Stand Firm

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Stand Firm

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 11th October, 2020

Every now and then I like to share with you something that Ross Abraham has been encouraging the INC Pastors with.  Ross is the INC National Chairman, and the Leader over all of the Elevation INC Churches, including those on the Gold Coast and in Sydney.

Ross has been getting involved with horses lately, especially as INC have recently purchased a property to run things like equine therapy and programs for troubled youth.

He’s been learning a lot about the nature and behaviour of horses.

He was saying how when he first started interacting with horses, he thought how affectionate they were when they would come up to him and nudge him.  

But he was surprised, and probably disappointed to find out that what they were actually doing was trying to dominate him by pushing him backwards.

So I did a bit of research, and sure enough, dominating behaviour is common in horses. As part of their herd mentality, they need to determine their place in relationship to other horses and that also carries over to people.  

And of course, they aim to be on the top of the ladder.

If they can get you to step backwards, or destabilise you I some way, then they think they are the dominate one in the relationship – and from then on, they can get naughty and disobedient until you assert your dominance and authority over them.   

It sounds a bit like child rearing!

And for the sake of all the horse lovers, I’m sure they can also be very affectionate.

The story of course has a point to it.

And I want to bounce off a scripture that Ross shared, and expand the message, especially as it speaks to us in this season we are facing right now:

It comes from Ephesians 6:10-14

New King James Version

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness 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.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”  

And then it goes on to talk more specifically about the armour and the weapons of our spiritual warfare.

Other versions say:  “stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you.”  “For you are destined for all things and will rise victorious.”  “Stand in triumph.”

Another version says: “Resist and stand your ground…”. “Stand firm and hold your ground…”

So you can see how this story of the horse trying to dominate and destabilise its handler is a great analogy of what not only the devil would want to do in our lives – but simply what the circumstances of life have the potential to do in us as well.

I’m not implying that all horses are devils by the way.  I could tell you a story from my own experience but I won’t – that horse was definitely as devil.

But seriously – there are forces and situations that would potentially cause us to step back – to become vulnerable – to wrestle us out of our rightful and godly position as sons and daughters of God.   Forces that aim to disarm us of our spiritual authority.

And so my message this morning is very much about resisting those opposing forces – including evil forces – standing firm – and standing our ground.

If there is one person in this building, or watching online, who has had a dream life since coming to Christ, without any challenges or without having to face any form of opposition, I would be extremely surprised.

This year alone has affected all of us in some significant way.

When we came into the kingdom of God – we automatically entered a war.  It’s a battle between good and evil.  

I just wish they had warned me about that from the beginning.  But like many of you, I’ve had to discover for myself just what it means to be part of a cosmic power struggle.

It took me a few years to understand that there are principalities and powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual hosts of wickedness that hate me – they hate Christ in me – and want to push me back from my position of spiritual authority.

I’ve always been astounded by the scripture:

Matthew 11:12

New King James Version

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

J.C. Ryle. – an author from the 19th century wrote:  “The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity.”

That was written back in the 1800’s – but it could have been written today.

And for some Christians, when adverse things come against them, when sickness strikes, when circumstances seem overwhelming, they crumble – they become dominated by the fear, the anxiety, the pain, the robbery of their peace…. And they shrink back.  And sadly in many cases, they simply give up!

And I’m not saying that there aren’t those times when you feel weak and vulnerable – or overwhelmed…. And when your physical body is struggling….  It happens at times to all of us.

But it’s in these moments that scripture says we need to stand our ground.  Stand on the Word of God and all that it says about who we are, and the promises we have inherited.

There are times when you can feel and sense the violent spiritual war that is going on around you – and in these moments we are called to reclaim our authority and our domination as sons and daughters of the heavenly realm – and to do it if necessary, with violent spiritual force.

Now, you wouldn’t find a person more peace loving and adverse to violence than me.  But we are talking of things spiritual here.  

And this is where our spiritual armour and weapons are our most valuable tools.

Weapons like faith filled, spirit filled prayer and intercession – where we declare what we know to be true – and do it with boldness and confidence.

Declaring the truth with power as it is written in God’s Word to us – the bible.

Speaking out the power of our own testimony – the testimony of what Jesus has done in our own personal life – of the reality of our salvation.

The claiming of our blood bought position as children of God – knowing that we are clothed in a righteousness that is not our own – but is paid for by the Blood of Jesus Christ.

Even standing and not budging is a form of spiritual warfare – it’s an affront to the enemy strategies against us – to push us backwards.

And the awesome thing is – we carry the greatest power within us.  We’re on the victorious side.  We just need to stand!

I’ve used this scripture recently – it’s so powerful:

Revelation 12:11

New King James Version

“And they overcame him (i.e. the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

Here again are three things that violently oppose the devil and his realm of evil.  

The Blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us on the cross of Calvary.  When you talk about the blood of Jesus – demon’s scatter.  They cannot hold their ground when they are confronted with the victory of the blood.

The powerful and personal word of our testimony that no one can ever take from us.  I spoke recently about the incredible influence we have as we share our story.  People love to hear stories.  Jesus told stories all the time.  

They were full of wisdom and revelation – and you can pray for that same wisdom – because your testimony overcomes and breaks through the deceptions and lies of the devil.

And lastly, coming to that place of recognising that life itself is far more than what we have on this earth…. It’s keeping our eyes on the eternal gift of life with Christ – and loving not our lives to the death.

These things are violent weapons that overcome evil.  In fact, as the word says – this is the explosive power that works in and through us.

Here’s another thing that is very relevant at the moment.

Standing our ground is not just a personal thing.   We were never meant to do it on our own.  We are so much better and stronger together.

Philippians 1:27

New King James Version

Striving and Suffering for Christ

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,”

The Passion (second part of verse 27 only) says:   “I’ll know that you stand united in one Spirit and one passion—celebrating together as conquerors in the faith of the gospel.”

You were never meant to fight your battles on your own. In fact, I don’t know how people do it without a faith community around them – a loving and caring body of believers.

The devil has ridden on Covid-19 and has tried to force people into isolation.  It’s caused fear, anxiety, confusion – it’s changed the way people live.

And I tell you what – there is a fight to regather in Christian community.  Why should we be surprised?  Because the enemy knows how powerful community is.

We need each other.  I need you in my life, because each one of you add something incredibly supportive and encouraging to who I am.  I am blessed to walk alongside you.  And I hope that you can say the same thing about the rest of us.

That’s what the body of Christ – the church – is meant to be.  You hold me up spiritually.  I hope I hold you up spiritually.

As we function in our gifts – and as we love one another, we build one another up.

The devil has a hard time penetrating genuine, Christlike love and care.  

Unfortunately we all know what it can happen when the walls are weak in some way…. But that just means we have to be even more determined and purposeful in laying down our own lives for one another.

I want to share with you a scripture now that comes as a warning.  It’s a pretty heavy duty warning of what can happen when we don’t stand.

It’s 1Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

New King James Version

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”

So here Paul is saying that all of the Israelites had the same experience and blessings of faith in God.  They all saw the miracles.  They all witnessed the cloud that led them by day and the pillar of fire by night…. They all drank from the supernatural stream of water that came from a rock….   Imagine being part of that group that walked across the Red Sea on dry ground, with the waters piling up on either side.   It’s mind boggling.

But then it goes on to say how most of them died in the wilderness –  they lusted after evil things.  They set up idols.  They just ate and drank and played.  

At one stage, it says that twenty three thousand people fell because of sexual immorality.

Some of them tempted God and were killed by serpents.  They were complaining against God and totally opened up the way for the devil to just walk right in and overtake them.

I told you it was a heavy duty story.  

Finally it says – and this is the clincher:

1 Corinthians 10:11-12

New King James Version

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Paul wrote these things for us – the ones for whom the ends of the ages have come.

And it’s a sobering reminder that even those who have experienced God’s incredible faithfulness – who have seen His miraculous hand upon their lives – who have received supernatural provision in their lives – and had Jesus Christ Himself walk with them through the wilderness seasons…. Even these ones are not beyond falling – or beyond testing – beyond complaining – and beyond setting up idols in their lives.

And that last verse says it all:

1 Corinthians 10:12

New King James Version

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

This brings us right back into our complete and utter dependance on Jesus…. 

We stand in Him alone.  Daily we need to come running to His throne of grace.

Daily we need to declare that His mercies are new and fresh every morning.

Daily we keep short accounts with God and allow repentance to be our heart response always as the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts and brings conviction in those areas where we step back, where we become unstable, where we fall down.

Because these words from Paul remind us that there’s a slippery slope once we take our eyes off Jesus and take pride in our own efforts.

Let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Staying close to Jesus is our only way forward.  In Him we have all the armour we need to stand strong and hold our ground.

If you look at those pieces of armour mentioned in Ephesians 6, we can easily find scriptures that identify Jesus precisely as these impenetrable qualities.

Jesus said I am the way the truth and life (John 14:6). He is the belt of truth.

We are the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2Cor 5:21).  He is the breastplate of righteousness.

Jesus is our peace (Eph 2:14).  He is the gospel of peace that we walk in.

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).  He is our shield of faith.

The gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).  Jesus is the helmet of salvation.

He is the Word – it says the word was with God in the beginning (John 1:1).  He is the Word, the sword of the spirit.

If you want to put on all the armour to protect yourself – to fight the good fight of faith – and to stand firm and hold your ground – then put on Christ.  

Galatians 3:27

New King James Version

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Romans 13 clarifies what that means…. This is our last scripture…

Romans 13:11-14

New King James Version

Put on Christ

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

So this is saying – take off ungodly behaviour – and put on the nature and character of Christ.  It’s like you put on a cloak – a spiritual cloak that empowers you to walk as Christ walked.

I love it that Paul describes this as the armour of light.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

And we all know that light repels darkness, not the other way around.

All of the things I’m speaking about this morning are going to be vital in our walk with Jesus in the days that are ahead.

We should continually have in our minds that Jesus Christ is soon to return.  We can’t afford to goof off. To step back.  These are deceptive days.  

Deceptive people, prophets, church leaders, politicians, world leaders, are going to come with evil agendas, and we need to walk in light so that the darkness is repelled away from us.

I had the thought that just as the horses that Ross Abraham has been interacting with first appear to be affectionate and interested in him – the truth is, they have their own agenda from the beginning.  They want to be the ones who dominate.  They want to be the boss.  And they will manipulate to get their way.

We see that happening all around us.

But light will always dominate darkness.

Martin Luther made some incredibly powerful statements in his time.

He said:  “Preach [and live] as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow.”

What great advice.

Lift off complacency.  Put on Christ.  Put on the armour of light.

And even when you think you stand – take heed lest you fall.

Do it all in the place of Christian community – the church that Jesus established – just as it says in Acts – firstly meeting together in the temple – and then meeting from home to home.

There will be times when you will need to take your prayer and intercession to a violent level – not violent against any person. – but violent against the devil and his evil plans.

Stand firm and fight with your armour and weapons, including the Blood of Jesus, the word of your testimony, the surrendering of your life to Him, through prayer, through truth and integrity, with the gospel of peace, with faith that quenches the darts of the wicked one, lifting up your salvation, and the Word of God as your sword…

And when you’ve done all – stand firm!

Keep standing until Jesus comes back, however long it takes.  It may very well be  tomorrow.

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