South Sydney Anglican Church

“FAITH in a Faltering World” – 2nd Sunday

Bible Passage: Ephesians 6:10-18

Big Idea:       Faith in the Home = God’s Word & Prayer

Intro:              Morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and we are doing a sermon series called Choose Faith in 2023. We are thinking about what choosing faith looks like in the home, the workplace and the world in 2023.

PRAYER        Well friends for the next three weeks we are thinking about choosing faith in the home, then a couple of week – faith at work and then faith in the world. So today I want to suggest that first and foremost – choosing faith in the home means prioritising bible and prayer both for yourself and your family..

So how good are your Bible reading and prayer habits right now in the home? I received an email this week from CROSSWAY CHRISTIAN PUBLISHERS in the US. Crossway are the publishers of the ESV Bible and they are probably the most trusted conservative Christian publishers in America – today. The last few weeks they started sending out emails promoting the importance of prayer. One was titled (Slide 2); “An Open Letter to a Prayerless Church.” Their studies are showing that even the most conservative evangelical Christians are not praying.

Then they sent out another email titled; “Who Killed the Prayer Meeting?I know the answer for us – Coronavirus and Public health Mandates. That’s who killed our Prayer Meetings. But apparently its happened all over the US – and prayer meetings have not really resumed. This email tells the story of an EAST INDIAN EVANGELIST – who recently visited one of the Mega Church’s in America with a 3000+ congregation. The email doesn’t name the church – but says it is a church that is renowned for great Bible teaching. So in the church service the Senior Pastor advertised a special one-off mid-week prayer meeting and invited everyone to come because there were some serious matters they needed to commit to God in prayer.

The East Indian evangelist visiting America – thought; “Wow. An American prayer meeting. I’ve got to go.So he rocked up at the advertised 7pm start time – and found 7 older ladies at the front of the church. So he took a seat and waited. By 7:15pm maybe another 10 people had turned up and one of the assistant pastors (who was obviously unprepared) 1) led a short devotional, 2) gave a few suggestions for prayer and 3) then it was open mike for about half an hour. That was it. The official prayer meeting of a reformed evangelical church with more than 3000 people.

The Indian evangelist was left STUNNED. 1) No worship. 2) No sincere crying out to God. 3) The Senior pastor didn’t even bother to show up. The email goes on to say (and I quote); “the American Church is now functionally prayerless when it comes to corporate prayer.” It’s not happening. Now this isn’t just more fake-news. This is coming from perhaps the most highly regarded Christian publisher in the US. They state that in hundreds of seminars they are running on prayer – the anecdotal evidence is that less than 15% of Christians (in the so-called best churches of America) have a functional prayer life. Less than 15%. That’s not good. That is terrible. So how is your prayer life?

 Point 1:         Christians need to Choose Faith, because we are in Spiritual Battle

Show:                        Eph.6:10-13 (READ)

Explain:         Well as you can see Ephesians 6 tells us, not once, but twice – to put on the full armour of God – so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes AND so that when the day of evil comes we might stand. Christians are in a spiritual battle. The things happening on the world stage – are not just natural or political, they are spiritual.

Now you may or may not believe that to be true. In the average university today most academics are practical materialists. They live ike there is only a material world made up of things we can see, touch and hear. Materialists constantly tell us the spiritual is not real. And while Christians say they believe in the spiritual world, we live, act and prioritize our lives like the materialists around us. So how do we know the spiritual is real and how should we order our lives if this is true.

Well as Christians we believe 1) Gods Word revealed in Jesus and 2)God’s Word recorded in the Bible. Jesus spent a lot of time in his ministry driving out evil spirits. These evil spirits are NOT the ghosts of deceased people. The Scriptures tell us that these demons are fallen angels. Some of the angels (created by God) rebelled against Him and became demons. The leader of these dark demonic forces is Satan, who appears to be a fallen archangel. He is not as powerful as God, by any measure. But neither should we underestimate Satan’s power. The devil is likened to a ROARING LION looking for people to devour. Satan is trying to drag people down to hell with himself.

NOW IT IS TRUE Jesus is way more powerful than Satan. ITS ALSO TRUE 1) Jesus beat Satan in the wilderness when Satan tried to tempt him into sin three times. 2) Jesus plundered Satan’s kingdom – when he drove out demons, offered people forgiveness and raised people from the dead. And 3) Jesus ultimately defeated Satan when he died on the cross and three days later rose again. So Jesus is stronger.

(GOSPEL) But in this spiritual battle Satan tries to get us to sin and he tries to get us to commit apostasy because there is a penalty for sin and apostasy..The penalty for sin and apostasy is death and hell. That is what we all deserve if we sin or reject God. But Jesus never sinned. In the spiritual battle – Jesus never denied God. So when Jesus died on the cross and went to hell – he was actually doing it for us. By dying and going to hell (as an innocent man) Jesus paid for our sin and wrongdoing. He did the time for our crime. So if you believe what I am saying is true, you should 1) THANK Jesus for dying for you and you should 2) ACCEPT Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. And if you do this in faith – God says your faith will save you and will get you to heaven on the last day. Jesus will pardon you. Of course, if you reject Jesus as your Saviour and Lord – you will still have to pay for your own sins – forever. Worst mistake you will ever make. Seriously. Don’t do that. Choose faith. Today, before you leave – get on your knees and ask God to forgive you.

But this brings us all back to FAITH and choosing FAITH. Faith is 1)believing Jesus died for you and 2) believing what the Bible says that accomplished. Your faith as a Christian is in Jesus being God’s Son and your faith is in the Bible’s record of Jesus and his teaching. Without the Bible – you would know very little about the historical Jesus – who he was, what he did or what he taught. So faith in Jesus automatically entails faith in the Bible being a true and accurate record of Jesus. But the Bible then says – we should trust everything the Bible says because the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles in everything they wrote. So Jesus and the Bible are a package deal.

Apply:            So we get back to Ephesians 6 and it says (verse10). Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes.” So the question comes – what does a Christian need to do to be strong in the Lord and filled with His mighty power? (PAUSE). C’mon basic comprehension. What do you need to do? Does faith accept this instruction or reject this instruction?

Imagine someone joining the ARMY or MARINES. And the drill sergeant says; “Ok, we’re going into battle now.” And he starts handing out various weapons, reminding you how they work and when to use them. But let’s say one of the soldiers thinks he knows better. As the drill sergeant hands out the weapons and ammo – this soldier just throws them over his shoulder, thinking “nah, I’ll be fine. I’m actually a pacifist. I don’t need or want these things.How do you think that’s going to end?

Yet this is exactly what many modern Christians are doing. The book of James tells us that faith in Jesus without putting into practice what he says – is still a death sentence. Yet (post Covid) many Christians are going into increasingly hostile workplaces and our kids into increasingly hostile schools  – ignoring the spiritual reality

Now for many Christians – this lack of due diligence comes from a faulty understanding of salvation. They think that because they once said a sinner’s prayer to Jesus, and because salvation is entirely by God’s grace – then it doesn’t really matter what they do (or don’t do) =- God will still save them by His grace. But friends – this ignores the fact that salvation is by God’s grace THROUGH FAITH in Jesus and His Words. This means faith that Jesus died for you, Faith that he rose again. Faith that He is God and loves you. Faith that what Jesus tells you is important, necessary and good. And as we listen to this passage today (trusting the Bible, because we trust Jesus)  – THE TWO THINGS we are told we really need in the spiritual battle – is 1) God’s Word in the Bible and 2) constant prayer in the Holy Spirit.

Point 2:         Christians need to Choose Faith in the Power of God’s Word

Show:            Eph.6:14-17 (READ)

Explain:         Well please note – verse 14; begins with the belt of truth (Bible) around your waist and ends verse 17 with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Bible) – in your hand. In fact, every piece of armour in this list is related to the Bible. The Bible is what protects your heart and emotions like a breastplate. The Bible (and the gospel message in it) is what turns your feet into missionary feet. Bible truth is the helmet that protects your mind from Satan’s lies. The Bible’s promises are your shield of faith. And Bible truth is ultimately your Sword of the Spirit.

This is saying that going into spiritual battle – you need Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible and prayer, prayer. Yet many Christians go into spiritual battle each day – without even getting the belt of truth around their waist – to hold up their pants. If you end up with your spiritual pants around your ankles (in battle) – it not only going to be embarrassing its going to be dangerous. Yet, that is the modern Christian look. We reject the belt of truth (because – WHATEVEr) and we get around like homies with our pants half-way down our backside, our boxer shorts hanging out and saying things like eshays because we’re cool. But a Christian without the belt of truth is not cool. It’s just sad. We need God’s Word in the Bible covering and protecting every part of our life.

Now the other Bible reading today came from Psalm 119 (in the Old Testament). It’s the longest chapter in the entire Bible and its all about the importance of God’s word. There are 22 stanza’s – each starting with the next letter of the Jewish alphabet – and every stanza is saying the same thing. We need Gods Word, from beginning to end; from ALEPH to TAV to shape our lives. Let me show you just two thoughts from todays passage (Slide 5).

Illustrate:       Last week I told you Satan uses FEAR to control us and this week I want to add LIES. Satan is the Father of lies. Satan uses fear to get us to stop thinking clearly and then uses lies to deceive us and enslave us.

His basic strategy is create lots of fear and then tell lots of lies. That’s spiritual battle 101. Now maybe it’s just me – but you may have noticed the world around us is now full of fear and lies – and the lies are getting more and more complex and more and more stupid.

To be honest I really don’t know who or what I can trust anymore. But I know I can trust the Bible. So when the Bible says one thing is true and the world says something different is true – I choose faith in the Bible. If anything contradicts the Bible – I know it is a lie. But because there are so many lies – choosing faith means choosing a regular time in my day to read the Bible and let Gods truth wash over me.

I’d also say, if you are NEW CHRISTIAN – your aim should be to read the whole Bible in the next year or two. Start by reading the New Testament. Then go back and read the Old Testament. Even if you don’t understand it all – this will mean you have the belt of truth – around your waist and things shouldn’t get too embarrassing. You need to understand both A) God’s grace in the New Testament, but also B)Gods wrath in the Old Testament – because I think both are coming. Only then will you really begin to grasp God’s nature.

But reading the Bible once – won’t cut it either – because we forget things. When we stop reading Gods truth, we start believing the lies, because they are constantly shaping us in our workplaces, our university, schools, TV shows, songs,, social media channels, news etc etc. You hear a lie enough – you will start to believe it. So we need God truth – to keep bringing reality and perspective – back to our minds and hearts. So to assist you in this – the church has ordered 30 copies of “Our Daily Bread” – a short biblical devotional to read each day – to try to help us form this most important habit. Bible reading is simply a spiritual discipline – you MUST cultivate if you want to be strong. And when you stuff up and get lazy – you repent and try again. Failing to read your Bible is sin. It is a sin of omission.

So say sorry to God and try again.. But if you are Christian parent or grandparent – you also have to get God’s Word into your children and grandchildren. And please don’t outsource this responsibility to Sunday School teachers, Christian schools or youth groups. You need to love and disciple your children. I noticed I got personally slack with this – in Coronavirus. I was so out of routine – that I dropped the ball. So recognizing I dropped the ball, I start again trying to make time to read God’s Word and talk Gods Word with my kids. And yes, its not easy – because there are spiritual powers trying every trick in the book to stop you doing it. So Choose Gods Word and keep choosing Gods Word in 2023.

Point 3:         Christians need to Choose Faith in the Power of Prayer

Show:                        Eph.6:18 (READ)

Explain:         Well as you can see this now says “AND PRAY”. The overall thrust of Ephesianns 6 is 1) get Gods Word into every aspect of your life and 2) then PRAY constantly.. Earlier generations of Christians In the 1600’s, 1700 and 1800’s called the Bible and prayer – the ordinary means of grace. Bible reading and prayer (are the ordinary things) God uses to strengthen us and infuse us with His Grace. We know salvation is by God’s grace, through faith. And when we first become Christians – the first two things Jesus hands us to keep us strong – is Word and Prayer.

Of course, other things like 1) church attendance, 2) baptism and Lords Supper, 3) fasting and 4) worship and 5) serving are also means of grace. All these things actually quicken us by God’s grace and make us stronger Christians. But the most basic (non-negotiables) necessary for a real relationship with God – is Bible and prayer.

In the article I told you about at the beginning of this sermon “an Open  Letter to a Prayerless Church” – Crossway Publishers – suggest that Bible and prayer is what drives the churches powertrain. Just as A TRADITIONAL CAR needs petrol oxygen and a spark to create energy to drive a cars wheels.

So the church (and Christians generally) need God’s Word (the fuel) and Spirit led prayer (the spark) to drive us forward in the Christian life. They illustrate it like this (Slide 8);

Prayer (guided by God’s Word) connects us with the Holy Spirit in a personal and spiritual way. Then the Holy Spirit makes the realities of JESUS and the WORDS OF JESUS come alive for us – in a way that quickens our faith – making us more powerful, life-filled and glorious Christians. Now this concept may seem new to you. But it was a fairly common Christian teaching of yesteryear – under the title “THE MEANS OF GRACE” and a simple google search will explain more.

Apply:            But we also see (in verse 18), we are not just to pray, we are to pray in the Spirit. This does not automatically mean praying tongues. Just as Christians can walk in accordance with the flesh or walk in accordance the Spirit (Galatians 5), so we can pray in accordance with the flesh or we can pray in accordance with the Spirit. This is simply saying pray – in accordance with the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh.

Fleshly prayer is just very shallow, carnal, superficial prayer that doesn’t really honour God. Its usually me cantered prayer. But praying in the Spirit is praying that which is truly good according to God’s Word, honours God and glorifies God as God.. At this point – the line between PRAYER and WORSHIP is almost non-existent. It’s also beautiful and enriching. When you truly pray in the Spirit – (and not just the flesh) there comes a sense of having been in Gods actual presence. Yes, you have talked to God, but he has also ministered to you – assuring you that you are his child, and he is your Abba Father.

Very often when I just launch into prayer (or I am in a distracted state) I just find myself going through the motions of prayer – without really praying. At times, I am now so aware of Gods rebuke in prayer – that I find myself MID-SENTENCE saying sorry.

Sometimes mid-sentence in fleshly prayer the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin, my shallowness and asks me whether I’m really present in this prayer. God knows when I’m just going through the motions of prayer. And God knows when I’m really praying. When I really pray (in my quiet place with God) – I’m conscious of God’s Spirit ministering to me, moving me and strengthening me. So my counsel is be honest with God in prayer, without being carnal. Deal with your sin humbly and don’t hide it. Remember who your talking to and imagine yourself seeking an audience with the King of Kings (upon his throne in heaven) and then approach Him accordingly – in reverent, honest, prayerful, worship and you may be surprised – by how empowering prayer can be.

Friends, we really are in a spiritual battle. So we need to be people of Bible and prayer. But we also need our children to be people of Bible and prayer. We need to pray with them. When they are scared or naughty or thankful – teach them pray. We need to learn as a people to really pray (as the Spirit wants us to pray). We need to teach our children to pray and we need to be a church who really prays. Perhaps our first prayer should be – “Come Holy Spirit and teach us to really pray. Come O Holy Spirit and sanctify our prayers with Gods truth – that we may really do business with God.”  So will you be more prayerful in 2023? Will you make time to come to our prayer meetings throughout the year?

As I finish – let me show you an image =- that has been long linked to this passage in Ephesians 6. (Slide 9).

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