“God said ‘No.’ That’s why.” She could eat from any other tree in the garden. Any one! Any time! Yet, this one specific tree is off limits. No, it does not possess magical powers. No, you would not become a god and then rival the true God. Rather, this one specific tree stands off limits because God said, ‘Do not eat.’
Quite frankly, Eve loved that command. She knew God loved her. She knew God’s Word is good; that Word kept her close to him. In fact, God’s love for her fueled her love for God. That love revealed itself by respectfully obeying the good Word of a good God.
He could not deny that. God’s Word is good. In fact, God’s Word is perfect. It accomplishes what God desires. Since he could not attack the Word, he attacked the person. “Eve, what do you think about the forbidden tree? Yes, we know what God says, but for just one moment, put the Bible down and tell me, do you want to eat?” And Eve fell right into the trap.
Oh, you would never fall for the same tricks, right?! If you were in the Garden of Eden, you would have resisted temptation, outwitted the devil, and life would still be perfect! Ever think that?
Believing you (and I) can withstand the devil on our own falls into the devil’s trap. If you want to resist, withstand, and overcome the devil’s lies, you must Be Strong in the Lord! Identify your enemy, Put on the armor of God, and then you can March forward in victory.
It’s no secret that Christian living is challenging. Friends might slap you with the word: ‘bigoted,’ ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘old-fashioned’ because you follow God’s definition of marriage. You feel this tug-of-war inside; either brush off what God calls ‘right,’ or live with tension between friends. National laws may endorse behavior God does not condone. So, you struggle: stand up for the life of the elderly or condone the relatives who want to end life with medicine. You see, you (and I) face this constant struggle between obeying God’s Word or ignoring it. You feel this tension because you want to obey God out of love, but you also want to be loved by all. In verse 12, the apostle Paul makes that clear: You will have this struggle.
Yet, remember this: You struggle because you are a Christian; you follow Christ. Pay attention those verbs; you are, you follow. You do not switch Christian beliefs on and off, just like a light-switch controls a light bulb. The desire to trust God does not exist only here in worship (and then when you get home, you hate trusting God). We do not forgive people here only (and then you “flip the switch” and hold grudges later this week). No, through faith you follow Christ and continue following Christ. God has made you a citizen who belongs to him. Just like a king governs behavior with his word, so Christ governs your decisions, actions, and thinking with his Word.
Still, because you live on God’s side, it means you will stand against those who oppose God. Quite simply, those who hate God also hate those who follow God.
Who stirs up that conflict inside of you? [O]ur 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. Did you catch that? Who is your enemy? Not: flesh and blood; believers do not attack people. Your enemy are not atheists (people who deny God’s existence), nor do you argue and insult nonbelievers. God does not ask you to disengage from the world and never talk to a nonbelieving neighbor, or to only have Christian friends, or to quit your job because you deal with nonbelievers. Your struggle is not ungodly influences, like the teaching of evolution (which denies the existence of a Creator) or progressive social ideas on marriage, abortion, and euthanasia. Your fight is against the unseen spirits who love what is wrong Your enemy is the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
If you wish to resist temptation; if you wish to remain strong with the Lord, you must identify your enemy. Know who you stand up against. Recognize his powerful might.
Then, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Because the devil is crafty. He is clever. He prowls around like a lion— hiding, stalking, waiting patiently for the right moment to lunge, collide, and drive you into the ground.
Ponder that. The devil recycles his timeless temptation and it sounds so innocent, as though no harm can come out of it. He plainly asks, “What do you think?” Do you realize that is the anthem ruling our present-day society? “Don’t force your beliefs on me!” the world cries! That’s the fancy way of saying, “I will tell you what I feel is fair and not what God says is right.” An early rally cry for same-sex marriage was: “If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just don’t tell me I’m wrong.” That sounds fair. Yet, Jesus teaches, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). You speak what God teaches on marriage so that others have a chance to hear.
The devil wants you to lay aside God’s Word so that you can create manmade rules. So, if you feel it fair that your teenage child (who still lives at home) wants to skip worship, then let him! It feels fair to you; never mind God puts you in charge over the spiritual life of your house (Ephesians 6:4). If you believe you are entitled to hold a grudge, then do so! You think it is fair; never mind God forgives you (Ephesians 4:32). If you do not want to commit to marriage, then don’t! Follow the world; stare at computer images, daydream, do not work toward getting married! Never mind God’s command to honor the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).
Do we need to go on? The scheming, conniving devil employs the most innocent of looking strategies: Put down the Bible and follow the flawed thinking of a sinful heart (Mark 7:20-23).
On our own, you (and I) can never stand against the devil and win. And he knows that; he knows you are no match for him. He knows he will conquer you without Christ. Fail to put on the armor of God and you (and I) will fall.
Only God makes you strong to stand your ground. Did you catch that? [B]e strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Right away our minds like to change those words to say, “I am strong. I can be strong. All I have to do is…” No! You do not make yourself strong; it’s an action God does. God makes you strong.
God’s Word—a word, which (by the way) you did not create— makes you strong. Your words are not more powerful than the devil. Your opinions are not what is needed. It deflates the ego to know that God’s Word drives away the devil— and God gets credit for those words. But that’s the point!
God’s Word exposes the hollowness of our self-trust. God’s Word leads you to the cross, where Jesus crushes the serpent’s head. There you hear powerful words: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). On Easter morning he says, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19) Jesus reveals your future: “Come you blessed by my Father” (Matthew 25:34). God has brought you into his kingdom; you are his (Isaiah 43:1). Then, he dresses you in his armor so that you may stand your ground and never fail into unbelief.
You are Strong in the Lord as you put on the armor of God because with God on your side, nothing stands against you. You march forward into victory.
That’s the reason for the battle call: Stand firm then… Stand and fight with courageous confidence. Stand with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. Roman soldiers wore a thick leather apron around their midsection and upper legs. It kept very vulnerable parts protected.
The devil will lunge at your (and my) weaknesses. He will lie: It does not matter what you believe. Follow what you feel right and fair.” If that lie penetrates your heart and you believe it you can die. Yet, God’s truth protects you. The Bible identifies the devil as he truly is: the father of lies (John 8:44). When temptation seizes you, call the devil by his name: ‘Liar!’
[Stand firm] with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Protect your heart with body armor. The devil never stops his assault. If he cannot get you to believe his lies, he will point to history. He will dredge up your regrets. Just when guilt pierces into your heart, he drives you into despair. Because when you feel so terribly guilty, you feel that God could never love you. If you feel God could never love you, you may actually believe it to be true.
But Jesus died for you. And he placed his righteous life over you. Jesus’ righteousness, his perfection, keeps your heart safe. The devil’s lies bounce off because Jesus tells you what really happened: You are forgiven!
[Stand firm] with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Feet carry good news. Soldiers covered the tops of their feet, just like you wear shoes. Shoes prevent thorns and sticks from piercing your feet. Just like a messenger runs to share good news, be ready to remind the devil the good news of Jesus’ victory.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith… and not just a little trashcan lid-sized shield. We’re talking about the shield covering you from head to toe. The devil shoots little flaming temptations at you so that they burn into great fires. Lust turns into action which turns into a lifestyle. One beer becomes two which evolves into constant heavy drinking. Anger burns into rage burns into hate.
With the shield you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Faith clings to Jesus as Savior. Faith clings to the Word of God. When temptations poke you, remember who you follow and those flames snuff out.
Take the helmet of salvation… At your baptism, the sign of the cross was made over your head and your heart to mark you as God’s child. That cross reminds you of Jesus dying for you. That cross reminds you that Jesus’ death is your possession; you carry it. You carry Jesus’ perfection. You are saved; you will enter heaven. His perfect life protects you.
Finally, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Do you see the only weapon you carry? The Word of God. The Word reminds the devil of what God has done. This is that truth, and the devil cannot deny the truth. Nothing and no one has more authority that God. God has already explained what will happen, you win and the devil loses forever— and the devil can do nothing to stop him. When tempted wield God’s Word. Tell the devil:“God says” and he will flee. And you get to March forward in victory.
Eve put down the sword and tried to fight the devil with her cleverness. That is exactly what the devil wanted and he won the battle… but Jesus wins the war.
As a Christian, remember that you have an enemy. Someone who hates God. Someone who wants to take believers away from God. Someone who attacks you. Yet, you can stand because God dresses you in his armor. He sets the sword of the Word into your hand. Remind the devil of Jesus’ victory on the cross. Remind the devil of your eternal home. Remind the devil his promises are nothing but empty lies. He will flee; you will march forward in victory.
This is all yours— not because you are morally tough and strong. Rather, God makes you Strong in the Lord! He Identifies your enemy. He puts the armor of God on you. And you get to March forward in victory.