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Missional Decline vs. The Word of God

Sermon Series:


Ryan Kimmel
Ryan Kimmel

Lead Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Ephesians 6:17B-20


Today is the day that the Lord has made. So let us rejoice and be glad in it. And everyone said, amen. Amen.

So, church, the final instructions that Jesus Christ gave us before he returned to heaven was to go and make disciples. And we call this the Great Commission. That's the Great Commission. about social justice, before we talk about feeding the poor, before we talk about orphan care, we have to talk about what Jesus Christ first told us to do. His mission for us was to go and make disciples. Are we supposed to care for the welfare of the city? Yes. Are we to love the oppressed and the forgotten? Yes. Are we to care for the downtrodden and care for those who are imprisoned? Yes, of course we are, but our primary calling, the one that Jesus gave us, is very simply this, go and make disciples.

"Our primary calling, the one that Jesus gave us, is very simply this, go and make disciples"

Because, I think I know this and I think you know this, the more people who follow Jesus, the more love and care will happen in this world. A poll found that 75% of professing Christians could not explain what the Great Commission was. And 43% of Christians, only 43%, let's clarify, that's sub 50%, only 43% of Christians believed that missions was about spreading the gospel. The country and our world are going down the drain not because Christians don't love God, not because Christians don't love others. It's because we've forgotten the assignment. We've forgotten what we're actually supposed to be doing. Our mission is to go and make disciples. And so today as we close up our series on spiritual warfare, We're going to be talking about missional decline versus the Word of God. Church, you need to hear me on this.

The devil is advancing in his mission because Christians are apathetic about ours. Would you please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians, chapter 6. If you've been with us for the series, you know that's where we are at. So the missional decline that we have as Christians, as you're turning there, let me share a few things, the missional decline that we have as Christians, I believe, is because we're not engaged in the spiritual battle that God has equipped us to fight. We are not on mission. Now, this does not mean, let me clarify, this does not mean that every person is destined to be a street evangelist. Not every single Christian is called to go to a third world country to be a missionary. But it does mean that we are to make disciples, that we are to share the good news with others. But for many of us, we need to simply start with our kids and grandkids. If trends continue, those who say that they have no religious affiliation will reach the majority in America by 2070. And the number of Muslims in the United States is expected to double by 2050. This is all happening while at the same time Christianity is on a steady decrease. And it's because Christians, it's not just because Christians aren't living on mission, as many of us aren't even living for God, let alone fighting the battles of our time. And yet this is what God's word calls us to do. This is what Jesus commissioned us to do.

Now, if you're just joining us, we are closing up a series today. And this letter, Ephesians, is a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote, and he wrote it from prison. And he's telling Christians in this church called Ephesus, he's telling them about Christian faith and Christian doctrine, and he's also telling about how to live out this Christian life, what the Christian ethic is like. But then he closes up with this very profound call to arms, a spiritual call to arms. Because that's what we are to do. We are to stand, withstand, stand and fight against the evil of our day. And God has given us armor to do this, spiritual armor. And where we have been talking about defensive armor, today we are talking about the weapon that we have. Today, we're talking about the offense. And so with that, would you hear God's word? Ephesians chapter 6, we'll start at the last half of verse 17 and we'll go to verse 20. So would you hear God's word?

Ephesians 6:17B-20

And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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 the Lord's people. Pray for me also that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.

Amen. This is God's word. Let's pray and we'll continue. Let's pray. Father in heaven above, would you please be with us now to help us to know and to do your will? We ask that you would continue to send out your holy spirits to be poured out upon us to illuminate the scriptures for us here today that we might live more fully for you and more ready for the battles around us more on mission. And we ask these things in Jesus' precious name. And everyone said, Amen. Amen.

Church, with everything we have to focus on today, let me give you one thing, one thing that we're going to unpack throughout the morning, and it's this.

Your effectiveness in spiritual warfare is connected to your depth of spiritual intimacy.

Your effectiveness in spiritual warfare is connected to your depth of spiritual intimacy. We're going to cover a lot here today, so we're actually going to break our time into two different parts here. We're first going to look at our effectiveness in spiritual warfare, and then we're going to talk about deepening our spiritual intimacy. And we've got a lot to cover, time's a waste, so let's get into it.

  1. The prevailing over the enemy comes through the Truth (v.17)

  2. The power of prayer comes through the Spirit (v.18)

  3. The purpose of the church comes through the Gospel (vv. 19-20)

1. The prevailing over the enemy comes through the Truth (v.17)

Under our first section, effectiveness in spiritual warfare, the first thing we're going to look at is this. the prevailing over the enemy comes through truth. Ephesians 6, 17 says, and take the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. And so there it is. Week five of this sermon series, we've been talking about all the pieces of armor, and today we are talking about our weapon.

We have the belt of truth, we have the breastplate of righteousness, we have gospel shoes, we have the shield of faith. We have the helmet of salvation and now the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Now, when Paul wrote this, they have the Old Testament and Paul was literally part of the group that was writing the New Testament as he wrote this. But now that we have the complete canon, the completed scriptures, what we're talking about here is the Bible the sword of the Spirit. God's Word is our weapon. God's truth is how we prevail.

Many of you know a guy in our church named Mr. Leeman. Mr. Leeman is a member of our church. He was actually my high school gym teacher. And I remember PE with Mr. Leeman. I remember when I was in high school there was this very very popular t-shirt that all the all the athletes would wear And it said it said defense wins games And I remember mr. Lehman one time in PE. He said to everyone Defense doesn't win games Defense is important defense stops the other team from winning, but offense wins games because offense puts points on the board.

Now listen God has given us some powerful pieces of armor for our defense So we can withstand the onslaught of the enemy, but our mission is achieved through God's Word We prevail against the devil we prevail against demons we prevail against the demonic Forces influencing our world listen to me Not through love but through truth. Truth in love, of course. Many of you remember that story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the devil.

Who remembers that story? Alright, then you will remember. When Jesus was being tempted by the devil, let me ask you, did Jesus overcome by loving the devil? Did Jesus love His way out of temptation? No, Jesus stood his ground and he refuted the temptations of the devil through Scripture. Jesus Christ quoted Deuteronomy three different times to combat the temptations of the devil. Deuteronomy, which is one of the most controversial books in the Bible, a lot of stuff in there people take issue with, but that was the Bible, that was the book of the Bible that Jesus uses to stand his ground. Jesus overcame the attack and temptation of the devil, not through the power of love, but through the truth of God's word. With every attack, Jesus refuted those attacks by speaking truth. He had it in his heart and he intimately knew the scriptures and so his sword was speaking God's Word.

"Now listen, we need to intimately know the Scriptures just like Jesus did. That's how we stand ready with the Word of God. Not because we have the Bible in our hand and not because we have the Bible app on our phones, but because we have the Word of God in our hearts."

This is how we discern and destroy the lies of the enemy, through God's Word. This is how we overcome the brokenness of our culture. This is how we discern a godly worldview versus a worldly understanding of the world. We filter these things through God's truth, through God's word. This is why we must know the scriptures. This is why we must apply the scriptures. When you're watching a movie and they're saying things, what does the Bible say about it? What is the biblical worldview? How does that help you interpret the message of this world?

We said this before. Here's a great exercise for you. When you're out driving and you see a billboard, I want you to think to yourself, what is the spiritual message behind that? And then you think about that spiritual message and then you compare it to what the Bible says, the Bible's message. This is one of the ways that yes, we wear the belt of truth, but this is one of the ways we destroy the lies of the enemy because we refute the enemy's lies with the truth.

I do this with my 16-year-old daughter, she's probably annoyed by this, but we watch a movie or a show together, if they say something that's quote-unquote profound, I'm going to pause it and we're going to have a conversation. How does that line up to what God's truth tells us? Is this a worldly message or is this a godly message? This is how we discern the lies of the enemy, by swinging the sword of the Spirit to cut through the lies, breaking the brokenness of our culture. This is why we must know the truth so we can know when we're lied to because the prevailing over the enemy comes through truth. Speaking scripture, sharing God's truth. And the second thing we see is that the power of prayer comes through the Spirit.

2. The power of prayer comes through the Spirit (v.18)

So check this out. Paul goes from talking about the sword of the spirit to talking about praying in the Spirit. Verse 18 says, and pray in the Spirit on all kinds of occasions, pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Not too long ago, I was ministering to this guy and I was trying to share the Gospel with him. And, I could tell the conversation really wasn't going anywhere productive, so I thought, you know, let's just shelve this conversation, we'll revisit it at a different time. And so I said to him, I just said, hey, listen man, I know you're not a praying man, but can I just say a prayer for you? And he said to me, and he was kind about it, but he said to me, he's like, no, no, no, man, I pray, I just do it my own way. Now listen, I know there's going to be some people who are in here and who can hear my voice whose knee-jerk, heartfelt reaction is to say, aw, that's nice, just let him pray in his own way. Now I'm going to say something that I know is going to come across as offensive, but you don't get to pray however you want. You get to pray wherever you want, whether that's in a deer blind or in the minivan, but we pray in the Spirit.

Listen, Jesus didn't say to us, just go ahead and connect with God in any way that you want. Whatever way that feels good to you, you just go ahead and do it that way. That is not a Gospel message. That is not In fact, when Jesus' disciples asked Him, Jesus, how do we pray? Do you know how Christ responded? He didn't say, in whatever way you want, in whatever way you feel comfortable with. No, no, no. Jesus, our humble and masterful teacher, what He said to us is like, okay, boys, when you pray, pray like this. And then Jesus taught them, and the scriptures now teach us how to pray that we pray to God through the power of the spirits the Lord's Prayer starts out our father I Love what Paul says here listen to the second half of verse 18.

He says with this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for the Lord's people Why because we are a church and that means we're a family. We're on mission together and we need to be praying for each other. Please hear me on something. Your prayers are not powerful because you sound eloquent. Your prayers are not powerful even because you sound passionate. Your prayers are not powerful because you sound like a pastor or you sound like a priest. Your prayers are powerful when we pray in the Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit working through us that makes our prayers powerful when we pray in the Spirit through the name of Jesus to God in heaven


3. The purpose of the church comes through the Gospel (vv. 19-20)

Third thing we're look at is this is The purpose of the church comes through the gospel we need prayer But we have to know what our purpose is The purpose of the church comes through the gospel listen to what Paul says here in the beginning of verse 19 Pray also for me. Now, there were three words in there that for many of us who come from a quiet, conservative, reformed background, there's three words in there that we just do not have the strength to utter. Do you know what they are? Pray for me. There are too many of us who don't want other people praying for us.

In fact, as a pastor, I get so many prayer requests, and I don't mean to call anyone out here, I'm not calling anyone out by name, but as a pastor, I'll get prayer requests and people will say something like this. I get this every now and again, probably too often. They'll say this, they'll say, pastor, you can pray, but I don't want it on the prayer chain. Listen, I know that it puts you in a place of vulnerability to let people pray for you, but let me remind you what we started off by saying, that your effectiveness in spiritual warfare is connected to your depth of spiritual intimacy. There's no victory without running the risk of getting hurt, and there's no intimacy without vulnerability.

I want to ask you, how effective do you think you can really be in fighting the battles before you if you don't have people praying for you? Or let me say it another way. Let me say it like this. If you don't want more people praying for you, then I can only assume it's because you don't believe in the power of prayer. Because if you believed in the power of prayer, you'd want the entire church

praying for you. Now listen, I'm a pastor and I get that some things are sensitive and there's a time and a place to let other people know. I get the notion of being sensitive, but far too often it's not about being sensitive, it's about being secretive. Don't do that. Don't do that.

This isn't just a corporate gathering. This is a family reunion that we have once a week. And we need to get together and we need to pray for one another. And when you've got things going on in your life, you need to let your church family pray for you. If you don't, you're robbing them of the blessing of praying for you and you're robbing yourself of the power that comes with those people praying for you. And I'll just tell you right now, here's what I've come to realize. If the Apostle Paul himself can ask for prayer, so should we.

I knew you had it in you. I'll tell you, I'll go ahead and model this. As your pastor, as your brother in Christ, would you please pray for me? Would you pray for my marriage, that it remains strong? Would you pray that my kids love Jesus and the church all throughout my time as a pastor? And if you want to pray for me, verses 19 and 20 give you a great script if you want to pray for me or any of your pastors. It says, pray for me also that when I speak, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should, that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.

Now don't get tripped up on this word mystery. It's a beautiful word. We see it all over scripture. It's a beautiful word that reminds us that no matter how well of defined theology and doctrine we have, there will always be deep things of God we could never understand.

This is one of the things I love about the Christian faith is we get knowledge and wonder. They don't compete with one another. They are two sides of a beautiful coin. But did you notice here in verses 19 and 20, if you got your Bibles open, I hope you noticed this. What does Paul pray for here? Notice he does not pray to get out of prison.

He does not pray that the Ephesians will bring equality to their community. He doesn't even pray that all the tithes and offerings will come in. What does he pray for? He prays that he will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. He prays that the church will pray, he hopes that the church will pray for him so that he will boldly declare the gospel.

Why? Because Paul knew the assignment. And the assignment was not to get out of your pain and troubles. The assignment was to glorify God by making disciples. We can't do that if we don't stay in step with the Spirit and stay intimate with God's Word. He prays that he'll be effective in proclaiming the Gospel because Paul knew the assignment and Paul knew that he was in spiritual warfare.

He knew this was a battle. And Paul wants to proclaim the Gospel not because it's his pet project. Paul wants to proclaim the gospel, not because he's a conservative evangelical. Paul wants to proclaim the gospel because that is the mission. That is what Christ told us to do. That's the purpose of the church.

This is what we are to do. This is what we are about. We are a gospel people, and the gospel is the center of spiritual warfare. I know a lot of Christians out there who are doing a lot of good and gospel work, good kingdom work, but they're trying to do it apart from the gospel. Because here's what happens when you step into the gospel, when you make the gospel the heart of what you're going to do, you're going to feel the attacks. The devil, the devil is completely fine with you feeding people, but not sharing the gospel with them. Because the devil is completely fine with you making people comfortable on their way to hell.

It's the gospel that makes us enter into the war. It's sharing the gospel is when the attacks come. And let me remind you, this is the message the world needs to hear, and the devil hates. The gospel is this, that God so loved the world that he wasn't going to allow us to wallow in our own sin. But he sent his son to die on a Roman cross, in our place, to take the punishment for our sins. Every time you look at a cross, you need to be reminded that should have been you up there. That should have been you, but Jesus took your place, dying, crucified, naked, taking the sins of the world, taking your sins and my sins.

And when he died, that was the full payment for every sin you would have ever committed. And he died, and on the third day he rose again. And his rising from the dead was the guarantee of not just our new life, not just our eternal life, but the promise that we could be brought back into relationship with God again forever. And this is a truth that changes people. This is a truth that highlights a love that the world is longing to hear. This is why it's our mission to make disciples so that they will know the truth and the truth will set them but will never be effective in our spiritual war if we don't put first things first if we don't put the marching orders of Christ as our highest priority if we are to be effective in spiritual warfare then we have to deepen our spiritual intimacy now here's what I mean by this. Not intimate as in romantic, but intimate as in having a deep and personal knowledge, experience, and desire for the things of God.

Simply put, too many Christians are not winning the spiritual war because they are too surface level. Too many Christians are shallow Christians. You were baptized as a baby, but you spiritually stayed there. You never grew up spiritually. Far too many Christians, the only Bible they ever actually read are the out-of-context verses printed on our neat decorations that we get from Hobby Lobby. Literally on the surface of our walls, thus ironically showing the surface level Christians are not what God has called you to be. He's called us to deepen our heart for him deepen our love for one another Deepen our passion to share the gospel of the world Deepen God's Word in our hearts. Let me leave you with a few challenges as we talk about deepening our spiritual intimacy first one is this is Does intimate describe your knowledge of God's word? Notice I didn't say academic, notice I didn't say exhaustive. I said intimate.

Does intimate describe your knowledge of God's word?

As we look at carrying the spirit, I guarantee you are more effective with a weapon the more familiar you are with it. Whether that goes through swords or guns or whatever. As we look at carrying the sword of the spirit, we need to ask, do you even know God's word? If you don't, you may have defensive armor, but you won't win the battles, because truth is how we overcome the enemy. If we're being lied to, if we are being conditioned into an ungodly worldview, if we have an image of ourself or humanity that's not from God, then I'm telling you now, it's truth. That's how we overcome. But don't lose the analogy here. There's a reason Paul chose a sword to talk about the Word of God. Don't lose the analogy here. I don't want to get too graphic, but you have to be up close and personal to use a sword. If you know what I'm talking about.

You have to be up close and personal for a sword to do its job. Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12 says this, it says, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. Listen, a sword cuts viciously, but intimately. A sword is meant to be stabbed. It is meant to enter into you.

It is meant to penetrate you. It doesn't just scrape us, it enters into us. That's how a sword does its job, and that's how the Word of God does its job in the followers of Christ. You can't just have it in your hand. It has to be piercing your hearts. To be intimate with God's Word, the sword of the Spirit, means that you need to let it sink into you, challenging you, cutting out the sin, or as Hebrew says,

discerning the thoughts and the intentions of your heart, calling you out when you go wayward or when you want to use the Word of God for your own personal benefit rather than to glorify God, when you want to use the Word of God to shut someone down instead of build them up. The sword of the Spirit can't just be at your side. Even Satan quoted the Bible. Rather you need it to be in a deeper, more personal place. As Psalm 119 says, I have stored up your word in my hearts.

The sword of the Spirit can't be just at your side, not even just in your hand. It literally has to be in your heart. So read your Bibles and don't quote the Bible just to win in arguments, but to build someone up, redeeming them from the realm of darkness. And along with God's Word, let's talk about the author of God's Word, the Holy Spirit. Let me ask you this, does intimate describe your relationship with God's spirit? The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force. He's not the detached power of God. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God.

He speaks, He moves, He, not an it, He fills us, fuels us, working on us from the inside out. We are to lean into Him. We are to have fellowship with Him. Do you press into Him? When you pray, do you do so knowing that the Spirit is present with you? When you are angered or frustrated, do you know that the Spirit is still within you? When you read scriptures, do you know that that's the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Christians, we can't just know about the Holy Spirit. We need to have an intimate fellowship with Him where He works with us, in us, from the inside out, transforming us, not just into a good person, but transforming us into the image of Christ. Christians, remember, if you're not being attacked, it's probably because you're not in the battle. But when you choose to step in, the attacks will come. But greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. This is why we need the Holy Spirit, because when the attacks come, He's our power and He is our comforter. And Jesus told us that we'd be clothed in power. Did you know he was talking about the Holy Spirit? So does intimate describe your relationship with God's Spirit and we'll close up by looking at this does intimate describe your passion for God's message.

Does intimate describe your passion for God's message.

So today is st. Patrick's Day, and I know there's some debate, but this is this is a green ish shirt So don't pinch me And when it comes to st. Patrick's Day, there's a lot of legend around st. Patrick, but there's There's a lot of fact to We know we know he was a real person. We have some of his writings. He was a real person who lived around 400 ad Now st. Patrick was not originally from Ireland. Did you know that he was actually from Britain? But he did come from a Christian family. And at age 16, what happens is that Patrick was kidnapped and brought into slavery in Ireland, where he was held captive as a slave for six years.

After six years, he actually escaped and he returned back to his native Britain. And later on when he was reflecting on this and writing about his time in bondage, time as a slave, Patrick told about how it took bondage for him to realize the power of faith. He went on to say things like that, he went on to describe how it was in his captivity that God captured his heart. Well Patrick did escape his slavery after six years and at 22 he returned back to Britain, but not long after returning home, Patrick had a dream that he believed was from God. A dream that he was to return back to Ireland, not as a slave, but as a missionary.

He was to return back to the place he escaped from to bring the gospel. Patrick went on to become the first, he went on first to become a deacon, and then he went on to become the first bishop of Ireland, which was also the first bishop of a country outside the Roman Empire. Patrick was one of the first to bring the gospel outside into the world. Now this is where it gets interesting. That wasn't a cool enough story. Here's where it gets interesting. In his writing, Patrick talks about this conflict that he was having with the Catholic Church, with the central Catholic Church in Rome. See, what Rome had said, Rome had told Patrick that your job as the bishop was to simply care for the Christian community in Ireland.

That's what you were meant to do. But Patrick saw his duty to bring the gospel to the pagans of Ireland, as well as care for the church community that was there. This is why I love Patrick. He had the heart of a pastor and the heart of a missionary. But this brought tension between him and the Catholic Church because he was wanting to bring the gospel out there. Why? Because Patrick understood the assignment, not from the Pope, but from the Lord, who we are to truly follow. And I love this quote from St. Patrick. He wrote and he said this, He said, I want my brethren and kinfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul's desires. Let me translate. You see, Patrick had an intimate love for God and for the gospel. And he was willing to be vulnerable with people, he was willing to open up himself so that they could see the deepest parts of who he was and see that the deeper you go into the soul of Patrick, the more you see a love for God and a love for the gospel. Learn from Patrick.

To know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul's desire. Church, I know there's a lot of battles we wanna fight out there, but I'm telling you right now, we need to stick to our mission, sharing the gospel and making disciples. We need to return to the mission that Christ gave us. So let me just fire off a couple things. Some of you need to start giving. Some of you need to start serving. Some of you need to start praying. Some of you need to start just reading the Bible with your spouse or with your kids. We need to understand that the mission we should have for our lives is the mission that Jesus gave us, that his vision is to be our vision. And did you know that that old hymn, Be Thou My Vision, did you know that that was actually adapted from a sixth century Irish poem that was said to have been inspired by the life of St. Patrick? Church, as we engage the spiritual warfare of our time, I believe, and I think what's going on, will attest to this, that things are only getting darker. But that just means Christians get to shine all the brighter.

But we'll never shine if we don't stand on and for and speak the Word of God. We are called to speak the truth, yes, in love. And so we need to enter into deeper levels of spiritual awareness and intimacy if we are not just to understand the battle, but withstand through it. Because your effectiveness in spiritual warfare is connected to your depth of spiritual intimacy. Some of you just need to go back to boot camp and fall in love with God again. Some of you just need to be reminded of the power of the gospel and what Jesus has done for you. Some of you who know that need to start sharing that.

Because your effectiveness in the spiritual warfare is connected to your depth of spiritual intimacy. The more that you grow to love God, the more that you understand and experience God's love, the more you will naturally want to share that. And as we talk about being spiritually intimate, one of the most profound ways we can express that is through worship with one another, with the church. So let's start with Be Thou My Vision, a hymn that literally starts out by saying, Be Thou My Vision, O Lord of my heart.

Amen. Let's stand and let's prepare to sing that old hymn today. Let's pray. Father, we come before you right now in the company of friends and fellow believers, we ask God that you would fill us now with the power and presence of your spirits, that we would express our heart's desire for you, Lord, that we want our mission to be your mission, that we want our vision to be your vision. So fill us now again with the truth of the gospel, that we may sing of your great love

for us, Lord, as we, as people, who you've called a place on mission. Lord, I pray that we'd sing of that mission and that vision right now. We pray these things in Jesus' name. And everyone said, amen. And everyone said, amen. Church, let's sing together.

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