So today we continue the ‘12 Ways to Wreck Your Heart’ series, and I just wanted to take a second and ask you a question. How have you been doing with this series so far? Because we are 11 weeks into this bad boy today, and I am wondering if we are seeing and or agreeing with what Solomon was talking about here…
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. NIV
Above all else…the most important thing you can do is guard your heart. Why? Because it is the well spring of life! So over the first half of the series we came to Proverbs a good bit, because it stresses the importance of our heart condition. Ken gave us this compilation of scriptures that highlight it all the more!
Keep vigilant watch over your heart, that’s where life starts. …a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day. …a miserable heart means a miserable life. Provers 4:23, 5:13, 5:15 MSG
You know, this is why we would take 12 weeks, to bring up different ways that we can wreck our hearts, because there is something bigger going on than most of us realize. Do you know what it is? There is a battle being waged, and it is being waged over the most valuable thing there is on this planet…and that is your heart. You see if your enemy can take out your heart, he takes you out! He is relentless and completely focused on his mission to destroy your heart. The scary thing to me is, most of us don’t engage the war…or even know we are in a war for that matter! We need to understand something here today, we live in a world at war and the battle is waging each and every day of our lives…but there is a problem and that problem is that we just don’t see the war for what it is, we don’t even know that it is going on. Well you might say, well Sam why is this a problem? This just means I don’t have to fight! After all the idea of being in a war is a little unsettling right? Well it is reality. You are in this battle whether you engage it or not, and the problem is, when you don’t engage it your enemy just gets to pick you apart. I often pray that we would have eyes to see this war for what it is, because I think seeing it, is a huge part of standing in the victory we all have from it in Christ. It is hard to watch people disengage, or not prepare or engage this fight…and it makes me think a lot of this awesome story…this is often my prayer for us…that we would have eyes to see.
2 Kings 6:8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” 9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. 11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” 12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” 13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. NIV
Elisha’s prayer in verse 17 is the prayer that I would have for all of us. “Oh Lord, open our eyes so we may see.” Why would this be such a big deal? Because ignoring the war doesn’t protect you from it. It actually is maybe the best way to wreck your heart. Far too many people are unaware of a couple things that we need to understand.
- You have an enemy. The first thing you need to know is that we actually do have an enemy. Remember me talking just a few weeks ago about the roaring lion?
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. NIV
Peter tells us that we have an enemy, and that we are to resist him. We are to stand firm in the faith! Remember (I think I say this about every Sunday I speak) Jesus’ words:
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV
The reality is that you do have an enemy…he is relentless, he is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is doing his best to steal and kill and destroy. Ignoring him doesn’t make him go away! It only makes it easier to take you out. The reality is that you have an enemy and he wants to take out your heart because it is the wellspring of your life. It is the most valuable thing on this planet, and ignoring him doesn’t give you a free pass. This is why Solomon would say that we must guard our hearts, we must engage our hearts…because if we do not, that valuable resource will be taken out. So we must understand something here. You have an enemy.
- You live in a world at war. I think this is where a lot of people tune me out today. Because here in Dillsburg, Pa we just don’t seem to be feeling this whole living in a world at war thing. So we think ok, this is the Sunday Sam gets all wound up about spiritual warfare, so we just need to listen and nod and it will all be over soon because we aren’t feeling this war thing right? We may not be seeing or recognizing it but I can’t stress to you enough that it is real. No you don’t see the war but isn’t it interesting that you struggle to get out of bed and get here on a Sunday. Isn’t it interesting that on the day you volunteer your time here at the church everything goes wrong? Isn’t it interesting that every time you try to move forward or closer towards God, something seems to keep you from it? But you are probably right…there is nothing opposing you! Lord that we would have eyes to see…
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 7 You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. NIV
Wow is there a lot going on in this scripture! I want you to see this, we live in the world but we do not wage war as the world does. This is a big deal! Paul is trying to help us see the spiritual battle for what it is and to engage it…because so many don’t see it and frankly aren’t willing to engage it and the results are devastating! So really my job today is to help you see another way that you can wreck your heart, and I really wanted to go here. If you want to wreck your heart, don’t guard you heart well. Actually ignore the spiritual battle waging all around you. Also, for you in leadership positions inside the church, don’t guard your hearts, don’t prepare for this battle, just roll out of bed, or leave work and jump right into your leadership role which holds a lot of authority in the kingdom of God and is completely opposed by your enemy and just assume that everything will go ok for you!
Listen, you do have an enemy, and he hates that you’re here. He hates that you would serve, and he is doing whatever he can to keep you from engaging this fight! The lack of interest, or focus in the spiritual battle doesn’t mean that the enemy leaves you alone, it just makes you an easier target!
So what can you do? Well you can prepare, and you can engage, and as a disciple of Jesus you can understand a couple of things.
- Should I be afraid of the enemy? Absolutely not, we should not be afraid of our enemy but we must be aware of what he is up to!
Luke 10:18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” NIV
So many people worry or stand in fear of our enemy, but the reality is that Jesus won this war for us. This is a completely different type of war than anything you and I are used to. We are fighting from the stance of victory not for it. Jesus himself has given us the authority to overcome the power of the enemy through HIM! Now this doesn’t mean we are just carelessly run through life. We stay aware of the enemy’s schemes. What it means is that when we stand in the power of Jesus, our enemy has no power over us. This is why I like to say our enemy resorts to trickery and deceptions. Because he can’t beat you straight up in a fight, and he has no power over you, so he will do his best to get you to make agreements…that you are a bad person, or ugly, or whatever that may be…when you agree with the deceiver you can give him ground in your life, which frankly is the only way he gains ground in your life (when you give it to him) but no we should not fear him.
- So how do I engage this war? Well I think this is where I really wanted us to get to today. For so many of us we don’t think about guarding our hearts on a daily basis. We are distracted. We are too busy. We have work, and children to run around, and a million things going on from the buzzing of our cell phones to the constant email streams, to our favorite soap opera or sporting event…whatever those things are we sure have a lot of them. We live in a world that makes it really hard to focus doesn’t it? When in the world would I ever think to stop, slow down and guard my heart well…and if I would, how on earth do I do it? Well Paul really helps us out with this…
Ephesians 6:10 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 blood, 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. 13 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. 18 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 all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. NIV
You know it was funny, I was planning to do a whole talk on a completely different subject, and what I really felt like I had to do today was discuss this particular chunk of scripture. I think too many of us walk through life, in this world that we clearly are told is at war, with an enemy who wants to take you out, and we are unprepared for the battle. We don’t have those eyes to see…or we just don’t care to engage it. Then we walk through life and hope that everything works out. Well I want you to hear me now…we must be intentional in engaging this fight. We must guard our hearts well because we now know this is the most important thing we have…the wellspring of life! Paul does such a great job here and I want to break this all down with you today. So we start here…
10 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 blood, 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.
Well this is what I was trying to help you see today. We have mighty power through the Lord. All the enemy’s nonsense is placed under our feet. But that doesn’t mean that we do not prepare and arm ourselves…because even though he has no power over us verse 11 clearly tells us that he is coming after us! That is what we are doing here in this series. We are trying our best to make you aware of the enemy’s schemes and look at verse 12 again this time in The Message version…our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood…but it’s a spiritual war against the devil and his angels!
v12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. MSG
So what do we do? Well we must be prepared for this, because we are up against far more than we can handle without God in our lives.
v13 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.
So we do have an enemy. We are in a war. And while we are not to fear our enemy we are to stand our ground against him! How do we do this? Paul tells us we are to put on spiritual armor to fight this spiritual war! So let’s go through the list!
Truth- (v 14) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist
Why would it be such a big deal to use truth in the fight against your enemy? Well it’s because he is a liar and a deceiver right?
John 8:44 You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. (MSG)
So if the enemy is a liar who hates truth, that would mean that truth would then be a big deal! Remember he will try to get you to agree with him as he whispers lies about you to yourself. He has already been defeated and he has no power over you…so he resorts to lies…and the best way to defeat lies is with truth!
Righteousness- (v14) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place
We are to guard our hearts well, and the breastplate would do that right? But why righteousness? It’s because the righteousness that guards our heart is the righteousness of our savior Jesus!
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV
Ok so those two make a ton of sense but this next one seems a little out there, Paul says we need the proper footwear?!?
Peace- (v15) and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
So while this one may seem a little more confusing it is so important. We are to put on shoes that are ready to role as needed. Paul tells us that sometimes we will need to use those feet to run from sin or idolatry or from people that lead us to sin. And David speaks often in the Psalms that we are going to use our feet to walk in the paths that God has for us but all of it can be done in the peace we receive in Jesus! This is huge! Jesus told us that he is giving us peace!
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. NIV
How awesome is that!
Faith- (v16) In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Now this makes more sense than the footwear right? We all know that in a war we should have a shield. Paul says that our field is our belief in God. Our faith, this is what smothers out the arrows of our enemy. Paul was in prison writing in his last moments before his death to his good friend Timothy, and brings up how he holds his shield of faith.
2 Timothy 1:12…Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. NIV
Salvation- (v17) Take the helmet of salvation
I think salvation being our helmet is a big deal, because it’s our salvation that we must hold close in our minds. I think too many Christians lose sight of just how amazing it is to be saved by God…and for all of us we must hold our salvations close! It’s in remembering just how amazing it was to be saved that we live with passion and the motivation to help others experience that same good news! We must never lose sight of our own salvation!
God’s Word- (v17) …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
So this really is our only offensive weapon we seem to have in this fight and it is the word of God. The writer of Hebrews says this…
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. NIV
So you know that you can’t take your Bible and cut someone’s arm off but if you remember when Jesus was being tempted by the Devil he used scripture all three times to rid himself of the enemy’s attacks. So the word of God is absolutely the bible but I believe it is also God speaking, I mean he spoke creation into being so there is power in his words.
So this is it we are to put on the full armor of God. In the message version it says this…
Ephesians 6:10 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. (MSG)
You know I have a ton of fun breaking down scripture with you, but this was really on my heart that we start to understand the importance of recognizing the war for what it is and being prepared for it as well…and Paul ends this section talking to us about one more very important thing here…
Ephesians 6:18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. 19 And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, 20 jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out. (MSG)
So we also see that prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Can I ask you something? When was the last time you spent time in a conversation with God? When was the last time you prayed hard and long? When was the last time you prayed over your marriage or your children or your home? When was the last time you prayed over your work, or your position at church? When was it?
There are so many people in this world getting picked apart by the enemy each and every day and not evening realizing that they are in a war zone. They aren’t getting up each day and putting on the full armor of God. They aren’t getting up each day and spending time in prayer to prepare for the onslaught of another day on this earth. We just roll out of bed and jump into another day of chaos, clutter, and busyness…and we wonder why life is so hard. We go jump into leadership positions at the local church with no thought to prepare for is spiritually. We will head into a stressful holiday season, and not prepare our hearts for any of the battle and we will wonder why in the world we leave shredded, yet again.
We are can’t ignore this. We are at war. If you want to wreck your heart, you will keep ignoring that fact. If you want to live freely in this dark world, you will put on the full armor of God and take this war as seriously as your enemy does. Not fighting doesn’t give you a free pass…it just makes you an easy target and I love you too much not to try and help you see it! So you have a choice to make each day of your life and that is to engage the war for what it is, or to just roll on with your day wondering why things are so hard. It’s our prayer here at MRC that you will have eyes to see the spiritual battle waging around you each and every day of your life and that you will guard your heart well.