MAIN POINT in this section/ is that the Christian is to stand firm by putting on the very armour GOD uses in HIS battle.

Our own qualities and abilities and strengths aren’t enough. Because the battle is SPIRITUAL.

First, the belt of truth. Is the belt of TRUTH/ the truth of the message we declare – the trustworthiness and validity of living God’s way/ God’s truth? SPEAKING truth?

Or is it LIVING truthfully. Not lying. A personal quality of SINCERITY? Our truth.

Probably BOTH. But the point is/ it’s GOD’s truth.

And is the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS/ the righteousness which God gives to us in Jesus – God’s righteousness? Or is it a personal quality of INTEGRITY? Moral character and conduct. Our righteousness?

Probably both. But the point is/ it’s GOD’s truth.

Third. There’s shoes that are ready to travel anywhere to deliver the message of the gospel. Always be READY. ON YOUR BLOCKS. Paying attention. Looking for opportunities.

That’s OUR attitude. But it’s GOD’S MESSAGE where keen to deliver.

And the shield of FAITH. Faith is our response. But it’s trust in the GOD who provides the armour, and who WINS the VICTORY. It’s trusting HIS PROMISES. Trusting the VICTORY he’s won – even when it doesn’t look like it.

It’s faith like that which undermines, and castrates, the sly temptations of Satan. The doubts, and tests, and self-pity. The flaming arrows of the evil one.

And then there’s the helmet of salvation. The very helmet GOD HIMSELF put on in Is 59. And he calls us to PUT IT ON AS WELL. Salvation is the means by which God wins his victory. And it’s as we take HOLD of that salvation that WE can be PART of the battle. God’s saving power is our only defence against the power of the evil one.

And finally we come to the SWORD. Specifically, it’s the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT. Immediately identified as THE WORD OF GOD.

The word of God – especially seen as THE BIBLE – is our only ATTACKING WEAPON.

And even though we might SWING the sword. It’s the Spirit who USES it. Puts the POWER behind it.

The Word of God is THE MEANS BY WHICH the Holy Spirit does his work.

Nearly every JOB of the Holy Spirit, he ACHIEVES by using the WORD OF GOD.

  1. The Holy Spirit CONVICTS of sin. How? Through the WORD.
  2. The Holy Spirit COMFORTS. How? Through the WORD.
  3. The Holy Spirit GUIDES and COUNSELS. How? Through the WORD.
  4. The Holy Spirit REBUKES. How? Through the WORD.
  5. The Holy Spirit ILLUMINATES, and brings new birth. How? By means of the WORD.

What does it mean for us to SWING the sword of the word of God? If it’s the Spirit’s sword. How do we USE IT? Jesus gives us a good example during his temptation in the wilderness. Mt 4.

Satan would tempt him, and Jesus responded by quoting Scripture. It replaced the devil’s lies, with truth. It reaffirmed Jesus’ trust in his Father’s word, and faithfulness.

God’s Word has the ability to work in US. Strengthening and affirming OUR faith, building our hope.

And as we proclaim it to OTHERS, the Spirit uses those words to open their eyes, convict them of sin, lead them to repentance, and bring them from to life.

And the fact that it’s the SPIRIT’S sword means we can proclaim it’s truth CONFIDENTLY, because it’s HIS WEAPON that HE uses. HE’S the one who makes it effective.

Valuing God’s Word will mean we

So what’s all this mean for US as evangelicals. What will it mean for us to VALUE God’s Word?

Let me suggest a number of things;

  1. Valuing God’s Word will mean we work hard at understanding it. It’s precious, and powerful. So we need to have a good grasp of how to USE IT.

When you buy a new car, you read the instruction manual. To make sure you know how to USE IT PROPERLY. Valuing the CAR will mean you commit to using it properly.

Valuing God’s Word will mean working hard at understanding it.

In private, we’ll commit TIME to READING IT. We’ll contemplate it. Read slowly and carefully.

Other times we’ll read QUICKLY. Reading whole books in one sitting. To get the Big picture in our heads.

And even when we can’t read it, we’ll LISTEN to it. Listen to tapes or CDs of Bible talks. We’ll read books ABOUT the Bible – that help us understand it. That encourage us to read it more.

And it will mean we work hard at understanding it TOGETHER. We’ll commit a precious week night to a home group. We’ll make the effort to read it as a married .

And when it comes to the Bible talk in church, we’ll pay attention. We’ll have our Bibles open, take notes.

We won’t play with our mobile phones, or wander around out the back chatting.

It’s IMPORTANT. Because it’s how God FEEDS us. It’s LIFE. Without it, we DIE.

2. Second. Valuing God’s Word will mean SINGING it. To encourage each other and to remind each other. Col 3:16 says

(Col 3:16 NIV)  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

3. Third, it will mean we’ll train OTHERS TO READ IT. Learning about the Bible will be a PRIORITY. We’ll encourage people to STUDY AT Bible College. We’ll support them. Pray for them. Pray for lecturers. Pray for God to raise up faithful Bible TEACHERS.

We’ll help to train people ourselves. We’ll help teach Kid’s Church. Or Youth Group.

4. Fourth. Valuing God’s Word will mean DEFENDING it. Standing up for it in academia and public arena. There’s been stacks of letters to the editor in the SMH about Tony Abbott’s comments about his advice to his daughters to wait until they were married to have . Plenty of letters poking FUN at him.

But also quite a lot from Christians standing up for the Bible’s position. Articulately and coherently standing up for what they believe. Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to do something like that around the lunch table at work.

5. Finally, if we value God’s Word, we’ll be confident to LET IT LOOSE. It’s the powerful sword of the Spirit. All by itself it can change lives. Bring salvation.

That’s why we distribute Bibles to our Scripture kids. Why we give them away at Movie Nights and Christmas carols. It might be the only Christian input they get at home. And it might sit on the shelf for years until it’s picked up. But God can still use it – it’s the powerful sword of his Spirit.

That’s why the Gideons go to so much trouble to place Bibles in public places. Because they have confidence in God’s Word to save. It really can!

Let me leave you with the story of a young guy who’s discovered the power of God’s Word. He’s being mentored by Ken Lesta, the pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church at Glenwood.

This guy is Tongan. Huge. Muscles on muscles. He’s the son of a pastor. But he went off the rails. The truth of the gospel didn’t mean anything to him.

And he got in trouble with the law. But rather than jail, he was awarded Community service. At a nursing home. Which he wasn’t too pleased about.

One day as he was wheeling an old guy in his wheelchair, he stumbled. And he cursed. Blasphemed.

And the little old man in the chair slowly turned around to this huge, muscly Tongan. And he said “Would you mind not blaspheming. That’s my Lord you’re talking about.”

That would have taken some courage. But he didn’t stop there. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a Scripture tract. Bible verses, and a gospel outline. And he gave it to the young Tongan.

He took it home, read it. Was broken. Cut to the core. The sword pierced his heart. He understood grace, and sin, and forgiveness for the first time. Fell to his knees. And was converted.

The sword of the Spirit does it’s work.

And that’s why we value God’s Word applied to our lives.

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