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Present Darkness vs. Spiritual Strength

Sermon Series:


Ryan Kimmel
Ryan Kimmel

Lead Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Ephesians 6:10-13


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

So in many ways, video games are our modern day epics. They're the great tales of our time that people just get to play with. And there's this one video game that I think really does a good job of kind of highlighting the zeitgeist of our time, the worldview or the cultural narrative. And so there's this game, and so for part of the game, you go to this underground realm called the depths. And in the depths, one of the things that you do is you collect these floating blue lights. They're all over the place. You collect these floating blue lights. And as the game unfolds, you come to realize that these floating blue lights are actually souls. And one of the things that you do in this game is that you collect these floating blue lights, these souls, and you give them to this statue. It's like an idol. It's like a spirit. And even as I'm describing it, it sounds incredibly demonic, doesn't it? And when you give the souls to this idol, to this spirit statue, it said something.

And it says something that I really think hits at just the heart of our culture right now. It says this, when you give these souls over, and it says, they are pitiful beings who have lost their way home and wander this land. I am the one who returns all souls to the afterlife without prejudice, good, evil. That's the feudal perspective of narrow-minded beings. There is no such distinction in wandering spirits. Now I'll tell you, I think that summarizes our worldview, the worldview of our culture. We will not call things evil. We don't like to talk in terms of good and evil in our world. We'd rather talk about things that are helpful or hurtful. We'd rather talk about things that are safe or offensive. But I will tell you now, good and evil, that is a distinction in the spirit realm. That is a distinction that we need to see and understand in our world. Evil does exist. The spiritual realm is real, and you could never convince me otherwise.

It was about 2004 in the springtime and I went to call my wife, she was then my girlfriend, late one night. It was around 11 o'clock, she was working, she was working late, so I knew she wasn't going to answer, so I went to leave her a voicemail. Because she was working late at a restaurant. Anyone here remember Sam's Joint? Christmas lights all year long, wasn't that awesome? And so I knew she was working late, so I went to leave her a voicemail for her to get out, for her to listen to when she got out of work. And I remember starting to leave the voicemail, and then something happened that I can, the only way I can really describe it to you is that I fell into like a trance-like state. It's the best way I could describe it. And I began to mumble. Again, that's the best way I can describe it, but I began to mumble. And when I got, I got at some point during my like rambling, I said, amen. And that like snapped me out of it. And this was my girlfriend. I felt incredibly embarrassed.

This was a voicemail. There's no, there's no one doing it. So I said, amen, that snapped me out of it. And I was like, Oh, I'm, I don't know why I said that. I meant to say I love you, okay, bye. And I hung up the phone real fast. Now, and then I went to sleep. And the next morning, she called me, and she was like, what was going on at your house last night? And I was like, what are you talking about? She said, you need to listen to the voicemail you left me. So I listened to the voicemail and yep, sure enough, I start the voicemail then I start to kind of like mumble slash ramble. You can't really understand what I'm saying. But over the top of me mumbling, all around me was demonic screaming that was happening, that was recorded. I didn't hear it in live time. It wasn't my voice because I was clearly saying something else. And when I said amen, the screaming automatically stopped.

Now, I'm always hesitant to share that story. Right? Because in our modern scientific world, we want to rationalize everything. We want to view everything through a scientific lens. We have no ability to see beyond the very small window of knowledge we have scientifically. I'm scared to share that story because I don't want people to think I'm crazy or to have people to try to tell me how to rationalize it. When I'm the one that heard it, I will tell you now, you will never convince me that there's not a spiritual realm. You'll never convince me that what I heard was anything less than something demonic. And I was being protected by the Holy Spirit. Now, I'll be honest with you, as a Reformed theologian, there are parts of me that's kind of like, OK, how do I reconcile that with my Reformed theology?

Interesting thing to try to do, but I cannot deny what happened. And I'll tell you what it did do. It revealed something to me that forever and will ever change my life. That this is not simply a material world. There is an unseen, unseen spiritual realm, and it's not simply good. There's a battle happening, there's a darkness all around us. And today, we're starting a series called Withstand, as we look at how the culture war around us is truly a spiritual battle. So we're going to be looking at a section of scripture, and we're going to see how this section of scripture gives us the eyes to see how we can be prepared for and how we can engage the battle that's happening around us, that we can fight the right fights knowing who the true enemy is.

My prayer is that by the end of the series that you truly see that something larger is at play about us. And today we're going to start at the 30,000 foot level. For the rest of the series, we'll get more ground level, but we kind of have to start higher up today as we look at the present darkness versus the spiritual strength available to us. So would you please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 6. Now you can go ahead and just put a bookmark right there in your Bibles because that's

where we're going to stay for this entire sermon series. But as you turn in there, here's a context real quickly.

Ephesians is a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in a town called Ephesus. Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world. It was a port city on the Aegean Sea, located on the western coast of what is modern day Turkey. Ephesus, if you do your history, Ephesus was a place that was rife with occult practices, meaning people there didn't need to be convinced that there was a spiritual realm. And as people in Ephesus began to become Christians, Paul writes to the church that was meeting there, to the Ephesians there, and he's writing to clarify certain tenets of the Christian faith, certain Christian doctrine, and he's also explaining how are we supposed to live in response to all these beautiful truths. How are we supposed to live as Christians? In chapter 6, he begins to close up the letter, and he does so by talking about the armor of God. And so, with that, would you hear God's word? Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10 to 13. Would you hear God's word?

Ephesians 6:10-13

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is God's Word. Let's pray and we'll get to it. Let's pray. Father, we come before you. We know that the spiritual realm is real and so we would ask, Father, that you'd give us the eyes not just to see where the enemy is at play, but help us by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, by the truth of your word and by the assurance of the gospel, Father, that you would prepare us with your armor that we may be able to stand in the day of evil. We pray these things in the name of our mighty Savior. In the name of Jesus, we pray. And everyone said, Amen. Amen.

So again, church, as we kick off this series, we're going to start up high. Here's today's main idea. It's this.

Main Idea:

We need the whole armor if we are to stand strong.

Let that be a theme for today, but also throughout the entire series. And yet, as I talk with so many Christians, they either have no armor on or just partial armor. So my prayer is that you would be dressed with the full armor of God. And as we look at our passage today, here's how we're going to break it down. As we look at the present darkness versus the spiritual strength that is before us, first thing we'll look at is that we need to be all in because the enemy is all in. Second thing we need to see is that we need the right perspective to identify the true enemy. And thirdly, we need the whole armor for the whole battle. So let's get into it.

  1. We need to be all in because the enemy is all in (vv10-11)

  2. We need the right perspective to identify the true enemy (v12)

  3. We need the whole armor for the whole battle (v13)

We need to be all in because the enemy is all in (vv10-11)

First thing, we need to be all in because the enemy is all in. So after an entire letter where Paul discusses the Christian faith and how to live as Christians, Paul begins to close up this letter by looking at the armor of God. And he introduces this section in verse 10 with a beautiful word. He says, finally. Now, that's a fine way to translate that word. It's the right way to translate that word. All modern translations will use that word, finally. But there's another word that you could use that I wish some translations would use. And it's the word, henceforth. Now that for me just sounds like a more regal call to action as Paul introduces this final section talking about wearing armor. After talking about the beauty of the Christian faith, after talking about how to live as Christians, I wish it would say, henceforth, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

Church, it's not your strength that will get you through. If you're going to be strong to face the battles that are before you, then you need the strength of the Lord. You do not have the strength in you to save yourself.

There is no saving yourself. The spiritual strength that you need to face the battles that are all about us is not found within you It's not waiting to be discovered It's only from the Lord There are no bootstraps that are big enough and strong enough for you to pull up that will allow you to do this on your own We stand weak wholly needing the Lord and his strength. So men women you must rely on the power of God. Not the power of positive thinking, but the actual power of God. Now you may say to me, okay pastor, awesome, sounds good. What does that actually mean? How do we actually do that? Well, my friend, this is exactly what this entire series is about, so make sure you come back for every message.

But Paul begins to tell us what it looks like in verse 11. He says, put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to take your stand against the schemes of the devil. So let's take that phrase by phrase. Put on the whole armor of God. Sometimes the Bible is just so nice to us with our big, thick skulls. Did you, did you notice the gentle hint here? Put on the whole armor, not the partial armor, not the culturally appropriate armor, put on the whole armor of God.

How many of you have kids or have ever raised kids who have gone through the elementary and middle school stage? Anyone? Let me see. Let me see. Okay, so then you know how much of a battle it is to get kids to wear their winter clothes at winter time. Right? You know what I'm talking about? Like, it is negative 20 degrees and a blizzard, but they will fight to put a winter hat on. I don't know what it is with you middle school students, why you're so afraid that your friends will find out you have a jacket, but just wear it. Because here's the thing about the cold. Here's the thing about the winter. It's going to attack every part of you It doesn't pick and choose The cold wants to attack every part of you and it's going to attack the parts of you that are the most exposed This is why we need to cover up Fully when it's winter time. I bought you but my kids I love them. We'll get them all bundled up. Snow pants, jacket, hats, gloves, the whole thing. We'll send them outside for a couple hours and you know what happens when they come inside? Their jacket's zipped open, they're missing a glove, who knows what their hat is, scarf's hanging from the basketball hoop. It's like you forgot it was cold outside or something. But when my kids come in like that, you know what I think?

That is a picture of what has happened spiritually with so many Christians. We go out, we forget there's a battle, and we start dropping our armor. We may have the right intention when we go out to face the day, but throughout the day we forget there's a battle, and so we start dropping our armor, and by the time we get home we're half dressed. I think a lot of us may be sitting here wondering, something to the effect of like, I don't really feel like there's a battle going on.

Well, my friend, then, it's because you've already lost. But here's the good news, that the eternal victory has already been won. Christ has already secured our salvation. Christ has already put the final nail in the coffin. That's why we just give ourselves to Him. We find our rest in Him and our comfort in Him, but we still have to be dressed for the battle because the day is not yet over.

Evil is out there all the time, everywhere. And this is why we need to have the whole armor of God all the time. Paul continues in verse 11. He says that you may be able to take your stand against the schemes of the devil. To stand, that's the great call, that we would stand, meaning stand our ground, meaning face the fight, that we'd overcome the attacks and the temptation of the devil. Or as Paul says, the schemes of the devil.

Now the word schemes here in the original language is the word methodēs, which is where we get our English word method method comes from that Greek word now method is a Neutral word in English, but Paul uses in his original language a word that has nefarious intent. This is why we often translate that word as schemes or craftiness or deceit The notion being here people. Do you understand that the devil is not just attacking you but he's strategizing against you. He's employing methods to attack you. Yes, on the one hand, there's nothing new under the sun. The devil's age old tactic is to get you to reject God and to deny his word. But I also think that the devil is studying you and he's going to strategize against you specifically for where you are the weakest. I may not know exactly where the devil is attacking you, but I know what he's trying to do. He's trying to get you to fall, which is the opposite of standing. And the enemy will use every available means to trip you up, to make you fall.

Now football season is over, but if you watch a football game, like many of us were doing this past season, and you watch it on TV, you'll notice that one of the main things that the TV producers will show is the various coaches on the sidelines doing their thing. Head coach, offensive coach, defensive coach. I found out that there's roughly 12 coaches on any given NFL team. Now coaches don't play, but what they do is they strategize. They plan and they strategize in real time how to win the game as it's unfolding. I'm sure many of you have watched a game. You've seen this happen. They'll pan to the sidelines and you got a coach sitting there and he's doing one of these things. He's talking like this, so no one will see what he's saying because he's taking it very seriously. He doesn't want anyone to read his lips. You know, I saw that and I was watching that and I got to thinking those coaches are taking a football game more seriously than Christians are taking the spiritual battle that's around us. They are so intent, they're willing to guard their mouth so that people don't see what they're strategizing, what they're playing against. And I just think that that's what the enemy is doing.

And Christians, are we in the game? Are we responding? Are we taking it just as seriously? Now, the Super Bowl was last week. It feels like forever ago, but it was just last week. And if you watched it, then you probably know that only for the second time in Super Bowl history did the Super Bowl go into overtime. And I tell you what, it was already the most important game of the season for them, right? But when things got narrow at the end and it went into overtime, I don't know if you're watching the coaches, everything changed. For however serious they were, they got even more serious. They doubled down on their intensity. They were all in. And so many Christians, so many Christians are out there playing, but we're not playing the game. And we're certainly not pushing the devil into overtime because we're just already lost. I recently heard a pastor say something like this. He said, he said, when I wake up, I want the devil to start sweating. Let me tell you something. The devil is not worried about you and your strength. You pose no threat.

You wake up, the devil don't care. Until you put on the armor of God. That's when the devil starts shaking. When you dress yourself with the strength of the Lord, when you say to God, I know I can't do this on my own, I need you to come inside and do this through me. When you are dressed for battle, when you understand the war that's going on, when you walk out the door and you are ready to face the world with the love of God and the truth of God, that's when the devil starts shaking. Not when you wake up, but when you get dressed for battle. A soldier who's only wearing partial armor is only a partial threat. in a practical way. Saturday night comes. You had a busy Saturday. Staying up a little too late. And you're making decisions about whether or not to go to church the next day. You can sleep in or you can show up. I'll tell you what the world needs. What the world needs is Christians showing up. We don't need a sleeping in. Don't tell me you are awake to the battle when you're sleeping in. When you are waking up in the morning, go to prayer, put on the full armor of God, and the Bible says when you do that, then, don't miss the word then in scripture, then you'll be able to take your stand against the schemes of the devil. Because you need to be all in, because the devil is all in against you.

2. We need the right perspective to identify the true enemy (v12)

And that leads us to our second point. We need the right perspective to identify the true enemy. And I'm going to tell you right now, I'll warn you right now, this will be the sharpest section of the whole sermon. I want to make something abundantly clear here. This will be hard for so many of us, but let's first see what Scripture says, verse 12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Did you read what the Bible just said? Not against flesh and blood. Christians, our primary fight, our primary fight is not against other people. Let me say this as clearly as I can.

Christians, your neighbor is not your enemy. We are to love our neighbor. The devil is our enemy. Our enemy is Satan and the schemes that he is using to lead people astray.

The devil right now is working overtime, creating a world and a worldview that lead people to be against God and against the things of God. The enemy is twisting culture to instill in people a hatred for God and a hatred for the things of God and a hatred for the very thing that we show up to do every single Sunday. And people are falling into this. Left and right, a culture is falling prey to this. People are fighting against biblical truth and they're fighting against God's love for them. And when people do that, it's very easy to see them as the enemy, but no, they're not. They are falling prey to the schemes of the devil.

We are to have compassion for those who are led astray. Compassion, not hatred. Hatred for the things they do, yes, but not hatred for them. They are being led by the enemy to be enemies of God. We all were enemies of God when we were lost in our sin until we were redeemed. But for those of us who are saved by Christ, we are to walk in the way of truth and the way of love as we try to redeem our neighbors from the clutches of the enemy. And before we talk about particulars, we need to get this understanding, not just in our heads, but in our hearts. So firstly, our neighbor is not who we are to fight against. Rather, we are to love them. Now listen, this doesn't mean that we don't fight for truth. We certainly do It just means that we need to realize who is really at work behind the scenes when we engage the cultural battles.

Verse 12 says for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood and then Paul tells us what we do fight against against the schemes of the devil Which the which Paul describes in four different ways against the rulers against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness and against the spiritual forces in the heavenly places. Heavenly places just means the spiritual realm. Paul is speaking clearly about spiritual entities in spiritual realities here, but rather than giving us a hierarchy of hell or an org chart of the demonic, I think what he's doing here is he's simply helping us to understand the size and the scope and the seriousness of the spiritual battle that's all around us. The demonic forces have power and at this moment they have a level of dominion and it's cosmic and it's dark and it's spiritual and it's what we need to see if we're truly going to stand for truth. We need to see what is spiritually happening. We need to see what is spiritually happening behind it all. Transgender people are not our enemy, but the devil who is inspiring that movement, he is. Pro-choice activists are not our enemy, but the devil who empowers their agenda, he is. Illegal immigrants are not our enemy, but the devil who is corrupting governments that foster and allow this, He is.

And listen to me clearly, I'm not saying everybody out there is a pure person with a pure, good motive. I know that there are wicked people who seek to do wicked things out there. But the enemy is the devil who's empowering what's going on with all the brokenness in this world. I'm not saying that people who do evil things shouldn't be brought to justice or held to account. I definitely think they should be. We need to live in a just society where when people break the laws they're punished for it. But here's what I want you to know. You can be a loving Christian and still want to see civil law upheld. Those are not mutually exclusive. We can love the foreigner and the sojourner and also want to see the immigration crisis get under control. These are not mutually exclusive things. We don't have the infrastructure as a nation to welcome the entire world. I'll just tell you right now, I'm watching real closely the presidential candidates, which one has a better plan to address the immigration crisis. Because if we fold as a country, we're not going to be able to help anybody. You can still be a Christian and want to see civil law upheld. You can still be a Christian who does not see someone as your enemy and still see them go to jail. You can still love people while they're in prison. In fact, we're actually commanded to by our Lord and Savior. And also, I'm not saying that you don't have a right to defend your home or your family. What we're talking about here, and this is what I'm saying to you, the problem comes when we stop seeing the humanity in other people.

What I'm saying, church, is that we should never lose compassion for a world that's lost. When we have an actual human being standing before us and we no longer see them as a person made in the image of God, something's wrong with our heart. Jesus said if we hate everyone else just like everyone else hates each other, we're no better than them.

We have an enemy and we'll never stand if we don't recognize who we are truly meant to fight. Yes, we stand in truth, in love. Of course we do. We stand in love and for the truth. And I'm not saying this will be easy. Following Christ can be very hard. In fact, this is why the Bible often uses warlike and battle language, because it's a fight, it's tough. But guess what? We have the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the truth of the Word, we have God's love, and we have the armor of God to face the battles that are before us. Listen, I understand the disagreements that are out there will lead us into very sharp disagreements with the world around us. Don't get me wrong, at times it will feel like we're fighting with other people. But remember, and we can never forget this, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil and the heavenly places. Because here's what I can tell you, if the devil can get us to stop fighting him and start fighting our fellow man, then he's already won.

So here's what we do. I'm not saying just sit there on your duff not doing anything, just loving people. There's more to it than that. Here's what we must do. When it comes to the culture war, number one, remember what's really behind the battle, that there's a spiritual war going on. Remember who our true enemy is.

When it comes to the culture war, remember it's a spiritual battle. And because of that, we don't attack people. Rather we attack the worldview. We attack their false narratives. We attack the worldview that is inspiring such brokenness in this world. This is why as Christians we must be able to articulate what's happening in our times.

We must be wise to our times. This is why as Christians we must have a truly fully developed world view to understand God's Word to understand What's happening in the world so that we can also help our children to be able to process and interpret? What's happening on the world stage, but too many of us don't have a Christian worldview. We don't have a biblical worldview because we sleep in on Sundays. We're sleeping in while the battle rages. My call for you and those around you is at least for this next series, don't sleep in, show up. Show up and see how God has dressed you for the battle that's before us. When it comes to the culture war, remember, it's a spiritual battle, so we don't attack people. We attack the worldview the devil is fostering that tries to lead this world astray and make us fall.

3. We need the whole armor for the whole battle (v13)

The battle is raging and our enemy is powerful, which is why lastly, we need the whole armor for the whole battle. Verse 13 says this, therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand firm. Yes, we live in evil days. Yes, we live in dark times and we'll never make it through if we don't bear and get dressed with the full armor of God because the battle is fully raging until the last day. And in this series, we'll look at each piece of armor and how it specifically gives us the ability to fight the battles that are before us. And I truly hope you come to every message. Christians, Christians, please, we don't just receive what God has done for us into our hearts. We are to respond with our entire lives with what to what God has done for us. This isn't just something in our heads, it's something in our lives.

I once heard someone put it like this, he said, this isn't the armor from God, this is the armor of God. It's his armor, it's what he wears and he shares with those who follow him. The armor of God is the armor that God wears, it's what the Holy Spirit inspires us and equips us to wear. The armor of God is what Jesus Christ himself wore when he preached the gospel. I love how the book of Romans puts it. It says this in Romans chapter 5. It says, But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since therefore we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God? For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life." Let me clarify here. Jesus Christ, while they were spitting in His face and literally nailing Him to the cross, He was dying for the very people who were doing that. While we were actively sinning against God, He was seeking to save us. I don't know what God you worship, but that one's better. And Jesus Christ gave his life up for his enemies while they were literally killing him. And then he went on to rise again from the grave to rule and reign and take his place at the right hand of God. And he has the eternal final victory over Satan, sin and death.

But until the last day, until the culmination of all things, until the great renewal of creation, the enemy still has power, he still has influence, and we must recognize this. 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8 says, be sober-minded, be watchful, your adversary the devil, even the apostle Peter is reminding us that people aren't our enemies, the devil is. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

He's on the hunt, and he's looking for you, and he's looking for those Christians who are weak and exposed and not in the battle, and he's going to pounce on them. And even for those of us standing strong, he will come at us. But by the strength of God, by the power of the Spirit, as we stand united with the church, we are to wear the armor of God. And so Christians in the house, I will tell you right now, I already told you, I already said to you earlier, you will never convince me the spiritual realm isn't real. I wish you could hear what I heard, if you'd believe it too. And I know that preaching a message like this is opening up myself and my family and this church to not just the attention but the attack of the enemy. So I need to know who are going to pray for protection over this series.

Let's go.

Church, as you wear the armor of God, remember, please remember that the strength of the armor is found in the Lord himself. So find yourself in him and wear it because we need the whole armor, the whole armor of God if we are to stand strong.


Would you please stand and let's get ready for battle. Because we have the armor of God, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we definitely can stand strong. But I just have to say, I think there's something very special when the church also stands united. And one of the ways we can demonstrate us being united is through worship. So here's what I'm going to say to you. There is no safe, aside from in your closet by yourself, there is no safer place to worship than right here and right now.

So I'm going to encourage you to worship. I'm going to encourage you to raise your voice if you've never done it before. I'm going to encourage you to raise your hand if you've never done it before. the other Christians will see you worship? This is our chance to announce to the enemy and announce to the world that we don't stand on our own two legs. We stand on the solid rock.

Father, we come before you. We just ask, Lord, that as you've so graciously poured out your Holy Spirit on us to give us power to stand, I pray, Lord, that the Holy Spirit would come now, be our worship leader, guiding us to unity with each other, also to worship of you. And so Father, I pray, Father, you'd fill the mouths and the hearts of these people as we stand united and we sing about our solid rock, our mighty Savior, Jesus. It's in his name we pray. And everyone said, amen. And everyone said, amen. Church, let's worship together.

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