Take Up the Sword of the Spirit
Topic: Spiritual Warfare Passage: Ephesians 6:10–6:17
During the recent violence in Israel, a young mother, posted a face-book photo, showing her holding a Glock, which is semi-automatic handgun, on her lap as she drove to and from her home in the West Bank. She has become known as Glocker mom. “I feel that it’s important for us to do everything in our power to protect ourselves” said the mother of four, adding that she refuses to be a "sitting duck." So she drives with one hand on the steering wheel and holds a gun in her other hand.
Ephesians 6 teaches that we also are under constant threat of attack. We are in a daily struggle with an invisible enemy who seeks to discourage us, to distract us, to destroy us. Like this Israeli mom we ought to refuse to be sitting ducks! We do that by taking up the sword of the Spirit against the schemes of the devil.
I know of no better way to explain the sword of the Spirit and its use, than to read the following section from Pilgrim's Progress. There are two characters in this story, Apollyon which means the Destroyer and is the name given to Satan, or an angel of Satan, in the book of Revelation. The other character is Christian, who represents a Christian on his spiritual journey to the heavenly city. IE Christian is you!
Apollyon straddled himself across the hi-way (in front of Christian), and said, “Prepare yourself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that you shall go no farther; here I will destroy your soul”. Apollyon threw darts at him, thick as hail.... and wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot.
Then Apollyon, seeing his opportunity, began to come in close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of you now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was preparing his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy; when I fall I shall arise." (That is taken from Micah 7:8 which says, Do not gloat over me, my enemy, though I have fallen, I will rise! Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” - Christian used that as a sword!)
And with that gave (Apollyon) a deadly thrust, which made him fall back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, struck at him again, saying, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us". And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings, and sped him away, so that Christian for a season, saw him no more.
In this combat, no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard, as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the fight—he spoke like a dragon; and, on the other side, what sighs and groans burst from Christian's heart. I never saw him all the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he knew he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then, indeed, he did smile, and look upward; but it was the most dreadful sight that ever I saw. (Then he ends with this short poem)
A more unequal match can hardly be, CHRISTIAN must fight an Angel; but you see, The valiant man by handling Sword and Shield, Doth make him, tho' a Dragon, quit the field.
Apollyon, at times, stands across the road in front of each of you too, and says, “Prepare to die”. “I will destroy your soul,” I will bring you to utter spiritual ruin. The sword of the Spirit is for your personal struggle against the devil and his schemes, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil.
William Gurnal “Satan's first main design is to draw into sin. The second main design is to accuse, vex and trouble the saint for sin.” I would add a third purpose of Satan; that is to destroy your faith. He wants your faith to fail. He wants you to lose hope in the promises of God. He wants to take your joy and peace which come through faith. If you are downcast or discouraged it is because Satan has found a way to do SOME damage to your faith.
Even in our group here this morning, each of us are facing different threats to our spiritual well being. Someone perhaps is being tempted to sexual sin. Another person may be experiencing doubts about God. Another may be tempted to quit. Someone else may be sinking into the pit of self pity. Another may be attacked by despondency, fears, anxieties, despair; you may hear a voice in your head telling you that life is grim and dark and hopeless. Someone may be tempted to conform to the world.
But you are given a weapon that will slay all these enemies; it is the Sword of the Spirit. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. You must take it up and use it against the schemes of the devil. When Satan presses you to despair OR to sin, you take up a word from God's word, and you strike back, by speaking the word of God into the fight.
With this weapon, you can slay the giants of doubt, the demons of despair, and the temptations to sin. You can stand up to the darkest thoughts, or feelings, or temptations, that enter your soul, and then go on your way with peace, and righteousness and joy. This weapon will overcome anything Satan can bring against you.
*Paul's use of the word “sword” is significant. The sword is a lethal weapon. For us a sword is an ornament or a historical relic. In Paul's day everyone knew what a sword was and had a vivid mental picture of what it meant to take up a sword. It was used to slay, to pierce, to decapitate, to dismember, to thrust through an opponent. You use it to do what David did to Goliath!
This weapon, shows the mentality you are to have, in the battle with your spiritual enemies. The reason many of our spiritual problems don't go away, is that we do not realize the need for lethal force in dealing with these things. You do not play with doubts, or anxieties, or temptations, you kill them! As Paul said in Romans 8, “..by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body”. A book I read recently about worry, anxiety and fear, said this: “You have been placing your trust in your own fears! When they speak, you listen intently...Your faith lies with them.” Instead of taking a sword to these things, we develop a relationship with these things. We coddle them! We listen. I know. I have done the same thing myself!
You must sever the relationship you have with your anxious thoughts, by the word of God. You take up the sword of the Spirit, perhaps this one from Isaiah. “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker.... I am the Lord your God, the Almighty, who says to you, “You are my people”. You must sever the relationship you have with addictions, with sins that entangle you, with attitudes and emotional patterns that have enslaved you. And you do that with the sword of the Spirit.
*The Word of God here means the things God has said. There are two words for “word” in the Bible, logos and rhema, each with a little different meaning. Ray Steadman “It is important to see that Paul doesn't mean the complete Bible when he says the word of God. There are two words for word of God. The word logos refers to the total utterance of God, the complete revelation of what God has said. Rhema means a specific saying of God, a passage, or a verse that has special application to an immediate situation.”
David Jeremiah said, “Rhema most literally means the sayings of God. So the sword of the Spirit is a specific word of God for a specific situation in your life. To take up the sword of the Spirit is to take up specific words God has spoken to us, and use those words against Satan and the temptations you are facing right now.
There is no better example of using the rhema of God than when Jesus responded to the devil when he was tempted in the wilderness. Matthew 4:3 “After fasting forty days, he was hungry. The Tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. Jesus answered, “It is written, Man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of God”. Each time Satan tried to draw him into something that was not right, Jesus responded with, “It is written”. “It is written, Do not put the Lord your God to the test”. It is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”. “THEN THE DEVIL LEFT HIM...”
Jesus could have called in angels to fight the devil. He could have commanded Satan to leave. But he used the word of God! He used a specific text, a specific saying of God.
The Sword of the Spirit is the word of God but it is not just a Bible. Some people feel that having a Bible on a night stand is somehow a protection. But a Bible on a coffee table is no threat to the devil. Only when you take up a living, empowered word from God and speak it into the fight of the present moment does it cause the devil to flee.
*The word of God is the weapon the Spirit uses! The Bible is the written word of God, the Holy Spirit is GOD, who is with us and in us! They are not the same but they work together. The weapon the Holy Spirit uses is the word of God. He makes the Word of God living and active and powerful.
This is what explains the power of Bible teaching and preaching. If God helps us do our job right, when we teach on Sunday morning, we are passing out swords! We take portions of God's word, or we take specific words of God and give them to you so you can take them and use them in your battle with the world, the flesh and the devil.
This explains the power of the Bible to comfort you, to liberate you, to restore your faith, to calm your fears. It is a living book. It has Power and life. The Bible is inspired or breathed or authored by the Holy Spirit. And even now the Holy Spirit is moving, and breathing and speaking through his word. He empowers it so that when you take it and use it, it has the power to cause Satan to flee from you.
*You must be led by the Spirit in the use of God's word. The Holy Spirit indwells you, and he guides you in the use of the Word of God. Just because something is in the Bible does not mean it is the specific saying of God that you are to use in any given moment. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he was not the only one who said, “It is written”. Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, and he taunted him saying, “Throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”. But Jesus answered him, “It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test”.
Satan is clever enough to twist even the Bible to use against you. So you must be able to discern when the Bible is being twisted and distorted and misused to tempt you, or to condemn you, or to discourage you. The Bible cannot be understood, much less used as a weapon against the devil without the work of the Holy Spirit. It is HIS sword, he teaches you, directs you how to use it. He brings it to mind at the proper moment, the specific word of God we need for the precise battle we are in at the moment.
Many times I have said, Thank you Lord, for causing me to run across that verse today! Thank you for directing me to hear that truth or message this morning that I can use as a sword against the despair, or accusation, that Satan has been hounding me with.
*The power of this weapon is that it is NOT our words or thoughts, but the words and thoughts of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing you can say that is as powerful as God's word spoken into a need in your life. Spiritual victory comes when you begin to base your life NOT on your words but on Gods words. IF you are born again, the new life which God has put into you loves the scriptures and instinctively KNOWS to go to them for the basic answers to life. But many believers stray away from this.
As I talk to people, I often hear them repeat, cliches or popular sayings. The problem is they are using THOSE to help them through their problems. “Things can only get better - they can't get any worse.” Or “Everything happens for a reason”. “Bite the bullet.” “You just gotta be strong.” “Ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do it.” “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” There may be truth in all those human sayings but they will not overcome the devil.
Do you fight your battles against anxiety, sinful desires, despair, guilt, condemnation, with YOUR words of the words of God? If you are fighting these things with your own thoughts and words, you will live in defeat. You need the sword of the Spirit, against the enemies as dark and powerful as you have.
Spurgeon wrote a devotional titled, “He has said”. This was taken from Hebrews 13:5 “for HE HAS SAID, I will never leave you, or forsake you”. Spurgeon wrote, “If we can only grasp these words, by faith, we have an all-conquering weapon in our hand. What doubt will not be slain by this two-edged sword? What fear is there which will not fall before this weapon..“God has said....”. God has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. God has said, “I will forgive your wickedness and remember you sins, no more”. God has said, “When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned”......
Spurgeon went on to say, “You can remember the sayings of great men; you treasure up the verses of songs or poems; ought you not to have great knowledge of the words of God, so that you may be able to quote them readily when you would solve a difficulty, or overthrow a doubt? What “God has said”, is the source of all wisdom, and the fountain of all comfort, let it dwell in you richly. So shall you grow healthy, strong, and happy in the divine life.
*Begin to read your Bible as a Sword; use the things you read in the Bible as a sword. Recently, troubles were piling up in my mind, responsibilities and worries, and I wondered how all the things pressing upon me could work out. I read Psalm 143:11, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch our your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.” I used that verse against my enemies of worry and apprehension! I latched onto it. I did not just skim over it. I did not just read the verse or chapter to check it off. I read it out loud. I took it as for me! I spoke it into my situation, and it brought real help.
What you hear from God's word, or read in God's word, take up those things as a sword in the struggles of life. It says, “Take up...” Many ways to read your Bible but you should read your Bible as a sword, to find those sayings of God that meet a specific need in the specific battles you are fighting today.
Mary needs a sword to deal with overwhelming grief. You may need a sword to deal with overwhelming despair, or with overwhelming loneliness. You may need a sword that will help you fight envy, or a critical spirit. If you feel the weight of concerns come upon you. You take up the sword of the Spirit. You say “My God will accomplish what concerns me”.
If you feel humiliated and put to shame, you take up this sword, “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth”. Isaiah 54:4
When anxieties begin to swarm around in your mind like bees, you take up this sword, “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. Isaiah 41:10
If you find yourself fretting about someone doing evil to you or taking advantage of you. You use this sword from Psalm 37, “Do not fret because of those who do evil. Do not envy those who do wrong”. “Trust in the Lord and do good...commit your way to the Lord... He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn and your justice like the noonday sun”.
If Satan whispers in your mind that you are missing out on all the fun of the world. Speak out these words as a sword, “Do not love the world...The world and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
When unclean thoughts enter your mind. Use this sword, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it passions and desires”. Galatians 5:24
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my basement on the sofa and it seemed as though God was far away and I did not know how to get into his presence. The Holy Spirit brought to mind 1 Peter 3:18 “Christ died, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God”. I used that as the sword of the Spirit and I spoke out, “I trust in the sufficiency of Christ's work to get me all the way to God. I trust in Christ to bring me from earth to heaven, from my basement to the throne room of God, in this moment.”
When you are being pulled toward self pity or complaining, use this sword of the Spirit, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you I Christ Jesus”! 1Thessalonians 5:17
If you are feeling frustrated about some financial loss. Speak out boldly, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”. 1 Timothy 6:8
If someone hurts you badly and you are tempted to seek revenge or to them them wrong. Pick up the sword of the Spirit, “Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; for you were called for this very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” 1 Peter 3:9
I want to close by asking a question. Do you see the Sword of the Spirit as an extremely valuable weapon? Do you see how it can unlock a door for you, set you free from bondage, overcome sin and Satan, heal your wounds, dry your tears, restore you faith, your joy, your peace, how it can give you perseverance to run your race? If you would all see it as as valuable as it truly is to you, Josh or I would not have to give you one more encouragement to read your Bibles. We could not keep you out of the Word! There would be a stampede to get here each Sunday for the teaching of God's word!
When David fled from Saul who was trying to kill him, he went to the priest Ahimelech. “David asked, don't you have a spear or a sword here?....The priest replied, 'The sword of Goliath is here... if you want it take it...David said, “There is none like it; give it to me”. David was in desperate need of a weapon. When he was offered the sword of Goliath, HE SAW THE VALUE OF IT. It was an amazing sword. It was a weapon of weapons. That is how we need to see the sword of the Spirit – THERE IS NONE LIKE IT! Give it to me!