[NOTE: This is a transcript of a similar sermon to the recording above, but preached on a different occasion]
It's good to be with you again, hard to believe that the three weeks have gone in so quickly - but they have. Maybe you're glad they've gone in quickly! But it has been good to be with you, and just to share together in this series that we've been doing on 'Spiritual Warfare', looking at the armour of God. Now I offered a prize to anyone - we're going to look tonight at the sword of the Spirit, but we're also going to look at a secret weapon. Now, I forgot the prize! Alright? That's genuine, I did forget, I did mean to bring something - and I was sitting down their thinking, 'I've forgotten the prize'. What I do have is, I have a TicTac - it has been in the pocket with my hanky, but if you're so desperate for a prize, you can have it! I've got another one - so I'll keep that for you if you can get the answer right. What's the secret weapon? Does anybody know what the secret weapon is? Do you really want it? Do you want the TicTac, do you? Yes, prayer!
Now if you read the commentaries, you might find a disparity with this - but there is usually a pattern throughout the Bible of sevens, and I have a hunch that the armour of God here doesn't finish with the sword of the Spirit, number six piece of armour. In all likelihood, I think there's a seventh, and the seventh is prayer. But let's read the whole passage together, Ephesians 6 beginning to read at verse 10: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God", and here's number seven, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints". Amen.
Let's pray together, let's come before the Lord - and I do invite you, please, to ask the Lord to speak to you now, would you do that? We really want to meet with the Lord, we had a very special time this morning, and we want the Lord to come again to us and be very close, and speak right into the depths of our souls. What's your need tonight? What battle do you find yourself in? Come and bring it before the Lord, open your heart to Him, and ask Him to speak to you tonight.
Blessed God, Holy and Victorious Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we reverence You - holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. We come through the Lord Jesus Christ to the Throne of Grace, to our Abba Father. We thank You that through the instrumentality, the power of the Holy Spirit, we come right into heaven just now in the Spirit, and we worship at Your feet, our great God. We bless Your name, Your thrice holy name. Lord, we come to You for this moment, and Lord we need You. We've been looking at these wonderful truths and, Lord, we thank You for the help that has been given thus far - but we ask tonight that You will come again to us, that You will come in a very special way, and that You will crown this whole series of meetings with a very definite sense of Your presence and Your power upon us. Lord, we pray that You will communicate revelation to our hearts individually, and even for this fellowship of God's people - and for those who don't belong here, but who are on a spiritual journey themselves that we are all on, Lord, right for where they are at this moment in their particular need, we pray that there would be a word from the Lord. Lord, we need to hear from You, so we pray now, Lord, that our ears would be cupped, as it were, to hear Your still small voice from the courtrooms of heaven right into the depths of our hearts. We take authority in the name of the Lord Jesus over every ungodly empowerment, spirit, or demonic entity that would seek to distract from this gathering, and would seek to disrupt the work of God. We bind it now in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus, we take over us afresh the covering of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ask, Father, that Your kingdom, Your domain and authority would come to rest upon our gathering tonight - and that Your will will be done now here, as it is being done presently in heaven. May this be a colony of heaven, we pray. May there be, as it were, heavenly portal above our heads open, that there would be direct communication from heaven to here - that the angels, as it were, would ascend and descend upon us as Your glory rests in this place. So, Lord, we look to You, and we wait for You. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Verse 17 then. We dealt with the helmet of salvation, and now we're looking at the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Now, of course, I've said to you many times now that Paul obviously appears to have envisaged the typical Roman soldier as he is writing here, inspired by the Holy Spirit. We have covered the soldier's armour so far, and tried to bring out of the analogies of what was peculiar to the Roman warrior the lessons that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us. The sword of the Spirit is no exception in that regard. Now often when we think of a sword that a soldier might wield, we think of a broadsword. Again, we are so influenced by films in our day and age, and maybe it's what Braveheart would have wielded around - a big double broadsword. But that is not what is being spoken of here. Soldiers would have used this, but it appears that what is being spoken of here - it is a two-edged sword, but it's a short cut-and-thrust sword. It would have been wielded by a heavily armoured legionary, and it's quite distinct from the large broadsword that we might be more familiar with. He may well have had an armoury, a variety of these weapons, and he chose them according to what type of warfare he was engaging in.
Now that's very instructive. Do you remember Peter? We were with him this morning - Peter seems to crop up quite a lot when we're talking about spiritual truths. Remember Peter tried to defend the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane by a physical sword. Well, this spiritual sword is what Peter, after his conversion - and I don't mean coming to know Christ, but remember the Lord Jesus said: 'When you are converted', and he had that burnout and breakdown spiritually, and then the Lord turned him around, at Pentecost in particular, when he got filled with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, rather than overcompensating in the flesh for self-deficiency and insecurity. When he got the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, we see that he wielded the sword of the Spirit far better than he wielded the physical sword in defence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A physical sword pierces the body, but the sword of the Spirit pierces the soul, or the heart. Now let me show you this - and some of you have heard me recently on this, I apologise for that, but it will bear repeating. If you turn to Hebrews chapter 4 for a moment, verse 12, a wonderful verse about the word of God: 'For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart'. This is very instructive, and we haven't got time to go into everything that is here, but right away we see that the word of God has this power because it's alive. I was told the story years ago about an old open-air preacher who used to preach at the Customs House steps in the city of Belfast years and years ago, and he used to gather a great crowd. He would have a bowler hat, and his bowler hat was sitting in the middle of the crowd - and this is how he gathered a group around him. He would shout: 'It's alive! It's alive! It's alive!', and everybody would start to crowd around - and then when he lifted the bowler hat, there was a copy of the Bible underneath it. That's the truth of Hebrews 4:12: this is a living word, the Bible is a living book. The word of God has life inherent within it. One of the favourite magazines that I read, and I don't read an awful lot of missionary magazines that come in, it's virtually impossible - but one of my favourites is the Gideons. I love to read how the word of God, whether it's in a prison cell or in a hotel room, it is alive! Now that doesn't mean that we don't go out and preach, but it does mean that there is something within the word of God, inherently built into it, it lives and it can quicken in and of itself.
It is double-edged, sharp, it is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart - that's a huge subject. You see, if I look at you and I see you coming into meetings, or I see you teaching a Sunday School class, or I see you up in a pulpit, or myself for that matter, standing in a pulpit preaching, serving the Lord - there's one thing that I cannot do: I cannot judge your motives. But can I tell you something: that is the very thing that God is going to judge - did you know that? That's why you shouldn't judge me, and I shouldn't judge you - that's why the apostle says, 'Judge nothing before that day', because none of us can discern the intentions and the thoughts of one another's hearts. Now we can discern, and it's not that we are to walk around like dummies and not be able to tell right from wrong or anything like that, I'm not saying that. But what we cannot judge are the thoughts and intents of the heart, but the word of God can - and that's why, when you get Holy Spirit anointed preaching, it is incisive, it's not condemning, it's not destructive, it's both edifying and convicting at the same time, it pulls down in conviction but it builds up in edification - but it's uncomfortable. That's why it perturbs me sometimes when I preach maybe quite a hot sermon, and people say: 'I really enjoyed that, that was fantastic' - and I'm thinking 'Oh? That's interesting'. It's meant to pierce deep down in convicting our motives, something that no one else can do - because it's somewhere that nobody else can reach, our motivation. Sometimes we are so self-deceived that we don't even know our own motivation, we are not even aware of it, and it takes us to be so open to the word of God, the Spirit moving in the word, to actually ask: 'Is this speaking to me?', to be willing to be vulnerable and humble. That's why James says: 'Receive with meekness the engrafted word of truth'.
We've got to be submissive and bow before the word, because we could be ignorant of areas of motivation that are wrong. If you look at this analogy that is given here in Hebrews 4, this two-edged sword of the word of God pierces even to the division of soul and spirit. This is one of the verses that we believe would be evidence to show that the soul and the spirit are distinct. Now we have to be careful about carving the human being up into pieces, you can't do that - we are one unity, but there are facets to us, and there seems to be a slight distinction between the spirit and the soul. As I've said to you before, the spirit is that God-conscious part of us that God breathed into us; the soul is the self-conscious part made of the mind, the emotions, and the will; and of course the body is the world-conscious part. But sometimes even in Scripture it is hard to tell between the spirit and the soul, but the word of God is able, with surgical precision, to dissect down between them, the middle of both, to separate soul and spirit. Just like it's very hard to distinguish between bone and marrow, they really are two parts of the one thing - isn't that right? But they are different.
Incidentally, and I think this is hinted here, I think soul is being likened to the joints, and spirit is being likened to the marrow in the order here: 'a twoedged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow'. Your identity is found in your spirit, that's who you really are - not in your soul, but in your spirit. Your soul expresses who you are, your mind expresses your thoughts, your heart expresses your feelings, your will expresses actions. Your spirit is who you really are, the real you; your soul expresses who you are - just like spirit is like marrow, that's the life of the bone, but it's the joints that express the life. Have you got it? It's very instructive, isn't it? How the word of God is so piercing, it either convicts and converts, or it condemns if we disobey.
I think we have lost faith in the word of God, and the power of the word of God. Probably that's because it hasn't been preached with power, and we've got to say that it has to be preached with power - there is an inherent power in it, as I've said, I'm not contradicting myself, but God's intention was not really that the word of God should be left littered about the place, hoping that people pick it up and read it. God can do stuff like that, because God is not bound - but God's chief desire was that that word should be preached in power, for the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. Paul says: 'The Gospel came to you Thessalonians not in word only, but in demonstration of power and of the Holy Spirit'. Maybe that's why we've lost faith in the word of God, because we've listened so long to such dead preaching.
The mighty thing is that a physical sword wears out with use, but the spiritual sword just grows sharper and sharper, cutting both ways - because it's the word of Christ! In Revelation 19 verse 15 we read of this glorious figure of the Lord Jesus Christ returning in glory one day to this earth, and out of His mouth is proceeding a two-edged sword - but that two-edged sword that is seen in vision of the resurrected, ascended Lord Jesus coming in glory, that sword out of His mouth is now meant to be in our hands. This is the sword that He gives us. In fact the psalmist spoke of that in Psalm 149 verse 6: 'Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand' - that's where the sword is meant to be now, presently, in the hand of the saints as we praise our God in victory for what Jesus has done for us, and as we fight the enemy in heavenly places.
Now what is this sword? 'Well', you say, 'It's the Bible'. Well, I've been hinting at that, but I think I would rather say the Bible is the armoury - remember we talked about these small, short cut-and-thrust swords? Well, the Bible is just an armoury full of daggers like that, but the Bible itself is not this sword. That might shock some of you, or change how you have previously understood this. Look at what Ephesians 6 actually says this sword is, verse 17: 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God'. 'There you have it', you say, 'there it is, it's the Bible'. Well, that could be translated, 'the word of God', as 'the utterance of God'. Some of you will be familiar with John chapter 1, which says: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God', and you may know that the Greek word that is used for 'Word' there is the word 'Logos', 'In the beginning was the Logos'. 'Logos' just expresses that Jesus, that's who it speaking of, is the expression of the mind and the heart of God, just as our words are the expression of our thoughts and our feelings. Jesus is the express image of God's person - so if you want to know what God is like, you look at Jesus. Wonderful, isn't it?
But that's not the word used for 'word' in Ephesians 6:17, the word used here is 'rhema'. It speaks of the utterance of God, or the spoken word of God. So the sword of the Spirit is not the Bible, as such, as a book from Genesis to Revelation, the sword of the Spirit is the spoken word of God - a specific word that God speaks at a specific time for a specific person or group of people. It is literally a saying of God, or the words that come from God. Now what this means in the battle is: Satan is defeated when we speak the word of God - at a very elementary level that's what it means. It means we need to use Scripture to drive Satan away, the sword of the Spirit against the enemy. That means that there will be appropriate scriptures for appropriate circumstances that we need to use.
A case in point is the Lord Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 in His temptation in the wilderness. Three times He is tempted, and - you look at it - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, just the way all of us are tempted, in those three general areas Jesus was tempted. Three times He says back to Satan: 'It is written, it is written, it is written' - three times. This is Jesus, He is the Living Word of God, so if He wanted He just could have come up with something there and then and spoke it, but He didn't. He chose to quote Scripture - does anybody know the book of the Bible that He quoted from? He quoted from the same book three times - I have another TicTac! Deuteronomy, that's right! You're not getting that one, that's for me afterwards! Deuteronomy - how many of us have memorised the book of Deuteronomy? Not many, I imagine, but the Lord Jesus had hidden God's word in His heart, that when temptation to sin came - now I'm not suggesting that He was peccable in some way, that He could have sinned, but it was real temptation! The psalmist says: 'Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee' - and Jesus, as a young Jewish boy, had memorised, as they all did, the Torah. He had Deuteronomy in His heart, and it came out when He needed it. It's just basic computers - input/output. If you want the sword of the Spirit to be taken by the Holy Spirit, and to use a specific dagger for a specific battle, you need to put the word of God in your heart so that the Spirit of God can bring it out.
Now don't misunderstand me, I have known the Spirit of God to bring out verses that I never put in - and I have known other people that that has happened to. Verses that I hadn't memorised, but He brings out the truth. Maybe I had read it in the past - I'm not binding God, but generally speaking, you need to put it in if you want the Holy Spirit to bring it out when it's needed. You see, this is not the whole Bible. You see the outcome in the wilderness with the Lord Jesus, we read in Luke 4:4: 'Then the devil left Him'. Can I say to you: you need to use the sword of the Spirit against the devil in temptation, and so you need to acquaint yourself with your weapon. There are no shortcuts to getting to know the word of God. I don't want to sound negative, but I just have to say things as I feel led to - but I do get a little discouraged as I move around. I know we live in a technological age, and I know if you're looking on your iPhone or whatever you're not texting - I hope you're not! - but you're looking up the Bible. It took me awhile to work that one out, I was ready to light on people sitting on their phones, thinking they were gossiping or something, 'This preacher is long and boring', or something! I know all that, but it does discourage me a little that people aren't familiar with their Bibles - people maybe don't have a hard copy. Get a hard copy of the word of God. If your phone just shows you where a book in the Bible is, you're not going to learn where the book of the Bible is. There is something about becoming familiar with chapters and verses, and even where the verses are with one copy of the word of God. I'm not against technology, I could hardly survive without it myself now - but people aren't bringing Bibles even to worship now. We need to get familiar with the Bible. If we were living in a land where the Bible was banned, we would value the Bible. I've heard some heartbreaking stories of Chinese believers, and other believers in lands where the church is persecuted, and how they have maybe ten little excerpts of Scripture on pieces of paper, or even written on stones, and they circulate the stones around the fellowship, and they sleep with that stone under their pillow, or they keep the little piece of paper in their pocket day by day, and they meditate upon it over and over. Wait till I tell you: they maybe only have ten bits of Bible, but they know it inside out by the end of the week, and they live off it. We have maybe ten Bibles sitting on our shelf! We need to get familiar with the word of God.
The devil leaves Him in His temptation - and that's what will happen to us if we submit ourselves to God, resist the devil with the word of God, and he will flee from us. But I believe it's important to speak the word of God - this is the spoken word of God, the rhema word of God. Now this morning I said about it not being insanity to speak to yourself, and I was correct biblically speaking - for the psalmist said in Psalm 42: 'Why are you downcast, O my soul? Hope in God, for you will yet praise Him'. That was his spirit speaking to his soul, through his mind, his emotion, and his will - but you know, you also are authorised, I believe, to speak to the enemy, to resist the enemy. I would say that you should speak to him out loud. You say: 'People are really going to think I'm nuts now! I'm talking to myself and now I'm talking to nothing' - it's not nothing, he is invisible, but he is not nothing. I'm not suggesting you do it in the queue in Tescos. I'm not suggesting you do it in school, in the classroom, or anything like that. I'm not suggesting you even have to shout - everybody has got this idea that God is deaf, or the devil is deaf - in spiritual things you don't have to shout. Even the spirit of deafness is not deaf, did you know that? You just need to speak, it can even be a whisper.
You say: 'Well, why do you need to speak?'. Well there is a biblical significance in speaking, confession is always with the mouth - with the heart man believes, but confession is with the mouth. But another reason for speaking for the benefit of the devil is - you don't need to speak for God's benefit, He is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We read that, I know it's about the word of God, but it's about Him - but the devil, you will be glad to know, is not God. You must never attribute to the devil, as some people do, some of the attributes of God - one of which is omniscience, knowing everything. The devil doesn't know what you're thinking, unless he's got into your head, which he has done with some people - but if he hasn't got into your head, he doesn't know what you're thinking, he doesn't know what your heart is feeling. What he can do, as I've said before: he has been studying humankind for millennia, and so - I mean, if you're biting your nails, I can read that you're nervous. If you're jiggling your leg, I know that you're nervous - what do you think he knows? He can read you, and he can plant things in your mind whenever he knows you're vulnerable, but he can't read your mind. So if you say: 'I resist you, Satan', in your head or in your heart - he doesn't hear it! Then these thoughts continue to overcome you - you need to speak it out. Jesus spoke it out, didn't He?
I don't know what it was like in the wilderness, for Jesus I mean. We have these great portraits, some of the greatest artists have portrayed it - and you've got the devil sitting there, and he's an ugly looking thing, an ogre, or he's got horns and a tail. All sorts of weird and wonderful depictions of the devil out in the wilderness, and Jesus - and we've seen it in films trying to be portrayed. But I reckon if you, right now, if you could have a web connection to the wilderness, and you could watch it on a screen now what was happening - I believe you wouldn't see anybody only Jesus. I believe it was probably in the spirit, it was a spiritual thing, it was a spiritual battle. If you had sound you'd be hearing Jesus say: 'It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'. You'd be looking, and thinking: 'Who is He talking to?' - right?
Incidentally that verse that He quoted, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God' - did He say, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the word of God'? Is that what He said? 'But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' - that's the spoken word, that's what you're meant to live on. I have to say to you that this is where many fall down in the spiritual walk and in the battle - the old chorus, 'Read your Bible, pray everyday, if you want to grow', it's just not entirely true. There have been people reading their Bible and praying everyday, and they haven't grown in a long long time. The Pharisees read their Bible and prayed every day, I imagine - did they grow? The early believers didn't have Bibles, apart from the Old Testament of course - but they didn't have a New Testament. Did they grow? Boy, did they grow, they turned the world upside down! How did they grow? By the spoken word of God. God spoke - now we'll not get into it this evening, but He spoke in miraculous ways, I believe He still speaks. He speaks primarily through the Scriptures of course, and no other way that is God speaking will contradict what He's already said in the Scriptures - but I'll tell you this much: you will not grow as a Christian if you're not hearing the proceeding word of God from God's mouth. If you're reading the Bible, but not hearing God, you will not grow. It's the proceeding word of God that makes the difference, that feeds you, you need it more than your daily bread - the proceeding word of God.
Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm not talking about reading your chapter and ticking it off, and saying, 'What a good boy I am'. I'm talking about - whether it's a big chunk, or probably little chunks lend themselves more to this, although I would advocate reading and knowing the whole Bible - but when you're looking for a word from God, and you've got an issue in your life, or a need for instruction or direction, or you just want to know what God thinks about you and feels about you; it's a relationship we are in, so we need to talk, we need to communicate. You're wanting a communication from God, and you're reading a passage, and all of a sudden a verse just comes to you as yours, and speaks directly into your life - that is a rhema word of God. You can hear it when somebody is preaching. I personally believe the gifts of the Spirit are still in the church. You have to be very careful now of people coming to you and saying: 'I've got a word from God for you' - you have to be careful of that. I'm not saying people can't have, and people can't speak into your life - but, generally speaking, if something like that does happen, and it is from God, you will already know before they have spoken, and it will be a confirmation of what God has already told you. We have to test the spirits, we have to be very careful not to come into bondage to other people. If you have an anointing from the Holy One, you don't need anybody to teach you really. If you walk with God, He will teach you, He will tell you all you need - although the body, He still uses it to instruct us and to help us, and to make us rely upon others in humility. What I'm saying is: God is speaking! The psalmist says: 'His thoughts toward us are more than can be numbered' - that means that if your antenna is tuned into God, there will be so many messages coming from heaven to you that you will be overwhelmed. Isn't that amazing? That's what keeps you going, that's what keeps you going - not the 120th exposition of the book of Revelation, or the feasts in Leviticus. Thank God for studying the word, but what I'm saying is: we need a word, a rhema word from God to our hearts.
Can I say that that is what we need in preaching. One of the verses that we often hear quoted ad nauseam in prayer meetings, evangelical prayer meetings, is Isaiah 55: 'My word shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it' We claim it: 'Lord, bless Your word tonight, and there will be fruit tonight' - and there is no fruit, and we all go out depressed. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but in my experience there has not been return for every time the word goes forth - but that verse is misquoted. You look at it, it says: 'My word that proceeds out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish what I have sent it for'. So that means that whenever God speaks a direct word into a specific situation, it never returns fruitless - that's not every time a sermon is preached, that there is fruit, because that doesn't happen. It's about time we wised up to that one, and looked around us and realised that that isn't happening. We'd be in revival! There are texts everywhere - is that what that means?
We need God to speak, we need to hear God, we need the sword of the Spirit. I'm trying to influence you now, aren't I, through words. I can't get into your head really, literally, but through my speech and communication I am in a sense getting into your head. That's what the enemy wants to do - we saw that this morning with the helmet of salvation - and that's what God wants to do. He's speaking something to you, and He wants you to speak something out to the enemy. Where are you at this very time? Where are you in the battle? Where is your journey with God? You're in a transition, you're at a crossroads, and you need a word from God - well, don't go and buy a promise box. Just a wee bit of advice, don't do that - I'm not against getting wee verses here and there, but go and seek God. Go and seek God, and ask Him to speak to you! Don't play Bible roulette, and stick the tail on the donkey - I'm not saying God can't use that, He has done - but that's not really advisable. Go and seek God and get Him to speak to you. Then when you get that verse, test it. Say: 'Lord, is this what You're saying?', and be sure. That's what the early disciples did and the apostles: they tested the spirits to see whether things were of God, they weighed even words of prophecy. They weren't allowed to quench the Spirit, but they weren't allowed to run away with everything that everybody said. No, they had to test it, prove that which is good, keep what is good and get rid of what is evil. You need to test it, and then you need to act upon what God is saying into your life.
You know what the sword of the Spirit is now: is it the Bible? No, not the Bible per se, you don't throw the book at the devil. Is it any verse in the Bible? Well, any verse in the Bible potentially could be one of those daggers, but it's whatever the Spirit takes out of the sheath of armoury for that specific moment in your battle, and you need to know what that is in the battle. You need to seek God, whether it's in a fellowship, you need to be listening for the voice of God. God deliver us from any more sermons, I mean any more just sermons. I mean, I don't want to preach any more, I've preached them, I don't want to preach any more just sermons, I don't want to hear any more! I don't want any more alliterations, any more point this, that and the other - I don't want them if that's all they are, I don't want them! I want to hear from God! Where can we go to hear from God? Where can we go to be fed in our spirits with the manna that comes down from heaven? It's still coming down - but there is a famine in the land, a famine of the word of God - not the Bible, but the spoken communication from the Divine heart.
Let's move on to the secret weapon - all-prayer. Verse 18, look at it and we will close things up as quickly as possible: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints'. Now I'll just give a casual dealing with each of these aspects of all-prayer. Well, any warfare will have, intrinsic and vital to it, communications with H.Q. It's necessary to be in touch with headquarters where the direction of operations is derived. Prayer is a two-way communication. It doesn't seem that way at times, and some of us have this idea of prayer being a running monologue. You maybe get down on your knees, or whatever you do, blah, blah, blah, and you go down the list, and you go through your routine - you mightn't have a written liturgy, but you have your own, and you just go through it. You maybe look at the clock, and it's like holding your breath underwater - you've done 30 seconds, and you go down again for another 30 seconds. Let's be honest: it can be a real wrestling match.
Often it's this idea of monologue to God, but prayer is not a monologue - it isn't even dialogue, it's not even speech all the time. It's meditation, it can be waiting, it can be silence, it can be listening, it can be singing and praising, just waiting on God, just soaking in His presence, appreciating Him, praying Scripture, meditating on Scripture - it's not all about speaking. It is relational, but in respect to the battle it is a vital weapon against the enemy. Derek Prince in his very helpful book, 'The Prayer Warrior', says: 'Prayer is the intercontinental ballistic missile. It reaches across oceans and continents, striking the forces of Satan wherever they are at work. You can even reach out against Satan's headquarters in the heavenlies' - a powerful weapon, prayer. I'm not sure we use it that much as a weapon. We pray for our own needs, maybe we pray corporately in a gathering like this for the needs of our brothers and sisters, but how do we use prayer in the battle against the forces of darkness? Are we really engaged in that at any level? Against those strongholds that have our land and have our families? Do we war? We are told that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, not fleshly, but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, and every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. We've got mighty weapons to use to effect change in our communities and among our loved ones!
This weapon of all-prayer is multifaceted, if you look at it. First of all we read of constant prayer, praying always - that's prayer as a way of life. I mean there is nobody walks around talking to God all the time, nobody - no matter whether they say they do, they don't do that. You couldn't operate as a human being, God didn't create you to do that. God created you with a spirit, like an antenna, to be in communication with God. You see, prayer, in this sense, is an attitude of open fellowship with God, whereby you know that you are right with Him, and you can give up little arrow prayers as we often do - but it's a continual communion with God, and that is very possible. I like to call it practising the presence of God, which is very real. You see, the devil wants to disturb that general disposition and attitude of prayerfulness. He wants to turn us to worry, to fear, to fretting and anxiety. He wants to change focus on to something that is of the world, the flesh, or the evil one - but we can be constantly in the Throne Room. We can be constantly engaged with our Heavenly Father via our hearts.
Then we read here: 'Praying always with all prayer' - what that means is all sorts of prayer. You know that there is not just one type of prayer, there are all sorts of times that we can pray. The psalmists said: 'Morning, evening and noon I will cry aloud', in another place he said 'Seven times a day I will cry to You'. Some traditions in the past have kept what is called the offices of prayer: morning, and afternoon, and evening, and then a night compline - and it's a good discipline, as long as it doesn't become a religious form alone. It's good to pepper your day, punctuate your day - I mean, that's what you do with food, isn't it? You don't have a big Ulster Fry in the morning - it might get you past lunch, but it will not do for an evening meal and supper, you'll need a little bit more later on. How often we do that with God - even if we do have a great quiet time, and maybe we go over ten minutes, we try and live the rest of the day on it. Why not pepper your day with ten minutes, ten minute sessions throughout the day?
All types of prayer, at all times, in all sorts of ways - there is a varied prayer. Prayer is just a general word, an approach to God - but there is praise, there is thanksgiving: 'Enter His gifts with thanksgiving, His courts with praise' - there is an approach to God. We don't want to be legalistic about it, but praise and thanksgiving bring us into the presence of God. That's why singing is not just a program filler, it's meant to actually help us enter God's presence. Praise, thanksgiving, waiting, intercession, praying on behalf of others, standing between, listening, Scripture praying, singing - and then here in verse 18 it mentions 'supplication', which is specific requests. You know, if you want specific answers, you need to ask specifically.
D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was convening a meeting on one occasion at one of his campaigns, and he invited some visiting minister to open in prayer. He got up and he started going on and on, droning, and round the world for a shortcut - and D.L. Moody pulled his coattails, and he said: 'Call Him 'Father', and ask Him for something!'. That's it: call Him 'Father', and ask Him for something. We do need to reverence Him, and praise Him, and worship Him, and thank Him - enter like that - but I don't know that there are any prayers, or certainly not many, in the Bible that don't ask for something. Supplicate.
Thirdly: 'in the Spirit' - that's prayer animated by the Holy Spirit. You say: 'Well, is that not obvious?'. Well, it's not really, because - and again this is something that is not easily seen, it's a spiritual thing - but you can be praying soulish prayers. Soulish prayers, what's that? Well, the soul is made up of what? The mind, the emotion, and the will - and you could be praying a prayer from the intellect. You're talking to God all about the Bible, or all about what God - you know how folk tell God what He used to do, and tell the Lord what's in the book of Genesis, because He might have forgotten - do you know what I'm talking about? It's intellectual, it's the mind, and sometimes it's telling everybody what I know. Now, that might be subconscious. There can be emotional prayers, that can be a prayer that is coming out of some hurt that you have - maybe you've got something against somebody, and you're actually in your prayers trying to get a dig. That wouldn't happen, sure it wouldn't? I've probably done that, and I'm tempted to do it at times - but it's wrong. It's soulish praying. Or there is a wilful praying, where I'm trying to exert my will, I'm trying to influence a meeting or influence other people through what I'm saying. All of these are horizontal praying, they're not to God at all - and yet they are prayers that can be answered, I think anyway, but not by the Living God of heaven. If they are ungodly and carnal, they are things that the enemy can see as a right to go in and cause havoc - but a spiritual prayer is a prayer where you, in your spirit, are just communicating to God, and you're not really caring who is around you, or what verbiage that you're using, or whether you're using the right phraseology or the wrong phraseology.
Be very careful - I'm not saying that you can't, especially as leaders, help people and instruct them in how to pray - but when I think of some of the things that were said to me as a wee fella, by older men who were meant to be wise and mature - honestly, if I had taken them to heart! Some wanted me to pray like Shakespeare, other people want to bind you - don't get too excited! It's got to be between you and God, and make sure that we're not praying soulish prayers.
Then the fourth thing is watching - now that doesn't mean keep your eyes open, although it's advisable certainly when you're driving. But even when you're ministering to people sometimes, I mean I heard of somebody who was praying for somebody for an issue that they had, and they were praying and really feeling that they were getting through to God - and they opened their eyes and they were gone! So it's advisable to keep your eyes open sometimes, and when you're doing spiritual battle with the enemy it's important to see how God is coming on people, and how they are reacting to what God is doing - but it really means: be alert, be spiritually alert, be sober! Be tuned in to what's going on, a watchful disposition, watching that the enemy doesn't get an advantage over you. Those who come and correct people, and help those who have fallen down, we are exhorted to take a lesson yourself, lest you fall in the same manner! Be watchful!
Then fifthly: all perseverance - a persistent determination. Now there's not a lot of this around in life, and I'm not certainly claiming to have a whole heap of it either. We have a really lethargic generation, and the older generation were made of sterner stuff, there is no doubt about it. They had more perseverance in them in many respects, but we have lost this in the area of prayer - where we press through. You know that parable of the importunate widow, and the judge gave up because he was sick listening to her. You know the friend who kept knocking the friend up in the middle of the night to get some bread, and he kept hammering and hammering and hammering, and he came to give him because he had aroused him. Isaiah says: 'Give Him no rest, give God no rest!'. Jesus said: 'If you ask, and you seek, and you knock, you'll find!'. We need persistence and perseverance.
Then sixthly and finally: 'For all the saints' - there has to be a unifying objective. I mean, let's be honest: analyse your prayer life if it is existent, let's be truthful. There's not a lot of Christians praying, most pastors - surveys have been done - are only praying a maximum of about 7 or 10 minutes in a day, and that's being generous at times. Let's be honest: out of your prayer time, what is expended on yourself? Again, it's not wrong to ask for things, but is there an imbalance? Even in the prayers of a fellowship, what is expended on the parochial nature of the activity that's going on? Whereas the word of God is exhorting us to pray for all the saints, and that means them all, the whole lot over the whole world. We need to have a kingdom vision, a kingdom vision: in our battle, in our warfare, and in our praying.
Well, that's it. The armour of God - have you got it on? I need to finish, but if you look at each piece of armour, do you know what you will find? Each piece is really something to do with Jesus, it's something to do with Jesus, a picture of Christ. He is the truth, the belt; He is our righteousness, the breastplate; He is our peace, isn't that right? The feet, the shoes. Our faith is made possible, well, it's the faith of Christ, Galatians 2:20 says He is our deliverance, He is our hope, the helmet - this hope purifies us, even as He is pure. He is the Word, the Living Word of God. Do you know what we are meant to do? This is what Romans 13:12-14 says: '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 armour of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts'.
To put on the armour is really to put on Christ.
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This sermon was delivered at Ards Evangelical Church in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'Spiritual Warfare' series, entitled "The Sword Of The Spirit and Our Secret Weapon" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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