PENTECOST 13, B – August 30, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Eph. 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

 

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. 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. Eph. 6

 

This has been quite a year of births and baptisms. Alexandria Wash kicked this off with her baptism in early May. Two days later Rebecca Snyder was born, and she was baptized in June. Then, little Owen was born in July and brought to God in Holy Baptism today. Next will be Evan Hackmann, who was born a little over a week ago. And, finally, we await the birth of Tony and Tori Ferrara’s child, who is due very soon.

 

What a joy! And, what a challenge to these families and to these little ones. For, it’s quite a world and life that we’re born into, naked and helpless. Sure, there are many people who help us as we grow, beginning with loving parents. But, we also face much opposition, especially to our faith, from people in this world.

  • Bullies at school.

  • Friends and acquaintances who tempt us to do wrong.

  • Criminals and evil people who threaten.

  • Paul wrote to the Ephesian people from prison, for he had been arrested for preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Christ’s people face persecution to this day.

It’s a tough world we’re born into. It’s tough to live a Christian life in this world.

 

The toughest and fiercest opposition we face is hidden from view. Paul speaks of it in Ephesians 6: “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.” Satan and his hosts are fierce enemies – and they are even in the heavenly places, in the places where we expect God and His good to reign! Places such as church and home. The devils seek to distract you and, even better, get you to doubt and distrust and deny your God. They’ve had such great success in our busy and technological world!

 

And, they have a great ally in this battle: our own sinfulness and weakness. “The things that come out of a person are what defile him,” says Jesus, who sees and knows the hearts of us all. “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” How depressing! These sins are within us from birth, defiling and polluting us even from our conception. If you doubt this, have children. I never had to teach my children to do wrong and disobey me! It came naturally. Sin, disobedience to God, comes naturally to us all. It’s our nature!

 

And so, the apostle Paul, speaking under the direction of God the Holy Spirit, urges us all: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” And, you know something? The greatest thing about God’s armor is that it not only protects us from the danger that threatens us from without. It also protects us from the danger that is within, our own sinful thoughts and desires that are so powerful, so hard to fight against and overcome.

 

How can armor that is put on the body protect from what is within the body? Well, God’s armor is not any ordinary armor. God’s armor, you see, is Jesus Christ: the Son of God who took upon Himself a flesh and nature that was pure and holy; who perfectly and completely fulfilled all that God expects and commands of us; and who then bound our unholiness to His holy flesh and endured the punishments that we should endure for all that we are and have done. Jesus is our mighty warrior who has defeated our sins and death and all the powers of hell for us! And, He has been given to you, even bound upon you like armor. But, how? How do you put on Christ as your armor?

 

Here, as in all things, you are not alone. God is your helper! God the Holy Spirit gladly serves as your squire, your attendant, and in your Baptism puts Christ upon you as your armor. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” Galatians 3:27 says. And so, you need to see Christ in the descriptions of armor that are presented in the Spirit-inspired words of Ephesians 6. To help you do this, look at the sheet in your bulletin that is titled: Holy Baptism – God’s armor of Christ.

 

Fasten on the belt of truth,” Paul says. That truth is Christ Himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He declares (John 14:6). He speaks the truth to us and for us. Listen to Him! Wrap His truth around you!

 

Put on the breastplate of righteousness.” This is none other than Jesus Himself. “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us righteousness…” 1 Cor. 1:30 says. Jesus, given to you in your Baptism, covers you with His righteous life and the forgiveness He gained for you by His death and resurrection.

 

And so, in Him you have peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” Jesus told His disciples the night before He died on the cross for us all (John 14:27). Indeed, that peace was proclaimed by the holy angels when Jesus was born, as they sang to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men!” (Luke 2:14). This Gospel of peace, the good news that God is at peace with us because of Jesus and loves us as our Father, is shoes for our feet. It is joyous news with which we can stand firm and run to proclaim!

 

Faith in this Gospel, this Jesus, is a shield to protect us. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” Jesus declares (John 16:33). In your Baptism Christ washes away your sins and binds you to Himself as His holy bride, as Eph. 5 says: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25ff) Your sin and guilt are removed! Who can accuse you? Christ is your strong spouse, your shield and protector.

 

He also crowns you as your helmet of salvation. 700 years before Jesus’ coming Isaiah spoke of this: “[The Lord] saw that there was no man… no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head.” (Is. 59:16-17) Indeed, Jesus is not only your helmet. He is your head. “[Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Col. 1:18)

 

Then, Christ goes on the offense for you. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God that attacks the devil to expose his schemes and overthrow them, is above all Christ Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John 1:1 & 14 declares. And, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) This was seen throughout His ministry, as “Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak.” (Mark 1:34) Take up God’s Word; hear it and read it and commit it to memory! You then have Christ speaking to you and for you: for you against the devil and his hosts; for you to His Father in prayer; and, finally, for you on the Last Day, when you stand before God in the judgment.

 

Jesus, our great armor of God, is yours. The Holy Spirit has girded you with Him in your Baptism, as He girded Owen this day. How great is Holy Baptism! This is why Luther says (Large Catechism, Baptism):

“Every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to do all his life. For he has always enough to do by believing firmly what Baptism promises and brings: victory over death and the devil (Rom. 6:3-6), forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38), God’s grace (Titus 3:5-6), the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with His gifts (1 Cor. 6:11)… We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves.”

Every day cross yourself and remember your Baptism, claiming its promises in Christ. With Him as your armor, you will stand firm today, tomorrow, and forever! Amen.