Terry began by saying he has always loved the book of Ephesians. He admitted at one point his Bible probably fell open at Ephesians 4! The book has a remarkable focus on the church and clarity about the gospel. The whole book seems to be preparing us for this chapter and for warfare. The new age has begun. New man has been created. Mystery has been revealed. There is, however, a backdrop of fierce opposition. He is giving strength to Gods warriors. These great truths come to life in the context of battle.
The world sometimes comes with an iron fist, sometimes gently. In both cases trying to shape us. We are fighting the world, the flesh and the devil.
1. Begins with “be strong”. This is a transition word. Eg Moses says this to Joshua. Moses has been through many battles. David said to Solomon “be strong and very courageous”. The new generation is told you must be strong. Paul says it to Timothy. Fight. Study. Be ready. Newfrontiers people can say much ground has been gained, but much lies ahead. Being strong is not just a theory, or even a prayer, it is something we have to learn how to do. The Christian is against something. The armor shows us where the battle is fought.
Be strong is a call to good morale. It’s not defensive mode. It’s not watch out. It’s about confidence. Paul writes not to injured people, but soldiers. Paul writes not to sinners but saints. God has made you a new creation. Now we have been brought near. We are light not darkness. Our identity is no longer sinners but saints. We are not a bad tree trying to tie some fruit onto the branches. When you are born again, you have a new nature that produces fruit. Stand and be aware of who you are. Don’t be surprised at warfare. We have found the secret of happiness and a life that requires you wear armor every day. Don’t be surprised. It’s like climbing into a boxing ring and saying “oh he hit me!”. Its present continuous here. Stop being regularly surprised. We will be misrepresented, written against. We are invading cultures saying there is another king. Don’t be surprised at the backlash. We are in a battle. Communist China was executing Christians. They shouted before they died “long live King Jesus, down with communism.”
Don’t be shocked, nor be frightened. Fear paralyzes. Sometimes people say ‘I’m not sure I have what it takes”. People have exit strategies worked out, eg prenuptial agreements. Montgomery said in North Africa, we will not retreat.
2. It’s not be strong in yourself. Rather it is IN THE LORD. Stoics said be strong in yourself, like the British stiff upper lip. Actually it is telling us to be strengthened in the Lord. It’s a passive imperative. It’s like the verse in Ephesians 5 that says be filled with the Spirit. How do we obey this? How can we receive something that we cannot do?
The answer comes from the phrase Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Relax. Cease striving. Stop. Enough! This is not just a religious phrase. The creator of the universe is saying STOP, I am in charge. I am making things work out. I am committed to you unchangeably. You can’t skip over those things, they must seep into you. We must discover how to draw down the energy of God into our little life. He is enough. He’s on my side, or rather I am on his side! He is empowering me daily. You have to stop sometimes! God has chosen the weak things. It is things that we know which will set us free. We often quote Romans 8:28. The first two words of the verse are the key ones: “we know!”
Joseph is betrayed by brothers, lied against by Potipher’s wife. What was happening? God was systematically moving him from place to place go get him to his destiny. The pain is getting you to where God wants you to be.
Mature into being sons of God. He is running things. Its no good being a reformed theologian is if you don’t take this on board. Some reformed theologians are nervous frightened people. They should be full of confidence and joy!
Its not about us keeping going and refusing to show weakness. Stoics don’t acknowledge it. Paul cried out to God get the thorn off me! But He said to me, Strength is perfected in weakness. Paul celebrates his weakness. It’s not pulling ourselves together.
The secret of being content, is I can do all things through him. He learned how to cope with difficulties. People would queue up if they really believed we had found the secret of being content.
Our communion with Christ is dependent on our union with Christ and not the other way round says John Owen. Only Jesus can meet our hearts longing. Fellowship with him. He saved you. He will also save you tomorrow.
Spurgeon said communion with Christ is not the basis of our peace, it is the channel for it. His righteousness is the basis of our salvation, but we can enjoy an experience of his love and intimacy.
3. How do we get hold of this? Walk by faith into this. Gospel miracles illustrate salvation’s ability to provide. People were told stand up, stretch forth your hand. Could seem like a cruel thing to say. But in the saying of it there is power. In the same way God says be strong and strength comes to us! The command comes “be set free” and you are free. “go show yourself to the priest” as they went on they were made whole. They walked into healing. God comes to weak people and says walk into the light. We respond with active faith. Joshua was told to walk into the Jordan, and put his foot in it. Then the sea opened. Step into what only he can do. Do what we couldn’t do before. What Jesus commands, he enables us to do!
It’s not for extroverts. Stand! Enter into it. Jesus said to the disciples you feed them! People are in real problems. If the gospel doesn’t work we are in real problems! Is it just for nice people? No! The gospel changes lives! Stand and walk. Step into the strength he provides.