When was the last time you felt like you got shot—emotionally, relationally, financially, spiritually? What we tend to do in those moments is look up and ask, “God, where are you? I thought you were good.” What we need to know is that it’s not just us and God. There’s a third variable: Satan and his demons. We are in a war. Do you know your enemy? Your king? What weapons are you using to fight?
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
So, when’s the last time you felt like you got shot—emotionally, right? You had that recently? Doctor says, “It’s cancer.” Friend says they don’t want to be with you anymore. Spouse says, “I think we’re done.” Shot financially—you lose your job, you’re upside down, something busts, you don’t have money for it. You find yourself in real trouble. You’re shot spiritually—you don’t know why, but you’re discouraged, depressed. It feels like there is a cloud that is encircling you. Your thoughts are foggy, and your hope is fading.
What we tend to do in those moments is look up to God—“God, where are you? I thought you were good. I thought you loved me. I thought you would take care of me. I thought you would provide for me. Why do you hurt me? Why are you opposed to me? Why are you—why are you fighting me?”
You ever felt that? People go all kinds of directions when they find themselves in those moments of getting shot. “Maybe there is no God. Maybe God isn’t good. Maybe God loves other people, but God doesn’t love me. Maybe God isn’t that powerful.”
You need to know, I need to know, we need to know that it’s not just us and God. There’s a third variable that we absolutely have to factor into everything, and that’s Satan and demons.
We live in a day when, through psychology, through explanation, through a resistance to the supernatural, people don’t even believe in Satan and demons. We turn them into fictitious cartoon characters and mythical parts of our historical narrative; the stories we tell and the fairy tales we enjoy—we don’t think they’re real. We don’t think that Satan is real; we don’t think that demons are real. And so we tend to, every time we are shot, question or blame God, while Satan laughs and runs away.
This is incredibly important. The world is not the way it should be. Not everything that happens is God’s will. There is also God’s enemy. And it’s so important that it’s the final word in the book of Ephesians.
Turn there with me—Ephesians 6:10–24. This will be the seventeenth week in Ephesians. This is the last word from God through Paul, and it’s about Satan and demons. Yeah, the book does talk about your salvation. It does talk about your friendships. It does talk about your marriage. It does talk about your work life. It does talk about your children. But if you overlook, if you neglect, the existence and the war from Satan and demons, it will infect, affect, destroy everything God is trying to do in your life, in our church.
Let’s just read it all. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. Let’s just hear it all at once. “Finally”—all right, after everything else, everything you’ve learned—“be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness”—that’s demons—“against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains”—Paul here is in prison—“that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”
It’s very clear. There’s the church, there is God, and then there is a war against God and his people that is waged by Satan and demons. And I want you to know this, Mars Hill: when we read this verse, because we come from a hyper-individualistic cultural background, we tend to read this and think that this is to be applied one by one for each of us. And so when we teach this section of Scripture to little boys in Sunday school, they all get dressed up like soldiers. The truth is, we’re all soldiers. But it takes an army to win a war.
This is a word to the whole church—not just individuals in the church but the whole church, laboring, warring, working together. This is a word for us. It’s a word for you, but it’s word for you as part of us. Jesus loves us; Satan hates us. Jesus has plans for us; Satan has plans to oppose us. Jesus, in every way, will bless us; but Satan will, in every way, seek to undermine that blessing. It’s a war!
Do you know that? Most Christians don’t! We live in a therapeutic culture where God is reduced to a damnable life coach who comes along to ask you what you want and to give you tips and tricks to do a better job, to live for your glory, to be what you want, to get what you want, to do what you want! And in that way, it’s absolutely demonic! God does not exist to bless you; you exist to serve him!
It’s a war! It’s a war! How many of you feel like this life is just a freaking war? You know why? It’s a freaking war! The closer you get to Jesus, the more resistance you’ll get! The more you advance to the kingdom of God, the more shots you’ll take! Don’t be a coward who says, “Oh, things are hard. It must not be God’s will.” The harder it gets, the closer you are to the will of God.
So, Paul has a very strong word. This is a military word from a commander in chief to troops on the ground for what is to come. First, we need to know our enemy. Ephesians 6:12—do you know you have an enemy? Do you know you’re not loved by everyone and everything? Do you know you’re hated, despised, and opposed? Do you know that we are? “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood”—Ephesians 6:12—“but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
People are not our enemy; Satan and demons are our enemy. The Bible speaks of non-Christians as captives. What happens in a war is an overtaking army then enslaves and takes captives the citizens who are conquered. That’s called earth. The world has been conquered by Satan and demons. We’ve been taken captives in the war.
So, our war is not against the captives; our war is against their captors, Satan and demons. The people would be spiritually, in every way, set free to become the children of God. This is why Jesus says very early in his earthly ministry that he has come to set captives free. That’s what he’s talking about. So, our war is not against the non-Christians. Our war is not against those who would disagree with biblical faith. Our war is against Satan and demons who have taken people captive to do his will.
So, we need to know our enemy. The first thing in any fight is, well—who are we fighting? Any of you ever been in a fight? I grew up in a poor neighborhood, fought quite a bit. So we’d say, “OK, so-and-so wants to fight you.” First thing, who is it? This will determine whether or not I show up and how I prepare, right? Who is it? I need to know who I’m fighting.
Satan was created by God. So, he’s not God; he’s not equal to God. You need to know this. He doesn’t share all of God’s attributes. God can be everywhere; Satan can’t. God knows everything; Satan doesn’t. God reads your mind and thoughts; Satan can’t. He’s created; he’s also fallen. He’s rebelled against God. He’s turned his back on God. He’s declared war on God. He’s also very powerful as a spirit being, akin to an angel who has turned to the dark side. He’s very powerful. He’s also been observing human history for thousands of years, so he understands how to read people. He can’t read your mind, but he can read your life and your body language. And we’re not all dealing with Satan because he is limited, but he has demons at his disposal. These are fallen angels, rebellious angels, who joined him in his war against God.
Friends, they are real, and they are really at work in the world. You need to understand this: under Satan’s motivation is ultimately pride. Satan is the most proud being in the history of creation. Meanwhile, God is utterly humble. We see this in the Lord Jesus. Satan has done such a good job in our day that self-esteem is not a vice; it’s a virtue. Independence is not a vice; it’s a virtue.
Some of you don’t even believe in Satan and demons, but let me say that the root of demonic work is always sourced ultimately in pride. “I don’t need to listen to someone else; I’m smart enough. I don’t need to submit to someone else; I can take care of myself. I don’t need to follow someone else; I’m the authority in my own life.” And Satan will, in every way, tempt and test your pride. He fell through pride. The angels who fell with him and became demons fell through pride. And he will tempt you ultimately through pride. You need to know that he is real, that he is really powerful, and that he is really at work. You also need to know that we need to be careful not to make too much of him or too little of him.
Some of you come from what’s called charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds. Sometimes they make too much of Satan and demons to the degree where you’re not responsible for your own sin. You could pull out the card that Eve did in Genesis 3. “Oh, the devil made me do it. Yes, that horrible devil.”
He may tempt you, but you’re the one who sins. He may set an opportunity for you, but you’re responsible for how you react to it. Some make too little of Satan and demons because you try to explain everything away with hormonal conditions and medical conditions and psychological conditions and biological conditions. You try to have an explanation for everything that omits the spiritual.
Or some of you are worldly in the fact that you think in a way that is not biblical. You think, “Well, Satan and demons—that’s very primitive; that’s from a bygone era. We’ve evolved beyond that.” And Satan would say, “Nice job with the pride. I appreciate that. I appreciate that you think that you’ve evolved beyond the primitive teaching of the Bible and Jesus.” Satan is real. We have a real enemy.
He says that—read it with me—“We wrestle.” Any of you ever wrestled? How many of you had a brother? How many of you guys had a brother? OK, you wrestled with your brother whether you wanted to or not, right? Any of you actually wrestled, high school, college? True or false, it’s exhausting? You know why MMA fights only have five-minute rounds? Because that’s all you can do. Even the best-conditioned athletes in the world, that’s all you can do. In Japan, the old pride fighting, the first round was always ten minutes. Rarely did I see a second round. Halfway through the first round, here’s one guy [huffing], and then he’s going to get pounded.
The language here is like that. It’s hand-to-hand combat. All right, it’s where they’ve got their hands on you, you’ve got your hands on them, and it is, in every way, a close-quartered—we’d call it, “in the clench.” You ever been there? It’s exhausting. It is absolutely exhausting. There’s nothing like it.
Ministry is like that. Serving Jesus is like that. Preaching the gospel is like that. Growing our church is like that. Planting a new church is like that. You say, “Man, this is hard. This is exhausting. I feel like we’re gonna run out of money, we’re gonna run out of energy, we’re gonna run out of opportunity.” It’s exhausting. It’s absolutely exhausting. I think some of you don’t give, you don’t pray, you don’t serve because you know it’s going to be a fight. So, you’ll just stand on the sidelines and cheer and criticize those who are at war. Know your enemy.
Number two, know your King. Who do you fight for? You know what? If you don’t know whom you fight for, you’re probably not going to fight well. He says it this way, Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Who’s the Lord? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Mars Hill, you need to know this: it’s his fight. This is his church, right? This is his book. The spiritual battle—it’s his war. It’s not yours; it’s not mine. We’re not the king; it’s not our kingdom. We’re the servants; we’re the soldiers, we labor for a great, glorious, and good King.
The question is: how in the world am I going to live, how are you going to live, in the clench—Satan and demon’s hand on you, exhausting you, trying to destroy you, your business, your family, your relationships, your ministry, our church? Let me say this: you’re not going to make it for a lifetime. You cannot make it for a lifetime. You can’t motivate yourself for a lifetime of war. There’s no shortcut to a lifetime of war. You’re going to need strength that is beyond you, strength that is apart from you.
So, he says, “Be strong.” How? “In the strength of his might.” Jesus is going to need to give you his strength, because yours won’t do. You get that? You can’t serve Jesus for a lifetime without Jesus’ strength. You can’t love your spouse for a lifetime without Jesus’ strength. You can’t raise your children for a lifetime without Jesus’ strength. You can’t be a faithful church member for a lifetime without Jesus’ strength. You can’t be a faithful Christian leader for a lifetime without Jesus’ strength. It’s his war fought by his strength, and this is ultimately the person, the presence, the power of the Holy Spirit—that Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who empowered the war life of Jesus against temptation and exhaustion and sickness and opposition and criticism. How Jesus persevered, how he was strong, was by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he sends that same Holy Spirit to us to empower us.
This isn’t all about me, and I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I’ve been working hard for seventeen years, Mars Hill. People come up and they say, “What’s the secret?” That’s the secret. Anytime I have tried to fight by my own power, I lose very quickly, and I run out of energy—guaranteed. Anytime I’m strengthened by the strength of his might, I can do things I can’t do; I can endure things I can’t endure. And he gets the glory, and I get the joy. That’s the Christian life.
All God is asking you to do is what you cannot do. That’s all he’s asking you to do. Have you ever felt that way? You’re like, “God, you’re asking me to do something I cannot do.” Good, now you’re clear on your orders. So, you look to the Lord Jesus—“How am I going to get this done?” “By my power.” “Oh.”
See, we need to factor all these variables in. It’s not just us and God. Satan and demons are opposed to us, but then Jesus gives his strength to us. Once we know all of this, we know why it’s hard, but we know why we’ll win. Life starts to make a bit more sense.
See, you guys thought you were coming to church today. You weren’t; you were going to war. That’s why it’s hard to get here. Know your weapons, right? If you’re going to go to war, know your enemy, know your king, who you’re fighting for, and know what weapons you have at your disposal.
Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day.” And then he goes on to talk about this armor. And sometimes, Christians get way too intricate on the armor, right? “Oh, what kind of breastplate? What kind of helmet? Was it a big helmet? A little helmet? Was it like a linebacker helmet or like a little kid kicker helmet with one bar?”
Like, I don’t know, look here. Here’s the deal: win, OK? Throw the spear, hit them with the helmet, kick them with the boots. I don’t care, win, OK? It’s not all about the armor; it’s about winning the war. But since the armor is mentioned and you showed up, we’ll look at it, OK? Here it is. So, here’s the list. Here are the weapons of war.
He says, first of all, “The belt of truth.” And this—each one of these combats one of the enemy’s tactics and tricks. He’s going to attack you in a certain way, so God gives you weapons—to you individually, to us collectively—to defend ourselves. What’s the opposite of the truth? Lies. Any lies in the world? Have you run across one in the last decade? In John 8:44, Jesus says that Satan is the father of what? Lies—that lying is his native language, that all he’s ever done is lie. When you and I lie, we’re doing something demonic. And a lie is where we don’t tell the truth or we only tell part of the truth, but we don’t tell the whole truth.
Satan is going to lie to you. Satan is going to lie to us. Satan lies all the time. And something need not be true to be powerful. Have you noticed that? If I told you right now—let’s say you’re absolutely healthy, but I told you, “You have cancer. You have two weeks to live. You’re going to die.” True or false, that would affect the next two weeks of your life? You say, “It’s not true.” It doesn’t need to be true. I need to get you to believe that it’s true. If I walk up to a woman and say, “You know, your husband has a girlfriend. He’s been unfaithful to you the entirety of your marriage.” And it’s not true, but she believes it true. Does it affect their relationship? Yes.
See, Satan knows that something doesn’t need to be true; it just needs to be believed. So he’s going to lie. He’s going to tell you lies, he’s going to send false teachers, he’s going to send bad counselors, he’s going to try to stack and pack your life with things that aren’t true. And if you believe them—now, he’s responsible for lying, but you’re responsible for believing. This could be lies about God, this could be lies about yourself, this could be lies about people in our church, this could be lies about leaders in our church, this could be lies about the word of God. It doesn’t really matter.
Some of you are really governed by lies. Satan has got a deep, deep, deep foothold in your life. Let me give you an assignment that I’ve been giving people now for seventeen years at Mars Hill. And people who believe lies, and they struggle with lies—those lies lead them into dark places and bondage. Jesus says, “You’ll know the truth, and the truth will”—what? “Set you free.” So, the truth gets you out of your captivity.
Here’s what I tell people all the time: Take a notebook and just write a line right down the middle. On the left, just write lies—one category; on the other, truth. When you hear a lie, when you believe a lie, even as you look back on your life and you understand lies that you believed about God or about yourself or about others, write those down. And then, go to the word of God and find out what is the truth—what is the truth. And then, your life is really collecting Satan’s lies, God’s truth.
Now, you’ve got a decision to make. Will I live in light of the lie, or will I live in light of the truth? I’ve seen this absolutely deliver people and change their life. “Well, I thought that God didn’t love me, and I thought that what I had done was not forgivable, and I thought that I shouldn’t be in church because once people got to know me, they would be ashamed of me.” Lie, lie, lie. What’s the truth? Live in light of that because the truth sets you free. I want you to use this as well as we counsel and comfort one another.
Some of you are like, “No, that’s not true.” And people who have been lied to will say things like, “I feel.” OK, well, there’s your problem. There’s your problem. You need to think. You need to think, “Is this true or false? Is this right or wrong? Is this from God or Satan? Does this lead to captivity or does this lead to freedom?” Encourage those who are struggling with lies, who are believing lies. You need to recall the truths, you need to recount them, you need to record them. And then over time, they will start to lose their power because once you hear it, you’ll be like, “No, actually, that’s not true,” and your response time will be far shorter.
Number two, “The breastplate of righteousness.” What he’s talking about here is, one of Satan’s tactics and tricks is to tempt us. You ever been tempted? Was Jesus tempted? Yeah. Luke 4, Matthew 4, Satan comes and he tempts Jesus. Hebrews 4 says, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us. He’s been tempted in every way as we are yet without sin.
So, one of the lies Satan’s going to tell you is, “If you’re tempted, you’re already guilty, so go through with it.” One of the lies Satan is going to tell you is, “Well, if you’re tempted, you’re already sinning.” There’s a difference between temptation and sin. Jesus was tempted, but he never sinned. You will be tempted, but you don’t have to sin if you wear the breastplate of righteousness, and that is saying, “You know what? This temptation has now provided me an opportunity. I can either resist it, fight it, defend myself from it—to use the language of armor. It doesn’t have to penetrate and harm me. Or, I could take the righteousness of Christ imputed to me off. I can welcome Satan and demons and temptations into my life.”
Some of you have got excuses for your sin. You don’t need to excuse your sin; you need to fight it. You don’t have to give in to temptation. You can instead, by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, choose to walk in righteousness. And this is very important. Jesus died for your sin. He gave you his righteousness. You are righteous in Christ. That’s your identity.
So when you’re tempted, you don’t have to give in to sin. You can live out of the righteousness that Christ has given you, and you can live in holiness. And if and when you fail, you can repent and come back and again clothe yourself in the righteousness of Christ, wear the covering of the armor of his victory, and walk in victory.
See, some of you, one of the lies you’ve believed is, “I can’t change. I will never change. This is the way I am. I need to accept myself.” God loves you enough to meet you in your sin, but he loves you enough to compel you away from your sin. And that’s the breastplate of righteousness.
I would say this, too: sometimes when we think about Satan and demons, we’re like, “Oh, were chairs flying around the room? Did a baby come out of a woman and talk? Like, you know, did crazy stuff happen?” You know what it is? It’s oftentimes very simple: temptation. Next time you’re tempted, remind yourself, “This is a demonic battle I now find myself in. Satan is trying to destroy me. I’m a soldier in the war, and my enemy has come, and he’s trying to take me out so that I can no longer battle for my King Jesus.”
Number three, he talks about having your feet always ready, wearing the shoes. I’ll use “boots” because I like boots and I always wear boots. My grandpa George was a diesel mechanic, my dad was a construction worker. I wear boots. Soldiers wear what? Not flip-flops. Never seen a soldier in flip-flops. If so, that would be great if he were on the other side, right? “Oh, here comes the flip-flop brigade. Good, good. This will be done by lunch. This won’t take long.” Nobody was ever terrified by the flip-flop brigade.
So, what happens in battle: you put your boots on. How many of you have been in the military? OK, raise your hand. How many of you have been in the military? True or false, winning combat, you sleep with your boots on. Do you sleep with your boots on? You do, why? Because the enemy does not work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. You say, “Hey, it’s 3 a.m. You cannot shoot now. We’re a union army.” Right, right? You sleep with your boots on because you never know when the enemy’s attacks are going to come.
True or false, Christian, you never know when the enemy’s attacks are going to come, so you have to always be ready. People who make the transition into ministry struggle with this. They’re like, “Oh, well, what’s my schedule?” You work until Jesus comes back or you die. So, you got two options. “Well, when do I get time off?” Well, here’s the deal. Theoretically, you’ll get this time off, but we don’t know. Maybe somebody we love gets hit by a car. Maybe somebody we love gets cancer. I’ve never seen people decide to declare war, call the cops, and file for divorce Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. I’ve never seen that. And if they call the office, you’re like, “Sorry, it’s Saturday. Sorry, it’s 5:15. All right, we’re just like DMV—we’re closed. Get a number, see you later.” This is ministry. Satan is always attacking people, and that means that those who are part of the battle, particularly the leadership, have got to sleep with their boots on. You just don’t know. You just don’t know when some sort of firefight is going to erupt or a bomb gets dropped.
You and I, if we actually believed that we lived in war, we would not be so disappointed, we would not be so frustrated, we would understand, “Well, this is war, and during war, yes, there’s no schedule. This isn’t a job. This is a war.” Right, Community Group leader? Our volunteer leaders, they’ll tell you this is the case. They never know when somebody in their group is going to need them, or something is going to blow up, or some bomb is going to drop and they have to sleep with their boots on, always ready, if the Lord Jesus should call them, to jump out of bed and to go do whatever needs to be done.
He says these boots are the gospel. This is the good news about our king. The reason you sleep with your boots on is so that he can bring the gospel whenever there’s an opportunity. That’s what he’s saying.
I want you to see the Lord Jesus as a king with a kingdom. I want you to see that there was a war in heaven, where Satan and demons declared war on Jesus and the angels. I want you to see that there was a great battle in the heavenlies and that Satan and demons were defeated, but they have not yet been utterly destroyed by Jesus—that they took their battle to the earth, that they waged war on our first parents, they’ve gotten a foothold in the human race through the sin nature, that they’ve been at war, one generation after the other, that Satan and demons particularly hate Christians and Christian families.
I want you to see that the Lord Jesus came into this battlefield. He left his kingdom and came into the other kingdom, the kingdom of rebellion. I want you see that he left a place of peace and he came to a place of war. I want you to see that he humbled himself, that God took upon human flesh and that he, in every way, faced all that we face, that Satan tempted him, that Satan empowered others to oppose him, that demons were brought against him in the bodies of those who were possessed.
And I want you to see that the Lord Jesus’ life on the earth—it’s like a soldier in war. The next time you read the Gospels, all right, don’t think of therapist, hippie, long hair Jesus out just having counseling sessions. Think of warrior king out trying to take enemy territory—religious people, opposition, demons against him. It’s a battle. He’s exhausted, he falls asleep, his day off gets interrupted, his life is crashed in upon, and that’s our king. And then he goes to the cross and he substitutes himself.
And our king is betrayed by one of his own! Because the greatest threat to the church is always sitting in the church. It’s not those people out there; it’s us people in here. Jesus had twelve and one was a betrayer. Opened his heart to Satan, betrayed Jesus. Judas was a betrayer. He didn’t love Christ; he used Christ. He wasn’t going to serve Christ; he wanted Christ to serve him. He wasn’t going to die for Christ; he was going to kill Christ.
And Jesus goes to the cross, and as a great soldier, he dies in the place of his entire kingdom. He dies to win a great victory.
See, Satan and demons—they had ownership of us. Through sin, we were their possession, part of their kingdom. Our sinless king dies in our place. He forgives sin, he conquers Satan and demons, he sets captives free, and his seeming defeat was ultimately our victory. Jesus then took us as his possession, made us citizens of his kingdom. Three days later, he rose, showing he defeated sin, he defeated death, he defeated Satan, he defeated demons. He ascended. Today, he rules and reigns as a king. He’s not in humility; he’s in glory. He has a kingdom that’ll never end, and he’s coming again to put down this insurrection once and for all.
You and I need to know the whole story to understand our place in it. This is not yet the kingdom of God. We’re marching toward it. Our enemy has been defeated, but he’s not yet been destroyed and fully disarmed. There are still firefights, and the battle still rages. This is what it means to always be ready: sleeping with your boots on, ready to tell the gospel so the captives may be set free and come to know the Lord Jesus and be citizens of his kingdom.
Is that you? If you’re spiritual, you’re part of Satan’s kingdom. If you’re moral, you’re part of Satan’s kingdom. If you’re an unrepentant sinner, you’re part of Satan’s kingdom. And Jesus comes to set you free. Even saying this is a declaration of war in our age, isn’t it? That’s not loving, tolerant, and diverse. Back to my first point, it’s true, and the most loving thing we can do is tell the truth. And Satan wants us to lie, and if we lie, people might love us, but the devil is the one who loves us the most.
It says to wear “the shield of faith.” This is to “extinguish flaming darts.” Any of you like “Narnia,” “Lord of the Rings”—that stuff? You like that stuff? You nerds with me? You here? You’re like, “Oh yeah, I do.” “‘Middle Earth.’ Now I’m paying attention, all right.”
All right, what happens in those epic battles, right? They shoot the arrows, and what’s at the end of the arrows? Fire. What happens if you don’t have something to catch that and extinguish it? A fire is around you, not ideal, right? So, what they would do is they would take shields and they’d be soaked in, oftentimes, water. You’d catch the arrows and extinguish the fire.
For you, friend, this is vain regrets. Satan will haunt you for things that Jesus has forgiven you for. And it’s gonna come out of nowhere. You’ll just be walking along—it’ll be like a shot. “Where did that come from?” You’ll be haunted. Accusations—you’re not loved, you’re not forgiven, you’ll never change, you’re a fraud. Any time you hear “you,” it’s your enemy. People think they have negative self-talk; they often have demonic accusation. Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the accuser of the children of God, that he accuses them day and night.
For how many of you there are days it literally feels like it is raining flaming arrows? Everything you’ve ever done, every way you’ve ever failed, every sin you’ve ever committed, every mistake you’ve ever made—it’s just raining down on you. I can’t even see the sun. It’s just—the sky is filled with flaming arrows. It’s a demonic attack. It’s not God condemning you and accusing you and shaming you and opposing you. It’s the enemy shooting you. That’s what’s happening.
So, what do you got to do? He says you’ve got to hold up the shield of faith. “No, I trust the Bible. I trust Jesus. I trust the gospel. I trust the truth. I trust it.” And you’ve got to hold it in your own hand, and you’ve got to hold it over your own head.
“And the helmet of salvation”—every good soldier wears a helmet, right? It protects your mind and your thinking and your decision-making. You’ve got to keep your head on straight.
Any of you ever sustained a head injury? Any football players ever got knocked out? I did once. I was playing high school football as a quarterback, dropped back. I got hit in the front, hit in the back. Helmet to the front, helmet to the back. I got up, I went over, I sat down on the bench. I thought, “I’m doing fine. This is fine.” Coach comes over, “You all right?” “I’m good.” He’s like, “Then why are you on the wrong bench?” “Oh.” I was on the other team’s bench. It’s amazing what one little blow to the head can do. “Oh, I guess I’m not fine, not as good as I thought.”
Friends, you’re going to get rattled, you’re going to get hit, you’re going to get attacked. What he’s talking about is the helmet of salvation. False teaching is going to come. False teachers are everywhere. The media today loves a former evangelical who starts denying parts of the Bible, smiles and says the word “love,” OK? You say, “Man, why do they get such a big book deal? Why do they get to go on tour?” Well, because Satan is glad to bless them. He’s always glad to bless false teachers. False teachers—it just goes a lot easier for them.
You’re going to be surrounded with false teaching and all kinds of lies and half-truths and temptations and confusions. You’ve got to keep your head on straight. Helmet of salvation. And it’s this: “Jesus is my King. Satan is my enemy. I’m a soldier in a war. What does the king want me to do?” Not, “What do I want to do?” Not, “What do I feel like doing?” [but] “What does the King need me to do?” Keep my head on straight, protect my thinking, surround it with this concept, this truth, this spiritual protection of salvation. I belong to the Lord. I’m a soldier in a war. I need to shut up and take orders.
Some of you go, “I don’t like hearing that.” Back to the point of pride. Every king has a right to look at a soldier and say, “I need you to go there, and I need you to do this.” And any soldier who says, “Well, I think differently,” you need to keep your head on straight.
“Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is a weapon. Genesis 3, the first spiritual battle in the history of the world on the earth. God said, “Don’t do this, but you can do that.” Satan comes along, and his first question is about what God had said. “Did God really say?” So, the first war is over the word of God.
See, as long as Adam and Eve hold the truth of the word of God in their hand, they’ve got a weapon to fight against Satan and demons and lies. But Satan comes and tries to take the sword out of their hand. You know what that is? An act of surrender.
Christian, let me tell you this. You stop reading your Bible—surrender. You stop studying your Bible—surrender. Stop memorizing your Bible—surrender. Stop submitting to the truth of the Bible—surrender. Stop going to church and being under the preaching of the Bible—surrender. Surrender.
Some of you’ve seen that, haven’t you? Life is hard, so you put your Bible down and stop going to church. And then all of a sudden, some of those complications go away. It’s because you’ve joined the enemy’s team; you’re an enemy combatant. He’s not going to attack you because now you’re no threat because you have dropped your weapon.
You know what this means, Mars Hill? Every time you pick up the Bible and say, “I’ve got to read it today, got to study it today. It’s the night to go to Community Group. I’m going to go to Mars Hill, and Mark’s going to yell at me again. Going to download a podcast and listen to it on the way to work so I can learn the word of God.” You know what that means? It’s an act of war. It’s an act of war. If somebody walked up to you, and they pulled a gun out of a holster—every time a Christian picks up the word of God, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are declaring war on Satan and demons and the kingdom of darkness and lies.
Make no mistake, Mars Hill—this is the word of God. This is an offensive weapon for the forward progress of the kingdom of God through the church of Jesus Christ. And we live in a day when people are, “Well, we don’t need—hey, we’ve got psychology, we’ve got therapy, we’ve got politics, we’ve got—you know, we don’t need to talk about what God says; let’s just love people. We don’t need good news; let’s just do good deeds. Let’s just turn ourselves into a social service organization because they never shoot the food bank.”
Most of what I’m saying shouldn’t be said, but it has to be said. “Let’s just get away from Jesus. Let’s use the word ‘God.’ Let’s get away from the word ‘repentance’, and let’s get away from calling people from sin to their Savior. Let’s just ignore the Book. Let’s use the Book in a way that was never intended. Whatever we do, let’s just not handle the sword well. Let’s not pick it up, because as soon as we pick it up, man, a lot of—well, then the media gets upset, and the critics get upset, and the people who disagree get upset. And now there’s a lot of hostility and it’s a big conflict. And now it costs me a lot. Now my family’s upset. And as soon as I tell the truth, then there’s some resistance to that.”
Hey, welcome to war! Pick a team. Pick a team. You say, “I don’t want to pick a team.” Team’s already been picked. You’re born on Satan’s team; you’re born again on Jesus’ team. There are really only two kingdoms. There are really only two teams. And if you’re on Jesus’ team, you better keep the sword in your hand.
“Praying in the Spirit.” One of the most important things in the battle is communication. You need to talk to headquarters; you need to listen to headquarters. We call that prayer.
He says it’s in the Spirit, so this is different than how other religions pray. See, other religions pray not by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit only indwells the people of God. Other religions may pray, but they don’t pray by the power of the Holy Spirit. They may pray by their own wishful thinking or Satan and demons, but it ain’t by the power of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. He says to pray in the Spirit at all times for anything.
How’s your prayer life? You know what? If you don’t know you’re in war, you don’t feel like you need to listen to the commander in chief, and you don’t feel like you need to talk to him. Peacetime—you’re like, “What, I’m on vacation. What do I need to get orders for?”
This ain’t vacation, friends. This is war. If you know, you get up in the morning you’re like, “OK, I’m not going to work; I’m going to war. I’m not going to church; I’m going to war. I’m not going to school; I’m going to war.” First thing you’re going to do: call headquarters. “OK, what do I need to know today, and let me talk to you about what I’m heading into, and I need you to give me some directives here.”
Then you listen to the Holy Spirit. Primarily, he will bring to mind the word of God which he has written. “OK, now I’m ready to go. I know what to do. I’m connected to headquarters, and throughout the day, I’m checking in. OK, headquarters, here’s what’s going on in the field. What do you need me to do now? Got a little report. Need a little help. Send in for backup.”
Imagine an army going to war without a communication plan. Imagine soldiers just being deployed in an enemy territory with no communication plan. Prayer is our communication plan. It’s how we talk to God; it’s how God talks to us. It’s how we tell him what’s going on, though he already knows, and it is the way that he gives directives to us.
How’s your prayer life? Do you pray for our church? Do you pray for our leaders? Do you pray for our other locations? Do you pray for our new opportunities?
He says, “Perseverance.” Perseverance. Four times in this section he uses the language of “stand.” So it’s, “Stand, stand, stand, stand.” A soldier needs to hold his post—right, soldiers? You plant your feet. You stand. You don’t say, “Oh, I feel like I should go to another post. I feel like I should have a—” No, no, no. Hold that line, right? Your king has sent you there to hold that line. Your job? Stand there. Your Community Group in your neighborhood, stand there. Whichever local church you’re in, stand there. Whichever ministry role you’re in, stand there, plant your feet. What we don’t need, Mars Hill, is twelve thousand generals. We need one general and twelve thousand faithful soldiers.
My job is to stand with Grace and our five kids. I’ve got to stand there. It’s not a temporary deployment; it’s a lifetime assignment. I can’t abandon my post. My family will get shot. My job is to stand in the pulpit and to preach the word of God and to take the shots that come from being the one who calls the shots. My job: stand, plant my feet. Criticize, picket, protest, quit, hate me, resist me. I’ll be here next week; I was here last week, and I’ll see you in thirty years. This is where I’m at. Stand.
I’m telling you, Mars Hill, many of you get very excited about being deployed. It’s six months in, twelve months in, eighteen months in, six years in, twelve years in, eighteen years in. Still on post. That’s amazing. That is so rare. You can only do that if you’re strengthened by Jesus’ strength to stand where Jesus has sent you. I love weddings. I’m impressed at fifty-year anniversaries. I love deployments. I love soldiers who, fifty years later, still have their boots on. So, what are you doing here? Jesus said, “Stand here.” I’ve been here, and I will be here until I die or he comes back and I hear, “Well done, good and faithful soldier.”
It’s not about your gifts. Mars Hill does not exist as an opportunity for you to showcase your giftedness. Every soldier in battle knows, “I maybe could do something a little different. I may be able to do something a little more exciting. I may be able to do something a little more impressive.” Who cares? Your king gave you a job, and it’s about the victory for his kingdom. It’s not about you; it’s about his kingdom. It’s not about you; it’s about our church. It’s not about you; it’s about setting captives free.
Mars Hill, if we get this, anything’s possible. If we don’t get this, nothing is possible. We just become another generation of weak-willed, spineless, consumer Christians who think that we’re on vacation and turning our church into an all-inclusive resort, where I just get to take whatever I want and somebody else is supposed to serve me because this is vacation. This ain’t vacation, friends. It’s—what? It’s war! It’s war!
Paul’s final words. He says to pray for the leadership. “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.”
He’s in prison. I’d be shocked if I’m not eventually. The way culture is trending, to preach sin and repentance will soon be hate speech. I don’t know if it’ll happen in five years or fifty years. I would doubt preaching the gospel won’t get you in prison eventually if things continue the direction they are. “That I may declare it boldly”—boldly, boldly—“as I ought to speak.” Pray for me that I would not give up, that I would not back down, that I would not calm down, OK? Pray for our church.
He has two things: grace and peace. Pray for grace on our church from Jesus. True or false, we’ve gotten a lot of grace on our church? Oh yes, a lot of grace. A lot of grace on our church. Pray that the grace from Jesus continues on our church.
And then pray, he says, “for peace.” You know what peace is? Peace is peace in our church. There’s nothing worse than one soldier shooting another soldier. Nothing worse than one solider shooting another soldier. Don’t turn your guns on each other. Don’t gossip about one another. Don’t become embittered against one another. Don’t despise one another. Don’t attack one another. Don’t criticize one another. Satan and demons have already got that covered, right? The enemy role is filled. We don’t need you to join them. So pray for peace in our church.
Pray for peace between our leaders, peace between our departments, peace between our locations. And this week, as you’re praying, pray for our future and pray for our opportunity. This is Jesus’ mission, not ours. We don’t have a mission, Jesus does. We’re just part of it.
In a moment, we’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. It’s an act of war. I want you to see that today. You know what used to happen during wars? People would make sacrifices to fund the war effort. You know how we won a few world wars and put down Nazism? People would give to the war effort. They’d make sacrifices for the war effort. It’s different than people on vacation at an all-inclusive resort. As we take an offering—and I’ll ask the stewards to do it now—I want you to see, really, it’s funding a war effort to set captives free because Satan and demons have absolutely taken people captive to do their bidding. And our goal is to forward the progress of the gospel through Mars Hill Church to set captives free.
In a moment as well, we’ll partake of Communion, which is where we remember our king, all right, that our king is a victorious king, our king is a triumphant king, and our king is so good, he tells us what’ll happen in the end. Who wins in the end, Satan or Jesus? Jesus. So, we know that our king wins, and we know that his kingdom reigns, so we are able to persevere and endure—why? Because we know the end. Soldiers never get this benefit. The end of the war is always up to the possibility of not a victory but a loss. Our great king has defeated Satan and demons at the cross, and he will disarm and destroy them at his second coming, and we’re living in the time between the times. We’re part of the mop-up crew, the conclusion of the war. As we take Communion, that’s what we remember. Our king is not one who is unwilling to come down here and to get shot and to suffer and to bleed. Our king is a good soldier. Remember his broken body and shed blood.
Lastly, we’re going to sing. You know what people do when their nation wins a great war? They gather in the streets and they sing and they celebrate because their king and kingdom are triumphant and victorious, and though they were facing captivity, they’ve been set free.
Before that, I want you to see what’s coming. We’re going to jump into the book of Acts starting in just a few weeks, and I want you to see what’s coming next.
Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What’s his mission here? What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What is Jesus’ mission here? How do I know what Jesus’ mission is?
Let’s pray. Father God, we ask that we would stand in Albuquerque, we’d stand in Orange County, we’d stand in Portland, we’d stand in Olympia, we’d stand in Federal Way, we’d stand in Rainier Valley, we’d stand in West Seattle, we’d stand in Downtown Seattle, we’d stand at the University of Washington, that we’d stand in Ballard, that we’d stand in Shoreline, that’d we’d stand in Everett, that we would stand in Bellevue, and that we would stand in Sammamish. That we would stand together and that we would stand in love and in truth and in joy and in grace.
I pray, Lord God, that you’d open up other opportunities in other cities, that we might stand there as well. I pray that the elders would stand. I pray that the deacons would stand. I pray that the leaders would stand. I pray that the Community Group leaders would stand. I pray that the Redemption Group leaders would stand. I pray that the service team leaders would stand. I pray that the servants would stand. I pray that the members would stand. I pray that the givers would stand. And I pray that we would stand in prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.